Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Holidays!

I got this image last weekend during the Cape Race Christmas bird count. Taken in Chance Cove Provincial park. Figured id post this on top of my last blog post as i have been very slow lately in updating the blog! Ill be heading to Toronto, Ontario on Jan 8th for one week of photographing Owls and Sea Ducks! Expect lots of photos! Hope you have a great Holiday Season!

Feeder Set-Up's

Late fall and early winter is one of the toughest times of year to capture images of birds. Compared to all other months it seems November & December is when I take the least number of photographs. This is mostly due to the lack of birds around and harsh weather.

One thing that never seems to fail in drawing birds is a bird feeder. A bird feeder set up isn't just a bird feeder. A bird feeder set up usually consists of multiple established bird feeders in an area drawing in many birds. An established bird feeder is simply a bird feeder you have had out for a while that the birds are used to. On the day you plan on photographing birds you need to find a way to get the birds closer to you. The easiest way to do that is to remove all feeders except a single feeder. I usually use my car as a blind near by, i also have a Kwick Camo blind if need be. The trick is to be set up and ready for when the birds arrive. This usually means being there before sunrise waiting in the cold, standing or sitting very still.

Northern Flicker
Squirrels always take advantage of bird feeders and can become a real pest.
 I simply leave some bigger nuts for them to feed on.  

I usually go out in the forest before the day I plan on shooting and collect some interesting sticks to use as perches for the birds. Anyone can get a photo of a bird sitting on a stick. If you want your images to go to the next level then you need to find interesting sticks or stumps. This usually means that they are coverd in moss, leichen, buds, or flowers. I then place the sticks just before or to the side of the single feeder and then wait... And wait... Eventually the birds will come to the feeder. As they drop down from the higher trees they will usually land near the feeder for a final look to make sure the coast is clear before feeding. With any luck the birds will choose the interesting moss coverd sticks you have erected near by. 

Dark eyed Junco

Northern Flicker

This all sounds easy enough but a lot of time and planning goes into getting "the shot". Each morning for the last few weeks I have monitored a feeder setup for many hours. At minimum I check on my set up two to three times a day to make sure all feeders are full and also to get an idea of what species are hanging around and to learn the habits of the birds. I've learned that Northern Flickers seem to feed from 8-10am each day with peak feeding being around 9am.  The only types of bird foods I use are suet cakes & black oil sunflower seeds.

When you are attracting many birds into an area it never goes unnoticed by local cats and also birds of prey like the Sharp shined hawks. Just this morning this hawk bombed the bird feeders after some smaller birds. It was so focused on capturing a meal it didn't notice me get out of my car and walk right up to it.

Sharp-shined Hawk

Id like to thank everyone that takes the time to read my blog. Wishing a safe and fun filled Holiday Season to you and yours  

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Coots Are Back!

When i first began watching and photographing birds it seemed to me that coots were somewhat common and could be seen at local ponds regularly. Last year it seemed coots were almost non existent here on the avalon or as far as i could tell. Now in recent days it seems coots are once again being spotted all over town and this time I'm making sure i get my fill of images before they disappear again.

Besides the few coots around i haven't lucked out with finding any other real interesting birds. On Tuesday fellow photographer Brad James called me with a frantic tone to his voice, "FEMALE LONG -TAILED DUCK AT POND ROAD!!! FULL FRAME SHOTS!!" When i herd those words come out of his mouth i gobbled down my supper and rushed to Kelligrews with hopes of getting some images of this duck. Long Tailed Ducks are quite common around the coast of Newfoundland. However seeing one up close is unheard of. 

When i arrived sure enough the duck was there...but about 200ft away. I decided to wait and see if it would work its way back towards me and Brad. After what seemed like a very long time i decided the light was fading quickly and the chances of this bird staying in the little back pond were slim. So i did what any mental patient or bird photographer would do. I walked across the river in my sneakers and cotton pants in order to be on the same side as the duck. That was a bust, by the time i got in position to shoot the duck had begun feeding closer to the side i was originally on. At this point i really was unsure i was going to get a decent shot. I was wet, cold and far from clean lying in the muddy grass but i walked back around to the other side. Sure enough we got in position and the duck began to work towards us. The sound of our cameras made the duck curious of us. This behaviour is also how i got my images of the coots above. 

The duck made a few close dives before the light faded but in that short time i did get this one image. I cant complain! Not every day you get photo opportunities like this one. It was something Brad & I will certainly remember for years to come.


Also on Tuesday i filled up a few feeders at Neville's Pond here in Paradise. The feeders have already been visited by the following species:

Song Sparrow
Blue Jay
Common Grackle

If things keep going the way they are i predict that by winter the feeders will be swamped with birds. Hopefully something real interesting will visit such as a Chaffinch or a Hoary Redpoll. If things go as planned my next post will involve a review of my new Canon 7D Mark ii and possibly some images of my feeder set up!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Big News!

As of yesterday i pre-ordered my new Canon 7D Mark ii

From what I've read online this camera is a game changer. With new better than ever ISO capabilities, 10 fps, All new auto focussing system and improved sensor this camera should give the Canon 1-DX a run for its money. The camera should be in my hands early November at the latest.

Excited to say the least !

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Autumn - Newfoundland's Shortest Season

Autumn in Newfoundland is short and unpredictable at best from a photography prospective. This year it seems October has been abnormally warm with more sun than rain. I have been getting out to shoot as much as possible. I know from other years that the beautiful colours of fall go as quickly as they appear.

On both October 4th and 8th I headed down to Long Beach which is located along the Cape Race road to photograph some late season shorebirds. The large concentrations of rotting kelp are covered with small flies which the birds are feeding on. I was able to photograph the following species:

White-rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover


White-Rumped Sandpiper

White-Rumped Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover


Also I got some brief looks at a few Merlin's and one Northern Harrier. RIght as I was heading back to the car this Mourning Dove landed on the road...

Just past Cappahayden I seen this beautiful bull Moose.

Over the next few weeks there is supposed to be some very interesting weather systems on the move. One of them may bring european vagrants but we will have to wait and see how it plays out. In the mean time I've been trying to get out and capture more landscape images. One of my first locations i had to make sure i got images was of course Cape Spear!

More to come next week!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Quick update

Over the last few weeks I've been working non stop to help pay for my newly purchased Honda Civic. Since my return I've yet to get out and take some photos. 
This evening when I got off work I rushed out to Cape Spear to try and locate some sea birds pushed close to land. Unfortunately I was unable to find any birds other then some gannets. Over the next week or so I plan on posting something even if it isn't recent! For now I hope you enjoy these photos of my bording time at Cape Spear! 


Sunday, 24 August 2014

James Bay 2014

Part 3 - Camp Life

Since I've returned from James Bay I've had a lot of people ask me questions about how the people were on the trip & also what i did other then look at birds ? The best way for me to describe it would be to break down our daily routine.

7-8am Breakfast

9-11am Leave camp and head for the coast

11-5pm Survey shorebird numbers two hours before & after high tide. Also search for knot flags

6-6:30pm Each day someone (usually Mark) would cook supper and sometimes desert

9pm Leave camp again for night time banding! from 9-12 we would try and catch birds in the mist nest. Some nights we stayed much longer due to how many birds we caught. One night in particular we got to see the northern lights for a short time. Definitely a highlight of my time along the coast.

My bed

On days that it rained heavily we would stay in camp and do water filtering, a never ending job. Some of the team played cribbage which i too learnt how to play. While i was at camp i got to read two books and keep a detailed journal of my activities. Every person i got to meet while volunteering this summer was very friendly and knowledgeable about birds and birding in general. I got to learn so much and also spend my 18th birthday with a great group of people.

Fresh buns !

Mosquitoes... the never ending battle  

Mine & Marks cabin (also kitchen cabin)

Girls cabin

This one speaks for itself 

Hellen Fu

Janice Chard photographing shorebirds

Ready for action

Eventually ill post some more photos from my trip and possibly some footage taken with my Gopro camera  

Thursday, 21 August 2014

James Bay 2014

Part 2 - The Birds

Its quite difficult for me to even begin to describe how many birds i seen while i was living along the James Bay coast. It was amazing watching tens of thousands of shorebirds move through our surveying area (Little Piskwamish) Most days we seen the usual mix of 4000+ Semipalmated Sandpipers, thousands of White-rumped Sandpipers, a thousand or so Red Knots and hundreds of birds like Ruddy turnstones, Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers.

Red Knots

Here is list of shorebird species i seen:

Semipalmated Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated plover
Short-billed Dowitcher
Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Marbled Godwit
Red Knot
Pectoral Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper

These are just the shorebirds i got to see, this doess not include other birds like Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans or Blue-headed Vireos that i also got great looks at.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Short Billed Dowitcher

Greater Yellowlegs

Wilson's Phalarope 
Do to how much surveying we were doing and the amount of walking we had to do plus gear we had to bring with us like spotting scopes, lunch, water, tripod and binoculars i decided most days to leave my camera back at camp. Meaning i did not take half as many photos as i can originally imagined i would. None the less i did get a few images i love and i also got to really observe and improve my shorebird identification skills!

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Me looking for flagged Knots
Another important task that we did each day was scanning for flagged Red Knots. This meant walking slowly and quietly up on a group of knots and looking closely at each birds legs for flags that have a 3 letter code. By reading these codes we can use the information to age the birds, determine sex ratios and see where birds were going each winter. My group alone was able to record over 1600 flags. With over 300 individuals, an amazing total by any standards if i do say so myself!

Shorebird Banding

Each night around 9pm a few of us would head back out to the mudflats and open the mist nets we had already set up. From 9-12 we would do net checks every 10-15 minutes and usually had birds !
Near the end of my month at Little Piskwamish the juvenile birds began to arrive and so we started doing some daytime banding as the juvi birds are less experienced as the adults and are far more likely to fly into the net in the daytime. It worked on the juvi Semipalmated Sandpipers !

Janice Chard from Bird Studies Canada observes the net set

We used our head lamps for light and large plastic containers for our little mobile banding lab. It worked really well and we were successful in catching, banding, flagging, bleeding, and outfitting birds with sat tags. These minuscule devices send out a signal that can be recorded by MOTIS towers which are strategically placed all along southern Ontario and the eastern seaboard. It was really fun knowing that i was really participating in Shorebird research!

A few photos showing you the banding process !

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper getting banded 

Semipalmated Sandpiper getting bill measurements 

Mark Peck measuring a Semi Sandpiper wing

Taking a blood sample

Dunlin outfitted with sat tag ! Can you believe
 the battery life on that little thing is literally months ! 

Bands & Flags