Welcome to my blog pages. I will occasionally document some of my unusual wildlife photography experiences using this format. When relevant, I'll try to include field notes and other information that might prove interesting to readers.
The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a small (four inches long) rather unassuming bird. Many people that have seen one probably didn't give it a second thought - unless - they noticed the small red spot on the top of the male's head. The male and female look identical except for this small red spot. Neither are very common in Reston, but can be seen during their migration in the fall, winter and spring.
I actually photographed a female last January, but have never seen a male since I started photographing birds back in 2008. Today, I took my camera when I went to vote and on my return home, I spotted a male in the creek traversing the 6th fairway of the Reston South golf course. He was feeding on a small bush in the creek and didn't seem bothered by my presence. One of the first shots I took showed his ruby crown distinctly. However, I never got another distinct shot of his crown.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - male - crown showing
A couple of weeks ago, I found a mantis ootheca on a blackberry briar down below Links Pond. The ootheca is a hard casing containing many eggs. I didn't know what it was at the time, but figured it was some sort of insect cocoon. Yesterday, when I walked by, it was covered with Praying Mantis nymphs.. Apparently, the ootheca is laid by the female mantis in the fall and the little ones emerge in the spring. This ootheca had between 50 and 100 nymphs crawling on it and a nearby leaf. I don't have a true macro lens, and the conditions were not optimal (overcast) for shooting this sort of subject, but was able to get a few acceptable images by simply taking a lot of shots with a relatively wide depth of field using a slow shutter speed.
In 2009 and 2010, I was fortunate enough to find a Red Fox den with kits. However, it was vacant in 2011. This year, I discovered that a Ground Hog had taken over that den. Yesterday, as I was heading out on my walk, I noticed two Red Fox kits playing in a lightly wooded area adjacent to the 1st fairway. I was able to get a couple of shots before they got spooked and returned to the den - a den previously occupied by a Ground Hog for the last three or four years!
Today I went out pretty early hoping to find them again. Their mom was walking up the cart path just as I started out. I got behind a tree and snapped a couple of shots of her as she walked by. Then I went to the den finding four kits at play. By the time I got close enough to take some photos, three of the kits had seen me and returned the den. But, the fourth was so busy eating a squirrel that he didn't notice me as I managed to get behind a large oak tree.
I see a Red Fox often out behind our house or on the golf course. I'm not sure if it's a male or female, but I'll simply guess it's a male. I usually see him pretty early in the morning - sometime between 7:00am and 9:00am. Whenever he spots me he gets spooked and vacates immediately. When I started out yesterday with my camera, I was walking down the hill out back and the fox was cantering down the middle of the 1st fairway. There was a foursome of golfers within 30 feet of him and he couldn't have cared less - didn't even look at them. I followed him down to the 7th fairway taking several photos. He stopped near the large pile of debris (logs, tree limbs, dead grass and plants) near the golf course maintenance facility. I snapped a couple more photos and he then took off again. I'm pretty sure his den is in the wood pile.
I see pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers pretty often - maybe twice or more a week, especially during the late winter and spring. They can be heard for quite a distance, both via their call and their hammering away on dead wood. They move around looking for wood containing insects. If they find a good log, they stay for quite a while and seem to be so engrossed in feeding that they forget about what's going on around them. Too often, they are up high and don't offer good photo opportunities. However, sometimes they can be found at ground level. That's what happened on Friday. I followed a pair around for about 30 minutes and finally caught the male hacking away on a fallen very dead log. He didn't notice me while I managed to get behind a tree about 25 feet from him. He could hear the camera auto-focusing and the shutter, but didn't actually see me for about five minutes.
I did get a shot of the female too, but not nearly as good as the shots of the male. She has the brownish markings on her forehead and lacks the red stripe below the beak.