Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shadows! - 30 Oct 2008

My theme for this outing could've been called "Branches, too many d@** branches!". But, since we are artists (and the title wouldn't fit on the page...) I went w/ 'Shadows'.
I had gotten a late start after work, but decided to run down to Pt. Mouillee and enjoy the mild weather and cloudless skies. Campau Rd. was devoid of birds except for a handful of Mourning Doves, one of which posed nicely in the afternoon sun. Driving down to the boat ramp, I found only 1 car in the parking lot and a bit of wind blowing from the west. Scoping the mouth of the Huron River I counted 10 Black-bellied Plovers and 2 Killdeer on the exposed mudflat shared by dozens of Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls. With no digiscoping opportunities, I decided to backtrack to Lake Erie Metropark.

Entering the park I encountered a pair of Red-tailed Hawks roosting in a tree along the marshland trail. As one bird flew off, I readied the camera and captured a series of frames of the second bird flying off. The miracle called Photoshop allowed me to overlay 6 consecutive frames to generate a neat composite image of the bird taking flight! I also managed a few flight shots of the bird as it circled above its mate. In the late afternoon sunlight the soaring birds were only dark silhouettes until the sun hit them just right, creating very nice profiles in flight.

Arriving at the Marshland Museum I then spotted three American Robins feeding along the hedges. One bird allowed me enough time to grab the scope and capture a digiscoped image from relatively up close. At the Bald Eagle house I found a half-dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding out in the open. I managed a few photos of one bird high up in the trees, but quickly realized that the sun was too low to capture anything but shadows. So, as I walked the trails I focused my eyes on the sun-drenched trees and resisted attempts to photograph the numerous White-throated Sparrows popping in and out of the shadows. I did spot a Black-capped Chickadee resting on a small branch and grabbed several frames as it sat motionless near the ground. Unfortunately the bird flew off before I could try to digiscope it from about 15 feet away.
Approaching the small boardwalk I spotted a fly-over Red-tailed Hawk, followed by a Cooper's Hawk that flushed from across the creek. Looking up I found a dozen Rusty Blackbirds roosting in the tops of the bare trees. I set up the scope and attempted to capture some digiscoped imges, but distance prevented sharp images from being acquired (even with the 3-second timer). Still, I got nice views of their bright yellow eyes and rusty feathering on their backs and napes. As I walked on I ran into another small flock and was able to digiscope a few birds from closer distance. Still, branches prevented clear views of the posing birds, and some cloning was required to clean up the resulting images.

As I was leaving the woods, I came upon a small opening where the sun shone brightly on a moss-covered tree, and thought that it would make a nice backdrop for some bird pics. So, as stood there and made Screech Owl calls, I managed to attract dozens of noisy Robins, several Chickadees, and a Brown Creeper that popped into view for only a few moments. Unfortunately for me it was now late enough that slow shutter speeds prevented sharp images of the feeding bird. To salvage what pics I did manage, I applied a dry-brush filter in Photoshop to create a watercolor-effect to an otherwise poor photo.

When I reached the car and put the scope in the back seat I spotted a pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding in the bushes nearby. I walked over and captured about a 100 photos in less than 2 minutes of the very-cooperative birds posing in the last moments of late afternoon sun. I then ran into a very nice couple while leaving the park when another 3 Red-tailed Hawks took off from the trees and circled above our cars. Unfortunately, my D300 decided to quit cooperating and wouldn't focus on a darn thing. I was unable to take a single photo - I guess its time to upload that firmware file...

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