A male ruffed grouse kept me entertained in early May, as he called for females by beating his wings together. He had several favorite logs to stand on in my backyard. I like the pictures but they have busy backgrounds. For next year I will have to do some selective trimming in my yard to clean up the background as I now know where his favorite spot are.
I was recently in New Zealand teaching a month long Sea Kayaking course.
We had an amazing opportunity to stop at Motuara Island, were we got to see several endemic and endangered birds.
New Zealand Robins are tame and charismatic birds, often chasing insects in the duff by your feet.
Bellbirds are known for their beautiful song, and on the predator free Motuara Island the bird song was almost deafening. It really highlighted how human impact and introduced predators have decimated birdlife on the mainland of New Zealand.
It was delightful to see the Kakariki (Yellow-crowned parakeet) again. A few years ago I caught a glimpse of it on Stewart Island. To watch numerous of them coming to drink and bathe was an amazing experience.
We even got to see the critically endangered South Island Saddleback. Pretty sure I even saw a few juveniles. Thanks to hard work by DOC and volunteers it is slowly making a comeback. The population is estimated at 700 individuals up from the original 36 birds that was rescued in 1964.
I’m back from guiding a trip in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for Arctic Wild which provided incredible support for the clients and me so that we could find the Porcupine Caribou Herd out on the coastal plain. But first we found an incredible rich birdlife. Next to our tents we had this amazing Ruddy Turnstone.
It had a nest with two eggs, out in the middle of the coastal plain. This photograph with a wide-angle lens captures the space that surrounds it.
Finding a large herd of Caribou wasn’t an easy task as they roamed across the plain. But one evening at about midnight we found a group with several thousand Caribou. Yes -they are out there as tiny dots.
The next day we found them again after a challenging river crossing and 2 mile walk across the wet tundra of sedge grasses.
There group spread out for over a mile grazing on the sedge grass, I estimate that there were 20-thousand Caribou, but who knows. I couldn’t count that far, among the constantly moving herd of Caribou.
A curious calf came up to inspect us with its mom in tow. Only a few weeks old they were running across the tundra at amazing speeds.
I went back to the river twice more looking for them. The first time I came back with an empty memory card. The second time I found two males who seemed to be courting the same female.They were quite restless this time and moving around the stream in seemingly random patterns making the photography challenging. Normally I observe which direction they are swimming in and position myself in a location without to many alders and willows blocking the view and wait for them to swim by. This time that tactic was quite futile and I came back with only a handful of useable pictures.
It is mating season and they are back in fast flowing rivers, after spending the winter out on the ocean.
This couple were feeding and navigating the whitewater like expert boaters.
Based on my experience in previous years, the female will soon disappear out of sight hiding on a nest along the river. I’ll be back out there again today to see if I can find them.
I just got back from 5 incredible days in Cordova. It was amazing to watch large flocks of of shorebirds in coordinated flight. All birds would turn at the same time. This flock consisted mostly of Western Sandpipers. Too see more images from the trip go to the gallery.
During high tide the birds often took a nap in tightly packed groups. This flock was Dunlins, Western Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones.
This flock of a few thousand Western Sandpipers landed all around me, with many of the birds only 5 feet away. I got many great shots even if my 600 mm lens didn’t focus close enough. The MFD (minimum focusing distance) is an often overlooked feature of camera lenses. In retrospect I wish I had brought along my extension tube to help with the MFD, but I couldn’t have imagined getting this close.
Semipalmated Plovers were common but mostly seen individually or in small groups.
Face-shots are often better than butt-shots, but there are exceptions to every rule. Black-bellied Plovers.
Least Sandpiper feeding on the upper part of the tidal flats.
Short-billed Dowitchers were feeding on the mudflats along Alaganik slough.
Our good friend, Leo Americus, took us out to sandbars at the south end of Orca Inlet, which had an amazing array and amount of migratory shorebirds, such as Bar-tailed Godwit and several thousand Red Knots.
Of course there were other birds and wildlife as well. Glaucous-winged Gulls, Bald Eagles, and Beavers were other frequent companions.
Oh Yes -we can’t forget that spring was arriving and the Alder bushes were in full bloom.
My most common body position was flat on my belly in the muck. Big thanks to, my wife Nancy for this last flattering picture of me, and our friend Bill Mohrwinkel from Arctic Wild for letting us camp by is cabin and his invaluable birding tips.