Ian Clark: Blog https://www.ianclark.com/blog en-us (C)2019 Ian Clark (Ian Clark) Wed, 24 Feb 2021 19:43:00 GMT Wed, 24 Feb 2021 19:43:00 GMT https://www.ianclark.com/img/s/v-12/u414420394-o321838656-50.jpg Ian Clark: Blog https://www.ianclark.com/blog 86 120 Fi GPS Collar Review – good idea, poor performance. https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/2/fi-gps-collar-review-good-idea-poor-performance We adopted Dexter, then a two-year old Siberian husky last year. He soon taught us that huskies like to run. And will at every opportunity. He’s broken leads, unlatched doors and snuck under a closing garage door to take off.

We ordered a Fi collar which arrived October 16, 2020. First impressions were positive. It seemed well-built and was easy to set up and start tracking Dexter. Unfortunately, our first impressions didn’t hold up.

The first time Dexter got loose with the collar, we activated the ‘lost dog’ mode and went after him. The lost dog mode attempts to update the dog’s position every minute. But, it often failed to update and would retry. We found it often took five or six minutes, and once 11 minutes to update. That long lag between updates isn’t sufficient to track a husky trotting along at better than 15 miles an hour. A six-minute delay could put the dog a mile and a half away! In 11 minutes, he could be 2.75 miles from the last location shown. I doubt even a husky owner can yell to their dog at that range.

The tracking is not entirely useless, dogs don’t run flat out forever. They’ll stop to explore, loop back on their track or slow down to do dog stuff. So, eventually you’ll catch up with the dog. Hopefully, before he gets into trouble.

Dexter’s original tracking module (Fi sells the GPS monitor and also sells the collar band) stopped tracking on December 21, 2020 – after 67 days. Fi support was reasonable, neither fast nor slow. We tried resetting the collar here, Fi reset it on their end. Neither worked and Fi shipped a replacement module. We received it on January 6, 2021 – leaving us without the ability to track Dex for 15 days.

The replacement module set up and tracked properly when we got it. About January 26, the connection between the band and the GPS module started coming apart when Dex was tied on a lead in the yard. We had a couple episodes chasing a GPSless dog while the collar lay on the ground in the yard. By January 29, the band wouldn’t attach to the module.

Fi designed the band to slip into a keyed slot on the module. The module appears to me to be made of white metal. Dexter had twisted the collar to the point that the metal broke and the key would not stay in the slot. Again, I contacted Fi support.

It seemed like every email to Fi brought an email back asking for something different. They wanted photos, I took excellent macro photos of the damaged parts (I used to run NASA’s Photo Section, I know something about photography). They wanted photos with the band ends laid next to each other, and both sides of the module – from a distance which did not give a clear view of the damage. Fine, more photos were taken and sent.

Fi’s response was incredible – they don’t recommend using their collar as a collar. They told me they “recommend using Fi for tracking only. Many pup owners with pullers or larger dogs use Fi with a harness…” This was the first I’d heard it suggested that the collar wasn’t suitable as a collar.  After a few emails, Fi agreed to replace the module again, and to send a new band as the tensioner on the old band had also broken and the collar couldn’t be adjusted to fit. The new module arrived today, February 10, 2021. It set up and attached correctly.

In the 90 days since the first collar arrived, FI has replaced the module twice. The collar was unable to track Dexter for 25 of those 90 days – if he got free, we were unable to track him 28% of the time. Not an impressive record. I’ll use this collar while I look for a replacement.

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(Ian Clark) collar collars fi gps review tracking https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/2/fi-gps-collar-review-good-idea-poor-performance Wed, 10 Feb 2021 22:00:00 GMT
Loon Fight! https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/2/loon-fight Loon families need a sizeable territory to successfully raise their chicks. A loon family with a pair of chicks will eat something like a half ton of (mostly) fish during the season. Loons will fight to defend their territory. One result of the growing loon population is more frequent disputes over territory. Most of these are settled with some vocalization and displays. Some get more serious and some are serious enough to kill one of the combatants. Here are a few shots from an all-out fight on Symes Pond in Ryegate, Vermont in May 2019. The home team was an established pair with a egg in their nest. 

After some posturing, one loon went after another - hard to tell who is whom since they all dress alike. This is the loon being chased, rowing across the water with his wings (or 'oaring' if you're from across the pond). 

Common loon wing rowingCommon loon wing rowingCommon loon involved in a territory dispute wing rowing (wing oaring to our friends across the pond).

Another shot of wing rowing.

Common loon wing rowingCommon loon wing rowingCommon loon involved in a territory dispute wing rowing

Eventually, the chasing loon caught up with the chased and they fought, trying to drown each other. 

Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory Common loons fighting over territoryCommon loons fighting over territoryCommon loons in a fight over territory While watching, I thought that one had succeed in drowning the other. They'd been fighting not far from shore, both went down and only one came up. The second eventually appeared from under some of the brush along the shore. Fighting resumed and one was chased about 25 feet up the shore. It rested there for many minutes before slowly making its way back to the water. Once afloat, it took off and left the pond. I believe the original pair had successfully defended the pond. The pair that remained on the pond laid a second egg and eventually hatched two chicks. 

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(Ian Clark) bird birds common loon common loons fight great northern diver great northern divers loon loon fight loon photos loons loons fighting pictures of loons territory dispute https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/2/loon-fight Mon, 01 Feb 2021 05:45:00 GMT
A Year with Two Huskies https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/1/a-year-with-two-huskies We adopted Dexter & Romeo, then two-year old Siberian huskies, on New Year's Eve 2019. We met The Boys through Patriot Siberian Husky Rescue. They're great dogs and we love 'em to death.

But, they quickly taught us that huskies aren't like other dogs. Sure, some unique husky traits were to be expected. They shed. A lot. More than you'd think possible without their being bald. They shed all year. They're stubborn, they'll think about any command you give them and act on it if they think it is in their best interest. And only if they think it is in their interest. They need to run and wrestle. You can't walk far enough to tire them out. They quickly trained us to take them to the dog park every day. They love to run, wrestle and play in the mud. They look like they're trying to rip the squeaker out of each other, but they're actually very careful to break off if someone says enough. 

You can follow along with their antics on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Dexter.and.Romeo or Instagram @dexter_romeo_huskies. 

They're determined to get through on the run to Nome! Unfortunately, they haven't got a clue which way Nome is..... Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo
Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont

Wipeout! Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo

Dexter winds up to deliver a massive downward CHOMP! Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo

They enjoy singing the song of their people. Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo


Sometimes, even a well-planned sneak attack doesn't work out exactly as planned.... Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont

Dexter is the master of SBF (Snarling Bitch Face)!

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont
 

Dexter jumping because, well because he can!
Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo

Ahhhh, mud!

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont
Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo


Dexter taking time out to prove he's too cool for school. 
Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont

Dex just happy to be romping Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont
Romeo enjoying a day at the beach
Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont

Dexter displaying a certain savoir faire while enjoying his tennis ball. 

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing At Oscar's Dog Park, Newbury Veterinary Clinic, Newbury, Vermont


Make no bones about it, Dex loves a treat.  Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

A dual husky charger. 
Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont
 

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(Ian Clark) dexter dexter & romeo dexter and romeo dogs playing huskies huskies playing husky husky photos pictures of huskies romeo Siberian huskies Siberian husky https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/1/a-year-with-two-huskies Sun, 10 Jan 2021 19:45:00 GMT
2020's Favorite Pix https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/1/2020s-favorite-pix Towards the end of every year, lazy photographers, often prompted by even lazier editors, fill some space with a review of some of their favorite pix from the previous year. I'm a photographer of moderate vitality, so here's my selection of pix from 2020.

 

Harold finch arrived to tell me my number had come up. 

Male house finchMale house finchMale house finch

My name is Indigo Bunting. You filled my feeder. Prepare to dine. 

Indigo buntingIndigo buntingIndigo bunting

Indigo buntingIndigo buntingIndigo bunting
 

Atticus goldfinch on his way to ravage the feeder. 

American goldfinchAmerican goldfinchAmerican goldfinch

Cal Ripken is an unusual visitor to our yard.  Baltimore orioleBaltimore orioleBaltimore oriole, West Newbury, Vermont
Famous Dove didn't bring any BBQ.  Mourning doveMourning doveMourning dove

Orin nuthatch stopped to ponder the mysteries of life. And to decide what was for dinner.  White-breasted nuthatchWhite-breasted nuthatchWhite-breasted nuthatch


Cyrano came by searching for Roxane. 

Rose-breasted grosbeakRose-breasted grosbeakRose-breasted grosbeak

Felix the catbird is a regular visitor. 

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

Looking for some dove love.  Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont
Gordie Howe airing his views.  Red-winged blackbirdsRed-winged blackbirdsRed-winged blackbird

My loons hatched two chicks, one survived to migrate at the end of the season.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire
 


 

Osprey can you see this raptor? OspreyOspreyOsprey OspreyOspreyOsprey


20200812-5320200812-53

Phoebe Snow about to go on a trip to Buffalo. 
Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

Ruby Valentino and his friends entertained us as they fought over the feeders and visited our thistle patch. 
Ruby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbird, West Newbury, Vermont
Ruby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbird, West Newbury, Vermont

Atticus was a regular at the thistle. 
American goldfinchAmerican goldfinchAmerican goldfinch
American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

Seeing this guy always left me sad and bittern.  American bitternAmerican bitternAmerican bittern, North Haverhill, New Hampshire
The 2021 model song sparrows arrived in late summer. 

Song sparrowSong sparrowSong sparrow
And, Adler, fishing at Conowingo. 

Bald eagleBald eagleBald eagles at Conowingo Dam, Darlington, Maryland Bald eagleBald eagleBald eagles at Conowingo Dam, Darlington, Maryland

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(Ian Clark) bald eagle bald eagle fishing bird bird photography birds eagle eastern phoebe goldfinch indigo bunting photos of birds pictures of birds https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2021/1/2020s-favorite-pix Fri, 01 Jan 2021 19:30:00 GMT
Conowingo Dam https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/11/conowingo-dam My travels took me through Aberdeen, Maryland, recently. It was just at the start of eagle season at the Conowingo Dam, so I felt that required a visit. I was able to spend a few hours over a couple days in along with a couple hundred of my closest eagle photographing friends.

The Conowingo Dam dams the Susquehanna River on the line between Cecil and Harford counties, MD. The original town of Conowingo is now under the reservoir above the dam. Conowingo is famous among photographers because something like 250-300 bald eagle winter in the area. The dam keeps the water open. Fish that would prefer to stay deep underwater get stirred up (or even injured) going through the dam and make easy pickings for waiting eagles. The eagles have learned that the lights and siren to alert people that the dam is about to increase the water they're releasing means dinner is served.

Along with the eagles, there is a large flock of black vultures, several varieties of gulls, a gulp of  cormorants and even a pair of peregrine falcons. Photographers new to the dam are allowed to shoot a few pix of the non-eagles before they are roundly abused by their fellow photographers.

Here we've got a black vulture flying over the river. The vultures are a problem for visitors, they've been known to eat windshield wipers and any plastic part of a car they can get their beaks on.

Black vultureBlack vultureA black vulture flying over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam.

The fishing is pretty good for everyone. Here a double-crested cormorant has caught a nice catfish.

A double-crested cormorant with a catfishA double-crested cormorant with a catfishA double-crested cormorant with a catfish just below the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River.
The cormorant on the left has caught itself a good meal, the cormorant on the right would like to take it away.
Double-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fishDouble-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fishDouble-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fish on the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam

But, the real action is the eagles. When I was there, the winter crowd was just beginning to arrive. The local birders estimated somewhere between 50 and 75 eagles had arrived. Many of the eagles were juveniles.

Juvenile bald eagle in flightJuvenile bald eagle in flightA juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam.
Juvenile bald eagle in flightJuvenile bald eagle in flightClose up of a juvenile bald eagle in flight

But, the real attraction is the mature eagles.

Two bald eagles in flightTwo bald eagles in flightTwo bald eagles in flight over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam. Bald eagle in flightBald eagle in flightA bald eagle flying over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam

Bald eagle in flightBald eagle in flightA bald eagle flying over the Susquehanna River just below Conowingo Dam.

Bald eagles often seem more interested in stealing fish from other birds than in doing their own fishing. A successful catch often leads to a chase. Here a couple juveniles tussle over a fish, look closely under their wings and you can see the eagle on the right has dropped what should have been his meal. There were several skirmishes between adults and adults and juveniles, but they usually took the fight over the trees along the river and out of sight.

Juvenile bald eagles squabbling over a fishJuvenile bald eagles squabbling over a fishWith the Conowingo Dam as a backdrop, two juvenile bald eagles tangle over a fish.
There were good views of eagles fishing; this eagle has just started his dive after a fish below:

A bald eagle beginning a dive after a fishA bald eagle beginning a dive after a fishThis bald eagle has spotted a fish in the Susquehanna River below and is starting its dive to catch the fish.

There were several flybys with eagles showing off their catch:

A bald eagle flying with a fishA bald eagle flying with a fishThis bald eagle has just caught a fish from the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam.
A bald eagle flying with a fishA bald eagle flying with a fishThis bald eagle has just caught a fish from the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam.

And, I was lucky enough to catch a few well-lit fishing sequences:

A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
ImageImageImage

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(Ian Clark) bald eagle bald eagles bird birds conowingo conowingo dam eagle eagle fishing eagle flying eagle hunting eagle in flight eagle with fish eagles susquhanna river https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/11/conowingo-dam Wed, 18 Nov 2020 22:55:29 GMT
Finches on the Thistle https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/finches-on-the-thistle The flowers in the Island of Thistley are going to seed and Atticus Finch, et al, are feeding on them regularly.

There are still a few flowers attracting butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. The male hummingbirds have found the flowers, but I haven't gotten a picture yet. The highest count for monarch butterflies in the patch is 14. Here's one sharing a thistle with a ladybug.

Monarch butterflyMonarch butterflyMonarch butterfly and ladybug on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

It was goldfinches that I'd hope to attract when I left the thistle. Now that about a third of the flowers have passed, the finches - Atticus and Scout - have arrived en mass. There's a nyjer seed sock a few feet from the thistle. Between the two, we have a couple dozen goldfinches coming and going. (Their feeder is right next to the hummingbird feeder, things can get kinda hectic at meal time.)

Wise finches take a moment to look over the buffet before diving in.

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

 

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

Once the tastiest looking seeds are identified, the next challenge is to get into position without getting pricked.

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

Once properly positioned, one can dig in!

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont
American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont


American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

American goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistleAmerican goldfinch feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont


American goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

 

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(Ian Clark) american bird birds bull common flower flowers goldfinch goldfinches milk photo photos picture pictures seed seeds thistle https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/finches-on-the-thistle Thu, 27 Aug 2020 16:04:55 GMT
Everyone Loves Thistle! https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/everyone-loves-thistle We leave a patch of our yard for wild plants to help our local wildlife. This year, we've got a good patch of thistle - either 'bull,' 'milk' or 'common,' depending upon who you ask. I've dubbed the patch 'The Island of Thistley.' My wife didn't approve either.

I started leaving the thistle to attract Atticus, our resident goldfinch, and his charm. The goldfinches love the seeds, and they've got lots of company.

Thistles are beautiful plants, even if they have some sticking points. They've got lots of pretty purple flowers. Bull thistle flowersBull thistle flowersBull thistle flowers, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont. (Possibly milk thistle)


The flowers attract lots of pollinators, including several varieties of bees.

Bee feeding on thistle flowerBee feeding on thistle flowerBee feeding on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont

 

 

Bees feeding on thistle flowerBees feeding on thistle flowerBees feeding on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont

We've had a bedstraw hawk-moth, aka galium sphinx, feeding for several days.

Bedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flower,Bedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flower,Bedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flower, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

 

Bedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flowerBedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flowerBedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flower, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

 

Bedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flowerBedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flowerBedstraw hawk-moth or galium sphinx, feeding on thistle flower Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont
And, a kaleidoscope of monarch, swallowtail and a few other butterflies are steady visitors.

Here's a great spangled fritillary. ( I think 'great spangled fritillary' sounds like an exclaimation you'd hear in someplace like Idaho. "Great spangled fritillary, Uncle Fred won the lottery!")

Great spangled fritillary butterfllyGreat spangled fritillary butterfllyGreat spangled fritillary butterflly feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

Great spangled fritillary butterfllyGreat spangled fritillary butterfllyGreat spangled fritillary butterflly feeding on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont
A black swallowtail put in an appearance.

Eastern black swallowtail butterflyEastern black swallowtail butterflyEastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), West Newbury, Vermont

We've got a good group of monarchs, I've counted 12 at the busiest time.
 

Monarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont
Monarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont

Monarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont

Monarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flowerMonarch butterfly on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont
The thistle is not far from our hummingbird feeder. The hummingbirds sometimes take a break from squabbling over the feeder to feed on the thistle. So far, I've seen only females feeding on the thistle, hope the males will get around to joining them.

Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on bull thistle flowers, West Newbury, Vermont

Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on bull thistle flowers, West Newbury, Vermont

Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowersFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on bull thistle flowers, West Newbury, Vermont

Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowerFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flowerFemale ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on thistle flower, West Newbury, Vermont

And even the goldfinches - the ones I left the thistle for - have started showing up. Only a few flowers have gone to seed, we should get more finches as the rest of the flowers pass.

American goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

American goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistleAmerican goldfinch on thistle, West Newbury, Vermont

 

American goldfinchAmerican goldfinchAmerican goldfinch

American goldfinchAmerican goldfinchAmerican goldfinch

Stay tuned, I'll keep watching the thistle to see who else may show up.

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(Ian Clark) american bird birds bull butterflies butterfly common england feeding finch finches flight flower flowers goldfinch goldfinches hampshire hummingbird hummingbirds in milk monarch monarchs new ruby-throated thistle vermont https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/everyone-loves-thistle Fri, 21 Aug 2020 01:04:35 GMT
Checking in on Our Loon Family https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/checking-in-on-our-loon-family I was lucky enough to get to spend two mornings on the pond with the loons this week. Tuesday morning had a very pleasant surprise.

When I got to their pond, the loons were at the west end, I headed to the spot they like to forage on the east side of the pond. As the fog began to lift, both parents showed up. But, there was only one chick with them.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick

There are lots of threats to loon chicks and while sad, I wasn't too surprised.  Mom and dad were both keeping busy feeding the chick.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon with food for chick

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon feeding chick

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon feeding chick

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

 

The chick is still learning what is and what isn't food. This pine cone got a good thrashing before being discarded as inedible.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick

Loon chicks poke and nibble their parents around the neck and breast when they're hungry.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

After breakfast, it was time for some preening.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick preening

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick preening

The loons headed back west on the pond, I went exploring to see who else might still be around. The swamp is a quiet place, not a grackle or red-winged blackbird to be found. There were just a handful of sparrows and phoebes around.

Eastern PhoebeEastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

Pileated woodpeckers are my nemesis bird - I just can't seem to get a good pic of one. Three pileateds were working trees along the pond. True to form, they mocked me, hiding behind brush or staying on the far side of the tree. This guy goofed and came into the open for a couple seconds.

Common loonCommon loonPileated woodpecker

The loons caught up with me at the west end of the pond. And there was a great surprise. The second chick was alive and well! He'd(?) foraging on his own. He stretched and headed over to greet the rest of the family.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick stretching

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick stretching

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick yawning

There was another round of preening before everyone settled in for a nap. A good preening session requires a good stretch when completed.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon stretching

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(Ian Clark) baby birds chick chicks common common loon common loons diver divers great great northern diver great northern divers loon loon baby loon chick photos loon chick pictures loons northern of photos pictures https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/checking-in-on-our-loon-family Fri, 14 Aug 2020 14:34:16 GMT
Breakfast with the Loon Chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/breakfast-with-the-loon-chicks I got a chance to check in on 'my' loon family Thursday morning. Both chicks seem to be doing well, they're big, their feathers are growing in and they're diving and foraging on their own - as well as being well-fed by their parents.

Our pond was a tough place to be a fish Thursday morning. There were two osprey patrolling the pond. It looked like one was a juvenile and was pestering a parent to be fed (I'm pretty sure I heard the parent say 'Get your own darned fish!').

The parent had a good perch to watch the pond.

OspreyOspreyOsprey

I must have looked sorta fishy.....

20200806-590Osprey in FlightAn osprey in flight over a pond in the Upper Connecticut River Valley.

 

One of the adult loons was up before the rest of the family, cruising around the pond before flying off on some errand.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon in fog

The rest of our loon family took their time getting up and around. One of the little guys started off with an impressive yawn.  

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

The parent on babysitting duty started them off with a tasty appetizer.

20200806-95720200806-957Common loon feeding chicks

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon feeding chick

The parent soon got serious about feeding the chicks and went after much larger fish.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon feeding chicks

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon feeding chicks

The chicks are capable of swallowing fish nearly as long as they are.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick feeding

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick feeding

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick feeding

20200806-40120200806-401Common loon chick feeding

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick feeding

After feeding, all of the loons spent several minutes preening.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick preening

With their feathers all fluffed and properly aligned, they chicks looked very sleek.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon chick

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(Ian Clark) birds chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick photos loon chick pictures pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/8/breakfast-with-the-loon-chicks Fri, 07 Aug 2020 21:13:50 GMT
Another Morning With The Loons https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/another-morning-with-the-loons Tuesday morning found me back out with our loon family. We had a dark, cloudy start to the morning, but the sun broke through by the time the loons got going with their day.

One of our parents taking a break during preening to have a look around. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon

Both chicks appear to be doing well, they're growing quickly. Both were active and eager to feed. I parked my kayak near the shallow water where they've been feeding. It didn't take long before they came over and started scrounging up breakfast. This little guy seemed curious about me.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon

The parents made many forays for food for the chicks. Here's one with a horned pout for the chicks. This is the first time I've seen a parent kill (or at least seriously wound) food for the chicks. Usually they deliver it alive, often dropping it in the water in front of the chick to let the chick practice hunting.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,
This parent is trying to deliver what appears to be a pickerel to the chicks, but let it slip. It had to be relocated and grabbed again.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,
The parent drops the fish back in the water and the chick looks for it.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon


The chick has caught the fish and is working to get it down.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
Here's another delivery, this time a small enough fish to swallow easily.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
One chick managed to hunt down a leaf all on its own.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
The leaf received a good thrashing, but still turned out not to be tasty. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire
The chicks are both preening and cleaning feathers regularly.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
Here's a chick reaching back to rub his uropygial gland. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
But, mostly, the chicks spent the morning just being cute. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon

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(Ian Clark) chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick loon chick on back loon chick photos loon chick pictures loon chicks pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/another-morning-with-the-loons Wed, 08 Jul 2020 19:43:44 GMT
Ruby Valentino on Guard https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/ruby-valentino-on-guard We've got a hummingbird feeder just off our deck. It is a favored feeding spot for the neighborhood hummingbirds. There is always competition between a few males to protect the feeder. This afternoon, Ruby Valentino claimed the feeder and stood guard protecting it.

He's on a perch we've clipped to the feeder pole. He's kind of dull when the sun isn't on his throat.
Ruby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbird, West Newbury, Vermont

His colors really pop when he turns back into the sun.

Ruby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbirdRuby-throated hummingbird, West Newbury, Vermont

There are at least three female hummingbirds coming and going with his approval. We love watching them swoop and buzz each other when another male appears.

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(Ian Clark) bird birds hummer hummers humminbird hummingbird hummingbirds ruby-throated https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/ruby-valentino-on-guard Mon, 06 Jul 2020 20:49:45 GMT
Friday Morning with the Loons https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/friday-morning-with-the-loons Our little loon family spent a mostly quiet morning on their Upper Valley pond this morning. Everyone slept in a bit before mom and dad went to work to deliver breakfast. The chicks are growing quickly and doing well in their studies to be loons.

With an iffy weather forecast and a couple appointment scheduled for this morning, I debated if I should head out. My wife was up early to head to King Arthur to make bread and I got up and peeked out. Seeing lots of stars, I started packing up. My trusty mouse sidekick turns out not to be so trusty and was nowhere to be found. His cousin, Thelonious chipmunk, did greet me in the garage. Apparently my service at the feeder is not up to snuff and Theo let himself in and was busy redistributing sunflower seeds from the bag to the corners of the garage. After we had a discussion about this, Theo was not in a mood to accompany me.

I put the kayak in just as the sun cleared the trees on the pond. I needed have hurried, our family was sleeping in. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon

After a bit, they began to stretch and stir.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon The chicks seemed interested in breakfast, so mom and dad went to work. There is a shallow section of the pond with a variety of water plants. This provides shelter for lots of fry, crayfish, bugs and frogs. Mom and dad headed in through the plants - something I've never seen before - to see what they could find. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Both parents were very successful catching and delivering a number of fish. Here's one diving to forage
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Delivering the goods Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

You never know where a loon might surface. I was watching this chick when a delivery arrived. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Breakfast was briefly interrupted when another pair of loons flew over the pond. They stayed high above the pond and all the adults called as they passed overhead. There were also a trio of crows (ravens maybe?) that spotted a pair of kingbirds feeding their fledged chicks. The crows went after one, which brought four or five pairs of kingbirds to the fray. The crows talked a lot, but it looked like they went away hungry. Both our loon parents stopped to watch the action.

Back to our chicks. They act like siblings, playing nicely sometimes:

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,
And sometimes squabbling:

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Here a chick gives a good stretch. I've heard it suggested that loons waive their feet in the air to cool themselves. Not sure what to make of that, water should be a better coolant. My guess is that this is just a way to stretch. Look at the size of that foot, that's a lot of surface area to push water to move such a small bird. This shot also gives a good view of how far back a loon's legs are - that's the reason they can't walk very well.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Might as well stretch a wing while we're at it. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Loons have a small gland, called the uropygial gland, near the base of their tail. This secretes an oil that helps waterproof their feathers. They preen regularly to coat their feathers with this oil. Here, one of the parents is rubbing its head against the gland and then over its body.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Preening also involves running their bill through their feathers to clean them and spread the oil. Note the chick watching and mimicking - he's learning how to loon.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

He's catching on. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,


The water drops on this chick's back give a pretty clear view of how water beads up on their feathers rather than sinking in.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

The chicks spent some time working their wings. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

And practicing diving. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

The loons had good timing. As it was getting close to time for me to leave, they finished up with breakfast and preening and headed off for first naps.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

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(Ian Clark) chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick loon chick on back loon chick photos loon chick pictures loon chicks pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/7/friday-morning-with-the-loons Sat, 04 Jul 2020 01:11:20 GMT
Sunday Morning with the Loons https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/sunday-morning-with-the-loons Both loon chicks seemed to be doing well Sunday morning. Their pond was a relatively quiet place. The only time the parents seemed alerted was when a pack of coyotes started talking just west of the pond.

The parents spent much of the morning bringing chick-bite-sized morsels to the chicks.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Sometimes, the parents were overly ambitious. Here's one with a bass fingerling that must outweigh the chicks:

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

The chicks were exploring the world and learning to loon. These wing things must do something.... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

Mom and dad were leaving the little guys for longer and longer periods as they foraged.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

But the chicks were content to ride along when they had the opportunity Common loonCommon loonCommon loon,

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(Ian Clark) chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick loon chick on back loon chick photos loon chick pictures loon chicks pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/sunday-morning-with-the-loons Tue, 30 Jun 2020 23:37:03 GMT
Saturday's Loon Update, June 27, 2020 https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/saturdays-loon-update-june-27-2020 Saturday morning, I loaded up the kayak and got ready to head out. I whistled for my trusty mouse, but he must have been already engaged. Off I went to the pond to check up on the chicks. Both chicks were out and patrolling with their parents. The chicks have mastered looking majestic as they ride along.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

The chicks were riding along on, or near when they fell off, one parent while the other foraged in the shallows for chick-sized meals. Loons aren't very diligent about remembering they're carrying chicks. They'll often stretch, dive or just stretch a wing with the chicks onboard. This often tosses the chick overboard.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Here, we've got the parent heading back to the chicks with what appears to be a perch fry. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

This chick seems ready to be fed
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

 

Both chicks seem to be doing well. Both are active, feeding eagerly and exploring the world. One of them seems unconvinced that the parents aren't edible. The older chick was pulling on a parent's feathers yesterday and tried to grab a parent's eye when the parent offered food. At least one of the chicks was still exploring the possibilities of eating feathers. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Stay tuned, I'll be visiting with them more as I have a chance.

 

Notes on my camera gear. I'm using a Canon 600mm on an EOS 7D II. Today, we never had full sun, so my settings were something like ISO 800, 1/1250th at F6.3. The images are very cropped.

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(Ian Clark) chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick loon chick on back loon chick photos loon chick pictures loon chicks pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/saturdays-loon-update-june-27-2020 Sat, 27 Jun 2020 20:11:31 GMT
Meet the Upper Valley's Newest Loons https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/meet-the-upper-valleys-newest-loon Thursday started with a beautiful early summer morning. I set sail in my kayak enjoying the solitude on an Upper Valley Pond. Solitude was temporary - I soon realized that a mouse had stowed away in the kayak and was along for the ride. He must have climbed aboard while the kayak was sitting in the yard. He retreated back behind the bulkhead in the bow and settled in for the ride. 

My goal was to check in on a pair of loons that have been on the nest for over three weeks. I'm not going to say where, over the last couple years a couple of birders following my posts have harassed the loons I've posted (and me).

When I checked the nest, there was one loon sitting peacefully on the nest, the second was resting not far from the nest. They didn't Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire seem to be up to much, so I wandered off to see who might else be about. The usual suspects were easy to find. A sparrow belting out a song, red-winged blackbirds squawking about whatever it is that makes them squawk, grackle fledglings chasing mom around demanding to be fed. Kingbirds and phoebes nabbing dragonflies, a trio of chipmunks chasing each other, interrupted by regular breaks for snacks. There didn't appear to be many exciting photo opportunities and decided I should be at my desk.  Before leaving, I figured I'd try to catch a nest exchange to see how many eggs the loons have.

My passenger ventured out from the bow, looked around a bit and decided he was better off tucked away.

My timing was good for the loons. As I got settled in the brush to watch the nest, they swapped. It was quick, one left and the other immediately climbed onto the nest.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire
The exchange was quick enough that I didn't get a good view of the eggs. I saw only one egg and was a bit disappointed. Then I noticed there was a chick in the water to the right of the nest - well hidden by the water lilies. Looking at the photos, it sure looks like there are still two intact eggs in the nest. Loons usually have only one or two, so it is likely that one is the shell from the hatched chick. We'll see in coming days. (Friday update - a second chick has hatched. The lilies in front of the nest are placed perfectly to block my view of any remaining eggs.)

After the exchange, the new nest sitter turned the eggs. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire The chick in the water must have decided that the world was too much to tackle today, and climbed back into the nest. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire You can see it between the water lily leaves by the parent's tail below.

 


 

 

The parent that left the nest returned shortly with a small fish for the chick,  with a dragonfly escort.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After feeding the chick, the parent wandered off to forage for his own breakfast. The parent on the nest settled in for a nap. I headed home to release the mouse. He was acceptable company, but it seemed he must have errands of his own.

Friday morning, I was up well before dawn and on the water. I beached the kayak in the cove where the nest is and settled in to wait. One parent was on the nest, the other babysitting nearby. They all slept in a bit, making me wonder I'd started so early. The mouse must not have been an early riser, he was a no show.

Eventually the parents got down to parenting. The babysitter - I suspect it was dad, he kept forgetting he had a chick on his back when he wanted to stretch or dive - started rustling up some breakfast. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

A hawk flew over calling which upset the parents. The babysitter herded the chick back to the nest, eventually corralling the chick back into the nest and under wing. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

After a bit, the parents relaxed and swapped nest duty. I got a brief glimpse of a newly hatched chick in the nest. The chick was tempted off the nest with the promise of more breakfast. While waiting between servings, the chick practiced all the important loon skills. He tried out his wings: Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

And tried to master diving:

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

After he managed to dive, he needed to figure out how to avoid surfacing under the water lilies: Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

There was more excitement as the babysitter spotted a snapping turtle surfaced only ~20 feet from the chick. The parent dove, there was a commotion underwater, then the parent herd the chick away from where the turtle had been before resuming foraging.

Left along again, the chick was curious about why I was clicking and took a good look at me: Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire
The parent foraging for second breakfast was ambitious, but unclear on the concept of volume. After several small offerings, the chick got to tackle a snack fit for a king: Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Stay tuned for more of their adventures. 

Notes on camera gear; these were taken with a Canon 600mm lens on a crop body - effectively a 960mm lens on a standard 35mm body. The camera was an EOS 7D II, in manual mode in RAW. In full sun the settings are ISO 500, 1/1600th at F8.

Sorry about the odd line spacing. The blogging software is doing something I don't understand and don't have time to figure out right now.

 

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(Ian Clark) chick chicks common loon common loons great northern diver great northern divers loon baby loon chick loon chick on back loon chick photos loon chick pictures loon chicks loon nest loons nesting pictures of loon chicks https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/6/meet-the-upper-valleys-newest-loon Sat, 27 Jun 2020 00:17:39 GMT
The Usual Suspects, May 2020 https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/the-usual-suspects-may-2020 My feeders have been attracting all the usual suspects, plus a few that visit less frequently. Baltimore orioleBaltimore orioleBaltimore oriole, West Newbury, Vermont

Cal Ripken stops in a few times early every season to raid the suet. Here, he's checking out the new suet feeder to see if it is worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rose-breasted grosbeakRose-breasted grosbeakRose-breasted grosbeak

Cyrano and Roxane stopped by to add a little panache to the yard. Roxane claimed the feeder, everyone else had to scrounge elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple finchPurple finchPurple finch I caught Harold spying on me. He said my number had come up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-breasted nuthatchWhite-breasted nuthatchWhite-breasted nuthatch Orin was hanging around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American goldfinchAmerican goldfinchAmerican goldfinch

Sometimes, Atticus just likes to be seen out and about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

Felix stopped by to say he was in a fix, and did I have a bag of tricks handy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning doveMourning doveMourning dove

Coo Hand Luke did some hard time in the yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Indigo buntingIndigo buntingIndigo bunting

 

My name is Indigo Bunting. You filled my feeder. Prepare to dine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter and RomeoDexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo playing in the yard, Clark Homestead, West Newbury, Vermont

 

 

 

 

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(Ian Clark) Atticus Baltimore birds bunting Cyrano dove feeder goldfinch grosbeak indigo mourning nuthatch Orin oriole songbirds white-breasted https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/the-usual-suspects-may-2020 Fri, 22 May 2020 20:00:40 GMT
A Welcome Visitor https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/a-welcome-visitor Indigo buntingIndigo buntingIndigo bunting

My name is Indigo Bunting. You filled my feeder. Prepare to dine.

We have a handful of indigo buntings in the neighborhood every spring. For a couple weeks after they return, they're regular visitors to my feeders. They're a welcome change from all the Little Brown Jobbies, pigeons, grackles and jays.

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(Ian Clark) birds bunting feeder indigo pic pretty songbirds https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/a-welcome-visitor Tue, 19 May 2020 20:23:21 GMT
Huskies in Action! https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/huskies-in-action Huskies provide lots and lots of photo opportunities. But the best ones can be tricky to capture. Let’s take a look at what we need to get great action photos. Dexter and Romeo the Siberian Huskies playing in the snow. Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo the Siberian Huskies playing in the snow in Newbury, Vermont, US.

Let’s look at the challenges. First, we’re dealing with huskies. They’re going to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. And, when they’re in motion they’re fast – very fast. We’re going to need fancier gear than our cell phone.

For the sharpest action shots, you’re going to need a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) or a mirrorless camera that lets you set your shutter speed, lens aperture and ISO.  And a telephoto or long zoom lens. Something in the 70-200mm range. I shoot mostly with Canon EOS 7D Mark 2 bodies and my Canon 70-200mm F2.8. That’s fancy gear, great if you’ve got the budget, but you can get great pix with paying nearly as much.

The Technical Bits

Dexter, the faster of our two huskies really moves when he pours it on. My experience shooing fast things suggests he approaches 25 mph. To stop action that fast, we need to use a fast shutter speed.  We’ll adjust everything else to take that into account.

Let’s try using the manual mode first. Put your camera in manual and set your shutter speed. For my boys running, I use at least 1/2500th of a second, faster when I can. Try experimenting with 1/2500th, 1/3,200th and 1/4,000th. The younger the dog, the higher speed you’re likely to need. (If your camera doesn’t have those exact shutter speeds, try what’s close, like a 1/2,000th or 1/5,000th of a second.)

Next, we need to set our ISO to something like 800 or 1,000. This tells the camera how much light the sensor needs to properly expose the image. We want to use a high enough ISO to get the shutter speed we need without getting too much noise. If you’re pictures are dark, raise the ISO to 1,600 or higher.

The next thing we need to set is the aperture – the size of the opening in your lens. You want to be towards the biggest opening (the smallest number on the lens). Your zoom probably has F4, F5.6 or F6.3 as the largest opening. Set your lens to F5.6 if you can. If you don’t have F5.6, go with the smallest number you’ve got.

If your camera let’s you set the number of pictures it takes in a second, set it to the highest setting. If you can’t don’t worry.

Last, we need to set your autofocus. You want to use the tracking mode on your camera. For Canon, that’s AI Servo, for Nikon it is AF-C. If you have a different brand, it has the setting, you may need to search to discover what it is called. If you have the option to set which focus points you use, try setting a zone in the center of the image. If you can’t do that, use all the focus points. If your camera doesn’t have this option, you’re fine, it will do the work.

Try a few shots. Look at the images on the back of your camera. Do they look dark? If they do, increase your ISO or lower your shutter speed. If they’re light, increase your shutter speed. These settings should work well in sunlight or bright overcast. You’ll need to adjust for heavy overcast days.

 

The Pretty Pix Bits

Now you’re ready to get your pix. There are lots of simple things you can do to make them more dramatic. Best of all, they’re free 😉

Get down to look your doggies in the eye. Get low, kneeling is good, laying down is great. Pick a position where the dogs will be active in front of you. For really crisp action shots, bright sun is best. Set up with the sun off to one side or the other a little bit. You want your dog’s face lit as they run towards you, but with the sun far enough over to get a bit of shadow on the darker side. (Of course, the best expressions will come with the dogs facing the wrong way. That’s part of the fun.) Dexter and RomeoDexter and Romeo

Make sure you’re close enough to where the dogs play to fill a big part of the picture with dog. But, leave yourself some room – they’re going to jump or bolt to one side quickly. If you’ve left some space around them, you’ll still get them in the frame.

Find a place to shoot where you get a clean background. No trashcans, parked cars, whatever. I’m lucky that our dog park is on a slope. I shoot looking up hill, the background is nothing but out of focus grass.


Follow your dogs as they play – with your finger pressing down far enough on the shutter button to activate the camera without taking the picture. This will keep the camera focused on the dogs.

There’s a lag between when you decide to take a picture and the time your finger presses the button and a further lag for the shutter to open. That means you have to press the shutter before you see the expression you want to capture. Watch your dogs carefully for a while. You’ll soon learn to predict when they’re about to do what you want to capture. (This, of course, is far from foolproof. You’ll waste lots of shots. Better to take shots you throw away than to miss the ones you want.)

The best expressions or actions happen very, very fast. My camera shoots ten frames every second. Lots of the pix of the boys show action that lasts for less than a quarter of a second. Getting the best shots requires shooting a lot and a bit of luck. Mostly shooting a lot. I shoot at least a couple hundred shots each time we go to the park.

Pictures of your dogs doing something are the most fun. Yes, you want a nice headshot for a pic on your nightstand, but the real gold is when they’re in action. I’m lucky that my boys race around the park a couple laps, then settle in to wrestling. They’ll try to tear each other apart for many minutes, giving me lots of opportunities for action shots. Find some way to get yours playing if he won’t self-start. Give him a favorite toy or toss some kibble up in the air to get him going. They’re huskies, it shouldn’t take much to get them in motion.
 

After the Photo Session

You’re going to need to edit your photos a bit before you’re ready to show them. There are lots of options for editing programs, picking one is for another article. (For the record, I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.) Dexter and Romeo the Siberian Huskies in action.Dexter and RomeoDexter claims all the best folks will be wearing husky butts this season. This was a very fleeting pose. I was following The Boys with the camera taking pictures before Romeo tried to jump over Dexter. By the time I saw this, it was over.

Go through the pix and toss out the ones featuring dog buts, half a dog, the sky or your thumb. For me, that’s usually about half of what I shoot. Pick a few of the shots where you’ve got good action and focus. You’ll probably want to crop them a bit to get closer to the action. You may need to make adjustments to the exposure and/color. Again, the details are for another article.

The secret to being thought a great photographer is to remember that people judge you by the photos you show them, not the photos you take. 99%+ of my shots never get seen by anyone but me. By just showing the good ones, I’m usually able to fool people into thinking I’m pretty good.

You need to take care of the talent. After the photo session make sure your buddies get a nice treat and a long belly rub.

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(Ian Clark) action DexterRomeo dogs huskies husky photo tips pets photo photographing dogs in action photographing huskies in action photos tips https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/huskies-in-action Tue, 19 May 2020 19:57:15 GMT
Four Quick Bird Photo Tips https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/four-quick-bird-photo-tips 20170527-8020170527-80

Here’s a pretty photo of a male Eastern bluebird with four quick photography lessons.

First, you don’t need fancy gear or to travel to exotic locations for good wildlife photos.  This was taken while I was sitting on my deck. A pair of bluebirds were raising chicks along the edge of my lawn. They would hunt insects over and on the lawn. I stuck a stick in the ground to give them a perch. They promptly took advantage of the perch and I got my photo.

The next lesson is to try and get the wildlife doing something. Seeing this guy with food in his mouth tells a story. You know he has a nest with chicks nearby and he’s hunting to feed them. That gives us a more interesting image that just the bird alone.

The third lesson from this image is to keep it simple. Here we’ve got a bird on a stick. There’s a nice, clean background and nothing in the foreground to distract your attention from the bird. Try to frame your photos to avoid anything that you don’t want viewers to look at instead of the subject. 

The fourth lesion is simply to be ready to enjoy encounters with wildlife anywhere at any time. Vermont has lots of fascinating wildlife, pay attention and you’ll find photo opportunities all over the place.

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(Ian Clark) bird bluebirds nature photo photos songbirds tips https://www.ianclark.com/blog/2020/5/four-quick-bird-photo-tips Tue, 19 May 2020 16:59:44 GMT