View 176: Ornithology

Ornithology – is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 400mm focal length.

The science of ornithology is unlike most disciplines.  Amateurs called Birders help scientists in location, breeding and population studies.  Bird watching accounts for millions of dollars in sales of binoculars, spotting scopes, camera equipment and outdoor clothing each year.  People have life lists which span decades and mine got a little shorter when I spotted and photographed the Gray Catbird you see above.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) at the thistle seed feeder outside the Imogene Powers Johnson Visitor Center for Birds and Biodiversity at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) at the thistle seed feeder outside the Imogene Powers Johnson Visitor Center for Birds and Biodiversity at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 400mm focal length.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology located north of Ithaca, New York is not open to the public.  The Lab does house the Imogene Powers Johnson Visitor Center for Birds and Biodiversity and is surrounded by Sapsucker Woods. Both of which are open to the public.  The visitor center is a birders dream with interactive kiosks to explore every aspect of bird identification.  A sound lab for bird songs, computer stations, theaters, library and observation locations.  A popular bird feeding station had people watching American Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Titmouse, chickadees sparrows and blackbirds the whole time I was there.

Sapsucker Woods is a 230-acre sanctuary with trails, boardwalks, observation platforms, woods, wetlands, ponds and home to many species of animals, birds and other wildlife. About four miles of trails take you through some of the must diverse and rich environments I have ever seen in a private sanctuary.

A male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing near the Owens Observation Platform in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York.

A male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing near the Owens Observation Platform in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/800s, f/14, ISO 800, EV 0, 400mm focal length.

The denizens of Sapsucker Woods were very used to people walking through their home.  The observation platforms took me past nesting Canada geese and close enough for  photos of small song birds in their natural environment.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) in a tree near the Sherwood Observation Platform in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) in a tree near the Sherwood Observation Platform in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 400mm focal length.

The boardwalks of Sapsucker Woods allows people to comfortably explore wetlands. The wetlands were full of Spring growth.  Lush plants and bright flowers where in full bloom basking in the sunshine.  Many birds where flying in and around the trees and vegetation feeding on insects.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) near the Podell Boardwalk in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) near the Podell Boardwalk in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 800, EV 0, 400mm focal length.

I watched this Yellow-rumped Warbler make many flights in his quest to gobble up as many insects as he could catch.

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24 Responses to View 176: Ornithology

  1. Scott B. says:

    The first photo is my favorite. Was looking forward to your postings all weekend long.

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  2. Anna says:

    Love the Gray Catbird. I love to bird watch and I really want to hone my skills in photographing birds. Really nice bird images. 🙂

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  3. montucky says:

    That’s a place I would like to visit. I refer to the Cornell website “All About Birds” frequently.

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  4. milkayphoto says:

    Great Redwing capture!

    A little too saturated on the catbird as they are not quite that blue in color, but we all take a little poetic license now again, don’t we? 🙂

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  5. Karma says:

    Wow, you really showed me up on my bird pictures! 😉 I’ve been enjoying just trying to get more bird pictures this year and learning about the types that stop by my feeders and backyard. I’d love a killer telephoto lens but that will have to wait. Do you leave your camera on continuous shooting mode when photographing birds?

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    • Yes and continuous focus. The 80-400mm VR lens I use is slow to focus but I have it set up to minimal focus track to help. The D700 more advanced electronics has also given the lens a boost in focusing speed.

      Now, if you are feeding birds. Look for their favorite trees, shrubs and other natural areas they will perch on before coming to your feeder. Are they need your home’s windows or a place you can hide? With your camera’s crop factor, a 200mm lens is like a 300+ lens. You will want to raise your shutter speed to 1/250th of a second or better as birds rarely stay still for too long as I am sure you are aware of.

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  6. yesbuts says:

    Great set of bird photographs, a product of 400mm lens, talented photographer and patients.

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  7. truels says:

    This place seems to be a great place to visit – and to photograph birds. You sure got some fine shots here. I have neither such a place here – or photographic equipment for this – but I may well dream a little about both ……

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  8. Robin says:

    Wonderful captures, Scott. The catbird is stunning.

    I’ll have to put this on my list of places to visit. Thanks for taking us there! 🙂

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  9. Kathy says:

    Love that first pic, especially. Why do they call them “gray” when they are so beautifully blue? You did a lovely job with these.

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  10. Gerry says:

    Well, I defer to the serious birders about which image is the prize of the day, but I just love that redwing blackbird. I’m fond of those birds anyway, and have been known to sit at the edge of a field and watch them for an hour just for the heckofit.

    I second that endorsement of the Cornell Labs bird identification website. It is truly useful, and very accessible. (My dad had a delightful encounter with a Greg Budney, who was way more interested in sharing what he knows than in showing off what he knows. You have to like that in an expert on anything.)

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    • I have been trying to get a good red-winged blackbird this spring. This is one is great in that I caught him singing but still too dark. You can barely see his eye.

      Cornell is home to many excellent labs and schools. I am so happy they created this public place for people to come and explore the wonderment of the natural world without disturbing the wild creatures who live there.

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  11. Nye says:

    The Gray Catbird looks so beautiful, I would love to visit a place like this.

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  12. cindydyer says:

    Lovely bird shots, Scott! I have that 80-400 lens and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t use it very often. You’ve inspired me to (temporary and occasionally) “step away from the flowers!” I need to get out and photograph some critters like you have. Thanks for the nudge with your bird shots.

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