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Brown Booby nesting on the bluff. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby nesting on the bluff. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Before leaving Ontario last month for the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac my research indicated that it would be nesting season for the Brown Booby on the island. The Brown Booby typically nests on the top most edge of the island’s bluff, which is at the most easterly point of the island. I made several trips up to the bluff during my stay, hoping to photograph some newly hatched boobies with their parents, as the eggs would be hatching any day. I had no luck with my hopes and only photographed the adult birds, but they were loads of fun to photograph nonetheless.

As I so often do when photographing any wildlife species I look for opportunities to create animate landscapes – that is to show the animal within their habitat. I found the best time of day to photograph these seabirds was at the end of the day as the male boobies would return and perch on the cliff top after spending the day at sea, diving for fishes. This was also a great time of day to create flight images of the boobies circling along the edge of the cliff, lit by the setting sun.

Here is an assortment of Brown Booby images that I created during my two week stay on Cayman Brac, in the Cayman Islands. Each of the photos was created using my Nikon D800 and Nikon 80-400mm VR lens. I used a variety of sensor crops, which are available on the Nikon D800. Often to extend the reach of my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, when warranted, I will select the 1.5 sensor crop to effectively make the lens a 120-600mm lens – it is kind of like having a built-in teleconverter.

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Before I left for my trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands I was aware of the Barn Owl population on the island. My research had informed me that these owls use the numerous caves found along the island’s bluff as roosting sites. On several nights while I was photographing treefrogs I could hear these owls calling nearby and did witness a couple of late night fly-bys too. My guide on the island had directed me to a couple of caves that would be productive, but the owls were to wary and would fly out when I would try to make my approach. Eventually my guide and I traveled to the eastern end of the island for an owl that was more tolerant of folks inside the cave. After climbing halfway up the bluff we made our way down into a large cavernous cave and sure enough a Barn Owl sat near the top of the cave, which was open to the sky, undisturbed by our presence. I quickly created numerous compositions of this owl, both wide views and tight crops. For the wider views I utilized the pop-up flash on my Nikon D800 to help illuminate the cave walls inside. Each of the images in this post were created with a handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens and to better describe how dark it was inside the cave I dialed in an ISO setting of 5000. Having previously tested my Nikon D800 at very high ISOs I did not hesitate to dial this setting in and fire away :)

Which of these photographs is your favorite?

Barn Owls are an extremely rare sight here in southern Ontario, so having the opportunity to photograph wild specimens on Cayman Brac was a real treat during this recent trip.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Barn Owl in Cave

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

 

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Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Capturing pleasing images of songbirds at my backyard bird feeding set-up in a pleasing pose is always a challenge. When I select perches to use I am always mindful of how I will position them during use. This is mostly because I prefer to capture the songbirds that frequent my set-up in such a pose whereby the tail feathers are not merging with the branch. Often the birds arrive on the perch and move about quickly, as a result I find it is best to pre-focus on the perch and when a suitable subject comes in for a landing a will fire off a burst of images. By doing so you are almost certain to capture an image with the tail raised up away from a merging position and you will likely get the head angle in a pleasing position too. One of the hardest birds to photograph at my set-up is the Northern Cardinal…try as I might I cannot get them up onto the perches, but they do frequent the snow covered ground below as they forage for any spilled seeds. Here are a few songbird images from my last sitting in the backyard photo blind a few days ago, as I took a break from my preparations for my upcoming trip to Cayman Brac in the Caribbean Sea. Hope you like the images :)

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Black-capped Chickadee in Winter

Black-capped Chickadee in Winter

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter

 

 

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Snowy Owl in a Snow Storm - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in a Snow Storm – Thornton, Ontario

Today amid snow squalls and strong winds I made another trek over to see the neighborhood snowy. As usual she was plunked down in the middle of a field that was planted with soy beans last summer. Most likely the field mice and meadow voles are foraging beneath the snow for spilled beans from the harvest, which is likely why this owl is so content on staying at this field, with the well stocked buffet.

To create this image I used a tripod mounted Nikon 80-400mm VR lens on a Nikon D800. After framing the scene accordingly I utilized the Live View function of the camera to manually focus on the owl. An ISO of 1250 was dialed in and an aperture of f16 @ 1/1000 second was used for the exposure, due to the high winds and my desire to enough depth of field for the owl and the distant trees, as well as wanting to capture some of the snow flakes in the air.

Hope you enjoy the images. Please do remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park – Toronto

On Friday January 17th I decided to make the drive down to the Toronto region to search for Snowy Owls. This year we are experiencing record numbers of of Snowy Owls in Ontario as they have migrated down from their Arctic home.. My destination for the day was going to be Colonel Samuel Smith Park. Upon my arrival a strong wind was already picking up off the lake, which was sure to make things a little uncomfortable and cold. After much searching I came to realize that I was not going to have any luck at my chosen destination. After a few icy shoreline images I decided to head a little to the east and try my luck at Humber Bay Park – at least it is good for ducks and I can usually find a few co-operative Long-tailed Ducks, which also migrate down to this area from the high Arctic.

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park – Toronto

Long-tailed Duck (formerly Old Squaw) at Humber Bay Park - Toronto

Long-tailed Duck (formerly Old Squaw) at Humber Bay Park – Toronto

Alas my day would come to an end and I would make the long trek home so that I could make it on time for a chiropractor appointment in Barrie and then pick-up my daughter when school ended for the day. After picking up my daughter, we began to drive home and wouldn’t you know it, not 5 kilometers from my home there are two Snowy Owls. As fate would have it I drove roughly 200 kilometers in search of Snowy Owls when they were virtually waiting at my doorstep, but had I stayed home I would not have captured my best image, to date, of a Long-tailed Drake.

On Friday evening and today as well, I went out to create some photos of these Snowy Owls and will continue to do so as long as they are wintering here. No more long drives to find them :)

Snowy Owl on Hydro Pole - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl on Hydro Pole – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Winter Farm Field - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Winter Farm Field – Thornton, Ontario

 

 

 

 

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Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Winter is my preferred season for photographing songbirds. This year is looking like it may be a very productive year for bird photography as well. So far this season in the fields around my home there are at least two Snowy Owls, a Bald Eagle, and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Not too mention a Red-bellied Woodpecker at my suet feeder set-up.

On this Saturday past I decided it was time to head out to my heated, backyard photo blind and commence adding some new images to my songbird collection. I have been using this blind for a great number of years and it provides me with a toasty warm place to photograph these birds while the cold, winter winds howl outside. The day after I created these images we received close to 2 feet of snow and I have been busy digging myself out, but tonight I finally had time to process some of the images I created.

Hope you enjoy them :)

Please remember to click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

 

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird on nest_7758Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on nest

I have often found it to be a real challenge photographing hummingbirds and I have certainly never had the opportunity to capture them at the nest. In fact I have only ever seen a hummingbird nest once before. Typically their nests are tiny and very well camouflaged. Check out the Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest here as it is made of tiny pieces of lichen assembled together and virtually undetectable on the Tamarack branch where the nest is located.

Tonight after dinner my neighbors that own a large parcel of farmland down the road from my home called to tell me that they had discovered a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest in their Tamarack grove. I told them I would be right over. When I arrived they already had a 10 foot step ladder set-up for me. I positioned the ladder about 8-10 feet from the nest and climbed up and waited. Once the female hummingbird came back to sit on the eggs I fired off several bursts of images. Why would I expose bursts of photos, because the hummingbirds move their heads very quickly and I wanted to capture a good head angle and also because I was handholding my gear. Often when handholding for such imagery this is a good approach as the sharpest image will usually be the second or third image in a series…at least that’s how it works for me :)

The images in this post were captured using a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 80-400VR lens (the old one) with an ISO setting of 1250 due to the time of day.

Please click on the images to see the larger sharper versions and please let us know which is your favorite and why.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on nest_7776Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on nest

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Killdeer_7716Killdeer

A couple of weeks ago while I was taking my dog Koko for a walk she sniffed out a Killdeer nest at the edge of a gravel laneway leading into one of the soy bean fields adjacent to my home. I have been frequently trying to capture images of the birds but each time I approached the adults would fly way out into the field and begin feigning injury, as they do, to lure me away from the nest. I failed on each attempt. Yesterday as I took Koko for her daily walk after dinner I was delighted to see that three of the four eggs had hatched. When we arrived home after the walk I walked back over to the area where the nest was located and lay down on the gravel. The nice thing about living in a rural area is that it is generally safe to lay down near the road with out getting squashed :)  I needed to work very quickly so that the adults would not get too stressed with my presence. After a couple of quick photos of the adults I grabbed three quick images of the hatchlings in the nest and then departed.

Killdeers typically nest in the agriculture fields and along the roadsides near my home as they are ground nesting birds. The baby Killdeers do not stay at the nest for very long. In fact the fourth egg hatch some time after I photographed them and all four babies have left the nest and are running around in the fields with the adults.

Please click on each image to see the larger sharper version of each.

Killdeer Hatchlings_7720Killdeer Hatchlings

Killdeer on nest_7693Killdeer on Nest

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Hairy Woodpecker_4336

Hairy Woodpecker

The above photograph of the male Hairy Woodpecker was created at my backyard bird feeder set-up. He would visit the bird feeder to collect seeds and then hide them among the cracks in the bark on the old apple tree stump that support the feeding station.

In the image below you will see the set-up I am using this year for my winter songbird photography. In the center of the frame at the bottom you will see the speaker that is connected to an old MP3 player that I keep inside the photo blind to play the songs of various bird species that frequent the area around my home, to lure them in closer to the feeding station.

Now for the cheapskate part – use an old set of automobile jumper cables affixed to a flexible type of clamp and presto you have an easy, effective set-up to hold various perches and the ability to change them around as needed without too much fuss. The flexible clamps were purchased from Princess Auto for a mere $11.99 CDN and now I have a set of magnifying glasses for my daughter to play with too :). The cardboard over the feeder actually has a small hole cut in it which tend to make the birds land on the perches rather than the sides of the feeding station.

To see the larger, sharper versions of each image please click on them to enlarge.

Winter Feeder_4242

The Backyard Set-up

Just a reminder to all full-time photography students enrolled in an accredited Canadian University or College to click on the Sigma Scholarship Contest logo in the sidebar of the blog for a chance to win $3000 towards their tuition and $1000 worth of gear from Gentec International.

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Bullfrog in wetland_1503

Male Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

Looking back over the past year I realized I probably photographed a little bit more wildlife than landscapes, which is some what different for me. Mostly I was photographing frogs and toads for various chapters in the frog book that I am currently writing. As a result it is easy to see why my top 12 images from 2012 contains a few frog photos :)

Here is a selection of a few of my favorite images created in 2012.

Tiny Marsh_9697

Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area, Ontario

Massassauga Rattlesnake_1773

Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Rosseau River_734

Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Ontario

Bullfrog_juvenile_1695

Over-under juvenile Bullfrog

Sandpiper_2172-1

Willet on Liebeck Lake, Ontario

Horseshoe Lake Sunset_2213

Horseshoe Lake wetland at sunset, Ontario

Common Loon (Gavia immer) with chick on Horseshoe Lake

Common Loon with chick on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

Zimmerman's Poison Frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)_2921-1

Zimmerman’s Poison Frog

Beaver Pond_Algonquin_3429

Beaver Pond, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Horseshoe Lake_2459

View from the dock at sunset, Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

White-breasted Nuthatch_4543

White-breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch image above represents the last photograph captured for 2012. It was visiting my suet feeder set-up frequently yesterday while I was out in the blind for another round of winter songbird photography.

Wishing everybody all the best in 2013.

Happy New Year!!!

Please remember to click on each of the photos to see the larger sharper version.

See ya soon!

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