Wandering Albatrosses

Prion Island is a spec of land in the Bay of Isles, South Georgia (54.0270° S, 37.2567° W). It is a nesting site for a small group of Wandering Albatrosses. We spent an hour or so observing chicks exercising their still fluffy wings while sitting in rudimentary nests sculpted from the Tussock grass.

Wandering Albatross chick (Diomedea exulans). Prion Island, South Georgia.

Suddenly, a rush of air signaled the arrival of a parent, returning from one of its foraging trips and making a low pass over the nesting area. This bird is a male in breeding plumage (the small tuft of apricot colored plumage on the neck).

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans)

Adult Wandering Albatrosses fly on long foraging trips – averaging 6000 km (3700 miles) over 13 days. These long flights are facilitated by a technique called dynamic soaring which involves exploiting wind gradients so that wingbeats are rarely needed.


Spring In the sub-Antarctic

I have recently returned from an epic trip to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia – home to more than 20 million birds. This image of King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and a Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus) is an appetizer for more to come soon!

Swallow Nest Building

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota). Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

I have to confess that I never knew how swallows carry all that mud to build their large nests.  It should have been no surprise to learn from this image that the mud is actually transported as a big blob stuck onto the bill.  This bird made repeated trips to the water’s edge – each time returning with a tiny amount of material for the nest.

Swallows are quite challenging to photograph in flight because they fly fast and make rapid changes of direction.  This bird was flying into a strong headwind and was purposefully heading in a straight line towards the nest. Both of these factors enabled the shot.

Canon EOS-1DX; EF100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM at 100mm; 1/16400 sec at f/5.6; ISO 2500

Crow mobbing a Bald Eagle – Lopez Island WA. June

Crows and Bald Eagles do not coexist well because eagles have a taste for crow chicks. The traditional “anti-predatory” response is to mob the predator. In this case a single crow conducted a series of almost 20 “dive-bombing” runs which eventually scared the eagle away.

Bird Faces – A new exhibit

I have a new show opening today that can be previewed here.

My primary photographic targets are birds in flight, so I spend a lot of time watching and waiting.  Sometimes, a bird and I look at each other for long periods of time, each wondering when the other is going to move on. This show is a small collection of images from such moments and it is a chance to reflect on the wonderful adaptations the can be seen in the facial features of birds. [Read more…..].

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco ). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

Macaws at the Chuncho Clay Lick

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna),
Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Clay licks provide Macaws with minerals that are critical for their nutritional health. In a remarkable spectacle, the birds arrive in pairs over a period of hours and roost high in trees above the clay lick.  Eventually one brave bird lands on the lick – where they are at increased risk from predatory hawks. Suddenly, the entire surface is filled with color from Scarlet Macaws (top), Red and Green Macaws and Blue and Yellow Macaws (everywhere else!).

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl

    Peruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. MayPeruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. May

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl is a compact 6.5” tall inhabitant of the western slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile.  One fascinating characteristic of this bird is the “decoy” eye spots on the back (nape) of the head and neck (right image above). This presumably makes potential predators believe that the owl is vigilant when, in fact, it is looking the other way.

Central and South American Birds

My travels in search of photogenic birds over the last several months have found me mostly in Central and South America.  Venues have included Costa Rica, Ecuador – including the Galapagos Islands – a transect  of Northern Peru, and an exciting trip to the Tambopata National  Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. The next series of postings will present some birds that I met along the way.

The Sunbittern: A bird with moth-patterned Wings II

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

This heron-shaped bird blended in well and was sometimes quite hard to spot as it foraged alone in the pools along a stream in La Mina, Costa Rica. Then suddenly, during a brief leg and wing stretch, the magnificent moth-like pattern of the wings electrified the stream bank.