Best Pictures of 2015

 

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

 

As a year-end post I decided to review my 2015 photos and share the ten best with you.  This was harder than anticipated.  I took thousands of pictures this year and several hundred were potential material.  Getting the number down to 10 turned out to be impossible–my grandson and wife were no help; they liked them all. I ended up with 13–I’m not superstitious.

My favorite picture of the year was an easy choice.  Its the lead shot in this post of the juvenile Pied-billed Grebe.  This is a common bird, not too exciting, but when he caught that fish close to the trail in the Bird Rookery Swamp in Florida, the action, lighting, and color all came together.  The green and blue background color, the sharp image even in the reflection, and the ripples on the pond all seemed just right.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida Scrub Jay, click on any photo to zoom

What factors contribute to making the perfect shot?  Sharpness of focus is key in bird photography and best determined by examining the bird’s eye glint in a zoom mode.  Proper exposure, lighting, composition, and color are necessary.  The pleasing blurring of the background called bokeh, a function of your lens, also adds appeal.  If you can catch the bird active, as in flying, feeding, singing, or mating, so much the better, but I admit to posting some perched bird portraits.  The Scrub Jay is such a portrait, but for me it works because of the unusual white contrasting background.   I also remember the effort involved in getting this shot of the endangered bird, found in decreasing numbers in the scrubland of central Florida.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Birds-in-flight are always a challenge, especially a white bird on a sunny day.  This shot balanced the exposure of the sunny side with the shadows of the underwing and light shining through the outer wing feathers.  The wisp of trailing cloud also broke up the deep blue sky.

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Western Bluebird

Forgive me this additional portrait of a Western Bluebird.  I could just not resist the blue vs. green background and the fuzzy, soft feathers contrasting with the hard, brown, branch.  The composition “rule-of-thirds” applies here with the bird placed off-center.

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Jackdaw

Some shots appeal to the photographer because they are a reminder of a special site or trip.  The black Jackdaw above, with contrasting white eye, perched on the stone buttresses of the 12th century cathedral, Saint Sauveur in Dinan, France.  The singing Robin below was taken in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France.  Both of these sites will long be remembered, and not just for the birds.

European Robin

European Robin

 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

I had many appealing raptor shots to choose from, but most were perched portraits.  This flight shot, taken near take-off or landing shows of the beauty of this bird and the reason for its name.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Along with the striking color contrasts, this bird is taking its typical pose on a fence post. This shot brings to mind the fun of birding with Andy and Mel at the Dinner Ranch in old central Florida.  The Meadowlark responded well to its call and gave us some easy, close shots.

Bobolink

Bobolink, in fall plumage

The light was perfect for this shot from Nantucket Island.  I’d seen and heard this bird at a distance in flocks, but never had a good photo.

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White-winged Dove

I wanted to include at least one bird from the recent trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  This common bird for the locals was a life bird for me.

Common Loon

Common Loon

I think it’s the placid water with alternating stripes of blue and brown, interrupted by the loon’s wake which appeals to me.  The bird detail itself is not great, but the overall gist is pleasing.  Also this shot was taken from my backyard dock.  You don’t have to look far for great subjects.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

We’ve found an unusual colony of these small owls on Marco Island, Florida.  They dig their burrows on the vacant sandy lots in the middle of growing residential neighborhoods.  Someday the vacant lots will all be gone, but in the meantime it’s a great place for an owl photo shoot.

American Oystercatcher at Great Point, photo by S.M. Sternick

American Oystercatcher at Great Point, photo by S.M. Sternick

These running American Oystercatchers, with their feet not even touching the sand, is a favorite of mine, but I did not take it.  It was shot by my “non-birder” and “non-photographer” friend who had the camera thrust upon her by her husband who was driving along Great Point on Nantucket–not a bad effort.  I included this for congratulations.  My “non-birder” friend became a grand-mother for the first time this week and will likely now have other more important pursuits than bird photography.

I started this blog in January 2015, not sure what to expect and even if I’d make it through the first month.  Now 62 posts and a year later I can say it has been fun.  I want to thank everyone who has visited the site, and especially all the “likes” and comments.  Additional thanks goes to my patient wife for happily living with a birder/blogger.  I am amazed and awed that we’ve had over 4700 views from 68 countries, and 79 people have asked to receive each post by e-mail.  The most popular post of the year, by-the-way, was “Birding Mount Auburn Cemetery”.  Its all possible because of the wonders of the internet, the beauty of the birds, and the joys of birding photography.