Happy New Year to all! Welcome to my first photo shoot of 2013–Jan. 4. I was hoping for some clearing today but all I got was overcast skies with no sign of the sun peeking through. Temperatures ranged from the low 30’s (F) to the low 40’s. Many of today’s shots are of fairly common birds and mammals for this refuge but I had a surprise visit by a magnificent raptor that I have been hoping to spot now for a couple of months. I’ll tell you about that shortly!
I’ll start with our resident “model” that does not seem to be afraid of anyone. This young Red-tailed Hawk has his ‘own’ post (near marker #12) and allows cars to drive within 15 feet without the bird flinching. You’ve seen shots of him/her on this blog in recent posts and I have a few more to share, including a video.
(8:58 a.m.) ISO 2500 [Be sure to click on these small images once to download a larger view].
Just around the corner and just past marker #12, this Savannah Sparrow was perched just off the side of the road. (9:00) ISO 2500
Only a few feet prior to marker #9 in the woods, off to the left was this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk. It’s too bad it wasn’t closer for a higher quality image. There are a few of these birds around the refuge but I don’t see them very often–especially close enough to get a shot. (10:36) ISO 2500
Between markers #11 & 12 was this cute little Song Sparrow. These beauties are almost everywhere at the refuge. (10:53)
Back to the “tame” Red-tail on his post. At the correct angle, one can see a white ‘crown’ on this guy’s head–kind of an odd marking for a Red-tail. (10:55) ISO 2500
I was approaching marker #4 and saw this Coyote. It wasn’t taking any chances with me and decided to take off at a swift pace. I don’t know why the coat on the back is bunched up. (11:26) ISO 2500
I haven’t gotten a shot of one of these small, quick, birds in a while. Just past marker #5, this Ruby-crowned Kinglet was bouncing around the underbrush. He came out into the clear for only a second. (11:33) ISO 2500
Another Song Sparrow, this time with a cute pose. It could be the same bird as shown above as it was taken in the same vicinity. (12:13 p.m.) ISO 1600
I can’t resist taking a shot when Great Blue Heron’s let me approach so closely. This is a full frame shot taken between markers #13 & 14. (12:22) ISO 1600
Now for the surprise spotting of the day! A Short-eared Owl! I just have to share the story with you about how I spotted this bird. I was actually in my truck, backed into a turnout just past the post where the ‘tame’ Red-tailed Hawk likes to perch (the turnout is at the corner of a left turn in the road). The hawk was there on the post and I had my camera pointed at him through my driver’s side window, ready to shoot if he flew (about a hundred feet away). So, if I look out my driver’s side window I see the hawk on the post; if I look straight out through my windshield, I see marker #12 (about a hundred feet in front of me).
The area where the hawk was perched, and this corner in the road, were congested with at least 5 cars, including mine. Folks were slowing down to get close up shots of the fearless hawk on his post. Then, one car drove around the corner passing right in front of me and I noticed that it went a couple hundred feet down the road (past marker #12) and was viewing another bird that had landed on a speed limit sign (that I could see about 200 feet in front of me). I couldn’t ID the bird from that distance–I didn’t bother to use binocs because I thought it was probably just another Red-tailed Hawk. The car that went down to view the bird, flushed it from the sign and the bird landed on marker #12, which is a hundred feet closer to me and only a hundred feet from the front of my truck.
NOW I could see that this bird on the marker was NOT a hawk! I checked with the binocs to make sure–grabbed my camera, and hung out my passenger-side window taking a bunch of shots. The bird remained on marker #12 and didn’t seem nervous (like I was!). I wanted a better view where I didn’t have to hang out of my window to shoot. I started my engine and pulled forward, orienting myself so I could shoot out the driver-side window. The bird still didn’t flinch. This is when I got the shots below and the video. After getting a bunch of still shots I took video. This is when the owl decided to fly and I got flustered when it took off. I really wanted stills of it taking off, so I, like an idiot, shut the video off as it took off, I guess thinking I would have time to get him in flight. So my mistake cost me both the video and still flight shots. Nevertheless, I’m happy I got what I got!
What floors me is the fact that this bird, when flushed by that first car, flew toward the congestion of cars and people and landed on a marker that was even closer to the cars. This is the complete opposite of what one would expect. This was truly one of those “right place, right time,” events. (1:22) ISO 2500
Video best viewed at highest HD resolution and in full screen mode.
Here’s another shot of a Red-tailed Hawk, but this one is not the same bird as the ‘tame’ one. It was perched on a refuge sign on the home stretch, way past marker #14. Another fearless bird. (1:34) ISO 2500
Below are two more stills of the ‘tame’ hawk and a video. The hawk was so close I could barely get the bird in the frame for the video. (1:55) ISO 2500
Be sure to view the video at the highest HD resolution and on full screen.
Approaching marker #13, I see a third Song Sparrow–but this guy was doing the splits. What a cute little bugger! (2:08) ISO 2000
I put on my wide angle lens and took this shot facing south from between markers #11 and 12. It shows nicely the overcast weather I had all day. You can also see that it is brighter the further south you look. When I headed home (south) in just a few minutes of driving I was in almost complete sunshine for the trip home. The brighter weather just did not reach the refuge today. (2:23) ISO 2000
Here, the ‘tame’ Red-tail landed on his post but with his back to me. Not what I was hoping for but still awesome. You can kind of see the white crown on his head in this shot. What a stunning creature! (2:48) ISO 2000
That will bring today’s shoot to a close. Thanks for making it by for this edition of The Blog! See you next time.