Wanamassa Birds

I frequently stroll the streets of Wanamassa, NJ, with camera at the ready to take pictures of birds.

My Photo
Location: Ocean, New Jersey, United States

Monday, March 27, 2006

Double Lens -- Not Bad!

Today is the first sunny day since I started using the new camera, so I took the opportunity to screw both C-8 1.6x teleconverters on the front. The results are not bad. Consider that without the combination (which gives me the eqivalent of a 1,075mm lens for a 35mm camera), I would never have gotten close enough to this house finch to take any picture:

I also took a picture of a robin that came fairly close. The color in this picture is not as good as I would have hoped, but I think it might have been that I was pointing into the sun some:

When I compare these shots with what I used to get with both lenses attached to the Oympus, the results are marvelous. First, there's no vignetting at all. I even have a little bit of zoom wiggle-room. And the atificially crackled effect (as I used to think of it) is gone.

Of course, the fact that I am collecting more pixels helps a lot. The house finch image is reduced from 1600 x 1000 pixels I cropped from the image. The robin shot is reduced from a crop of 2000 x 1250.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Damp Sunday Afternoon

Determined to make the best of a damp afternoon, I set off on my usual walk, first to the duck pond, then along North Wanamassa Drive. At the duck pond, the only picture I took was of a female American Black Duck which had wandered up on to the bank:

But then, as I was walking along the south bank towards Foodtown, I heard, but didn't see, a kingfisher. Three times, it made its distinctive call, but none of the times did I catch any kind of glimpse of it. I crossed Wickapecko and looked along Deal Lake from the bridge, and lo! There was the kingfisher flying towards the ocean. I tried to follow it, but there was no sign of it. If it did alight on any of the overhanging branches, I didn't see it.

This has been an unprecedented year for kingfisher sightings. I've never before had more than one sighting a year, and already I'm up to four sightings this year, but with narry a picture to prove it.

To add to my frustration, it started to rain. I took shelter under a tree halfway down the bank. It was just a shower and there was no lightning to worry about. While I was there, I saw a pair of great blue herons. They flew along the lake towards me from the ocean but circled back just before they reached me. I waited out the shower and set off in pursuit, hoping to find them together. But the sky was by now looking very threatening, so I decided to head back home lest if pour, because I was wearing just a jacket.

I caught sight of a gull that I'd noticed sitting on the lake when I went the other way. Thinking I might get some shots of it taking off, I hurried to find a place on the bank where I wouldn't have to worry too much about the overhanging trees and focused on the bird. Before I could press the shutter release, the bird took off, and I was able to get one picture only. But it's a pretty good one under the circumstances:

I decided to return home via Fireman's Pond. It is only slightly out of my way. To my surprise, I spotted the Northern Shoveler. I thought this was the same bird as the one I captured on Friday. I thought it had flown from one pond to the other. But now I compare the pictures, this one has a white mark near the top of its beak that was not present on Friday's bird. I had seen a shoveler at Fireman's pond before, so perhaps this was that bird.

I was also able to get a slightly better picture of the male teal, although I've still not gotten close enough. The first chance I get on a sunny day, I'm going to take my longer lens along.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

GBH Action Shots

It was overcast and somewhere between brisk and chilly this morning, but undetered I went out hoping to find the egret and/or great blue heron again. No sign of the egret, and I would have missed the great blue had it not flown across the water at Wanamassa Drive North just as I was approaching. Had it flown across a minute or two earlier, I might never have noticed it in the tree across the water because it blended right into the background.

As it was, it gave me the chance to try out a feature of the new camera whereby it will continually take pictures, but only keep the last ten shots. This allows me to point the camera at a stationary bird and keep on shooting until something happens. As anyone who has watched a great blue heron for any length of time will tell you, it can be quite a long time before it does anything more interesting than turning its head this way or that and occasionally curling its neck.

But this morning, I got lucky!

Take your marks:

Get set:


Fasten your seatbelts:

Chair backs in the vertical position:

Turn off all electronic gadgets:

Thank you for flying GBH:

Unfortunately, I took my finger off the button a couple of shots too early. The bird alighted on that branch, and ten minutes later was still there (I took this picture at a different angle to get the white house out of the frame):

Had it been either warmer or brighter, I might have hung around some to see if anything else was going to happen, but it was too cold, so I walked back home to see how good these pictures were. Brighter light would have given me sharper images but all-in-all, I can't complain.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mourning Doves

In the great scheme of things, taking pictures of mourning doves is no big achievement. Like mallards and Canada geese they're on my list of "too easy to bother with" birds. But these two seemed to have created a nest for themselves in the front yard of one of the houses on North Wanamassa Drive and so I snapped this rather nice shot:

And today, an Egret

Hot on the heels of yesterday's great blue heron, today I spotted an egret. I first saw it in flight and it was headed up the same north-side arm of Deal Lake where the great blue had eluded me yesterday. But it didn't stay there long. Unfamiliarity with the camera cost me an excellent chance to get some shots of it in flight, but I followed it and found it in yet another of those side-arms. But this one is not as long and so I was at least able to take this picture:

Experience says that this bird will be around for a few days before continuing north, so I'll go out for another look tomorrow (weather permitting).

I did see the great blue heron again a few minutes later at the duck pond, but just as I got into position to take a picture it upped and flew off. I last saw it flying past some houses close-by the lake and heading off in a north-westerly direction. I'm not sure where it was going because there's not much in the way of open water in that direction.

Great Blue & Great News!

Yesterday, I was checking out the part of Deal Lake that is bounded by North Wanamassa Drive yesterday when I spotted a Great Blue. It put on a little show for me and I was particularly pleased with this shot:

but as I tried to get closer, it flew off and took refuge up one of the side-arms on the north side of the lake, too far away to even bother trying to take a picture.

So, what's the great news? Well, the accessory I ordered for my camera to allow attaching filters was delivered that afternoon, so now I have the equivalent of a 672mm lens thanks to my trusty on Canon C-8 which fits even better on my new camera than on the old. [Thinks: I should try it out with both C-8s attached the next time it's a really sunny day.]

It was the C-8 that made those shoveler shots I posted earlier so much better than the previous shots.

Shovel Off

For the last few days, each time I've tried to get a picture of the solitary shoveler it has presented me with essentially this view:

as it hightailed it to the other side of the pond. With all the tree branches cluttering up the bank, particularly on the south side where I normally first appear in order to keep the sun behind me, by the time I'm ready to take a picture, it's already across the other side and the best I can do is something like this:

But today was overcast and so taking pictures into the sun was possible. In that first shot, the bird had just noticed me on the north bank and had set off back to the south side. But for some reason, it turned and gave me the side-on shot before moving on:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Local Birds

I went out for a morning walk up our street. Immediately, I was greeted by the call of a crow from the tree in the front yard of the house across the street:

It didn't hang around very long, and I'm not exactly overly proud of this shot, but I include it here for historical reasons.

At the end of the street, I saw that a flock of robins (American Robins for my international readers) had moved into the woods. I'd seen such a flock over at the duckpond a few days ago, but over there they don't cooperate and are very had to capture in a picture. But at the end of the street, they seem more cooperative.

This one virtually posed for me. Allowing me to get quite close before flying off:

Then I spotted this one. I suspect that this is a somewhat older bird. It didn't look very chipper and seemed somewhat fluffed up compared to the others. But it might have just been enjoying the sunshine:

And, speaking of enjoying the sunshine, this one was standing by the kerb (yes, that's the British spelling). It too allowed me to get very close (close enough for this shot, anyway) before flying off. This is a case where I have used cropping to get what amounts to a 2.8x of extra zoom because this image is cropped from the original pixels (although I did apply a little bit of Photoshop sharpening).

Gull Rising

So, I took the plunge and bought a new camera, a Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6. It has a 12:1 zoom with a longest focal length of 420mm (35mm equivalent) compared to the 380mm of the Olympus I've been using. But it captures images at 2816 x 2112 compared to the 1600 x 1200 of the older camera. I can use these extra pixels to (in effect) add zoom by cropping the image or to improve sharpness by resampling the image. Typically, I do some of both.

My first shot taken on my morning walk (already a benefit: my camera has me taking morning walks again!) was of a gull taking flight from the parking lot of the Foodtown on Sunset Ave. When all's said and done, only managing to get one shot of a gull is a bit disappointing. But I made up for that later in the morning.

Here's the picture, with both cropping and scaling applied in Photoshop:

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More Osprey Shots

Here are more shots from this afternoon. The last was taken on the other side of the pond. You can see that in the time it took me to get around the pond, the bird had eaten a fair amount of the fish.

First Osprey and Best Yet

I just had my first sighting of an osprey this year, and bless me if the bird didn't pose for me with a fish in its claw! Look at this:

I took this on the north side of the duck pond. I first spotted the bird in flight as it flew west along the duck pond. I went chasing after it, but it doubled back and perched in a tree just about where I had been in the first place. There were rather a lot of branches between me and the bird so I had to manually focus. At least there weren't leaves on the branches!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who Knows Crows?

I'm starting to think that all the crows we see in our area are fish crows. This one is, I think. If it hadn't started calling just as I walked underneath this tree, I'd have never have noticed it. I was looking at the duck pond in the hope of sighting the night heron again -- but I think it was just stopping over here for a day or two before continuing its migration north.

I was rather pleased to get that shot with its feathers fluffed up. It only did that the one time while I was watching it. This second picture is more typical of how it looked:

Another reason I was at the duck pond was that a couple of days ago I saw a kingfisher while I was there. It flew by making its characteristic clicking noise and perched on the cables that are strung across the pond, but it stayed there for less than two seconds or I'd have taken a picture. It then went into one of the trees, and then disappeared. One of my goals for the year is to get a decent picture of a kingfisher, but they put in such brief appearances and they don't seem to keep still for any period of time, either, so it's going to be a tough goal to achieve.

I did see a downy in the wild. I so much prefer to get shots of birds acting naturally rather than helping themselves to the seeds in our feeder. But getting close enough to a downy to get a decent shot when it's not at the feeder is another thing entirely!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ducks, Ducks, Ducks, Geese, Heron

When all else fails, take some pictures of some ducks. We have quite a variety in the local ponds at the moment, although I suspect that I've seen the last of the hooded mergansers until next year:

That female has to be one of the ugliest birds you'll ever see, and it is so fuzzy that even if you can get close enough to get a good shot, the picture still looks out of focus. These two pictures were taken at the Firemen's Pond (as I call it) on Monday, March 6, and I've not seen the male again. I did get one glimpse of a solitary female at the downstream duck pond on Thursday.

However, the Fireman's pond is home to more kinds of ducks. There are teals and wood ducks to be seen there, although unlike the ubiquitous mallards and American ducks, they flee to the other side of the pond the minute I put in an appearance. Here's a shot I took of a teal, and a pair I first thought were wood ducks except that the female looked too big, and who can tell what the male is in this shot?. Turns out they're northern shovelers. Overseeing the ducks are a pair of Canada geese -- one day, I'll do a comparison of what appear to be three kinds of Canada geese: short-thick-necked, long-thin-necked, and long-thick-necked.

And here's a picture from Monday of two northern shovelers I spotted at the duck pond--I spent all week thinking I'd seen wood ducks in some kind of drab winter plumage:

Meanwhile, over at the original duck pond, upstream from the footbridge that connects the two parts of Chestnut Ave., there has been a major change since a huge tree fell into the pond during a storm last year. Now there are four American ducks who have taken up residence within the rotting tree. Two of them seem to be more comfortable with having their pictures taken. Also plentiful at both ponds are mallards.

Oh! I nearly forgot the heron. I think this must be the same bird as yesterday. I didn't see it at all from across the pond, although having stumbled upon it while trying to get closer to the teals and what I throught were wood ducks, I could then see it from the other side:

I was able to get quite close to it, but getting a clear shot through all the trees was difficult. Here's the best one:

Astonishing Luck: a Black Crowned Night Heron

I was on my way back home having given up hope of getting any really good pictures when I noticed that a path had been blazed through some normally intimidating trees and undergrowth that would let me get easily to the stream that is about 100 yards upstream from the duck pond. Not expecting to actually see much more than the stream and the mud banks that it flows through, I was astonished to spot this beautiful bird:

I stared at it in amazement. It stared back at me looking more annoyed than anything else. I tried moving around a bit to get a better angle and it decided to take a hike along the log it was perched on. Here it is on the way back:

And, to add to the astonishment, at that moment the batteries in my camera ran out of juice. Had that happened a few minutes earlier, I'd have been the one who was annoyed!

Note: this evening, I looked up this bird in Sibley's. According to Sibley, this bird's plumage is that of a juvenile in the months from July to January, yet here we are in March. And while a full grown bird has a length of 25 inches, this one struck me as being somewhat smaller than that. I've certainly seen larger specimens over the past few years.

Next Day, a Junco!

OK, so Juncos are ten a penny throughout the winter here in New Jersey, but getting a good picture of one has proven to be very frustrating over the five years I've had my digital camera. Most of the time, they're on a snow background and that seems to really frustrate my camera. Even this shot is slightly disappointing. I took it on Friday of a bird picking up seeds off the ground under the feeder. Again, it was there waiting for me when I emerged from the front door. And for the second day in a row, I was surprised by how close the bird allowed me to get:

Starting Over with a Downy

It's March already and I've not started a birds page for 2006. So I thought I'd give blogging a try. Later, I'll post a couple of images from January and February. I was so busy then that I hardly went out with the camera at all. Now that March is here, the weather has improved (dramatically) and I have more time available to pursure my hobby.

On Thursday, I was immediately lucky. As I emerged from the front door, I spotted a Downy on our little tree. It was availing itself of the feeder. Each time it found a sunflower seed, it would fly to the nearest branch and eat it there. Here are a couple of shots of the bird at the feeder:

Notice that is has a sunflower seed in its beak in that second shot. It was about to fly up to the branch. I did not get a good enough shot of the bird in flight to warrent posting it here.

Unlike many birds that visit our feeder, the Downy allowed me to get quite close. I was very pleased with this shot of the bird holding the seed as it attempted to consume it on the branch: