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If you are looking for a good time on Cape Cod check out the Hyannis Whale Watcher. It’s a trip you will remember.

photograph of people watching whales at stellwagen bank.

Watching whales from the M/V Whale Watcher

photo of the hyannis whale watcher boat in barnstable massachusetts.

The Hyannis Whale Watcher Jet Powered Boat

Last week I took a ride on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, for the second time. www.whales.net. The whale-friendly (no propellers), water jet propulsion cruiser leaves from Barnstable Harbor (Cape Cod) and shoots you right out to the whales. If you like speed, you’ll enjoy the ride. We passed by the beautiful Sandy Neck lighthouse and cottages on their barrier beach at the mouth of the Barnstable Harbor. That view is incredible itself. I was so inspired last time I went out that I created a large, digital painting of the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. You can see it here.

photo of the sandy neck lighthouse barnstable harbor massachusetts.

Sandy Neck Lighthouse and Cottages, One of the Northeasts Most Beautiful Barrier Beaches

Once we were out of Barnstable Harbor and in the open waters, the jets kicked in and we were whisked out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. I sat outside at the stern and watched the power of those engines pushing the water. Unbelievable. It felt a bit like flying.

photograph of the wake created by the jet propelled hyannis whale watcher boat.

The wake created by the water jet propellers that flew us to Stellwagen.

If you like photography and wildlife you will really enjoy the challenge that whale photography presents. I brought along my Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L Series zoom. I set my ASA to 320 so I could use a fast shutter speed and still get decent depth of field. Most were shot at 1/1600 at f6.3, f7.1 and f8. It seems to have worked. The whales and water are dark in color for the most part so you have to compensate for that too. I added between one third and two thirds of a stop more exposure in most cases.

The crew know their whales and they know where to find them. We had whale visitors within moments of arriving. We saw lots of Humpback whales on the day we went out so we learned a lot about them. They got their name from the hump on their backs, just in front of their small dorsal fin. Humpbacks are baleen whales, meaning they have no teeth, but they have baleen plates made of the same material as our fingernails (keratin). The plates hang from the whales upper jaw and allow the whale to filter its food from the water. Humpback whales can be 35 to 50 feet long and weigh between 25 and 40 tons, and they’re mid-sized whales. The underside of the tail, or flukes, is like our thumb print, no two whales have the same markings, making it possible to identify individuals and track them.

photo of a pod of humpback whales at stellwagen bank.

A pod of three humpback whales came by.

We learned that the Humpback whales that we were seeing spent the winter in the Caribbean where they breed and birth their young, their calves weigh about a ton, and are 13 to 15 feet long. Talk about labor! The Humpback whales travel up from the Caribbean in the spring and they hang out in the Gulf of Maine from late spring to early fall. They spend the entire time feeding. That’s why they’re up there—to eat. They eat krill, herring, mackerel, and other small schooling fish. They have to eat enough during their months up north to get them through the lean times in the Caribbean where there is little food.

photo of humpback whale mother and her calves.

Humpback whale mother and calves.

photograph of humpback whale mother and her calf.

Humpback Whale Mom and Calf

photograph of a humpback whale tail.

Humpback Whale Tail - Beginning a Dive

photograph of a humpback whales tail as he begins a dive.

Humpback whale diving below the surface.

photograph of a humpback whale tail with water streaming off of it.

Water streams off the whales tail as it lifts out of the water for a dive.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail showing its unique markings.

Humpback whale tail showing its unique markings that identify individuals.

photo of a mother humpback whale and her calf.

Humpback whale mom and her calf.

photo of a humpback whale diving right next to our boat.

A Humpback whale diving right next to the boat.

Some of the whales came right up beside our boat. They seemed to be really curious, even playful. They were lolling around on their backs, lifting their heads out of the water to get a look at us, slapping their fins on the surface, they were acting like they were genuinely happy to see us.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail as the whale dives below the surface.

Humpback whale tail showing its individual colors and markings.

closeup photo of a humpback whales blow hole.

Humpback whales blow hole. It looks like a giant set of nostrils to me.

photograph of a humpback whales white pectoral fin or flipper.

Humpback whale flipper, or pectoral fin. They can be up to 15 feet long and up to one third of the whales body length.

photo of the fins of a humpback whale as it lays on its back on the surface of the water.

This Humpback whale came up beside the boat floating around on his back. These are his flippers.

a photograph of a humpback whale flipper slapping the surface of the water.

One of the Humpback whales was playing around near the boat and showed us a nice flipper slap.

Humpback whales have lots of bumps on their heads. Each of these bumps, called tubercles, contains one hair. Scientists believe that these hairs are used as a sensory device.

photograph of humpback whales head showing the tubercles that are used as a sensory device.

Humpback whales head showing the bumps or tubercles, each having a hair, that the whales may use as a sensory device.

photo of the research vessel the mysticete with a whale beside it.

The Whale Center of New England owned Mysticete research vessel.

photo of a pod of at least three humpback whales.

A pod of at least three Humpback whales swam by us.

Here’s a Humpback whale waving his flipper at us as we head back to the harbor.

photo of a humpback whale lifting its flipper as if to wave goodbye as we left.

Humpback whale waving a flipper as if to say goodbye as we turned to leave.

Please protect the welfare of our whales, dolphins and porpoises for their future and ours. For more information visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society at www.wdcs-na.org.

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bird tracks in the sand

Someone was here before us.


This past Saturday afternoon was really just perfect for being outside. Not too hot, and not too cold. We’re talking about nice South Florida weather here. Apparently the birds thought so too. They were busy.

The tide was low, and the light was right for hauling my Canon 100-400mm f4.5L lens, and Canon 5D Mark II body out for a few hours of shooting.

a photograph of a mangrove branch bathed in the golden afternoon light.

A mangrove branch bathed in that great, golden afternoon light.

When stepping down onto the sand, I come across the canal and out to the water’s edge, I am always drawn to the shapes created by the big, dead, tree that stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the canal from the intracoastal. During high tide just a small part of the tree is visible, but at mid and low tides it serves as an ideal perch for all kinds of shore birds.

the big, dead, tree that stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the canal.

The Sentinel


the canal that leads out to the intracoastal waterway.

Looking back toward the canal I just crossed.


My first guest was a yellow crowned night heron busily hunting nearby. Hunting for them consists of pretty much just standing around waiting for their prey to swim by. They eat mostly aquatic invertebrates and some fish, crabs and crayfish. I have no idea why they are called nocturnal, I’ve seen them looking for food from morning until evening. This particular heron let me get very close before flying off.
yellow crowned night heron photograph.

The first guest, a yellow crowned night heron.


I continued walking along listening to the sounds of the herons up ahead, they make a funny, growling kind of sound. I was surprised by the warning call of an osprey directly ahead of me. The osprey I usually visit and photograph, I named her Koko, was hanging out in a tree I’ve not seen her in before. She was a little difficult to pick out surrounded by the foliage. I moved in as close as I dared, and stopped when she gave me the warning call. I even switched my Canon 5D Mark II to video mode and shot a few videos of her, before she took off. I got too close for her comfort.
photograph of Koko the osprey hanging out in a tree

Koko, the osprey working on keeping me at a distance.


a photograph of Koko the osprey flying away.

Koko, the osprey, says see ya later.

Walking along the water’s edge I came across these incredibly shaped pieces of driftwood that litter the shoreline. One piece in particular is about 7 feet high and maybe 15 feet wide, it looks like the skeleton of an old ship’s hull to me, but it’s really just the roots of a large tree that fell over a long, long time ago. The driftwood looked so cool, that I shot it from crazy angles, backlit, from below, and with the water’s edge blurred behind the branch shapes.

a photograph of a big piece of driftwood along the water's edge.

The huge tree that looks like the skeleton of the hull of a ship to me.


a photograph of a unique piece of weathered wood.

Here's one of my crazy, angular shots.


Glenn, an avid photographer, and friend of ours came walking along then. He started shooting that wild looking piece of dead wood too.
a photograph of our avid photographer friend Glenn

Glenn taking photos looking south along the intracoastal.


Just a bit further down, by the barnacle covered sea wall, which stands at the furthest point one can walk to, we spied a little blue heron checking us out while scouting around for a meal. This heron really showed the blue color he’s named for, and the purplish color in his neck and head was really showcased by the low afternoon light. Sometimes these birds run when they’re hunting, with those legs, it’s funny, don’t tell them I said that though.
a photograph I shot of a little blue heron checking us out.

The little blue heron checking us out.


We came across this dead branch, coming out sideways, and shooting up and out toward the water. Check it out. I thought the whitish part of the trunk looked a bit like a heron’s head as he stalks his prey. Ya think? Too much imagination, huh?
a photo of a dead tree branch that looks like a bird's head.

Doesn't it look like the head and neck of a heron?


On the way back we caught the yellow crowned night heron busily searching among the moss covered rocks for dinner. He got some too.
a photograph of a yellow crowned night heron busily searching among the moss covered rocks for dinner.

A yellow crowned night heron stalking its prey.


A little blue heron flew on shore just behind us, and as you can see he was obviously on patrol, because he was too darned interested in what we were doing. Here’s a fun fact about these guys, the male usually chooses the nesting territory before he goes about courting a female. I sure hope he’s good at decorating!
a photograph of a little blue heron that flew on shore just behind us.

The little blue heron that was very interested in us.


My pal, Koko the osprey, was not overly pleased about the fact that we had the nerve to hang around near her trees, she had to retreat to the opposite side of the intracoastal to wait us out. She did just that – we weren’t gone 20 minutes before she flew right back to her favorite spot.
a photograph of an osprey perched on a branch by the intracoastal.

Koko on the other side of the intracoastal waiting for us to leave.


A couple of ibis flew in for a landing on the big branch outside of the canal. They were quite brave while we shot away and totally invaded their space. We were really close. I guess they’re not just brave during hurricanes. These birds are the last to take shelter before a hurricane, and the first to come back when the storm has passed. It makes me want to ask them, what are you thinking?
a photograph of the ibis flying in for a landing on the sentinel tree.

The ibis come in for a landing.


a photograph of an ibis "hopscotching" to another branch.

The ibis version of hopscotch.


a photograph of one of the brave ibis posing for the humans.

One of the brave birds that posed for the humans.


I think Glenn enjoyed himself shooting in our own little wildlife refuge. He got some great shots. He needs to have a blog to show them off. Marcella came down to the seawall to see what she could see, too.
a photo of Glenn shooting and Marcella walking toward him.

Glenn shoots me, while Marcella walks over.


a photo of Marcella pointing things out to Glenn.

Marcella spots something to show Glenn.


It really was a beautiful walk along the intracoastal, but once the sun started to go down, those creepy little sand flies, also known as no-see-ums came out chomping away with their nasty little teeth. The bites from the female hurt and itch, that sent us packing. Next time, insect repellent will be in my camera bag.
a photograph looking west from the water's edge showing more golden light.

One more look at that beautiful, golden light.

It was a really, good time while it lasted though. Until next time, happy shooting.

I just had to share this with you.

I needed a break from working on the computer, so I walked down to our little slice of unspoiled nature along the Intracoastal Waterway with my camera and telephoto lens. Within minutes I saw so much, I just stood there and shot photograph after photograph while the parade went by, it was like watching a Mutual of Omaha Wildlife Show. :  ) It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, so it was getting close to supper time in the bird world.

Look at what I got. I shot a common tern, several pelicans, a male osprey (he looked young, I wonder if he was migrating???), and a female osprey coming in for a landing.

The (young??) male osprey that flew overhead really upset our local female osprey, Koko. Her alarm call was going full blast. My next mission is to use my camera to shoot some video of her. She’s got a great voice. It must be shared.

Here are my flying bird photos, they were shot at 1/800 with f5.6 to f6.3 using a Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L series lens on a Canon 5D Mark II body. I’m happy with the results I get with this lens camera combo, it’s the best yet. These photos have been cropped so you can see the details better. I hope you like them.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

This is the male osprey that flew by

This is the male osprey that flew by

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

A common tern flew overhead.

A common tern flew overhead.

This Osprey came out of nowhere to eyeball me.

This Osprey came out of nowhere to eyeball me.

How cool is that? I dropped by my usual haunt down by the Intracoastal Waterway this morning with my camera and 100-400 zoom lens to see what I could see. The tide was pretty low so I was able to walk north along the shoreline and past all the cool trees that lay out over the water. This is where a lot of different birds like to roost. I sometimes take them by surprise, which was the case with this poor Great Blue Heron, I think that’s what this bird is, although I thought they were more gray than this bird. Anyway, at his expense, I was able to get these two shots of him or her, in flight.

This is the Heron I scared to death, he was big!

This is the Heron I scared to death, he was big!

The same Heron a little further away.

The same Heron a little further away.

I walked along the shoreline, then in the water when I had to go around the big branches that hang over and block my way. I saw several birds in flight and got some shots, but they were too far off. On my way back, I looked up at the branch above my head, the one the Osprey usually gets, just to check for her, and I came across this Ibis. The angle made it a fun shot. I’ve never really been UNDER an Ibis before!

A view from under the Ibis.

A view from under the Ibis.

I decided to go and sit on the rocks to just watch nature go by. Next thing you know the entire branch I just shot the Ibis on, has a bunch more Ibis perched on it. I got some shots of them, they looked kind of artsy just sitting around on that branch. I decided to go in closer on the Ibis and walked out to the giant dead tree branch by the canal to prop the lens on, and shoot some more. I stopped shooting for a second, and just looked. All of a sudden, and I mean that, the Osprey arrived, she was stealth, she was just hanging out a few “floors” down on the same branch as the Ibis! I was so excited, she was right there. Looking at me. Close! I used the branch as a pseudo tripod and took about 20 shots of her, and I am telling you, she posed. These birds know I love them and they show off! I was not able to get any closer though. She wasn’t havin’ it!

Tah-dah! The Osprey finally came to look for me.

Tah-dah! The Osprey finally came to look for me.

Here's a photograph of her other side. She WAS posing.

Here's a photograph of her other side. She WAS posing.

I checked back in on the area tonight at around 5 PM. No birds, just people fishing, and only the Catfish were biting for them. The light was beautiful though. I wish I’d had my camera so I could show you the pink streaks shooting up from the eastern horizon as the sun set in the west. Next time.

Oh I promised to do a post on HDR photography, I took some shots for HDR images today. I’ll process them and post them tomorrow. Here’s a shot of one of the locations that I used to shoot for the HDR photos. It was contrasty. Wait until you see how it looks after HDR processing.

This location is I chose to capture the shots for the HDR image.

This location I chose to capture the shots for the HDR image.

Is this a Red Tailed Hawk or an Osprey?

Is this a Red Tailed Hawk or an Osprey?

This morning my special little area of the Intracoastal waterway was chock full of birds. The first ones I came across were the ducks, they really are quite friendly. They were pretty amusing today when I spied them listening to a barrage of bird calls, and they were loud. I think they were partying back there in the canal, it’s too shady to really see anything down there so I couldn’t tell “who” was making all the noise.

The ducks listen to the barrage of bird calls.

The ducks listen to the barrage of bird calls.

Then I looked up and saw a Red Tailed Hawk (I think, too much mottling on the belly to be an Osprey, right? It’s hard to tell from the photo) making a wide loop, high above my head. I immediately switched to manual focus, because auto focus just doesn’t seem to “get it” when you’re after a small spec in a solid blue sky, using 400 mm of magnification. I was able to get a few shots off before the bird flew out of sight. Only the photograph at the top came close to being in focus, and it’s also cropped pretty tightly. Here’s a shot of an Osprey from last week when I was able to get closer. It was a cloudy day too, that helps a lot with lowering the contrast.


My friend the Osprey hanging out on one of her favorite perches.

My friend the Osprey hanging out on one of her favorite perches.

The next visitor to the area was an Ibis. The tree he landed on, one of the Osprey’s regular haunts, is fairly high, so I wasn’t able to get in that close. I did get a great shot of the same type of bird several days before that was at much closer range. You can really see the detail in the birds features in that photo. This bird was watching me, more curiously I think, than from fright.

Today the Ibis was high atop a dead branch.

Today the Ibis was high atop a dead branch.

This is the image from several days ago, I think it was the same cloudy day I got the photo of the Osprey.

This is the shot of the Ibis I got last week.

This is the shot of the Ibis I got last week.

I decided to get out of the water at this point because the tide was getting a little bit too high to be standing in with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. So I walked up along the dock to get the long view. Seconds later a flock of Ibis came flying over to the big dead branch in the water by the canal. Again, I should have stayed put on my rock, I would have been so very much closer. Live and learn. The antics these birds were displaying were hilarious. I had a great time shooting away. Check out the poses. Too darned funny, if you ask me.

You gotta love the crossed legs on this white Ibis as he comes in for a landing.

You gotta love the crossed legs on this white Ibis as he comes in for a landing.

This fellow slams it into reverse to prep for his landing. Flaps down, reverse engines captain.

He uncrosses his legs and spreads his toes to prep for landing.

He uncrosses his legs and spreads his toes to prep for landing.

Yes! Another safe landing and another job well done.

This Ibis mad a safe, graceful landing.

This Ibis made a safe, graceful landing.

Right after that, one of the brown Ibis and a Snowy Egret had a showdown for perch space. The Ibis lost, but not without a good effort. Birds are all about the highest and best location. Aren’t we all?

The Ibis takes a run at the Snowy Egret.

The Ibis takes a run at the Snowy Egret.

Ibis loses to Snowy Egret while competing for the best perch space.

Ibis loses to Snowy Egret while competing for the best perch space.

Next on the roster was my Osprey friend, I caught a glimpse of her at the top of a dead tree quite a way up the Intracoastal. I took a few shots, but she was too far away to get anything good. A short while later I saw her fly off her perch and head north away from me. Time to go home. I felt I had a successful day of shooting birds! Until my next post, which I will try to make on HDR photography, Bye! Happy shooting… M

PS. My site is still down, I am not a happy camper about that! They tell me they are working around the clock.

"My" Osprey hanging out high upon her perch.

"My" Osprey hanging out high upon her perch.

Mallards greeting me at the Intracoastal.

Mallards greeting me at the Intracoastal.

Today, as on most mornings when the tide is low, and even on some days it’s not, I go to the Intracoastal Waterway to see what’s going on. We have an area to the north of our property that is owned by the Army Core of Engineers, (I believe), and it will never be developed. Yes! The birds and wildlife are pretty happy about it too.

Within a short walk from home I can cross a small canal at low tide and get into the water and walk along the shore. It is so beautiful and unspoiled, except for some remnants of trash left by humans. It’s a very peaceful place in the morning, especially on weekdays when very few people are out pleasure boating. On most mornings there’s a lot of wildlife to see. I have been visiting this area for about four months, since I spotted a lone female osprey that apparently lives nearby. I can hear her calls from my backyard. I always run out to see her because ospreys fascinate me. She wasn’t around today. She must have gone fishing.

As usual I climbed out onto the rocks to perch. Several ducks came by to visit but other than that it was very quiet this morning. I propped my camera and my big, heavy 100-400 zoom on my knee and waited. And waited. And waited a little more. As soon as I packed up my stuff to head back, a small blue heron came flying in with lots of noise and flapping of wings. I said, “OK, I’ll stay.” I sat back down and unpacked my gear. This bird wanted to have it’s picture taken and wasn’t bothered by me at all!

While I was shooting the bird (not literally), I love birds, a school of small fish, at least 50 of them shot out of the water. I aimed my lens at them immediately, but it was set at 400mm and I was just too close for the camera to focus. Now that would have been a great shot. I hate it when that happens. Really! : )

Here are some of the shots I got today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

Have a great day!

Michelle

My Mallard friends, all females I think.

My Mallard friends, all females I think.

Image of Heron.

Heron on perch at Intracoastal.

The Intracoastal waterway this morning.

The Intracoastal waterway this morning.

Heron posing for pix.

Heron posing for pix.

Oh please don't go!

Oh please don't go!