Through the brush I could see a distinctly grebe shaped floater staring back at me. This one seemed different than my Pied-billed Grebe though, but before I could get a better look, Bloop! He dove under the water. I was in a bad position anyway, what with the brush in the way and looking right into the sun, so I moved some fifty feet down the trail to a nice clearing. When I’m shooting diving birds I like to wait until they dive to make any moves, it also helps to know exactly where they’re going to pop up, and simply move to that location. I thought I had lost my grebe, he was nowhere in sight, but then… Bloop! He popped up right in front of me! We were both so surprised that I forgot I even had a camera and he didn’t know what to do either! And just when I thought this day couldn’t get any better, Bloop! His girlfriend popped up and insisted upon getting her photo taken too! Nothing makes my day like a Horned Grebe resurfacing.
In the spring large flocks of Canada Geese can be seen flying north in perfect “V” formations with military-like precision. As the crow flies they go, and straight as an arrow. They are the picture of migratory efficiency. And then there are the Sandhill Cranes. They don’t do formations, or straight line anything! They are commonly seen flying over cities, in big sweeping circular patterns, and they look a little bit ridiculous doing this. Until you consider what they are actually doing, that is. Hot air rising above cities allows these cranes to gain altitude, and so they sacrifice some forward progress during their spiraling ascent, then they glide along until the next city or thermal comes along. Here’s another expert birding tip brought to you by birdsofthebog.com: when you hear a strange, high pitched chortle coming from the sky during migration, don’t give up on looking too soon, because you can typically hear the Sandhill Cranes long before they come into view.
I’ve always perceived swans as merely decorations floating around in fountain pools and garden ponds. Imagine my surprise then, the first time I saw one floating by at the bog! I’ve never seen one in flight, I guess I just figured they walk everywhere. The day I see one flying overhead will probably be a mind blowing event for me!
Day 2,553, the Brown Creepers have finally accepted me as one of their own. This is a hard bird to get; you don’t photograph a Brown Creeper unless a Brown Creeper wants to be photographed. First of all, they are constantly climbing up the sides of trees, and there are only two spots on that tree where a proper photo is possible; the left edge and the right edge. Then there’s a small matter of light; they like to stay in the shadows. They never sit still, constantly in motion. So what we end up with is a bird that is totally impervious to the camera of even a world class photographer such as myself. But on this day all the creepers I encountered went against everything I’ve come to expect from them throughout the years. They all paused. On the sunny side of the trunk. Until I got my photos. It was as if my probationary period was up and I was now a full fledged (pun!) member of the Brown Creeper family!
The muskrats came out last weekend in a big way. Everywhere I looked there they were: sitting on the ice, swimming around, and piled up on logs! On the south side of the bog, a juvenile swam right up to me and let out the cutest little squeak! Then he swam away, but popped up to my right, squeak, and he swam away again. Each time he swam away, he’d pop up in a different spot and let out a little squeak. For a brief moment I considered scooping him up and taking him home, but I figured my squirrels would get jealous and start chewing everything up!
I thought it would be cool to photograph two different duck species flying in the exact same formation. So, using a rudimentary communication system created with sticks and moss, I was able to send information to these Redheads regarding the positioning of the mergansers in my photo from a few days ago. It only took one pass and they nailed it!
I just love spring time, plants are starting to sprout up out of the ground, heck, there’s critters coming out of the ground too! Last week the snakes came out by the bucket load, and the muskrats were all sitting on top of the ice. The warblers are on their way, I just know it, but the winged creatures blowing through right now are the water fowl. Floaty birds of all shapes and sizes are out on the open water these days. I would love to get some close up shots of a Hooded Merganser with his big white head on full display, but for now I’ll have to settle for nice little fly by.
Shortly after my adventure with the baby snake, I heard a tiny little chirp. It was one of those chirps that sounded like it could be coming from a mile away, or only a few feet. Just to be sure, I looked everywhere for the owner of that tiny little chirp, and I found him! Large crest and a black mask? Cedar Waxwing! He was just a few feet away, on the other side of a large bush, so I used my ninja training to sneak over there and get a shot. Of course, just as I raised my camera into position, he moved! Grrr!!! If there’s one thing I know about waxwings though, it’s that they never fly away too far. I figured I’d get another shot at him in a few minutes, and I did!
I was at the bog yesterday thinking about a similarly nice day we had back in November, I photographed a Garter Snake that day and I remember thinking that it was awfully late in the year to be seeing snakes. That’s a strange thing to be thinking about right now, and before I could even finish that strange thought, I heard a rustling in the leaves. Haha! Snake! I shoulda’ known, my strange thoughts always happen for a reason! This was a baby snake exploring the bog for the very first time, and it was quite comical. He’d go zipping past me to left then turn around and go back to the right, stopping periodically to check me out. He investigated every leaf and slithered over or under every little obstacle. I could tell he was having a blast, just like any other baby animal experiencing the world for the first time.
I was approached the other day by a prospective client who was interested in some catbird prints. I got this, I thought to myself as I swiftly navigated through my website to the catbirds. This is the photo you’re looking for, right he-, uhh it should be right here. Hmmm… Could it actually be that I have forgotten to post the most amazing catbird photo ever taken, by me, on my website!?! Yup. Think fast, dude… okay, I got it. It uhh, appears that my IT department has mistakenly archived the wrong photos, I’ll get them straightened out right away. Whew, I think she bought it! This photo cracks me up, if I said this was a taxidermy bird sitting in a display case, you’d probably be inclined to believe me. But no, he actually hopped up on his little soap box right in front of me and started spewing cat calls for all the world to hear!
It’s pretty slim pickins around here this time of year, at least regarding birds that is. I thought it would be a good day to look for owls though, so I headed out to the bog. When I’m owl hunting there are a few thing I look for: first, I’m looking for just the right knothole in the sides of big old trees, then I’m looking at the limbs right next to the trunks of these trees. Finally, I’m looking for bird droppings (white paint) at the base of these trees. I walked along for ten minutes and then I spotted this promising knothole, but right away I thought It’s too big, probably full of raccoons. Just as if right on cue, a raccoon popped his head out of that knothole! I could hardly believe it as I fumbled to get my gear pointed in his direction. I did manage to get one shot off before he disappeared into the tree. And, of course, I didn’t see any owls that day.
I just received my first printed copy of Birds of the Bog Season Two, and I gotta say this is one cool book! And I’m not easily impressed with myself! I’ll put links to the Bookpatch book store on the sidebar and on the Books and Stuff page along with the iBooks.
Sometimes I feel like doves relax a bit too much. As I approached these two I got a one-eyed little squint out of one, and the other one never bothered to look at me at all. After about a minute, though, one of them came to the terrifying realization that I was actually standing right there! His eyes got really big and he looked around nervously, but in the ten seconds or so that it took me to walk past, he had already forgotten about me and fallen fast asleep again! And I was even closer to them now than when I first arrived! Goofy, sleepy doves.
A month ago I did a Squirrel Sunday throwback, remember that one? Same squirrel, same stump, a year apart. Well, today’s throwback involves two different squirrels and the same knot hole, fifteen months apart! Is there something wrong with me that I can see a squirrel on a stump or a squirrel in a hole and immediately recognize that I’ve already taken that shot?
A lot of people don’t like starlings. They’re noisy, or they’re ugly, or these huge flocks empty the feeders. I’ve got a starling, just one. He’s not noisy, he doesn’t eat a lot, and he’s kinda cute in a spherical little puffball sorta way.
Yesterday there was a nuthatch at the feeder so I tapped on the window. He glanced over and resumed eating, so I tapped again, this time a little harder. Again he glanced over, and again he resumed eating. What is going on here, nuthatches LOVE peanuts! The third time I tapped the glass with a resounding THUD, THUD, THUD! Message received! He raced over to the window and perched on the edge of the glass, peeked in and there we were, beak to beak! Apparently there a was a glare on the glass and he couldn’t see me from the feeder. Then he moved over to his favorite spot so I could open the door and put out some peanuts.
Last night as I was filling the feeder, I spotted Carl’s girlfriend, Carly, peeking at me from the neighbor’s yard. I called her over as I was opening the garage door, figuring she would go to the feeder, but that’s not what happened at all! I proceeded to pull the car into the garage and as I was closing the garage door I heard a tiny little cardinal chirp behind me. I turned around to investigate, and it was her, clinging to a low hanging branch right next to the garage, waiting patiently for some peanuts! I laughed all the way into the house and to the back door, where I found her looking in the window from her favorite peanutty perch!
I’ve been meaning to figure out how to do this for a long time, and this morning I finally did it! I added three new header images to my site. Now my four favoritest birds will randomly appear across the top of the page. Also, I added a shameless plug for my iBooks.
Another season of birds of the bog has come to a close, and what an amazing season it was! Some new discoveries we made this year include an Osprey and an Ovenbird, a Warbling Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo. We saw a Summer Tanager and a Solitary Sandpiper. There was a Golden-winged Warbler and a Cape May Warbler, those were good days! I got some amazing photos of the Scarlet Tanagers and Eastern Towhees this year; two of my favorite birds. The Pileated Woodpeckers were extremely cooperative this year, even showing up in my back yard several times! The waterfowl put on a good show this year as well, we saw mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, shovelers, buffleheads and a whole bunch more. There’s a ground hog living in the woods, who knew!?!? Even the squirrels seemed to take some time out of their busy schedules to mug for the camera. I’d like to thank all of you for following along this season, and here’s to a successful bird and squirrel filled season three!
I used to love flipping through this old bird book, a 1964 Peterson’s Field Guide, with all its colorful illustrations, pen and ink drawings, and silhouettes. That was a long, long time ago; back then I never dreamed that I would one day be creating my own bird books using photos that I took myself! I’d been working diligently on my new book, Birds of the Bog Season Two, for a month when I had the brilliant idea to create “a few” silhouettes and sprinkle them throughout the book. Three weeks later I have 85 silhouettes and another brilliant idea! Create a silhouettes page and put it in the back of the book just like that old field guide from 1964. I get goosebumps every time I look at this modern version of the silhouettes page because it instantly transports me back to the 70’s, to a simpler time when the magical powers of a bird book were all-consuming to a little kid who liked birds.