Friday, October 11, 2013

A Nye of Pheasants! - 08-09 Oct 2013

Ring-necked Pheasants have always been a nemesis bird for me.  Trying to photograph them has brought nothing but frustration and blurry pics.  That happily changed these past two days!

I had the opportunity to attend an Innovation Workshop on Fighting Island in the Detroit River. The island is owned by BASF Corp. and is the meeting place for many customer, business and training meetings.  It has a beautiful lodge, cabins, conference facilities, and 4 miles of trails that intermingle with marshland and cornfields.  And it hosts a very healthy population of pheasants.

Swamp Sparrow
Workshop attendees boarded the boat at the east end of the site drove over to the island on Tuesday morning.  Since we had so many people coming, two boat deliveries were required, so I had a good hour to explore the grounds while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.  I grabbed the scope and cameras and headed straight toward the woodlot / marsh at the back end of the property.  The clear skies and rising sun beautifully illuminated flocks of roving sparrows, which included a Lincoln's Sparrow, several Swamp Sparrows, more White-throated and Song Sparrows, and the season's first Dark-eyed Juncos that were only outnumbered by roving flocks of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees.  Eastern Phoebes were also found in several pairs, but too elusive for photos.

A Ring-necked Pheasant flushed from the phragmites where I was walking, stopping my heart momentarily before I managed to grab a few passing flight shots.  Still more pheasants were croaking up ahead, so I readied the Nikon 300 mm f/2.8 VRII and continued on to the south.  Another rooster shot out of the grass up ahead and whistled by - I managed several cracking photos before it settled in the phragmites behind me.  I would hear and spot a few more birds before the boat arrived with the remainder of our workshop group.

Later in the afternoon I had a short time to wander around before dinner, so I headed back to the cornfield to look for more birds.  The sun was low in the sky and shining somewhat harshly on the birds that were foraging in the grass, but I managed to capture a few digiscoped images before they scampered off into the cornfields.

Another crowing bird got my attention as a pair of roosters bolted from the cornfield and flew in my direction.  I was ready, and got point-blank photos as they passed by.  One bird flew high over the cornfields while a second bird stayed low along the treelike.  I was worried that the dark background would produce horrible highlights on the bird, but luck (and light) was on my side.  Spectacular birds!

With the dinner bell ringing I headed toward the tent, but not before spotting a flock of Chipping Sparrows and an Eastern Bluebird in the trees overhead.

The accommodations here are wonderful.  We could look out over the Detroit River (Canadian side) from inside the lodge and watch as barges unloaded tons of gravel and boulders along the shoreline as part of a project to restore Sturgeon beds in the Detroit River.   With the river cleaning up fisherman are now catching Great Lakes Sturgeon for the first time since the early 1900's, and the fish are again successfully breeding.

I woke early Wednesday morning and decided to go for a walk along the main road.  It was dark, and I only had the clear skies and stars to illuminate my way, but I walked as far as the road would take me.  After an hour or so I headed back just as the fog started to roll in.

I still had 30 minutes before breakfast, so I grabbed the scope to try and digiscope more pheasants.  A nice little 'nye of pheasant' were frolicking in the grass so I attempted some low-light digiscoping.  I managed a few keepers, but had better luck taking videos.  Lucky I did, because the morning sun was soon enveloped by a fairly dense fog that quickly created a misty backdrop for the birds in my viewfinder.

We would work for the rest of the day and head back to the mainland in the afternoon, but the short time on the island was a wonderful treat!  Thank you, Ken Perry, for the opportunity to attend a great workshop, and for the opportunity to scratch off another nemesis bird on my photography bucket list.

Nye. What a great word...


Jeff Schultz said...

Very nice, Jerry, as always!!!!!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Fabulous pheasant shots. Some of the flight shots made them seem quite lively by capturing the way the tail feathers curl when in flight. WOW.

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