Greetings! Welcome to my 2nd photo shoot posting!
I arrived at the refuge this morning at about 7:30 a.m., where I found basically clear skies except for some high cloudiness, which can be a good thing as the clouds can filter the light and reduce harsh shadows that can ruin a shot. It turns out the clouds were pretty scarce during the day and I did have to deal with harsh shadows much of the time–but it sure beats heavy, dark, rain clouds!
I gave the white board a quick read at the visitors station and while I was there, I decided just for the heck of it to pick up a copy of the River ‘S’ Discovery Tour CD that is distibuted by the Friends of Ridgefield NWR. The CD is lent to visitors and assists them in navigating the 4.2 mile auto tour and provides information about what they might find in each of the 14 posted areas of the tour. Now, I’ve probably driven the auto tour close to 800 times since 2007, so I’m pretty familiar with most of the wildlife that is seen on a day to day basis. But the CD offers more than wildlife facts and what species to look out for near each post–it provides some interesting historical information about the refuge and even includes audio clips of bird and animal calls. This is a good idea, especially for new visitors to the refuge, as it can greatly enhance their experience at the River ‘S’ Unit. Kudos to the Friends of Ridgefield for producing this CD! If you haven’t heard the CD, go ahead and pick one up at the kiosk next time you visit! You can also download the podcast version here: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/ridgefield-national-wildlife/id335126014.
After getting my gear set up and situated, I headed out around the auto tour and, around post #6, I spotted some Golden-crowned Sparrows and Waxwings munching on the berries off to the right of the road. Keeping my 11 1/2 foot minimum focusing distance in mind, I stop and got a shot of a Cedar Waxwing hanging in what seemed to be a precarious position above a cluster of multi-colored berries. This is early morning light and the sun was shining directly onto the berry bushes and the bird. I find that in this situation, I usually have to cool the temperature of the light in post processing because the light is almost too yellow. I like some of the yellow tone but not an over-powering amount. Below is one of the frames I took of this bird hanging onto the branch. 1/500, f7.1, 400mm, ISO1250, EOS 7D. [Click on any photo below to see a larger version!]
I noticed the increased presence of raptors today over recent visits. There’s a spot just past the Kiwa Trail entrance on the right that hawks find inviting as a superb vantage point from which to spot prey. Sure enough, there was a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk there this morning, again with low, warm morning light. Here is one of the poses. 1/640, f7.1, 400mm, ISO400, EOS7D.
Continuing on around the tour, just prior to post 11, there are some cattails on the left. A Marsh Wren was out on a cattail chirping away. The light is quite nice at this time of the morning on this particular patch of cattails, so I slow down and check this area regularly for these little guys each time around the loop. This wren was about 20 feet away. 1/640, f7.1, 400mm, ISO320, EOS 7D.
On past post 11 a few hundred feet and I spy several female Redwing Blackbirds off to the right on the cattails. Again, the light is at the perfect angle for these cattails if I pull just past the bird and look back at it at an angle. The detailed feather colors on this bird is wonderful, though the species is quite common here and everyone has photos of them. 1/640, f7.1, 400mm, ISO2500, EOS7D, and the same on the 2nd shot of the bird grabbing or cleaning her foot, except the ISO was 800 here.
I rounded the corner at post #12 and just as I drive over the first culvert where the berry bushes are on the left, a cute little Savannah Sparrow was perched on the very top branch. Again, there is great light coming from right to left here at this early morning hour. I took some frames and decided, since he was being quite cooperative, I would shoot some video, too. Here’s the still photo and the video. It’s hilarious how, in the video, he tries to step forward onto a very thin leaf branch and it almost collapses underneath him. I have lots of pictures of these sparrows but I never pass up the chance to take more. 1/640, f7.1, 400mm, ISO1250, EOS7D.
Here’s the video link of the same scene. It’s amazing how little these birds weigh–a thin leaf branch can support this bird, and the bird knows it. [This video is a converted video from .MOV to .AVI. Does anyone know why the background changes to a lower resolution at the 10 second mark? The orginal HD version of this video is so much better!].
The Sandhill Cranes were flying overhead again quite a bit today. I made an attempt to get a flight shot of them. Flight shots lately, have been a challenge for me. Not sure if I just need more “seat” time with the 7D or if I just don’t have the technique down. This one came out reasonably well but it’s about the only one! 🙂 1/1250, f6.3, 400mm, ISO640, EOS7D.
A good example of my troubles with flight shots came next. I pulled over in front of Rest Lake, between posts 12 and 13, for the express purpose of practicing some flight shots. At this time of the day, the sun is great for birds flying in a north-south direction over the lake and I have a great view of them out my driver’s side window (recall that refuge rules require me to stay in my vehicle). With little warning, there appears a female harrier heading north, low to the ground, and she actually pauses in a hovering mode, 50 feet outside my window. I take shots but none were clear enough to use. A couple of frames caught fantastic poses of the bird from the side –but way out of focus. Very disappointing to say the least! I’m open to tips on how I can improve my flight shooting! Thanks!
It’s been a while since I’ve spotted a Red-breasted Sapsucker at the refuge but I did on this day. Unfortunately, he was on the left (backlit) side of the road just past the left turn, past post #9. I turned on my flash and took some frames, hoping for the best.
The woodpecker was shot at 1/250, f7.1, 400mm, ISO400, flash, EOS7D. A lot of noise was created when I bumped up the exposure in Lightroom. Not exactly a wall hanger but a decent documentary shot for my files.
The shot below was taken basically to identify the bird. I spotted it on top of a far away tree near post #9 and could discern the different colorations on the bird. It’s amazing how pretty this bird is in this plumage.
Toward the end of the day, heading back to the main visitor area. A soaring Turkey Vulture scans for scraps as it soars in a crystal blue sky. I didn’t get light under the right wing but I did like getting a shot of the birds head. I think these guys get a bad rap due to their looks! 1/1000, f5.6, 400mm, ISO250, EOS 7D.
That about wraps it up for this trip to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I hope something here caught your interest and that you will take a few minutes to come back for future postings! I did take some other video shots that I may splice together and post soon–nothing real earth shaking but it’s fun to watch these beautiful creatures on video. I do need to figure out how to post HD quality videos online so you can see the quality I see! Thanks so much for stopping by my bird photo blog!