The Peconic River in Late Winter

When I returned to my favorite spot on the Peconic River. I was hoping that spring would be arriving, but instead winter was making a last cloudy, foggy gasp. Below is a thumbnail.Image

For a larger image click on this link to the Peconic River in Late Winter.

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Jamaica Bay Take-offs

Here are a few flight shots of the thousands of waterfowl on the West Pond at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge yesterday. They are: red-breasted mergansers; mute swans; and scaup (I couldn’t tell the species from this distance).

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Buffleheads Land; Mergansers Take Off

With a wind-chill of 5 degrees, I began to wonder if sitting by an arm of the Cedar Beach Lagoon at 7 AM made any sense. (Thanks for the hand and toe warmers, Pam!) But when the action finally got hot, it seemed worthwhile. First these buffleheads landed, and then a bunch of red-breasted mergansers passed through and into flight (including one little bufflehead who must have gotten confused by the big birds). The last shot is a close-up of one of the female mergansers.

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It always seemed to me that given their gaudy colors, the birds called “wood ducks” should have been called “harlequin ducks”. On the other hand, I supposes that the ducks shown below probably wouldn’t want to be called “wood ducks.” Still, even though their coloring is spectacular, it also has a certain contrasty dignity that doesn’t seem to go with the court jester. In any case, one of the surest places to encounter this little fellow is the jetty near the Barnagat Light in New Jersey during the coldest winter days. It’s true that the rocks are usually covered with ice, and more than one photographer has had to be rescued after a fall; the “Barnagat Jetty Site Guide” is one long safety message. However, Tuesday was warm, and I was able to carefully make my way onto the jetty without slipping, and here are the results.

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Snowy Owl

There were reports of a snowy owl at Jones Beach on the south shore of Long Island. I went into the cold and wind, expecting to get nothing because all prior expeditions have been fruitless. The fates (or maybe just this one owl) took pity on me. The bird was sitting along the dunes on the edge of the beach, posing. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but after an hour I went home, even though I would have loved a flight shot, because he or she seemed quite content to stay in the vicinity of the dunes all day.

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Florida Hawks

While in Florida a few weeks ago I got these flight shots. The first is of a Cooper’s hawk at Green Cay. The second and third are of a red-shouldered hawk at the Loxahatchee National Wild Life Reserve.

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6:30 AM. Sunrise at 7:00 AM. 31 degrees. Dressed in layers. Visions of the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Michelin Man.

Ducks seem to scare easily so I figure if I get out while it is still dark, I might not scare them. I move along an eastern arm of Cedar Beach Lagoon. I set up and level the tripod and lens and open my small folding chair. I sit absolutely looking for ducks. Silence.

Just a moment before sunrise, I see movement to my right in the direction my lens is pointing. I look through my camera and see two female buffleheads (our smallest duck) that weren’t there a moment before. I follow them through the lens as they swim west. The only sound is the soft clicking of the camera. Finally the two reach a point just in front of me and I can’t swing the camera more without moving the tripod. I slowly look left. There are dozens of buffleheads on the water to my left. Do I dare to try to move the tripod to photograph them. I left one tripod leg a quarter of an inch. Every one of the buffleheads take flight at the same instant and they are all gone.

Silence again.

But I did get a shot of a female bufflehead that morning, and the next day I set up further west, didn’t try to move my tripod, and got a nice shot of a male and two birds in flight. By the way, the male’s magenta and green head looks black from a distance.

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