“You never listen to me!”

Via Flickr:
Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

The most animated and noisy birds breeding and nesting in this rookery were by far the Cattle Egrets.
They were very amusing to watch.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 70-300@ 300mm| f11| 1/800 sec| ISO 500| Manual Priority| Hand-held

Spring, Nature,and the Great Egret

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

I spent a morning last week in Santa Rosa watching Egrets, and Herons, building nests, tending nests, and trying to attract a mate at a Rookery right in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. Mothers walked their children to school right under them, and traffic flowed on both sides of the street, and the Egrets and Herons were largely oblivious to all but themselves. Great Egrets nest in colonies so there are many, many birds in the trees.

The city is trying to give them some space so they blocked off one lane on each side of the street for a block or so sparing passing cars from being pelted with falling debris, and guano. The street under the Eucalyptus trees they’re nesting in is messy.

In the past when I’ve watch a Great Egret they’ve been very still, quite, and focused on hunting their prey, or I’ve startled them and they’ve flown away. That wasn’t the case on this morning though. The activity scarcely stopped.

Neither did the noise. In breeding season there is quite a lot of squawking, and screeching, and talking. In fact I found them very funny, and amusing.  I laughed out loud many times listening to them.

There were many sorties by the male to gather just the right branch to  build and strengthen the nest.  He will seriously work on attracting a mate once this task is complete. The female lays 4-5 pale blue eggs which take 3-4 weeks to incubate. Both the male and female parents incubate the eggs, and feed the chicks.

During the breeding season the  male Great Egret grows long tail feathers which he  raises and spreads out . I’ve read their plumes were once prized for making ladies hats and they were nearly hunted to extinction.

…and he undulates his long neck, and lifts his head toward the sky to try to attract a mate.

It was a wonderful experience observing this behavior up close, and I have more photos to share in the coming days of  Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, and Night Herons.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 70-300mm VR

Western Kingbird

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

My friend Dali and I went on a hike in Pinnacles National Park last week, and on the way home we drove through one of the places we have seen Golden Eagles, and we’ve heard there is a pair of Bald Eagles that hunt here too.

We saw one Golden Eagle, but no Bald Eagles on this drive, but I did see a Bobcat. He was  close to the road, and I tried so hard to get a shot, but my camera wouldn’t focus as he was in the shade under a huge Oak tree, and this lens needs a lot more light to grab focus fast. In the nano seconds it took me to get lock focus we spooked the Bobcat and he took off. I saw it though. I’ll never forget it. He was a beauty. I am hoping he’s territorial and will be in that area again. I’ll be making the trip over there again soon.

While driving I spotted this little bird. He’s a first for me too. I’m so excited to see him. Isn’t this a pretty pose? I couldn’t wait to get home and look through my National Geographic Book of Birds of North America to find out what breed he is.
I’m pretty sure this is a Western Kingbird. What do you think am I right?

I had another first on this drive…Dali spotted an American Badger and he too posed for us. I’ll be sharing a photo of it soon.

Nikon D700|Nikkor 70-300mm @300mm|f8| 1/640 sec| ISO 640| Manual Mode| Hand-held

Just Be There with…

Just be there….

…with Rainey Shuler

Wildlife photographers know all too well how hard it is to get a great photo of their subject.  It takes long hours of studying their behavior, and being familiar with their territory.

In this edition Rainey Shuler dedicated bird photographer tells us how her experience, persistence and patience paid off in this story of the Pied-billed Grebes.

Photograph by Rainey Shuler

Pied-billed Grebe Nest-2009

CR: Tell us about this location.

Rainey:  The location is at the Struve Slough in Watsonville, CA which has a lovely walking path for viewing many types of birds including nesting Pied-billed Grebes and American Coots.  You can also find Bitterns, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Osprey, Kingfishers, Double-crested Cormorants, Black-crowned Night Herons, Green Herons and many other birds there depending on the season.

We had spotted this Mama and 7 eggs around mid May, 2009.  It was close enough to the shore that I was able to sit on a chair with my camera mounted on a Tripod and chronicle the whole story.  I would go there almost every day around 5-6:00 p.m. in the afternoon.   I chronicled the entire family; first one chick, then two, until 5 eggs hatched.   As long as the last two eggs remained in the nest the parents would not give up on trying to incubate those remaining eggs…it wasn’t until June 20th that the last of the two eggs disappeared into the slough and at that time the entire family left the site, which was four days after I took this shot.

CR: How difficult was this to capture?

Rainey: The most difficulty in getting a shot like this is just having enough patience to wait and capture certain moments.  I spent approximately 2 hours just sitting and waiting for special moments to occur and during times like this I can end up shooting 200-500 shots to get just the right moment. Of course exposure can be difficult with these dark colored birds on a foggy day so the right ISO and shutter speed is very important.

CR:  How did you expose for this shot?

Rainey: I used a Canon Rebel XTi and a 100-400mm lens with a UV filter.  For this shot in the late afternoon I had to increase my ISO to 800 and set the shutter speed at 1000 to capture any action.  I chose an aperture of  f6.3. I used a tripod and natural light.

To see more of Rainey’s work visit her here.


Rainey on flickr