Well, when’s the last time you’ve seen one of these eh? It’s only March, never too late for the first blog post of the year. Coming down to the end of 2017, I put aside my pre-planned blog posts to bring a couple compilation posts, which is really just a fancy way of me saying hey I’ve taken so ridiculously long to share these images, here they all are in this single handy post. After a certain amount of time passes, stories cease to be relevant and long-term memories take over.
By the time 2018 rolled around, life took a different turn and new meanings and purposes were made apparent. Adjusting to a new normal is never the smoothest process in the world, but at least that’s started. I can’t even begin to imagine how it’d be to be delivering a blog post a day as I used to do in the not-too-distant past. But who knows what’s going to be the future.
Even though I haven’t been blogging, I’ve remained active on a daily basis on my Instagram account. Follow me here!
I arranged these images all the way back in January – yes that’s how long I’ve been trying to write – procrastination has been due to a multitude of reasons, but for the most part it’s been an odd form of OCD, where once I’m at the controls for this website I must clear all comments that are waiting moderation. There have been in excess of 5,000. 99% of which are spam, but it still involves the painstaking process of poring over all comments. Which takes a while. Today, I’ve decided to leave the 2,796 comments unmoderated and finally get this post out of the way.
All the way back in July last year, I volunteered to help take care of an injured Loggerhead Turtle at a local rehabilitation centre. After getting there for 7am, somehow I couldn’t get anyone’s attention inside the compound. Calls went unanswered, no-one heard me wailing “good morning” or the hooting of my horn. What’s a birder to do? Go birding of course. No sooner had I drifted away into bird-world I came upon this pair of uncommonly seen Pale-breasted Ground Doves. This was only the second time I ever saw this species.
After photographing the doves, I took some “wrong turns” in pursuit of a mystery raptor I saw briefly zoom past (turned out to be a Plumbeous Kite) and found myself on a long, winding road that’d eventually spit me out further south. Which was my intended direction, so I didn’t mind the scenic route in the slightest. Around a corner something that resembled a rock on the road made me look twice, and for good reason. This Scorpion Mud Turtle was in the middle of the road just as it made a sharp bend. I grabbed it and relocated it far away from any roadway, but not before I photographed that pretty face.
We spent two short weeks in Tobago, during which I had the time to really work the Red-crowned Woodpeckers that are silly common there. Oftentimes I would decide to target a certain species and just work with it, this time I was in woodpecker mode. Although I had seen and photographed them many times before, none of my images were satisfactory. This time I’m happy with what I got, though.
Hearing a family of squirrels tussle in the vegetation between myself and the rising sun, I knew that for me to end up winning this battle I’d need a number of factors to work in my favour. For the backlight on the squirrel to be rendered properly, it’d have to have a dark background. The squirrel would also have to be stationary, as there was not enough light for an action shot. A fair amount of position adjustments were made for everything to line up as they did. The vine that balanced the composition perfectly ended up being my favourite element of the image.
Back in Trinidad, it was on the cusp of the hunting season and we were fearful for all things waterfowl. If I was able to sneak up on sitting ducks like this pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, who was anyone else wielding a different weapon? This pair was actually sitting on a barrel, but using some foreground grass I managed to blur most of the barrel. There was a single spot where sharp eyes may have been able to discern an edge of the barrel, but I erased it during the RAW conversion in Lightroom.
Also just before the hunting season began, a pair of Least Grebes was reported in south Trinidad. Being one of my favourite birds to photograph, we worked them good and proper one morning. The adorable little ones made many close approaches, often coming too close for us to focus. After all the dust had settled though, it was this loose image that ended up in the top drawer.
Another bird that we had fantastic opportunities with some weeks later was our big endemic, the Trinidad Piping Guan. We photographed it feeding in this tree for probably close to half an hour, and eventually drifted off looking for other birds while the Pawi continued to feed, unbothered.
A chance encounter with this 4′ Fer de Lance left me contemplating life. It was within striking distance of my mid-section for who knows how long, we only saw it as it was slipping away into the leaf litter. I was too preoccupied with trying to photograph White-bearded Manakins overhead to notice the expertly camouflaged viper.
Out of all the Antshrikes found within T&T, the Great Antshrike is the most sought after. Perhaps a combination of its uncommon nature and its striking appearance, or its rather entertaining vocalization – either way we weren’t complaining when this gorgeous male decided to give us unlimited opportunities for about four or five minutes.
From the top of the pile under “Antshrike” to the equivalent pedestal under “Doves”; I believe the Scaled Dove is T&T’s finest offering. Recorded for the first time a couple years ago (after being absent since 1926!), there are a couple established populations on Trinidad.
When this Giant Treefrog found its way into our house, I knew I was at least going to try to photograph it the following day. I capped it and released it during some relatively golden light, of course it never faced the direction I wanted it to but say what.
Somehow last year’s migration season didn’t fly well with me, or should I say, my schedule. I only managed to get out once during the entire season to scan the fields of the Caroni Rice Project, but the one morning we were out there I can assure you was the absolute darkest morning for the entire year. It started to rain that morning, and didn’t stop for at least three days.
We did however, get to bird around Suriname for a few hours in November. Everything was new, well most things were. Great Kiskadees were everywhere. So too were Blue-black Grassquits, Palm Tanagers and Spectacled Thrushes, hah. Eventually we were able to spot some different birds, the highlight of which most deservedly was this sighting of a pair of Green-tailed Jacamars.
Close to the banks of the Suriname River, this raptor perched with its most distinctive face and bill. Checking the literature, I noticed that two similar species inhabit Suriname – Snail Kite and Slender-billed Kite. Although I had seen the former, I was only confident in telling apart the adult males. Females and young birds presented a problem. Until the bird decided to fly off to another tree nearby, showing a distinctive white rump – that was a diagnostic mark for Snail Kite. This image was featured (along with another image in this post) on the Instagram account of the National Audubon Society, which I took over for a week in February this year. Check it out here!
Back in Trinidad, this Grey-headed Kite sat for long enough for me to be picked up and brought to it. Made a few images from a closer distance, but the drawback with a bird high in a tree is that the closer you get, the higher the bird seems. So a little further away, up a hill and we have an eye-level shot.
Of course I’ve ended up in the familiar locations of Caroni Swamp and Asa Wright Nature Centre, when visiting these most-visited places as a photographer there is a great challenge to make images that haven’t been made before. At the swamp, I continued in my efforts to create something pleasing but blurred. I love working with slow shutter speeds!
Across at AWNC, the Purple Honeycreepers are always on show. I threw on my 1.4x teleconverter and a 25mm extension tube and went for the headshot. Working with relatively common species allows one to expand the photographic canvas and allow the viewer to enjoy a different perspective.
So that’s in a nutshell what’s been going on recently, I trust that this blog post marks the beginning of more regular posts (again), but we will see. I have some more articles that are in the oven, some of which will be published here. For now I leave you with an image of one of my favourite birds. Good ol’ Corbeau, our Black Vulture. Intelligent, humble and underappreciated.