PAUL ROEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

Wildlife and Nature Photography

Posts tagged ‘Paul Roedding Photography’

Good Birding Report: London, Ontario
November 10 – 17, 2017

The movements of Cedar Waxwings can be incredibly predictable during the month of November. I often find flocks of these birds each year in the same fruit trees.

The movements of Cedar Waxwings can be incredibly predictable during the month of November. I often find flocks of these birds each year in the same fruit trees.

I have always enjoyed birding in November. Sure the big push of migrants has already moved through and the weather can be fickle at best, but great birding opportunities exist for a variety of species. It is at this time of year that I have some of the best views of Cedar Waxwings as their movements can be extremely predictable.

With seasonal temperatures not conducive to insect activity, waxwings are easily located feeding on fruit. Find fruit trees and you will most likely find waxwings. That being said, be extra observant when searching for Cedar Waxwings in November. During spring and summer months waxwings will regularly give away their location with their high-pitched whistles, but at this time of year they tend to remain almost silent as they gorge themselves on berries. 

With most of the leaves now gone from the trees, locating birds is less challenging and one of the many things I like about birding in November.

With most of the leaves now gone from the trees, locating birds is less challenging and one of the many things I like about birding in November.

This week I decided to check one of my favourite locations for finding Cedar Waxwings and in particular a few specific trees. Sure enough, as in previous Novembers, waxwings were present. Also observed among the sizable flock of Cedar Waxwings were large numbers of American Robins also enjoying the bounty of fruit.

As I watched this feeding frenzy I heard the occasional soft call of a robin and the odd whistle from a waxwing, but otherwise this group of hundreds of birds was silent. Cedar Waxwings will not remain in one area long at this time of year though, as once the berries are gone so too will the birds. Finding more fruit trees in areas that are close by and following the flock is key to achieving continued views over the course of the month. 

Bald Eagle activity increases along the Thames River in London, Ontario during the month of November.

This Bald Eagle was observed along the Thames River in Springbank Park. This is one of my favourite sections of river for observing these majestic raptors all winter long.

November is also when Bald Eagle activity along the Thames River in London, Ontario begins to increase. Eagles that have migrated from our north are often attracted to the river due the fact many sections remain open year round, offering a sustainable food supply throughout the winter months. Combine this with the local population consisting of many first year birds from several nest sites in the area and chances of spotting a Bald Eagle along the river are pretty good. This week I had great views of a mature eagle as it flew downstream in Springbank Park. 

This Blue Jay was one of the many birds I have observed so far during the month of November.

This Blue Jay added a touch of colour to an otherwise grey day.

Other plentiful birds around the Forest City in the past seven days were Blue Jays. These birds are often quite vocal revealing their whereabouts making them an easy bird to locate. Speaking of vocal birds, I was treated to great views of a male Red-bellied Woodpecker as it called from high up in a dead tree. Northern Cardinals were yet another songbird heard long before they were seen. 

With the leaves off the trees in November, birds like this Red-bellied Woodpecker are much easier to locate.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker takes a break from trying to extract a meal from beneath the bark of a dead tree.

Waterfowl numbers on the Thames River really seemed to increase this week, with mostly Canada Geese and Mallards observed. I always look closely at these large flocks for any ducks that look slightly different as November is when I often find the odd Gadwall or other dabbler mixed in with all the Mallards. This week I did locate an American Black Duck/Mallard hybrid while birding along the river. Within the next month, good numbers of overwintering waterfowl including mergansers and Common Goldeneye will appear on the river for another season. 

This male Northern Cardinal was busy foraging on seeds that had fallen to the ground.

This male Northern Cardinal was busy foraging on cedar seeds that had fallen to the ground.

If you are not convinced that great birding opportunities are available throughout the month of November, I encourage you to get out and give it a try. Resident birds are always abundant and overwintering species will continue to arrive in the area as the weeks progress. Dress accordingly to the day’s predicted forecast and always be prepared for rain or wet snow as weather in November can change at a moment’s notice. Be extra observant as sometimes birds can be right in front of you while not making a sound, as evidenced by the Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings are just one of the many songbirds I target at this time of year.

Cedar Waxwings are just one of the many songbirds I target at this time of year.

Birding in November has always been rewarding for me and is why I look forward to the change in weather so much. I think if you visit your favourite natural area this month you too will agree November birding is incredibly rewarding. 

Good birding,
Paul 

*If you were unable to attend one of my November workshops, I have added more dates in January. If you were able to participate, I have added a couple of new workshops that might interest you as well. Please view my upcoming events for more details.*

Taking Advantage Of The Full Moon For Rutting White-tailed Deer

A large male White-tailed Deer standing in a forest.

Fall is a great time to observe White-tailed Deer in Southwestern Ontario.

After the rush of fall migration has passed, I often switch my focus to photographing White-tailed Deer. Fall is mating season, also known as the rut, for these large mammals making them highly active at this time of year. Unlike other times of the year when deer are more active at dusk and dawn, during the rut White-tailed Deer are easily located during daylight hours. Large bucks are often observed at close range as they are less wary of humans during the rut as they have only one thing on their mind. 

White-tailed Deer crossing the path only a few metres in front of me.

During the rut, I try to keep my distance from White-tailed Deer as they can be aggressive at this time of year. This particular buck crossed the path only a few meters in front of me.

Research suggests the second full moon following the fall equinox triggers the peak of the rut in White-tailed Deer. With last Friday’s full moon being said moon, I grabbed my camera and headed to the woods in search of some White-tailed Deer.

White-tailed doe.

This doe garnered the attention of several bucks.

Making my way into the woods the imprints of fresh deer tracks were present in the mud, and I knew that the day’s target species couldn’t be too far ahead. A short distance down the trail rustling in the bushes caught my attention as the first White-tailed buck of the day came into view.

Raising may camera I took several photos as this was a decent sized buck with an imposing set of antlers. As he crossed the trail in front of me, a doe behind him was observed grazing on vegetation. A few minutes passed and a smaller buck came into view. The first buck quickly turned and chased the second buck out of the area. 

A young male White-tailed Deer with a small set of antlers.

Not all of the bucks on this day had impressive antlers. Several younger bucks were mixed in with the herd.

Doubling back on the trail to not disturb this pair, I made my down another trail. Hearing more rustling in the bushes another buck passed only a few meters in front of me presumably chased by the first buck encountered. Making my way deeper into the woods, several more bucks of various sizes were observed. Some were young bucks with only small antlers while other were mature bucks displaying more remarkable antlers.   

White-tailed Deer foraging in the grass.

This past week I had great views of several bucks demonstrating their typical rutting behavior.

In total, six bucks were observed in this small area all within sight of each other. Mixed in with these bucks were several does. Keeping my distance, I watched from behind a large oak tree. A medium sized buck to my right was busy chasing two smaller bucks whenever they came too close to the does nearest him.

To my left, two larger bucks briefly locked antlers but as I attempted to raise my camera for a photo, a smaller buck was running in my direction as he tried to escape the pursuit of a much larger buck. Not wanting to take my eye off these moving bucks, I failed to capture an image of the battling bucks, but no picture is worth risking my safety. The two bucks quickly unlocked antlers as the slightly smaller of the two seemed to give up rather easily as the exchange was short lived. 

Large White-tailed buck with a large set of antlers standing on the edge of a hillside.

This large buck was clearly the king of the forest. Only a subtle movement on his part and the other bucks took notice. 

Watching this rutting behaviour was certainly fascinating, and I was grateful to experience it first hand. One other observation I made was the respect that the largest buck in the group commanded. He was the least active of the group, but his limited actions were responded to most by all of the other bucks. As the other bucks chased each other and defended their own small areas, all activity ceased when the largest buck so much as turned his head. One step in any direction and the 5 other bucks were on the move. Observing this chain of command was truly impressive and I could only imagine the battles this buck has lost and won over the years to achieve his spot in the forest’s hierarchy.  

A mature White-tailed Deer moving down a trail in the forest.

From behind a large oak tree, I watched as several mature bucks moved through the forest.

If you are planning on heading out in search of White-tailed Deer in the coming weeks there are a few things to keep in mind. Be aware of the hunting seasons in your area and whether or not hunting is permitted on the land you plan to search. The area I chose is a public area within the city limits and hunting is not permitted. Remember, White-tailed Deer are wild animals and large bucks do defend their territory and the does within it aggressively so be sure to keep your distance. The average weight of a mature White-tailed buck in Ontario is between 140 lbs and 250 lbs, add in a large set of antlers and this is not something you want to be on the receiving end of. Play it safe and observe and photograph mature deer form a distance.

Opportunities to observe large White-tailed Deer will continue throughout the fall.

Opportunities to observe large White-tailed Deer will continue throughout the fall.

Despite the peak of the rut coming to an end, White-tailed Deer will continue to breed into December and thus will remain quite active. With the remaining leaves quickly falling from the trees, the added light in the forest makes locating deer and observing them much easier. Many of our ESAs, conservation areas, and other public lands have healthy populations of White-tailed Deer, so travelling far to observe these impressive creatures is not necessary.

Taking in a late fall hike and observing White-tailed Deer is a great way to spend time in nature. Next time you are out at your favorite natural area, listen for movement and keep an eye out for fresh tracks on the ground and you might just be rewarded with an excellent view of a White-tailed Deer.

Good birding,
Paul 

The Buzz From The Hive Today

If you are not getting desired results out of your camera and lens combination, considering joining me for a nature photography workshop. 

If you are not getting desired results out of your camera and lens combination, considering joining me for a nature photography workshop.

One of the questions I am asked most is how do I capture the images I do. The simple answer is knowing what camera settings to use in each situation and being able to adjust them quickly to the changing conditions as I shoot. After receiving several requests regarding group nature photography workshops, I found a venue that would allow for both an in-class indoor portion as well as a natural outdoor area with plenty of wildlife for implementing these techniques in a practical setting.

“It was a great workshop Paul! I’ve had a quick look at my photos and notice a big improvement in sharpness!! Thank you for the great tips!”
~ Christine

 

“Paul did a great job on covering what you need to know to get started with good results, and to build a plan to practice and improve
~Kevin Stewart

 

“This workshop took the guessing out of what to do with all the buttons. The environment was fun and casual. Paul is a fantastic teacher; his words will guide you as your hands and eyes capture the beauty of nature!” 
~Tammy Thibert 

Most of the fall nature photography workshops for November are full, with a couple of spaces remaining for Sunday, November 26, 2017. If you are interested in participating, please contact me to register and secure your spot. Unable to make it on the 26th? I may add a few dates in early December if there is enough interest to warrant booking the venue as I know December is a busy month for many people. If participating in a December workshop is something is you are interested in, contact me and I will look into booking the space.

The Hive

Special thanks to my wife for taking this photo of today’s beautiful workshop location.

Private one-on-one instruction is also available and I will be hosting a variety of other workshops in the new year, including those geared toward birding. Please keep an eye on my Upcoming Events page for future workshops or contact me to be added to the list to be among the first notified. 

Many of the participants at my nature photography workshop were happy to have the opportunity to photography this female Downy Woodpecker at close range.

Many of the participants at my nature photography workshop were happy to have the opportunity to photography this female Downy Woodpecker at close range.

Monday, November 6, 2017, marked the first fall nature photography workshop at The Hive, where I shared tips and techniques to help participants achieve better results from their camera and lens. One of the key points I emphasize is investing the time to learn and understand how to properly operate your current gear is more important than investing in more expensive equipment. Quality results have much more to do with the photographer than they do the price tag on your camera and lens.   

Black-capped Chickadees made frequent visits to the feeder I placed out for the day's event.

Black-capped Chickadees made frequent visits to the feeder I placed out for the day’s event.

Each workshop is limited in size to allow for individualized attention and on this day six participants took part. The first half of the workshop took place indoors where we discussed everything from achieving proper exposure to selecting the optimum camera settings for a variety of subjects including birds, butterflies, and landscapes. Participants were encouraged to take notes to use as a guide moving forward, so they can reference the material later and refresh their memories as they implement and practice these techniques on their own. 

After ensuring everyone had a basic understanding of the information covered, we headed outside for the second hour to apply these techniques to practical situations. In an effort to guarantee birds for the participants to photograph, I placed a couple of feeders on the south side of the property the week prior in hopes of bringing our feathered friends closer. This typically is not my shooting style as most of my images are taken while hiking at area parks, ESAs, and conservation areas. However, for the purpose of the workshop I wanted to ensure we had a few subjects as many of the participants were using lenses in the 200-300mm range.

During the outdoor portion of my nature photography workshop there was a brief break in the songbirds activity as a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead.

During the outdoor portion of the nature photography workshop there was a brief break in the songbirds activity as a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead.

Immediately upon exiting the building we were greeted by the sounds of several bird species, including American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, and Blue Jays. As we made our way over to the feeders, we could see a flurry of activity as birds came and went. Gathering around the feeders, we were presented with great opportunities to photograph the previously mentioned birds while a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead. I answered further questions from the group, observed and made recommendations on shooting techniques, and reiterated many of the points covered inside as they applied to the day’s shooting conditions. 

As the group continued to take photos, I was happy to begin hearing feedback as many of the participants could see improvements as they reviewed their images on their LCD screens. There was a lot of material covered on this day, so I advised the group to implement one technique at a time and practice it until they were comfortable before moving on to another one. Understanding these concepts lays the foundation for achieving the results you want. Improving your photography skills, like anything else, is really contingent on practice. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and the more you will improve.      

Blue Jays were among the variety of songbirds located on the property at The Hive during the first of my fall nature photography workshops.

Blue Jays were among the variety of songbirds located on the property at The Hive during the first of the fall nature photography workshops.

I was really fortunate to have such a great group of people attend the first workshop. It was a pleasure to finally meet many of those who have been loyal blog and social media followers over the years. Sharing my tips and techniques is something I really enjoy, and hearing such great feedback really means a lot to me.

Female Downy Woodpecker

This Female Downy Woodpecker offered plenty of great opportunities for photographs during the nature photography workshop held at The Hive.

Once again thank you to everyone who came out for today’s workshop. It really was a pleasure to meet each of you and share my tips and techniques to help you improve you nature photography. 

Good birding,
Paul

 

Nature Photography Workshop

Paul Roedding nature and wildlife photography workshop

Are you interested in joining me for a workshop to improve your nature and wildlife photography this November?

Whether you’re new to photography or are more experienced but not getting the results you want, use a DSLR or point and shoot camera, this workshop will help you improve your overall photography.

During my photography workshop I will teach you how to get the most out of your camera and lens combination. You don’t need expensive gear to achieve great images. This Black-capped Chickadee was photographed using a Canon 55-250mm lens, a lens that retails for $229.00.

The two hour workshop will be $25 per person, held at an event center in south London, and will be limited to five people for individualized attention.

The first half of the workshop will be indoors and we’ll focus on optimal camera settings for nature and wildlife photography, as well as other technical elements such as composition, shooting techniques and tips to improve your overall photography. 

If you are not getting the desired results from your camera and lens combination, register for one of my nature and wildlife photography workshops.

If you are not getting the desired results from your camera and lens combination, register for my nature and wildlife photography workshop.

During the second half of the workshop, we will venture outdoors to apply this knowledge in a natural setting. I will be providing one-on-one assistance as you photograph birds and other wildlife in their natural environment.

Please contact me if interested, and let me know what day of the week is preferred (weekdays or weekends) as well as time (morning or afternoon), as I will be booking the venue based on your feedback. 

Good birding,
Paul

Meet Me In The Village

Meet the Artist Paul Roedding Saturday October 21, 2017 11 AM to 1 PM at Curiosities Gift Shop

I am doing a meet and greet this Saturday October 21st in front of Curiosities Gift Shop in Wortley Village between 11am and 1pm. I would love for those of you in the area to come by, say hello, and talk birding while enjoying the beautiful fall weather. Please do not feel obligated to purchase anything, it will be great to put more faces to the names of my amazing blog subscribers. 

Meet the Artist: Paul Roedding 

Date: Saturday October 21, 2017 

Time: 11am to 1pm 

Location: Curiosities Gift Shop, 174 Wortley Road, London, Ontario 

Wortley Village local and wildlife photographer Paul Roedding of Paul Roedding Photography will be outside of Curiosities Gift Shop this Saturday October 21st. Drop by anytime between 11am and 1pm to talk birding and nature in the city with Paul, and check out his spectacular 2018 calendars.

Calendars will be available for sale during this event and are $20 (cash only). If you would like yours signed, Paul is busy practicing his signature and will be happy to personalize your calendar for you.

He will also be bringing an extended collection of his art cards, in addition to his new fall/winter series currently in the card room at Curiosities. 

Did you know that Curiosities has five rooms of made in Canada creations to explore? These unique finds include jewellery, home décor, women’s clothing, baby, bath & body, and an entire room dedicated to cards. Visit with Paul and then head inside to continue your adventure in Wortley Village!  

Not in London or able to make it on Saturday? Calendars are also available for purchase online at http://paulroeddingphotography.com/2018-calendars

 

Less Yard Work Equals More Birds

If safe to do so, leaving dead limbs and branches around your yard will help attract more bird.

Dead limbs and branches will attract more birds to your yard by providing a food source and potential nest sites. If safe to do so, consider leaving a few dead limbs around your property. 

Fall and winter months are excellent times to attract more birds to your yard and fortunately there is an easy way to do this. In fact, attracting more birds during these months is so easy it involves doing very little at all. With fall now upon us, many homeowners are reaching for rakes and pruners and are busy bagging leaves, picking up sticks, and cutting back perennials that have long since flowered in an effort to beautify their properties. The truth is many of these items considered yard waste are incredibly beneficial to birds and will actually attract more of them to your yard. 

The seed heads on my New England have been attracting many birds including goldfinches to my yard in recent weeks.

American Goldfinches are among the many birds attracted to the seeds produced by New England Asters and other garden flowers.

Seed heads produced by many perennial flowers offer an excellent food source that will attract a wide variety of songbirds to your yard. Refraining from cutting these back until next spring creates a steady supply of natural food throughout the fall and winter months. In my garden for example, the seeds produced by native coneflowers have been attracting American Goldfinches for several weeks now. The asters and goldenrod that were providing a food source for migrating Monarch Butterflies only a few weeks ago are now offering a natural food source as well. White-throated Sparrows have recently migrated back into our area and the bounty of seeds in my garden has attracted good numbers of these birds looking to replenish spent energy.

White-throated Sparrow enjoying the seeds from a goldenrod flower.

White-throated Sparrow enjoying the seeds from a goldenrod flower.

By not cutting back perennials until next spring the remaining dry foliage of these plants also provides a home for many insects. Downy Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees are regularly observed during fall and winter months extracting gall fly larva from goldenrod stalks.

Downy Woodpecker preparing to extract a Gall Fly larva from a goldenrod stalk

Downy Woodpecker preparing to extract a gall fly larva from a goldenrod stalk.

This past week I observed an Orange-crowned Warbler foraging on insects in my garden as it made a brief stop to feed during its migration south. These insects would not have been present had I cut back the flowers in an effort to make my yard more aesthetically pleasing. Other birds observed feeding heavily on seeds and insects this past week in my garden were both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Tufted Titmouse, and Dark-eyed Juncos which have recently returned to our area to spend the winter months  By leaving the remnants of these flowers, my garden offers a natural food source for many songbirds while also providing plenty of cover from predators and the elements. 

The dried foliage of my garden plants is home to many insects which attracts an abundance of birds including many Ruby-crowned Kinglets this past week.

The dried foliage of garden plants is home to many insects which attracts an abundance of birds during the fall including Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

After the recent high winds many of us will find tree limbs scattered across the ground on our properties. Rather than bundling them up and dragging them to the curb or breaking them down so they will fit into a container, consider constructing a brush pile by piling them in a corner of your yard. Brush piles attract birds by providing shelter from harsh weather and predators. 

Many ground feeding birds will forage in fallen leaves for both seeds and insects.

Many ground feeding birds will forage in fallen leaves for both seeds and insects.

Leaves in a garden may not be the look most of us are accustomed to when it comes to landscaping but this so called yard waste is incredibly beneficial. Allowing leaves to decompose in a garden will enhance soil quality and provide nutrients to trees, flowers, and shrubs. Leaf litter is also home to a multitude of insects which in turn attracts a variety of birds. Rather than bagging my leaves and placing them at the curb, I now mulch all of my leaves with a lawnmower and add them to my gardens while leaving some on my lawn over the winter. I quit using fertilizer years ago and my lawn (excluding this summer’s extended dry spell) has never looked better. 

Woodpeckers and other cavity nesters will be attracted to dead limbs and branches left around your property.

Woodpeckers and other cavity nesters will be attracted to dead limbs and branches left around your property.

Another great way to attract more birds to your property with less yard work is by not removing dead limbs or branches from trees if safe to do so. Many birds prefer dead limbs for perching while also being drawn to the bevy of insects found within the wood. Come spring, these same dead branches will provide potential nesting sites for cavity nesters such as woodpeckers and nuthatches.  

Last winter after a snowfall this American Tree Sparrow found food emerging from the snow in the from of seeds from this Calico Aster.

After a heavy snowfall this American Tree Sparrow found food emerging from the snow in the form of seeds from a Calico Aster.

If you are like me and love attracting birds to your yard, try implementing these methods this fall. I think you will find that soon after taking these measures you will notice an increase in the number of birds visiting your yard. Not only will you enjoy more birds and potentially even a new species or two, spending less time doing yard work will free up more time for birding and other leisure activities on your well-deserved days off. 

Good birding,
Paul 

*My 2018 calendars have arrived and are now available for purchase. To see the images featured and to purchase click here.*

 

Green Herons Present Phenomenal Views At The Westminster Ponds ESA

Green Herons will soon be leaving our area for their wintering grounds to our south. Fortunately, these birds are currently providing exceptional views at an area ESA. 

Over the past three weeks, I have been enjoying incredible views of Green Herons. In fact, the views achieved have been the best I have experienced. If you are unfamiliar with these birds, Green Herons display the most beautiful combination of iridescent blues and greens combined with a reddish brown neck. Standing only 18″ tall, Green Herons are often a challenge to locate within the swampy habitats they prefer despite their colouful plumage. This however is not the case currently at the Westminster Ponds ESA located in south London. 

Under the right light conditions, the iridescent plumage of the Green Heron becomes quite evident.

Throughout September, I have seen as many as four Green Herons, both adults and juveniles (juveniles are heavily streaked on their necks and breasts) at one time at the west end of Saunders Pond. On most visits, these birds have been viewed within 20-40 feet of the path running alongside the pond. Green Herons will soon be leaving our area for their wintering grounds in the Southern United States, Central, and South America, so opportunities for these close encounters are running out.

The mix of cattails and fallen timber on the west side of Saunders Pond provides the perfect habitat for Green Herons.

The easiest access to these Green Herons is from behind Tourist Information located at 696 Wellington Road. From the parking lot head north on the paved path until you reach the boardwalk. Continue north on the boardwalk and begin scanning the fallen timber to your right and the cattails to your left. My best views have come from just north of the boardwalk along the dirt path where Saunders Pond comes to an end. Both sides of the path throughout this area have provided satisfying views.

When alarmed, Green Herons will extend their necks and raise the crests on the top of their heads. This particular bird heard children playing in the area and exhibited this classic behavior.

In my experience, time of day does not matter for viewing these Green Herons as I have found these birds both in the morning and afternoon. If you are wishing to photograph these birds, I would recommend waiting until about mid morning as this will allow the sun to get high enough in the sky to light up the birds nicely while achieving a faster shutter speed, If you cannot make it in the morning than late afternoon has been quite good too. Try not to leave it too late though as once the sun drops low in the sky the area becomes quite shaded. Great views of these birds can still be obtained, but your image quality may suffer due to the lack of light.

Click on the two above images to enlarge these photos of a Green Heron with a Northern Leopard Frog. 

These particular Green Herons at the Westminster Ponds ESA are not overly wary of people, but moving slowly and speaking in a soft voice is still recommended to avoid stressing the birds.These Green Herons are in this area feeding heavily in preparation of their long migration south, so remember to respect their space and allow them to feed in order to accomplish this feat. The only times I have seen these birds startle is when a group of children ran by while shouting in loud voices. Even then the birds did not move far remaining in the area where there is an abundance of food. While watching and photographing these Green Herons I have observed them capture small fish, tadpoles, and Northern Leopard Frogs.    

The heavy streaking on this Green Heron’s neck and breast indicate it is a juvenile bird.

If you are hoping to achieve great views of a Green Heron, I highly recommend visiting the Westminster Pond ESA soon. As mentioned earlier, these birds won’t remain in the area much longer, so time is running out for potentially the view of a lifetime.

Good birding,
Paul

*My 2018 calendars have arrived and are now available for purchase. To see the images featured and to purchase click here.*

  

Beaches Offer Great Birding Opportunities During Fall Migration

During fall migration Ruddy Turnstones are among the many shorebirds you can expect to find at area beaches.

During fall migration, Ruddy Turnstones are among the many shorebirds you can expect to find at area beaches.

During fall migration, beaches are great birding destinations. Here in Southwestern Ontario, birds regularly follow the shoreline of the Great Lakes during migration passing though several public beaches on route. Large numbers of shorebirds, gulls, terns, and other waterbirds can be found throughout September at area beaches resting and feeding as they make their long journeys south. 

Sanderling are among the many shorebirds observed during fall migration .

This Sanderling was one of many I observed this past week on a visit to Port Stanley’s main beach.

After Labour Day is when I like to visit area beaches as crowds of people are replaced with crowds of birds often resulting in close encounters with a variety of species. Shorebirds in particular are not overly shy birds, so if you are looking to photograph birds with a shorter telephoto lens great opportunities exist.  

My favourite beach close to home is located only 30 minutes away in Port Stanley, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Erie. Each fall, I make multiple trips to to this small village to observe and photograph the abundance of birds that pass though during fall migration. This past Tuesday, I made my first post-Labour Day trip to Port Stanley in search of fall migrants.

Though not always a target species, the abundance of gulls make them great subjects for honing your flight photography skills.

Though not always a target species, the abundance of gulls at area beaches make them great subjects for honing your flight photography skills.

Arriving at the main beach around 10 a.m., I strapped on my camera and binoculars and made my way towards the pier. I always begin my visits to Port Stanley’s main beach by walking out on the pier as the area where the sand beach meets the concrete pier has always been an excellent location for viewing sandpipers and other shorebirds for as long as I can remember. Not surprising, as I approached the pier a Ruddy Turnstone was observed preening at the water’s edge. After capturing several images I made my way out onto the pier.

While not my first choice for a backdrop this Least Sandpiper seemed quite comfortable within the rusty metal rungs of the pier's ladder.

While not my first choice for a backdrop this Least Sandpiper seemed quite comfortable within the rusty metal rungs of the pier’s ladder.

Looking over to the east breakwater I could see hundreds of gulls as I scanned with my binoculars. Mixed in with all the gulls were several Double-crested Cormorants. As I approached the end of the pier, I looked over the railing to the lower ledge as this is often where shorebirds can be observed preening and foraging on insects.

Located between the rungs of one of the pier’s ladders, I observed a Least Sandpiper preening. At only 6″ these sandpipers are the smallest of the shorebirds often making them a challenge to locate. Fortunately, this particular bird was less than 20 feet away providing great views, and in true shorebird fashion did not mind me watching and taking pictures. Further out on the pier, several Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and more least Sandpipers were observed. Several groups of these same birds were also observed flying past the lighthouse as they made their way over to the east breakwater.

American Golden-Plovers are currently making their way through Southwestern Ontario as fall migration continues.

This American Golden-Plover was among the many shorebirds observed at Hofhuis Park next to the main beach in Port Stanley.

While out on the pier, I noticed several Monarch Butteries as they flew past presumably migrating with the northeast wind. As I made may way back towards the beach, I followed the concrete path circling the newly created Hofhuis Park.The calls of Killdeer could be heard coming from the freshly mowed grass. As I scanned the group of Killdeer a lone American Golden-Plover came into view. Raising my camera I captured several images of this bird, a first for me.

American Golden-Plover

American Golden-Plover

Happy with this sighting, I continued around the loop heading back towards the main beach observing several more Ruddy Turnstones. Looking up into the sky, an Osprey with a fish in its talons flew by with a Herring Gull in hot pursuit.

Fall migration is not just about the birds. Many Butterflies including Monarchs are currently migrating.

Monarch Butterfly enjoying a drink from the wet sand.

Heading west along the main beach more Monarch Butterflies were observed both in the air and on the beach. Many of the Monarchs were observed drinking from the wet sand. Continuing on, I encountered more Sanderlings as they foraged in the sand and stones.

Bonaparte's Gull and terns are currently migrating through the Great Lakes region as fall migration continues.

Bonaparte’s Gull (centre) surrounded by a small flock of terns.

Further down the beach, large flocks of gulls and terns could be seen resting in the warm sand. The usual Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were observed, but so too were large numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls. These small gulls reside in the boreal forest during the breeding season and are the only gull that regularly nests in trees. During fall migration Bonaparte’s Gulls can be observed around Great Lakes and will even overwinter here in warmer years. Within the mixed flock of terns on the main beach, Common, Forster’s, and Caspian were among those identified. 

Close views of several tern species were had this past week on Port Stanley's main beach.

Close views of several tern species were had this past week on Port Stanley’s main beach.

Many area beaches also have other great birding habitats within close proximity offering excellent opportunities to observe a variety of bird species during fall migration. For example, Hawk Cliff also in Port Stanley, records thousands of raptors as they pass through each fall while warblers and other migrating songbirds stop to rest and feed in the surrounding Carolinian forest. Other possible destinations for birding both beaches and forest habitats along the Great Lakes in Southwestern Ontario during fall migration include Port Burwell Provincial Park, Pinery Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, and Point Pelee National Park to name a few.    

Great views were achieved of several Ruddy Turnstones as I walked around the pier in Port Stanley Ontario.

Great views were achieved of several Ruddy Turnstones as I walked around the pier in Port Stanley Ontario.

In Southwestern Ontario we are incredibly fortunate to be within an hour’s drive of at least one Great Lake and the accompanying public beaches no matter where we live. Looking at the long range forecast for the remainder of September it seems we have some fantastic weather on tap. If you get the opportunity, take advantage of the beautiful weather and plan a day trip to an area beach near you. Regardless of which location you choose, I am sure you will be impressed with the excellent views and wide variety of birds present as fall migration continues.

Good birding,
Paul    

* I am excited to announce that my first shipment of Art Cards featuring my new fall and winter images were delivered to area shops this week. You can see the images available and where to purchase these cards here. *

 

Shorebirds Abound At The West Perth Wetlands

Shorebirds including the Lesser Yellowlegs can be found in large numbers throughout August at the West Perth Wetlands

Lesser Yellowlegs and other shorebirds can be found in large numbers throughout August as they migrate across Southwestern Ontario.

When it comes to shorebirds many species begin their fall migration in late June with Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs being the first to make their way south. As summer progresses, shorebird numbers steadily increase throughout Southwestern Ontario and by August shorebirds can be found in large concentrations throughout our area. Consequently, this is when I begin my search of area drainage ponds, sewage lagoons, and wetlands hoping to observe and photograph these long distance migrants.

This Pectoral Sandpiper was among the many shorebirds recently observed at the West Perth Wetlands

This Pectoral Sandpiper was among the many shorebirds I recently observed at the West Perth Wetlands

One of my favourite places to observe shorebirds is the West Perth Wetlands located in Mitchell, Ontario. A series of shallow ponds and exposed mudflats provides an ideal habitat for shorebirds looking to rest and feed as they migrate south. Navigating around the wetland is quite easy thanks to a network of meticulously maintained mowed grass trails that sit on top of the berms surrounding each pond. Not only does this make for easy walking, it also provides an excellent vantage point for observing and photographing birds and other wildlife readily located along the edge of each pond. Naturalization of the sloping banks from the top of each berm to the water’s edge has occurred consisting of variety of grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs all of which attract a nice mix of both songbirds and butterflies. 

Lesser Yellowlegs were by far the most abundant shorebird I observed on a recent visit to the West Perth Wetlands.

After checking eBird and seeing that good numbers of shorebirds had been reported at the West Perth Wetlands, I grabbed my binoculars and camera and made the one hour drive from London hoping to observe some of these birds. Upon arriving at the wetlands, I could hear the echoing calls of several birds coming from the other side of the berm as I strapped on my camera and binoculars. Following the trail from the parking lot up onto the berm the first pond came into sight, and so too did a large flock of shorebirds.

Shorebirds at he West Perth Wetlands are always on the move which presents excellent opportunities for flight shots.

Shorebirds at the West Perth Wetlands are always on the move, providing excellent opportunities for flight shots.

Raising my binoculars and scanning the first pond, it became evident that Killdeer and Lesser Yellowlegs were the most abundant of the shorebirds as dozens of these birds could be seen foraging on the large mudflat in the centre of the pond. After observing these birds for several minutes, I began to circle the pond in hopes of locating more shorebirds.

In my opinion, young Killdeer are among the cutest of all baby birds.

While some shorebirds have already started to migrate, others including Killdeer are still raising their broods. This young Killdeer was one of three observed. 

As I made my way down the trail I observed a lone Killdeer watching over three small chicks. In my opinion, you can’t find a cuter baby bird than a Killdeer. These tiny balls of fluff were a treat to watch as they foraged in the mud and waded in the shallow water.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Coming to the end of the pond, I scanned through the abundance of vegetation with my binoculars and counted the heads of four Great Blue Herons. I decided that if I made my way to the other side of the pond I would be able to get an unobstructed view of at least three of the birds. As I rounded the corner a fifth heron flew in from the east. I raised my camera and captured several images of the bird before it landed in the middle of the pond.

This image demonstrates the wide variety of shorebirds that can be observed at the West Perth Wetlands. From front to back are Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs. In the upper left corner of the frame just in front of the green vegetation is a Least Sandpiper.

This image demonstrates the wide variety of shorebirds I observed at the West Perth Wetlands. From front to back are Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs. In the upper left corner of the frame just in front of the green vegetation is a Least Sandpiper.

Continuing east deeper into the wetland, I came to the second pond. As I looked down at a small section of mud bank in the near corner of the pond, I was treated to an extraordinary view of four shorebirds perfectly lined up from smallest to largest. Fortunately these birds were not moving around too much and I was able to capture several images of this unique scene. As mentioned, Killdeer and Lesser Yellowlegs were the most prevalent shorebirds present on my visit, but I was also treated to exceptional views of Spotted Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Solitary Sandpipers.

This male Common Yellowthroat was one of two warbler species observed.

This male Common Yellowthroat was one of two warbler species observed.

The West Perth Wetlands is a great place to bird and not just for shorebirds. Songbirds are also plentiful in the mixed habitat within and surrounding the wetland. Warblers including Yellow and Common Yellowthroat were both observed. Other notable species observed included an Eastern Meadowlark, Chimney Swifts, and two Green Herons. Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches were plentiful in the row of evergreens located at the southeast end of the property.

I was happy to see that the Monarch was the most abundant butterfly observed around the wetland.

Monarch Butterflies were the most abundant butterfly observed around the wetland.

A collection of butterflies were also observed, and to my delight Monarchs were the most abundant. Swallowtails, Viceroys, and both American and Painted Lady were all photographed. Dragon and Damselflies were present in good numbers with a variety of each observed.    

This male Widow Skimmer was one of many dragon and damselflies observed at the West Perth Wetlands.

This male Widow Skimmer was one of the many dragonflies observed at the West Perth Wetlands.

The West Perth Wetlands really is an impressive place to get out and enjoy nature. Whether you are searching for birds, insects, reptiles or amphibians there is something for everyone. One non nature observation I made that I think is worth sharing is that of a gentleman using an electric mobility device to get around the wetland, demonstrating that the well-maintained grass tails are accessible to everyone. If you are searching for a fully accessible location for birding, the West Perth Wetlands is a great option.

The Killdeer is one of the most commonly found shorebirds in Southwestern Ontario

This Killdeer was one of dozens recently observed at the West Perth Wetlands.

Throughout August and September, look for shorebird numbers to increase further in Southwestern Ontario as they make make their way south. Area wetlands, sewage lagoons, and stormwater management ponds area all great places to observe shorebirds as they are drawn to these habitats to rest and feed. If you are looking for a place where great views of an abundance of shorebirds can be obtained, I highly recommend a visit to the West Perth Wetlands.

Good birding,
Paul 

 

 

Butterflies Provide Plenty Of Action During The Summer Months

Southwestern Ontario is home to an abundance of butterflies including the Black Swallowtail and summer months are the best time to get out and enjoy them.

Southwestern Ontario is home to an abundance of butterflies including the Black Swallowtail and the summer months present the best time to get out and enjoy them.

For as long as I can remember I have always had an interest in nature. Even as a young child I enjoyed observing birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Birds were and continue to be my passion, but in recent years my fascination with butterflies has grown exponentially. I think part of this fascination comes from the fact that we have such a variety of beautiful butterflies throughout Southwestern Ontario and I seem to encounter a different species almost every time I am out.   

Searching area meadows filled with wildflowers for butterflies is a great way to spend time outdoors during the summer mopnths. I found this Question Mark Butterfly on a coneflwer

Searching area meadows filled with wildflowers for butterflies is a great way to spend time outdoors during the summer months. I recently photographed this Question Mark Butterfly on a coneflower.

Depending on the weather, butterflies are typically observed in our area from April to November with different species being observed at different times of the year. As the seasons progress, new species appear providing variety throughout the year. This continued influx of species adds to my fascination and makes every outing different. In many ways it is very similar to bird migration knowing that there is the potential to see something new every time I am out in the field. 

Observing and photographing butterflies throughout the summer months and into early fall is a great way to spend time in the outdoors. I find it a nice change of pace from photographing birds and to be honest less challenging. Compared to birds, butterflies move slower, are less wary, and when nectaring on a flower often provide unobstructed views. Also, butterflies can be quite predictable regularly landing on the tallest flower in a group or the one with with a clear flight path to it, which allows me to prepare myself for the shot long before it presents itself.

Despite being a species at risk in Ontario, Monarhch Butterflies can be found in area fields and meadows. Searching in meadows containing milkweed is this best way to locate this colourful butterfly.

Despite being a species at risk in Ontario, Monarch Butterflies can be found in area fields and meadows. Searching meadows that contain milkweed is this best way to locate this beautiful butterfly.

When it comes to butterflies, the Monarch is by far my favourite followed closely by the Black Swallowtail. Perhaps the fact that the Monarch Butterfly is a species at risk in Ontario combined with its impressive fall migration spanning thousands of kilometers is why I am so intrigued by this species. 

Butterflies are plentiful in Southwestern Ontario and can be found in a variety of habitats. I like to concentrate most of my time searching fields and meadows with an abundance of wildflowers. Meadows containing a few small trees and shrubs adjacent to a forest edge are particularity productive as this offers the most diverse habitat and provides a location for butterflies to feed, seek shelter, and roost. 

Butterflies including the Red Admiral are regularly found nectaring on flowers.

Red Admiral Butterfly nectaring on a dogwood blossom.

Since butterflies roost at night and during cold, wet weather, the best time to locate them is from mid-morning to late afternoon on sunny days. This is when daytime temperatures are the highest and consequently so too is butterfly activity. During the summer months, getting out during the midday sun in the hot humid conditions is the best time to locate butterflies. While birds and mammals may be less active during the heat of the day, butterflies are quite the opposite.  

While out enjoying butterflies at an area meadow I found this monarch caterpillar on the buds of a Common Milkweed plant.

While out photographing butterflies at an area meadow I found this monarch caterpillar within the buds of a Common Milkweed plant.

When photographing butterflies I like to use similar camera settings as I would when photographing birds. If you are comfortable shooting in manual mode I would recommend doing so and adjust your ISO and aperture to give you a shutter speed of around 1/1000 of a second. This may seem like a fast shutter speed for butterflies, but has become my benchmark shutter speed for all nature photography. Butterflies may not move as quickly as birds, but a fast shutter speed is equally important for several reasons. First, butterflies will almost always give a slow wing flap when nectaring on a flower. This motion may not appear like much, but can result in a significant amount of blur on your final image if your shutter speed is too slow. Second, on windy days the flower or other object that the butterfly is resting on will move back and forth in wind. Having a fast shutter speed will help to freeze this action leading to a sharp image. Finally, a fast shutter speed will help compensate for any camera shake encountered while trying to steady the lens. If you are not comfortable shooting in manual mode than I would recommend aperture priority mode and again adjust your ISO and aperture to give you give you a shutter speed as close to 1/1000 of a second as possible. I prefer to photograph all nature including butterflies on sunny days as the bright sun really brings out the colours and contrast of an image, so achieving this fast of shutter speed under these conditions is never a problem.

Butterfly identification can be incredibly challenging as many species are very similar in appearance. The two large eyespots visible on the underside of the wing indicate this is an American Lady and not the very similar Painted lady which displays four smaller eyespots.

Butterfly identification can be incredibly challenging as many species are very similar in appearance. For example, the American Lady (top) displays 2 large eyespots visible on the underside of the hindwing. The Painted Lady (bottom) displays 4 smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing.

During these sunny conditions one issue that is readily encountered is excessive highlights in your image. Often times flower petals and/or the buttery’s wings will be overexposed resulting in a loss of colour, contrast, and detail. I recommend turning your camera’s highlight alert on and paying close attention to your histogram to watch for this. These extreme highlights can be easily corrected by adjusting your camera settings to slightly underexpose the image if you are shooting in manual mode or by making use of exposure compensation in aperture priority mode. I find that on most sunny days I underexpose by 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop to compensate for these highlights. Making these simple adjustments will result in a better final image as it will capture the true colour, contrast, and detail of both the butterfly and the flower.    

Butterflies including the Question are readily found throughout Southwestern Ontario during the summer months.

The Question Mark Butterfly is named for the pearly silver question mark visible on the underside of its hindwing.

When out photographing butterflies during summer conditions there are a few things I do to protect myself while out in the field. Wearing sunscreen is a must. It doesn’t take long these days to get a sunburn and the damage to your skin caused by the sun is not something to take lightly. I also make sure I stay hydrated and nourished by drinking lots of water and taking a snack. I prefer energy bars as they are quite filling and fit nicely into my pocket. Dehydration and hunger can sneak up fast on hot days and by being proactive both are easily avoided. I also choose to wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants rather than shorts and a T-shirt not only to protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays, but also protect me from insects including mosquitoes and ticks. I also apply insect repellent for added protection. When searching for butterflies in areas where I have encountered ticks in the past, I tuck my shirt into my pants and my pants into my socks to prevent access to my skin. These simple measures make sure my time spent outside is enjoyable despite the conditions.   

Black Swallowtail Butterfly nectaring on a Common Milkweed Flower.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly nectaring on a Common Milkweed Flower.

If you avoid getting out and enjoying nature during the summer months because it is too hot and humid or you find conditions slow, give searching for butterflies a try. I think you will agree that there is always plenty of action and will quickly forget about the heat, humidity, and undesired insects as you get lost in the beauty of not only the butterflies themselves but also the colourful summer blooms they are attracted to.

Good birding,
Paul