2017—Hummingbird Heaven

The threat of rain kept us close to the lodge on Tuesday afternoon so we set up our tripods and long lenses on the deck at the lodge and waited.  Local hummingbirds spend a fair amount of time at flowers surrounding the deck.  Costa Rica has fifty different hummingbird species and about a third of them are seen on the Osa Peninsula.  In less than an hour, we were rewarded with visits by three different species of hummingbird that entertained us and kept us on our toes as we tried to capture photographs of these tiny and very fast birds as they sipped nectar.  We were able to photograph (some more successfully than others) the Stripe-throated Hermit, the Violet Headed Hummingbird, and my favorite for today’s post, because I was most successful photographing it, is the Blue-throated Golden Tail.

Blue Throated Goldentail.jpg

2017—A Taste Of Honey

On Day 2 of our visit to Luna Lodge on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, we saw and photographed all four species of monkey that are endemic to Costa Rica:   Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, and White Faced Capuchins.  These two White-Faced Capuchins that we watched at a place called Shady Lane, are eagerly scooping up what appears to be diluted honey from a hole in a tree.  We watched as they smacked their lips at the sweet taste and licked the drips of honey that ran down their arms.

So far, we have had more luck photographing monkeys here this trip than the birds we came to see.  Hurricane Otto devastated parts of the Osa Peninsula in late November 2016 killing innumerable birds and other wildlife in the area.  Luna Lodge staff had to repair the already barely passable road to the lodge.  It was wiped out by flooding and torrential rains that accompanied the hurricane.  They have done a remarkable job repairing the road which is the only access to the lodge but our drivers still have to carry shovels that they use to shovel gravel to allow easier fording of the streams that have carved new paths through the rain forest.

White faced capuchin honey.jpg

2017—Odd Posture

Usually when I see woodpeckers, they are clinging to the side of a tree trunk hammering away, body rigid and upright in a completely different posture from the woodpecker in this photograph.  This Downy Woodpecker at Magee Marsh was just getting ready to launch from its tiny perch to the side of a tree to begin hammering away at a trunk.  I lost sight of it after it launched so I didn’t get any photographs of this bird in its customary posture.

Downy Woodpecker.jpg


Birds are often sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different from each other, especially in breeding plumage.  These differences can be in size or coloration or both.  The warblers we photographed at Magee Marsh are sexually dimorphic but it is sometimes very difficult for an amateur like me to tell whether a bird is a female and of which species, or if it is an immature male.  Of all the warblers we saw, the American Redstart male and female are the most strikingly different from each other.  The brightly colored male with its unmistakable black and orange plumage bears almost no resemblance to the drab grayish female with yellow sides.


American Redstart male

American Redstart female

2017—Cape May In Ohio

Because of my recent visit to Cape May, New Jersey, where I saw no warblers, I was delighted to photograph a Cape May Warbler in Ohio.  This is a female.  I didn’t see any male Cape May Warblers, although my companions saw and photographed several.  The males have rufous feathers surrounding their eyes and ears.  By comparison, the females are less colorful but still have the bold black streaks on the breast that the males also have.

Cape May Warbler female.jpg

2017—Ohio State Bird

The official state bird of Ohio is Cardinalis Cardinalis, or Northern Cardinal, the bright red bird that is hard to miss.   I photographed this male cardinal at Magee Marsh in Ohio.  When I was in Ohio,  though, I didn’t realize that the cardinal was its official state bird.  I wish I’d known.   I once thought that it would be fun to photograph the official state bird of a state in that state.  But, I don’t think that will happen.  This is only the second official state bird I’ve photographed in the state that claims it.  The only other was the Northern Mockingbird which I photographed in Texas.   I haven’t even photographed the California Quail in California, my home state, although I once photographed quail in Arizona.   Ohio alone doesn’t claim the cardinal as its official state bird, though.  Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia also claim the cardinal as those states’ official bird.

The dense vegetation at Magee Marsh and the strong winds kept the branches and foliage constantly in motion.  And, often, branches between my lens and my subject intruded.  I would have preferred that the blurred branch over the bird’s lower body weren’t there but, that’s the way it was.

Northern Cardinal 2.jpg


This Eastern Wood Pewee spent quite a long time perched on a large twig in the open, sheltered from the relentless wind that kept us off the Magee Marsh boardwalk in the afternoon.  We set up between the parking lot and a clump of trees that served as a windbreak for us and the birds.

Eastern Wood Pewee.jpg


There is just something adorable about the look on this tiny bird’s face.  The face and posture remind me of photos I’ve seen of baby harp seals.  Although I went to Magee Marsh in search of migrating warblers, there were lots of other birds there.  This is a warbling vireo.

Warbling Vireo.jpg


This is a female Bay-Breasted Warbler.  She sat on a small branch for quite a while as the strong wind buffeted her and ruffled her feathers.  One of our many difficult challenges during the week in Magee Marsh was identifying the birds we were photographing.  My iPhone Sibley Guide to Birds was a help as were the two Warbler-specific guides I picked up in the Visitor’s Center but I still struggled to identify the birds.   Moose knew most of them and passersby, presumably birders, offered commentary about which species we might be seeing at the moment but we discovered that often the birders were dead wrong.  So many of the birds have similar characteristics and if they are not mature or not yet in full breeding plumage, or they are female, it’s sometimes extremely difficult to tell.  The females were the biggest challenge.  They were so hard to identify that it seemed that each time we encountered the female of one particular species, I couldn’t tell.  It never seemed to look the same and I had to go through the process of trying to identify the bird all over again and still got usually it wrong.  I’m still buried in my guides now that I’m home and still puzzling over the identity of some of the birds I photographed.  Of course I was told at the time but failed to take proper notes.  Note to self: Pay attention.

The rufous wash on the breast that extends to the flanks and pale stripes on the mantel (not visible in this photograph) help to identify this bird as a female Bay-sided Warbler.

Bay Breasted Warbler Female.jpg

2017—Yellow Bird

This bird isn’t “up high in banana tree” but it’s certainly yellow and it was out in the open enough for me to get my camera focused on it.  This is a Wilson’s Warbler.  The primarily yellow feathered warblers that we saw at Magee Marsh, the Prothonotary, the Yellow, and the Wilson’s Warblers were the brightest warblers in the trees.  It was still hard for me to find them with my lens, especially when I didn’t remember to prefocus on an area so that I could quickly move to find the bird in my view finder.  We found this Wilson’s Warbler Thursday afternoon in a thicket of trees the separates the Magee Marsh boardwalk from the parking lot.  We chose the parking lot side of the trees that afternoon to shelter us from the relentless, intense winds that had kicked up.  There were white caps on Lake Erie and a passing thunderstorm forced us back to the vehicle for 30 minutes or so.  This warbler reappeared quickly after the downpour.

Wilson's Warbler.jpg

2017—Smack Dab In The Middle

One of the persistent challenges I face when I take a photograph is arranging the elements in the frame so that they are pleasing and draw the viewer into the photograph and to the subject.  I’m finding that as I try tracking fast moving birds like tiny warblers, I’m so preoccupied with tracking the subject that I tend to place the subject smack dab in the middle of the frame without regard to anything more than getting the subject sharp.  Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.  My post yesterday worked because the other elements in the frame, the branches, kept the eye focused on the subject.  I think this center-placed subject also works because the branches lead the eye to the subject.   And, because yellow and blue are complimentary colors, nothing competes with the bright yellow subject.  This is a Prothonotary Warbler, one of the 38 species of warblers that migrate though Magee Marsh every year.  The spiky “hairdo” is because this bird, a cavity nester, is entering and leaving the nest cavity and the sap from the tree where it’s nesting is staining its head feathers.

Prothonatory Warbler 2.jpg

2017—Looking For Gnats

Magee Marsh is known as a prime stopover for warblers that feed on the abundance of insects in the area before they journey across Lake Erie to continue on the northward spring migration to their breeding grounds.    However, my first bird photograph from Magee Marsh for the blog is not one of the thirty-eight species of warblers that I came to photograph although I’ve actually  photographed ten warbler species so far and seen a few more than that.  This is a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that is looking for gnats.


2017—Ohio Sunrise And Sunset

This is my first visit to Ohio.  I’m on a photography workshop with Moose Peterson and we’re photographing warblers at Magee Marsh on Lake Erie.  Photographing fast moving tiny birds hiding among bright green spring leaves is proving quite a challenge for me.  But, on the way to Magee Marsh this Tuesday morning, we drove past the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station as the sun was coming up behind the cooling tower.  I looked out the window, grabbed my cell phone (all my camera gear was in my camera bag in the rear of the vehicle) and snapped this shot.  Then, Tuesday evening as I was downloading photographs from the day’s shooting, I looked out the window of my room at the Holiday Inn Express in Port Clinton as the sun was setting.  Lake Erie is on the other side of the trees in this shot, also taken with my cell phone.  The water is a little inlet off a bay on Lake Erie.  It’s unnamed on Google maps.

File May 16, 8 57 24 PMFile May 16, 8 42 50 PM


2017—Good Eats

The beach at Fortescue, NJ on Delaware Bay was so crowded with shorebirds that I was surprised to see that I had actually captured a single bird in a frame.  They were feasting on the BB sized eggs of the Horseshoe Crabs that mate and lay eggs in the surf.  Eggs are visible in the beaks of the Dunlin in the first two shots and in the Sanderling’s beak in the last shot. The birds are refueling on a stop over before flying to the Arctic to nest.

Lone Dunlin with crab egg


Dunlin with crab egg 1


Sanderling with crab egg






When I was in Texas last month visiting my friend Connie, I didn’t recognize this bird perched on a barbed wire fence as we drove around the Bolivar Peninsula.  My Sibley Guide to Birds identified it is an Eastern Kingbird. We saw several that day, all perching on barbed wire.  Because its breast feathers obscure its feet, this bird looks as if it is  skewered on the barbed wire.   I try to pay attention to backgrounds so that a branch or pole doesn’t appear to be protruding from a head but this was hard to avoid.  I’m not sure which is worse, the skewered effect or the fact that the bird is near the left edge, leaning toward the left, and looking out of the frame.

Eastern Kingbird.jpg


I’m trying to be good.  Great weather and an abundance of fresh produce makes it a bit easier for me in my quest to eliminate an extra 20 pounds.  My grill has once again become my primary cooking methodology.  Saturday evening I feasted on grilled chicken breast with grilled Brussels Sprouts and sautéed mushrooms.  Thank you Alton Brown of FoodNetwork for the Brussels Sprouts recipe.  Here are before and after shots of the skewered sprouts.  They were delish!

Sprouts beforeSprouts after

2017—Gone Too Fast

My unknown rose, the beautiful old rambling rose that flourished for more than 100 years at the Sunset Line & Twine plant in Petaluma, now blooms briefly once a year in my garden.  The clone I have is just finishing its bloom.   I took this photograph of one of its flower clusters a few days ago as its bloom began to ebb.

old sunset rose cluster.jpg

2017—Catch Light

I’ve discovered that it’s hard to get catch lights in the eyes of some birds.  Forster’s Terns are an example of this.  Last week in Cape May, NJ, we had an opportunity to photograph these terns as they hovered almost overhead searching for fish in the water to present to their mates.  Most of the shots I captured show the  bird with the black eyes barely visible in the black feathers of their heads and with no catch light to show the eye.  This is one of a very few shots I took of a hovering  Forster’s Tern that has a nice catch light to emphasize the eye.

forster's tern 3

2017—Cape May Gull

Bird identification is tricky.  I thought this photograph of a gull I took last week at the Cape May Ferry would make it easy to identify the bird but I can only narrow it down to three species which probably means it’s none of them and is a fourth I can’t find in my Sibley Guide to Birds.  The three gulls I suspect are:

1) Ring-billed Gull which has a pale iris but no orbital ring; a black ring on the bill but no red spot beneath the black; and the gape, the back of the bill, is red on the Ring-billed Gull but not on this bird.

2) California Gull ( despite its name it does apparently appear as far east as Cape May, NJ)  has the red spot and black ring on its bill: and it has a red orbital ring around the eye but with  a dark iris, not a pale iris like this bird.

3) Herring Gull which has a pale iris and orange yellow orbital ring like this bird; and a yellow gape and red spot but no black ring on the bill.

Of course, it could be a hybrid or I didn’t turn enough pages in Sibley’s to find the right one.  I give up.

On the other hand, I got in some panning practice with the gulls at the ferry,

Ring billed gull cape may?.jpg


2017—Cape May Eagle

We got some panning practice in near the Cape May Ferry.  There were lots of gulls swarming around the ferry and a bald eagle looked things over.  The winds were fierce and it was difficult to hold the camera steady in the wind gusts but the birds hung over our heads stalled in the wind so we got a few extra chances.   And, ideally, the wind and sun were at our backs.    I have to say,  the the Nikon D500 coupled with the lightweight Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF VR lens is a winning combination for photographing birds in flight.

Eagle 2


eagle profile


Eagle 3.jpg