Today on On the Wing Photography

Today marks the publication of my 700th post for On The Wing Photography. Yesterday I passed the 250,000 views mark on my blog which has reached viewers in 170 countries.

I’m so grateful to all of my viewers, for the comments you make on my posts, about my images and for the information you share with me. It has been a learning experience for me. I love sharing my photos with you all and hope that some of the tips I give have been helpful. I’ve also gotten to meet so many wonderful people through this blog.

I’m not a writer, I am just someone who writes about what I photograph, about my subjects plus the stories behind the images.

Also yesterday a friend of mine, Rod Wellington finished a 256 day, 3800 mile, totally self-propelled journey. Rod kayaked from the uppermost source of the Missouri River at Brower’s Spring in Montana, down the Missouri River to its confluence with the Mississippi River where he headed south to the Gulf of Mexico. All of this was under his own power including some long portages.

This isn’t the only long journey that Rod has set his sights on as he plans the do the 7 longest river on 7 different Continents all of which will be totally self-propelled. He is an amazing man and inspiration! Check out his blog at Zero Emissions Expeditions.

I have some news I want to share with you all. Yesterday the new edition of the National Geographic Pocket Guides to Birds of North America; by Laura Erickson and Jonathan Alderfer,  hit the book store shelves.

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The reason I am writing about this book is because it has two of my images in it!

Perched adult Loggerhead ShrikePerched adult Loggerhead Shrike

This Loggerhead Shrike image is on page 110.

Snowy EgretSnowy Egret

And this Snowy Egret is on page 39.

When I was a child I used to pour over the National Geographic Magazines that were a gift subscription from my grand parents and as I grew older I also purchased books published by National Geographic. Who knew that one day my photos would be in a book published by National Geographic? I am truly honored.

This book has 192 pages with 160 of them devoted the top species of birds found in North America with beautiful illustrations and images and it is packed with information about those birds. The small size of the book makes it perfect for tucking into a backpack or as a handy reference book for carrying along in a vehicle.

Mia

The National Geographic Pocket Guides to Birds of North Americabook is now for sale at book stores, on the National Geographic web site, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

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Loggerhead Shrikes – They are MIA

Loggerhead Shrike portraitLoggerhead Shrike portrait – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 357mm, natural light

I’m used to seeing Loggerhead Shrikes all year round here in northern Utah but they have been MIA for quite some time. My last sighting was about two weeks ago of a single bird and before that it had been at least since late December or January since I saw one. Their absence might have been caused by the harsh winter we had combined with the heavy snow that would have reduced their opportunities to capture their prey which in the winter would consist of small rodents like voles.

Fluffed up Loggerhead ShrikeFluffed up Loggerhead Shrike - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I’ve been waiting for them to show back up and to see them perched on top of Sagebrush or Rabbitbrush singing. It is difficult to think of them as a songbird because they act like tiny raptors at times but they are indeed songbirds. Take a listen here about halfway down the page.

I’ll be glad to see them again when they are no longer MIA.

Mia

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Loggerhead Shrike in Winter

Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead Shrike – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 400, +1.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

This Loggerhead Shrike was one of the few birds I photographed yesterday on Antelope Island before the Prairie Falcon with a Northern Shoveler as prey that I posted yesterday. The weather on the radar didn’t look bad before heading to the island in the morning but it was. Bad I mean. Snow fell heavily at times and the light was low, I could see Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks taking shelter in some of the distant trees. I didn’t see or hear Horned Larks or Chukars and they are birds I am used to seeing year round on the island.

When I spotted this Loggerhead Shrike perched on a bush along the road I thought that my images of it might be the only decent images I would bring home. The background of this image is composed of water at the bottom, the middle white layer is snow on a distant dike near the marina and the touch of blue at the top was actually a bit of blue sky that was visible to the north. I also liked the tiny water droplet under the bill of the shrike.

Mia

More Loggerhead Shrike images

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Birds, Beasts and Bits About Me – My 500th Blog Post

Wow, this is my 500th blog post and it has been great fun to share my images and the stories behind them. I thought I’d share a few images and bits about my thoughts on photography.

Adult Dunlin feedingAdult Dunlin feeding – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, ISO 200, 1/250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

What got me hooked on bird photography?

I would say shorebirds are why I am addicted to bird photography because they fascinated me and photographing them allowed me to crawl through mud, sand and water.

When I first started photographing shorebirds I could walk around covered in mud with my camera in my hand people just ignored me or would say “Wow, that camera must take good pictures”. Maybe they were too polite to mention that I had sand all over my face, muddy legs or a combination thereof.

Sanderling in nonbreeding plumageSanderling in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I simply loved being out in nature, the feel of the sea breeze on my skin, having warm water lapping against my legs and the birds that I saw everywhere around me. I learned that if I sat or laid very still the birds would approach me and allow close ups like the Sanderling image above. Even when there were no birds around I could wade into the water fully clothed and just make it “look” like I was searching for birds while cooling off and giggling because I was in the water with all my clothes on and I didn’t care one bit.

While slithering around in mud and sand crawling through sugar sand I had many wonderful opportunities to meet and makes friends with a lot of like-minded people who love nature. I figured if they crawled around in the mud with me and didn’t mind that I smelled like a combination of fish and crab poop they had to be great people.

I learned a lot about shorebird ID, which were peeps, plovers and sandpipers and then figured out the rest. Breeding and nonbreeding plumage puzzled me for a bit but with experience, people who let me pick their brains and field guides I’ve become proficient at figuring out shorebird ID.

Roseate Spoonbill in morning lightRoseate Spoonbill in morning light – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Then there were the larger wading birds, some with razor-sharp bills, some that curved downwards, looked like wood and spoons! I got addicted to photographing them too.

I learned not to over saturate the colors of my subjects in post processing so that they looked like what I saw through my viewfinder.  The Roseate Spoonbill above is colorful enough without pushing that saturation slider up.

Why do I always mention “natural light” in my techs under the images I post?

My answer to that is that nature provides terrific light and I don’t like using flash on birds or other wildlife. I just prefer natural light over artificial.

Dancing white morph Reddish EgretDancing white morph Reddish Egret – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 250mm, natural light

I studied the behavior of my subjects so I could tell when they were about to take flight, bathe, catch prey or dance like the white morph Reddish Egret above. The egret isn’t truly dancing, it is actively chasing after prey.

By observing my subjects I have gotten great action images that I might have missed if I hadn’t been able to anticipate their next move.

Little Blue Heron with a PipefishLittle Blue Heron with a Bay Pipefish – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I found out that going out to photograph with other people was very enjoyable and that knowledge about techniques could flow easily back and forth. I photographed the Little Blue Heron with a Bay Pipefish above with two photographer friends and we all walked away with images that we were very happy with.

I worked on my stalking skills and patience so I could get closer to my subjects without stressing them or making them flush. Of course; some still flush & fly.

Laughing Gull in breeding plumage at a water fountainLaughing Gull in breeding plumage at a water fountain – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I feel that all birds are worthy subjects and that even the most common birds can be uncommonly beautiful in the right light, pose or setting. Normally I prefer natural settings and perches but I also enjoy images that have manmade items in them. I think the water fountain as a perch for this Laughing Gull adds a touch of whimsy.

Male Northern Harrier in flightMale Northern Harrier in flight – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Paying attention to how close the background material is to the subject is important. If the dried Phragmites behind this male Northern Harrier had been any closer to the bird the background may have looked very messy but because of the distance from the harrier to the vegetation plus my choice of aperture and the bokeh of the lens created a background that doesn’t draw attention away from the subject.

Loggerhead Shrike perched on SagebrushLoggerhead Shrike perched on Sagebrush – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I selected the colors for this blog and my web site using the hues of greens from Sagebrush, a shrub that is found in many areas of my adopted state of Utah. I find the gray greens soothing and I have to admit I find the aroma of Sagebrush very appealing. Besides, Sagebrush makes a great perch for many of my subjects.

Pronghorn does on a hilltop at sunsetPronghorn does on a hilltop at sunset – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Even though birds are my primary passion for photographic subjects I can’t resist taking images of other subjects like the Pronghorn does above. If there aren’t birds around I will take images of flowers, scenery, mammals, insects and more.

The Wedge in the San Rafael Swell, UtahThe Wedge in the San Rafael Swell, Utah – Nikon D200, handheld, f9, 1/2000, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

I see spectacular views, sun rises and sunsets because of my photographic journeys, some time the views take my breath away. Looking down into the Little Grand Canyon from The Wedge certainly did.

Coyote eating Falcon leftovers Coyote eating Falcon leftovers – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 314mm, natural light, not baited or called in

There are times when paying attention to one species gives clues about another. I’d seen Peregrine Falcons feeding on ducks on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake and later saw a Coyote feeding on the falcon’s leftovers, now I know why the Coyotes were along the causeway the year before which had puzzled me. I love the piled up sheets of ice in the background of this image.

Adult Bald Eagle in flightAdult Bald Eagle in flight – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Patience is needed for bird photography, waiting for a bird to fly, waiting for the right banking turn to light the whole bird up and sometimes just waiting for birds to show up.

Perched adult western Burrowing OwlPerched adult western Burrowing Owl – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Because of my bird and nature photography I have met the most interesting people in person and have become friends with many of you through this blog or yours and I appreciate you all. Life is good.

500 posts. Wow.

Mia

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A Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike juvenile

From all appearances it has been a great nesting season for the Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) on Antelope Island State Park, it seems everywhere I look there are numerous juvenile Shrikes perched on bushes near rather harried looking adults.

Juvie Loggerhead ShrikeJuvie Loggerhead Shrike – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, 0.7+ EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday while photographing and adult Shrike I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye and saw this juvenile perched on a bush with the Great Salt Lake in the background. I was able to take about 20 images before the juvie flew off.

I really like the black mask this species has.

Mia

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