Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Visitor From the North

Snowy Owls are indeed one of His most beautiful creatures!

We have been blessed the past several late winters here in Western NY to be graced with the presence, even if only briefly, with Snowy Owls as part of their somewhat sporadic "irruption" from the Northern climes of Canada. Having been infatuated with big owls since my teen years, I was more than a bit surprised and elated during a recent encounter with this Snowy Owl.
Is he watching me or scanning the horizon for lunch?
Hunters of wide open country, Snowy Owls are seen in various settings and locations but not that often is one spotted in a tree. When I think about, any photos I’ve seen depicted Snowies on the ground, in flight, perched on roof tops, fence posts, road signs, etc. That being said, I found it something of a treat to not only see one of these visitors from the North Country, but to find it roosted in a spruce tree as well.  

Another Christmas Card in the making - huzaah!!
Not only was I quite pleased to get photos of a Snowy Owl, what really tickled me was the contrast of the white Arctic raptor framed by evergreen boughs. Call it a nature photographer’s bonus!

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Memorable Cardinal Winter

A Northern Cardinal lends some much needed color to a Rose of Sharon branch.
As mentioned in our last post, the past two months have seen an abundance of Cardinal activity out our way, both in and around the yard and in the neighboring woodlots. During a time of year that is typically devoid of bright colors it has been a joy to see such an abundance of these lovely avian creatures.

Mrs. Cardinal savors a sunflower seed.

Can’t say we’ve ever before witnessed a winter like this one where Cardinals are concerned. They began showing up just before Christmas and their numbers increased as winter kicked into high gear. In the time since we have taken more Cardinal photos than the previous two years combined.

He sure bears a striking resemblance to one of the "Angry Birds, doesn't he? 

A Goldfinch looks on as a female Cardinal plucks a sunflower seed from the snow.
Switching over to black oil sunflower seeds rather than a seed mix – and a generous application thereof - may have had something to do with our experiencing an influx of Cardinals this winter. And it was well worth it as the “redbirds” sure do help make the winter pass quickly.

Until next time,
Jim & Claudia

Monday, February 26, 2018

Cardinals in the Norway Spruce

A female Northern Cardinal nestled amid the boughs of our Norway Spruce.

Her male counterpart sits nearby.
We have been waiting a long time to capture the right photo of a Northern Cardinal in our Norway Spruce. Jim planted the spruce when it was a seedling barely eight inches in height and as a result its first few winters were spent buried beneath the snow.  

Our vision has been realized!
Today the spruce stands upwards of 23 ft in its boughs have no trouble bearing the weight of a heavy snowfall. Add a Northern Cardinal to that scenario and we had the desired Christmas card effect we have long been hoping for.

Is this my good side?
In addition to the photos seen here of Cardinals in our spruce tree, we have several others taken in and around our property and we’d like to share them with you in our next post.

Until next time,
Jim & Claudia     

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Watching You, Watching Me

Feeling safe & secure in tangle of wild grape vine, a male
 cardinal stares into the camera lens.
When photographing wildlife we move slowly and deliberately, trying our best to remain undetected. This is especially true with our avian friends as they tend to be skittish and become spooked rather easily. However, there were times when our “quarry” was not only aware of our presence, but much to our delight, they appeared to be curious rather than alarmed much like the cardinal pictured above. Here are a few more of those instances captured during the spring and early summer of 2017.     

Why are you looking at me?.
This Yellow Warbler was busy probing apple blossoms for insects when it spotted me. We find Yellow Warblers difficult to photograph as they tend to rapidly flit about, whether in the wild or here in our apple tree probing the tiny white flowers for insects.  

I'm pretty sure he's giving me the evil eye.

This Tree Swallow paused long enough for a series of pics, including this eye-to-eye confrontation. They are a territorial sort and normally an exercise in perpetual motion. Whether protecting their nest or picking off insects on the fly, their daylight hours are spent performing airborne acrobatics in the form of swoops, dives and high- speed passes meant to intimidate intruders – including invasive photographers!  

Looking like a toddler sampling his first birthday cake, this 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak stares into the camera while feasting on soggy suet.

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia


Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Delightful Pileated Woodpecker

A Pileated Woodpecker scans his surroundings.
I don’t believe I’ve ever, in my entire life, caught sight of a Pileated Woodpecker and not stopped whatever I was doing simply to observe the largest of North America’s woodpeckers at work. And if their presence was made known audibly by a loud, ringing cuck cuck cuck, that too was cause to scan the immediate area in search of a dark, crow-sized bird with white neck stripes and a prominent red crest atop its head. Even on the fly there is no mistaking the Pileated Woodpecker’s undulating flight pattern, or those easy to spot white markings on the underside of their wings.
What's for lunch today?
Although we’ve not yet heard their tell-tale call in the winter months spotting them has not been difficult. With zero foliage they are easier to espy, whether on the wing while passing through the open woodlands or alternately probing and hammering away at tree bark.  
This male is taking a brief break from drilling for his next meal.
In recent days, with arctic air invading the area, the Pileated Woodpecker was a sight to behold for sure as evidenced by this male in a large Cottonwood tree. He seemed oblivious to the cold, undeterred by single digit and even below zero temps. Personally, we found him to be a natural delight, both entertaining, amusing and a joy to watch.

Until next time,
Jim & Claudia

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The “Fish Hawk” Makes a Dramatic Comeback

A female Osprey sits in her nest.
High above Windmill Marsh the male osprey soared, alternately circling and hovering as it scanned the water below. Then, in an instant, it plummeted toward the surface of the marsh. The final second of its rapid descent was shielded from our view by towering pines, yet there was no mistaking the loud splash. Moments later the Osprey was airborne once again. Though his talons were empty there would be no returning without food. He continued his search, flying eastward over the marsh.

A quarter mile to the west in Hazard Campbell Marsh, the female of the pair stood guard, her fledglings hidden from sight in the deep confines of a large stick nest.  

It was early May and Claudia and I were hiking the network of trails on Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. This was not our first sighting of this pair of ospreys. Three other outings had yielded similar results, with the female standing guard over the nest while the male perched in a nearby dead tree.  

AKA the “Fish Hawk”, Ospreys attain a wing span of five feet or better and commonly nest along lakes, rivers and coastal areas, the species’ preferred hunting grounds. Like the Bald Eagle, Ospreys have made a dramatic comeback in recent years. Pesticide use in the 50’s and 60’s led to a drastic decline in their numbers but thankfully, they are once again nesting in areas from which they once disappeared. 

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Green Heron Pics at Long Last


In Recent years our attempts at getting photos of the smallest of North America’s herons resulted in fair to middling results at best. But this past summer that all changed.

Outings this year to the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area proved to be quite fruitful. As we became familiar with the various marshes and the interconnecting network of trails, we came across an ever-growing variety of wildlife found therein. And to our delight, none proved more accommodating at having their picture taken than the little Green Heron.
A Green Heron scans it's surrounding from on high.

While they do perch in trees like the specimen seen here craning its neck, the Green Heron is a stalker of stream and marsh edges, where it hunts small fish and frogs. And yet it is most difficult to spot them in such cover where they tend to be nearly invisible, blending in perfectly among cattails, phragmites and other wetland growth that affords them cover.
One can't help but envy his fishing skills.

At times crafty in its attempt to lure prey, the Green Heron has been known to take a small twig or feather in their sizeable bill and drop it gently on the surface, hoping the slight disturbance will attract a potential meal.  
A waning moon photobombs a Green Heron at dusk.
Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia