I began “A Few Words About Birds” this way: “A recent opinion piece in The Virginian-Pilot, Virginia’s largest daily newspaper, began with the words: ‘First of all, thank you for reading.’ I’d like to begin, here, the same way. First of all, thank you for reading. I mean that, sincerely.” That was followed by a photo of Oscar the Grouch. Carol Spinney, the character’s voice, had just passed away. Well, I want to thank readers again. Your visits here mean a lot. I do my best to put out quality posts that entertain and help.
Birdwatching is considered many things. But one thing it is for sure is the joy of discovery. “Birding brings the joy of discovery and surprise. You don’t know what you’re going to see, but you’ll find something every time,” said ornithologist John Rowden. Here are a few recent discoveries this birdwatcher has made. As usual, I’ll include a word or two about bird photography.
This is a molting and changing first-summer male Blue Grosbeak. Soon enough, he’ll look like the adult male pictured at the end of “Birds’ Stories.” I captured him as he called and foraged in the power line corridor at Indian River Park in Chesapeake, VA. As I so often do, I used a natural blind (shrubbery) to hide my presence and wait for the right moment.
I used the same strategy to photograph this preening Great Egret at nearby Lakeside Park. This time I hid behind a tree (and also used a fork in the tree to support my lens). The tree wasn’t just a natural hide. It was a natural tripod, as well.
An hour or so before I took the Blue Grosbeak photo, I captured something else (and something special). Let me lay the groundwork. Several weeks ago, a woman I ran into at Indian River Park told me that there was a Red-shouldered Hawk nest there. She wasn’t sure where it was. I happened to discover it a few days later. It was in the crotch just below the canopy of a tall pine. The pine wasn’t far from the corridor. Peering over the nest edge were 3 healthy looking nestlings.
Well, as I scanned the edge of the corridor the day I took the Blue Grosbeak photo, I spotted the nestlings’ parents. I’d seen and photographed one of them before, but had never seen them both. The pair were copulating on a tree branch not far from the nest. I took a number of photos in burst mode. Here’s the best one.
Here’s a photo of the nestlings.
And here’s an earlier photo of one of the adults.
The photo of the chicks would have been iffy had I not been carrying a long, fast lens and a good full-frame camera with high ISO capability. I mentioned the importance of a full-frame camera in “Birds’ Stories.”
Last week I took that long, fast lens and full frame camera—a Canon 500mm f/4 II lens and a Canon EOS 1D X DSLR—to Money Point in Chesapeake. I was also using a 1.4X III extender for greater reach. As I was about to finish birding there and hop into my truck, I heard some singing that stopped me in my tracks. I raised my binoculars to find a flock of migrating Bobolinks along the border between the Elizabeth River Project restoration site and an adjacent unmowed field.
Here’s how they sounded (I returned the next day with my recording gear).
Bobolinks are long-distance migrants that winter in southern South America and breed in northern U. S. states and southern Canada. They’re also a grassland species whose habitat is disappearing and whose numbers are in decline. But they seemed to really be enjoying the accomodations they’d found at Money Point. Word has it that they rested and refueled there for more than a few days.
After I returned to my truck and before getting in, I noticed another grassland bird. It was a ground-feeding Savannah Sparrow. These birds winter at Money Point (and only a handful of other places in Hampton Roads). Like the Bobolink and for the same reason, their numbers are in decline—at least in some areas. As the little bird was moving around, appearing then disappearing, I was glad I’d followed my own advice (please see the second to the last photo tip at the end of “Bird Photos and Photo Tips at Midyear“). I was able to get off a few quick shots of the bird before I lost it. Here’s my favorite.
As I headed to my truck for the ride home, I heard the sweet singing of yet another grassland species(!), an Eastern Meadowlark. A breeding pair has a nest on the ground in another unmowed Money Point field.