Monday, February 2, 2015

Post #6 - Super Bird Sunday

I managed to make it out for a very nice morning of birding and photographing yesterday (Sunday). It started out very cold but quickly warmed to near 40 degrees. By recent standards, this was downright tropical. I arrived at Jones Beach near sunrise. I was hoping to find, among other things, one or more of the 5 Lapland longspurs that had been reported from the location on the previous day. Zero longspurs were observed in my 4 hours at the beach. I did observe the usual gaggle of gulls, sea ducks, and Snow buntings. Despite my best efforts, the buntings avoided the barrel of my 500mm lens. My experience photographing this species tells me that finding lone birds or very small groups affords the best chance of closely approaching this very skittish ground dweller. The large (~80 individuals) group today wanted nothing to do with me - or my lens. 

The highlight of the morning was a flock of 15-20 Common redpolls that was feeding right on the dunes trail at the west end of the beach. I really nailed one bird as he fed on some plant that my minimal botany skills prevent me from identifying. I always say that all I want from each day out is a decent amount of birds and at least one really good photo opportunity. This was the only interesting bird that was within my "photography radius" all day. It took a bit of maneuvering to avoid out-of-focus reeds in the foreground, but I am very happy with the results. The crop is a bit awkward, but I didn't have much frame with which to work.

Common redpoll - Carduelis flammea
Jones Beach, Long Island, New York
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 + 1.4x Teleconverter III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 1600
+1 stop using Evaluative metering
This is ~39% of the original frame

Birding was admittedly a bit slow. I did find the 3 continuing Harlequin ducks and a handful of Common eiders floating around the jetty. Here is what that scene looked like.

If you look just behind my gear, you can see what looks like a sheet of ice. Upon closer inspection, I found all sorts of miniature ice formations. I spent a bit of time playing around with them. This is the result I like best.

Ice on beach, Jones Beach, Long Island, New York
Canon 17-40 f/4L at 40mm on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/400 at f/22, ISO 800
Full frame

I often get so wrapped up looking for birds that I forget to stop and appreciate the other things I might find. If the birding is super hot then it is completely understandable. However, when things slow down it can be jet as rewarding to see what else you can find. This is surely why so many birders have picked up butterflies as a complement to their primary avian interest. I also spent a bit of time looking at shells and other bean debris. It was nice to slow down for a bit and just appreciate where I was on a slower birding day. As I left Jones beach midmorning, I saw perhaps the most beautiful Rough-legged hawk I have ever seen. It floated long the roadside before landing in a snag in the marsh. He escaped the gaze of my lens as there was not a good place to pull over to photograph him. I'll have to live with the redpoll shot as a consolation!

As a final note, I also found 4 Winter wrens and 2 American woodcocks along a stream in Farmingdale. The woodcocks flushed before I could get any shots of them. As a shorebird fanatic, I am anxious to add this woodland variant to my photo collection. 


  1. Excellent photo of an excellent bird!

  2. Beautiful photo of that redpoll. I also really appreciate seeing the scenery there. Love the ice close up.

  3. Still have not found a better bird blogger out there. Thanks for providing us addicts our fix. Agreed, the redpoll picture is wicked pissa cool, as we used to say in 1970s Massachusetts.

  4. I wonder what the heck the Woodcocks are eating right now? Our ground in the northern Piedmont outside Philadelphia is frozen solid. A Woodcock would break its beak if it tried to forage in our soil.

    The plant bearing the beautiful Redpoll looks like goldenrod to me.