Sunday, July 30, 2017

Painted Bunting a Donnelley Delight!

On Sunday, July 23 we braved the Lowcountry heat and humidity and ventured south to the ACE Basin's Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

For us, the drive is about 50 miles. Donnelley is located off Highway 17 in the metropolis (ha!) of Green Pond, S.C.

The name Green Pond could very well come from the green build up that occurs on the water here.  Donnelley and other WMAs in the ACE Basin and also those north of Charleston consist of former rice plantations, which had networks of canals used to carefully control water levels necessary for rice cultivation.
It was a pretty, warm day (and pretty darn warm) with temperatures around 90 with high humidity.
I snapped the above selfie before I got too sweaty!
Alesia and I brought our new monopods, which give the necessary stability to photograph birds and other critters at great distances with our Canon "super zoom" cameras.

The monopods were a good deals, costing around $20 each. They are very lightweight, giving easy mobility.
At Donnelley, there's the Boynton Trail, a preserve unto itself within the vast wildlife area.
There we ran into fellow shutterbug Matthew Krausmann, who I would later learn is also a member of Charleston's Carolina Nature Photographers Association (CNPA).
Here, Matthew was looking for hummingbirds that might feed on tulips along the trail.
The Boynton Trail is a spot I always try to visit at Donnelley.
Visitors park near an old abandoned house.
The Boynton family house is at least 100 years old. The Boyntons used to raise cattle on their property here.

The house is fun to photograph. I once shot (and videotaped) a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that was inside and kept flying into a window pane until it finally escaped through an open one.
The highlight of our visit on this day would be seeing this beautiful Painted Bunting near the Boynton Trail entrance, not far from the old house.

This is my favorite photo because it shows the bunting's green and yellow coloring on its wings.
I have photographed Painted Buntings along this trail before.  I was hopeful that we would see one or more during this visit, especially since Alesia was with me and she had never seen one before.
Matthew Krausmann gets the assist for us being able to see the elusive (to me) colorful bird on this day.

On the trail, I asked him if he had any Painted Bunting sightings, and he said he had near the trail entrance.
Matthew said he used an app from iBird that includes bird calls. These can be played out in nature to draw in birds photographers can take their pictures.

I had never really used this ploy, and I don't have that app on my phone.
Instead, I googled Painted Bunting calls and found a video about a minute long that I played over and over.

Sure enough, it worked! A bunting appeared on nearby branches and even swooped down a couple times on the post where I placed my phone.

The tactic, to me, felt a bit deceptive. But I know many birders (and hunters too, I presume) use the approach. It does work! And Alesia got some nice images too with her camera.
Next, I'll share photos of other birds photographed along the Boynton Trail, usually a really good spot for birding.

It would be good on this hot summer day too, even at late morning/noonish when we arrived on the scene.

This picture shows a male Red-winged Blackbird (bottom) and two females of this species commonly seen in the ACE Basin.
With the male, I always try to capture the distinctive patch of red on its upper wings.

A couple times we saw Summer Tanagers along the trail, but I was unable to get a good photo.  I did briefly try playing on my phone the call of that bird, but didn't have the success as we had attracting the Painted Bunting.
Here's a pair of female Red-winged Blackbirds. I like that the eyes can be seen (one anyway) and the bright green backdrop make for a strong photo, I think.
The Eastern Kingbird was another bird spotted in one of the marsh areas.
The small Eastern Wood Peewee was another neat bird to photograph out in the wild.
We saw this Black Vulture perched on a live oak tree by Donnelley's lodge house.
The vulture seemed quite comfortable in the shade of the tree's Spanish moss and leaves.
Another highlight, was seeing up close this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron on one of the wooden trunks used to control the flow of water in and out of the old rice fields.

The trunks are still used today, not for rice, but to help keep the many waterways full of the plants and other food sources that keep the variety of birds that live and pass through happy and healthy.
I had walked past this heron once and saw it on the way back. I was surprised how close I was able to get to it and not cause it to fly away.
The bird almost seemed to be in a stupor. Night herons, this type and its close cousin, the Yellow-crowned, are nocturnal in their feeding habits.  Their distinctive eyes allow for excellent vision in the dark.

During the day, they roost and just chill a lot of the times.
I always enjoy coming across night herons, one of my favorite types of birds.
Dragonflies can be fun to photograph. It was windy and the straw perch this one enjoyed kept blowing back and forth, making camera focus a challenge.
Another neat encounter was this Fox Squirrel that we saw from the car along one of Donnelley's main roads. It seemed as curious about us as we were of it.
I liked its white face and long tail.  I have seen this type of squirrel a few times in the ACE Basin. I read that there are not as many of them in the Carolinas as there used to be due to urban sprawl and the human removal of pine trees, which are favorites of the Fox Squirrel.

Another great nature outing in the ACE Basin. Time there is always time well spent!

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