Monday, February 20, 2017

20 San Diego Bird Photographs



For the first time in some time, I ventured forth on a bird-photography-specific adventure. My destination was San Diego, where I was lucky to get some tips & tricks from the legendary San Diego birder/photographer Jim Pawlicki. (Thanks Jim!)

Long story short, is that I somehow managed to take 19,000 photos... Since I don't really have a functioning website these days, I came up with roughly twenty photos (each showing a different species) that also happened to be some of my favourite images from the trip. Needless to say, there are more, but i'm not really sure if/when/where they'll surface in the future.

Hope you like them!























Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nature Photography 104 - Feb 16, 2017




Back in the day (way back in the day) I did several posts looking in depth at some of my bolder editing practices & recently edited a photo that convinced me to do another post.... Inevitably I dislike doing a lot of editing, preferring to get it right the first time, but rarely I end up with a photo that I decide to "do some work" to see if I can save it... Here's the final product:




And here's what I started with:


(Full frame)

With of course, guest appearances by the photos that I took immediately before and after this one:







So, as you have guessed - I used the body parts of the other two photos that weren't clipped, and stuck them on with the magic of photoshop... With a cropped photo (or even when using a teleconverter) - this is easy peasy... Unfortunately I was shooting with just the 600mm, so you end up with the mostly invisible but forever present "vignetting" ... Because I'm shooting through a round piece of "magnification glass", the corners/edges bend the light slightly differently and you end up with a brighter centre / darker edges... On a clean background (like this) is easily detected... 

To see it, or to find pesky dust spots on a clean background, I temporarily adjust the "levels" much darker... Check out this screen capture: 



So - while this is all fine and dandy... It helps illustrate my next point - that even though I added "canvas" to the sides of the *final* copy (first image I posted), it is hardly a "perfect" job due to the gradient present in the originals... I did my best to tidy it up a bit, but overall I just don't care enough to try and make it better! (maybe you or someone else could do a better job - here are the underlying secrets of the final copy):


Pretty difficult to see until someone points it out... I shutter to think what would happen if this was printed for a book/mag... Hopefully it'd stay invisible but sometimes digital to print just doesn't work out the way you had planned!!

Speaking of which, I've also conducted all of this editing on my macbook, which seems to do a TERRIBLE job of properly displaying photos, so there's a chance i'll get onto a *better* computer in the next few days and be terrified at this version...

So there we go... A blog post... Done. 



Friday, January 27, 2017

Snapping Turtle HARVEST - Action Required!



Did you know the Snapping Turtle is a Species at Risk in Ontario? (Special Concern)

Did you know that the province of Ontario still allows hunting/harvesting of Snapping Turtles?

Does this seem like the craziest thing you've ever heard?

---

The provincial government (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) is proposing amendments to Area Descriptions, Hunting, Possession, Buying and Selling of Wildlife and Ontario Regulation Open Seasons under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to streamline and modernize the management of small game and furbearer wildlife species in Ontario. THIS IS OUR CHANCE to say STOP THE HARVEST OF SNAPPING TURTLES!


Here are the two links I've seen:

https://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTMxMDUx&statusId=MTk4NjY3&language=en

https://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTMxMDUy&statusId=MTk4NjY5&language=en


On the bottom right of each page is a "submit a comment" button... I would encourage everyone to read this to pass it along to anyone they know who appreciates the issues associated with harvesting Snapping Turtles... The poor creatures face enough danger from nest predation to being mowed down on our roads.

Let them know how you feel!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

PeregrinePrints.com ... Blog: RANT (Red-tailed Hawks)



I'm going to rant about Red-tailed Hawks. If the entire world can shift to emotion-based politics, I assume the birding community can handle this completely fact-free rant. If not, there's the door.




When I was a kid, I'm reasonably sure this is how Red-tailed Hawk subspecies were treated:


Note: I'm ignoring Harlan's... 

Abieticola was a mythical RLHA-like bird that hailed from the treeline in northern Quebec/Labrador... Over ten years ago I observed a bird that fit this bill - a freak juvenile looking RTHA with belly markings unlike anything I had ever seen (80-90% odd dark triangles across the belly) and sitting on the GROUND in a wide open field.... Then we had "eastern", "western" and something called Krider's from the prairies...

Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but it was pretty obvious that the "Eastern" birds that nested in the boreal were darker than the local birds... When our birds were sitting on eggs, it was possible to see a steady migration of heavily marked birds at the spring hawkwatch in Beamer/Grimsby...

Now that I've been "out of the raptor loop" for several years, I peek back and this is what I interpret:



"Eastern" RTHA is now subjected to the pale local RTHA, and anything with a belly band is being called abieticola... Seemingly eating into the range of every other subspecies... 

My confusion grew during a June/July visit to southern Saskatchewan, where I encountered DARK MORPH Red-tailed Hawks breeding just shy of the Manitoba and North Dakota borders.... and of course a quick search around the interwebs led me nowhere in trying to find a proper definition of "western" red-tailed hawk range... 

Which leads me to believe that we actually know very little about where these population start & end, and trying to put any sort of a subspecies label on them is bordering on pointless... In the future, I'd love it if we could define them on a slider-scale of "northerly to southerly" and "more eastern or western" in their traits, perhaps with slightly more contrasting demarcations when dealing with ecozones (eg,/ Florida, Carolinian, Boreal, Prairies, Destern/Southwest, Northwest/mountains, Newfoundless).. Perhaps something like this: 



Alright! That's it! Rant over. 



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Job Opportunity with Vortex Canada





I have it on good authority that Vortex is looking for a full-time Binocular Repair Technician - based out of Guelph, Ontario! Check out the job posting here:

http://www.kijiji.ca/v-other-jobs/guelph/binocular-repair-technician/1231021433

If you, or someone you know would be interested - give them a shout! I have the personal experience to say you'll be working with a really great group of people.





While I'm at it, I'm just going to plug the Vortex VIP Warranty....... Here is the direct text from their website:

https://www.vortexcanada.net/en/vip-warranty/

Our warranty is about you, not us.

It's about taking care of you after the sale. The VIP stands for Very Important Promise to you (our customers) that we will do the following:

Repair or replace your Vortex product for any reason at NO CHARGE to you. It doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it.

Unlimited lifetime warranty
Fully transferable
No warranty card to fill out
No receipt needed to hang on to
If you ever have a problem, no matter the cause, we promise to take care of you.




So, in summary - if you're looking for new optics, the Vortex warranty (alone) makes them a leading choice for the vast majority of us! Check them out!!!

and....

If you (or someone you know) is looking for a unique job opportunity, be sure to check out the posting above. If all goes well, we will get to know each other as I bring my heavily used gear into the shop (from time to time) to get them tidied up! 





I'll (hopefully) have an update on the James Bay adventure in the next few days... Be sure to check back! 


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Crazy crazy idea - looking for associates !



I'm just throwing this out there, with absolutely no idea what type of response I might get... Here it is:


Aerial Survey (via helicopter) of coastal James Bay in Winter!


Sounds like fun, right? Here's the skinny:

Off the SW tip of Akimiski island in winter is a feature called a polynya -  one that occurs year after year - an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. Beyond that, most of James Bay doesn't actually freeze solid - meaning there will be cracks or leads within the ice. It's hard to find a graphic that illustrates this, but I've done my best:



Red = where we would expect to find the reliable polynya

Yellow = where (weather permitting) we would find leads/cracks in the ice


What would we expect to see? Well I'm glad you asked... In general - not a whole lot, but I think the experience alone may be worth it... At a minimum I'd like to think we'd see Common Eider and Black Guillemot - two species that ALWAYS overwinter on James Bay and presumably rely on the polynya... Where those two species are hanging out, I'd also expect to see King Eider and Long-tailed Duck. Anything beyond that may well be gravy, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Glaucous Gull, Snowy Owl and/or Gyrfalcon.

A major natural history bonus would be the possibility of seeing Beluga, Polar Bear or Bearded/Ringed Seals.

IF we were to see something "rare" - I'd place my money on Ivory Gull... Unexpected but no-less appreciated birds would be scoters (White-winged?), other gulls (Iceland, Herring or perhaps Kittiwake)... IF we saw a Dovekie, Thick-billed Murre or a Fulmar, I'd be darn happy - but I'm not getting my hopes up...





But WAIT! There's more!

(What is this, an infomercial?)

There's an additional major selling point to this little adventure... We will DRIVE to Attawapiskat. That's right... In recent years a WINTER ROAD has been maintained from Cochrane to Moosonee to Attawapiskat... So we'll drive the whole way, presumably scoring ALL of the northern goodies from Spruce Grouse to Sharp-tailed Grouse to Pine Grosbeak to Hoary Redpoll flocks to Great Gray Owl to Northern Hawk Owl and perhaps more.

And by more I mean WILLOW PTARMIGAN IN WINTER. Hopefully. I can only hope that somewhere on that lonely road from Moosonee to Attawapiskat we'll come across one of these white beauties... I have it on good authority that the winter road should be open in the next 7-10 days!!!


SO - here comes the hard part...


Helicopters are EXPENSIVE... And there are several variables depending on who wants to go and how much each individual is willing to pay.... For example:


IF we wait for the Helicopter company to ALREADY be in Moosonee or Attawapiskat, we could save a lot of money... However we would lose all ability to plan the dates of the trip, tailor it to weather, or there could even be the possibility that the dates don't work out and the trip doesn't happen at all...

IF we pay for what we want, it's more expensive, but then we can ensure we're up there for optimal weather (or optimal dates for your personal life) and more freedom in general...

SO -

My bare minimum estimate is $2500 ... and the more we're willing to get into the $4000-$4500 range, the more freedom we will have.

IF you're interested - please e-mail me!!! - I'll send you my cell number and we can go over additional details together... I can't really sort out a more accurate estimate until I know who wants to go and how many of us there are.....


===========================================

Edit:



I meant to put this in, I should have put this in, and I didn't put it in originally! Thanks to Josh & Adam for pointing this out.

I tend to follow the "Ontario" border from google, which shows that most of the way from Moosonee to Fort Albany would be in Ontario, From Fort Albany to Attawapiskat we would probably be on the border somewhere (likely in Ontario earlier in the winter, possibly Nunavut later in the winter as the fast ice builds)... And then the polynya would most likely fall in Nunavut (however it's possible to be very close to the border or even in Ontario depending on ice conditions - but probably Nunavut)...

From a "list" standpoint, or birding in general, I think we will be venturing into a realm totally unknown when in the helicopter... It is very hard to say if there will be massive flocks of eiders (as our anon. poster highlights from an amazing adventure in the first comment) as the eastern shore (or the Belcher Islands) may be quite different than the western shore... As far as I know, the results of what we see may be the first of their kind to be presented to the wide world (web, print etc).

For me, I don't really expect to see anything I couldn't see otherwise in Ontario (even the possible mega rares like Fulmar, Dovekie, Murres, Ivory Gull etc). It's all about the "experience" of flying over a frozen James Bay birding in a place where we would have no idea what to expect. The possiblity of beluga, seals or polar bears are (nearly) as exciting as the birds... Plus  - I expect to see great birds regardless on the drive in the form of Grouse, Finches, Owls etc!

Thanks again gents for pointing this out! If anyone has any questions, comment, email etc. and I'll do my best to answer...



Friday, January 6, 2017

Two funky checkered Herring Gulls


Sorry not sorry for the "cell phone through binoculars" photos... 

Variation in first year Herring Gulls is reasonably well known, and the two birds here aren't particularly unusual... 

They are both "northern" types (meaning they're holding juvenile plumage later than most)... And they're both at the pale-end (extreme?) of our NA Herring Gulls... 

The strangest part (to me) was that they look very SIMILAR in their paleness, and they were TOGETHER on a beach with only a limited number of Herring Gulls present... 

Makes me (really) wonder where these suckers were born!! (I'm guessing northern or eastern Baffin Island)... Who has a motus tag?!?!



bird 1




bird 2


bird 2 (back), bird 1 (front)


(bird two, back, wings up) (bird one, front) 


(you get it)


IF you don't like young Herring Gulls - here's a few ebird checklists with record photos of Franklin's Gulls instead: