Saturday, March 25, 2017

Migration tonight!

I know there won't be many people reacting to this idea/post on ~8 hours notice (I kinda missed this approaching) - but I was surprised to see the wind/rain pattern unfolding tonight. As per usual, I'm using Point Pelee as an example...

Despite strong NE winds and colder temps, the rain is moving north of SW Ontario:

Harrow Airport says it's 3.5 degrees...

and here's the surface winds:

(yes, NE winds) - but the south winds aren't terribly far away!

This is (in my opinion) a great setup for big NUMBERS of birds to drop in at migrant traps (like Pelee!)... You'd never know from the ground, but warmer southerly air is flowing over Pelee from places further south. Check out the 850mb winds: 

This is a very similar setup to the BIG day from May 11, 2016 - with huge numbers of neotropic migrants from Pelee / Pelee Island...

IF it turns out, tomorrow will be "March/April" themed - so flickers, winter wrens, kinglets, juncos etc - but it could be a pretty interesting show out there. I won't be there, but maybe you will be? Looking forward to the ebird checklists!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bald Eagle X European Starling hybrid

Or maybe it's a partial albino Starling.. Who's to say? My lovely ladyfriend spotted this beast in our backyard during the recent snowfalls... Snowfall = more birds at your feeder, and spring snowfall = oodles of migrant blackbirds at your feeder!

Managed a few quick grabs from inside the house. Not much else to say about it - although I was pretty surprised to see just HOW the white was coming through... I am not knowledgable about the exact causes of plumage abnormalities in birds (I believe there was a great article several years ago on how the mechanisms are different in birds vs. mammals)  but it seems a little more unusual that the feathers are part normal part white (greater coverts) - or part normal part paler-than-normal (primaries) - or straight up white (head etc). 

Friday, March 10, 2017

New website! Same great blog... Somewhat...

A new incarnation of my website ( has arrived! The previous design had been adjusted several times since its inception in 2003, including a complete overhaul after a virus attack - but always followed the same general design/layout.

One big adjustment is the loss of my old site-specific redirect url ( - which I don't think I'm going to revive... If you're reading this, hopefully you're already aware of the change... is the link of the future!

I've enacted a blogging feature on the new site - which I've decided to call "journal" instead of "blog" to avoid any confusion with this site... I hope to blog about photography-specific endeavours on that page going forward -so while updates may be irregular, I hope the quality of the content will be high. First up will be a series regarding some of the hotspots I was able to visit while in San Diego starting sometime next week. (

So boom! Here it is! Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 20, 2017

20 San Diego Bird Photographs

For the first time in some time, I ventured forth on a bird-photography-specific adventure. My destination was San Diego, where I was lucky to get some tips & tricks from the legendary San Diego birder/photographer Jim Pawlicki. (Thanks Jim!)

Long story short, is that I somehow managed to take 19,000 photos... Since I don't really have a functioning website these days, I came up with roughly twenty photos (each showing a different species) that also happened to be some of my favourite images from the trip. Needless to say, there are more, but i'm not really sure if/when/where they'll surface in the future.

Hope you like them!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nature Photography 104 - Feb 16, 2017

Back in the day (way back in the day) I did several posts looking in depth at some of my bolder editing practices & recently edited a photo that convinced me to do another post.... Inevitably I dislike doing a lot of editing, preferring to get it right the first time, but rarely I end up with a photo that I decide to "do some work" to see if I can save it... Here's the final product:

And here's what I started with:

(Full frame)

With of course, guest appearances by the photos that I took immediately before and after this one:

So, as you have guessed - I used the body parts of the other two photos that weren't clipped, and stuck them on with the magic of photoshop... With a cropped photo (or even when using a teleconverter) - this is easy peasy... Unfortunately I was shooting with just the 600mm, so you end up with the mostly invisible but forever present "vignetting" ... Because I'm shooting through a round piece of "magnification glass", the corners/edges bend the light slightly differently and you end up with a brighter centre / darker edges... On a clean background (like this) is easily detected... 

To see it, or to find pesky dust spots on a clean background, I temporarily adjust the "levels" much darker... Check out this screen capture: 

So - while this is all fine and dandy... It helps illustrate my next point - that even though I added "canvas" to the sides of the *final* copy (first image I posted), it is hardly a "perfect" job due to the gradient present in the originals... I did my best to tidy it up a bit, but overall I just don't care enough to try and make it better! (maybe you or someone else could do a better job - here are the underlying secrets of the final copy):

Pretty difficult to see until someone points it out... I shutter to think what would happen if this was printed for a book/mag... Hopefully it'd stay invisible but sometimes digital to print just doesn't work out the way you had planned!!

Speaking of which, I've also conducted all of this editing on my macbook, which seems to do a TERRIBLE job of properly displaying photos, so there's a chance i'll get onto a *better* computer in the next few days and be terrified at this version...

So there we go... A blog post... Done. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Snapping Turtle HARVEST - Action Required!

Did you know the Snapping Turtle is a Species at Risk in Ontario? (Special Concern)

Did you know that the province of Ontario still allows hunting/harvesting of Snapping Turtles?

Does this seem like the craziest thing you've ever heard?


The provincial government (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) is proposing amendments to Area Descriptions, Hunting, Possession, Buying and Selling of Wildlife and Ontario Regulation Open Seasons under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to streamline and modernize the management of small game and furbearer wildlife species in Ontario. THIS IS OUR CHANCE to say STOP THE HARVEST OF SNAPPING TURTLES!

Here are the two links I've seen:

On the bottom right of each page is a "submit a comment" button... I would encourage everyone to read this to pass it along to anyone they know who appreciates the issues associated with harvesting Snapping Turtles... The poor creatures face enough danger from nest predation to being mowed down on our roads.

Let them know how you feel!

Thursday, January 19, 2017 ... Blog: RANT (Red-tailed Hawks)

I'm going to rant about Red-tailed Hawks. If the entire world can shift to emotion-based politics, I assume the birding community can handle this completely fact-free rant. If not, there's the door.

When I was a kid, I'm reasonably sure this is how Red-tailed Hawk subspecies were treated:

Note: I'm ignoring Harlan's... 

Abieticola was a mythical RLHA-like bird that hailed from the treeline in northern Quebec/Labrador... Over ten years ago I observed a bird that fit this bill - a freak juvenile looking RTHA with belly markings unlike anything I had ever seen (80-90% odd dark triangles across the belly) and sitting on the GROUND in a wide open field.... Then we had "eastern", "western" and something called Krider's from the prairies...

Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but it was pretty obvious that the "Eastern" birds that nested in the boreal were darker than the local birds... When our birds were sitting on eggs, it was possible to see a steady migration of heavily marked birds at the spring hawkwatch in Beamer/Grimsby...

Now that I've been "out of the raptor loop" for several years, I peek back and this is what I interpret:

"Eastern" RTHA is now subjected to the pale local RTHA, and anything with a belly band is being called abieticola... Seemingly eating into the range of every other subspecies... 

My confusion grew during a June/July visit to southern Saskatchewan, where I encountered DARK MORPH Red-tailed Hawks breeding just shy of the Manitoba and North Dakota borders.... and of course a quick search around the interwebs led me nowhere in trying to find a proper definition of "western" red-tailed hawk range... 

Which leads me to believe that we actually know very little about where these population start & end, and trying to put any sort of a subspecies label on them is bordering on pointless... In the future, I'd love it if we could define them on a slider-scale of "northerly to southerly" and "more eastern or western" in their traits, perhaps with slightly more contrasting demarcations when dealing with ecozones (eg,/ Florida, Carolinian, Boreal, Prairies, Destern/Southwest, Northwest/mountains, Newfoundless).. Perhaps something like this: 

Alright! That's it! Rant over.