Monday, February 28, 2011


What's up with this? This Male House Finch is surveying the "one inch" of snow we were supposed to get on Sunday. We got at least 5".

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

This makes about 80 inches that we've gotten so far this year on Cape Ann.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

On the brighter side, the male Common Eiders seem to be doing a little displaying. I've noticed that the Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed gulls are showing signs of pairing up. Spring can't be too far off.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Black Ducks in White Snow

During the winter, we get a lot of American Black Ducks on Cape Ann. And what can be more fun than shooting Black Ducks in white snow?

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Above is a male on the left and a female on the right. The dimorphic difference is primarily in the bill color.

American Black Duck 2-21-2011 11-42-53 AM-3

At first look, one may dismiss these ducks as Mallards, however when you see them side-by-side the differences are remarkable. Note the American Black Duck above and the Mallard below. The Mallard hen is also quite lighter in color overall. The wing bars of the ducks are strikingly different.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Black Ducks and Mallards are notorious for interbreeding, so you may run into a Black Duck with a pale green top of the head.

Visit Camera Critters for more photos from the animal kingdom.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Down on the Docks

Can you believe that I took this photo on the same day as I took the photo for yesterday's post? Monday morning was snowy, blustery and down right miserable. By 11:30 the snow stopped and by 1:00 I was walking around the docks.

Boats, Trawlers 2-21-2011 12-49-45 PM-1

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fiesta seems so far away.

Locals and long time SMU followers will recognize these as the three boats used during the Saint Peter's Fiesta seine boat races. The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria in storage on Eastern Point at the Lighthouse. I shot these on Presidents' Day on a day off from work.

With the snow falling, Fiesta seems so far away.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

In contrast, this photo was shot in June. One cannot deny that it looks more inviting.

©2009 2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monterey Bay Crabs

I caught these two crabs on the jetty by the Coast Guard Station in Monterey, California.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Visit Watery Wednesday

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hutton’s Vireo in Carmel, California

This is another old friend from my west coast days. I found him on our trip to Carmel, California last December. Hutton’s Vireos are found only on the west coast from North Baja California up through Vancouver Island. There is another subspecies that is found throughout Mexico.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red-breasted Merganser

This Red-breasted Merganser looks like an ‘80 retro duck. But all kidding about the punk hair aside, they are one of our winter residents here in Gloucester. Soon, it will warm up and they will head of to breed throughout Alaska and Northern Canada.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Visit Camera Critters for more photos from the animal kingdom.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Forgotten Photo Friday: Yellow-rumped Warbler

I shot this Butter Butt back in December of 2008 in a park in San Jose. I may have published it before, maybe not. I forgot. Yellow-rumped Warbler 12-30-2008 6-19-08 PM

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gloucester Blues

Part of the fleet from North America’s oldest fishing port, Gloucester.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Wall

When it is the middle of the week, Saturday is so far away and you think you’re going to hit the wall, come up to Cape Ann. We’re at the end of Rt. 128, not at the end of the world.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Sunday, February 13, 2011


These Purple Sandpipers provide an excellent study in composition. This first shot is the average Joe, weekend warrior shot. Dead on, bull’s eye, right-down-the middle. This is okay for grabbing the field marks and figuring out what you have when you get home. It’s got everything I need, the bicolored bill, the yellow feet, mottled breast…you get the picture, but I didn’t. This snapshot is rather dull. Look at the expression on his face. It is as if he is saying, “You aren’t going to photograph me like this are you?”©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

To make a more interesting shot, look for different elements of composition such as lines, curves, interest points and texture. I’m just crazy about the spirals in these two photos.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

I shot them on a cloudy day with a shallow depth of field, f/5.6. The sky was heavily overcast and it was spitting snow. But fear not, you can get some great shots on overcast days! Notice that there are no shadows! To make it even easier, you don’t have to position yourself relative to the sun which opens up a lot more possibilities for the angle of attack.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

In this image above, there are lines, curves, textures, a dead-sharp interest point with nice earth tones on a sunny day. Positioned with the sun over the right shoulder, I was able to get a nice exposure,©2011 ShootingMyUniverse good contrast with a good shutters speed. The background adds interest without distraction.

My next bit of “free advice, and worth every penny you paid for it” is practice this out in the field, whether shooting Fluffy in the back yard, Half Dome at Yosemite or just pictures of your friends and family. Practice not shooting bull’s eyes, look for good backgrounds, tinker with depth of field and look lines. Do it quickly, now or you’re going to get results like this.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Forgotten Photo Friday: Tarr and Wonson Paint Factory

From deep in the bowels of the archives comes this unpublished photo of the Tarr and Wonson Paint Factory taken on July 16, 2008.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gloucester Schooner in Trouble

We were out of town the Christmas week and missed a big storm. This was the storm that knocked over the sea wall in Lanes Cove. When we returned, I noticed that the weathervane on the Gloucester City Hall was looking a little wonky.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Common Eider

If there is one bird that I find misnamed, it would be the Common Eider. There is nothing I find common about it. This is the mature male in his formal wear. Like other eider species, the common eider has two scapular ornaments. ©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse
Visit Watery Wednesday

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shy little sparrow

This winter plumage Golden-crowned Sparrow is one of my old west coast buddies. It summers in British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. In the winter, you will find them along coastal Washington, Oregon, throughout California and Baja California. This little guy was found in the Santa Cruz mountains outside of San Jose.©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh, so that’s why they’re called Herring Gulls

Horkin’ down the herring on State Fish Pier in Gloucester after an accidental spill.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Yah, he’ll get that down, no problem.

Mending Nets 1-8-2011 10-46-47

A Great Black-back Gull helps clean up.
Visit Camera Critters for more from the animal kingdom.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Eastern Point Light

In all weather and all seas, Eastern Point Light stands watch over the rocks at the end of Dog Bar. Dog Bar extends over a half mile across the opening of Gloucester Harbor. This is where Dogbar Breakwater gets its name from.

Eastern Point 1-30-2011 10-45-30

Friday, February 4, 2011

Forgotten Photo Friday: Putting It All on the Line

After writing yesterday’s piece on identifying gulls, finding a gull to use as a stable datum and all that hoopla, I started to look for a forgotten photo and found a group of photos of gulls with white bodies, and bicolored, pink bills. I saw that I called them “Iceland Gulls”. Oh my, did I make a misidentification? Well the universe didn’t implode.

This is one of the photos. Oh my, out come the guide books.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

This is another one of the pictures I labeled as “Iceland Gull”. There were three of these bathing. Here are two.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Now this is a Glaucous Gull. I know this for certain. It was Identified by none other than Chris Leahy, the Endowed Chair of the Mass Audubon. Plus, it was a big bird with a heavy bill. No doubts, Leahy or not, this is a Glaucous.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Look at how heavy this bill is. Also, check out yesterday’s Glaucous Gull’s bill. You could open a #10 can with that bill.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Back to my Iceland Gulls, check out the size of the bill. Much smaller than the Glaucous. And besides, the Iceland Gull is a good five inches smaller than the Glaucous.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Yes, the judgment stands. Photos 1,2 and 5 are Iceland Gulls. Phew, I though I lost my mind which can happen if you spend too much time parsing out juvenile gulls. But in all honesty, the Iceland Gull is noticeably smaller than a Herring Gull, (my stable datum for comparing gulls) and the Glaucous Gull is about the same size. In these photos, there isn’t much to compare relative sizes.

Good Birding.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Glaucous Gull, Herring Gull

Many folks throw up their arms in aggravation or even hang their heads in apathy when it comes to identifying gulls. Many of our gulls are “four year” gulls, every year, or cycle can have different plumages during the year. To make matters worse, there are cross breading amongst some species. What a rats nest!

These are two distinctive different gulls, the third cycle winter Herring Gull in the foreground and the Second cycle winter Glaucous Gull in the background. Easy Peasy.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

If you find gulls confusing, then here is the tip of the day. Become very familiar with one gull. And that one gull will become a stable datum to which you can compare all other gulls. I recommend the Herring Gull, which is a very common gull in the northern hemisphere. But you got to look at this gull year round. If you do this, you will get to know its size, color, bill colors, and plumages. Then any other gull can be compared against this stable datum (the Herring Gull) and it will help you figure out what you have.

If you take the time to look at the gulls in your area every day, you will start to recognize the patterns as they are expressed from season to season. Also, you will recognize the size and flight habits of the local gulls. This way, you will be able to spot a strange gull by size, flight pattern or in this case, lack of black wing tips and you will then be able to get a handle on the less common gulls in the area.

When I was younger and less gray, I used to bird out west. I was not so quick with the gulls. However now when I go back, I can spot a gull and with very little effort distinguish California Gulls and Western Gulls without much fuss, much easier then in my “power birding” days when I would only attempt to call adult gulls.

But don’t despair, even the “experts” make mistakes. I had a comment come in by a “gull expert” pointing out an potential error in one of my posts. However, I had the luxury of seeing the juvenile getting fed by an adult which makes it difficult to dispute, so the expert’s comment was in fact in error. It isn’t that I’m so smart, I’m just saying relax, you may make a mistake. So what? The universe isn’t going to implode if you do. And if you get flack from someone for making a gull misidentification, then find someone more pleasant to bird with.

Oh, and I’ve yet to find a field guide that has all the plumages for all the gulls, which will add to the frustration. When I moved into Gloucester, I bought a copy of Gulls of the Americas by Steve Howell and Jon Dunn. It isn’t a “field guide” per se, but a good reference to have by the computer if you shoot first and ask questions later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow again

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re in for another snow storm. This is the Voyager steaming home past the 11 channel marker with a hold full of herring.


Okay, this is getting old. We have had storms every week since Christmas on Cape Ann. UNCLE, WHITE FLAG, TRUCE, PARLEY!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Calm Seas

The seas are calm but the sky is unsettled. Alas, we are in for another storm.

©2011 ShootingMyUniverse

Visit Watery Wednesday

P.S. I managed to get a few pixels worth of pictures of the Ruddy Duck that has been hanging around Fort Square for the last couple of days. This is a 15” duck that I shot at 75 yards. It is noteworthy because this is the first Ruddy Duck that I’ve seen on Gloucester Harbor. She is at the very top of her Atlantic Coast winter range.

Not very impressive pictures, but I had some good looks through the spotting scope. I asked her to stick up that long tail, but alas, she was too far off shore to hear me.


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