Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Further adventures in bad bird photography

They're just too far away, and I still haven't found the time to invest in improving my digiscoping setup.

A pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) made their first appearance of the season on Thanksgiving day, but then were absent until well into December. Now they're a regular fixture, and we wake up to several of them almost every morning.

Once it's light and we start moving around outside, the Mergansers get shy. They normally paddle to the far end of the pond first, but by the time the ducks, chickens, and dog are fed, the Mergansers have usually made themselves scarce. We've never seen them arrive in the afternoon, yet by the next morning they've usually returned. I have no idea if it's the same individuals or different ones. The number varies from day to day.

Our most exciting new yard bird, a Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)! Three of them swooped in late one afternoon before Christmas. Hubby yelled to bring the camera, and he ran for the scope. I only got off two bad shots before they rounded the bend and were out of sight.

We decided to leave them in peace in hopes that they'd stay a while, but by the next morning they were gone and have not returned.


Anonymous said...

Nice shots. It's tough, even with a big lens I think.

Karen Schmautz said...

I think those photos are pretty cool. I've never seen a bird like that.

robin andrea said...

I love Hooded Mergansers. Whenever I see them, they make me so happy. The male is just beautiful-- for having colors as simple as brown, black, and white.

Cool Snipe. That's definitely a new one for me.

R.Powers said...

Mergansers, look beautiful, taste terrible.

Marie said...

It is like a breath of fresh air to read your blog again...been away and glad I'm back.

Crowe said...

Snipes are common in some parts of Britain (marshy parts, and moorland). They are charming birds that have a comical feeding style, which involves rhythmically punching their straw-like beak into mud as they wade around. Do you get curlews as well in your part of the world?

Rurality said...

Thanks y'all.

Jerry some people seem to get great bird shots without a lot of fancy camera equipment, but I'm not one of them!

Hick I never noticed them before becoming interested in birds. But they are actually fairly common in farm ponds here this time of year. They can raise and lower that crest, which is fun to watch. They dive for fish - makes me wish we had an underwater game camera too!

RD I know what you mean. That crest going up and down makes me laugh! I only wish they were not so shy. (If I were getting shot at I guess I'd be shy too though.)

FC, I would imagine! I've never eaten any wild duck, but I've heard that the ones that eat fish (like the Merganser) are... not good.

Thanks Marie! I think I was having blogging withdrawals when I was so busy around Christmas time. It's good to be back - glad you're back too.

Sara, they are like little sewing machines, huh?! We don't normally get curlews here, but there is one lone long-billed curlew who regularly shows up on the lawn at the Battleship park in Mobile (on the Alabama coast). I'm not sure if he's still a regular fixture though - haven't been down that way in several years now.

Anonymous said...

I remember my first "snipe-hunt".

The Scoutmasters were (secretly) in stitches while 25-or-so hapless kids milled about through the woods at night with pillowcases and sticks.

Great mergansers!

Anonymous said...

That snipe pic is cool -- arty, and it does capture how cryptic snipe can be. They show up here, but (within limits) I never know where or when I'll see one. It's funny when we see them and non-birders are around, like a few months ago at the Cosumnes River preserve. I think some people believe snipe don't actualy exist, that they're mythical, because of the old saw about going on a snipe hunt.

I mean, they do ... so do wild geese, of the wild goose chase.

We just ran down to Aquatic Park the other day to see the pair of hooded mergansers who've been hanging out there, probably the same pair that comes every winter recently. They were floating around right out in public that day, in a heavily trafficked park next to a freeway, but much of the time they hang out under some trailing cypress branches where they can't be seen.

I'm not sure what they were saying, but both were semaphoring like mad with those crests.

Rurality said...

Yep I thought the same thing - no such thing as snipe - until I got interested in birdwatching. I was also surprised that there was really a bird such as the cuckoo... and not just in clocks!