Tim Boyer Photography

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Short-eared Owl

First Birds of 2016

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

I was up in the Skagit on January 2, 2016 and here are a few of the birds I was able to find.  

Short-eared Owl at the  Leque Island Wildlife Area.
Short-eared Owl at the Leque Island Wildlife Area.

We pulled into the Wildlife Area on Leque Island and the first thing we saw was a Short-eared Owl on the side of the road.  It left the road and flew 40 feet or so into the cut corn field, so we got a few images right out of the car, then very slowly we got out of the car and spent about an hour taking pictures and waiting for the  sunlight to hit the bird.  A very cooperative bird, and a start to a very special day.

Song Sparrow inthe blackberries at the Fir Island Farm Reserve. 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 250, with the  7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.
Song Sparrow inthe blackberries at the Fir Island Farm Reserve. 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 250, with the 7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

There were Marsh Wrens, Spotted Towhees, and Song Sparrow in the blackberries, but it took some waiting around for them to pop-up and get out in the open.

Rough-legged Hawk near the West 90. 1/2000 of a second, f/5.4 at ISO 250 with the Canon 7D Mark II and  a 100 to 400 zoom at 40 mm.
Rough-legged Hawk near the West 90. 1/2000 of a second, f/5.4 at ISO 250 with the Canon 7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 40 mm.

Rough-legged Hawks are one of my favorite birds, they only visit us in the winter months, but they're such cool birds.  It doesn't seem like there are as many of them as there was in the 1980's when I first started going to the Skagit to see them, now each encounter is special.

Blurred landscape. 1/15 of a second at f/25 and ISO 100 7D Mark II and the  100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.
Blurred landscape. 1/15 of a second at f/25 and ISO 100 7D Mark II and the 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

We were at the Wylie Wildlife Area or Skagit Headquarters and there were no birds close enough to photograph.  So, when there are no birds, it's time to play and by setting the aperature to f/25, shooting in Aperature Priority Mode slowed the shutter speed to 1/15 of a second.  Then with a little camera movement up, the dead trees in the slough became something besides trees that had been killed by opening the dike and letting the saltwater in.  We had to explain to another bird photogrpaher what we were doing, since he thought maybe we were seeing some birds he didn't.

Trumpter Swan flying directly overhead.  1/1800 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 400 with the Canon 7D Mark ii at 150 mm.
Trumpter Swan flying directly overhead. 1/1800 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 400 with the Canon 7D Mark ii at 150 mm.

There were a couple of large mixed flocks of swans on both sides of Dry Creek Road and when they would decide the grass was greener on the other side they'd fly right over us.  These are such large birds, and often when we were facing the oppiste direction they were approaching from, we'd hear the noise from their wing beats first.

Tundra Swans 1/1000 of a second, f/8 at ISO 250 at 400 mm with the Canon 7D Mark II.
Tundra Swans 1/1000 of a second, f/8 at ISO 250 at 400 mm with the Canon 7D Mark II.

Here's a group of Tundra Swans at our last stop on Fir Island.  It was a wonderful day, cold but sunny and we had some cool birds.  Hope the rest of 2016 is as productive for all of us.

National Wildlife Refuge Week -- Benton Lake NWR

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana has about 200 species of birds, but it's the breeding habitat for Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers that got me to go there the first time in 2008.  I also discovered birds I hadn't seen before; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Bunting, and Common Terns.  This is a wonderful place to visit in June for the breeding shorebirds but it's also, I hear, great in the spring when the Sharp-tailed Grouse are displaying.  

Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.
Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.

I went to Benton Lakes NWR the first time to find, see and photograph Upland Sandpipers (I have a thing for shorebirds).  Each morning as I drove to the refuge I'd find some, but they were often accompanied by Short-eared Owls.  Sitting on the fence posts there would be three or four Upland Sandpipers then a Short-eared Owl, the pattern repeated over and over again as  I drove past the fence posts.   The wide open short-grass prairie doesn't have many perches so these fence posts are often the only perches around.

Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.
Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.

The auto-tour loop on the refuge offers many opporutinites to see breeding birds and in mid June the chicks are tall enough to get above the  short-grass.

Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the  bill used to sift plankton and  aquatic insects through.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the bill used to sift plankton and aquatic insects through.

Located just outside of Great Falls, Montanta Benton Lake National Wildlfie Refuge was established in 1929 to enhance and protect a closed-basin of cattail and bulrush marsh surrounded by short-grass prairie.  Several hundred thousand migrating birds, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, and song birds depend on this refuge.

Enjoy our National Wildlife Refuges!   Thanks   Tim