I had been bushwhacking along the trails and through the brush at the Whitemud Creek for a few hours and the sun was getting low in the sky. I had just finished checking part of the trail where Pileated Woodpeckers often hang out (with no luck). As I started heading back a quick bout of chirping in the shrubbery along the trail caught my attention. The twilight made it tricky to find the culprit, but there it was – an American Robin sitting in a Mountain Ash just minding its own business. Initially I did not reach for my camera as I already have plenty of pictures of robins and it was getting too dark to take pictures anyway. The robin was, however, sitting completely still, almost like it was posing for me so I figured that I could at least try to get a picture of it. While I did have the camera on a monopod I figured that the chances of the pictures turning our would be quite slim. It was getting dark and there was jumble of twigs and branches between me and the robin. I doubted the camera would be able to focus properly through the shrubbery in the low light. To my surprise the camera nailed the focus immediately. At 1/60s (which is a really long exposure at 705mm zoom) and ISO 500 (which is a sure recipe for grainy images lacking detail) the exposure settings were a bit challenging to say the least. I ended up only taking a few pictures. When I inspected the images back at the car I was astonished. Every single image was razor sharp (by P1000 standards), the exposure was spot on and the the bokeh was awesome. The P1000 really throws me for loops at times. Only a few days earlier I had been shooting Ospreys in transmission towers under, what would be considered, ideal conditions (a backdrop of a bright blue sky, no interfering shrubbery, etc.). Despite this, I had great difficulty coaxing the camera into focusing properly (both with auto focus and manual focus) and the pictures came out unacceptably soft. For a brief moment the robin made me feel like a deadeye, but the truth is that I am still not able to wrap my head around why the camera struggled with the osprey in what should have been ideal conditions but nailed the robin in the twilight.
On a side note. This post is #30 of my Project 366. One month down, eleven to go. Congratulations to…, me! Keep up the great work. 😁
As you head out of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway eastbound towards the mountain parks you pass by the sleepy village of Wabamun, primarily know for being one of the gateways to fishing in Wabamun Lake. On the left hand side of the highway, right by the ramp for Wabamun there are power transmission towers rising high above the surrounding forests. Right on top of one of the towers embedded into the steel lattice there is a large messy-looking stick nest. I noticed the nest several month ago in the middle of the winter as we were heading out on one of our field trips to Jasper. The minute I saw it, it intrigued me. Who build the nest? Does it get occupied during the breeding season? By whom? How large is it? How long has it been there? It clearly is a large nest, but without a known point of reference it is quite difficult to estimate its size. I suspected that it was most likely a raptor nest. Digging around on eBird did not reveal anything as I was unable to find any reported observations at this location. The winter came and went, spring arrived and we went back and forth to Jasper several times. The nest remained perched on the transmission tower and my curiosity just grew but did not get satisfied…, until last weekend. As we were on our way back from Jasper and were approaching the tower I had a feeling, a hunch if you will, that something was about to happen. As I was the driver I decided to forgo the temptation to reach for the binoculars. Instead I asked the rest of the gang in the car to get the binoculars and get into standby mode. Of course they had no idea what I was talking about so they were a bit slow,… too slow. As we emerged from under an overpass, there it was, the transmission tower and on top of it, right by the nest, two large white and dark brown raptors with fuzzy unkept “hairdos”. Id’ing was a breeze – they were a pair of Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), the iconic fish raptors. These magnificent birds of prey became number 104 of our World Life List and 53 on our AB Big Year list. As we were cruising along at highway speeds we had passed them in a blink of an eye. At the next exit we turned around and went back to get a closer look. As we were admiring Mr. and Ms. Osprey some of my questions got their answer but new questions arose as well. Apparently an adult Osprey is around to 60 cm (~24in) long. Using the individual in the picture as a referent suggests that the nest is between 3-4 Osprey units in diameter (i.e. 180cm-240cm, 72in-96in), a truly impressive size. Does this pair inhabit the same nest every year? Did they build it, or did they inherit it? Either way, as we parted ways (for this time) I wished the force to be with them in their truly electrifying abode.