Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve

Brilliant peach-colored sunrise over water. There are grasses in the foregroun and trees in the distance. Clouds streak across the sky. Sunrise in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve, Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, Delmarva, Dorchester County, MD. © Jerry Ginsberg
Sunrise in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve, Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, Delmarva, Dorchester County, MD. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

National Wildlife Reserves

While our National Parks, the crown jewels of federal lands, often receive the lion’s share of our attention, the wonderful creature sanctuaries known as National Wildlife Refuges provide an immeasurable benefit to wildlife in these days of ever-expanding development. This human expansion inevitably results in ever shrinking habitat and more and more pressure on the wild creatures who rely upon that habitat.

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Mysterious Bird Deaths and How We Can Help

Screenshot of Audubon's report on the songbird epidemic. Image shows a gloved hand holding a small bird with its eye crusted shut and the headline "Scientists Still Searching for the Pathogen Behind the East's Songbird Epidemic."
Screenshot of Audubon’s report on the songbird epidemic.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Many photographers have backyard bird feeders and enjoy photographing their avian visitors. Beginning in May, though, wildlife managers in a number of mid-Atlantic states, from New Jersey through Florida and as far west as Indiana, began seeing sick and dying birds. Audubon, Science and a number of other media outlets have reported that the distressed birds had swollen, crusty eyes and some neurological symptoms. Because birds are at increased risk of transmitting diseases when congregating at feeders, authorities in the eleven affected states (NJ, DE, PA, KY, WV, MD, VA, IN, OH, TN, FL) and the District of Columbia are recommending that people stop feeding birds altogether. And, if you are in or around the affected states and encounter sick or dead birds, wildlife managers urge you to contact your state or district wildlife conservation agency for instructions and to help them track this outbreak.

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The Grass Is Always Greener

What I Learned during COVID-19

Photo of a small bird, perched on a pine branch, facing the camera. A ferocious looking song sparrow perched on a tree in my front yard. NIKON D7100 at 500 mm, 1/60 second, f/6.3, ISO 100 © Sastry Karra
A ferocious looking song sparrow perched on a tree in my front yard. NIKON D7100 at 500 mm, 1/60 second, f/6.3, ISO 100 © Sastry Karra

By Sastry Karra

During 2020 and the COVID-19 quarantines, many of us took the time to think about what is important to us and what truly makes us happy. I am just one of the many people who did some self-reflection and now view my life with a new and different perspective. Like most of us, I realized that we don’t need to travel far to enjoy nature’s beauty. It took a pandemic to show me that beauty is also in my backyard or in a small county park close to me. Before COVID-19, I didn’t really see the beauty that surrounded me or, perhaps, took it for granted. COVID-19 showed me that many different bird species visit my backyard and that the species sometimes change with the seasons; that a wide variety of flowers bloom in my community; and that there are several local animal species that I have overlooked for the past 15 years that I’ve resided in New Jersey.

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Bird Photography with Tamron’s 150-500 Ultra-Telephoto Zoom Lens

Two birds perched on a branch. On the right, a male bluebird has food in its beak, ready to feed a juvenile bluebird, left, with its mouth open.
A male bluebird is bringing food to a juvenile bluebird. © Ken Hubbard

By Ken Hubbard

I recently took a road trip to Goshen’s Falconry Excursions in upstate New York. It’s an amazing place with all kinds of birds of prey—owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures, among others. The owner has set up one of the largest privately owned and operated raptor breeding programs in the country. On my camera for this birding adventure was the new Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD (Model A057), an ultra-telephoto zoom that’s Tamron’s first model for Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless cameras equipped with Vibration Compensation (VC) technology. It can also be used with APS-C cameras for that extra crop factor.

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Least Tern Courtship: How I Got the Shot

Photo of two birds on a beach. One is standing on the back of the other and offering a fish to the one on the bottom. Least Tern Courtship © Rajan Desai
Least Tern Courtship © Rajan Desai

By Rajan Desai

Editor’s note: Massachusetts-based photographer Rajan Desai is a frequent contributor to the NANPA Facebook Group but it’s not often he gets the kind of reaction he saw after posting “Least Tern Courtship.” That photo reached more than 3,500 people, generated 563 engagements, and inspired 44 comments, including “Beautiful photo. It’s like an image of ballet. I can hear the music in my head.” and “Fabulous capture!! I like your explanation of the courtship rituals also. So well done!” His detailed caption explained the birds’ behavior, but what else made the photo so compelling? We asked Desai to tell us about how he got the shot.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Anita Ross

Photo of thee burrowing owls. Two are perched on a branch and the third is in the air, flapping its wings. “Burrowing Owls, One Levitating,” San Bernardino County, California, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Birds © Anita Ross
“Burrowing Owls, One Levitating,” San Bernardino County, California, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Birds © Anita Ross

Artist’s statement

I started photographing burrowing owls in 2016. They’ve become one of my favorite subjects. I can’t resist these little characters with all their expressions. After a session, I can’t wait to get home to look through the images to see what I’ve captured. When I got to these three owls, their interactions with each other were amazing, but what really stood out was this little owl showing off his ability to levitate. The two things I strive to capture in an image are emotion and/or moments you wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.

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Close Encounter

Reddish egrets - white and dark morphs - are not often seen together. In this photo, the white morph on the left seems to be staring at the dark morph on the right as both birds stand in a marsh. © Bill Kracov Photography
Reddish egrets – white and dark morphs – are not often seen together. © Bill Kracov Photography

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Bill Kracov photographed these egrets back in 2015 but only recently posted the shot to the NANPA Facebook group where the 21,000 members showered it with more than 1,500 interactions and 124 comments, and counting. It was one of the most popular posts in the group during April. So, what makes it so engaging? To find out, we talked with Kracov.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Jeremy Burnham

Photo of a pelican floating in the water with a beer can in its beak. Pelican Not "Living the High Life,"  Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham
Pelican Not “Living the High Life,” Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham

Artist’s statement

This photo is special to me because it evokes emotion. My goal as a photographer is to capture pictures in such a way that the viewer will feel the same thing I feel at the time of the photo. There are some pictures that I think are great as a photographer, but they don’t resonate with others. I could tell immediately after sharing this picture that it evoked the kind of emotion in others that would help facilitate positive change. It has been used by conservationists throughout Louisiana to help clean up our stormwater collection system and bring attention to our litter and pollution problems.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Marie Read

Black Skimmer Carrying a Fish, image by Marie Read
Black Skimmer Carrying a Fish, Long Island, New York, 2021 Showcase Judges’ Choice, Birds © Marie Read

Artist’s statement

Through my photography I try to portray the character or spirit of a bird. Often that involves capturing behavior that represents some distinctive aspect of that particular bird’s lifestyle. It’s extra rewarding if I can achieve that vision in a unique or artistic way as with this black skimmer in flight. We see the astonishing blade-like bill with which it skims the water’s surface to capture fish, a bill so thin in cross-section that, seen from the front, almost disappears from view. The unusual head-on view, the symmetry and verticality of the wings, the shallow depth of field drawing attention to the bird’s eyes—factors that all came together to produce a compelling image. Framing a bird flying toward you at close range can be extremely difficult, but I love a challenge and in this case the reward totally outweighed the effort.

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2021 Showcase Winner: Tom Ingram

Great Kiskadee Eating Wild Pyracantha Berries, image by Tom Ingram
Great Kiskadee Attracted to Wild Pyracantha Berries, Alamo, Texas, 2021 Showcase Best in Category, Birds © Tom Ingram

Artist’s statement

My main objective with photography is to share the wonders of nature that might not be easy for others to witness firsthand. With bird photography, I love being able to freeze nature in motion and capture details that the naked eye cannot see. I also try to pre-establish a vision of what I want to achieve on a specific trip. During the workshop where I got the great kiskadee shot, my focus was on action shots that would help the viewer appreciate the speed, dexterity and beauty of the species. With wildlife photography, I spend a significant amount of time learning the behavior of my subjects, and being able to predict this great kiskadee’s consistent flight pattern was key to achieving this shot. I loved how the action of this beautiful bird was captured.

How I got the shot

This shot of a great kiskadee attracted to pyracantha berries was captured in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  The shot was a challenge due to overcast skies, thus requiring a high ISO due to the depth of field and high shutter speed required for the desired outcome.  The overcast skies were also a blessing, as they reduced shadows and gave me better flexibility with sun angle.  I pre-focused in manual mode to where the birds were consistently eating berries.  Then using my handheld shutter release fired away.  It was very gratifying when preparation and vision all came together for this photo.    

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