Monday, May 31, 2010

White-crowned Sparrow

Today was the last day with the 400mm telephoto unless I rent it again sometime. I'd really like to try the 600mm, but it is always already reserved when I call in. I'll have to plan further ahead next time.
I was only going to be out in the morning as I had to spend some time working in the yard, etc., so I thought I'd stay close to home and walk TRNWR again. The first three pictures of the day are images shown above of the White-crowned Sparrow. There are several things I like about these images. First of all the blue-green background is really cool and contrasts well with the brown branch. I had no idea it was going to turn out like that when I shot the pictures. The Sparrow was perched on a low hanging Oak Tree branch and was heavily shadowed. That's where the f2.8 comes in handy. Another thing I like is the fact that the Sparrow has some caterpillars in its beak. If you look closely at the bottom image, I looks like it could have as many as three.
I generally write the text for these postings while I waiting for the images to upload. They just came in and are more washed out than they are when I view them with Pixelmator. I've noticed this before and am not quite sure if it Blogspot adjusting the image, the way Firefox renders the image or Pixelmator. Anyway, I'll have to check it out at work and see how they look there.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The 400mm lens I rented has advantages and disadvantages. It's advantages are apparent, 400mm with a f2.8 aperture. It has a lot of reach and great light gathering abilities. Unfortunately, it is also about 12 lbs and has no VR. In order to support and steady it, I use a monopod. This works quite well for birds at or about eye level, but it gets increasing difficult the higher or lower its position.
I was walking through Jackson Bottom Wetlands when I saw the Osprey above flying overhead. This seemed like a great opportunity, but instead of my light weight 300mm lens, I had the 12 lb behemoth. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I lifted the lens and monopod up off the ground and pointed it overhead at the Osprey. At the moment there was a mix of blue sky and light gray clouds so exposure was a concern, but since this was all happening so fast, there wasn't any time for anything but shoot or loose the opportunity. Needless to say I wasn't optimistic that the pictures would turn out, so it came as a pleasant surprise when I saw many had turned out very nicely.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Great Blue Heron

I spent a couple hours at Fernhill Wetlands this morning. It wasn't as active as the last time I visited; probably because the migration is slowing down and I arrived a little later in the day. There were a lot of Great Blue Herons however, and I got some relatively close shots of them. I rented the 400mm lens again this weekend, so I was able to get in even closer. The image above was taken just as the heron was landing. It really shows off what massive, magnificent wings these birds have. Its raised feathers on what be our forearms remind of flaps on a airliner as it lands.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird

I was walking along the trench at TRNWR when I noticed a male and female Red-wing Blackbirds getting agitated by my presence. I assume they have a nest near by. The male started flying close by overhead, so I thought I'd take advantage and see if I could get some interesting shots of it flying up close. It was very difficult to follow along since it was flying fast and close. Most of the pictures I took were out of focus and poorly composed, but this one was interesting. The focus isn't perfect, nor is the exposure, but the Blackbird's pose is spectacular.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spotted Sandpiper

This Spotted Sandpiper appears to know just where the safe zone begins. :-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'd seen this Mustrat swimming in the TRNWR trench a couple of weeks ago, but caught it out of water a couple of days ago. Now that's a big rat! :-) It didn't seem to mind me being around. It even took time to leisurely scratch it's side with its rear foot while I was shooting it.

Correction: It appears this is actually a Nutria.

Cinnamon Teal

I've seen a few Cinnamon Teal here and there (mostly at Jackson Bottom) but have never been able to get very close. I came across this lone Teal in the trench that still has water at TRNWR. Last week I saw a few hanging out in the fields with some Blue-winged Teal. That orange eye kind of pops out at you. :-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rough-skinned Newt

This Rough-skinned Newt stood perfectly still the whole time I was shooting it from close range. I even used the flash on a couple of pictures as it was dark under the trees on another gloomy day in Oregon. I came across the Newt on a wooded path at TRNWF.

Blue-winged Teal

Little by little I'm getting more confident with shooting flying birds. Especially bigger birds like Ducks, Geese and Herons. This pair of Blue-winged Teal flew overhead as I was shooting a Red-winged Blackbird along one of the service roads at TRNWR. One key is to use the AF-C setting on the camera. This allows the camera to adjust focus while holding down the shutter allowing many pictures to be taken quickly and letting the camera take care of the focus. Another key is overexposing a bit since the birds are usually against a bright sky. Having the darker trees in the background in these images helped with the exposure.

Western Wood-Pewee

This is a tough one. There is more than one bird that looks like this and my research reveals that a lot of people have a tough time identifying these type of birds. After looking at my field guide, eliminating some possibilities based on TRNWR's bird list and searching the web, I decided that this is a Western Wood-Pewee. The breast coloration, high crest, a lack of eye ring and wing bars seem to be most consistent with the Pewee. Another possibility could be a Olive-sided Flycatcher, but most pictures I saw of it had darker coloration on the sides of its breast. It definitely exhibited the Pewee/Flycatcher behavior of sitting on a branch, flying out to catch a flying insect and then returning back to the branch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lazuli Bunting

A couple of weekends ago I was talking to a birder I met on a trail at TRNWR. He mentioned that he had seen Lazuli Buntings nesting in some bushes the last couple of years and to expect them near the end of May. Since then, every time I walk TRNWR, I make sure to check that area for the buntings, but as of yesterday to no avail.
Today I decided to walk the large service road loop for the first time since it seemed like a slow day. The walk wasn't very productive until I got about three quarters of the way around. I heard a some unfamiliar birds singing in the trees and brush off to one side of the trail so I stopped and waited for a moment to see it I could locate them. Then, a couple of birds flew across the trail ahead of me and landed on some tall grass stocks not too far away. I started taking pictures, but the birds were somewhat obstructed by the grass. They weren't obstructed enough, though, for me not to realize that these were Lazuli Buntings that I had been tipped off about, just not in the area I was told to look for them. I kept moving in closer and closer, taking a few pictures along the way until they decided I was too close and flew off. I thought that was it until I noticed that they were still within reach on the other side of the trail. They had settled into a brier of blackberries and stayed long enough for me to inch in and get some more pictures.
The top three images are from the grassy side of the road, while the bottom two are from the blackberry side.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I came across a male and female Gadwall swimming in a small pond at TRNWR. These are new ducks for me. I haven't seen them before although the male is rather drab compared to most ducks so I may have missed it among the flashier species. They do have interesting patterns in their feathers however.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Northern Flicker

This Northern Flicker is of the red-shafted variety as most are here in Oregon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Common Yellowthroat

I keep commenting on how difficult it is to take pictures of Common Yellowthroats even though I keep posting pictures of them. :-) I came across this pair of male and female Yellowthroats in the tall grass along one the newly opened road paths at TRNWR. I first saw the male sitting on a weed stock before it flew away and then saw the female in a similar situation. This is the first time I've seen a female. At first I thought it was some type of warbler, but started suspect it was a female as it seemed to stick close by the male. I also suspect they were building a nest as I walked past the same area a few times and found them there each time. Also, notice that the female has a dried blade of grass in its beak.

White-crowned Sparrow

I was walking through the gravel parking lot at TRNWR last Tuesday on my way back to my car when a White-crowned Sparrow jumped out of the grass in the loop right in front of me. It sat there for what seemed like 30 seconds letting me take several pictures from close range. Then, just as it flew off, another emerged from the grass with an insect in its beak. It didn't linger for as long as the first, but I was able to get a few shots of it too. It's not the first time that I got some nice shots of birds in the parking lot area as I'm about to leave the refuge. In fact the only other White-crowned Sparrow pictures that I've taken were in a similar situation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows are becoming more common. I first saw a bunch of them at Fernhill Wetlands a couple of weeks ago. I saw this one yesterday at TRNWR. They are harder to shoot than Song Sparrows as they will either hide in the grass until you get too close and then fly away or will continue to move along the ground ahead on the trail, never allowing you to get too close. This last behavior results in them often having their back towards you. That tends to be annoying when you are trying to take their picture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird

I took a quick walk around the smaller road loop at TRNWR over lunch today. It's been a while since I've done that. Turned out to be a pretty productive walk. Among many pretty good pictures, this picture of a Red-winged Blackbird is my favorite. They are hard to shoot because they are so black. Since they typically sit in trees, there is usually a bright sky behind them screwing up the exposure. Also, they tend to be a bit flighty so it is hard to get in close. This Red-winged let me creep in pretty close and with the darker background, its features can be seen quite well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Common Yellowthroat

As I said in an earlier post, it's hard to get a good picture of a Common Yellowthroat. They aren't as flighty as say a Bushtit, but they like to stay down in the bushes. I'm starting to see more of them, but like I said, they are elusive. This one was sitting just above me on a branch of a bush in the opening on the lookout deck at TRNWR a couple of Friday evenings ago. It sat fairly still for an unusual amount of time from my experience. I was able to slowly creep closer, taking a few shots every few steps.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Long-billed Dowitcher

Based on the research I did on these birds, I believe they are Long-billed Dowitchers. There is a Short-billed variety also, but their coloring most matches the pictures of the Long-billed I found on the internet. This picture is from May 7th, the evening I went to TRNWR and found the ponds drained. It was also my first time there since the refuge allowed visitors to walk the roads after the winter. This allowed me, for the first time at the refuge, to get close enough to the shore birds to take pictures of them. I have several pictures of them and haven't gotten through most of them yet. Hopefully there will be some even better ones.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Least Sandpiper

As the ducks migrate away, it seems there are more shore birds. I saw this Least Sandpiper at Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve last Saturday as I walked along a soggy dirt road. It allowed me to get fairly close so I was able to get descent pictures of it. As I said in an earlier post, I am not real familiar with shore birds so it took a bit of research before I was satisfied as to its identity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tree Swallow

I made my first trip to Fernhill Wetlands last Saturday. It turned out to be a pretty active area. Common to many of the wetlands I have visited, Fernhill had many tree swallow houses up on posts. You can get quite close to Tree Swallows sitting on their houses this time of year as they care for their young. This male cooperated quite nicely for me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canada Goose Gosling

This Canada Goose gosling is from the same brood from an earlier post. They have grown quite a bit in past 3 or so weeks. Their color has also changed from yellow to gray brown.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pileated Woodpecker

After things slowed down a bit at the Audubon Society of Portland's bird feeders a couple of Saturday's ago, I wandered around the visitor center to see what they had to offer. There were several stuffed birds and animals and of course a nice gift shop. Off to one side I noticed a large empty room and peeked in to see what was inside. It looked like it may be used for lectures, etc. There was a family in there so I assumed it was OK to go in a look around. The room formed a 90 degree angle with the wall that had the windows looking out on the bird feeders and this room also had a large window looking out in that direction. There was another suet feeder hanging just outside the window. I was standing there looking out the window when this enormous Pileated Woodpecker flew up and landed on the suet feeder. Wow! I've always wanted to see one of these birds and here was one right in front of me. There are things I wish could have be better from a picture taking stand point, but the fact that I saw one of these birds and was able to take pictures of it is a highlight of this new hobby of mine.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wild Flower

I haven't posted a wild flower in a while. I came across this one on a trail at TRNWR. I'm not sure what it is and haven't had time to search for it on the web.

Warbling Vireo

I spent about 45 minutes this morning before church at Mentor Graphics. I got to experience a very annoyed Great Blue Heron shriek at a Red-wing Blackbird as it flew across the pond. Evidently the Blackbird was not happy with the Heron and was diving at it.
The first bird I encountered was what I think is a Warbling Vireo. Another new bird for me. I only found two candidates for it from my field guide; either a Warbling Vireo or a Tennessee Warbler. A Warbling Vireo seemed to be the better fit. It stayed pretty high in a couple trees as I followed it around. Most of the pictures were a little too blurry once I zoomed in on the bird within the image. These two images were the most in focus out of the bunch.
I'm noticing a change in the types of birds I have been seeing. Most of the ducks have migrated north and more and more song birds are arriving. The ducks were a lot of fun and I miss them, but I'm hoping to see some new interesting birds. Also, it is getting more difficult to get clear shots of the birds in the trees and shrubs as their leaves bud and grow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bald Eagle

This Bald Eagle flew overhead while I was exploring an outer trail at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. I had to wait as there were tree branches between me and it. At first I thought I wouldn't have a clear shot, but it cooperated and flew to open sky. It's really cool being able to see Bald Eagles as they were endangered when I was a kid and I never saw one until a year or two ago. Now I even occasionally see one here near Wilsonville.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Great Blue Heron

I'm bachin' it today and tomorrow, so I decided to spend the evening at TRNWR. What a shock. They drained just about all the water out of the refuge. After reading a few informational signs throughout, I realized that this is normal. They are trying to simulate the past flood of winter and receding waters of spring and summer. I still found it disappointing. To top it off, one of the first things I saw off in the distance was a Coyote attacking a Canadian Goose and its Gosling. It was quite the scene and I couldn't help thinking to myself that the birds would have had more of a chance had there been more water to take refuge. Oh well, I guess this is the natural order of things.
Anyway, after a slow start, it turned out to be an interesting evening. I saw a few new species. I also got some decent shots of a Great Blue Heron in flight. I mentioned in an earlier post how I have difficulty with birds in flight. This is the third or fourth opportunity that I have to shot a Great Blue in flight and these are by far the best.