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Finally

8/15/2020 - 8/16/2020


I accomplished two things this weekend. After reading that sentence, it does not sound too impressive....


So, the first thing was a pretty minor goal, but I was happy it finally worked out. I made yet another trip to Prophetstown SP on Saturday morning. Inside the park, there is a stretch of road where the compass plant is blooming. It's tall, impressive, and yellow. There is also a certain Blue Grosbeak that loves to perch on it. Like all Blue Grosbeak, he is shy. While I have made many passes along this stretch in a attempt to capture him perched on the plant, I have mostly failed. Last weekend, I got a few shots, but it was in heavy fog, and the photo was lacking in a lot of ways. As I arrived at Prophetstown this last weekend, I was, once again, greeted with heavy fog. I was not greeted with the song of the Blue Grosbeak. Driving by his usual spot, I noticed it was vacant. I made my usual drive down to the turn-around and back; just listening for anything unusual and taking a mental survey of activity. When I got back to the stretch of compass plant, my friend was there. I drove by and then came back by slowly. He stayed. I shot. Not the greatest light. The fog had cleared in the area of the road, but the sun had not peaked over the hill nearby. So, it was a little dark. And then he flew to a different perch. This cat-n-mouse (bird-n-photographer?) game played out several more times. He would switch perches or fly down to forage for food, and I would have to reposition the car. Finally, right after the sun peaked over the hill, I parked the car and slowly got out. I walked away from him until I got to a good angle for the light. I turned and fired a few shots. He said I cheated and flew up into a tree. I figured this was the best I was going to get and moved on; thankful to finally have had a decent chance at a good shot. In the end, the fog in the background helped capture the early pink glow of the sun. He was well lit, and I even caught him singing. I was pretty happy with the shot.

The rest of the park was pretty quite, that day. Well, not so much the Sedge Wren, but they have pretty much taken up residence far into the fields. A few Henslow's Sparrow were close enough to shoot, but there were not a lot of them about once the sun came up.

I also had a few Monarch butterflies sheltering in the field and waiting for the dew to dry off their wings.


Sunday was another early start. I have talked about going down to the Falls of the Ohio State Park for years. I have wanted to go and shoot Black-crowned Night-Heron. Today, I finally made time to drive down to the park. Incidentally, there is also a Wood Stork being seen on the Kentucky side of the park. While interesting, it was not my focus while there. Arriving, I was a bit puzzled at where to go. I eventually figured out that you just have to scramble down a steep bank and then clamber over a number of trees that have been washed up in a pile before walking out onto the sandy mud to the edge of the water. Once there, though, the place is really cool. I had a few Night-Heron feeding close to the edge. There were a number of Great Egret, too. Lots of Black Vulture, and, yes, a distant Wood Stork on the Kentucky side. An Osprey flew by with a fish as I gazed around. The sun had not come up over the ridge yet, but I had plenty of light for what I wanted to try.


I have a project I have tried working on over the years. Herons are amazingly patient and still hunters. They can remain motionless for a period of time and then make a lightning-quick grab for food. I have seen photos of herons where a slow shutter speed was used to "smoke" the water while having the bird in focus. This was my goal for today. In the end, I still need to practice some.

Normal photo at a faster shutter speed

Initial attempts, while still hand-holding, at "smoking" the water.

I eventually went back for my tripod and was able to get off some longer shots.

While shooting, I was suddenly greeted by Mike Maxwell and Ryan Sanderson. Turns out there were a number of Indy birders there today. We hung out and shot until the fisherman ran all the birds out of range, which did not take too long. By 9:30, we were talking more than shooting, and I decided it was time to start the drive home. These 4:30 starts to the day are a bit rough.

All in all, it was a great first experience there. Now that I know more about what to expect, I think I could be better prepared next time. Instead of long pants and hiking boots, shorts and a pair of water shoes would be more helpful. Getting out to the first island would have opened up a lot more opportunities for shooting. A lighter lens would help, too. Still, I am happy with what I got. I look forward to returning.


Thanks for reading,

Mike

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