Monday, July 30, 2012

Noticing and Remembering

 [Despite already having a zillion Clapper Rail photos thanks to hours in a kayak, I'd been needing a "bird porn" style photo for a couple projects at work. When this one stepped out and began preening at the edge of the marsh in Taylor Sound (west of Wildwood), I just couldn't believe it would stay as I drifted up to it. But it did, tame as a chicken. Kudos to Scott Whittle, by the way, for his excellent guest blog on Art Morris's site on one style of bird photography - I even forgive him for switching to using Canon for birds. . . July 28, 2012, Taylor Sound, Cape May County, NJ.]

In rare moments of weakness and hubris, I've been known to remark (mostly to girlfriends), after spotting something particularly obscure or difficult to see, that I'm a "trained field observer." That would be, self-trained, and yeah, well, if you've spent most of your lifetime showing people nature and all of it looking for nature, you better be able to spot stuff like Clapper Rails at the edge of marsh creeks. But it took my son Tim to notice the climbing Fiddler Crabs:

[It was dawn and high tide when we entered Taylor Sound, and apparently a few fiddler crabs did not have burrows to back into and seal off, so they climbed to the tops of the salt marsh cordgrass lining the creeks.July 28, 2012, Taylor Sound, Cape May County, NJ.]

[Noticing sometimes requires active watching with a question. What are the Semipalmated Plovers feeding on on the rich mudflats of the back bays? Answer: mainly marine worms.July 28, 2012, Taylor Sound, Cape May County, NJ.]

We were paying our first visit of the year to the Laughing Gull colonies, and I was surprised to find them with only small downy chicks still in the nest. I couldn't remember exactly when those chicks normally fledged, but it seemed much earlier. Feeble memory, but by checking photos from last year, I realized the gulls are a month late - because the colonies were flooded out by an exceptionally high spring tide and had to start over.

 [Laughing Gull with young chick in a nest along Taylor Sound. Note that the adult is molting to winter plumage. The gulls are a month behind schedule, and one presumes that the Clapper Rails and tern colonies are too, since they were impacted by the same high tide that flooded the gulls out on their first nesting attempt. July 28, 2012, Taylor Sound, Cape May County, NJ.]

 [By comparison, this photo was taken July 24, 2011 - and all the baby Laughing Gulls are fully feathered and out of the nest, lining the marsh channels and making an extraordinary racket.]

 [Noticing sizes: this photo, intentionally a silhouette, shows a dowitcher on the left and a yellowlegs on the right. Because the yellowlegs is the same body size as the dowitcher, it must be a Lesser - Greaters are much bigger. It seems so simple now, but I never thought about using direct size comparisons between species for this i.d. until I moved to Cape May and people like Michael O'Brien pointed the technique out.]

[Noticing carnage on the beach - many, many Mole Crab carcasses. The Sanderlings are back! And feeding on these filter-feeders of the swash line. And the Lesser Black-backed Gulls and other gulls have been feeding on these critters all summer.]

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Clapper pic. Glad to hear of another Nikon user out there, heh.

    "Moments of Weakness and Hubris" sounds like a great autobiography or album title.