More specifically, Dragon-Flyday. They were everywhere! I have no idea of their names or what it is that they do, but they are difficult to capture. . .and so pretty! Well, almost. They aren’t as ugly as spiders or as fearsome as wasps. So, “almost pretty” will have to do. But not as pretty as butterflies!
But wait! There’s more!
I thought it was going to be one of those quiet summer days with wildlife languishing in the sun, too hot to forage or preen, thus limiting my photo ops to flowers and sparkly water.
But it was not meant to be, not if the blackbirds had anything to say.
Turns out they had a lot to say, and do!
Today there were a couple of blackbirds hanging around the Eagle Tree,
and they were feeling kind of frisky.
Frisky enough to torment birds much larger than they are. . .and they’ve set their sights on this eagle, who was minding his own business and thought it was a good idea to rest and maybe snooze for a while.
Blackbirds may be little, but they are feisty. . .feisty enough to torment a bird more times their size!
They dart about so quickly that the eagle has no time to say “Watch out! Here comes a blackbird!”
Because before those words are even out of his mouth (or beak. . .) he’s saying “Which way did it go???”
All the eagle can do is try to scare it away with loud shrieks and squawks.
. . .while the rest of us return to the flowers standing as silent testimony to the hot and now-quiet summer afternoon. . .
These photos were all taken with the Olympus EM-5iii and the Panasonic G Vario O.I.S. 100-300 lens.
The JPG processor in this camera, as it is in all Olympus cameras, is outstanding. Unlike the DSLRs, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the image. No need for postprocessing at all, unless you want to resize.
And if you are a diehard RAW shooter, Olympus offers in-camera processing for your RAW files as well. Amazing!
Saw this on the June 25 edition of Ugly Hedgehog and just had to share:
The Ugly Hedgehog. Some people love it, some people hate it. You get to make your own decision by checking it out here, https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/newsletter.jsp?np=1
Summer is like that. Sometimes it’s just too hot and too dry. . .even for an eagle!
The water levels are still very low at the National Wildlife Refuge, but it’s breezy and cool out in the marsh, much more so than on the hot and dusty Wildlife Drive that encircles it.
So, it was no surprise to find an eagle resting on a muskrat lodge. Even at a distance of about 350′, I could see it was an eagle, and an adult one at that.
The afternoon sun was positioned behind the bird and was rather harsh, even late in the afternoon. None of this bodes well for the newbie photographer, but I wasn’t scared. Besides, there was some good news: The sun’s angle provided some great reflections in the water; the bad news was it also provided some not-so-great reflections off the eagle’s very white head. So, I had to settle for rim light and fuzzy features as long as the sun provided backlight.
I’ve got to get a polarizing filter for this lens!!
At first I thought this eagle was drying its wings. Cormorants often strike this pose when drying out — they have to, they are almost always in the water, but eagles not so much. I thought it was unusual enough to stop and watch.
It rested on the muskrat lodge for maybe 20 minutes, sometimes posing with wings held out and sometimes not.
Ooops, got an itch!
And then it was up, up and away. . .
. . .to the Eagle Tree, a mostly dead tree on the Seneca Canal (east) side of Wildlife Drive that provides a safe roost for herons and egrets but mostly for eagles. . .
. . .it’s where this eagle resumed its unusual posture. But now it was no longer 350′ or so out on the marsh, it was maybe 50′ away.
And now the sunlight was working with me, not against me 🙂 Yay!
I could see that the eagle wasn’t drying its wings, or drying anything else for that matter.
Its beak was open, exposing its tongue,
I never knew eagles had tongues!
It was panting.
Eagles don’t sweat, so they hold out their wings and pant to cool off.
(They also lose some body heat through their unfeathered legs.)
Poor thing was hot! Too hot to fish. . .
It was so hot that all it could do was rest in the eagle tree and pant.
In fact, this eagle was just as hot as the gaggle of photographers that now surrounded me, struggling to get the best spot to capture a digital glimpse of it, resting, panting, and otherwise cooling off high above us.
But I was the lucky one! I had been the first to notice the eagle sitting on the muskrat house, and I knew about the eagle tree nearby. I suspected that if this particular eagle didn’t end up in the tree, another one would likely do so.
So, I already occupied the best eagle-viewing spot on the Drive, long before anyone else noticed a brown bird-like silhouette off in the distance and pulled over to investigate.
Plus, I had my EM5iii with me, with its remarkable five-axis in-body image stabilization, and the Panasonic Lumix 100-300 O.I.S. lens — no need for a tripod at only 50′!
All that my east-side eagle tree photos needed was a little cropping. A good day!
Some flight views. . .
It’s not the only eagle to take advantage of muskrat lodges:
Even juvies know all about the eagle tree:
The outstanding reflections were not limited to wildlife:
. . . with apologies to Ray Stevens 😉
Sometimes you just need lots of fps, a bright, sunny day, and a subject with no shame.
I spent the day getting photos of some pretty creepy things.
Stay away from these things! And be careful out there!!!
What is this, some sort of magic?
No, it’s not magic at all. In fact, it’s something that’s been around for a while.
The Big Three camera makers, though, are just beginning to catch on to it and are now putting it in their newer cameras — you can buy these if you like, but it will cost you big time — be prepared to upgrade and spend a thousand or two. . .
But you really don’t have to! It’s available elsewhere for just a few hundred bucks. So, what is it about the seldom-talked-about Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, and Ricoh (makers of the Pentax brand) camera bodies that prompted The Big Three to make these changes to their best-selling line-ups?
It’s five-axis in-body stabilization, or IBIS if you prefer photographer short-cut lingo. And it’s available, even in entry-level camera bodies, for only $499.00 plus tax. That is what American buyers pay for a brand-new Olympus OM-D EM-10iii. I saved even more on mine, because I paid $336 for a lightly used body that is quickly becoming my favorite.
You might be inclined to scoff at such IBIS nonsense, since lens-based stabilization has been around for years, and it works just fine, thank you very much. But if you do, you would be missing the point. It’s the 5 axes — forward and backward, up and down, and side to side plus a build technology designed to counteract camera shake by balancing the sensor — that permits hand-held low-light photos and “silky water” shots.
Most skilled photographers can hand-hold at 1/20 but, sadly, I am not one of those. However, from what I have read it is fairly standard to advise no hand-holding below 1/60. The 5-axis IBIS found in these other-brand cameras changed all that by adding up to 5 more stops of safe hand-holding!
To be completely honest, there is another factor that contributes to these amazing hand-held results, and that is the weight of your gear. Five-axis in-body stabilization is commonly found on cameras built on the micro (mirrorless) 4/3 system. These cameras are inherently lightweight, much more so than, say, Canon’s entry level Rebel T7, or its mid-range 90d. For example, the Rebel T7 weighs in at 1.48 lbs, the 90d at 2.7 lbs. Compared to the EM-10 iii (0.90 lbs), both DSLRs are really heavy. Attach a wide-angle lens, such as Canon’s 24-70 (2.1 lbs), or a mid-reach lens (Canon 24-300 @3.7 lbs) and you end up with some reallyreallyREALLY heavy gear — 5 lbs or so might not sound very heavy to you, but try holding it steady for a full second or two. Much easier to hoist, point, and hold the just-under-1-lb EM-10 with a Panasonic G Vario 100–300 mm (1.5 lb). That combination weighs half as much as a T7 equipped with a 300mm telephoto and less than than the 90d body alone!
I love my Canon gear, but I found the EM-10 iii to be packed with features I don’t have on my 77d. That’s because The Big Three reserve these features for their mid-range models. I think the EM-10 compares quite favorably to my Canon 77d, and if I had upgraded to the 90d I might still prefer the lighter, less expensive EM-10. . .but not everyone agrees with me. It did not fare well in an online comparison with the 90d, but it is important to note that the 90d is not considered consumer-grade and besides, it benefits from technology that was not around when the EM-10 was introduced in 2017. Even so, in such important areas as detail, sharpness, weight, and value, the EM-10 held its own. See the results of the comparison here:
In a comparison with Canon’s entry-level Rebel T7, the EM-10 iii did much better. In fact, it did very well on everything except sensor size (it’s smaller) and phase detection (it has none). The smaller MFT sensor may be statistically detrimental, but in actual practice it shouldn’t pose much of a problem — unless you crop your photos significantly or you like to print out large images. Besides, sensor size alone doesn’t determine resolution of the image, there are several other factors at play. This issue (and others) are discussed here,
I still prefer my Canon gear for birds in flight. The optical viewfinder has none of the lag that is present on some EVFs, and that takes the guesswork out of action shots. So, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the final image. And despite its weight, I can handle the camera-plus-lens fairly well, especially if I get a head start on the bird and correctly anticipate its route. It’s not good for small birds, though — for those, I need to tweak my EM-10 or maybe upgrade to an EM-5 iii. The EM-5 has PDAF as well as contrast points, which enables faster, more precise focus. Unfortunately, the EM-10 has only contrast points, which are great for sunny days but make for drab, flat photos on gray days.
Or, I could use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9, another beginner-grade camera that I received as a bonus when I bought a used lens. It, too, has only CDAF, but it uses a proprietary technology that Panasonic calls DFD (Depth from Defocus). Simply put,
It works by examining two images taken with the focus at different distances and analysing their sharpness so that the camera can determine which way and how far to adjust the lens to get the subject sharp. It all happens very quickly so you’re not aware of anything going on.
You can read more about it here,
where you will also be directed to a review of a more sophisticated camera, Panasonic’s GH5.
The camera I have, the GX9, is not bad at all. It, too, is MFT and is both more and less than the Olympus EM-10. For me, the 20 mp sensor more than makes up for having a tilt screen (rather than one that is fully articulated). And there is no GPS. . .but there isn’t any in the EM-10, either. The GX9 also has that wonderful 5-axis IBIS, but what I really like about this camera is its ability to track flying birds or running foxes — that DFD technology really works!
A black crowned night heron. Well, call it a “black crown” if you wish, but I never saw one that extends all the way down your back, and I don’t know how active these herons are at night. So, “black crowned night heron” might be a little misleading. “Hunched-over flat-headed blue-and-white heron” might be more accurate albeit less flattering.
All I know is that it’s unusual to find one who is willing to fish right out in the open.
The ones I’ve seen in the past all required a great deal of me trampling noiselessly — which, by the way, is impossible — through the muck and peeking under clumps of marsh grass.
And no matter how stealthily I trampled and peeked, I usually managed to flush them from their matted, messy cover, and all I would get for my troubles was a frightened animal and a pair of mud-soaked boots.
Not what I had hoped for on my day off!
And certainly not what the heron had hoped for, either.
But I suppose that if I was a black crowned night heron who dared to fish right out in the open, I would do it at a road less traveled, which is exactly what this one decided to so.
WITH her chick! That’s how secluded the West Shore Trail is.
WST is smaller than the main pool down in Seneca Falls, and it’s fairly secluded with no nearby commercial development. Or nearby residential development, either. Nothing to attract anyone who might stop for a cup of coffee and a doughnut before arriving at the trail intent upon interfering with a peaceful day of fishing. In fact, that is probably the biggest reason why people drive past the signs pointing to West Shore Trail.
Even now, in the midst of the CoVid-19 scare, WST remains off the radar for most birders and photographers who are looking for something to do that doesn’t require a mask. What they don’t know is that you don’t need a mask here. No one at the trail has a problem staying six feet away from anyone else simply because you can’t find anyone else to stand six feet away from.
I am probably one of the few people who make sure to visit West Shore Trail at least once a week. I love its seclusion. Maybe that’s why it is attracting more wildlife species, too. There is no heavily traveled Wildlife Drive encircling it, like there is at Seneca Falls. So this particular black crowned night heron and its chick fished fearlessly and openly on this sunny day.
I welcomed the sunny day, too, which meant I could use a fast shutter without fear of a far-too-high ISO spoiling the shots. . .if the shots were to be spoiled, it would be my own doing, not the camera’s.
And I did manage to mess up more than a few. :-(
What do you mean, “focus on the eye”???? I could hardly find the chick, much less its eye!
However, with a a deep breath and a longer lens, I did indeed find its eye and all the rest of it, too.
The chick-in-flight is a total loss. I forgot! This camera (Olympus EM10iii) has only contrast-detect AF, and there wasn’t much contrast in the midtones that surrounded this mid-toned bird.
Nonetheless, I did manage to end up with some legible representations of a beautiful bird that is hard to shoot simply because it hides so well.
Here’s just a couple more. . . hard to say good-bye to these lovely birds.
I took these over a two-day period this week:
There is not much about Leroy Island that would make it stand out among the several small islands and peninsulas dotting Sodus Bay.
It’s accessible by a pretty-much-one-lane bridge, where there are no signs blaming your GPS for misdirecting you; in fact, there is a sign welcoming you– as long as you are a fisherman who promises to take your trash with you when you leave.
I don’t fish, but I like to visit Leroy Island anyway. I may get quizzical looks as I turn around at the marina, but no one actually makes me leave.
Every season is a good time to visit the island, but I always visit several times during the summer. That is when life — wildlife and plant life — is at its very best.
Even before I got to the bridge I knew it was going to be a good day. When I turned off Rt 104 to head north, I encountered an osprey nest way up on a utility pole, with Ma and Pa Osprey perched on another one nearby. Maybe they just had to get out of the house for a while, or maybe they had some grown-up talk to do out of earshot of the young ‘uns.
Weeds or wildflowers? I suppose that depends on your point of view, or maybe on what mood you are in.
I don’t know how you will answer that question, but today, for me, I saw wildflowers. . .and not a single weed.
I’d like to call these wild daisies, but I am pretty sure the taxonomists prefer to call them Chrysanthemum lencanthemum — much easier just to call them wild. I like the idea of these pretty flowers, which grow quietly along the roadside, being “wild.” 😉
Buttercups. Now, these are reallyreallyREALLY wild! If you eat them, they can kill you. . . or at least make you very sick.
Don’t let your cows eat them, either! They could get just as sick or even die!
I remember when as children we would hold a buttercup under our chins — if the reflection was yellow, then you liked butter! I don’t think we ever found anyone who didn’t like butter when given that test.
Buttercups are just about as good as daisies for making a chain. There was just enough time during recess, if you ate your lunch real quick, to make a daisy-buttercup chain that you could wear on your head as a crown. What 10-year-old girl wouldn’t like that!
I don’t think kids do that these days. . .do they? They might be too busy tik-tokking or whatever it is they do on their cellphones.
Of course, I saw lots of dandelions, mostly in the seed stage. And now it’s the right time of year, if you are 10 years old, to make a wish! Close your eyes, make your wish (don’t tell anyone what it is or it will never come true. . .), and gently blow all the seeds from your dandelion stem.
Enough of the flowers. I also saw lots of wildlife. The kind with feathers, wings, feet, and heads and some with shells on their backs.
Turtles, even the relatively harmless painted ones, are known to be carnivorous at times, so I was surprised at this young swan family resting alongside a pile of them. I guess the cygnets are too big to become lunch at this stage of the game and besides, Ma and Pa were keeping a close eye on the turtles and the little ones.
These little ones don’t even have their wings yet, just tiny little “wing-ettes” that flap around when they walk. And they really don’t walk all that much, most of the time I saw them they were either resting or were in the water.
Mute swans are an introduced species not native to the United States. They are far from mute — get too close to a cygnet and they will hiss up a storm! Now that I think on it, mute swans are nasty creatures, especially to trumpeter and tundra swans. I once saw a single mute swan chase a pair of trumpeters clear out of the water. They weren’t trespassing near a nest, they were just swimming nearby, so I guess the mute did it just because he could. So he did.
Song sparrows are just about everywhere! This one allowed me to get unusually close before he decided to flee.
Song sparrows are pretty loud for being so tiny. But their song is pretty, and they aren’t as skittish as, say, kingfishers, so I generally have time to check my settings and get a decent shot.
I smiled when I saw this killdeer. When I first got a camera three summers ago, I took a ride out here to Leroy Island and photographed, among other things, a killdeer. I had no clue what it was until Google told me.
I’m glad this photo came out okay. . .at least it’s better than that first one was!
Oh, and I think it’s a female killdeer. Why? Because she obviously has to pee! REAL bad!
There are many, many great blue herons in western New York — too numerous to count, I think. You really can’t visit any marshy area without seeing at least one. And where there’s one, there are others hiding nearby, probably in the thick marsh grasses.
Well, I did find who one who was pleased to stick around long enough to pose, and then he was off. There is a wooded area as you go around the back of the point and up the hill , and I am sure there is a rookery there. That’s where I see most of the herons coming from and heading to when I come up here.
The road that goes through the woods isn’t heavily settled (unless you’re a heron), but the few people who do live up there are sick and tired of people looking for Crescent Beach. Because the road narrows before it dead-ends near the water, which requires that you turn around in someone’s driveway (unless you want to back out of a curvy, one-lane dirt road for about a mile or mile-and-a-half).
There are a couple of nice places that serve food and libations here (once the CoVid-19 virus scare dissipates), and there is a brand-new brewery here, too. These places are right on the bay, so you can either park your car or dock your boat. I am waiting for Phase 3 so I can visit some of these places!
Like most lakeside property owners, nobody here is pleased with the International Joint Commission’s plan 2014 meant to regulate the water levels in the St. Lawrence Seaway. It’s had a negative (and expensive!) impact on Lake Ontario water levels.
All photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D EM10iii and the Panasonic O.I.S. 100-300. All photos are straight from the camera with post processing limited to cropping (where necessary). Maybe some of the photos could use a little tweaking, but I like them just the way I saw them. I am so pleased with this little camera!
A few more from today’s Leroy Island experience:
“I’m a big boy now!” says Son #1.
Meanwhile, back at the nest, Son #2 gets some wise advice from Mom. He will likely join his brother in the brand-new world of fledglings in a few days or maybe a week or two.
Eagles take about 10-12 weeks to grow from nestling to fledgling, but it will take a lot longer (5 years!) before they attain their adult plumage. That’s 5 years of watching them fight, fly, and fish — should be fun!
Having an affinity for nature photography, Diet Coke, and a bargain, I am a frequent visitor at McDonald’s golden arches. I can’t help but notice what surrounds most of their restaurants, it’s pretty nice. So, I make it a habit to bring a camera with me while I wait at the drive-thru for a large Diet Coke/light ice — a real bargain at $1.00 (plus 8 cents for to support whatever programs Governor Cuomo has in mind for downstate).
It’s worth the $1.08, though, because what I find on my McStops are some really beautiful flowers and plants. . .OK, so maybe these particular ones are a bit past their prime, and the photo isn’t very good, either (but the bokeh isn’t so bad for a 4/3 bridge!).
Besides, look what they had to put up with over the past few days!
Bitter weather for spring. . .but this is western New York <sigh> We don’t always get much of a spring here. And these were taken in Wolcott, which is always just a bit colder because it is just a bit farther away. . .and lies right along the north side of Route 104. For those who don’t know it, Route 104 is the line that separates regular snow (on its south side) from the constant white stuff that falls from lake effect (on the north side).
Wolcott is my favorite McDonald’s, because it’s right on the way to the middle of NoWhere, which is where I go on nature hunts.
Anyway, when spring finally arrives, we appreciate it! I was waiting in line at Waterloo when I saw this. . .they really know how to decorate with plants!
They did this funky thing with grafts, too, so there are white blossoms and pink ones on the same tree. Not bad, eh?
Of course, it never takes too long for the weeds to pop up, snow be damned!
Waterloo also has McFlowers like these:
. . .which certainly excuses the occasional dandelion. Besides, it’s not a weed, it’s a “wildflower,” right?
There must have been a McSale on black-eyed Susans, because I see them at just about every McDonald’s I stop at.
They grow everywhere, just like dandelions, but they are so pretty who cares if they are nothing but a weed — I mean “wildflower”?
I don’t know what these are, but they look sort of like the rose mallow that grows along the sides of the marsh at Montezuma. But they can’t be rose mallow because they’re blue. . .and besides, somebody paid for this plant, so. . .
What I love most about McDonald’s though, are the McBirds. All the lovely plantings and bushes that line their drive-thru’s attract any number of flying visitors.
Here are a couple of juvenile robins. They just stopped in for a visit.
This starling looks cold and hungry; he’s probably hoping someone drops a french fry.
But the robins and starlings and other avian visitors don’t stay very long. The ones who do are small enough to fit behind the neon signs,where they build a cozy nest. Mostly these are house sparrows, but who cares? They sing a nice McSong, and their eyes sparkle if you catch the right light.
And they pose very nicely too 😉
I saw one of these once, but it was at Burger King. I really don’t know why a killdeer would hang around Burger King, but this one did for as long as it took for me to eat a burger and read a few pages of Galen Rowell’s Inner Game of Outdoor Photography.
Of course, the birds I see the most are these: Gulls! Noisy, pesky gulls always begging for a bite of whatever you have in your hands.
Whenever one leaves, two take their place. They are quiet as long as it takes for them to eat a french fry and maybe scratch an itch. . .which isn’t very long.
This one’s my favorite. He has only one foot, but that didn’t stop him from dancing:
I bought a small bag of fries just for him!
Most of these photos were taken impromptu within the past year, so I used whatever bridge camera that happened to please me at the time. Sooooo glad I am over that! The only bridge I now own is a gray-market Lumix FZ80 (FZ82 here in America), which I carry with me “just in case.” And it’s a good thing I had it with me over the weekend, when I inadvertently hit something that peeled the bumper from my car. The camera strap was sacrificed, but the camera, car, and me live on for better, brighter days.
Not very happy about the car, but look at the nice star I got from the glinting sun!