Leucistic Bittern

Leucism is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited in a bird’s feathers. So some feathers are abnormally white. The American Bittern below has abnormal plumage, and this abnormality makes it strikingly beautiful, in my opinion. And with very warm early morning light didn’t hurt.


Below is a photo of a wetland near Post Pond in Lyme. Can you find the bittern? Probably not. These guys are hard to see even if they are up close.


Here is a blowup of the previous photo. You might be able to spot it now.


I got this photo with a different camera and lens.


The bittern moved around a bit. Note the raised right leg in the photo at the left.  Amazingly the bittern perched at a spot that was wonderful for photography. Perhaps it knew it was beautiful and wanted to show off.



Below are three slide shows. Please don’t forget to view them all.

This slide show contains various photos I took of this wonderfully cooperative American Bittern.

A few years ago my wife and I were walking near a wetland in Sunapee. We met a woman who described hearing a bird that “sounded like water running out of a large pipe”.  That to me said American Bittern. Sibley describes its song as “a deep, gulping, pounding BLOONK-Adoonk repeated”. Ever wondered how it makes this “song”?

Here are a sequence of photos taken during a 7.5 second period when the bittern was “singing” or “thunder pumping”.

Exactly eight years ago today, in the same location, a bittern was feeding in a gully on the “wrong” side of the road. I photographed it up close and personal until I got bored and went to find other birds. Below is an uncropped photo taken at a focal length of 400mm.


Then 4 days later at the same location a bittern walked from the wetland and crossed the road in front of me toward the same small drainage area. Notice the amazing toes and claws the bittern has.

After this bittern crossed the road it flew up to a low branch. It sat there briefly then took off flying straight at me then to my left around me and back into the wetland.  So why did the bittern cross the road???

Could this bittern be the same bird as the leucistic one above?  It doesn’t look like it from the photos of it crossing the road. But here are two photos I took of it after the 2008 bittern landed in the wetland.  You decide if it is same bird 8 year earlier.  However, 8 years is a pretty long life for a bittern.



In 2008, after the Bittern disappeared I wandered around the area and photographed other birds. I returned to the gully to find a Green Heron.

This is a fantastic spot in early spring.


Barred Owl at Nest Hole

It was a long, enjoyable day that I spent with a friend and fellow photographer recently.  He took me to a site in NH where he had found a Barred Owl nesting. We spent most of the day standing waiting for the owl to appear. In the 7 hours we were there it probably spent only about 20 minutes in the nest hole — 4 or 5 few-second visits midday then two 10 minute visits later in the day.  We eventually learned why it was not incubating its eggs.

Our first order of business was to wait — no owl in sight but some “who cooks for you” from the woods.  After about an hour it made an appearance but did not come near the nest hole. Then it was more waiting as the owl disappeared, reappeared high in the trees, and generally basked and preened on a favored branch high in a pine (not shown here) in the warm sun on a cold morning.

EH499F--Barred-Owl EH499E--Barred-Owl

We had been at the site almost two and a half hours when the owl darted into its nest hole head first, then popped out, waved to us, and departed. It was all over in less than 5 seconds based on my camera data. It would not return to the nest hole for another 90 minutes.



In actuality, the owl did not wave to us. It just looked like it did as it extracted its left wing from the hole.

When it returned it again spent only a short time at the nest — this time less than one minute from landing to leaving. More prepared for what to expect than earlier, I was able to capture this sequence.

We believed the owl would not soon return, and we were tired of standing around. So we took a hike of a few miles, finding other birds to photograph. But that is another story. We returned 90 minutes later and sat down in the sun to eat our lunch and wait some more.

At about 2:25 pm we saw something move near the bottom of the nest opening. This explained it all. The eggs had hatched and the young chicks were being fed very occasionally. We never saw the owl with any food; perhaps it was small or being regurgitated.


Thirty seconds after the above photo of the chick was taken, the owl returned. It stayed for all of 8 seconds, but I got this sequence which lasted less than 2 seconds.

We waited another 35 minutes and got a final sequence of photos before we called it a day.

Great Horned Owl


I was in central Vermont on another photography mission, so I decided to stop by and check out the Great Horned Owls even though last Saturday morning was very overcast, dark, and dreary. I prefer bright front light for birds.

When I arrived the nest was empty, but I decided to wait. After 10 minutes I spotted the owl at the top of a tall tree on the far side of the pond. Crows kept hassling it, but it held its ground for 5 minutes. Then it took off flying low to the water rising up as it neared the nest. It quickly turned its back to me and bent over the nest.  When I later examined the photos from frame to frame, I could see a tiny whitish blob below its beak moving. The photo below is that action, but it is cropped and the chick is nearly impossible to spot without seeing a series of large versions.


Two minutes later the owl departed only to return to the far tree 5 or 6 minutes later. There it sat for 6 minutes or so before returning to the nest.

I was more prepared this time and managed to capture a sequence of the owl landing on its nest and sitting down.

Several minutes later its mate arrived and sat on an upper branch as shown above on the right and below.


Then a crow makes a pass at this owl.

A minute later there was another harassing pass near the owl.

Shortly thereafter the “upper” owl departed, followed by me.  It was very enjoyable 35 minutes with two magnificent birds.


Mascoma River Slalom Kayak Race April 23, 2016

The 53th Annual Mascoma River Slalom was held last Saturday in Lebanon, NH.  The Mascoma Slalom has been held every year since 1963. It is the oldest consecutively run slalom race in the country. Dartmouth College’s Ledyard Canoe Club hangs temporary gates on the Mascoma River near the Packard Covered Bridge.

I enjoy photographing many active sports using a variety of shutter speeds. A fast speed will freeze the action rendering the athlete sharp but without conveying a sense of motion.  For a kayak race I much prefer using a slow shutter speed.  This gives a sense of motion at the expense of sharpness.  I shot almost all of my images with a slow shutter speed at the event and have only included those here.

You can click on the words below to see photos from two previous Mascoma Slaloms.

50th  Mascoma River Slalom

51th Mascoma River Slalom