Birds of North Carolina Coast – Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone
f/5.6, 1/1600 sec., ISO-500, 540 mm focal length equivalent
Ruddy Turnstone f/5.6, 1/1600 sec., ISO-320, 540 mm focal length equivalent

Eastern Collared Lizard

Eastern Collared Lizard – female. 520 mm focal length equivalent, f/11, 1/160 sec. ISO-200

These photos were taken on a WGNSS Nature Photography Group field trip into the St. Francois Mountains in early June, 2019.

Eastern Collared Lizard – female. 520 mm focal length equivalent, f/8, 1/200 sec. ISO-160

Along with a couple of female eastern collared lizards, we found quite a few other herps of interest.

Eastern Collared Lizard – female. 406 mm focal length equivalent, f/6.3, 1/320 sec. ISO-200

These lizards are really great photographic subjects. They are relatively easy to photograph, allowing for watching while they bask in the sunlight of a clear day without much manipulation or interference necessary.

WGNSS Nature Photography Group Visits Loess Bluff NWR – November 2018

Snow drops

Seven of us made the long drive to our destination on the morning of the 23rd . The week of
Thanksgiving can be an excellent choice for visiting Loess Bluff NWR, but always depends on the
weather. We were a bit concerned with the early cold snap our region experienced this autumn.
However, in the week or so preceding the trip, the weather warmed so we were not hampered by ice
that can completely cover the shallow waters of the wetlands. Having open water affords very close
views of our photographic subjects and the primary reason we drove such a distance – the blizzard.

The blizzard

Typically, one million to two million Snow Geese will make this location a stop over during spring
and autumn migration and numbers of over 500,000 birds on a single count are not uncommon.
During our visit, the official counts were slightly over 100,000 birds, but the feeling with the group
was that this was grossly underestimated.

Rising snow

If conditions allow, getting the moon behind the Snow Geese can make a nice composition.

Rising snow against setting moon


Lunar Liberty

On our first day of the trip we were faced with mostly cloudy weather. As I told the group, this provides an opportunity to more easily try panning motion shots like the one pictured below. This is not my most successful attempt at such an image, but I wanted to share it here to demonstrate the multitude of opportunities for a diversity of photos to be made.

Panning with the action

Snow Geese are not the only subjects that make this trip worthwhile. The refuge also provides
important habitat for birds such as Bald Eagles, sparrows, a variety of ducks and wading birds, as
well as mammals like white-tailed deer and muskrats. On our initial entry to the park, Dave and Bill
found a Merlin on a relatively good perch above the road. We spent some time photographing the
bird, but regretted that the rest off our party were on the other side of the refuge and would not
likely be able to get the looks we did. Fortunately, a Merlin – likely the same bird, was spotted on
our second day and was viewable by all.


With subjects in the hundreds of thousands to the millions, making a purposeful image can be challenging. It is quite natural to want to shoot at everything that moves, but try and focus. Finding smaller action scenes is one way the photographer can focus on the individuals and their stories that make up the grander scheme.

Goosing a goose

Although we experienced skies with periods of heavy overcast, we were presented with fantastic
sunsets on both days. Being able to make the birds part of the story made these images all the more special.

Sun setting on snowy waters


A beautiful end

The WGNSS Photo Group is committed to an overnight trip to this and similar locations within the Midwest on Thanksgiving week. If you’d like to join us next year, please let me know!


It’s Officially Spring!

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

Along with finding the typical rarities that everyone looks for during spring migration, I will not count spring as arriving until I lay eyes on a male Blackburnian Warbler.  This past Saturday, not only did Miguel and I find my prize at Carondelet Park, but I got my best photos to date of this tree-top dwelling, piece of greased lighting.

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

With a throat this bright and luminous, a song that is so high-pitch that dogs aren’t safe for blocks and a never resting habit, more than one birder has assumed these guys must be powered by a battery.  Seriously, there’s a reason these guys eat all day long.  They have to!

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

Well, hopefully I might have another before the season has completed springing.  If not, I’ll always have something to look forward to next year.


How I Spent Superb Owl Sunday

For the first time since junior high I did not watch a single down or minute of the NFL this season and I couldn’t be happier for it.  Rape my town three times, NFL – shame on you.  I’ve been pleased to get those precious free minutes back for my Sundays, several of which I found I could spend not dreading the upcoming workweek.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

When the forecast showed a near perfect meteorological condition for shooting the Short-eared Owls of BK Leach, I figured this could be promising.  While most other naked apes with functioning vision would be in front of the picture box and ingesting mass quantities of wings and beer, I would enjoy the warm and lightly breezy evening in my own kind of chair with friends of a different sort.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Of course there is never a sure thing.  Often, when I have expected the best due to light and temperature, the owls don’t show where I set myself.  On this particular day, all conditions came together and I had a super time.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

I want to give huge thanks for my lovely and talented wife, Sarah, for the special help she gave me this season in getting my best to date SEOW in flight shots.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

A perfect day ended in the perfect way – with a great sunset on the Lincoln Hills.

Sunset on the Lincoln Hills
Sunset on the Lincoln Hills

Until next time…

Birds of the Texas Gulf Coat – Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull – Galveston Ferry Crossing, TX

When traveling to a new location it is always interesting to see what gull species is the local equivalent to our Ring-billed Gull.  In the case of the Texas gulf coast, that is definitely the Laughing Gull.  We found that a really great place to see hundreds at great distance is the ferry ride between the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston.  Be sure to check the water as well as the skies if you take this 20 minute boat ride.  Steve and I were able to spot a bottlenose dolphin or two during the crossing.

Laughing Gull – Anahuac NWR, TX

After hearing their vocalizations for quite a long period, we can say this species is quite aptly named!

Laughing Gull, Anahuac NWR, TX

In summer plumage, this is obviously one of the easier gulls to identify.  Largest of the hooded gulls, with red bill, legs and feet, slate-colored back and black primaries.

Laughing Gulls, East End Lagoon Preserve, TX

In the Land of the Blind the One-eyed Man is King

Hooded Mergansers - Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary - St. Charles Co, MO
Hooded Mergansers First Year Males – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

The one-eyed man referred to in the title of this post is, of course, the photographer with a telephoto lens sticking out of a well-placed blind.  Yes, we are all aware of and use to good effect the mobile blind – our warm vehicles.  However, shooting from a car in a place like RMBS leaves a bit to be desired.

Common Goldeneye – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

From a car, the angle at which the birds are photographed will always be at the same downwards angle that in my opinion is less desirable than being close to eye level, which sitting low in a a portable ‘bag’ style blind can afford.

Hooded Merganser Hen – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Although I have owned such a blind for a few years, I have only recently given it some real use with friend and fellow like-minded nature photographer, Miguel Acosta.  All of the images from this post were made in our first attempts at this and even with limited light and opportunities, I can already see the potential in using this technique for improving photography of waterfowl.

Hooded Merganser Big Boys – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Getting an eye-level perspective yields more benefits than just a resting duck.  Catching birds taking to flight from the water’s surface from this angle makes for a more powerful image than from above.

Lift Off! – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

I’m really glad we tried this out.  It is something I’ve been wishing to do for quite some time and I guess it just makes sense that this is the way to do it.  Now I just need to think of places and opportunities to try more.

Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Until next time.

Birds of the Texas Gulf Coast – Willet

Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.

It is always interesting to find a bird species you are pretty familiar with in a new location or season.  Such was the case and pleasant surprise that Steve and I found when stumbling upon the Willet in coastal Texas in May, 2016.  This giant puppy dog of a sandpiper is typically a relatively low-key, almost dull bird when spotted in Missouri during its migration.  The individuals we observed in Texas, however, were quite conspicuous as they combined long vocalizations with slow flights that really showed off the contrasting black and white wings.  They were a pleasure to watch and photograph.

Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.


Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.