Juvenile Cooper’s Hawks

Wednesday, August 15, 2018,

Most times in birding photography, getting the shot or shots depends on where you are, coupled with when you are. The where are is simple. You need to be where the birds are. To be honest, that part is not so simple, but I explained as much in an earlier post.

Next, you need to be there when then the birds are. I find mornings and early evenings to be the best time for finding and photographing birds. During summer, birds are most active in the morning and later in the day. Many birds, like most other sensible creatures will take a siesta during the warmest parts o the day. So mornings and late afternoons and evenings tend to the best time for me find birds to photograph.  

Okay, now I’ve mentioned the importance of the where and the when. Both of those aspects are important. Now, I’m going to tell you that sometimes that kind of information isn’t enough. Just like in regular life, sometimes it’s who you know. You see, this series of pics doesn’t happen without friends of mine telling me about a pair of Cooper’s Hawks nesting in their yard. The parents raised three chicks and you’re looking at them. I wasn’t able to capture all three in one photograph, but trust me, there are three different birds depicted in these pics. In these first two pics is the fledgling who stood alone but the next two pics show one and then both of it’s fledgemates.That first fledgling seemed to enjoy resting on the cool flagstones. If you’re here on Long Island, in this sweltering weather, I’m sure you can appreciate this young bird’s wisdom.

How is this for a shot of Cooper’s Hawks siblings? These two were romping away, jumping on and chasing one another. There may have been three chicks from this nest, but these two were best buddies. Aren’t they beautiful? Again, these pics aren’t because I knew the where or when to grab these shots but because of my friends and the heads up they gave me. Sometimes, it really is who you know.  JK.

 

 

Climbing Aboard

Monday, August 13, 2018,

This is a photograph of a Red-eared Slider clambering aboard a floating log in order to sun itself. This is a female. One of the differences between male and female sliders is their size. The females grow larger than the males. Now, I realize that you cannot judge this turtles size by this pic, but I remember taking this photograph as well as the size of this pretty lady. She was pretty big. Another difference in Slider gender is the length and shape of the tail, but that doesn’t help us here because the tail is not in view in this photograph. So now we have a little conundrum. How can you, my dear reader, be able to judge for yourself the gender of this turtle? There are two more methods for making this decision. One concerns the shape of the plastron – that’s the bottom shell- but we cannot see enough to make any judgements. However, there is one more method at our that we can put to use. Do you see the size of the claws? Male Sliders have much more longer claws than females, more than twice the length than their girlfriends. It seems that the males need longer claws to help them get a better grip while mating. The pretty lady in this photo has sensible nails. 

Those of you that read this blog on a regular basis are probably aware of my basic disdain for this species of turtle. My complaint is that these turtles do not belong in Long Island ponds or rivers, but there is no denying their basic beauty. Of course, that beauty is the reason we find them here. In days past, these animals were staples of the pet trade. One could purchase a baby Slider in a tiny tank for a very fair price. The new owners were not aware of how large their new turtles could grow. In a few short years, that two inch cutie can grow into foot long beast. Not many folks plan on such contingencies, and, for many people, the easy solution was releasing their beloved pets into the wild. Unfortunately, despite being a southern species, Red-eared Sliders turned out to be very hardy. They manage our northern winters quite well and have managed to reproduce several generations. They are now a fact of life here on Long Island but they do serve as an example of the dangers inherent in releasing non-native species into the wild. You see, while there is no denying the beauty of Red-eared Sliders, they are beginning to crowd out our native freshwater turtles, the Eastern Painted Turtle, which is, in my own view, an even prettier turtle. JK.

On Photographing Birds

Wednesday, August 1, 2018,

Those of you that read this blog or view the work of other photographers may enjoy the photographs of birds without thinking very much about what goes into a these shots. “A bird. On a branch. Pretty bird.” While these are correct and true observations, they don’t really capture what is actually involved in taking a photograph of a bird, or any wild animal for that matter. I’m not complaining, or bemoaning my lot in life. In fact, I’m hoping that parts of this little essay will bring a smile to your face. That’s what I attempt to do here at Joe Kayaker. Mix in some Nature, a little humor and a dash of knowledge, bake for thirty minutes and maybe we’ll all get to enjoy some wild creatures and places. And maybe we, or our children, will try to preserve the recipe.

Okay, back to the premise at hand. I was talking about photographing birds before I went all philosophical there. It happens, get over it. Photographing birds is not as easy as one might think. First off, you have to find the bird. I know, I know: They’re everywhere, right? But they’re not. Not really. We all have Robins or Sparrows or Blue Jays or Crows in our back yards. Or pigeons for you city dwellers. But if I or any other wildlife photographer just took pics of those guys, we wouldn’t generate much interest. People might get to thinking that they’d seen all there was to see and why seek for more? No one would want to preserve open spaces or parklands. They wouldn’t understand the why of it.

I did it again. I was talking about finding birds and I went all sideways with it. So, really, you have to find the bird. You need to go where the birds are, whether it’s a park, a river or wetlands, a sea shore, or wherever. Again, you need to go where the birds are. You’re not done yet. Even when you’re in the right place, you still need to find your quarry. It’s not like birds are lining up to meet you. I have friends that can find and identify birds by their calls. I am not so gifted. I have several CDs of bird calls but I find my retention for such recordings – or lack thereof – do not help me in the field. Also, I am mostly deaf in one ear so even if I could recognize a particular call, zeroing in the location of a particular call is nigh on impossible. By the way, I can hardly believe I found an excuse to use the word ‘nigh’ in a sentence.

Okay, so you’re in a right place and you’ve found a bird. You don’t always see it right off. Sometimes, it’s just a rustle amongst the branches or a disturbance in the flowers. But it’s a bird. It’s right there, maybe just a few feet away. You know it’s there. Maybe you can even hear it. But can you see it? Can you get a photograph? Is that bird sitting there, proud and dignified, waiting for you to take its picture? Most times, at least for me, the answers are no, no, and no. Birds flit and fly from branch to branch and from tree to tree. It turns out that the darn things have wings.

But sometimes, those sweet wonderful sometimes, you get lucky. The bird peeks out from the foliage or the flowers and is right there. All you need to do then is put it in focus. And that is an entirely different conversation. JK.

 

 

Another Good Year For Monarchs

Wednesday, July 25, 2018,

Monarch butterflies are in trouble. Many of you probably already know this but, perhaps, there are some of you who don’t. Monarch butterfly populations have been shrinking for a couple of decades. Loss of habitat appears to be a major contributing factor but it is by no means the only reason. Monarchs depend on Milkweed plants for both their sustenance and as nurseries for raising their young. And Milkweed is in decline across North America. There are several reasons for that, most of them related to human activities. But let’s not get bogged down with bad news. I want to talk about good news today.

The good news is that there are still places where Monarch butterflies can be found and in decent numbers. Last year, I saw more Monarchs than I had seen in a decade. Many of my friends noticed the same thing. These beautiful butterflies weren’t found everywhere but there were locations where they were very near plentiful. Avalon Park and Preserve was one of those places. The main reason for this is that Avalon has many, many Milkweed plants. Those are Milkweed flowers that the Monarchs in these photos are perched upon. And now, some more good news: This year is shaping up to be an even better year for Monarch butterflies than last year. As I walk along the open fields at Avalon I see more and more of these glorious insects. I think it’s going to be another banner year for both the Monarchs and my camera. JK

Red Clover

Wednesday, July 11, 2018,

Click on this pic. I think it’s worth it. This is a small but quite beautiful flower that we can find all over Long Island. I believe it goes largely unnoticed. Everyone sees it but I am not at all sure that they see it, if you know what I mean. Insects see it. Bees certainly see it. And when you eat Clover Honey, whether it’s in your tea or by the spoonful, you taste it. I myself will take a spoonful for a cough, but more often, I will enjoy a spoonful just because it tastes so good. JK

JK