Thursday, February 27, 2014

Photographing Lesser Scaup

A Lesser Scaup coming in for a landing!

A major highlight on the east coast was having the chance to photograph Lesser Scaup in Maryland.  There were at least a couple hundred birds present and all were extremely tame.  There was also a nice mix of Canvasback and American Wigeon within the flock.  As always, it was much easier to capture images of the scaup in the water than in flight.  

Here are a few of the scaup photos that I took during our one day at the location.

A first cycle, male, Lesser Scaup

An adult, male, Lesser Scaup

I can't hear you!

A female Lesser Scaup

An adult male Lesser Scaup

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Harlequin Duck Photography at Barnegat, NJ

Why is Barnegat Lighthouse State Park known as such a great bird photography location?  One of the major reasons are the extremely photogenic Harlequin Ducks.  The stars of the show, the Harlequin Ducks, aren't alone; they are joined by Long-tailed Ducks, all three Scoters, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Purple Sandpiper, Great Cormorant, and much more.  Most allow close approach and fantastic opportunities for any photographer.  
Capturing great images of Harlequins in the water takes some patience but is fairly easy.  However, if you want some flight shots, much more time and effort are involved.  Luckily, many birds fly up and down the inlet at Barnegat allowing for ample flight photography.  If you can keep yourself from getting distracted by all the other birds, you will eventually have some opportunities as Harlequins fly by at close range.

If you can peel your camera lenses away from the male Harlequins there are also females, usually within the flocks of males.  The females are much drabber and not quite as photogenic but they also have a "good" look if you give them a chance.

One of my most wanted shots was a Harlequin perched on one of the rocks. Luckily, the Harlequins commonly hop up onto the ocean-side rocks.  There are some difficulties with getting this shot.  Usually when there is one Harlequin on a rock, there are 6-8 other Harlequins perched all around.  So, trying to isolate just one becomes a chore.  The Harlequins also tend to be a little more uncomfortable with close approach when on the rocks.

This Harlequin was about to get back into the water.  As you can see, the rest of his flock was in the water behind him.  During the winter, while the Harlequins are at this location, the morning light is great for photographing the Harlequins.  In the afternoon it is great as well, but also better for shooting straight out from the breakwall, for all the other waterfowl.

If you have never been to Barnegat and you are a photographer, it should definitely be on the top of your list of places to go.  We, Sabrewing Nature Tours, will have a waterfowl photography tour along the east coast next winter (2015) that includes Barnegat.  It will be as good of a time as ever to capture some amazing waterfowl photographs!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Photographing Ducks in Maryland

An update from the East Coast:

After landing in JFK, Brian Zwiebel picked us up and we headed to our first destination, Cambridge, Maryland.  Photography was great with plenty of opportunities to photograph American Wigeon, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, and Mallard.  The only difficulty was isolating a single bird for a photo!

The birding was fairly good as well with many species of ducks being further out including Long-tailed Ducks and Surf Scoters.  

A drake American Wigeon.  This was the best looking drake of the 25 or so American Wigeon present.

A drake Lesser Scaup.  The most numerous duck at the location.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Birding and Photography Trip to the East Coast

Eric and I will be joining our friend and Sabrewing Nature Tours partner, Brian Zwiebel, on a trip to the east coast to photograph some of the awesome waterfowl species in that area and to look for a few life birds that have eluded us since we've never been to the area!

This is the route that we are hoping to follow. Lots of birds to see and photograph, not very much time!
We'll fly into JFK in New York City and then head to some great birding and photography locations in Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. It's going to be a really quick trip but both Eric and I are hoping to pick up at least 5 lifers each in during the four day trip and to get some incredible photos of a variety of waterfowl especially Harlequin Duck, all three scotors, and if we are lucky, Common Eider!

Hopefully after this trip, Brian will be set to lead a waterfowl photo tour here next February for Sabrewing Nature Tours!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Lost Animals

Rob writes: It's been awhile since I've had a book to review but I'm extremely excited about his new book that I just received from Princeton University Press. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller take a look at some of the species that we have lost to extinction but that were photographed before they were gone forever.

Fuller explores the world of extinct species through little know and seldom seen photographs that remain as our only connection with many of these species. The quality of the photographs ranges from extremely poor to quite incredible but each and every one provides you with a deep connection to the species that's been lost.

The species pictured include many birds as well as a few mammals but as usual, I'm most draw to the birds, especially the species from Hawaii. The three Hawaiian species really show the range of photos that the author was able to collect for this book as well. The photos range from the Mamo that was photographed in 1892, the year in which it likely went extinct, to the Po'ouli that was photographed in 1997 by a researcher that caught it in his mist nets. As a side note, did you know that the last Po'ouli known to exist died in 2004. That means a bird has gone extinct in the United States within the last 10 years!

 I would highly recommend this book and hope that they photographs that the author has included will help lead people to understand how important it is to protect our endangered species This is a current problem and if we do not act to save species, his next edition of the book will be much longer and incude much more current photos.

Authors: Errol Fuller
Publication Date: February 26, 2014

We received a copy of this book from the publisher to review on The links are to our Amazon Affiliate account.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Eagle Creek Birding

I haven't birded in Eagle Creek Park much since the whole lake is now frozen.  There are still a few interesting birds around including Swamp Sparrow, Winter Wren, and Red-headed Woodpeckers.  Today, the highlight was a very cooperative Red-shouldered Hawk.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any luck with photographing this bird once it took flight (after about 10 minutes of watching it).

A Red-shouldered Hawk in the rain.

One of many Fox Sparrows visiting the seed pile at the Coffer Dam.

The continuing Swamp Sparrow at the same seed pile as the Fox Sparrow.

Another view of the Swamp Sparrow.

One of many American Tree Sparrows visiting the seed pile.