Tag Archives: audubon

Birding in New York State

Gull and FishIt was an exceptionally chilly morning when I decided to head out and find some eagles in Dunkirk, NY.  I went up there last year, and there were hundreds of birds on the boardwalk, searching the tiny bits of unfrozen water on Lake Erie for a meal.  The gulls were fighting over scraps of fish.  It was quite a sight, and I couldn’t wait to return.


Fat Cardinal

On my way up to Dunkirk, I decided to stop at the Jamestown Audubon Center & Sanctuary to warm up the camera on some smaller targets.  My first encounter was with a very well-fed cardinal across the pond from me.  He posed for a few shots before flying off into the brush.  Given his shape, I’m surprised it wasn’t more of a slow roll!  I decided to trudge around the pond behind the house and see if I could spot some more colorful subjects.


Junco on BranchI didn’t see much out by Big Pond, so I picked my way back to the car.  As I returned to the parking lot, I noticed some birds along the path by the house and decided to take a few shots.  This puffed up junco was nice enough to mug for the camera.  I decided it was time to see what awaited me on Lake Erie.


I arrived at the boardwalk and felt a stab of disappointment.  There weren’t nearly as many birds as I saw last year, and most of them were simply huddled together on the ice, not moving or doing anything interesting.  Additionally, there was a mist coming off Lake Gull Ready for TakeoffErie that made it almost impossible to see anything.  But one thing gave me hope.  In the car next to me, a man was peering intently with his binoculars out toward the factory in the distance.  Sure enough, a few eagles dotted the landscape near the heat of the smokestacks on the opposite side of the harbor.  But they were too far away to get good shots.  It was time to move in a little closer.


Eagle WatchI did a bit of scouting and found a road that led close to the factory.  There is a conservation club that is directly across from the factory, and I trudged toward the water to see if I could spot my subjects.  There were a couple of eagles in the sky, and I got some distant shots.  But then I looked in the tree above me.  And to my surprise, there was a bald eagle!  I guess we both thought that was a good spot to survey the scene.  The branches around him didn’t make it easy to get a clean shot, but I at least managed to position myself so that I could get an unobstructed view of his head.  He soon grew tired of my company and flew off to find another perch.


Bolstered by my success, I decided to walk along the harbor and see what else the chilly day had in store for me.  It was around 10 below, so I didn’t stray too far from the car.  As I fiddled with the settings onEagle on the Wing the camera, several birds flew directly overhead.  One was an eagle.  He did a circle around the city and came toward me.  I was ready this time to capture the action.  It was truly a remarkable sight.


Half the battle of photography is being in the right place at the right time.  And when it’s below 0 outside, it’s easy to talk yourself into staying home with a warm mug of cocoa and leaving nature to the birds.  But if you muster up the courage to venture outside, the experience can be truly rewarding.

Audubon Adventure

Back to my roots

Butterfly on the Rocks
A butterfly suns itself on some white rocks.

It had been quite awhile since I journeyed to the Audubon.  Once a place I visited often, the Audubon took a backseat this summer as I explored the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and Acadia National Park in Maine.  But the time for journeying to distant lands was over for now, so it made sense to hit some places closer to home and see what new sights awaited me.

Blue-eyed Dragonfly
This blue-eyed dragonfly rests comfortably on a leaf.

One of the best things about the Audubon is that it’s never the same.  That log I captured a turtle on last time may be gone, but perhaps the water line has a revealed a rock to capture a brand new image.  So I spent the beginning of my journey surveying the insects around me.  There were many different kinds of dragonflies around, a monarch butterfly, and some odder insects that I wasn’t as familiar with.  I was using my telephoto lens, which presents a much different view of small creatures than a macro lens might.  The advantage, of course, is that I don’t have to get too close to my quarry to fire off a shot.  After spending an hour photographing the macro world, I realized that I had barely left the entrance!  Time to move on…

Snake!
A mother snake keeps close to her babies.

I moved along the path at just the right time!  I looked over to my right, and couldn’t believe what I saw…a snake!  I was a little closer than I wanted to be.  I’m sure the feeling was mutual.  And then I got even more of a surprise when I realized she wasn’t alone.  I say ‘she’, because wriggling beside her were several baby snakes!  Needless to say, that was a game changer for the situation.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to try to pass through, and she didn’t want to leave the babies alone with me.  But after staring each other down for several minutes, the snake decided she could head back into the brush, and the babies quickly followed.  It was turning out to be quite an exciting day!

SnapperTurtle in Blue
A gorgeous reflection of a snapper turtle.

For those who know the layout of the Audubon Society grounds, it may or may not surprise you to know that I hadn’t even gotten away from the building yet!  But I did want to start my expedition around Big Pond, so I forced my feet to keep moving.  I tried my luck crossing the bridge over to Spatterdock Pond, but the high grass proved to hide the wildlife from my camera.  I walked around the pond and over to the double-decker blind overlooking Big Pond.  I usually see a deer or two in my travels, but no such luck on this trip.

Reflecting Frog
A frog with an astounding reflection!

Not so much as a squirrel posed for me as I made my way through the forest.  But I still had high hopes for the back of the pond, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.  I could hear the carp trying to leap out of the water, but they didn’t quite have the oomph that day to get a good shot.  But soon enough, I spotted my target – two frogs were resting in the water on the far side of the path.  If only they would let me get close enough for a good shot…  So I crept slowly toward them, taking a picture every few steps in case they decided to flee.  But they didn’t run and hide, and I was able to get a very nice closeup before moving on.

Wasp Nest
This wasp nest wasn’t as empty as I thought.

I thought I had seen most of what nature was offering that day, and I started to head back around the other side of the pond.  I always make a point to stop at all of the blinds, and today was no different.  I didn’t see much going on outside the last blind, but I did happen to see that there was a wasp nest in the corner of the roof.  It was dark there, and it looked to me like there wasn’t any activity.  Imagine my surprise when I put the pictures in Lightroom, and discovered not one, not two, but three wasps hanging from the bottom of the nest!  You just never know what nature is going to throw your way sometimes.

So it turns out that I don’t need to travel to exotic places to get great shots.  Sometimes they are right there in your own backyard.  The Audubon is always an exciting place to visit, and I can’t wait to get back and see what is in store next!