Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Camera-Critters #112 & ABC Wednesday: S is for South Cape Beach

South Cape Beach is about 20 minutes from our house on the Cape Cod.  I have shown recently the Willet on the beach and my walk through the Great Flat Pond Trail of the pine barren.  In May and June, it is the migratory Season, we can see many birds returning or passing through.  Quite a few pairs of willet nest on South Cape Beach.  This one was away from the beach and seeking food at the Swamp area.  I like the photo which shows it in a different habitat.

Usually we see Swan in man-made lakes in the parks.  Only on the Cape Cod, do I see Mute Swan in the wild and during migration.  I have shown their magnificent figures in flight last year.  I was glad to see them coming back to the Sedge Lot Pond of the beach this year again.

Look how magnificent they are, coming in for the landing against the morning Sun.

I was so happy to see the egret, the first time for me on the Cape.  We have large, middle, little and cattle egrets in Taiwan.  But this one is different.

See its black bill and yellow feet, which it raised up for us to see.  It is a Snow Egret.

It was very Shy and flew away the minute it saw me approaching.

Here is a common Sparrow on the beach.  I love the color of the background of this picture.

This is a female Tree Swallow.  The Tree Swallows have established well in the many man-made little bird boxes over the mud flat.

This male Tree Swallow was trying to dive-bomb me, see its brilliant blue feathers. 

You can click on the pictures to see more details of the birds.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Camera-Critters #111: Piping Plover

This Sunday, May 16, I went to stroll on the sandy beach of Popponesset Spit in search of endangered Piping Plovers.  The trip was organized by the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary of the Mass Audubon.  It was lead by the Sanctary Dirctor Ian Ives and Melanie of the Barnstable Land Trust.

Popponesset bay on the Cape Cod is fed by Mashpee River and Santuit River.  The bay is separated from Nantucket Sound by Popponesset Peninsula or simply as "The Spit" as the local call it.  The Bay now is surrounded by million-dollar homes.  The end of The Spit has been donated to Mass Audubon.  Various shorebirds, including Tern, Oystercatcher and Pipping Plover have been found nesting on the beach.

Piping Plover is listed as endangered by the Federal Government and by Massachusetts.  We saw two pairs today on The Spit.  They are really cheerful little birds.  Piping Plovers winter in the Gulf of Mexico and migrate toward north in the spring.  After the chicks are hatched, they are able to feed within hours and will have to be able to migrate by itself back to the south by September.

You can click on the images to get a clear view of the bird.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ABC Wednesday: R is for Ring-Billed Gull

Cape Cod is quite often described as like a raised human arm.  Thus, you can imagine that the upper arm (upper Cape) is actually lower (further south) than the lower arm (lower Cape).  It is all very confusing.  If Cape Cod is like a human arm then Town of Sandwich is at the shoulder.  It is the oldest town on Cape Cod.  Cape Cod is separated from the mainland by Cape Cod Canal.  Part of the Sandwich is located on the mainland and part of it is on Cape Cod.  Scusset Beach is on the mainland part of Sandwich at the north end of the Cape Cod Canal.  It is a State Reservation with a very nice beach and camping area. I went there for some birding last week.  On the beach, there was a flock of seabird.  They are probably the most common gull in America, the Ring-Billed Gull, Larus dalawareniss.  When I first looked at seagulls, they all looked the same.  But when I looked more carefully, they all looked different.  The main reason is, they change their look as they get older or are in breeding season.  This one is at very young age, it is the first spring for it.  I read somewhere, when we photograph bird, we should be at the same eye level as the bird.  Thus you can see that I was crawling on the sand like a real bird photographer.

Now, it is flying away, still at my eye level.  Notice the color and pattern on the wings, which indicate its young age.

I then crossed over to the Cape Cod side of Sandwich, on the Horizon Beach.  This Ring-Billed Gull was sitting on a wooden pole.  Again at my eye level, it is a bit older than the previous one.  Notice the leftover brown pattern under the gray/blue feather of the back.

"What are you looking at??!!".  It was not too thrilled of me pointing a camera at it so close.

Now here is a mature bird.  Notice the white color under the wings and belly, and the black feather at the tip of the wings.  It even has the tell-tale mark of a whit spot at the wing tip of an adult Ring-Billed Gull.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Field of View

When using the telephoto lens for the bird photography such as my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, should I use it with the D700 which is FX format or my D300 which is DX format?  Both of them have almost exactly the same pixel count, around 12 megapixel.  D700 has higher ISO sensitivity, which also means better shadow detail.  It is very important for the bird feather.  On the other hand, D300 with the 1.5X factor, gives me a better reach for the subject.  The only other lens, other than the super heavy, super expansive fixed focus lens, is the Sigma 150-500mm.  It sells for about half of the price of my 80-400mm and weights about 50% more.

The Piping Plovers shots using the 80-400mm lens and D700 were done under the bright sun light on the beach.  I shot the pictures at ISO200, f/8, 1/2000 offhand.  Thus the ISO and the widest aperture of the lens do not matter.  It make me wonder if I were using D300 and the 150-500mm lens, what the image would look like in the viewfinder.

The Angle of View of lens at different focal length for FX and DX cameras are as following

                    FX     DX
200mm     12.2      8.0
300mm       8.1      5.2
400mm       6.1      4.0
500mm       5.0      3.1
600mm       4.1      2.4

We can use them to calculate the size of the image at the different focal length for different camera format.

Here are what the different combinations would look like in the viewfinder:

400mm with D700 (FX)

500mm with D700 (FX)

400mm with D300 (DX)

500mm with D300 (DX)

The bird at 500mm with D300 (DX) is twice the size of the bird at 400mm with D700 (FX).    

As show in the first image, using 400mm with D700 (FX), it was quit challenging just to pint the focusing point steadily on the bird, even with the VR.   The autofocus of the camera also had as much difficulty to hunt for the precise focus.    

If I were using the 150-500mm, I would probably have to use it on a tripod.  Then I will no longer be just a tourist wondering around with a big camera.  

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today's Flowers #93: Beach Plums

When I walked on the beach of South Cape State Park Last Sunday,  the season was too early for the beach roses, which I have shown at Today's Flower #44 last year.  However, Beach Plums, Prunus maritima, were blooming on the beach everywhere.

Here is a shrub filled with flowering buds ready to bloom.

Here is one in full bloom from a distance.

Here is a close-up of the pretty white tiny flowers.  It was taken with the 80-400mm super-telephoto zoom, not bad what it can do in close encounter.

I was told that the fruit of beach plums are quite tasty and often collected by the locals to make jam.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Camera-Critters #110: Willet

Continuos with my ABC Wednesday blog where I described my walk through the Great Flat Pond Trail at South Cape State Park of Cape Cod, here I show the Willet that I saw when I continued my walk between the beach and the Sedge Lot Pond.  The trail took me through the sand dunes along the coast and I could have a good view to the Sedge Lot Pond inland.  At this time of the year, we can see a lot of migratory birds.  A large flock of mute swans were at the lake.  I have shown photographs of them in flight last year at Camera-Critters #63.

The willet is a shore bird in the sandpiper family.  It wonders on the beach picking clams from the sand.  I could get quite close to get descent shots of the bird.

Well, may be I was too close for its comfort.

Up to the sky!

Notice the very clear marking on the body and the broad white wingstripe on the wings, exactly as described in the Sibley Guide for adult breeding eastern willet (Apr-Aug).

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ABC Wednesday: Q is for A Quiet Afternoon Walk in the Woods

In Taipei, it is hard to have a nice quiet walk in the woods.  Most likely we stroll on the street and do window shopping.  It is not Quiet at all.  Things are different on Cape Cod.  There are multitude of woods, marsh lands, kettle ponds, beaches and sand dunes for us to explore.  South Cape State Park is not far from our house and has all these features.  That was what I did last Sunday afternoon.

It was a beautiful day.  I normally walk on the trail along the beach, but this time I first tried to explore the Great Flat Pond Trail that took me through the pine barren and passing through Flat Pond, a kettle pond, which was left over from the last glacial.

The trail is well marked but not very wide.  It is Quiet for the season.  I expected to hear more bird singing, we are coming into the bird migration season on Cape Cod.

The first bird that I spotted was an American Goldfinch.  The picture is not as good as the one I took last year.  But I was happy just to see a bird.

Then came alone this Morning Dove, I was able to get a very clear shot at it.  Click on the photo to see the detail.

Finally, at the end of the trail, I came upon a pair of Rufous-sided Towhee.  I had to keep very Quiet to sneak on them.  Here is the male.

Well, it is not American Robin or Baltimore Oriole for sure, notice the distinctive white belly.  The female looked quite different from the male, she was very shy and did not let me have a shot of her.

I came back to the parking lot and was going to continue my afternoon walk along the sand dunes and you can follow with me on my Camera-Critters #109 and Today's Flower #93.  But before we get to that, while getting into the car in the parking lot, I noticed something moving on my jeans.  I got off the car and removed over 10 ticks from my blue jeans and three from the car seat.  I discovered two more in the car when I got home.  I was lucky that I had my socks outside of my jeans.  Those warning signs posted for ticks along the trail were not for nothing!!

Too see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Today's Flowers #92: May in the Garden of Cape Cod

I usually come back to the Cape Cod a bit later in the May, thus I missed many of the flowers that bloom during the late April and early May season.

This is our Japanese Crab Apple (Malus floribunda).  We have two of them, I especially chose this variety since it has a red flowering bud and white flowers.

The tree were really in full bloom when I arrived back home last weekend.  I could only find a few red flowering buds.

Here is one of the fragrant viburnum.  It has showy white clusters of flowers and delicious fragrance.  I have never seen it flowered before, I always came back too late.

Here is the detail of its tiny flowers.  We have installed drip watering system for all the trees and shrubs last year.  They seems to be extra happy this spring.

This is our pink Kwanzan Cherry.  I showed our Yoshino Cherry in our April 25 blog.  Its flower is now completely finished.  The pink Kwanzan Cherry flowers much latter, last week was its prime.  It has double flowers.  I also have never seen it blooms before.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Camera-Critters #109: Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

One my way back from Washington, DC to Cape Cod, I stopped by at Hyannis Transportation Center waiting for Sealine bus to take me to Mashpee.  In the station, I picked up The Guidebook Cape Cod.  As I read on, I found each Friday in May, the Mass Audubon Society run a Birding Cape Cod out from the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  I enthusiastically called them and made a reservation for yesterday, May 8th.  

I arrived on time at 9 a.m. with a group of senior citizens, all of them were seasoned birders and have known each other well.  The guide took us in a van to several well known birding spots including the Pilgrim Hights at Truro and Race Point near Province Town.  These are bird watchers, thus they were happy with just spotted the birds with their binocular, unlike me trying hard to photograph the birds with my 80-400mm lens mounted on D700.  After the tour, I  walked around the Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary, which I have visited last year.  Overall it was a very successful trip.  Following are the birds that I saw and photographed.

Male House Flinch (I think this one actually should be Male Purple Finch, 5/12/2010)

Greater Yellow Leg

Blue-winged Teal

Green Heron

Male Northern Cardinal

American Goldfinch

Canada Goose

Black-capped Chickadee

Turkey Vulture

Blue Jay

Male Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female Scarlet Tanager (This one should be Female Baltimore Oriel, notice the white strait on the wing, 5/12/2010)

Common Grackle

Red-tailed Hawk

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.


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