Friday, April 20, 2018

Tanagers and More!

Now that spring is feeling a little more like spring, I'm in my typical spring time pattern of fishing after work and birding on my days off (and usually fishing during the evening).  Friday was the first day I had off from work since I bought my new lens that was sunny. Needless to say, I really wanted to play with it.

As I normally do, I checked the Rhode Island year bird site that I keep track of my birds at. I check to see what new species are migrating through and what to keep an eye out for. I noticed that Trustom Pond had both a Summer Tanager and a pair of Scarlet Tanagers on Thursday. I figured there was a shot they might still be around. The Summer Tanager would be a life bird for me if I saw it. If not, Trustom is still a great place to see migrants and to hopefully get pictures.

Right off the bat I saw some bluebirds along the tree line. They played cat and mouse with me. Every time I'd get close enough for a picture they would fly thirty feet down the path. Once in the woods, I came across my first of the year (FOY) Palm Warbler and some Pine Warblers feeding on the ground.

As I approached Osprey Point I ran across Jan St. Jean which is a very good sign. Jan is probably the most famous Rhode Island birder. If you find yourself birding where she chose to bird, then you made a good decision. I passed Jan on the trail and a guy near the bench told me the Summer Tanager had been posing for him. Sure enough, a minute later, I found it.

Man, was this bird awesome. It hung around the trail for almost an hour just letting everyone get pictures of it. It had no fear of people at all. I got some pictures from five feet away. Once I had to duck as it almost flew into my head. 

On top of the Summer Tanagers, there were other good birds at the point. I saw a Cliff Swallow along with Barn and Tree Swallows. There were Purple Martins spotted but I didn't see them. The other highlight at the point was a pair of Scarlet Tanagers. They were fairly close also, but didn't come within five feet like its cousin.

After I finally left Trustom, I went to Great Swamp. The place was dead. I saw a few birds but almost nothing. The best thing I saw was a Killdeer. Killdeer are pretty common, but this one got close to me for some photos.

Many photos below- None of the photos are cropped

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

This gull was standing on the roof of my car when I
returned to it


Three Greater Yellowlegs

Obligatory Trustom Deer Photos

Best Photo I got of a bluebird

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

So it begins

   I got my first stripers on the year today. I went with my friend Dave to a quiet backwater spot after work. The fish we got tonight were almost certainly holdovers. It was nice to get out and fish with my waders on and just cast into saltwater.

The fish weren't big and they were kind of fussy. We got five hits to each fish actually hooking up.  Still we ended with more than a dozen fish between us. All in all, a great way to spend an evening.

Fish caught on 3/8 jighead  - 4 inch albino Zoom Fluke

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Zach Donohoe

Zach Donohoe and the back of Madison Hubbell
In one of those weird ironies in life, Thursday I met the mom of Olympic ice dancer Zach Donohoe. They (with his partner Madison Hubbell) placed forth in the Olympics in a very deep field. Today, Stars on Ice was in Providence. There was no way Laurie was going to miss that. Of course, I was going for the ride.

One of the pairs teams was (say it with me) Hubbell and Donohoe. As in Zach Donohoe. What are the odds that I am out birding on a rainy day in Newport and run across the mother of Olympian who is also birding two days before I see her son perform at Stars on Ice? They don't even live in Rhode Island.

Friday, April 13, 2018

I'm sure everyone reading this post is happy to see a
fish in the lead picture and not a bird.
Knowing it was supposed to be almost seventy degrees today, I had many ideas on what to do. For the first time in a long time when I left my house it was over 50 degrees. I had my car loaded with binoculars/ scope and cameras. I also brought my trout rods and my light saltwater pole.

My first stop was a trout pond on my way to the highway. I hoped to catch some trout but was only going to give it a half hour if the place was dead. After twenty minutes of experimenting, I found something the trout would hit. I started catching one after another on a casting bubble with an olive Wooly Bugger fly. I left after my tenth fish in forty five minutes.

I left the fish at 9:30. I expected it to keep getting warmer. However as I got closer to the ocean the temp was dropping. When I went over the Braga Bridge in Fall River, I could see fog to the south and dark clouds. My actual plan was to hike a property in Middletown named the Norman Bird Sanctuary. First I stopped at St. Mary's Pond and looked for ducks.

When I left the pond it was getting darker and a light shower started. Norman costs six dollars to hike and I didn't mind paying it if I could have spent a while there. More importantly, I didn't want to bring my new lens out in the rain. So I went to Third Beach first.

Just a proof shot of the Snowy
In the parking lot, two woman were looking at something in the back of the lot. At first I gave them space but I was curious what it was. I looked through my binoculars but couldn't see where they were looking.  They saw me and waved me over. They were looking at a Snowy Owl. We got to talking, one lady was up from North Carolina and wanted to see a Snowy. She is a big time birder and told me of some of her trips.

The other woman, it turned out, is the mother of an Olympic skater. She is the mother of ice dancer Zach Donohoe. We started talking about the Olympics and I asked a few questions. Unfortunately, the wind kicked up and it started raining. I got a quick picture with her and we got in our cars.

Since it was forty eight degrees, raining, and getting late I ditched the plans to go to Norman bird Sanc and drove up to Plymouth to go fishing.  I figured it would be much warmer. I heard a news update saying it was 71 in Boston. I got to Plymouth and although it wasn't raining it was still only 53 degrees. I'm not complaining about temps in the mid-fifties, but it was weird knowing it was 18  degrees warmer only  few miles away. I ended up catching a rainbow and had another hit at Fearings Pond.
One of the turkeys on the way to Fearings. Be safe buddy,
turkey season starts tomorrow

All in all, not the best day. Other than the Snowy, I didn't see any good birds. I can't argue eleven trout in under two hours. I just wish the weather was what the forecast predicted. The highlight was without a doubt meeting and talking to Zach Donohoe's mom.
If I'd known I'd be in a picture when I woke up
I probably would have shaved

Thursday, April 12, 2018

500 mm

Glossy Ibis
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a big lens for wildlife photography. They are not cheap, so I would always put it off and buy the cheaper things on my want list. It always made more sense to buy four things for the same money as one lens.

Of course, this meant missing certain photos. Instead of getting perfect frame filling shots of the Long Tailed Duck at Charleston, I got decent pictures that needed a little cropping to be a "wallhanger". It has really driven me crazy this year since I have spent so much more time chasing birds and animals than fishing. There is no need for a big powerful lensfor fishing, in fact it is a waste and makes getting good shots harder. Birds are a completely different animal (pun intended). Finally I couldn't take it anymore, so a month ago, I decided to buy a 500-600 mm lens to fit my DSLR. I didn't buy it right away, because I research the hell out of everything. Also, I wanted to leave a certain amount of money in the bank. So over the last month, I've watched my spending to save up some of the money instead of take it out of my savings account. No matter what, I wanted it for the May migration of warblers, songbirds, and shorebirds. I ended up buying a used (saved me hundreds of dollars) Sigma 500mm lens.

Well, the lens came in yesterday at 3:30 pm. As soon as I opened the package I left to find anything to get pictures of. Unfortunately, last night was a bust. I went to three places and barely saw a bird. My best picture was of some cones hanging on a white pine.

So when I woke up today it may as well been Christmas morning. I had to force myself to brush my teeth the proper amount of time before I left.  The first place I went was Great Swamp in South Kingston. I had one target species there (Wilson Snipe) however, it was irrelevant if I saw the Snipe or not. I wanted to see birds, snakes, butterflies, mammals. It didn't matter, I just needed photo subjects. I didn't want them to be robins and squirrels, but pretty much anything was fair game. 

I had good luck at Great Swamp. There were birds everywhere. I got my Wilson's Snipe. There were dozens of them along with Killdeer and Greater Yelllowlegs. I saw six Kestrel, a bluebird, and many more.

From there I went to Trustom and saw a snake but not much else. Then I quickly hit Matunack and Jamestown. I saw a family of skunks in Jamestown.

Golden Crowned Kinglet

The lens is heavy. I was at Great Swamp for three hours. I carried it in my right hand and it cramped up. It is too heavy to hang around my neck as I really feel the pressure against the vertebrate. I took 205 pictures today and deleted at least half. Because it is such a big lens it is somewhat difficult to focus on birds in trees. Also, birds that were far away came out a little blurry which I assume was from camera shake.

However, give it time and a somewhat close target, and the pics came out great (see the snake pic). I took a dozen shots of a Golden Crowned Kinglet and two came out really nice. The bird never stayed still, so I can't blame the camera. I don't care if I take ten shots and delete eight, I just want to get some great photos of wildlife. I think the camera is up to the challenge with a little more practice by me.


All the photos below were taken with my new lens. None of them have been cropped. All photos were handheld not on a tripod.

 One thing looking at photos does not do is tell you how far away from the animal I was or how big it is. For example, I can not expect a from filling photo of a garter snake's head. Its head is literally a half inch tall. I can't get close enough with a lens that big to do that. Obviously the size of an animal mostly determines (and distance, of course) how much of the photo is filled with the subject. The loon was much further away than the Kinglet. However, the Kinglet weighs roughly two ounces to the loons ten pounds.

Another issue is I can't control the sky. The more light, the better the picture will come out.

Anyway, I got at least a couple of good pictures of everything I shot at today. There wasn't anything I had to delete totally. So I can't complain

This adult loon is getting its spots back

Greater Yellowlegs

This Osprey and I wish the sky
would have been blue

One of the highlights of the day was coming across three skunks. I think they are a family unit but none of them look alike. The nice thing about skunks is they have no fear of us. I was only about ten feet away snapping photos while they fed. They barely left their noses out of the leaves and grass. I had to be patient to get pictures of them with their head up. It is not as if spooking it is an option...unless I wanted to end up wet and smelly.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Our Photographic Journey around Lexington and Concord

My favorite town in Massachusetts is Concord. I love the history and the scenery The Minuteman National Battlefield is an awesome place to remember how we got here. I've been to Concord dozens of times and still enjoy it. We had tickets to go see "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the Umbrella Annex for 7:30. We planned to make a day of it and spend the afternoon in Concord.

We went to Great Meadows for our first stop but the wind was cold. We didn't see too much and Laurie was miserable. After Great Meadows, we went to a pizza/sub shop that Laurie picked out named Dino's. The food was delicious and we warmed up.

From the pizza place I wanted to show Laurie a spring I had found that Henry David Thoreau used to sit at and bird watch. We walked down to the spring. It isn't much to look at, but knowing Thoreau used to sit there felt special.
 This little leave covered puddle is Brister Spring. We sat on the flat spot on the other side emulating  Thoreau looking for birds, binoculars in hand.
 It was dead. Not a sound but cars in the background. After we got up a little goldfinch flew in It is the blur in the middle of the photo. Terrible shot, but I so badly wanted to see a bird, any bird

After we left Brister Spring in Hapgood Wright Town Forest we drove to Lexington Greene. I've been to most places in the area many times. However, I had only been to Lexington Greene once with DJ and he was a little boy. I didn't remember it at all.

 Around 5 am on April 19, 1775 the British were passing through Lexington on their way to Concord. They were met by Lexington militia who stood on the green. The commander said to let them pass. Somehow, a shot, then shots rang out and eight militia men were dead. Here are some sights around the green

Read the morbid sign on the house. I'm sure when this brave man
woke, he did not know it would be the last day of his life.

Near the green, we found a very a very old cemetery. In it, we found the final resting place of a British soldier and Captain Parker leader of the Minutemen that day.

Captain John Parker

From Lexington, we went to the Old North Bridge. I've been there at least two dozen times and it wasn't part of our plan but it did have something very important, public bathrooms. I figured since I was there, I'd take some pictures. For the record, afternoon is the worst time to try to get a picture of Daniel Chester French's Minuteman. The sun is directly behind him. 

The North Bridge
We still had a couple of hours before the play. Laurie was exhausted and needed a nap. So I sugested she sleep in the car while I went back to Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. It had warmed to about 50 degrees and more importantly the wind died down. I took my time and birded instead of hiked. I had a grand ole time for about two hours. 

The highlights were seeing a beaver, eight muskrats, Eastern Phoebe, Red Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Shoveler and Ring Necked Ducks.

 The beaver actually came out of the water to deposit a limb and mud on the bank. I didn't get a picture of it because I trying to wave some others over to see it. However, the muskrats were feeding out of the water and I got some good photos. Every muskrat had at least one reed blocking what would have been great not good photos.   Pictures below.

none of the muskrat photos are cropped. I love how the eye came
out focused

Goose on a nest

To Kill a Mockingbird Review

As said above we went to see Mockingbird at the Umbrella Annex in Concord. We had never been there. It turns out the theater is tiny. I'm pretty sure I counted 104 seats (13 seats x 8 rows). We bought our tickets through Goldstar for only a few dollars (I think $8). Normal price is thirty. The show started at 8 pm and went until 10:20

The play was unbelievable. It was super intense. Every character from the eleven year old girl to fifty year old father was perfect. The story is of a black man on trial in the deep south for raping and beating a white girl in 1935. The lawyer is a white man who knows the black man is innocent. The story was intense. The crowd was hanging on every word. If every play at the Umbrella Annex is that good, then I will be going there a lot.