Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Cape St.Mary's Ecological Reserve

Sunday morning i got out of bed at 3:00am and headed to Cape St.Mary's Ecological Reserve for the 4th time this year. The cape and its wildlife never get old. If i had the time I'd go 100 times a year. The cape offers such amazing up close looks at everything from nesting seabirds like Northern Gannets & Murres to dozens of newly born lambs on your walk to bird rock. It truly is a special place in the province of Newfoundland Labrador that i believe is a must see for locals and tourists alike.

The image above i captured to show how amazing bird rock is. This massive sea stack is just meters from the mainland and offers great views of the thousands of Gannets that nest all over it. This image shows about 1/4 of the amount of sea birds at the cape. The cliffs all around the general area of bird rock is covered in nesting Murres,Razor ills and Black Guillemot. Also thousands of Black-Legged Kittiwakes nest along the cliffs with the rest of the sea birds.

They nest VERY close to the edge. 
Black-Legged Kittiwakes are amazing at doing acrobat like moves while manoeuvring around the sheer cliffs where they nest. This makes photographing them in flight a challenge. I find that i have to choose one bird to photograph, watch its pattern (They usually do a circle shape) and then predict where it will be about 2 seconds from where it is while I'm looking at it. This doesn't always work because the birds sometimes dive, bank, or land at any given time. After repeating this method over and over again you will come away with a few keepers as i did in the images below.


Common & Thick-Billed Murres also nest in massive numbers around the cliffs at the reserve. There is no real technique in photographing these guys besides hopping that the day is overcast and not foggy or sunny. This allows you to properly compose the whites & blacks on the birds. These fat little birds are always fun to watch as they awkwardly hurl themselves at the cliffs. The Razor Bill is the closest know relative of the now extinct Great Auk.

Not much room!
       The image above just goes to show how many murres there are. They are clustered together in very large numbers. Its hard to believe they just lay their one single egg on nothing more then a cluster of their own droppings along the VERY edge of a cliff. But somehow they do this and it works. Just another thing about nature that i find so amazing.

Common Murre
Among the tens of thousands of murres there are a small number of Razorbills that come back each year to nest with the rest of Newfoundland's auks.


Below are more images i captured during the day i sent at the cape. I hope you enjoy them!

Horned Lark

Thursday, 19 June 2014

More to come!

I just finished up my public exams and can finally say I'm done high-school!  Over the next few days i have work but i am hopping to get the blog going again before i leave for James Bay! While I'm gone i will have pre written material so the blog is never stopped! Got the image below last weekend at Fort Amherst. Enjoy!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Songbirds Take Two

Friday morning i headed out to get some photos of the newly arrived warblers such as the American Redstart. I have been trying to capture images of redstarts for over three years without much success. I have found these brightly coloured little birds never sit still and seem to always be busy catching flies or quickly zipping by. After running into local birder Lisa de Leon, she pointed me in the right direction down the little dirt road in the Goulds. Sure enough as soon as i turned down the small road i could here the redstarts calling. Click Here to check out her blog!

Male American Redstart
The flies were not too bad in the early morning due to the small breeze of wind, later in the morning the flies began to get to me. I was wearing fly repellent but it didn't do much good as the black flies were relentless in trying to bite me, and bite me they did. One good thing about the large number of flies is that the birds seem more active fluttering out from a tree to grab a fly and land back on the same perch. This is usually how i notice American Redstarts other than listening for their call.

While in the area of Bidgoood's Park I finally got to see the Eastern Phobe that has been seen in the park for some time. This was a new species for me. Unfortunately i didn't get any photos. Also on Powers Road i spotted Wilson's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Mourning Warbler, B&W Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and 3 Finch species. Not to mention Fox, Song, Swamp, and Savannah Sparrows! You get the point...The place was hoppin'.

My last stop of the morning before i had to go to school was Second Pond. While sitting on the edge of the pond watching a family of ducks swim by; a Spotted Sandpiper landed on a nearby rock seemingly unaware of me. I snapped a few frames before he or she flew away, Im happy with the photos, possibly some of my best images of this species.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

More Tree Swallow Photos

This afternoon when i got out of school i headed over to Neville's Pond to check in with the swallows and see if any more boxes had been occupied. Unfortunately no more boxes had swallows in them. I did get a chance with one pair of swallows that is nesting in one of my boxes in the water. Brad & I placed a few interesting looking sticks and stumps around the pond and now the swallows readily use them. This offers great photo opportunities. On a day like today with overcast skies i use settings such as these

-iso 400
-Manual mode, Tripod mounted

Here are a few images from today:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Everybody's Favorite | Warblers & Song Birds

Over the last few weeks it has been noted that almost all songbirds are behind schedule on their northward migration to Newfoundland. The last few species are now showing up such as Redstarts, Magnolias and Mourning Warblers. However the flycatchers like Yellow-bellied and Alder have not yet arrived in numbers, I believe only one or two YB flycatchers have been spotted.

Male Yellow Warbler

One down side to spring migration is that it by the time most birds are back it is mid to late June. It just so happens that each year June is the end of the school year and crunch time for exams.... I continue to ask me self  do I go chasing warblers or do I study.....warblers almost always win.
Warblers and other songbirds are one of my favourite types of birds to photograph other then shorebirds. These brightly coloured little birds arrive each year for a few short months to nest, raise young and get the hell out of here before our harsh winter sets in again. It's not easy to get photos of these birds, they are quick and never sit still. Another challenge when photographing songbirds is you almost always hear them before you see them. So if you can not identify the bird by its call good luck in trying to get a photo.  Each species of warbler lives in a different section of the forest. Birds like the Cape May warbler and Balck-throated green warblers are almost always seen in the tops of trees where as birds like common yellow throat and hermit thrush are almost always near the base of trees or in shrubs. This is where knowing bird calls helps. If I hear a common yellow throat I'm not looking up in the trees, I'm searching the underbrush and bushes near the ground.

Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
This is not something that happens by chance, each species of wood warbler has a different technique in finding food and dwells in a different part of the tree canopy. By doing this, there is not as much competition for food among different species. I find things like this so interesting and it's just another reason why I love photographing birds. You never know what you will see and it is completely different from day to day!

Black Throated Green Warbler 

Mourning Warbler

So far this year I've only really seen Yellow, Yellow rump, Wilsons, Blackpoll, B&W, and a few thrushes like Northern waterthrush and Hermit thrush. I plan on getting out this weekend to try my hand at photographing some Black throated green warblers and possibly my favourite warbler, the Magnolia warbler.

American Redstart 
I get my images by playing the birds song to get the birds in close. This technique is used by both birders and photographers and a lot of people frown upon the idea. I personally think if you are responsible when using the call it is 100% harmless to the birds. Using calls becomes a problem when people use the call over and over again and also when people are going to the same locations day in and day out playing calls. Doing this can result in birds giving up on a territory or completely disrupting a nesting pair. I also find that the call only really works once anyways, after the first time the bird never acts the same and is very quick to realise that the call is not coming from another bird. 

On a side note: This morning there was 9 occupied Tree Swallow nest boxes in paradise. There are also 4 other boxes that have pairs fighting over them. 

The blog may be slow over the next while as I have to try and put the camera down and study. Reading posts of birds like piping plovers and Northern Parula's are making it increasingly harder!

Later i will do a post focusing on Sparrows

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Nest Building Begins

June 1st seems to be the day each year where the Tree Swallows really ramp up their nest building efforts and get nest construction well under way. This morning was no different. Neville's pond was alive with the chatter of swallows bringing small strands of grass to their nest boxes. It seems the male does most of the nest building, while the female perches near by and supervises the male. Every now and again she will enter the box and "fix" what the male as placed inside. Another reason i believe the female stays near the nest while the male goes for more grass is because other swallows are relentless in trying to take over any boxes left available.

By late next week most pairs will be sitting on eggs. However on Wednesday i placed 4 more boxes at a wetland near my house. This morning a pair of tree swallows and one pair of Black Caped Chickadees had moved in. These birds will be slightly behind the rest.

Getting The Shot

To get photos like the ones below it is very simple. You really only need three things. Tree Swallows, A nest box and patients. All i do to get the images below are simply attach sticks that are unique and interesting like this mossy one; onto the nest box. Or i place the sticks near the nest box. It depends on where the light is shining from and how my background looks. I attach the sticks using zip ties and sometimes screws if i plan on leaving the perch there for some time. Then i get my tripod set up and wait....and wait. You might be there two minutes before swallows are on the stick and other times it may take more then an hour. I find the best days are days with no wind and overcast. The duller days are much easier for getting your exposure right with the whites and the blues of the birds.

Heres what it looks like

Below are a few more photos from this morning. Spring has defintaly arrived!

About to get some grass for the nest

More to come!