Last Saturday was the 13th annual Amish Bird Symposium in Adams County. As former co-organizer Roman Mast always joked: "What's an Amish Bird?"
I was able to make the scene, and hear several great talks. Several hundred birders attend, and the main attraction is great speakers. This year's cast featured Alexandra Forsythe, Mark Garland, Eric Ellis, and a triumvirate of great wildlife artists, DeVere Burt, John Agnew, and John Ruthven. The symposium is always in March. Put it on your calendar for next year.
The lure of signs of spring was strong for this winter-weary flatlander, so I stayed down there overnight and headed afield the following day.
A drake Hooded Merganser with hormones coursing through its body and hens to impress is a sight to behold. They flare that elegant black-trimmed white crest, which apparently impresses the ladies. Half a dozen drakes were strutting their stuff.
This spot turned out to be a real honey hole. I could see incoming fowl flying up the river long before they saw me, and thus was ready with the camera. As you may know, big rivers are essentially highways for birds, and all manner of species navigate along them. In short order I saw several species of ducks, Belted Kingfisher, two Bald Eagles, and more. A group of Green-winged Teal dropped into the oxbow, the males' musical albeit slightly raspy piping notes much reminiscent of spring peeper frogs.
Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers look a lot alike in flight, if just seen as silhouettes. Both species are cavity-nesters with long tails, and the tail extends behind the wings about as far as the head and neck on the other side. But Wood Ducks typically hold their head and neck up, above parallel, and thus look somewhat wary and watchful in flight. Hooded Mergansers hold the head at or below parallel, and that habit coupled with their somewhat faster flight gives the birds more of a look of speedy purposefulness.
This image was grabbed with Canon's amazing 7D Mark II. If you're looking for a great bird camera, check into one of these. It was connected to the 500mm f/4 II lens with a 1.4x extender sandwiched between, and the whole rig was mounted on a tripod. Settings were f/6.3, ISO 500, 1/2000. The exposure compensation was +1.3 stops. Without exposing to the right, the birds would have come out looking like dark silhouettes. Upping the exposure also whitens the sky, which lends somewhat of a painterly feeling to the image.