willet

Cooperative River Birds

Cooperative River Birds

For some reason, there's something that really appeals to me about Tree Swallows...

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement:

Lovers and Assassins in the Salt Marsh

Lovers and Assassins in the Salt Marsh

Saturday morning was another gorgeous, sunny day, so...

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement:

Eponymous Saltmarsh

Guilford's East River is rapidly becoming a favorite spot for me. I love that it connects to the new East River Preserve in the north part of Guilford, and it's a bit closer to my house and easier to put into than the Hammonasset River, especially now that I've dropped the $20 for a season pass at the Guilford Marina.

I went almost two miles up the river today, which was almost the entire salt marsh section. While I plan to go farther soon, all the way up into the coastal forest, today had some good exploring.

The predominant wildlife is still Willets (left), Ospreys, and Common Terns (above left). I also saw a high-up hawk that I'm fairly sure was a Cooper's, though she took off over the marsh before I could get a good picture.

I also saw a little guy that's turning into an old friend. I've seen lots of small sparrow-like birds flitting across the water and into the grasses, but they're much shyer than the Willets and the other larger birds, so it's hard to be sure exactly what they are.

But, as I've mentioned before on numerous occasions, here's the huge advantage of the kayak: you can take a few shots at a safe distance, and then set yourself up with current, wind, or even momentum to drift a bit closer and closer.

So I was finally able to confirm my hunch and get a few good pictures at the same time. At least some (and probably most) of the sparrow-like birds are the Saltmarsh Sparrows I've come to know well. I don't like to interrupt birds' habits, and I try to stop at the first sign that I'm disturbing one, but this time I got a little too close, and the sparrow looked back over his shoulder as he took off away from me.

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement:

A Short Jaunt on the East River

Today I threw the boat on the car for the first time this year and headed out to do a little exploring on the East River in Guilford, the same East River that runs through the preserve I visited last week. It's apparently possible to take a kayak from the Guilford Marina—to which I now have a $20 season pass—through to the preserve at high tide.

Within seconds of shoving off, I'd found a Willet working the shallows.

A hundred yards later, I found a mixed group of Willets and terns bathing in the shallows. The terns were all Common Terns, and they hopped in and out and splashed around.

I'm having a bit of a rough time ruling out Forster's and Roseate Terns in some pictures, but I'm pretty sure these are all Common.
Within minutes, I had dozens of action pictures of terns in full breeding plumage.

The Willets were bathing too, and out of a few dozen exposures, I captured this neat sequence of three.

As always, I try to set myself upwind of the birds I'm photographing, so I can get closer and closer while causing as little alarm as possible.



As I finished my drift toward the mixed flock, I took one more series of exposures of a male Common Tern preening. Or, potentially, doing tai chi.

Just as he stopped preening and looked worried, I put my paddle back in the water and halted my approach. It's great to get good shots of birds, but it's not worth the expense of disturbing their habits.
Sadly, when I was only about a half mile from the marina, a microcell thunderstorm got itself whipped up to my north, right up the river. I tried to rationalize staying out on the water and going up at least a little father, but when I saw a bolt of lightning in the middle of that downpour, I turned around and hightailed it back to the dock.

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement:

Where There's a Willet, There's an Osprey


I apologize for the truly tortured pun that makes up the title of this entry, but since both birds make an appearance, I really couldn’t resist.

The end of July saw us at the salt marsh quite a bit. Because of beds of aptly named razor clams by the trail, I only like to go there at high tide, when the dogs are less likely to slash up their paws. Fortunately, it seems as if every time I’ve checked a tide table, high tide and sunny weather were predicted  at exactly the time I wished to head out there.

A large part of the trail crosses the marsh on a raised concrete causeway. The dogs happily slog and swim their way out through the grass and the channels, and then they sprint back along the causeway when they’re called.

This Snowy Egret is one of many wading birds that frequent the marsh during the day and roost nearby it at night. When he first saw the dogs, his first tactic was to freeze, which worked surprisingly well. A flapping bird is an object of religious devotion for a Golden Retriever, but a still one might as well be made of grass.

He did eventually spook and fly off a few minutes later, to my relief, since I’d hate to have one of the dogs successfully injure a heron, which they’d no doubt do if they managed to catch him.

I think this is my all-time favorite picture of Ojo because it captures his total abandonment to the water, salt, and mud, broken by a millisecond’s check-in to the silly humans who never seem to jump into anything.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

My dad was able to identify this as a Willet from an e-mailed photo. Though I have a great field guide on my phone and an even better one on my bookshelf, it’s often more fun and less work to test my dad’s mettle.

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement: