Friday, December 25, 2015

Fri-D - Christmas Merlin

[Click to enlarge photos.]
Out doing some car birding this Christmas morning, I spotted this raptor perched near the junction of Bayshore Road and Stevens Street in Cape May. When you see a small raptor, there's a tendency to default to Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then I was like, but they don't do that. Do that meaning, perch in the open on an exposed perch. Plus the wings were too long in relation to the tail; remember that Sharp-shinned Hawks are accipiters, which have shortish wings and long tails. On a perched bird, that translates into wings who's tips don't come close to the tip of the tail. Merlins on the other hand are Falcons, and have long wings the tips of which come close to the tip of the tail.

Anyhow, this bird had to be one of the small Falcons, and the back color was wrong for kestrel, so Merlin it is. I got the distinct impression it had no intention of obeying the speed limit sign.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tale of two Christmas Bird Counts

Being ill during a Christmas Bird Count is no fun, but good birds and great company make fine consolations. Christmas Bird Counts have always been magical, even spiritual to me, thanks to the fellowship with the folks I have been lucky enough to share them with and of course the birds. I recently realized that to friends and neighbors who helped me with the Cape May count this year had never done a Christmas Bird Count before. This is the birding equivalent of failing to invite someone to church.

[This eastern screech owl came in to my whistles at 6:50 AM, when it was nearly daylight. That's one aggressive owl. By the way, these photos are essentially straight from my camera, having only been cropped and resized using the free program Picasa, since I don't have access to Adobe products right now. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Mainly what I did for last weekend's counts was sit in the passenger seat as one or another of my kids drove us from place to place. Every now and then I would get out to look and listen, but now on day 28 of what has been called a "viral syndrome," I only recently have been able to walk any distance. We did the Walnut Valley count on Saturday, and the Cape May count on Sunday.

[Winter wrens are always elusive to photograph, so I was pleased this one came right up to the truck with some pishing. Delaware lake, Warren County, New Jersey on Saturday.]

[Juvenile great blue heron fishing in Delaware lake, Warren County, New Jersey. With the warm fall, all water was open for both of my Christmas counts last weekend an unusual condition.]

[A colorful male yellow bellied sapsucker, Always a good find on a New Jersey Christmas Bird Count. This one was near Delaware lake.]

[A definite highlight on the Cape may count was three red-headed woodpeckers. All were on the edge of Green Creek, on Cape may national wildlife refuge the property. Sick as I was, I nearly collapsed walking the half-mile to the standing dead trees that line Green Creek Marsh, and was very glad the woodpeckers were there to make it worthwhile for me and my son Tim.]

[A scene from a little over a week ago, when a sizable number of humpback whales move close to shore off Cape May County. This one was seen from the handicap accessible platform at 2 mile beach. ]

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Catching up, first impressions of the Nikon 200–500 5.6 on the D 7200, and get a flu shot

On the non sequitur (for this blog) comments on the flu shot, you can read to the bottom of this post to find out why I think you should get one. I promise there will be bird and nature relevant material further down in this blog.

I am both way behind and way ahead. I'm behind because of the flu, plus some other superbug, 23 days and counting, three weeks of work missed, a day in the hospital. I just have to let the missed work go, and I hope my employer does too.

I am ahead because one more time I have been shown how many great friends I have, as well as how wonderful my grown children are. Everyone has been taking care of me. Unearned grace. Count my Chessie Daniel Boone in that mix of unearned grace. Thank you all.

I'm also ahead because a month ago I decided to make some capital expenditures in the form of a camera and lens for my side business. The camera is a Nikon D 7200, the lens is Nikon's new 200– 500 mm f 5.6. Many friends have been asking me what I think of this rig. We have only just begun, since it was only today that I cracked 3500 shots with it. I know that sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.

My impression so far is that Nikon has said (finally!) to Canon's 7D Mark II and 400 mm f5.6, "Oh yeah?"

As I often say, I am a naturalist/birder who carries a camera so he can document and share what he sees. Not the other way around, so don't expect any "measurbation" here. As we go along learning, I'll share some photos along with what I think about them, about what's in them, and generally rarely about what I think about what the camera did. It's not about the camera.

A final caveat before we see some images: the only computer I have right now is a crummy laptop, and I'm blogging using an iPad, and I've had to figure out how to get photos from my camera to the computer and thence to the iPad. I think if you click on these images they will be rendered as 1200 x 1600. I think. They have been minimally processed using Picasa, since with my main machine down again that's all I've got to work with. OK, here we go:

[This is one of the first images I took with the new rig. Kind of grainy, nothing particularly special... Except it was completely dark outside, and this was handheld at 200 mm at 1/50 of a second at ISO 25600. Nikon claims 4.5 stops of Image stabilization for the new lens. I'll grant you that some of my shots in the dark were blurry but many were startlingly crisp.]

[The scissor tailed flycatcher at Forsythe a few weeks ago. 500 mm, F7 .1. The focusing capability of this camera / lens combination seems very good, certainly much faster than my D7000 with the 300mm F4 prime and 1.4 teleconverter.]

[The new 200–500 is not considered a "" prime lens, but strikes me as very sharp. This song sparrow was at the beanery a few weeks ago. 500 mm, F8, ISO 140.]

[Red shouldered hawk over Cape May a few weeks ago.]

[These Bufflehead were shot more recently than the other photos in this post, just a few days ago when I dragged my sorry butt down to 2 mile Beach to see the humpback whale show (more on that in the future blog,hopefully many of you got to see them). This was one of the first times I tried to take more than a snapshot with the new gear. 500 mm, F6 .3, one 500s, ISO 160. All the shots in this blog by the way were handheld without flash, and with the len's Image stabilization on sport mode.]

Today, thanks to the support of my adult kids, I stumbled my way through our annual Christmas Bird Count of in Walnut Valley, Warren County New Jersey. For really the first time, I took some serious pictures with the new camera of some wonderful birds. I will be sharing those soon.

Finally, on that flu thing, please get your shot. I've never had a flu shot, and I've never had a cold in the last 20 years. This thing seriously came close to, I don't know, Killing me? No fun. Too many birds left to be seen, and too many friends left to make.
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