A 10K race in the morning and a drive through Blackwater NWR in the afternoon. It was a perfect weather day, warm for November. Bald eagles are common at the reserve but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. This one is sitting on the former site of an osprey nest. Eagles enlarge their nest every year and it is not uncommon for eagles to steal the sticks from osprey nests. Next year when the osprey return, they will construct a new nest and the eagles will be raising their young in the newly expanded nest.
When you travel to new places, you can expect to see new birds. My trip to Magee Marsh did not disappoint. Aside from seeing many warblers I had not seen before, I got to see several night-hawk. The night-hawk were resting on horizontal tree branches which often made them appear essentially as bumps-on-a-log. The bird in the picture had been resting when I passed it several times during the day. This time it was awake and preening. This image was made using a 100/400 Canon lens from a distance of about 25 feet. The bird was quite close but didn’t seem to mind all the folks gathered around watching. It didn’t even seem to mind when a discussion came up debating if it was a night-hawk or a whip-or-will. Both “camps” were equally adamant as to the identity. I remained neutral and the bird was silent on the debate. When I returned to my room, I did a little ‘net research and found the night-hawk was expected to be in the area. There was no mention of a Whip-or-will for the month or locality. If I were to find it really is a whip-or-will, well that would still be a lifer for me.
Magee Marsh is well-known for the warblers passing through during the migrations. That is why I was there a few weeks ago. Aside from warblers, there are plenty of other species to see and enjoy. Many are quite close allowing for a detailed study of their features.
The House Wren above is a local nester. He was singing, perhaps to attract a mate or maybe to announce his territory. Like an orchestra warming up, each instrument playing a different phrase, this wren added his voice to the hundreds of others in the marsh. The result was a mass confusion of sound but if you listened carefully, you could pick out the phrases of individuals.
Red-winged Blackbirds were in abundance. You could see them almost anywhere you looked and if not visible, they could be heard. As many RWBBs there were, it was difficult to get good pictures of them. They didn’t stay still long, always moving about in and out of shadows, turning their backs, flying off, etc. Many of the females could be found foraging on the ground. This position allowed for a study of the colors and patterns on the back, but not great pics otherwise.
Magee Marsh is about the warblers, so to end this post, a Magnolia Warbler preening.
I first learned of Magee Marsh from Moose Peterson. He was planning to conduct a workshop there. The dates didn’t work for me but I became curious about the place. A little investigation and I knew I wanted to see it for myself. Over the course of a week I saw many warblers, critters, snakes and other birds. The birding was everything it was reported to be. Lots of species and lots of individuals. Many of the birds were at eye level and very tolerant of humans.
I paid a visit to the Smithsonian Biology Conservation Center on Sunday. Typically only once a year the public is invited to visit the center. This past weekend was ideal due to the mild temperature and slight breeze. There were exhibits explaining the activities undertaken by the scientists, researchers and interns at the center. My favorites were the birds i.e. Red Crowned cranes, kingfishers and rails. I tried to see the bison, but they were off in a small valley out of sight. Photographing the birds was a challenge since they were in enclosures with wire fence fronts. The lighting was also a challenge being fluorescent tubes and some other fixtures. A wide aperture helped with the fence and a neutral target helped with the lighting.