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Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)

Spring Bird Migration USA

The Magnolia Warbler has a distinctive black neckband with black streaks that radiate from the neckband giving the impression of a jeweled necklace. The Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) is often confused with the Magnolia as it also has the jeweled necklace, but the Magnolia has other black streaks along its body and white wing bars and head marks, whereas the Canada has a blue head, back and wings.

Photograph of a Magnolia Warbler in Magee Marsh in Ohio
Photograph of a Magnolia Warbler in Magee Marsh in Ohio

Gear: Nikon Z 9, Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S, RRS Monopod and head.

#MagnoliaWarbler #Setophagamagnolia #MageeMarsh #Ohio #NikonZ9 #Nikkor800 #NikonNoFilter #ZCreators #Wildlifephotography #birding #mothernatureimages

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

Spring Bird Migration USA

This visit to Maggee Marsh Wildlife Area in Ohio is the first time that I have seen the Prothonotary Warbler. It is quite different from most other Warblers to look at as it does not have a distinctive cap or stripes along the body. Yes it does have a distinctive shade of yellow, as do many warblers. In fact the name is because the plumage represents the yellow of robes once worn by papal clerks.

It was often seen on the ground, which is quite muddy, flipping over leaves looking for that tasty bug to eat.

The Prothonotary warbler migrates from South America from mangrove to the central and eastern states for the summer, to find a partner and breed, usually in hardwood swamps.

Photograph of a Prothonotary Warbler in Magee Marsh in Ohio
Photograph of a Prothonotary Warbler in Magee Marsh in Ohio

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Spring Bird Migration USA

I posted this on Instagram the other day hoping it would also post here and on Facebook. No such luck!

A first visit to the marshes on the southern side of Lake Erie in northern Ohio. The mission is to photograph the migration of warblers as they rest a little after their northward migration in order to get ready to fly across the water. The first day was a visit to Maggie Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Reserve. This image was captured in Ottawa NWR. The first time I saw a Yellow Warbler was in Churchill, Manitoba on a trip to photograph shorebirds in their brilliant mating plumage.

Spring Bird Migration - Yellow Warbler
Photograph of a Yellow Warbler in Ottawa NWR in Ohio

Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)

Spring Bird Migration

As the week at the Marshes on the Southern Shore of Lake Erie in Ohio progresses, this very distinctive bird call was teasing me. The call was from a Warbling Vireo, I could get a sense of direction, but could not find it. The trees are in full leaf and I think the birds use this to hide from the mass of birders walking around Maggie Marsh Wildlife Area. This being the “Biggest Week for Birding” in America, and Maggee Marsh is the centre of attraction for the migration of the Warblers, and other birds.

Spring Bird Migration
Photograph of a Warbling Vireo in Magee Marsh in Ohio

Arriving in Alaska, 2023

Planning the first visit in 2016, the received wisdom was “you will want to go back!”. Too true. However, it was not to be as soon as wished, but we are there at last.

The journey has been a long one spread over a couple of months. Leaving Tucson on the 15th March and arriving in Haines on the 12th May. (5215 Miles)

When planning the trip, which should last into autumn, it was expected to be a final trip. But making the last leg from Chilliwak, BC, on day three I said to myself “this is not the last time I make this magnificent drive. The Frazer valley, then the Frazer Gorge, the mountains through British Columbia and then The Yukon Territory are just stunning.

The roads in BC were fairly good to drive on and the Alaska Highway from Mile 0 was really good, but of course it would not last!

As yet the climate was still quite chilly with lots of frozen lakes and snow on the mountains. The water in Muncho Lake is famous for being a turquoise colour and it was wonderful to see the ice was the same colour as the water.

Frozen Muncho Lake and Mountains, BC

But as you approach Haines Junction, YT you get a first glimpse of the Kluane Mountain Range, you know you must com back to the land of snow capped mountains everywhere.

Well worth the journey and yet just a beginning.

However, I must share my bias as I really love black and white photography….

The Kluane Range from The Alaska Highway

Then taking the Haines Highway from Haines Junction, YT to Haines, AK you drive for 150 miles through the mountains, often the mountains are right up to the road on both sides.

Snow Covered Mountains of the Kluane Range

Gear: Nikon Z 6 II, Nikkor Z 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Sony Digital Film, Nik 6 Silver Efex

#NikonLove #Mirrorless #Kluane #Yukon

Western Screech-Owl, Another Birding First!

We had heard that there was a Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) at San Pedro House in Arizona.

So as we had never seen this Screech Owl, we headed to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Sierra Vista in Southern Arizona. Our friends Michelle and Dennis had shown us a phone picture of the “hole” where the owl resided “in a big Cottonwood Tree”.

We arrived in early afternoon, walked around San Pedro House, marveling at the old and large Cottonwood trees and located the hole. Set up the camera and lens on the tripod and waited.. and waited.. and waited.

Then just before sunset, the owl showed itself. The light changes very quickly near sunset in Southern Arizona at this time of year. But it was great for the Owl to pose for us, albeit very aware of us, for so long.

Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) in the Sweet Light just before sunset

Click HERE to visit my Owl Galleries

Gear: Nikon Z6 ii; Nikon MB-Z11; Nikon ATZ adaptor; Nikkor 600.0mm f/4 VR II; Nikkor TC-17 EII; Nikkor TC-20 EIII; RRS TVC-34L Tripod and Full Gimbal Head; Sony Digital Film.

Mountain Bluebirds – Adult Female and 3 Fledgelings

Visiting Custer State Park in South Dakota. One of the best wildlife parks to visit. It has everything from the great old male Buffalo to some of the tiniest birds.

A good place for birds is in the airport area. The fenceposts are very popular.

Traveling around the Wildlife Loop Road this family of Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides) were so entertaining and obviously felt quite safe with us not too far away.

The adult female was quite intent on feeding her fledgelings with a supply of freshly caught Grasshoppers.

Mother with grasshopper

The three fledgelings were at different places in a small area of fencing and the mother visited each in turn, offering a grasshopper.

Meals on Wings

Sometimes the adult just wasn’t fast enough for the rapidly growing fledgeling.

Feed Me !

The fledgelings were quite content to sit on their spot, probably having just left the nest on their maiden flight. However, one fledgeling was quite intent on exercising its wings. Obviously the drive for independence.

the most active fledgeling exercising its wings
Whoops, nearly off the wire!

Gear: Nikon D500, Nikkor 600.0mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC-14 EII, Nikon GP-1, Sony digital film, RRS TVC-34L Tripod and Full Gimbal Head.

The Newfoundland Iceberg Show

Nearly every late spring and summer Icebergs calved from the Greenland Icecap head South in the currents down the East coast of Newfoundland.

Icebergs from the Greenland Icecap pass Newfoundland

This was a major attraction for our visit to Newfoundland in Canada.

The largest Iceberg we saw

My first encounter with icebergs happened a very long time ago, when I was 17 years old. I had been selected to participate in a kayak expedition to Southeast Greenland. So flying in at midnight the bergs were illuminated with the sweet light from the sun. For the next seven weeks we kayaked in the fiords filled with Icebergs.

For our visit to Newfoundland we started in the very Southeast and worked our way up the various peninsulas on the east coast. We saw icebergs at every coastal stop!

Group of Icebergs near Twillingate, NL

Some we visited on a boat trip,

On our boat trip (note the largest berg we saw is on the horizon)

most we saw from the land and on one special occasion a local fisherman who we were talking with spontaneously took us around some trapped in a bay in his small fishing boat.

Icebergs, Toogood Arm, NL

Although most had these beautiful shades of blue coming through the snow that has been compacted into ice for centuries, my preference has been to produce my photographs as black and white images.

One noticeable feature were the veins of vivid clear blue ice. This is where a fissure in the glacier had more recently been filled with water which froze rapidly.

The other detail is that the erosion or melting is performed by the water. Yes there is a minimal amount caused by the sun, but the shapes and textures of the bergs are a result of the water. When a piece breaks off, the iceberg rotates in the water around its new centre of gravity, thus exposing new areas that had previously been under water.

Textures and surfaces created by water erosion

One thing we did learn was that most of the locals would use a lump of glacier to cool their cocktails as it was very slow to melt (and thus not dilute the drink too much!)

We also came across a micro brewery who produced a larger called “Iceberg” with an ingredient of iceberg water!

Gear: Nikon D4s, Nikon D800, Nikon GP-1, Nikon MB-D12, Nikkor 600.0mm f.4 VR II, Nikkor 80.0-400.0mm F/4.5-5.6 VR III, Nikkor Tc-17 EII, Nikkor TC-14 EII, RRS TVC-34L, RRS Full Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film

Puffins – Aren’t They Just Gorgeous?

Puffins are so Adorable!

One of the great opportunities when visiting Newfoundland in Canada is to go to Elliston on the east coast and see the nesting Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) colony. We were there very early in the Season and these cute little birds were just arriving for their 3 months of the year on land to breed.

In fact when we arrived at our first campground in Newfoundland we could see the Witless Bay Islands Park Reserve, an island just offshore and although we had only just parked our rig we grabbed some binoculars and saw what must have been 20,000 puffins circling around the island, in the sea at the base of the island and on the side of the island facing us. It was late in the day so I said first thing tomorrow out comes the big lens and I will shoot me some puffins!

Sadly all had disappeared. The glorious, warm and sunny day that we arrived in had turned very cold and very windy. So the puffins that had just come in went back to their familiar environment – the sea!

When we visited Elliston it was sunny, but very windy. The waves were crashing on the rocks below us, the icebergs in the bay were scooting across and there were very few puffins to be seen.

Elliston Iceberg
One of the Few

However, I was very lucky to catch two male puffins having a territorial dispute. They would stand in adjacent burrows swearing at each other, fly up and bump their chests then grab each others’ beaks.

Neighbourhood Dispute

This squabble went on for about 15 minutes, then subsided for a few minutes,

End of Round 1

then resumed.

Round 2

It ended with them still entwined free falling off of the cliff and separating just before they hit the waves.

We decided to return the next afternoon to see whether more puffins had come in and were rewarded by hundreds on the top of the rock

Puffins Coming In
Puffins Started Coming In

and circling around the rock. They would take off in their pairs, circle round and land again at the same place in their pairs.

A Pair of Puffins Inbound

Quite a spectacle to see.

We were also lucky to see a few Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) arrive and tuck themselves in on the rock face.

Black Guillemot on Cliff

Gear: Nikon D4s, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC-17 EII, RRS TVC-34L, RRS Full Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film.

Friday the 13th

Are you superstitious? Frankly I am not, but when it comes to Wildlife Photography, we had been skunked a lot lately. We had a whale watching tour from Forillon National Park and saw no whales. The operator had the policy that if you don’t see any whales and you are still in the area you could be “wait listed” for another tour. We were successful on our wait list and had the last two seats two days later. But still no whales!

We had been to a couple of “Parc Nationale” (really provincial) in Quebec and still no wildlife.

So we are near the L’Isle-Verte Migratory Bird Sanctuary looking for something to shoot. Driving through the area and stopping to look. We asked a local and he pointed to an area where we should see some American Black Ducks (Anas rubrite) which would be a first for us. So we drove to the car park for the trail and cautiously started the trail. The first thing we learnt was that these ducks were hyper-sensitive and all we saw was their departing rears.

Fleeing American Black Ducks

However, we did spot some shorebirds, always one of my delights, and started working a threesome of Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca).

Trio of Greater Yellowlegs
Inbound – Greater Yellowlegs

Then, on a narrow, weedy, low bar into the marsh there were some other shorebirds.

Greater Yellowlegs and Pectoral sandpiper

At first I could not identify the birds, but probably a sandpiper. There were two adults and two smaller versions – their young. Good old Sibley’s on the iPhone soon let us know that we were looking at Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanomas) for the first time! And right next to them was a Wilson’s Snipe (Galliago delicate).

Pectoral Sandpipers and Wilson’s Snipe
Adult and young Pectoral Sandpipers with Wilson’s Snipe

It is always good to see a new species, but it is always a thrill to see a snipe!

Then Louise, my spotter, said that there were more birds just to the right of the group I was working. So I swung the camera round and yes, there was a group of three Wilson’s Snipes. So we think we were looking at two adult and two young snipes. Even thinking about it now is thrilling!

Trio of Wilson’s Snipes. Adult and two young?
Trio of Wilson’s Snipes. Adult and young?

My first snipe was a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in Churchill, Manitoba while on a workshop with Moose Peterson. He said that it was only the second time in his career that he had got glass on a Common Snipe. During the visit the sound of the wingbeats drove Louise crazy as she knew where the sound was coming from but could not see the snipe! So the snipes are always special to Louise and me.

So in the end, what a Friday the 13th we had!

Gear: Nikon D4s, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC-17 EII, Nikon GP-1, RRS TVC-34L, RRS Full Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film