Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Northern Mockingbird immature

This Northern Mockingbird that was one of several at Cove Island Park in CT on my second visit to the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Mockingbirds were harassing the FTFL quite a lot that day - I've had a persistent problem with winter-territorial mockingbirds in my back yard as they can be quite belligerent. This individual was a little tamer and often this is seen with immature birds. Correspondingly the somewhat sharper tail feather profile suggests first winter age, as does the gray iris. Pyle's ID book warns that eye color is not definitive and that some adults can show green or even gray, but in this case it's nicely consistent with the tail profile. This bird is also a little browner than most around the throat and shows quite a bit of yellow in the gape.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hermit Warbler


The first Hermit Warbler on the NY state list, this first fall female was at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island, spending most of its time feeding on the grass. The previous bird, in 2002, was judged to be a Townsend's X Hermit hybrid.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

White-throated Sparrow

This popped up in some colorful foliage while I was waiting for a Varied Thrush to be more cooperative. At the time the lighting was overcast, which made for subdued lighting with strong saturation. I believe this is an immature based on the flank streaking, rather than an adult tan stripe morph. Shot with an 800mm f5.6/L-IS on a 1D Mark IV.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fork-tailed Flycatcher showing yellow crown stripe

This is another picture of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Stamford CT from my second visit to the Cove Island Park site. I particularly like this picture because of the yellow crown stripe - I think many Tyrant flycatchers have this sort of thing, including Eastern Kingbird and Couch's Kingbird from my personal experience - but like an Orange-crowned Warbler or Ruby-crowned Kinglet it's usually hidden. The FTFL was being harassed by Mockingbirds on this morning, and a couple of times had flared the yellow crown patch out of irritation, and in this photo it still shows partially (it's larger than this in display) even though it's not being chased by Mockingbirds right at this moment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Loggerhead Shrike immature


The bottom shot gives a sense of how windy it was at Jones Beach SP when I took these photos, although it wasn't that cold and compared to conditions Northern Shrike is found in in winter it's probably not especially challenging. The faint barring on the breast indicates a first winter bird, which after all are the individuals that tend to come south the furthest during winter.

Update: careful reconsideration of the ID by many birders has ended up with the consensus being strongly tilted towards an atypical Loggerhead Shrike, as opposed to an atypical Northern Shrike.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Some of the first images shot in anger with the new 800mm lens, which worked out well. Of course, any day when you can take pictures of a vagrant Fork-tailed Flycatcher with any hardware at all is a good one. I haven't figured out age/race yet although from the bluntness of the primaries I'm leaning toward adult, perhaps female. This bird was a multi-day special in Stamford CT.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull, at a feeding frenzy at a sluice at Brigantine division of Forsythe NWR. This is a first winter immature as indicated by the scapular contrast, the brown markings in the mantle feathers and the solidly dark distal half of the bill. I think it's just yawning.

This was during my first field test of my new 800mm f5.6L-IS lens.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler


This is the immature male Prothonotary that has apparently been in Bryant Park outside the NY Public Library for 2-3 weeks. Almost certainly a "wrong way" fall migrant, given that NYC is north of the traditional known breeding range. Prothonotary is very rare as a fall migrant through NYC for precisely this reason - there's no population north of us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eastern Bluebird

One of a roving flock of Eastern Bluebirds that were milling around the parking lot at Griggstown Preserve. Most of them had no intention of getting anywhere near me, but after standing still and quiet for a while they started to worry about me less. This male came in relatively close while foraging, albeit for a short period of time. It's vocalizing quietly here - the flock itself was quite vocal.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

First fall immature, Central Park, Oct 8th.
These birds are hyperactive, so most of my images of Ruby-crowned have a dubious level of blur about them. It's a borderline nemesis bird for that reason, especially for a relatively common species. Golden-crowned Kinglet and Wilson's Warbler have the same challenges - they never pause, especially in migration when they are looking for food after flying all night. The odds were enhanced in this case by it being a sunny day, so a higher shutter speed helped. And also a large amount of luck.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Sometimes aging a bird is as easy as identifying it - this first fall immature White-crowned Sparrow being a case in point. This was found on an otherwise relatively quiet Saturday morning in Central Park. With the park the usual challenge is snatching opportunities between dog walkers, tourists and joggers - in this instance I gave up photographing at this spot when two tour groups turned up, although the two White-crowned Sparrows that were here actually were relatively tame.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Palm Warbler

First fall immature Palm Warbler, of the "Yellow" Palm subspecies hyphochrysea, at Griggstown Preserve in NJ in October 2008 (before they mowed the Hell out of the place).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gray-cheeked Thrush, Sept 11th

Although I identified it at the time as a Gray-cheeked Thrush it subsequently caused me a few problems when I started to look at it more carefully on the computer screen.  Mainly that its bill was pink on the lower mandible - until just recently I had assumed that Gray-cheeked had a yellow lower mandible, where the yellow was restricted to less than 50% of the extent.  It seems like I was wrong there, and looking back through my old images of Gray-cheeked I see that some of them have pink on the bill.

The bird above is a relatively cold coloration bird, predominantly olive, with a minimal eye ring and no buffy in the face or lores.  There's quite a lot of gray-olive wash on the flanks, no contrast between tail and primaries.  The lack of eye ring and buffy lores eliminates Swainson's - and it's usually fairly prominent even on the drabbest Swainson's.  Wrong coloration for Veery (and too much spotting).

So what we have is a relatively small Gray-cheeked - it was slightly smaller than nearby Swainson's Thrushes - on the olive end of gray.  It could well be the minimus subspecies rather than the aliciae subspecies, not least of all because the latter should be a littler larger than Swainson's.  Either way it's not C. bicknelli (Bicknell's Thrush) because of bill color, lower mandible color extent and the lack of rufous on wings on tail.  However it looks rather like Bicknell's in basic structure.  It's also a first fall immature bird, based on both the buffy terminal spots on the coverts and the pointed tail feathers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Molting Icterids


Blackbirds are notorious for looking absurdly messy at this time of the year, losing large chunks of tail and body feathers as they undergo prebasic molt into non-breeding plumage. Blackbird flocks are often quite shy, but this bird popped up long enough to grab a few shots. It's in very active molt with most body feathers freshly replaced, except the head which is just starting to molt. That's why the neck looks odd. The tail feathers are heavily worn adult feathers - very frayed at the ends. On the wings the secondaries are fresh and clean, but some primaries are still adult and yet to be molted in.

All sorts of things are going on with the plumage of this bird. That's one of the things that photography has improved my appreciation of - aging and sexing birds by feather age and structure, as opposed to just plumage color. This picture was taken on August 28th 2010 at the Brigantine Division of Forsythe NWR.

In this case it's not too difficult, since we can easily age the older feathers by fraying. (An alternative would be by shape since juvenile feathers are more pointed). Since they are heavily frayed in August this bird must be an adult (a bird born this past summer would not have this level of wear - it's feathers would be in good condition). The tail feathers in particular are very heavily worn. They are also brown, so these adult feathers belong to a female - the vast majority of birds molt flight feathers once, each fall, so these feathers are about a year old.




Over on the wing, there's a mix of fresh feathers and worn ones. The secondaries and some of the primaries appear to have been replaced, with at least one worn primary left from last year's molt. Ducks replace all their primaries at once, rendering them flightless for a while, but most other birds including passerines replace feathers in a more controlled stepwise approach.

And there you have it - not the prettiest bird in the freshest of plumage, but it speaks volumes about molt strategies.

There is also a difference in primary shape between the more pointed older feather and the more rounded new ones. This might be a difference between definitive basic and juvenile flight feathers (i.e. this bird is a little more than 1 year old), or this might just be a difference in feather structure due to position.




Update: on Sept 6th at Brigantine at least some Red-winged Blackbirds appeared mostly tailless, suggesting that their retrices were in active molt.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper

Nothing too special to say about this juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper except that it's shots like this that make it worth crawling in the mud to get down close to bird eye level, covered in goose sh*t and bitten by Horse Flies. The bad days are when you get nothing at all, but it's often feast or famine at Jamaica Bay with a lot of random mixing of shorebirds. By the end of August juveniles are relatively common (this was taken Sept 1st 2008 at 7am) but they are quite scarce earlier in the season.

Update: this year I doubt I will be so lucky - recent rains have filled up the East Pond at Jamaica Bay leaving relatively little exposed mud as per birder reports. Some years this happens in early September, some years much later, but it's an unusual year for it to occur in August. The green "grass" here requires a few hot weeks of exposed mud to develop, so it won't be as lush as previous years and photo ops will be highly limited. The situation probably isn't enhanced by the laissez-faire attitude of the reserve staff on lowering water levels in recent years.

Juvenile Northern Mockingbird

You would think that since Northern Mockingbird is a widely dispersed common species that I'd have more photos of it. But apparently not. On a quiet day at Six Mile Run this was one of the few cooperative birds, and responded to my "spishing" by popping up and seeing what the hell was making that noise. I try not to lure young birds - in particular there was a quite recent Field Sparrow fledgling that I came across just after taking the picture above. I walked away from it rather than pursuing a picture because it was so very young (very short tail, weak flight) and I didn't want to stress it. Similarly the male Blue Grosbeak that I saw seemed somewhat agitated with frequent contact calling so I didn't approach it. That sort of behavior often reflects a predator response in the presence of young birds. This is how I act all the time - the birds are more important than my pictures of them - but all the more important that morning because a fast-moving adult female Cooper's Hawk was hunting the same area. Juveniles and first winter birds are often a little tamer anyway, so I prefer to wait for them to provide the opportunities rather than push them.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Common Tern



Common Terns are coastal beach nesters whereas Forster's Terns nest in the saltmarsh. Accordingly at Brigantine there are a ton of Forster's Terns although the colony doesn't seem to be on the NWR - the fish-bearing adults headed out toward Brigantine Island. Common Terns are much less common yet I really have no problem finding them on trips at high tide. They like to hang out on one of the sluices, and I've seen up to 4 (usually it's one or two). That means there's perhaps a hundred more times Forster's than Common's, but nevertheless neither species is particularly annoyed by my presence - they're concentrating on the fish, or the Commons are ritually harassing the slimmer Forster's.

Other beach nesters that aren't too hard to find at Brigantine NWR are American Oystercatcher and Black Skimmer, although in both cases the numbers of these are relatively low too.

Osprey, Forsythe (Brigantine) NWR


There's an Osprey nest not far from the loop drive at Brigantine that's easy to photograph in morning light and the birds are accustomed to cars - not sure about people since I always shoot using mine as a "blind". Often both adults will be lounging around, but in this instance the (presumed female) made several flights into the marsh to pick up nesting material to work back into the nest, perhaps refreshing it after the accumulation of detritus. Both adults are far more agitated by fly-by Ospreys than they are by the cars, and in some cases it's not really clear why the other adults are doing such close fly-bys of an active nest. Surely Ospreys don't predate each other's nests ? There was a lot of vocalization but no actual direct confrontation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Card speed in the 1D Mark IV

Recently my camera buffer filled up when I was shooting picture of Willet in flight. Needless to say that sort of thing really didn't happen very often with the sluggish 5D Mark II, but the 1D Mark IV is a different beast. Since Rob Galbraith appears to have slowed down or stopped updating his CF card database I'd become curious which were my faster and slower cards in my new 1D Mark IV and got a surprise. I did a test where I shot the camera until the buffer filled, and counted how long it took to empty the buffer (the red write light goes out). All cards were Sandisk.

CF Extreme 60 Mb/s 16 Gb - 9 secs - this card bought in 2010
CF
Extreme IV 4 Gb - 12 secs
CF Extreme III 8 Gb - 16 secs
SD Extreme III 8 Gb - 24 secs
CF Extreme III 4 Gb - 24 secs

My cards are an "evolved" mix of different ages, so the older CF III 4Gb is several years old, the other cards one to three years old. Even with the same labeling the Sandisk cards have different speeds depending on their age. With the 1D Mark III the SD cards were comparable with the CF cards because the CF slot lacked UDMA compatibility, which was only introduced with the 1Ds Mark III. However the 1D4 has UDMA so the CF cards have become relatively a lot faster. At some point you do hit the speed limit in the camera card slot itself, of course.

The speed ratings from Sandisk's own truly unfriendly website show this story too:
CF Extreme Pro are 90 Mb/sec
CF Extreme are 60 Mb/sec
CF Extreme III and Ultra are 30 Mb/sec
SDHC Extremes are 30 Mb/sec in some versions
SDHC Ultra are 15 Mb/sec

These are current models, some of which seem to come in various grades, but the upshot is that Sandisk's very fastest CF cards are three times faster (!) than their fastest SD cards. The B+H site appears to be one of the better ones for surveying various CF and SD card rated speeds and their price points.

Slashgear tested CF cards in the 1D4 and show that you can get a 1D4 to write at 57 Mb/sec onto a card rated at 90 Mb/sec. That's slightly more than 3 images a second. It seems there's no point in buying an Extreme Pro card for speed - I'm getting roughly that speed with my regular Extreme - we've reached the inherent speed of the 1D4 card slot. Slashgear either didn't realize that or only had the fast cards to test. In their companion piece on SD cards, they get about 20 Mb/sec over all cards, which is around 1.2 images a second. Since the 1D4 usually fills the buffer with 33-34 images, the 24 seconds it takes my existing SD card to clear is pretty much par for the course. No room for improvement there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Willow Flycatcher


These are (probably) two different male Willow Flycatchers in two adjacent territories from two successive years at a local grassland preserve. Most of the Willow Flycatchers I encounter are not very friendly, but sometimes you find an especially hormonal one that is perhaps still looking for a mate. The one from 2009 kept shuttling between bush tops proclaiming territory and eventually briefly stopped in a position when I could take a photo. The one from 2010 was a much more assertive bird - in fact at one point I wasn't sure that it wasn't singing at me - and it may or may not be associated with it being in more marginal territory with less cover. The 2010 male has fewer perches and is considerably less shy in singing from them. It's almost certainly unpaired, although I don't monitor breeding success in this location. There are at least two other Willow Flycatcher territories in this general area, and they are by no means a rare bird in the right habitat in NJ.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Impact

Some days I feel the urge to delete the entire list I run (eBirdsNYC) because birders and particular bird photographers are so fond of wandering around stressing birds without apparent thought to the consequences.

Case in point:
http://www.naturescapes.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=178344
This bird is obviously taped in. In an area where the (isolated) population is declining. So much for restraint. But this is so totally in line with my experience of a significant subset of bird photographers.

After posting about this particular thread to JerseyBirds I was sent a couple of links with inflammatory blog post titles:
http://xenogere.com/2010/01/21/the-birding-community-hates-birds-pishing-and-tape-luring-part-1/
http://xenogere.com/2010/01/28/the-birding-community-hates-birds-pishing-and-tape-luring-part-2/

Reading the blog postings with my science pro hat on I see a lot of talk about "effects" and little about magnitude. Unfortunately despite the fact that I'm prone to agree with the bias of the blogger about the deleterious effects of routine or excessive taping it still falls back on anecdote and opinion and lacks hard data. Of course any bona fide ornithologist is unlikely to get funded much for that sort of study (and even less in generating the sort of publications needed to advance one's career).


Still it's pretty damn obvious that we're not a neutral effect out there, and we should behave accordingly.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Canon 1D Mark IV first experiences

Although I'm currently running at the rate of one expensive DSLR a year - a farcical renewal rate - I finally took the plunge and got the new 1D Mark IV (1D4) in early May. Since it saw only limited service the first weekend I didn't get a feel for the camera until a couple of weekends later. It goes without saying that the camera is fast, but from the AF point of view and also in terms of overall handling and motor drive speed. In line with the 1D Mark III it's more difficult to take single shots with this camera. Not impossible, but it requires attention.

But what about the image quality ? In pixels/mm2 this outranks my previous favorite - the 5D Mark II - by 27.2 full-frame equivalent pixels to 21.0 megapixels. This is around the same margin that the 5D2 bested the 1D3 (21 vs 17.1) but of course the 1D series tends to have a heavier aliasing filter. And so it is: eye-balling of the pictures suggests that for wildlife the 1D4 has around the same image quality as the 5D2, at best very slightly better. This is no bad thing, since the 5D2 produces very nice images.

Noise on the 5D2 still seems to be a little lower than the 1D Mark IV - perhaps the natural trade-off between pixel size and noise hasn't been overridden by technology advances this time. But the new Lightroom 3 beta 2 has a quite effective noise reduction filter that largely renders the difference moot. While I'd not choose the 1D4 over the 5D2 for low light landscape work, for wildlife work the fast AF on the 1D4 and the APS-H crop factor wins out in most circumstances.

Gotchas: the AF is a little cranky, since with the left-right AF assist points set and using the center focus points it liked to grab the background rather than the subject; the video option is buried in the menus unlike with the 5D2 where I can go into Live View and into Video mode with two button pushes.

Brewster's Warbler, Stirling Forest



This adult male "Brewster's Warbler" was apparently unpaired and by far the most vocal Vermivora warbler in this part of Stirling Forest. I've hardly ever seen a Brewster's, much less photographed one, so this was a special start to my day. Brewster's are Golden-winged X Blue-winged Warbler hybrids, and in fact may be back-crosses with Golden-winged. As hybrids they display quite a range of variation but they tend to be grayer, with little yellow but lacking the black throat and mask of Golden-winged. It's not difficult to see the Blue-winged heritage in this bird either.

While this is a spectacular bird its mere existence speaks to an ongoing micro-tragedy: that of the slow extirpation of Golden-winged Warbler in the NYC metro area because of the introgression of Blue-winged Warbler into the gene pool. In this competition the more numerous Blue-winged always seems to win (Lawrence's Warbler is the other side of the hybrid appearance spectrum). NJ now has no strongholds of Golden-winged Warbler, although Stirling Forest (NY) is still pretty good for Golden-winged. The nearby Old Mine Rd (NY) Golden-winged population appears primed to succumb to the local Blue-winged Warblers.

Prairie Warbler, Stirling Forest, May 22nd


Adult male Prairie Warblers, alternate plumage. This was at a scrubby area in Stirling Forest. Prairies don't seem to be all that fearful since several tee'd up to sing territorially whenever they saw me. This particular spot appeared to be at the boundary of at least two territories and the birds were so busy defending territories and attracting mates that they essentially ignored me.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler, April 29th 2010



This male Prothonotary Warbler bucked the usual trend with this classic migrant-overshoot species by singing pretty actively for several days in a row. It even foraged high in the canopy at times, although it usually favored a somewhat lower aspect in the denser wooded areas near the Weather Station. Mostly unconcerned about birders it often came in fairly close, almost invariably hidden by leaves given the early leaf-out in the canopy this year. Nevertheless I snagged a couple of shots.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tree Swallow, April 2009


These are from almost exactly a year ago, on a sunny morning at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge en route to some business on Long Island. Under the right conditions Tree Swallows can be relatively trusting, particularly before they've settled down into nesting, and these pictures were part of a series of about 50 of some accommodating birds.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Palm Warbler, NYC, April 24th


This adult male Palm Warbler (Eastern race, the "Yellow Palm") was singing at Hernshead in Central Park on a sunny Saturday morning. In fact there were multiple Palm Warblers at this location. Despite unfavorable overnight winds for migration Palm, Yellow-rumped and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were present in OK numbers, and I racked up a total of 6 warblers on that particular day. Overall numbers were kind of low, so the Palm Warblers were the only ones I took photos of.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Long-tailed Duck


Adult male in basic plumage with just the faintest hint of pre-alternate molt. March 27th 2010 at Barnegat Inlet in NJ. A fairly fresh northerly wind that day making the rock jetty too treacherous (and bird-free) to walk out on very far. This was shot from the concrete walkway. The wind has obvious disadvantages - this bird was bobbing around a lot so the number of sharp images was low. However the advantage is that it blew its long tail up out of the water. The bird was actively feeding - you can see how the wings are held a little away from the body in readiness for diving.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Iceland Gull, Sandy Hook, Feb 10th 2010

This was my first - and so far only - Iceland Gull for 2010, a first winter immature on the bay shore outside the SHBO location. Not overly tame, it nevertheless came close enough to take a shot at after I waited quietly for a while. The downsampled image on here looks a lot softer than the full-size one you'll see if you click on the image. The mostly dark bill (not bicolored) and the patterning on the mantle feathers are pretty strong indicators for this being a first year, which I think is the age of the vast majority of Iceland Gulls I've seen in the NYC-NJ area in winter.

Monday, February 22, 2010

1D Mark IV review

Dpreview.com actually got their act together and reviewed the 1D Mark IV. Dpreview's strong suit is a careful itemization of the features and doing resolution/noise/dynamic range tests. They are largely useless for analysis of how good the autofocus performance is. They didn't manage to review the 1D Mark III, which was somewhat of a stunning omission.

And the conclusions ? The 1D4 is a good camera, images are better than the 1D3, but not quite as much of an improvement as it might have been expected given the increased pixel count. Noise levels at high ISO are pretty good compared to the 1D3. Image resolution is better than the 1D3 but worse than the 5D2. Absolute resolution values from their tests are 2500 lph for the 1D4 and 2700-2800 5D2, 2200 for the 1D3. Sharpened/processed images from RAW appear comparable between the 7D and 1D4, but the latter clearly contain more "pop" in terms of color. There was quite a clear visual difference in sharpness between the 1D3 and 5D2 in both my tests and my general shooting images, but the gap would be very much narrowed with this camera. The Nikon D700 and D3S resolutions are around the same as the 1D3.

Link: dpreview's 1D Mark IV review
and 5d Mark II review for reference.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Expletive deleted

As a "proud" owner of an EOS-1D Mark III I've had some interesting, amusing and downright farcical moments dealing with the autofocus on that camera. I have said that the 1D3 acquires focus faster than any other Canon, but that it acquires AF on the background faster than any other Canon. My relatively ancient Mark II works better for birds in flight since it makes a stab at tracking a Northern Harrier in flight rather than focusing on the treeline faster than a weasel on crystal meth, which is the strong point of the Mark III.

So I had great hopes for the 1D Mark IV since you couldn't imagine Canon messing it all up again. After all, the IV is their flagship SLR body, their ultimate photojournalist machine, and I was starting to look forward to retiring the Mark III and getting a Mark IV or Mark IVs to replace it with.

Imagine, then, my joy at reading this article:
http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-10048-10484 ;

which suggests that the 1DIV is really just a different breed of cranky to the 1DIII. Somebody just shoot me now. (I actually started checking out Nikon 600mm f4 VRs this afternoon). The 5D2 is sluggish, the 7D is soft, and the 1DIV is cranky. Is there someone in Canon Japan that I should visit to slap some sense into them ?

For what it's worth, I have no doubt that Galbraith's mammoth article reviewing the AF performance on the Mark III:
http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-8740-9068
was right on the money. Roger knows how to point a camera and engage autofocus - he does it for a living, unlike us dilettantes. The 1D3 certainly has its moments but after being somewhat burned on that SLR I'm rather reluctant to drop $5K on another turkey. (The 1D3 focuses just fine on Wild Turkeys, just so long as they aren't moving that fast).

Looks like I'm using the 5D2 again this spring.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Texas - Least Grebe


Least Grebe, from the boardwalk at Estero Llano SP. This one is in basic plumage - ones that I had shot at Sabal Palm as late as Thanksgiving were in alternate plumage. The boardwalk is completely exposed, so only the tamer birds are going to tolerate you here. The puffing up of the rump feathers appears to increase as the bird gets ready to dive - is it expanding its body to store more air before it does ? Other interesting behavior was watching one of these follow a Northern Shoveler and diving into it's "wake" to feed amongst the things it kicked up. I saw this more than once, so it was a conscious bit of opportunism.

Texas - Green Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher at Estero Llano Grande State Park. This was actually photographed from the covered section at the visitor center, so this kingfisher was pretty tame. The only complication was finding the keyhole shot between the obscuring branches. Now that Sabal Palm Preserve in Brownsville is closed off behind the border fence, Estero Llano is taking over as my favorite place to photograph in the Rio Grande Valley. Usual combo of 5D Mark II, 500mm/4L, 1.4x teleconverter and the relatively flimsy Gitzo 1258 that I use when I travel.

At one point Green Kingfisher was my "nemesis bird" - I had looked for it quite a few times and never saw it. I nearly always see multiple birds on winter RGV trips these days.

Monday, January 11, 2010

7D fubar?

And after getting excited about the 7D the other shoe has now formally dropped. It's pretty clear that much of that extra pixellage is wasted with a strong aliasing filter. This is well-illustrated by looking at the DIII/DIV/7D/5D2 comparison down the page at:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EOS-1D-Mark-IV-Digital-SLR-Camera-Review.aspx

Which shows that the 7D is far noisier, and quite a bit softer than the 5D Mark II (unless you ramp up the sharpening, presumably). The 1DIV looks like it might be a little noisier than the 5D2, and perhaps not quite as much raw sharpness, but the results are close.

The results are in line with Darwin Wigget's review of the 7D so there's no reason to think they are erroneous.

Since the tests are done at the same focal length, the sharpness of the characters is a good match for the intrinsic sharpness feather detail would be in the final image. The 7D falls short by a decent margin, especially over the 5D2. The only upside to this is that the high cost of the 1D IV looks a little better if I don't buy the 7D as well - there's no point me getting a camera that has substantially worse image performance than my current one.

I'm also interested in what/if Canon will announce for the 1Ds IV. Although $8K-ish is a lot of money for an SLR, compared to $5K-ish for an SLR that isn't as sharp as the one I even own (1D4) it would look rather more compelling if it did resolve more than my 5D2.