I recently drove Noah out to Boston where he was starting school at Brandeis University. On the way out there I shared the driving with both Noah and Nina. But Nina had to fly home to get back to work which left me to make the drive back to Minnesota solo. It is about a 1400 mile drive and my ability to drive for long stretches at a time is not what it used to be. To help stave off fatigue and to break up the monotony of a 1400 mile drive, I found a few good birding spots to visit along the way. Here is a sample of what I saw...and shot.
The first place I visited was the Cornell University Ornithology Lab in Ithaca, New York. It was a bit out of the way, but well worth the detour. (Thank you, Barb, for the excellent suggestion.) Cornell has one of the premier bird labs in the world and their very impressive facility includes a big wooded area in the back, known as Sapsucker Woods. More than 200 species of birds have been sighted in that location and, though I did see lots of birds, I found that they were no easier to shoot here than they were anywhere else. I hear birds singing in the trees somewhere, but it is often impossible to find them. Yet they keep singing--almost mocking me for my inability to locate them. Perhaps I finally catch a glimpse as they seek a spot even more hidden by the leaves. Maybe another glimpse and then they fly away. Wouldn't you think that a big, important lab like this could do a better job of training their birds to pose?
I was able to get a few decent shots, the best one being a bird that I did not recognize immediately, but that turned out to be an immature American Robin. The immature robin has sort of been my nemesis when it comes to finding and identifying birds. I had always thought of robins as those big brown birds with that familiar orange breast that we see all over our lawns in the summer. But like many species of birds, the young bird can look very different than the adults of the species. This was not the first time that I have spotted what I thought might be an exotic species of bird that turned out to be an immature robin. There was one time that I was sure that had found a hawk off one of the bike trails I frequent...but alas, only a young robin. Anyway, this one was kind enough to stand still for a few pictures. In Sapsucker Woods I also saw a couple of turtles basking in the sun, which are not actual birds, but were nevertheless interesting.
I wandered down the paved trail leading from the parking lot and soon observed a marshy area over to my left. As I continued down the path the marsh was generally occluded by trees but I occasionally caught a glimpse of it, as in the case of this majestic Great Egret. What I like about larger birds such is this is that you can get decent shots of them even from a fair distance.
And, as it turned out, I left just in the nick of time as when I was on the Ohio Turnpike about five miles from my motel a very ominous warning blared out of the radio. "DANGER! DANGER! LIFE-THREATENING DANGER! Tornadoes have been sighted in Defiance County." Of course that did me little good as I had no idea in what county I was at the time but could only imagine a tornado, picking up my car, tossing it around in the air, like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz, and dropping it who knows where. I have been through many tornado warnings in the past, but felt a lot more vulnerable on the road in the middle of nowhere. I made it as quickly as I could to my exit and was relieved when the toll taker lady informed me that we were in not in Defiance County, but rather in Williams County.
Of course there were gulls--and lots of them--but I can't tell you how many pictures of gulls I already had. Yet I never turn down good shots when I encounter them.