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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Newport Back Bay Bird Walk

I joined a bird walk this morning at Newport Back Bay. Technically speaking I guess I should say that I almost DIDN'T join, a bird walk. When my alarm went off at 6AM I had a moment of weakness, it was hard to resist just snuggling back into the warmth of bed, but then I thought about the sunshine and the birds and the fact that I could just get a nap later - I was up already anyways - so I quietly got up leaving Mr. Rogue to sleep in.

Visiting Newport Back Bay is difficult, it was far before we moved to the new house, now we live a little over an hour away (if there is no traffic) thank goodness it was so early. The drive was easy and by the time I got there I was super excited. I just adore Newport Back Bay. Although the birds can be too far away most often for bird photography, which is annoying, the gorgeous landscape makes up for it. I was especially excited to play with the new 14mm lens, I still am trying to learn the limitations and capabilities. What a perfect beautiful day to be outside!

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We had a medium sized group of about 13 people, not too large to cause issues but large enough for me to be a bit nervous. With my big lens and the tripod it is always a little tricky when I am around too many people. I sling my tripod and camera over my shoulder so the poles could possibly poke someone and I need a pretty decent amount of space to set it up, that coupled with the frenzy of trying to locate fast moving birds makes it hard. I never do regret carrying the lens though, the photos are well worth the pain and most of the time when I accidentally run into someone they are super nice.

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I didn't see any new birds today. It is now past the time when the migrants pass through for spring and mostly past the time for rare accidental migrants to end up in LALA land. Instead we focus on the local more common birds. Birds that are nesting, that are busy gathering food for their chicks and males who are singing to announce their territory. The Swamp Wrens were everywhere and we were able to find a few breeding pairs and their nest. Swamp Wrens are a mess to try and photo. They move fast and when they do pause for a quick second break they are usually hidden by this that or the other. They love the tall reeds and cattails at the edge of the water. The denser the vegetation the happier they are. That same vegetation is a curse to trying to get a kodak shot. Although I spent a good 20 minutes I didn't get the shot I wanted. The group was moving on so I gave up to try again another time.

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SWAMP WREN

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SWAMP WREN NEST

Not all streaky brown little birds are the same, although sometimes they may look like it. The world of identifying sparrows correctly is very difficult. The Savannah Sparrow is one of the most common birds in the US. Belding's Savannah Sparrows lives in Southern California and unlike other Savannah Sparrows the Belding's does not migrate. Sadly this bird is an endangered bird but I feel lucky that I get to see it all the time, even if he does like to hide often.

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SAVANNAH SPARROW

Another common streaky brown sparrow is the Song Sparrow. These guys are much easier to see and photo, they love being out in the open and there are so many of them. It is almost too easy with some birds but I have to remember that even though they are common to me they may not be common to everyone. That and the fact that I need to make sure that I get great photos of the common birds as well.

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SONG SPARROW

Mockingbirds are also numerous but they are a bird that drives me nuts. In fact I have dubbed this bird "Jerk". Often I will be birding, I will pause when I what I think is a new bird sound, only to find the bird and realize that it is YET AGAIN the ever so common, ever so annoying Mockingbird. At least the photos are pretty.

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MOCKINGBIRD

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MOCKINGBIRD

While walking past a small pond of water, right next to the path, we were surprised to spot a Common Guillemot I have seen this bird before but never this close. These birds are usually pretty shy and secretive and although he was only fully out of the reeds for a moment I got some good photos. We all stopped to watch him blend back into the catcalls.

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COMMON GALLINULE

After spending time looking across the bay at the birds in the distance and flying by near the shore we turned around and entered the hiking trail heading away from the water. There is a good diversity in vegetation on this which can sometimes result in some interesting birds from time to time

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HEADING ON THE PATH AWAY FROM THE BAY

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ROCKY HILLSIDES

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SWAMP AND VEGETATION

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LOTS OF WIDE OPEN SPACE FOR OWLS AND RAPTORS

With so many people looking up into the trees I usually get to see more birds on a bird walk than by myself. Today i got was happy to spot the usual bird for the day. A Warbling Vireo high up in the trees. This was a new bird for me the beginning of this month and since then I have seen 7. It just goes to show you once you spot a bird, get an idea how it moves and what it looks like you can start seeing it everywhere. When it rains it pours.

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WARBLING VIREO

I loved this photo of the Lesser Goldfinch. The background had great bokhen and I really liked how the little gold flowers pick up the colors in the bird. A common bird for sure but a nice photo.

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LESSER GOLDFINCH

There were several hummingbirds out today. The Anna's and the Allen's Hummingbirds are pretty numerous here and although small, I just love them. They like to call for minutes at a time from the top of a dead branch or shrub, completely out in the open, completely in full view, which means that this bird is a photographers perfect model.

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ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD

The trick to photographing hummingbirds I found is the light. No one likes to stand with the sun in their eyes, hummingbirds are the same way, so although they are sitting out in the open their fronts are usually shrouded in shadow. There is also the problem with trying to get their gorget to show their beautiful rainbow colors without freaking the camera out. Their gorget is like a reflector and the camera has a hard time interpreting that data into a good photo. The best pictures I have taken of hummingbirds have either been on a cloudy day which eliminates harsh shadows OR when they conveniently land in shade. Today i got a great photo of a male Allen's Hummingbird perched in the shade of a large deciduous tree. SCORE!

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ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD

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ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD

I think that the only bird I I did get super excited about herewas when one of the group members identified the call of a distant Yellow Breasted Chat. We followed his territory calls and did manage to get VERY far glimpses of this shy bird. Of course VERY far glimpses through tons of branches make for VERY crappy photos. Every single time I see this bird I never can get close enough. He for sure is going to be one of those super hard to photo species. The more I bird the more I realize that hearing a bird is a much more important aspect of birding than I ever imagined. If we hadn't heard the Chat and identified it as a cool bird to find then we would have never spent the next 20 minutes chasing it down to see if it was in a place that would give us a good view.

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WITH ALL OF US LOOKING FOR THE CHAT WE FINALLY FOUND IT, FAR IN THE DISTANCE OF COURSE

2 comments:

Jennifer Arens said...

I enjoyed all your landscape shots!

paul peggy zeus said...

I loved the Allens hummingbird. Stunning.

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