Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Egret streamer and other odds and ends

I had been meaning to get out and do some sunrise photography for quite awhile now, but various things kept me from doing so. This morning things came together, so out I headed almost an hour before official sunrise. I like to get to my destination about 30 minutes before sunrise, since just as a sunset can be more impressive in the 30 minutes after the sun actually sets, the 30 minutes before can provide some impressive light. At least with the shortening of the days, that isn't quite as early as it was a couple of months ago!

My destination was the boat launch area at Jeannette's Creek. The overall result was not as good as I was hoping. There were virtually no clouds in the sky for the pre-sunrise sun to reflect off of. Instead there was a gentle glow with more subdued colours. The exposure for this image was 1.3 seconds. The sky was rather bland, so I cropped most of it out.

To illustrate what a difference some clouds or a bit of mist can make, I have the following two images to share, which were taken from the exact same place: the first with some very effective clouds, and the second with a low mist.

The bottom line is that you never know what you are going to encounter when you are going out for sunrise photography, and so the results are different each and every time.....and mostly worth the effort of depriving one of some sleep time. One of the features of the mighty Thames River, sometimes more appropriately referred to as the 'muddy' Thames, under these conditions is that the river looks much more impressive by reflecting the colours of the sky than it will later in the day when it takes on its more typical, and truer, muddy colour.

An added benefit of these early hours is that you have the place pretty much to yourself, and the wildlife is a bit more active.

I noted three different Osprey in the area, although none came by close enough for a decent photo, so you will have to take my word for it. Ospreys are in migration mode these days, as the southern Ontario hawkwatches indicate. So these birds which don't usually nest in the extreme southwest, are on migration from points farther north.

Another raptor that came by, and this time at least close enough for a record shot, was this sub-adult Bald Eagle. It has a mostly whitish head, still some patchy white on the belly and under the wings, but the tail is mostly dark, so it is probably about a third to fourth year bird. It circled once, dropped down to the water to attempt catching a fish (unsuccessfully, I might add) and then continued on downstream.

Several Great Blue Herons flew by.

There were also Belted Kingfishers, numerous ducks (Mallards and Woodies) and various sized flocks of Canada Geese. This morning was opening day for the early Goose hunting season, so they were stirred up and kept their distance.

Great Egrets were also observed. I saw at least 5 individuals, mostly heading upstream but this one was headed downstream. The very strong side-lighting of the golden sun made it difficult to capture the normally expected colour of the bird....very harsh lighting on a white bird against a gun-metal blue-gray sky.

I noted it was coming almost right overhead. Then I noticed something else.

The feet started to separate, and it wasn't coming in for a landing.

At this point, I decided not to look up any more, but kept an eye on the adjacent water surface. Thankfully the bird was just far enough away from being directly overhead that its digested frog/fish remains splattered on the water surface a short distance away.

I'm sure if it was trying to aim for me, it could have done a better job, so I didn't take it personally. But note the advance warning: when you see the feet separating and it isn't coming in for a landing, keep your mouth closed and protect your camera/binocular gear!

All the while these birds were going by, there was a fairly steady stream of blackbirds leaving the upstream areas and heading downstream and out along the edge of the lake. I estimated there might be somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 birds that passed within view during the ~40 minutes of their flight. Sometimes they were widely scattered across the sky, but at other times they were densely packed in. They were mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, with a few Common Grackles throughout the flocks. I didn't see any Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but they could have been mixed in somewhere.

After leaving the Jeannette's Creek area, I continued on to Lighthouse Cove. The recently harvested tomato fields, together with the recent rainfall, were perfect for shorebirds. I didn't have a lot of diversity, but noted at least 100 Killdeer, and mixed in were 4+ Black-bellied Plover and one, perhaps two, Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Most were a fair distance away, so I have no photos to show for it. But keep a close eye out for these harvested tomato fields that have a bit of standing water in them.

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