It’s May and visitors are now allowed to exit their vehicles at the refuge but still must stay on or near the road in most cases.
I had heard that the Great Horned Owlets have fledged and was anxious to see if I could spot them. It’s nice to know that we can now step out of our vehicles to shoot–this especially comes in handy for some flight shots where your vehicle normally limits the angle at which you can shoot.
Let’s get started with some of the critters and birds I saw and photographed today.
Oh, and please remember, the small images you see in my blog reports are only thumbnails. In most cases, clicking once on each thumbnail and viewing the larger images on your screen will display a much higher quality, more detailed image. Much of my time is spent processing the images to bring out the best in the shots, including details. Thanks for viewing the large versions of the shots! Just click your browser’s “back” button when you’re done viewing the image to come back to the blog post where you were reading.
Here’s a colorful little Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) not far from the Kiwa Trail entrance. (7:12 a.m.)
(Please click to see in large view!)
A Golden-crowned Sparrow poses for me in the Ash tree forest. (7:18)
The very common Red-winged Blackbird perches on a cattail stalk for me. (7:41)
Near post 11, this Cinnamon Teal seems to be content to just stand there. (7:46)
Approaching post #12, a lone Mallard stands nearly motionless. Aside from the bird’s coloring, the tightly curled tail feathers are a sure sign this one is a Drake. (7:59)
And here’s another Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler with a nice pose. (8:31)
In the vicinity of the Great Horned Owl nest, but across the water, is the dad of the two fledged owlets. (8:46)
Just past the owl nest on the left, I spot two raccoons climbing up a tree. They both appear quite curious about what I’m up to. (8:56)
I pulled up to where I could see the eagles’ nest and stopped. While watching the nest I noticed one of the eagles taking off and heading right at me. It flew over my truck and landed in the field to my left– out about a hundred feet from the road. After only about 10 seconds, it took flight again and gave me a fly-by as it carried more nesting materials back up to the nest. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to exit my truck, so I took the shot out the driver’s side window. (9:18)
Here, what possibly is the male nesting eagle, drying his wings in a tree several hundred feet south of the nest. This shot was taken at 560mm with a 1.4x extender attached to my 400mm lens and manually focused. (10:17)
Here’s a video of the above shot while the bird is preening (1 min.). (10:46)
Here’s a compilation of several videos I took of the Bald Eagle’s nest depicting some of the activity. I tried to edit out the parts that were super boring so there is usually something happening in most of what is left here. It’s easier to see the young birds if you watch full screen and in 720p.
Our resident albino Nutria between posts #7 & 8. This photo was also taken with the 560mm set up, requiring me to manually focus. (11:25)
I continued around the loop and came upon the owl nest area again. There was a van and a small pickup truck parked on the right side of the road prior to the temporaray fence, one driven by a man and one a woman. I could see one of the owlets high in a tree on the other side of the water and a couple hundred feet prior to the fence. This owlet was facing away from me. The mother owl was also perched close to this owlet. But then she took off and flew parallel to the water almost directly across from the nest site and closer to the other owlet, which was perched in a tree just past the nest site but on the road’s side of the water. My truck wasn’t parked in a good place for pictures of the first owlet so I asked the lady if I could throw my bean bag on top of her truck canopy for a minute and shoot some shots of the first owlet. She said no problem.
Here’s a low quality shot of the first owlet. I did a lousy job of manually focusing with the 1.4x TC and all the branches would normally make this a throw away shot. But I wanted to give you a play by play of what’s about to happen.
Below is a video of the above owlet looking around and doing some preening. This was also taken with the 560mm setup.
The man who owned the van had walked up the road forward of my location about 200 feet taking shots of the other owlet which was on our side of the water almost straight above the road. After I took a bunch of shots, the lady with the pickup decided to drive on so I drove the couple hundred feet forward to the area where the guy was taking pictures of the second owlet. He mentioned that this was about the best shot he’s gotten so far of one.
I took off my 1.4x TC, stepped out of the truck and carried my camera over to the middle of the road where the fellow was shooting almost straight up at the owlet. The owlet was jumping around to nearby branches–just practicing I guess. It got to this one branch that wasn’t very thick. I was looking down at my camera LCD for a second and the guy says hey that owl looks like he is having trouble staying upright on the branch. I pointed my camera at the owl and started taking burst shots while it was actually losing its balance on the branch. It began swinging down, back first, flapping its wings to try to gain some control, and talons grasped tightly to the thin branch. (This branch is 20-25 feet up).
In about 10 seconds, the owl ended up completely upside down and just hanging there. It started to screech at its mother who was perched across the water a hundred feet or so away. She did not move or make a sound that I could hear. While the owl was upside down we were both snapping shots like crazy wondering how it was going to get out of this predicament. It probably hung there three minutes total, screeching like crazy. Me and the other guy were just going crazy witnessing this behavior! It’s overcast and pretty dark in the forest and we’re shooting up at a light gray sky so this is not the greatest lighting conditions.
As I was snapping burst shots I didn’t realize the owl was looking right at us during some of his troubles.
On the way down, he gave me a dirty look! (11:56)
Below is a short video of the above owl in his upside down position. I took this video handheld with a non-stabilized 400mm lens and the jerkiness of the original video was almost unwatchable. You Tube has an amazing tool to stabilize even the most jerky videos. This video came out pretty well considering how bad it used to be! (11:57)
My favorite shot of the series! (11:58)
He finally decided to let go of the branch and started flapping his wings. He became upright and landed on a lower branch, still screeching all the while. (12:01 p.m.) This was the strangest wildlife incident I have seen in all my time taking photographs of birds!
On now to the sharp turn prior to post #11, where I see this handsome male American Goldfinch extracting seed from a teasel. (12:09)
And, between posts # 11 & 12, our spring time visitor, the Yellow-headed Blackbird was perched on a cattail using just one leg! (12:16)
Across from Rest Lake I spotted this full-colored Ruddy Duck executing his courtship ritual where, with cocked tail, he would dip his bill in the water repeatedly, slap his bill against his chest making a clicking sound, scoot quickly across the water’s surface for 8-10 feet, then repeat it all again. (12:22)
Overall, I was happy with most of today’s shots–especially the upside down owlet and the eagle in flight. Hope you saw something that you liked! My next photo shoot will cover May 8 and possibly May 17, together. See you next time on The Blog!