Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Few More Photos and Weekend Prediction

I wanted to share a few more photos with you from last weekend and share the CMBO weekend prediction.  CMBO is predicting good weekend birding due to the miserable weather that has hung around all week which is keeping birds stationary up north.  The weekend weather and winds are forecasted to be favorable for flights of hawks and songbirds.  Check out their blog:  View from the Cape for more updates.

Here are the photos of birds in flight from last weekend using the new lens.  Remember, the new lens is only 400mm so I have to crop the photos to get them to look like birds:

 Kestral carrying a dragonfly that is swooped down and plucked from the top of a phragmite

Osprey soaring right over us with Sharpie soaring higher (bottom edge of photo)

Peregrine Falcon with full crop (just ate something)

I couldn't resist photographing these swans flying in formation.  You should have heard their wings whistling

Click on any image to enlarge.  More soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We Sawra Sora

I have seen text updates all week that include a Sora at Cape May State Park at the Lighthouse and warblers, and hawks and, and, and.  Once again, I talked the girls into driving down to Cape May after the Phillies game on Friday night so that we could be there bright and early.  Biggie invited us to stay at her house, so all was set for a big day on Saturday.  Oh, and I brought the new lens with me too.

After a long day of work, a Phillies game, and arriving at the shore at midnight, we were up and out of the house at 6:15 AM on Saturday morning.  As soon as we walked out of the door, I knew that we were probably doomed due to the stiff wind coming out of the SOUTH.  That means that birds migrating south for the winter would have to fly into a 20 MPH head wind.  Which is NOT going to happen.  Crap.  The morning was basically a bust except for the delicious French toast breakfast.

Sunday morning was much better.  We awoke to winds out of the East North East so we got good songbird flight at the Higbee dike and went to the Hawkwatch platform to see if hawks were moving. Boy, were they ever.  We counted plenty of raptors of 9 species.  But the big find of the day was the Sora.  Here is a photo taken with my new lens at 400mm (I added a red arrow to help you find it):
We met a guy on the boardwalk who was specifically searching for the Sora because he had never seen one before.  Barbara found the bird with her new super scope by scanning the other side of the pond slowly. Then, bam, she says "Oh, here's the Sora".  It took her like 2 minutes and some good luck.  I cropped the original image with Photoshop to try to show you what it looked like in the scope:

More about the new lens and some more photos later.  I'm exhausted and going to bed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quick Camera Update

Thanks to everyone for your comments on my latest camera/lens dilemma.  Here is an update - I took the lens back to NY Camera and Video.  The owner sent one of his staff outside with me to shoot some test photos:

  • My Canon 40D with my Sigma 150-500mm OS lens = out of focus images at all OS settings 0,1,2.  Better with manual focus than with autofocus
  • My Canon 40D with another Sigma lens = slightly better images but still not acceptable at all settings.
  • Canon D7 with my Sigma lens = better images, but still not sharp at all settings
  • My Canon 40D with Canon 100-400mm lens = sharp images at all settings

I returned the Sigma and purchased the Canon which was my intent all along.  The only reason I purchased the Sigma was because 3 sales people at NYCV told me that the Sigma would be sharper.  Not true.  The good news is that NYCV stood by the sale, gave me good customer service and also gave me the original discount of $75 because I had rented the Canon 100-400mm last month.

I'll post photos this weekend.  We are off to Cape May for fall warblers and hawks.  Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stay At Home Weekend

I can't remember the last weekend that Connie and I spent home - together. We had half a plan to go to Cape May on Saturday.  But even with the tweets and blog posts from CMBO reporting incredible amounts of migrating Monarch butterflies (click the link for awesome photos and report) and good amounts of warblers, the trip just seemed like too much. 

Instead, we went to Lake Galena and Pine Run Reservoir on Saturday morning, then over to Lori and Tara's neighborhood yard sale.  Peace Valley was a bust for warblers, but we got a great view of White-eyed Vireo.  The yard sale was pretty good.  Of course Connie bought some stuff.  Then we went to NY Camera and Video and walked out with a new camera lens. A Sigma 150-500mm Optical Stabilized zoom lens. 

Today, we took the lens to Palmyra Cove Nature Park right at the base of Tacony Palmyra Bridge.  We saw 44 species and had a front row seat to a Yellow-billed Cuckoo show.  I shot 100+ photos of the bird. Only one is sort of OK.  Sort of.  I'm really disappointed.  I'm taking the lens back to the store this week.  What do you think?

We also saw Philadelphia Vireo for the second weekend in a row.  You can really tell the difference between Red-eyed and Philadelphia when you see them both in the same tree.  The Philadelphia is smaller, plumper, and has more yellow up on the throat.  Here are photos for comparison (again, just barely in focus with the new lens):
Philadelphia Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hawk Mountain 2010

For those of you keeping track of this type of thing, we (The Birdnerds) did not get to Hawk Mountain last year at all.  After probably 20+ years of annual pilgrimage to the world's first hawk sanctuary, we just didn't make it there.  We didn't go there even though they engraved a bench at the ampitheater with my Dad's name - thanks to the generosity of people who donated on his behalf when he died.  We still didn't go.  Well, we couldn't stand for that 2 years in a row, now could we?  No.  We went on Saturday.  I had a 102 degree fever and strep throat, but we went anyway.

Lori and I were at the parking lot at 7:15 AM because we know that Hawk Mountain is really "Warbler Mountain" in the fall.  We were hoping for early morning songbirds and found them at South Lookout almost right away. We also had a close encounter of the Sharpie variety while agonizing up the rocky trail.  We heard and saw about 6 Blue Jays squawking and darting at something.  We heard the ferocious call of the Sharp-shinned Hawk (more like a squeeking mouse really) and saw the hawk trying to avoid the Jays by flying in and out of the trees all around us.  Pretty neat.  That lasted a good 20 minutes - which is the amount of time it took us to move about 200 yards due to my diminished capacity (feeling sorry for me yet?).

Up on North Lookout, there were pretty much no hawks.  This is typical of our recent trips.  Beautiful day, light winds, no hawks.  We sat there and sat there.  Nothing.  Then, along came really nice sight - my 10 year old nephew Brendan with giant binoculars ready to see some birds (along with Di, Barbara, and our new nerd Amy).  It's a good thing Brendan showed up because the hawks started to show up too!  We got really great views of 3 Bald Eagles, a Kestral, and a Merlin.  The Merlin circled us a few times just to make sure we all got a good look.  2 of the Eagles locked talons for a few seconds and spun around in mid-air as if to show off.  We also saw plenty of Broad-winged Hawks soaring by.  Here is the link to the day's total  Brendan did a great job with his binoculars.  I think he studied before the trip (some of the Birdnerds should try that approach sometime).  I hope Brendan continues to join us on our annual trip.

If you haven't been to Hawk Mountain - you should go.  It's a pilgrimage that all birders need to take at least once.  The history of raptor conservation starts here, it's a terrific day of hiking, and the hawkwatching isn't bad either - unless the Birdnerds are there, so go on another day.

Here are some photos of Red-tailed Hawk from a previous trip to Hawk Mountain: 

Same bird, in a "stoop" which means that the wings are folded back and they are diving at a high rate of speed - usually after a tasty rabbit or mouse or something:
Hopefully, I'll get over this sickness before the weekend and be able to get out somewhere. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Phillies Take First Place in NL East

You may not care about that, but I was at the game last night sitting in Row 18 behind home plate in the "Diamond Club" courtesy of Di's company tickets.  Sweeeeet doesn't come close to describing the seats and the experience.  Why post this to a bird watching blog?  Well first of all to brag about the Diamond Club seating.  Second, to brag about the Phillies taking first place by a half game over the Braves.  Here is a photo of me with Raul Ibanez at bat:

And third, because I did have a nature experience at the ballpark.  Although it wasn't the bird kind of nature, it did have rather large wings.  Di and I were coming back to the seats after buying a soda during the 3rd inning and the staff person put his arms up to stop us.  I thought he was stopping us from going to our seats during play which is what they usually do, but he was stopping us from stepping on this:

Of course, I had to "rescue" it from being stepped on so I picked it up and proceeded to try to walk it out of the stadium.  As I walked it through the clubhouse/dining area, it decided to take off and hang onto the ceiling.  Ugh.  Next thing you know, I am balancing on a chair, and trying to coax the thing into a stolen beer cup while the Diamond Club diners are looking at me like I'm nuts (OK).  Once I had the thing in the cup, it was easy to get past the gatekeepers to let it go.  Job well done - or so I thought.  

What do you think showed up at the pitcher's mound in the 7th inning?  Yes, my moth traveled all the way back into the stadium and proceeded to flutter around the pitcher's mound before settling in the grass between the mound and home plate.  I didn't see it again and assume that it knows what it's doing and is rather upset with me for moving it so far from home. . .