Sunday, February 14, 2016

Frozen falls and frozen birds

Yesterday was bitterly cold in central Ohio. The day began about 7 F, and warmed into the low teens. Yet winter and subfreezing temperatures brings its own charms, and frozen Hayden Run Falls is one of them. I figured it would have been transformed into a cascade of ice, and sure enough that was the case.

A closer view of the Hayden Falls ice sculpture. I wrote about this place late last fall, and shared some images of the falls when the water is freely flowing. Just CLICK HERE for that.

Below the falls, towards its confluence with the Scioto River, Hayden Run was mostly unfrozen. This pair of Mallards rested and foraged in the stream. Although it still seems - and is! - wintry, spring is very much in the air. The daylight lengthens and stretches the days, and ducks are entering courtship mode. This drake was quite attentive to the hen, and tailgated her constantly as she swam about.

Nearby Kiwanis Park produced lots of birds, as it nearly always does. Being a sucker for charismatic chickadees, I can seldom resist imaging them if the opportunity arises. This is a Carolina Chickadee, which is common over the southern three-quarters of Ohio. North of their range lies that of the Black-capped Chickadee.

Scads of American Robins were evident on this day. While we've had many all winter, it seems that their ranks have been bolstered by new arrivals in the last week or so. This bird was feather-fluffed to truly rotund dimensions as it did its best to stave off the biting cold. He - it is a male - and his comrades were feasting on the fruit of the nasty invasive nonnative European highbush cranberry, Viburnum opulus var. opulus. The robins and other frugivorous birds are vectors for the spread of these weedy invasives, unfortunately.

I've said this before and I'll say it again - the American Robin is one of our showiest birds, bar none. Were it a major rarity, everyone would go ape at the sight of one. But it's easy to get jaded to the commonplace and ignore birds like robins. Thus, when I espied this extremely cooperative chap, I resolved to do my best photographic portraiture work and really try to bring out his handsomeness.

The image was made with the tripod-mounted Canon 5D Mark III and 500mm f/4 II. A 1.4x teleconverter allowed me to reach in even closer. Single point focus was shifted to the upper left of the grid and placed squarely on the bird's eye. Settings were f/8, 1/640, ISO 800, and +1/3rd exposure compensation.

A trip to the tail waters of Hoover Dam revealed many fowl cavorting in the icy waters. My favorite, perhaps, was this flashy drake American Wigeon. Or in hunter parlance, the "baldpate".

I've long been partial to these kleptoparasitic dabblers. It isn't uncommon to see thieving wigeon out in deep water associating with diving ducks such as scaup, Redheads, or Ring-necked Ducks. When one of the divers returns to the surface with a billfull of succulent plant matter, the wigeon attempt to snatch it away. That's one way to get at food that lies in the depths beyond one's reach.

One more wigeon photo, just because. It was 7 or 8 F when I took this image, with a gusty breeze cooking across the water. The tough wigeon seemed utterly unfazed. I wasn't, though, and resorted to hand warmers in the gloves, and noticed that my camera's controls were getting a bit sluggish after an hour or so in the elements.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring a high of 37 F. Spring is rapidly approaching, and with it the wild yo-yo weather of late winter and early spring in the Midwest.

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