Tag : Bird

21 Mar 2013

A quick road trip to photograph birds in Florida

When I’m driving in Florida, I have this crazy expectation that the drivers are friendly and relaxed. They aren’t. My first day here and I’m driving around Orlando and Kissimmee and people are frantic. I expect that in New Jersey, but people should be calmer in Florida. Four times I got honked at within the first hour around here.

I come to Florida looking for nature and wildlife, the critter kind. So it is rather crazy that I am hanging out in the ultimate tourist trap of Orlando. Everything looks like it was built for $15 and there’s a million signs wanting me to stop and buy something.

But I’m here to photograph birds and I’ve made my first journey to Gatorland. I’d heard about the rookery at Gatorland and I was extremely doubtful. But I did a lot of research and it seemed to be real. A tourist trap had been built around a rookery and they made sure plenty of gators are around to keep the tourists happy. They put a big boardwalk through the rookery and built some towers to make observation even better. I was initially repulsed by the idea of it but the more I thought about the more I realized that if money wasn’t being made, then somebody would fill in the ponds, knock down the trees and build another un-needed hotel.

Gatorland lets photographers come in at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday through Sunday for $20, while the rest of the public doesn’t come in until 10 a.m. There were about 15 people heading in this morning, a few had been there before and several, including me, were Gatorland rookies.

It was worth the $20. It is the largest rookery I’ve ever had access to. There are lots of different species nesting and most are close enough to get good photos with a 200mm lens. The nests are down low because they are protected from raccoons and other predators by the big, mean-looking gators. The gators get fresh snacks when young birds fall out of the nest, so it is a good thing for everybody.

The birds have grown accustomed to the people because they know they are protected. Hundreds of birds were sitting, flying, wading and doing everything birds do and I shot until my trigger finger was sore and the sun was moving up in the sky.

I left the busyness of the Orlando area and headed west to the coast to check out some parks in the Tampa area.

See a photo gallery from my two days in Florida.

A wood stork carries a stick to its nest.

10 Mar 2013

A duck of a different color is still just a duck

I went to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge today to see what might be flying through. I have several favorite places, some require a little hiking and I was feeling lazy so I drove to the spots that have easy access. I pulled up to the largest pond that you can park beside and there were a couple of people out taking photos.

On the far side of the pond was a bunch of ducks. This time of year usually the only thing I see floating is Canada geese. When I see them, I don’t even stop, but the ducks looked interesting. The ducks were pretty far away, too far to get a very close photo. The other two people with cameras were moving around quite a bit, which kept the ducks away. When everyone stood still for a while, the ducks would slowly move closer and then one of them move around and the ducks would move away.

The two camera toters finally gave up and left, I guess the ducks were too far away. That was fine with me, so I froze in place and the ducks slowly got closer. The ducks were diving and popping back up, they were fun to watch. I remember reading that diving ducks use their feet to help them take off. I don’t know why, but they run across the water as they take to the air. They were almost in camera range when something gave them a little spook and several took off to the other side of the pond. I didn’t spook them but I was ready.  They weren’t in the light I wanted but it is a fun photo anyway.

And once again, waiting for the shot pays off. The other two with cameras left without anything, if they would have been quiet and hung out another 10 minutes they may have made a shot.

I’ve shot a lot of ducks, but I don’t know what kind this one is. I looked it up in my bird books, but I still am not sure. If you have any thoughts, let me know.

27 Jun 2012

Looking for herons and getting swallowed

A barn swallow looks like it is trying to stare me down.

Today was a top 10 weather day of the year, so I headed to the Raritan River hoping to find a heron or two. I went to a county park that is mainly a flood zone, there are a couple of soccer fields mowed among the tall grasses and a path to the river. I grabbed a bunch of gear and hiked over to the river.

Right away I saw a heron about 150 yards downstream. Wow, my lucky day, perfect weather and a beautiful bird right away. I needed to get much closer and rather than walk along the river and scare it away, I headed away from the river and into the tall grass, which was over my head. As I started walking, I could hear voices but there weren’t any other people in this part of the park.

A robin chirps as it looks for worms.

I walked a ways and then I saw the noise was coming from a fishing boat floating down the river. My luck ran out and the heron was gone by the time I got back to the river’s edge. I decided to sit along the river and see if the heron would come back, they frequently hang out in the same place day after day. I sat pretty still for over an hour but no heron or anything else.

Some days I get pretty mad when it doesn’t look like I’m going to get a shot. But the day was so perfect I decided it really didn’t matter if I got a picture or not, I would just enjoy what was there. As the sun was starting to get low, I hiked back to my Jeep.

I put my gear away and noticed some swallows, red-wing blackbirds, starlings and robins in a mowed area near the parking lot. So I watched them for a minute and they were pretty animated. I moved my Jeep so I could shoot out the window along a split-rail fence and into the grassy area. I shot some birds hopping and flying around and then a barn swallow landed on the fence right in front of my Jeep. Of course, I couldn’t shoot out the open window so I had to shoot through the windshield, which I hate doing. The windshield can distort the image and do some strange reflections. But I didn’t have any choice, the bird was nice and close and it was preening and acting a liitle goofy. It wasn’t the shot I thought I’d get, but I like it.

17 Oct 2010

Fox and heron at the Great Swamp

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge pounces on prey.

I headed off to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this morning. I thought with the cool morning air and water still being warm there mist be some nice mist shots as the sun came up. If they were there, I didn’t find them.

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

I was driving down a small gravel road and saw a red fox in the road about 1/4 mile ahead of me. As I got closer, it went into the trees but I couldn’t see it anymore. I creeped away and saw it in my mirror, so I turned around and slowly drove back toward it. It didn’t mind me being there as long as I kept my distance, so I followed it for a while. It stopped a few times and I took pictures through my windshield. It stopped and looked at something in the grass. The fox hunched down and got ready to pounce and then it jumped through the air and landed on a vole. It brought the tasty breakfast back to the road, gobbled it down and then walked toward me as I shot more pictures through the windshield. The fox walked right past me on the road that is barely wide enough for two cars. It didn’t even look up to see what I was doing, it just went back to where I first saw it and headed back into the trees.

A great blue heron stalks prey in the grass of a pond at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

My favorite bird is the Great Blue Heron. They are pretty and they make me smile when they walk. They are pretty skittish, I haven’t found a way to sneak up on one, but if I see one working the shore of a pond, I know if I stay still, it may walk right in front of me. This morning I saw one sitting on a small log in a pond. I pulled my Jeep off the edge of the road and the bird stayed put. I sat there for over an hour taking pictures of the heron on the log and then walking through the grass. When it was in the reeds it would peek through while looking for some breakfast.

17 Oct 2010

Canada geese fill pond in Bridgewater, NJ

Geese float on a pond in Bridgewater, NJ.

I took a walk with one of our dogs in Duke Island Park in Bridgewater, NJ, late this afternoon. As we pulled into the park, I saw there were tons of Canada geese in a field by the road. That isn’t uncommon around here so I didn’t pay much attention to them. As Zian and I were walking, the geese took flight with a lot of noise. They were in four or five flocks and circled around and all landed in a small pond with a lot of commotion. We were about done with our walk so I put the dog in the car and pulled out the camera. There were are 250 geese in the pond and I sat there for a while hoping they would all take off again at once so I could get one of those cool geese taking flight shots. They didn’t, but I enjoyed watching them floating and bitching at each other.

06 Sep 2010

What’s good: The woodpecker and the apple

A woodpecker works on an apple.

We were having a lovely dinner on the deck at my sister-in-law Penny’s house when she noticed a woodpecker pounding away on an apple. The bird pecked away about a quarter of the fruit without it falling off the tree. We couldn’t tell if he had a thing for apples or was after worms and bugs inside. Either way, the apple won’t become cider now.

05 Sep 2010

What’s good: Pigeons on a roof at sunset

Pigeons sit on a Main Street Somerville, NJ, building as the sun  gets low in the sky. (Loren Fisher/LorenPhotos.com)

Pigeons sit on a Main Street Somerville, NJ, building as the sun gets low in the sky.

I took a little stroll around downtown Somerville, NJ, this evening just before sunset. I like walking through alleys and see the back side of things, especially when the light is hitting everything at a low angle. I saw pigeons lined up on a roof, so I walked up the street to see if they would make a shot. The pigeons weren’t too exciting but I liked the way the light hit the yellow building as the pigeons sat on the edge of the roof.

27 Aug 2010

What’s good: Birds instead of bugs

A swallow chases bugs over the Raritan River.

Last night while I was watching the sun go down along the river, I noticed bugs hitting the water. The little circles they were making looked like rain drops hitting the river. So tonight I went to the Raritan River in Manville where I thought the setting sun would be shining on the water in hopes of photographing the bugs and circles. There were plenty of bugs and circles, but I couldn’t make a picture I liked. There were swallows there for the bugs too, but they wanted them for dinner. The swallows were making sharp turns as the strong sunlight illuminated their wings. I didn’t get the bug photo I wanted but came away happy with a bird shot.

16 Aug 2010

What’s good: A rafter of turkeys

Turkeys walk through a meadow in Woodstock, Vermont. (Loren Fisher/LorenPhotos.com)

Turkeys walk through a meadow in Woodstock, Vermont.

I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t photographed wild turkeys lately and I hadn’t seen any for a while. After a couple of morning thunderstorms, I went out searching for photos. Rain must bring out the turkeys because I saw five or six rafters of turkeys in fields. They were grazing in the fields, it looked like they were getting plenty of insects after the big rains.

08 Aug 2010

What’s good: Enjoying open space in NJ

A hummingbird in Far Hills, NJ

Years ago somebody in New Jersey government realized that the open space in the state was getting sparse. So they created a special tax, bought land and call it Green Acres. The cool thing about Green Acres is that it is now public land and anyone can go there but most people don’t know it. About 15 years ago I found a Green Acres site of 170 acres that is home to Upper Raritan Watershed Association. They keep the former farm in great shape, keeping paths mowed and meadows clear. I did a lot of photography there and saw lots of wildlife. There are lots of deer, birds, fox and even a bobcat one February morning.

An Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly sucks nectar from a flower.

So today when I went there I went to a nice flower garden they have created. It is designed to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. There were lots of butterflies, at least four different kinds. I took the normal pretty butterfly photos but then tried getting in real close with the macro lens to see what would happen. An Eastern tiger swallowtail landed on a flower and started sucking nectar.

31 Jul 2010

What’s good: Hanging out in the Great Swamp

Two trees reach for the sky at the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of NJ Audubon Society.

Two trees reach for the sky at the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of NJ Audubon Society.

Today had to be one of the top five weather days of the year. Clear skies, low humidity and nice temperatures made for a perfect day.  So I headed off to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and NJ Audubon’s Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Refuge. They are about five miles apart and only 15 minutes from my house.  At the Audubon center, I walked one of their trails and saw two trees that had grown together and were tall and straight. They had grown together at the base but became more separated the higher they grew.

As I was leaving, the Audubon people showed me some bear bones. The bear was killed on a highway and they put the bear in the woods to get “cleaned” naturally. It only took two weeks for the coyotes, buzzards and bugs to get rid of the flesh. I wouldn’t have thought of using nature to clean the the meat and fun off of roadkill, but it was effective. It is good to know what to do with any dead bears I may have in the future. Now the bones are in a cardboard box.

Close up shot of a flower pedal.

Close up shot of a flower pedal.

I went over to the Great Swamp, which is pretty dry since we haven’t had much rain this summer. I did some macro work on wild flowers. I have to do more research to see what kind of flower it was, all I know it was pretty.

Two great white egrets in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Two great white egrets in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

I spotted an egret, so I stopped the car and went back. There were three of them in the shallow water. One didn’t move and the other two walked around stalking food. They did a couple of spears, but I didn’t see them catch anything. After a burst of pictures, I noticed a black blob in my pictures. The shutter on my camera blew out. It is a pro camera that hasn’t had near enough actuations for the shutter to go out. Bummer.

23 Jul 2010

What’s good: Being back in Vermont

Fog settles into the Vermont mountains.

After being back to work for a full week after being off for two weeks, it was good to escape to Vermont. The five-hour drive started sunny but turned to rain and drizzle about half way. The fog and clouds made for a nice shot near Bennington.

18 Jul 2010

Alaska photo adventure slideshow

Alaska – Images by Loren Fisher

These are some of my favorite photos from my trip to Alaska.

13 Jul 2010

What’s good: Being in Denali, Alaska

A coyote poses in Denali, Alaska.

We traveled to Denali National Park on our bear search. On the way, we saw a pretty coyote sitting along the road. So, of course, we screeched to a halt and went back for some shots.

Fireweed grows everywhere in Alaska.

You can drive 12 miles into the park and then you have to take a converted school bus the 89 miles to the end of the road – unless you know somebody. Walter has a client doing road work past where the buses go. So we are going in with them tonight at 6 p.m. It is a four hour ride, then Walter will shoot some photos of them working for a couple of hours and then we’ll ride back out.

A gull sits on our car roof in Denali National Park, Alaska.

We drove the 12 mile route a couple times this afternoon. It was a rainy day so we decided not to do any hikes. We’re also saving energy since it will be a sleepless night. We are amazed at the number of gulls in Alaska. They are everywhere, including Denali which is hundreds of miles from any major body of water. At one of the pulling off spots on the 12-mile drive, a friendly gull lands on car roofs. It seems like it his gig, being cute for food. I’m sure it works way too much.

Be sure to read more at Walter’s blog.

12 Jul 2010

What’s good: The Alaskan bear search continues

A bull moose on the Alaskan Kanai Penninsula.

We started the day with a bonus: a bull moose first thing in the morning. That was the wildlife highlight of the day.

The Russian River in Copper Landing, Alaska.

We went to the Russian River and hiked 2.3 miles to a waterfall where we were told the salmon would be jumping the falls and probably bears would be catching them. The falls and the hike were beautiful but the critters weren’t around. We saw several salmon in pools but they weren’t jumping. And no bears.

Two immature gulls near Anchorage, Alaska.

We stopped at a marsh and photographed some ducks, wading birds and ever-present gulls. Our plan for the day involved over 300 to get north near Denali National Park. So we had about six hours of driving, which limits the shooting.

See Walter’s blog for more details of our day.