Return of Spring

Yes, the flying Vs are back, this time headed North, more or less. We were recently out at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario when I took this photo. We’ve been out a number of times, but the bird scene had been mostly limited to the usual winter suspects. There are, however, a number of Red-Wing Blackbirds that have returned to stake out their territories.

Meanwhile, every year we witness the attempt of House Finches to build a nest at the top of the column of our front porch and this year was no different They inevitably fail (how do they ever reproduce?)! They are then followed by the Robins who seem to have no problem at all building their nest–even though they appear to be far too large, given the available space. We’ve concluded that Robins are simply smarter at nest-building.

We’re anxiously awaiting the onslaught of the Warbler crowd, due into our area by the end of April, more or less. We’re on high alert! Last, but not least, we heard a Pileated Woodpecker drilling in the same location on two successive week-ends. The second time around, we decided to bushwhack our way to the sound of the drilling, stopping periodically, hoping to find the bird’s location. We suspected there were two birds drilling a hole for a nest, which can take up to several weeks. Sure enough, I found her/him. As I raised the camera with my 100-400mm lens, the bird flew off. We moved in closer, and low and behold, the bird returned–only to be driven off by a squirrel! We set the camera on a tripod and waited for nearly an hour–but no return. Meanwhile, the squirrel remained on guard. We weren’t sure if it was lying low because of us or trying to prevent the bird from returning.

If this hole is indeed for a nest, we figure the bird will be back. I plan to return early Friday morning to find out. If so, and not commandeered by the squirrel, we expect to go there regularly for what I hope to be some great Pileated shots, and perhaps the fledging of their young later this season.

Of course, just as true of fishermen, I won’t divulge this location since I want the exclusive on this hopefully developing story.

Stay tuned!

Bufflehead Duck, In the early 20th century shooting had reduced Bufflehead population numbers significantly, but between 1955 and 1992 surveys indicate that numbers more than doubled, despite large year-to-year fluctuations.

Unlike Mallards, these birds are more wary of humans, so don’t expect to get too close. According to Cornell’s All About Birds http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/bufflehead/lifehistory/ac#at_consv :

  • The Bufflehead nests almost exclusively in holes excavated by Northern Flickers and, on occasion, by Pileated Woodpeckers.
  • Unlike most ducks, the Bufflehead is mostly monogamous, often remaining with the same mate for several years.
  • The Bufflehead lays eggs more slowly than most other ducks, commonly with intervals of two or three days between eggs.

The takeoff sequence was shot at Braddock Bay, which is a major stop-over on the eastern inland migration flyway. It is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario. Upon reaching this area, most birds will continue northward by circling the Ontario shoreline in an easterly or westerly direction since there are few updrafts over the lake, resulting in the expenditure of more energy.

1/500@f/11, ISO 250, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4x III, 560 mm, Canon EOS 60D

 

On which paper to print

Until now, I’ve been using Epson papers. These include their Ultra Premium Matte, Premium Semi-Gloss, and Ultra Premium Luster. The Matte finish seems to be good for high quality black and whites, while the Luster provides good detail and color rendition for bird photographs. The slightly rough surface does not show fingerprints. The Semi-Gloss is a mid-range paper at somewhat lower cost. Overall, I can say that I’m generally satisfied with all.

Still, there are so many other papers and surfaces out there worth trying. I went to one of our few remaining local photo stores and asked them about different papers and their quality.  He said that once you focus on the quality papers, the best one to use is based on how it will be presented (e.g., framed under glass or exposed and more prone to handling, etc.) and what kind of aesthetic look you want.

Okay, so this information was good to know, but I still could not decide with which paper to experiment. Well what do you know?  Several vendors have variety packs; the salesman suggested I try MOAB, by Legion Paper. It contains 13 pairs of stock including rags, fiber, velvet, canvass, and metallic — all for $16 in 8.5 X 11. I’ll let you know what I think as I print with this stock

Artificial intelligence and bird identification

Sharpen Your Skills and Help Train Merlin™.

A project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this site shows you a bird and asks you questions for identification.  By so doing, Merlin begins to “learn” what people need to know. To build Merlin, Cornell Lab needs to know how thousands of people remember and describe birds.