Archive for April, 2016

Killbuck Marsh Migration

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup

Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area is a 5,700 acre state-owned alluvial swamp stretching from the outskirts of Wooster all the way to Holmesville. It’s a very happy place for waterfowl, but not a very good place for farming or human housing, so I’m in favor of expanding the Wildlife Area as budget permits.

Ruddy Duck Makes a Landing next to Lesser Scaups

By my count, in a chilly 45 minutes near Shreve earlier this month I saw: American Black Duck, American Coot, Blue Winged Teal, Buffalohead, Canada Goose, Cardinal, Great Blue Heron, Horned Grebe, Ring-Necked Duck, Red-Tailed Hawk, Ruddy Duck, Tree Swallow, and a Muskrat.

Horned Grebe

The Horned Grebes were my favorite.  Squat bodies covered with hairy feathers, and faces comically painted with a yellow stripe and some sloppily applied pink lipstick, they dive completely underwater, popping up in unexpected places.

Horned Grebe taking a dive

The waterfowl just seem more exotic than what we get on our little pond.  The Ruddy Ducks have blue bills, and the elegantly brown and green Northern Shovelers, which were flying around in great flocks, have a schnozz like Jimmy Durante.

Northern Shovelers in Snow

Compared to most of the other ducks, a pair of Mallards look downright pedestrian, but with his iridescent green head and old-fashioned DA, the Mallard drake, and his demure but smartly-patterned hen, were far more stylish than a very plain looking pair of Black Ducks.

Mallard Ducks

Many of the flocks contained multiple kinds of duck. In one mass landing, I captured Bufflehead, Ring-Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and some Tree Swallows.

Bufflehead, Ring-Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Tree Swallow

It was a real workout for me and my new telephoto.  In a snowy 90 minutes, I managed to get identifiable photographs of some of 12 different birds I saw. I’d already spent a couple hours taking photos in the nearby Ken Miller Supply Museum looking at old oilfield tools and tractors, so I was ready to head back home to the digital darkroom.

Muskrat

These photos were taken late in the afternoon of April 9, 2016, using the Canon 7DII DSLR and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. For most of these shots, I sat inside the pickup truck, and rested the lens on the door to keep it stead.  All processing in light room.

Tree Swallows

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

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Not all of the birds hanging out in the marshland near Killbuck are aquatic.  As spring approaches, the marsh always has swarms of little birds, swooping around, eating invisible insects.  They seemed to be perching on some dead trees pretty far out in the water, so I couldn’t get a good look at them, but I came back on March 26, and found some that were within telephoto range of the pickup truck.

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They turn out to be Tree Swallows. Once I found a place in range of a sunlit roost, I parked the pickup, and propped the telephoto on the open window to watch.  Appearing mostly black in flight, I hadn’t appreciated how brilliant iridescent blue they  are.  The first one landed on the branch, spent some time resting, and then checked out the knothole, which is their favorite natural nesting site.  If I understand the lifecycle correctly, unlike ducks and geese, the males and female migrate separately, with the males arriving in the breeding grounds before the female, so the male can choose a nesting site. 

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A little bit later, a second swallow arrived. Both were brilliant blue, as were all the ones I could see, so either the brown females hadn’t arrived yet, or they were just shy around photographers.   I’m guessing that the females were still in an outlet mall in North Carolina.

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The first male seemed pretty attached to his knot hole, and it wasn’t at all apparent to me if there actually were enough knot holes to go around.  The originally swallow didn’t seem too keen on sharing a perch, at least not with another male.

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As recorded by my DSLR, they stood on the broken branch and glared and postured at each other for over 6 minutes.

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Finally, the interloper, either bored, frustrated, or hungry flew off.

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After spending some more time exploring his knot hole, the first swallow flew off to get some more of the 2000 bugs he needs every day to keep his wings pumping.  I don’t know how he defends his territory when he’s out slurping up insects.