Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography: Blog http://www.dangomola.com/blog en-us (C)Dan Gomola dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Sun, 15 Oct 2017 20:39:00 GMT Sun, 15 Oct 2017 20:39:00 GMT http://www.dangomola.com/img/s10/v106/u261418170-o942152798-50.jpg Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography: Blog http://www.dangomola.com/blog 120 86 End of Summer Transitions of the White-tailed Deer http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/10/end-of-summer-transitions-of-the-white-tailed-deer The end of summer brings on many changes in the White-tailed Deer, especially the male, also called a buck.  As their antlers grow during the summer, bucks live alone or join bachelor groups.  Female deer (doe) and their babies (fawns) remain a family unit for up to a year or until the doe gives birth the next spring.  In late summer, the does and fawns are plentiful in the fields at dusk. 

This doe was crossing a field of Queen Anne's Lace to get to her fawns waiting at the edge.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

As the deer begin to shed their summer coat and their brown-gray winter coat grows, the velvet on the buck begins to die and get rubbed off.  That is when things start to happen.

The winter coat of this albino deer will remain white but the velvet begins to be shed as expected.  If you look closely, you can see blood on his left ear where the velvet has begun to come off.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

Many people would argue that this is a leucistic deer and not an albino deer.  Let's explore the differences.

Albinism is caused when they have little or no melanin in their bodies.  The hair is white because it lacks pigment and the skin appears to be pink because the flowing blood shows through the deer's pale skin. They generally have pink eyes but they sometimes have pale blue eyes.  Albinism negatively affects their eyesight as well.

Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation resulting in white, pale, or patchy fur.  Patchy fur is referred to as Pie-bald.  Leucism does not affect the eyes or nose so the eyes remain brown and the nose remains black.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

Below is a short video of the albino buck and others enjoying soy bean leaves. White-tailed Deer

 

Because of the pink skin that is very noticeable on the ears and nose and the pale blue eyes, it's hard to deny he is an albino.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

During this time of year, the food source begins to change and testosterone begins to build.  As the bucks shed their velvet, the bachelor groups begin to disband.  All the deer you enjoyed watching the past few months are no longer easy to find.  As fall approaches, the fields of soy bean plants and other plants the deer love begin to yellow and acorns begin to drop.  Their feeding patterns change from the fields to oak trees growing throughout the forest.  The dense forest will give them more cover as they feed on their favorite fall harvest.

The life span of an albino deer is shorter than a normal colored deer.  One reason is that they cannot hide as well and predators can find them easier.  In the photo below, the albino has completed his shed but the small buck next to him is still in the process of rubbing it off.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

As velvet sheds, they do not tolerate humans as much and they move more cautiously.  A short three weeks ago you could pull off to the side of the road in your car to watch big deer munching on Soy Bean leaves.  Now, they are simply not the same deer.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

All of the photographs in this blog were made in very low light.  Camera shutter speeds were slowed and ISO (sensitivity level of the camera's sensor) was set much higher than I normally set it.  Results were not always the best as I recorded many blurry ears and tails swishing at the flies and blurry lower jaws as they chewed the soy bean leaves.  I am happy to get what I got and I am equally thrilled to be able to share these beautiful animals with you.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

The photo below is an example of everything I said above.  I found this lone buck one evening exiting the woods were I was set up in a blind.  He was heading toward a huge oak tree where the acorns were already hitting the ground.  His coat is in transition between his summer and winter coat and his remaining velvet is barely hanging on.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

Seeing an albino deer is a rarity so I made four or five visits to the area he was known to feed.  There were several other deer in the area and a few really big bucks.  The really big bucks didn't get that way by being friendly.  I don't have any photos because they didn't take too kindly to me lifting a Canon (600mm lens) through the window of my vehicle.

I think the white-tailed Deer is one of the most beautiful animals roaming the earth.  Although the antlered deer are what we're watching for as the mating season gets closer, I still spend time photographing the females and their little ones too.  This next photo is a doe and her two fawns.  Although the spots have faded as their winter coat comes in, they are still noticeably smaller than mom.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

This little guy still has some spots remaining.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

I love photographing animal behavior.  Unfortunately, I don't have time to do enough of it.  Animal Behavior photography, in my opinion, is photography of wildlife in their natural setting without interrupting their activities and hopefully, discrete enough that they don't know you are there.  Let's face it, you may be able to be hidden for a short time but animals have keen senses and discover anything that is different.  At that point, our best hope is that you are hidden well enough that you don't pose a threat.

Photographing from a vehicle is a perfect example.  Deer see a lot of vehicles drive by and never look up from their feeding.  That makes vehicles a good blind as long as you remain in it.

I feel so fortunate when I am lucky enough to witness interaction between wildlife and their babies or even the show of affection like these two fawns grooming each other.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

Here are a few more shots of the bucks feeding in the soy bean field.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerAlbino

 

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

I couldn't take my eyes, or my lens, off the two fawns in the back of the field.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

The grooming continued.  Doesn't it look like they are giving each other a hug?

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

Did you know that a deer's vision is better at night than it is during the day?  Also, the colors green, orange, and red appear as shades of gray to the deer.  I don't know that I would like that!

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

September is a time of pre-rut where testosterone builds in the males and hormones escalate in the females.  Many bucks begin to "feel each other out" by sparring.  Sparring is not an all-out dominance fight but more of an action of pushing each other around.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

It was getting very dark when I made this photograph.  Most of my photos were blurry but I managed to save a couple like the one below.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed Deer

 

When it gets too dark for photos I switch to video until it gets too dark.  This video contains clips of bucks sparring along the woodland edge.  There were several cars or trucks that drove by during these clips and a few stopped to watch.  Unfortunately, most people leave their car running so my microphone picks that up.  Hopefully, you can ignore the annoying background noise.

White-tailed Deer

 

I hope you enjoyed these pre-rut photographs and video.  Watch for a November photo blog documenting my White-tailed Deer rut season.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) albino white-tailed deer http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/10/end-of-summer-transitions-of-the-white-tailed-deer Sun, 15 Oct 2017 20:39:02 GMT
End of Summer Wildlife Never Fails http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/10/end-of-summer-wildlife-never-fails According to the calendar, autumn has arrived.  If you’ve walked outside of your northeast home lately, you’ve noticed it still feels like August.  With temperatures in the 80’s, we humans make the appropriate adjustments to enjoy the prolonged “summer”.  Wildlife and nature, on the other hand, keeps doing what it does in October.

Goldenrod is in bloom, Pokeweed berries are ripening, many wildflowers turned to seed, the sweet and bitter fruits and nuts are ripening into nutrition to be eaten and cached by wildlife, and finally, the deep greens of our summer foliage has begun to turn into yellow and red hues across our landscape.

I have been consumed with Elk, White-tailed Deer, and fall songbird migration photography lately but in the process, there are always special moments and sights to capture in my camera.  This photo blog is a compilation of photos and a short video displaying wildlife and nature seen during my time “in the field” the last couple months.

I hope you enjoy these late summer photographs such as this Gray Catbird perched in the, yet-to-ripen, Pokeweed plant.

Gray CatbirdGray Catbird

 

The setting sun is like a spotlight on the thin ears of the Cottontail Rabbit.

Cottontail RabbitCottontail Rabbit

 

When we bought this property 20 years ago, I was happy to find it is in the middle of several Eastern Black Walnut trees.  Yes, they are messy but I don't have to pick up the fallen fruit.  My yard is a popular place in the fall when all the neighborhood Gray Squirrels come to gather nuts. I put down lime on certain parts of my lawn to reduce the acidity from the husks the squirrels leave behind.  Keeping the trees is the least I can do to help them through the winter.

Gray SquirrelGray Squirrel

 

This bird nesting box has been empty for several months now but this Tufted Titmouse had to check if anyone was home.

Tufted TitmouseTufted Titmouse

 

Elena and I were in Benezette for a long weekend to photograph the Elk rut.  It happened to be during a hot and dry stretch of weather.  It affected photography of the rut because the heat would force the elk into the woods earlier in the morning and keep them in there longer in the evening.  It wasn't a great weekend for elk photography but I did grab a few interesting shots of other topics.

Here is a Cedar Waxwing perched on a Pokeweed plant.

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing

 

If you've ever been to Benezette, or any mountainous area for that matter, you will realize that the morning usually greets you with heavy fog.  Of course, fog leaves behind dew.

When the sun finally emerged this one morning in Benezette, we were greeted by several hundred dew drenched spider webs glistening in the fields.

Below is a photograph of a Banded Garden Spider and an interesting tidbit I found about web construction from the Department of Entomology at Penn State University.

"A behavioral study of web construction determined that the majority of Argiope trifasciata orient their webs along an east-to-west axis. The spiders hang head-down in the center of the web with their abdomens facing south. Since the underside (venter) of the spider is mostly black, the orientation of both web and spider is believed to maximize solar radiation for heat gain—an important consideration for spiders that are active late in the year."

Morning dew on the web of a female Banded Garden SpiderMorning dew on the web of a female Banded Garden SpiderBanded Garden Spider (Female)

 

Waiting for elk to emerge in the evening can be a snoozefest if you let it happen.  Instead, I watched several Monarch butterflies visiting the flowering Goldenrod that dappled the landscape.  The journey in front of this butterfly is amazing when you think about it.  The monarch is this large-winged insect that weighs 1/2 gram or less and seems to be at the mercy of whichever way the wind is blowing.  The journey it is on will take him to the final destination of Mexico or southern California where it is warm year round. 

Monarch Butterfly on GoldenrodMonarch Butterfly on Goldenrod

 

On one of my more productive elk visits to Benezette I got to spend the day with my good friend Tom Dorsey, who lives in that region of the state.  After spending a very good morning with the elk, Tom took me on a tour of many of the back roads through the mountains and Elk State Forest.  Once Tom drove us out of the area I am familiar with, I had no idea where I was.  By the way, I keep mentioning elk with no photos.  The elk photos will be in an upcoming blog about my experiences during the 2017 elk rut.

Close to the end of my tour, Tom took me to a place called Shaggers Inn Pond.  It is tucked away in the forest of Clearfield County.  We spent about an hour there watching the birds including a Bald Eagle all the way down in size to fall songbirds chirping in the bushes. Shaggers Inn PondShaggers Inn PondClearfield County, PA

 

Back in western Pennsylvania, wildlife photography opportunities continue.  One day, I spotted a few Wild Turkey and several of their poults (babies).  The field grasses were too high to photograph the poults so here is one of the adults.

Wild TurkeyWild Turkey

 

One day, while photographing birds in my back yard, I saw this Gray Squirrel sitting in the fork of a tree gnawing the husk from the fruit of one of my Eastern Black Walnut trees.

Gray SquirrelGray Squirrel

 

I have a trail cam that I move around my backyard to see how my bird feeders get emptied over night and see what might be coming in to get a drink or bath at the fish pond.  All summer, I've had two Raccoons visit now and then.  So far, my fish have been safe.  One morning, I noticed one of the Raccoons in a large, hollow maple tree that was here long before we were.  It was very early in the morning and I think he was ready for a day of napping.

RaccoonRaccoon

 

He found a spot to relax.

RaccoonRaccoon

 

I'd like to share a short video of clips made in my backyard.  I love to watch the American Goldfinsh pulling seeds from the dried Echinacea flower. Also in the video is the Gray Squirrel peeling the husk from a walnut you saw earlier in this blog.  And, of course, I have to share video of the Raccoon in the tree.

 

One evening my friend, Jake Dingel, and I went out looking for White-tailed Deer.  We were hoping to find them in the process of shedding their velvet.  On our way past a marsh, we spotted a Green Heron perched on a stump in the water.  We stopped and photographed the bird.

Green HeronGreen Heron

 

The heron caught me off guard when he lunged to make a catch and I didn't get any photos worth sharing.  This photo was after he returned to the stump with a small frog.

Green HeronGreen Heron

 

I wish I had my macro lens instead of only the 600mm when I saw this Praying Mantis.  It could be a little sharper but it is still worth sharing.

 

One Saturday morning, after reports of a rare Sabine's Gull being seen at a lake about an hour away in Clarion County, Elena and I decided to go see the bird.  Unfortunately, the day before was the last time it was seen as it continued on its migration.  

During our wait at the lake, we spotted several fall warblers that I will share in an upcoming photo blog.  We also got to watch this Osprey dive into the water and retrieve a fish.  Unfortunately, the wind was blowing into our face and since birds land, take off, and fish into the wind, its back was toward us the whole time.  The only photos I have to share are after the catch, like the one below.

OspreyOsprey

 

That's all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this series of photos.  Soon I will be sharing photos of White-tailed Deer and the American Elk herd in Pennsylvania. I hope you check back soon. 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) american goldfinch banded garden spider cedar waxwing cottontail rabbit eastern gray squirrel gray catbird green heron monarch butterfly osprey praying mantis raccoon shaggers pond tufted titmouse wild turkey http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/10/end-of-summer-wildlife-never-fails Sun, 08 Oct 2017 21:24:00 GMT
A Morning at the Marsh http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/8/a-morning-at-the-marsh August brings about another kind of migration to the northeast region of the United States.  Shorebirds begin to make their yearly trek toward their winter homes.  The Lake Erie shore attracts many of these shorebirds and one particular beach in northern Ohio is one of them.  Not only does the beach at Conneaut, Ohio have the Lake Erie shoreline, there is also a large sand bar containing a mud flat (when it’s not flooded) and a photography friendly marshland.

The sand bar is a two hour drive for me so I don’t go very often, especially since most of the birds have lost their colorful breeding plumage.  However, it is a good place to see a nice variety of birds.

In this photo blog, I’m going to show you a very difficult bird to find, our smallest heron, the Least Bittern.  Then, I’ll share a few photos of a bird that has managed to avoid my camera lens until this year, the American Avocet. Then I’ll share a video containing clips of the Least Bittern, American Avocet, and more.

The Least Bittern is very well camouflaged, making it one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot. 

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

The least bitten measures between 11 and 14 inches in length with its neck outstretched.  When in a relaxed position, I’m guessing they are half of that.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

The Least Bittern uses its long neck to search for and catch prey without leaving the perch.  If you look closely, you can see the target on the Spatterdock leaf, a dragonfly.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

The Least Bittern eats mostly small fish (such as minnows, sunfishes, and perch) and large insects (dragonflies and others); also crayfish, leeches, frogs, tadpoles, small snakes, and other items.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

In this photo, this female bittern just caught a dragonfly nymph.  (A dragonfly’s life span is about one year with very little of that time being spent as an adult dragonfly. A dragonfly nymph is the middle, and longest, stage between the egg and adulthood.  During the nymph stage, they spend their time underwater so, unless you witness a Least Bittern catch one for a snack, you seldom see them.)

 

Bittern can feed in water that is too deep for them to walk in because of their habit of straddling reeds.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

As I mentioned earlier, the Least Bittern is our smallest heron measuring between 11 and 14.2 inches in length.  Even with a wingspan of 16 - 18 inches, it only weighs between 1.8 – 3.6 ounces.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

The Least Bittern has adapted for life in dense marshes.  As I previously mentioned, rather than wading in the water like larger herons, they move about the marsh clinging onto cattails and reeds with their long toes.  It slips its thin body through even the most thickest marshes.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Because of its preferred habitat, it often goes unseen except when it flies.  Perhaps the only way you will know one is nearby is because you hear its cooing and clucking call notes.  However, sometimes you can find them in the open such as these bitterns I found hunting on the Spatterdock.

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Least BitternLeast Bittern

 

Until this day I’ve never seen an American Avocet. I was really happy to see at least one come to my shore today.  At 16.9 to 18.5 inches in length, they are a lot larger than I thought they were.

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

Probably the most distinguishing mark of an American Avocet is their long, upturned bill.  I would love to see one of these beautiful birds in the spring when they are in breeding plumage.  In the photo below you can still see the fading rust color of its neck.

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

This avocet stayed at the edge of the shoreline, however, they do prefer shallow water and large mudflats.

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

Their diet consists mostly of small crustaceans and insects, also some seeds. They feed by walking through the water with the tips of their bills in the water and slightly open.  They filter food items from below the water surface.

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

During migration, the birds need to eat and sleep during their stopovers.  This avocet was preening for a little while and its eyes were beginning to close in the warm sun.

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

American AvocetAmerican AvocetLate Summer Plumage

 

We had an interesting visitor one morning.  As I and a small group of photographers and birders waited for the Least Bittern to venture into the open, this immature Great Blue Heron walked up on us and wasn't afraid at all.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue HeronJuvenile

 

As I promised, here is a short video of some of the birds that can be found in a marsh.

Shore & Marsh Birds

 

I hope you enjoyed this little compilation of photos from Conneaut, OH.  There's always an adventure waiting around the next turn. 

See you there,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) american avocet american bittern great blue heron http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/8/a-morning-at-the-marsh Wed, 30 Aug 2017 00:12:18 GMT
My Warblers of Spring, 2017 http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/my-warblers-of-spring-2017 I hope you have enjoyed the recent short blog posts highlighting some of the rare or seldom seem warblers in the western Pennsylvania region.  It was a great, but tiring, spring season.  Juggling work and home life, I managed to get out to photograph warblers on weekend mornings and evenings and a few vacation days here and there during the month of May.

I realize many readers have never seen some of these birds and that is a benefit of what I do.  If you are able, I hope these photos encourage you to get out in nature and enjoy yourself.  There is no happier moment than when you are out in nature, worries and concerns set aside, watching these little beauties decorate your world from the ground to the tree tops.

Sadly, many of these birds you are about to see are falling victim to human "progress".  Urban development, among other things, are causing habitat loss in their breeding grounds.  Breeding habitat is very specific for our songbirds.  They can't simply go to the next standing tree or shrub!  Steps of conservation are being taken but will it be enough?  We, as shepherds of this land, need to be more concerned with the results of our actions in regards to wildlife.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the 28 species of warbler I photographed this spring.  I thought I had 29 species until I found out about the reclassification of the Yellow-breasted Chat.  I included him in the end of this blog for ol times sake.

Maybe these photos will encourage you to make plans to learn more about these little beauties and become more active in their future.

American Redstart  
American RedstartAmerican RedstartMale American RedstartAmerican RedstartMale

 

Black-and-white Warbler

 
Black-and-white WarblerBlack-and-white WarblerMale Black-and-white WarblerBlack-and-white Warbler

 

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue WarblerBlack-throated Blue WarblerMale

 

Black-throated Green Warbler

 
Black-throated Green WarblerBlack-throated Green WarblerMale Black-throated Green WarblerBlack-throated Green WarblerMale

 

Blackburnian Warbler

 
Blackburnian WarblerBlackburnian WarblerMale Blackburnian WarblerBlackburnian WarblerMale

 

Blue-winged Warbler

 
Blue-winged WarblerBlue-winged WarblerMale Blue-winged WarblerBlue-winged WarblerMale

 

Canada Warbler

 
Canada WarblerCanada WarblerMale Canada WarblerCanada WarblerMale

 

Cape May Warbler

Cape May WarblerCape May WarblerMale

 

Cerulean Warbler

 
Cerulean WarblerCerulean Warbler Cerulean WarblerCerulean Warbler

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler

 
Chestnut-sided WarblerChestnut-sided WarblerMale Chestnut-sided WarblerChestnut-sided WarblerMale

 

Common Yellowthroat

 
Common YellowthroatCommon YellowthroatMale Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

 

Golden-winged Warbler

 
Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Hooded Warbler

 
Hooded WarblerHooded Warbler Hooded WarblerHooded Warbler

 

Kentucky Warbler

 
Kentucky WarblerKentucky Warbler Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale

 

Louisiana Waterthrush

 
Louisiana WaterthrushLouisiana Waterthrush Louisiana WaterthrushLouisiana Waterthrush

 

Magnolia Warbler

 
Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale

 

Mourning Warbler

 
Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale

 

Nashville Warbler

Nashville WarblerNashville Warbler

 

Northern Parula

 
Northern ParulaNorthern Parula Northern ParulaNorthern Parula

 

Ovenbird

 
OvenbirdOvenbird OvenbirdOvenbird

 

Palm Warbler

 
Palm WarblerPalm Warbler  

 

Pine Warbler

 
Pine WarblerPine WarblerMale Pine WarblerPine WarblerMale

 

Prairie Warbler

 
Prairie WarblerPrairie WarblerMale Prairie WarblerPrairie WarblerMale

 

Prothonotary Warbler

 
Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary Warbler

 

Worm-eating Warbler

 
Worm-eating WarblerWorm-eating Warbler Worm-eating WarblerWorm-eating Warbler

 

Yellow Warbler

 
Yellow WarblerYellow WarblerMale Yellow WarblerYellow WarblerFemale

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

 
Yellow-rumped WarblerYellow-rumped WarblerMale Yellow-rumped WarblerYellow-rumped Warbler

 

Yellow-throated  Warbler

 
Yellow-throated WarblerYellow-throated Warbler Yellow-throated WarblerYellow-throated Warbler

 

Yellow-breasted Chat

 
Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores) Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) american redstart black-and-white warbler blackburnian warbler black-throated blue warbler black-throated green warbler blue-winged warbler canada warbler cape may warbler cerulean warbler chestnut-sided warbler common yellowthroat golden-winged warbler hooded warbler kentucky warbler louisiana waterthrush magnolia warbler mourning warbler nashville warbler northern parula ovenbird palm warbler pine warbler prairie warbler prothonotary warbler worm-eating warbler yellow warbler yellow-breasted chat yellow-rumped warbler yellow-throated warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/my-warblers-of-spring-2017 Wed, 19 Jul 2017 23:11:11 GMT
Yellow-breasted Chat: A Warbler Reclassified http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/yellow-breasted-chat-our-largest-warbler The Yellow-breasted Chat is the largest of our warblers.  At least it was our largest warbler.  After writing the original version of this blog I found out the warbler classification of the Yellow-breasted Chat is in jeopardy because of several changes being proposed by the the American Ornithological Society's North and Middle American Classification Committee.  Here is a partial quote from the proposal.  "The Yellow-breasted Chat is no longer part of the wood-warbler family, Parulidae, and gets its own family Icteriidae, not be confused with the blackbird family Icteridae."  Well, the change is official and if you care to read about it, you can here.

Regardless of its classification, the Yellow-breasted Chat is a pretty cool bird.  If you hope to see one, you better look in the spring while the male is singing for a mate or protecting his territory because they are fairly quiet the rest of the summer.

Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

As you can see in the range map below, the chat is a widespread breeder across North America and they migrate all the way into Central America for the winter.  On their breeding grounds during the summer months, they prefer shrubby thickets and other dense habitats. 

YellowBreastedChatRangeMapYellowBreastedChatRangeMap Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

I would like to describe their calls but I cannot say it better than the description on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  Here is their description: "Males have a large repertoire of songs made up of whistles, cackles, mews, catcalls, caw notes, chuckles, rattles, squawks, gurgles, and pops, which they repeat and string together with great variety".

Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

One of the fun moments of bird photography is when the bird sits on a branch for an extended period of time and preens.  The preening session usually ends with a total body fluff-up like this male is doing in the next photograph.  Notice the black coloration in the region between the eye and the nostrils?  That area is called the lores.  A male chat has black lores and the female has gray lores. Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

I mentioned earlier in this blog that the chat is the largest of all warblers.  They are large and bulky compared to other warblers and they have a long tail, large head and a thick, heavy bill.

Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted ChatMale (Black Lores)

 

Although the Yellow-breasted Chat's population has declined in parts of the southwest, their population is mostly stable.  As more eastern forests are being cleared to create brushy habitat, their population has been increasing.  Keep in mind when I refer to "forests being cleared" I don't mean for urban development.  That doesn't help their population at all.  Clearing forests is a good thing when old growth is logged out creating habitat for many birds that prefer new-growth areas.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) yellow-breasted chat http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/yellow-breasted-chat-our-largest-warbler Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:52:01 GMT
Indigo Bunting: A Scrap of Sky With Wings http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/indigo-bunting-a-scrap-of-sky-with-wings Sometimes called “Blue Canaries”, the Indigo Bunting sings on the highest perch all spring and summer.  When I want to photograph Indigo Buntings, I visit any weedy fields or shrubby areas near woods and listen.  Eventually, one will come along.

 

A male Indigo Bunting will sing as many as 200 songs per hour at dawn and about one per minute for the rest of the day.  Many times birders refer to a bird’s song in the English language.  If you were to do that for an Indigo Bunting, it would be "what! what! where? where? see it! see it!" repeated in pairs.

 

While watching the male and waiting for him to return, I saw a flash of brown in the weeds.  It was holding its wings out slightly while vibrating its wings and making a buzzing sound. To me, it looked like a young male waiting to be fed.  As I photographed him, the adult flew into the shot.

 

I would have expected the adult to have a morsel of food but I guess he just came in to the calls of the youngster.

 

The plain brown females are seen much less often.  They need to be inconspicuous because they do most of the work caring for the eggs and young which are hidden in dense thickets.  This one came in and out of the thicket a few times.

 

In the shadows, the male Indigo Bunting looks much darker.  Why?  This bird’s feathers does not contain any blue pigment.  The structure of the feathers diffracts light so that we see only the color blue.  So, the amount of light changes our perception of the color of an Indigo Bunting.

 

Indigo Buntings eat small seeds, berries, buds, and insects.  The female reappeared and this time had an insect in her beak.  Interestingly, she didn’t eat it or offer it to the male.  Instead, she flit from perch to perch with the insect in her mouth.

 

The male looked very interested in something.  Usually, they fly around in a large circle but today he was staying in a tight loop.

 

Finally, I saw the reason for the peculiar actions.  They had a nestling that climbed the branch to get up where it could see more.

 

Once I saw the little bunting, I decided to leave and not disturb them anymore.  They obviously wanted to feed their baby but not while I was there.  I was happy to give it space.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) indigo bunting http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/indigo-bunting-a-scrap-of-sky-with-wings Tue, 11 Jul 2017 22:31:13 GMT
Ma and Pa Gomola Go To Benezette http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/ma-and-pa-gomola-go-to-benezette

You probably have to be Baby Boomer or older to understand the reference in the title of this photo blog.  We didn't have quite the antics that Ma and Pa Kettle had when they visited town but it was an eventful evening.

On Sunday, July 2nd, Elena and I went to Benezette for the evening. After kicking around the shops a little bit, we had dinner at the Benezette Hotel and headed for State Game Lands 311 known as "The Saddle" to photograph grassland birds. The Saddle was full of Eastern Meadowlark and most were juvenile. They all stayed pretty far away. I managed some nice photos of a rare Pennsylvania visitor/breeding resident, the Dickcissel.

It was a lot of fun photographing these birds because every time I was going to quit, the light would change and I'd have to get photos in the new light.  After the customary singing photos, I trying catching some as they landed on a perch.

DickcisselDickcisselMale

 

The Dickcissel is a breeding bird of the prairie grasslands of the mid-west but sometimes they venture a little further east than normal and we find them in western Pennsylvania.

DickcisselDickcisselMale

 

A huge cloud covered the sun for about 10 minutes and I loved the soft light it offered.

DickcisselDickcisselMale

 

The sun was getting low and the Dickcissel perched in a budding Pokeweed plant.

DickcisselDickcisselMale

 

Here is a 47 second video of a male Dickcissel singing.  If you listen carefully you can hear Meadowlark in the background.

Dickcissel

 

Another bird of the grassland is the Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah SparrowSavannah SparrowMale

 

On our way out of town I spotted a bull elk deep in the shadows. ISO went up and shutter speed went down but I managed a couple sharp pics.

PA Elk (Jul, 2017)PA Elk (Jul, 2017)

 

He stopped to rub his antlers in the tree branches.  There was some really cool pics to be made but my shutter speed was too slow.  When I went to see world famous wildlife photographer, Charles Glatzer, speak last year, he made one suggestion that everyone should adhere to regarding shooting in near darkness.  It went something like this: "Raise the iso to raise the shutter speed and deal with the noise in post processing because a blurry photo isn't worth anything".  I should have done that.

PA Elk (Jul, 2017)PA Elk (Jul, 2017)

 

Further down the road in the mountains surrounding Benezette we spotted a Black Bear raiding someone's bird feeder.

Black BearBlack Bear

 

After she cleaned up the bird seed she headed back into the woods.  She gave me one last look on the way.

Black BearBlack Bear

 

All in all, it was a great day. I forgot to mention that I almost stepped on a 5 foot long Rat Snake because I was paying more attention to the fields than I was of the trail but it moved and I jumped and all ended well.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) American Elk Black Bear Dickcissel Savannah Sparrow http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/ma-and-pa-gomola-go-to-benezette Sat, 08 Jul 2017 00:33:13 GMT
Magnolia Warbler: Former Black-and-yellow Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/magnolia-warbler-former-black-and-yellow-warbler The Magnolia Warbler, hands down, is one of the most beautiful warblers.  While other birds have their distinct markings, the Magnolia Warbler has them all.  He is loaded with features like bold white eyebrows, an elegant necklace, bright yellow rump, belly and chin and a dark mask.

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale

 

Even though this bird is very small and active, they are not as difficult to spot as other warblers because they often stay low to the ground providing opportunities for photography.

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale

 

In 1810, a pioneer ornithologist named Alexander Wilson found this species in a Magnolia tree in Mississippi and is credited with its name.  He actually used the name "Black-and-yellow Warbler" as its English name and "Magnolia" for the Latin species name.  Over time, Magnolia has become the common name.

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale

 

I had a lot of success finding Magnolia Warblers this year.  If you look in low growth, coniferous stands or mixed forest, you just may see a Magnolia Warbler for yourself.

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale

 

The Magnolia Warbler migrates at night.  In the spring and fall, most fly across the Gulf of Mexico where they winter in Mexico, Central America, West Indies, and most commonly in Yucatan Peninsula.  Strays have been known to reach the west coast during the spring and especially fall migration.

 
Magnolia WarblerMagnolia WarblerMale MagnoliaWarblerRangeMapMagnoliaWarblerRangeMap

 

During the summer, in the north woods, they favor second-growth habitats.  Their numbers are actually reported as stable or increases in certain areas.  One reason contributing to their increase is their ability to adapt to second-growth woods and cut-over areas.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Magnolia Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/7/magnolia-warbler-former-black-and-yellow-warbler Wed, 05 Jul 2017 22:21:32 GMT
Mournig Warbler Leaves Me Wanting More http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/mournig-warbler-leaves-me-wanting-more The Mourning Warbler seldom leaves the protection of their dense habitat and they tend to sing only on their breeding grounds.  Even though they can be common in some locations, they are much less frequently seen.  This May, me, Elena, and friends Tom Dorsey, Tony Bruno, and Jake Dingel made a few trips, not always together, into the Allegheny National Forest in search of Mourning Warbler habitat.  We were lucky to find some occupied by a Mourning Warbler or two. Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale

 

On one trip, Elena and I found a Mourning Warbler at one location and he showed himself for about five seconds in the thicket in front of me.  We waited several minutes and he didn't return so we moved on.  The next location was a little better.  A male appeared and spent about 10 minutes flitting between fallen limbs that were laying on the ground after loggers took the forest they needed.

Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale

 

You can see in the map below that the lower end of their breeding territory extends into northern Pennsylvania.

Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale MourningWarblerRangeMapMourningWarblerRangeMap

 

Pioneering ornithologist Alexander Wilson claimed the dark "hood" and black breast patch reminded him of someone in mourning. Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale

 

This little male continued to fly back and forth.  Apparently, I didn't come close to a nest because both male and female Mourning Warblers pretend to have broken wings to distract predators that come too close to their nest. Mourning WarblerMourning WarblerMale

 

The Mourning Warbler is not as vulnerable to loss of habitat as other warblers.  Logging of old growth forests provide exactly the habitat they need to breed.  According to reports from the National Audubon Society, current numbers are stable.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Mourning Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/mournig-warbler-leaves-me-wanting-more Mon, 26 Jun 2017 23:06:06 GMT
Prothonotary Warbler: A Golden Ray of Light http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/prothonotary-warbler-a-golden-ray-of-light The Prothonotary Warbler, often called a "swamp warbler" in the southeast, are usually found in the dim understory of woodland swamps.  They have been described as "a golden ray of light" as they jump around the branches searching for insects.  As you will see in the following images, that is exactly where I photographed this little male. Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale

 

Although the range map below doesn't show it, there are breeding Prothonotary Warblers in the state of Pennsylvania.  They are only one of two warblers that nest in holes in standing dead trees.  The Lucy's Warbler is the other but since they live in far southwestern United States, I'm not going to find any of those in Pennsylvania.

Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale ProthonotaryWarblerRangeMapProthonotaryWarblerRangeMap

 

Do you know how the Prothonotary Warbler got its name?  They got their name from the bright yellow robes worn by papal clerks, known as prothonotaries, in the Roman Catholic church. Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale

 

All of the adult Prothonotary Warblers that I photographed have dark, wet looking feathers on their crown where they should have bright yellow feathers like the rest of their head.  The reason is not certain but some people have said it is because of their method of hunting for insects.  They look under leaves and reach in for the insect so water touches their heads, making them wet.  Another idea is that certain plants have a sap textured secretion from their leaves and the sap gets on their head while hunting and stains the feathers. 

Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale

 

I watched this Prothonotary Warbler hunting for quite a while and smiled at the positions he got into while looking for insects.

Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary WarblerMale

 

The conservation status of the Prothonotary Warbler is better than other warblers but they are still on the decline.  The clearing of swamp forests in the south have affected their breeding range.  Elsewhere, birdhouses have helped them remain fairly common.

Well, that's it for the Prothonotary Warbler photo blog.  If you would like to see more photos that I didn't include in the post, you can check them out in the Prothonotary Warbler gallery of my website.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Prothonotary Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/prothonotary-warbler-a-golden-ray-of-light Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:55:26 GMT
Kentucky Warbler: Usually Heard but Not Seen http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/kentucky-warbler-usually-heard-but-not-seen On my quest of photographing warblers this spring I did have the opportunity to photograph a few seldom seen, or rare birds.  I decided to single out a few species because of their rarity and/or their beauty.  The first photo blog, published on June 4th, was about the Golden-winged Warbler.  Today's photo blog is about the Kentucky Warbler.

The Kentucky Warbler is a small, brightly colored warbler whose loud song can be heard in the undergrowth of eastern deciduous forests.  They spend most of their time on the ground in moist, leafy woodlands searching for insects.  Despite its bright colors, the dark shadows of the forest keeps them well hidden. Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale

 

I was so fortunate to find a male Kentucky Warbler on a few occasions and photograph them in the middle of their song.  You can see in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's range map below, northern Pennsylvania nears the end of the Kentucky Warbler's breeding range.  Prior to 1940, the Kentucky Warbler's breeding range ended in southern Pennsylvania but the creation of breeding habitats expanded their range.

Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale KentuckyWarblerRangeMapKentuckyWarblerRangeMap

The main diet of the Kentucky Warbler consists of various insects including moths, bugs, ants, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, aphids, grubs, and spiders, plus a few berries. Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale

 

I was able to get some images of this beauty on the edge of some pretty thick shrubs along a large tract of deciduous forest. Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale

 

We in Pennsylvania get to enjoy the presence of the Kentucky Warbler for another two months.  They begin to leave their breeding ground in August.

Kentucky WarblerKentucky WarblerMale

 

The Kentucky Warbler sings a loud springtime song but he usually sings from a secluded perch.  When you hear him sing, it's hard to believe they are such a shy and elusive bird.

Kentucky WarblerKentucky Warbler

 

Their survival story isn't much different from other beautiful warblers on this planet.  This species is declining and one reason is the clearing of forests.  Loss of habitat is also happening on their wintering grounds.  As forests are broken up into smaller patches, they become vulnerable to cowbird parasitism.  Brown-headed Cowbirds do not raise their own young.  Instead, they lay their eggs in other species' nests allowing them to be raised by the other species.  There are several reasons parasitism hurts the survival of the other species of birds like the Kentucky Warbler.

If you would like to see more photo of Kentucky Warblers, check out my Kentucky Warbler gallery here.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Kentucky Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/kentucky-warbler-usually-heard-but-not-seen Mon, 19 Jun 2017 23:23:38 GMT
The Enjoyment of May and June Wildlife http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/the-enjoyment-of-may-and-june-wildlife I was so busy in May and the first half of June photographing birds in the Warbler family.  I'm sad that it's past but I'm also a little relieved because it required a lot of travel to get some new species.  I will share the "fruits of my labor" in upcoming photo blogs but right now, I want to share many of the other encounters with wildlife that I enjoyed along the way.

Not going to be much reading in this one folks.  I hope you enjoy these bonus photos as much as I enjoyed making them.

Black-billed Cuckoo (Centre County, PA) - Typically a treetop dweller, I was happy when this Black-billed Cuckoo came low enough for a decent photo. Black-billed CuckooBlack-billed Cuckoo

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Ottawa County, OH)  - I photographed this Black-crowned Night-Heron in mid-day with a high, bright sun.  Definitely not a choice I would make if I had any kind of clout with the wildlife. Ha ha!  Apparently, they don't care what I want!  Anyway, I watched him sit on a log for an hour or so before he decided to take a flight over the water to relieve himself and return.  I don't know about other birds but these ones don't "poop" where they hunt for food.  I was glad he had to go because it gave me an opportunity for some action photos. Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Ottawa County, OH) - In breeding season adults have two long white plumes on their heads. They are evident in the photo below.  Black-crowned night herons don't have adult plumage until they are about three years old. Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Ottawa County, OH) - I have several more photos from this series.  If you are interested, you can view them in my Avian/Heron/Black-crowned Night-Heron gallery. Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

 

Bobolink (Lawrence County, PA) - I found several Bobolink mixed with Meadowlark and some sparrows.  The photo below is the female Bobolink.

BobolinkBobolinkFemale

 

Bobolink (Lawrence County, PA) - Here is the male Bobolink in breeding plumage. BobolinkBobolinkMale

 

Common Grackle (Ottawa County, OH) - Known to be a poor but spirited singer, the Common Grackle has to be proud of their iridescent plumage. Common GrackleCommon Grackle

 

Dunlin (Ottawa County, OH) -  First time I ever photographed this little shorebird DunlinDunlin

 

Dunlin (Ottawa County, OH) - Mirror, Mirror! DunlinDunlin

 

Eastern Towhee (Butler County, PA) - A vocal resident of our summer forest.  It's a special photo opportunity when you can find the male and female together in one frame. Eastern TowheeEastern TowheeMale & Female

 

Greater Yellowlegs (Ottawa County, OH) - Taking a break on a mound in the marsh. Greater YellowlegsGreater Yellowlegs

 

Green Heron (Centre County, PA) Green HeronGreen Heron

 

Green Heron chicks (Crawford County, PA) - A friend called me about a Green Heron nest in a nearby yard.  Height and leaves made photography difficult but it was neat to see. Green HeronGreen HeronNestling

 

Henslow's Sparrow (Clarion County, PA) Henslow's SparrowHenslow's Sparrow

 

Hermit Thrush (Forest County, PA) - The Hermit Thrush has an interesting courtship behavior.  For the first two days after arriving to his springtime breeding grounds, he attacks and chases the female.  If she remains beyond the two days, a union is formed. Hermit ThrushHermit Thrush

 

Philadelphia Vireo (Ottawa County, OH) - This guy looks very much like the Warbling Vireo pictured later in this photo blog.  The most noticeable difference is the yellow wash on the chin and chest of the Philadelphia Vireo.

Philadelphia VireoPhiladelphia Vireo

 

Raccoon (Ottawa County, OH) - Magee Marsh has more than birds. RaccoonRaccoon

 

Red Squirrel (Butler County, PA) Red SquirrelRed Squirrel

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Mahoning County, OH) - Parks and golf courses are a good place to find this species of woodpecker.  I found them on a golf course in an Ohio Metro Park.  This one was looking for worms on the ground. Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Mahoning County, OH) - I think this is one of the most beautiful reds in nature. Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker

 

Red-winged Blackbird (Lawrence County, PA) - Even though they are plentiful, it's fun to capture a portrait showing his colors. Red-winged BlackbirdRed-winged BlackbirdMale

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Forest County, PA) - He just appeared.  I had my back turned and I heard a chink sound that sounded like a sneaker on a gym floor.  I finally looked to see who was doing all the talking and there he was.  He must have heard a photographer was in town! Rose-breasted GrosbeakRose-breasted GrosbeakMale

 

Ruddy Turnstone (Ottawa County, OH) - There are about 350 species of shorebirds in the world, but there are only 2 turnstones, the Ruddy Turnstone and the Black Turnstone, both of which occur in North America.  This one had his face buried in the pebbles of the Lake Erie shore when a wave came in. Ruddy TurnstoneRuddy TurnstoneMale

 

Ruddy Turnstone (Ottawa County, OH) - The turnstone gets its name from its habit of turning over stones when it looks for food. It is also sometimes called the seaweed bird because it often feeds among the kelp at low tide.

Ruddy TurnstoneRuddy TurnstoneMale

 

Scarlet Tanager Male (Indiana County, PA) - A beautiful tanager with a difficult plumage color to photograph.  The light needs to be just right to correctly expose the male Scarlet Tanager. Some of my photographs depict a bright red to an orange at times.  It really doesn't matter.  It's just a pleasure to see a Scarlet Tanager in branches low enough for a portrait. Scarlet TanagerScarlet TanagerMale

 

Scarlet Tanager Female (Indiana County, PA) - Sometimes a guy can get lucky and have the mating pair show themselves.  Too bad they weren't in the same frame like the Eastern Towhee earlier in this photo blog. Scarlet TanagerScarlet TanagerFemale

 

Tree Swallow (Ottawa County, OH) - There were several Tree Swallow nesting trees located at Magee Marsh. Tree SwallowTree Swallow

 

Warbling Vireo (Ottawa County, OH) - Looks like a warbler except for the beak. Warbling VireoWarbling Vireo

 

White-tailed Deer (Jefferson County, PA) - This doe was crossing a gas line cut over the hills.  The fawn was so small I had to wait for it to get into shorter grass to see it. White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerDoe with fawn

 

White-tailed Deer (Jefferson County, PA) - Another view as they turned up the hill. White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerDoe with fawn

 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Female (Forest County, PA) - This spring is the first time I ever photographed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  The sapsucker is in the woodpecker family. Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied SapsuckerFemale (White Chin)

 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Male (Forest County, PA) - The irregular rhythm of sapsucker drumming reminds a person of the beat of Morse Code. Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied SapsuckerMale (Red Chin)

 

Well, that's it for now.  I saw all that wildlife while in search of warblers.  During all those travels, I wonder what was hiding in the bushes that I didn't see.  Hmmm, I think I'll have to go back!

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Black-billed Cuckoo Black-crowned Night-Heron Bobolink Common Grackle Dunlin Eastern Towhee Greater Yellowlegs Green Heron Henslow's Sparrow Hermit Thrush Philadelphia Vireo Raccoon Red Squirrel Red-headed Woodpecker Red-winged Blackbird Rose-breasted Grosbeak Ruddy Turnstone Scarlet Tanager Tree Swallow Warbling Vireo White-tailed Deer Yellow-bellied Sapsucker http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/the-enjoyment-of-may-and-june-wildlife Thu, 15 Jun 2017 23:14:16 GMT
Golden-winged Warbler: A Golden Opportunity http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/golden-winged-warbler-a-golden-opportunity The Golden-winged Warbler is a gorgeous species of wood warbler.  Its rarity and threatened existence makes it a great find for birders and wildlife photographers.  I had a wonderful and extremely fortunate opportunity to photograph Golden-winged Warblers on two occasions this spring.  I hope you enjoy these photographs because it is a bird you may never see unless you are in the correct habitat and are specifically looking for it.

The Golden-winged Warbler is a slivery-gray bird with a golden crown and wing accents.  Males have a bold black-and-white face pattern.  Females are similar but lack the black face and bib.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

Blue-winged WarblerBlue-winged WarblerMale

 

Once common in the northeast, the Golden-winged has been declining recently in southern parts of its breeding range. As it disappears, its close relative the Blue-winged Warbler has been advancing north. It is not completely understood why the Blue-winged is driving the Golden-winged out of the best habitats.

Hybridization is another element in the sharp decline of Golden-winged Warblers.  The Blue-winged Warbler is a much more aggressive and dominant bird.  These two species are known to hybridize where they share breeding grounds.  Their hybrid offspring are known as a “Brewster’s” Warbler and “Lawrence’s” Warbler.  Sorry, I don’t have photos of a hybrid to share.  However, here is a brief description of the two hybrids as explained on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. “These can be variable, but “Brewster’s” Warbler is mostly gray and white with a yellow forehead, like a Golden-winged Warbler, but has a black line through the eye instead of the stronger face pattern of the Golden-winged. “Lawrence’s” Warbler has yellow overall, like a Blue-winged, but shows the Golden-winged Warbler’s black mask and throat patch.”

Back to the Golden-winged Warbler. 

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

This beautiful species breed in dense, tangled, shrubby habitats such as regenerating clearcuts, wet thickets, and tamarack bogs.  Tamarack is a very cold tolerant evergreen also known as Hackmatack, Eastern Larch, Black Larch, Red Larch, American Larch, or Juniper. Wildfires, flooding from beaver dams, and tornado destruction are a few ways shrubby openings amid a forested landscape are created.  Once their young have fledged, they move into nearby woodlands. Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

In the early 20th century, habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler was common when settlers cleared land for homes and farming.  Many of those areas have grown back into forests.  Wildfires and beaver dams are more controlled these days preventing natural habitat to be formed.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

With about half of the global Golden-winged Warbler population being in Minnesota, I realize how fortunate I am to have spent some time photographing them.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

GoldenWingedWarblerRangeMapGoldenWingedWarblerRangeMap

 

 

At only 5.1 inches long and weighing a mere 0.3 - 0.4 ounces, they make it all the way to open woodlands and shade-coffee plantations of mountainous Central and South America for the winter.

 

You can see in the range map to the left the Golden-winged Warbler is a long-distance migrant. With migration movement peaking in September, they travel south mainly through a corridor of states east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachians. Spring migration and their return north begins in April but they don't arrive in Pennsylvania until early May.

 

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Golden-winged Warblers often hop along branches of brushy and shrubby areas, carefully checking each leaf for prey, even sometimes dangling off the edges of branches like a chickadee.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

So what are they searching for?  Food items they prefer are caterpillars, spiders, moths and other insects.  Leafroller caterpillars appear to be an important food source.   Golden-winged Warblers probe with their sharp bills into rolled-up leaves to find the hidden caterpillars.  They rarely catch insects while in flight.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Males sing a loud, very distinguishable, buzzy song from the tops of shrubs in spring and early summer.  Interestingly, hybrids do not sing their own songs.  Instead they sing either normal Blue-winged Warbler songs, Golden-winged Warbler songs, or both.  One thing I needed to be aware of when I was searching the correct habitat of Golden-winged Warblers was I couldn’t rely on song for a positive identification.  Sometimes, pure-looking parental types sing the "wrong" song.  The Golden-winged in the photo below was singing the correct song for his species.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Males are extremely vocal for 3 to 4 weeks at the start of their breeding season.  They will confront other males in their territory, sometimes actually fighting. Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Only after territories and mates are selected do they become secretive and quiet.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Are you interested in their nesting activity?  The female Golden-winged builds the nest, usually on the ground.  The nest is built at the base of a plant with a tall thick stem such as Golden Rod or Blackberry for support.  The base is made up of leaves and long strips of bark from a grapevine or arrowwood.  Nests are 3.5 to 6 inches across and 1 to 2.5 inches deep.  The female is very sensitive.  If disturbed, they are known to abandon their nest even after the first eggs have been laid. They will also try to trick predators.  As a decoy, they will carry food to places other than their nest.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

The Audubon Society has a climate model that projects a shift of their breeding range completely out of their current breeding range by 2080.  The summer range is expected to more than double thankfully to efforts of creating second-growth habitats.  Since it doesn’t take long for the habitat to become established, there is hope that the Golden-winged Warbler will move with the climate space.  There is more good news amongst all the sad news of their declining population. 

Cornell Lab and their partners in the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group have a conservation plan to stop their decline and continue to grow the population by 50% by the year 2050. Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

These warblers will be around throughout my lifetime but I sure hope, with preservation efforts in place, children of today and all future generations will be able to enjoy these birds too.

Here is another example displaying their habits of hanging upside down from the end of tree limbs.  This time he is singing his song.

Golden-winged WarblerGolden-winged WarblerMale

 

Research for this photo blog included Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, Birds of Pennsylvania, and Stokes Field Guide to Warblers.  Photography equipment used was a Canon EOS-1DX MK II and a Canon EF 600mm f/4L II USM Lens.  In some photos I may have also used a Canon Extender EF 1.4X III rendering a f/5.6, 840mm focal length.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Golden-winged Warbler http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/6/golden-winged-warbler-a-golden-opportunity Sun, 04 Jun 2017 23:39:37 GMT
A Brief Lake Erie Shore Morning http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/a-brief-erie-shore-morning In the second half of April, the Lake Erie shoreline in Conneaut, Ohio had a special visitor called an American White Pelican.  I wanted to make the 2.5 hour trip several times but timing never worked out for me.  Finally I had a free morning and with a sighting within the previous 24 hours, I was pretty hopeful that I was going to come home with American White Pelican photographs.

It wasn’t meant to be.  While waiting for a pelican sighting, I had several other species of birds to photograph so the day was not lost.

Upon arriving to the shore, I noticed this juvenile Bald Eagle walking along the beach in an area where dead fish wash up on the sand. Bald EagleBald EagleJuvenile

 

I’ve photographed Caspian Tern many times at Conneaut but this day was going to be special.  There was a flock of probably 200 Caspian Tern.  Well, let’s face it, 150 tern and 350 tern look pretty much the same when they are flying around.  Let’s just say there were a lot.  I held the shutter button down when several of them took off at one time. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

If I was looking for a quiet, soothing day at the shore, I was badly mistaken.  The Caspian Tern wanted to vocalize.  Usually, many at once. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

There was a lot more than raspy squawking going on.  These two were preparing to mate right in front of all the other terns. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

You would think the previous photo would make the other tern jealous.  Seems like flying by with a fish in your mouth causes more excitement. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

Because I don’t get to see many species of tern, I still need to look some up to confirm identification.  I almost dismissed this smaller tern that was there in very few numbers.  There were about three Forster’s Tern mixed in with the Caspian Tern.  While the northeastern United States is in the migration path of the Caspian Tern, range maps show the Forster’s Tern is not. Forster's TernForster's Tern

 

I mentioned earlier that a fish causes quite a ruckus when it’s being paraded around the flock in the mouth of a Caspian Tern. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

It was fun to watch how the other tern reacted when the “owner of the fish” came close by.  Some vocalized while others tried to steal the food. Caspian TernCaspian Tern

Caspian TernCaspian Tern

Caspian TernCaspian Tern

 

Once I saw the Forster’s Tern in flight, I knew I had something special.  I’ll be honest, I still didn’t know what it was.  I wish I would have spent more time photographing this rare find but the next few images are the last ones I got before it flew to another part of the beach and I ran out of time.

Now I know the forked tail is the major identifying mark of a Forster's Tern. Forster's TernForster's Tern

Forster's TernForster's Tern

Forster's TernForster's Tern

 

One of my last sights before leaving the beach that morning was an immature Ring-billed Gull catching a fish.  Well, that’s not really a big deal.  It was interesting because the fish was too big for the gull to lift off.  Using its wings, it swam about 30 yards to the shoreline in front of me stopping and covering its prey every time another bird flew past. Ring-billed GullRing-billed GullImmature

 

Double-crested Cormorants are a skittish bird.  I spotted this lone cormorant on a large pond near the harbor so I stopped for a few photos. Double-crested CormorantDouble-crested Cormorant

Double-crested CormorantDouble-crested Cormorant

 

That ended my morning watching for the American White Pelican.  Maybe next time I’ll react a little quicker when another one migrates off-track and visits a near-by shore.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Bald Eagle Caspian Tern Double-crested Cormorant Forster's Tern Ring-billed Gull http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/a-brief-erie-shore-morning Tue, 30 May 2017 22:11:06 GMT
Bald Eagle Eaglet: Two Weeks Later http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/bald-eagle-eaglet-two-weeks-later The Bald Eagle nesting season is almost over in western Pennsylvania.  I thought this is a good time to reflect on two separate visits I made to an Ohio nest about 65 miles west of the Pennsylvania border.

This nest is very unique because the nest tree is situated on a hillside below the road giving birders and photographers a short 70 yard view into the bole of the nest.

On my first visit the single eaglet was a mere two weeks old. Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Eaglet

 

While one adult was away from the nest most of the time, the mate was usually on the nest or perched nearby.  Here is a rare occurrence when the eaglet was alone and gave its wings a stretch. Bald EagleBald EagleEaglet

 

Below is the male sitting on the nest with the eaglet. Normally, you can identify the female because she is larger than the male.  that is true but this female also has a darkening behind and around her eyes. You will see that in later photos. Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

 

The quality of care a Bald Eagle provides for its young is impressive.  Here is “Dear Ol’ Dad” giving warmth to the inquisitive eaglet. Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

 

I think the eaglet feels safe with its father. Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

 

At this age, eaglets are fed quite often.  I imaging it’s because their little bellies can’t hold much food.  Dad was already on the nest when his mate arrived with a half eaten fish. Bald EagleBald EagleMale, Female (behind) and Eaglet down in nest

 

Shortly after mom arrives, the male leaves the nest.

Bald EagleBald EagleMale, Female and eaglet down in nest

 

It’s time for a feeding.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale feeding Eaglet

 

That was the end of my first visit.  I planned a return soon to see how much the eaglet grew.

I did return to the nest site two weeks later when the eaglet was four weeks old.  Look at the difference in size in a short two weeks.

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

Even though it was much larger, it is still dependent on an adult to tear apart the food.  The next photo is mom feeding the eaglet.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Eaglet

 

After feeding, the adult fluffs up the grasses in the bole and lays down on top of the eaglet usually causing the eaglet to rest and maybe go to sleep.

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

Sometimes the eaglet may take a nap and sometimes it stays alert.

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

It is comical watching the eaglet maneuver around the nest because it hasn’t grown into its feet yet.

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

It will be quite some time until these wings are large enough and strong enough to take it soaring into the sky.

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

At this age, it seemed like a change of guardian occurred every 2 hours. Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Male in nest.

 

Here is mom and eaglet sitting on the nest.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Eaglet

 

I imagine it can get boring waiting for the eaglet to grow up and fledge the nest. 

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Eaglet

 

After a nap, it’s feeding time.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale and Eaglet

 

When the eaglet was two weeks old, I decided to shoot video of the eaglet being fed.  As I was adding a 2X extender to my 600mm prime lens, they finished feeding.  As I began the video, I captured the “after feeding” activity of the parent showing how they prepare the bole for nap time. The second part of this video was recorded two weeks later when the eaglet was four weeks old.  This time I did capture the eaglet being fed.

Click the link below to start the video.  It may take 10 seconds or so to buffer so please be patient after you press start. Bald Eagle

 

Now that the eaglet is getting larger, it gets a little more alone time on the nest.  Below is a photo of the female leaving the nest in route to a nearby branch.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale

 

She spent nearly 45 minutes alone on the branch. 

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale

 

As her mate approached the nest, she left her perch to explore the surrounding countryside.

Bald EagleBald EagleFemale

 

It was dad’s turn to babysit.

Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

 

I’ll wrap up this photo blog with a portrait of the eaglet with its father.

Bald EagleBald EagleMale and Eaglet

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Bald Eagle http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/bald-eagle-eaglet-two-weeks-later Thu, 18 May 2017 23:00:05 GMT
Great Horned Owl: One of Pennsylvania's Earliest Nesters http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/great-horned-owl-earliest-nesters

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common owls in North America and just about any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.  In Pennsylvania, they are one of the first birds to begin laying eggs in the new year.

This year, I had the opportunity to watch two nests of Great Horned Owls.  One was in Butler County, Pennsylvania and the other at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania.  I was able to visit the Butler County nest frequently but I only made two trips to Erie.  During the two times I was there, I logged about 14 hours in front of the nest.

Below is a photo of the hen owl incubating eggs on February 11th at Presque Isle. Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

Great Horned Owls typically nest in tall trees such as cottonwood, juniper, beech, pine, and others.  Unlike other birds, who painstakingly carry branches and twigs to build a nest, the Great Horned Owl usually adopts a nest that was built by another species.  They also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges, and human-made platforms.

At the Butler County nest on February 20th, the hen appears to be incubating.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

Because they reuse old nests, they often consist of sticks and vary widely in size.  The size depends on what species originally built the nest.  Some nests they have been known to occupy were from hawks, crows, ravens, herons, and squirrels.  Great Horned Owls do "make the nest their own" by lining it with materials such as shreds of bark, leaves, downy feathers plucked from their own breast, fur or feathers from prey, and trampled pellets.

Hen on the Butler County nest on February 24th. 

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

Speaking of adopting the nests of other birds, I witnessed a very obvious example of that in April, 2013.  While visiting a local Heron Rookery I noticed a strange formation in one of the nests.  After a closer look, I realized it was two Great Horned Owl nestlings.  Since the owl picks their nest much earlier than the heron, they were mixed into the colony.  Talk about keeping your enemies close. Great Horned Owl Nestlings & Great Blue HeronGreat Horned Owl Nestlings & Great Blue HeronThe Great Horned Owl nests mostly in stick nests from other birds. These Owletes are in the middle of a Great Blue Heron rookery.

 

The Great Horned Owl is a powerful predator that can take down birds and mammals larger than itself but they also attack smaller targets such as mice and frogs. 

 

On this March 12th visit, I got my first glimpse of the owlet as it was getting attention from the hen.  The remaining images are from Butler County until I note a change.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

The warm sunlight of March 12th was comforting for the sleepy hen.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

As the evening of March 13th was upon us, the sun disappeared and the hen became more active.  She was beginning to make short flights away from the nest.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

I stayed at the nest all evening on March 16th with hopes of seeing the growing baby.  It showed itself but I had to reposition myself to get a good view.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

The location of this nest was positioned in good photography sunlight only about one hour in the evening.  Otherwise, it came from undesirable directions causing shadows.  I returned on March 22nd in hopes to find the owlet covered in sunlight.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

This photo was on March 25th minutes after the hen fed the baby.  You can see a little piece of meat still stuck on her beak.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

After changing position once again, I got a great family portrait on March 25th.  I use the word "family" loosely because the father isn't in the photo.  I assure you he was a provider but I never saw him.  In the early evening he would call to the hen from deep in the woods.  She always responded but I never saw him.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

As the owlet grew the hen was seldom in the nest.  However, she didn't perch nearby either.  The previous photo was the last time I saw the hen.  The next photo was made on March 27th.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

Since these "used" nests deteriorate over the course of the breeding season and are usually not reused in later years, I look forward to next February to see if anything occupies this nest.

The lone owlet fledged within days after this April 5th photo.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlButler County, PA

 

Here is a short video compilation of the Butler County owl nest from February to late in the nesting season.

Great Horned Owl Nesting

 

Back to the nest in Erie, PA.  This nest is in the top of a dead tree stump.  The stump is about 20 feet tall and has been reused year after year.  I don't know its history but I know it's been at least three years that I've known about the nest.

The remaining photos were made on my last trip to Presque Ilse on April 14th.

This nest is in a location that provides an opportunity for anyone to witness the growth of Great Horned Owl nestlings.  Situated a short distance from a paved bike path it is easily wheelchair accessible.  The owls don't seem to mind and people respect the wildlife by keeping their distance.  Actually, you are not allowed to exit the path and "Big Brother" is watching.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

Speaking for myself, during the longs stays at the nest I are hoping for one thing.  I want to photograph interaction between the owlets or between a parent and the owlets.  That's it!  If I only wanted a portrait like the one above, I would be in and out in 30 minutes. 

It looks like the photographers and other onlookers might be a little boring for the owlets.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

The hen is usually found perching in a dense grove of Hemlock trees near the nest.  On this evening she came out and flew to a few different perches.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

From what I've heard, the hen is around the nest more than the male owl.  However, we were greeted by both on this day.  Below is the male perched at the opposite edge of the woods line.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

The growing owlets are comical and fun to watch.  I didn't shoot any video at this nest because there are too many people talking and I prefer to have a little seclusion for video.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

The sun had already set when the hen finally came to the nest.  The family didn't strike an award winning pose on the nest but I finally had the opportunity to see the hen with the owlets.  

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

As the skies darkened, I managed one more photo while the hen was feeding in the corner of the nest.

Great-horned OwlGreat-horned OwlPresque Isle in Erie, PA

 

Both of these owlets fledged the nest within the first 5 days of May ending a successful breeding season once again.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Great Horned Owl http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/great-horned-owl-earliest-nesters Mon, 15 May 2017 01:21:38 GMT
Spring Wildlife of Pennsylvania http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/spring-wildlife-of-pennsylvania Each year during April and May I don't get enough sleep, I don't do as much around the yard, and I do a lot of traveling.  Why? It's because spring is here and wildlife photo opportunities are abundant. 

Most of my blogs have a theme or a story to tell but occasionally I just want to share some photos that shouldn't be missed.  I want to use this blog entry to share a variety of April and May wildlife photos.

This Eastern Gray Squirrel was peering at me from the safety of a tall walnut tree.

Eastern Gray SquirrelEastern Gray Squirrel

 

This was the first Eastern Towhee I saw this spring.  He was singing a lot.

Eastern TowheeEastern TowheeMale

 

We do have Common Loon in our surrounding lakes during the spring migration.

Common LoonCommon Loon

 

Common Loon are difficult to photograph without a blind.  If you get too close they dive underwater.  With the ability to stay under water over a minute in normal conditions, who knows how far away it will be when it surfaces. Common LoonCommon Loon

 

The Red-winged Blackbird is the harbinger of spring in western Pennsylvania.  Sounding off while displaying their "coat of arms" is a common springtime occurrence.

Red-winged BlackbirdRed-winged Blackbird

 

The Tree Swallow is commonly seen flying swiftly a couple feet above the water's surface searching for insects.  It's nice when they can be found sitting on a nice perch.

Tree SwallowTree Swallow

 

I love the colors of a Blue-winged Teal in flight.

Blue-winged TealBlue-winged TealDrake

 

I had several male Blue-winged Teal swimming around me on this day.

Blue-winged TealBlue-winged TealDrake

 

I had fun trying to capture them in flight.

Blue-winged TealBlue-winged TealDrake

 

The Northern Shoveler has a long, spoon-shaped bill which has comblike projections along its edges to filter out food from the water.

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

 

I have to admit that identifying sandpipers and sparrows is not my best skill.  This next photo is of a Pectoral Sandpiper.  It was the first time I ever photographed one so, in birder's terms, I got another "lifer".

Pectoral SandpiperPectoral Sandpiper

 

One identification mark of the Greater Yellowlegs is its long, upturned bill.

Greater YellowlegsGreater Yellowlegs

 

It hasn't been long since this guy dropped his antlers.  Before long, they will begin to grow again.

White-tailed DeerWhite-tailed DeerYoung Buck

 

I photographed this female House Sparrow in my backyard Redbud tree.  It adopted one of my bluebird nesting boxes.

House SparrowHouse SparrowFemale

 

Blue Jay in a Redbud tree.  I love the contrast of colors. Blue JayBlue Jay

 

I know of a Red Fox den but during the infrequent times I could get there, I was only treated with a visit by the vixen.

Red FoxRed FoxVixen

 

She laid in her spot for about 20 minutes before getting up and probably wondering why I'm still here.

Red FoxRed FoxVixen

 

After moving further back into the dense brush, she sat, gazing into the distance.

Red FoxRed FoxVixen

 

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a beautiful springtime songbird returning to nest in Pennsylvania.

Blue-gray GnatcatcherBlue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

Carolina Wren, one of the first birds I hear chirping before the sun comes up.

Carolina WrenCarolina Wren

 

I love the sweet song of an Eastern Meadowlark.  This was a special treat finding several in a field of Dandelion.

Eastern MeadowlarkEastern Meadowlark

 

Eastern MeadowlarkEastern Meadowlark

 

They are tough to capture in flight.

Eastern MeadowlarkEastern Meadowlark

 

The Northern Mockingbird is one of the best mimics in Pennsylvania.

Northern MockingbirdNorthern Mockingbird

 

This female Northern Flicker came by for a visit.  A male looks similar but he has a black Mustache under the eyes.

Northern FlickerNorthern FlickerFemale

 

American Goldfinch takes a break to sing. American GoldfinchAmerican Goldfinch

 

The secretive Virginia Rail usually stays hidden in dense vegetation of freshwater marshes. Virginia RailVirginia Rail

 

In order to flee predators, the Virginia Rail can swim under water, propelling itself with its wings. Virginia RailVirginia Rail

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) American Goldfinch Blue Jay Blue-winged Teal Carolina Wren Common Loon Eastern Meadowlark Eastern Towhee Glue-gray Gnatcatcher Gray Squirrel Greater Yellowlegs House Sparrow Northern Flicker Northern Mockingbird Northern Shoveler Pectoral Sandpiper Red Fox Red-winged Blackbird Tree Sparrow Virginia Rail White-tailed Deer http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/5/spring-wildlife-of-pennsylvania Tue, 09 May 2017 23:57:12 GMT
A Morning in the Marsh http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/a-morning-in-the-marsh It’s tough to get up at 6 AM Monday through Friday to go to work after getting to bed close to the midnight hour the night before.  By the weekend, your butt is dragging and the thought of sleeping in Saturday morning until 7 or 8 o’clock is really nice.  It doesn’t work that way if you like to photograph wildlife.

On Saturday, April 8th, my alarm sounded at 5 AM to signal the start of my day.  With sleepy eyes, I stumbled into the shower to help regain consciousness.  Once the numbness went away, I remembered why I was torturing myself like that.

Torture is a strong word to describe waking up early to set up in a photo blind along a marsh soon to be visited by various species of waterfowl.  It is amazing to have the likes of Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck and other species swim within 20 feet of your lens while being unaware that you are there.

This photo blog documents one morning in April in a photo blind, at a marsh in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

I met up with my friend Jake Dingel before sunrise that Saturday morning and we entered the woods on our way to a marsh that is adjacent to a large pond.  Once we were set up in our separate photo blinds, we waited.  There were Canada Geese present on the pond already but it was too dark to get a quality photograph.  Besides, once they calmed down after our rude interruption, they floated around as though we were no longer there. 

Then the sun began to rise.

Canada GooseCanada Goose

 

Not long after we set up, waterfowl sightings began to increase.  In a darker section of the pond was a diving and resurfacing Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed GrebePied-billed Grebe

 

After a short sit, the sun rose and lit up the pond in front of us.  Jake set up his blind on one side of the pond and keeping the sun behind me, I set up mine about 40 yards away.  Last years’ cattails separated our views of the water.

There were a few Ring-necked Ducks in the distance but they suddenly disappeared.  Then the Canada Geese became very vocal.  I received a text from Jake telling me to look in the big tree to the right of the pond.  This was the reason for the commotion. Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

There was about 15 minutes of quiet time until the Bald Eagle finally flew off.  With its nest being within ¼ mile from the pond, I could see it in the distance throughout the morning. 

With the eagle gone, activity began to pick up.  This Ring-necked Duck pair were diving for food and eventually came near me.  Notice the water on the head and bill of the female as she resurfaced.  The waxy layer of a duck’s feathers causes a connection between her and the water surface as the rest rolled off like “water marbles”.

Ring-necked DuckRing-necked DuckDrake & Hen

 

I had a brief few seconds as both drake and hen were on the surface together.

Ring-necked DuckRing-necked DuckDrake & Hen

 

The first Wood Ducks of the morning came into view across the pond.  After staying in a far section of the water, they swam close to a nesting box.  The female flew up to investigate.

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake & Hen

 

Over the course of the morning we saw several Wood Ducks.  They would fly in, swim around the pond, and fly out.  At one point a lone female Wood Duck landed on a stump in the water.

Wood DuckWood DuckHen

 

Thanks to long, strong claws, the Wood Duck is one of the few species that can perch on branches. They are the only duck native to the United States and Canada to have that ability.

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake & Hen

 

Most Wood Ducks were swimming in pairs or small rafts and occasionally, a male would go off by himself.

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake

 

Drake and hen Wood Ducks surrounded by emerging Spatterdock leaves.

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake & Hen

 

This small Canada Goose was getting chased around the pond all morning by mating pairs of geese.

Canada GooseCanada Goose

 

Finally, one of two pairs of Hooded Mergansers began to come our way.  They spent most of the morning completely across the pond.

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserHen & Drake

 

By this time, there were several Wood Ducks spread across the pond.

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake

 

This is one happy fellow!

Wood DuckWood DuckDrake & two Hens

 

We had two female Buffleheads diving under the water all morning but there wasn't a male in sight.

BuffleheadBuffleheadHen

 

As the elusive Hooded Mergansers came closer, I had plenty of opportunity for portraits.

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserHen

 

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserHen

 

Sometimes, the Hooded Mergansers would swim to my right heading toward Jake’s blind.  Since cattails blocked his view, I’d text him to let him know they are coming and as soon as I pressed “send”, they would turn around and continue to entertain me.  At one point Jake texted me to say, “You must have minnows in your pocket?”

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserDrake

 

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserDrake

 

Hooded MerganserHooded MerganserDrake

 

This little female Wood Duck landed very close to my blind.  She spun around quickly and watched my blind for about 10 seconds before taking off.  This photo was made as she began to open her wings to take flight.

Wood DuckWood DuckHen

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) Bald Eagle Bufflehead Canada Goose Hooded Merganser Pied-billed Grebe Wood Duck http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/a-morning-in-the-marsh Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:04:55 GMT
Sky Dancing Ritual of the American Woodcock http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/sky-dancing-ritual-of-the-american-woodcock The American Woodcock, also known as the timberdoodle, Labrador twister, night partridge, and bog sucker, are a superbly camouflaged bird against the leaf litter of the forest floor.  While its subdued plumage and low-profile behavior make it hard to find, springtime is an exception.

WoodcockWoodcockPhotographed at night during mating ritual

 

A male woodcock’s evening display flights are one of the magical natural sights of springtime in the east.  Males sound off a buzzy peent call from a display area on the ground.  Then he flies upward in a wide spiral and his wings begin to twitter as he gets higher.  At a height of 200–350 feet the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts to descend. He zigzags down in a steep dive back to the ground, chirping as he goes, landing silently near a female, if one is present.  Once on the ground, he resumes peenting and the display starts over again.

WoodcockWoodcockPhotographed at night during mating ritual

 

One evening in late March, my friend Jake Dingel and I set out to find the American Woodcock performing their mating display.  We were successful and made plans to return with our photography equipment within a couple days.  We returned two days later, joined by my wife Elena.  Since it is dark outside when the performance begins, a flashlight is needed to illuminate the bird so the camera is able to focus.  Elena did a great job locating and tracking the bird so we could photograph him.

After finding a lone male, we witnessed several performances over the next hour.  We were able to get a few photographs and video but unable to include flying shots.  Even in the daylight their fast flights would be difficult to capture so nighttime made it nearly impossible.  WoodcockWoodcockPhotographed at night during mating ritual

 

This video contains footage of the American Woodcock’s peent calls performed on the ground during their mating ritual activity.  Listen carefully to the sounds of a springtime American Woodcock.

American Woodcock

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) American Woodcock http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/sky-dancing-ritual-of-the-american-woodcock Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:49:21 GMT
2017 Spring Waterfowl Migration In Full Swing http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/2017-spring-waterfowl-migration-begins I have written several blogs in the past sharing my spring waterfowl migration photos.  For them, I’ve researched various facts to share with the accompanied photos.  This photo blog entry is going to be a little different.  Since these are all subjects I have written about in the past, I’m going to make this one easy on the mind.  Yours and mine!

All of these photographs were made on a bright, sunny day in northwest Pennsylvania.  Wild ducks are afraid of humans and you cannot walk up to them to get closeup portraits.  This kind of wildlife photography takes work and not simply a walk in a park. It is common to use your vehicle as a photo blind.  A vehicle doesn’t provide the lowest angle that one would hope for, getting the photographer at eye-level to the subject, but it is an acceptable tradeoff.  Sometimes, you have to take what you can get.  I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Sometimes, the Ring-necked Duck is mistaken for a Greater or Lesser Scaup.  One quick way to tell the difference is the scaups do not have a white ring on their bills.

Ring-necked DuckRing-necked DuckDrake

 

The drake Greater Scaup has a blue-gray bill with a black tip.

Greater ScaupGreater Scaup

 

The dabbling duck American Wigeon, is the New World counterpart of the Eurasian Wigeon.

American WigeonAmerican WigeonDrake

 

The American Wigeon has also been called “baldpate”.

American WigeonAmerican WigeonHen

 

A bird of open wetlands, the Northern Pintail is a brief visitor in Pennsylvania as they fly toward their breeding grounds in northern Canada.

Northern PintailNorthern PintailHen & Drake

 

The chestnut head with large iridescent green patch makes the drake Green-winged Teal easily identifiable.

Green-winged TealGreen-winged TealDrake

 

The Tundra Swan is completely snowy white.  The rusty-brown color sometimes seen on its head and neck is created by iron in marsh soils.

Tundra SwanTundra Swan

 

Here is a Northern Shoveler chasing the competition.  There always seem to be more males than females in the water.

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

 

These Northern Shovelers are showing a little more acceptance of each other.

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

 

Below is a small flock of Northern Pintails flying. 

Northern PintailNorthern PintailDrake/Hen/Drake

 

Northern Pintail drake finding a place to land.  Can you tell they are probably my favorite migrating duck?

Northern PintailNorthern PintailDrake

 

Should that line of waterfowl in the distance be concerned while the juvenile Bald Eagle, standing on the ice, stares at them?

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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dwgomola@zoominternet.net (Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography) American Wigeon Bald Eagle Greater Scaup Green-winged Teal Northern Pintail Northern Shoveler Ring-necked Duck Tundra Swan http://www.dangomola.com/blog/2017/4/2017-spring-waterfowl-migration-begins Wed, 19 Apr 2017 21:37:08 GMT