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A Quick Canon RP Review with Photos

A Quick Canon RP Review with Photos

For a new project, it was highly suggested that a full-frame camera was required. So, I decided to get the Canon EOS RP. It’s a full-frame, mirrorless camera. It’s also the least-expensive and with an adapter, will accommodate all my current lenses.

Here’s a few photos, a quick review and my first thoughts about the Canon RP.

1.  Frame Rate

First of all, I was not that excited about the mediocre 5 FPS, meaning it only shoots up to five photos in one second. The 7D Mark II shoots 10 FPS, in comparison.

2.  Battery Life

The battery life is not that great. A second battery – or more – is a must. After shooting for about 1.5 hrs, the battery signal was blinking. I’m used to going out for most of the day without changing a battery.

3.  Focusing

Focusing is a little weird and took some getting used to. The mirrorless system’s default settings are set so that it is ready to focus on the first subject it sees. It’s easy enough to correct the settings. This probably contributes to a larger battery drain.

4.  Settings

After tweaking some settings, I set out to a local favorite spot and purchased my season pass. The weather was cloudy with a few light rain clouds. Since it was really gray, I set the exposure to +1/3, f-stop 1/1000 and auto ISO. The 400mm is tacked on with the adapter.

5.  Noise

The brillants Peacock photos were shot through a fence. Luckily he was about halfway inside the enclosure and not too close up.   The settings were 1/1000 and 1600 ISO. I was really worried the ISO was too high. In normal situations, the 7DMII could barely handle 800 ISO without a lot a noise.

peacock 2 canon rp review

Brilliant Blue Peacock

Canon RP full-frame mirrorless camera:  1/1000, ISO 1600, 400mm

Second subject was a sleepy white fox. She barely opened her eyes for the shot, which is also cropped about 1/3.

sleepy white fox

Sleepy White Fox

Canon RP full-frame mirrorless camera:  1/1000, ISO 500, 400mm

Next, we have the landscaping crew. Why do I say that? Because their cousins raided our property over the winter and “trimmed” a significant amount of foliage off the evergreen trees. It is not good at all – just hoping the damage will grow back.

landscaping crew

Landscaping Crew – a pack of White-Tailed Deer

Canon RP full-frame mirrorless camera:  1/1000, ISO 2000, 400mm

Finally – an uncommon sighting – and perhaps my favorite photo: A pair of Double-Crested Cormorants! One was drying it’s wings and was looking left, it’s buddy on the right was looking right. I really like the composition. The photo was cropped about 50%. Anyway, the wing detail is impressive!

double-crested cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorants

Canon RP full-frame mirrorless camera:  1/1000, ISO 1600, 400mm


My first reaction thoughts about the camera – A quick Canon RP Review:


1. Lightweight and compact

Really comfortable to walk around with, but doesn’t feel flimsy.

2. Low light handling

Did a very impressive job at 1600 ISO – hardly needed any noise reduction at all.

3. Easy to use

Setup was pretty quick and easy to customize.

4. Image quality is sharp and bright

The full-frame provides adequate leeway for cropping without losing much quality.

5. Video button

The video on/off button is a single, seperate button that is easy to access.


1. Battery life

I knew this would be an issue. The battery is small to fit in the smaller camera body. Make sure you carry extras with you.

2.  Viewfinder

The digital viewfinder takes some getting used to.

3.  Frame Rate

Frame rate of 5 FPS is not great; however, there is a higher keeper ratio and less photos to review.

4.  Shutter Sound

The shutter sound is louder than I would have expected.  Noticeable sound not great for a church or museum.

5.  Video

Have not done much video testing at all. An extra software update may be reqired to test 60FPS and 4K.


Next tests will include multiple exposures, video and bracketing. Overall, I’m mostly impressed with the low-light handling. I got a great deal on the bundle, which included a 64MP card, lens adapter, case, monopod, cleaning kit, mini-tripod, small gorrilapod, microphone and LED light.

I’ll think I’ll keep it!

Harbor Seals in New Jersey – Nine Things to Know

Harbor Seals in New Jersey – Nine Things to Know

There are seals at the the Jersey Shore! In early April, we spotted over a dozen Harbor Seals off the shore at Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreational Area in New Jersey.

Seals migrate down to New Jersey from New England and Canada to escape the frozen waters during winter. Here, they can haul on secluded beaches to rest, relax and feed on an abundance of fish and crustaceans found in the bay area between New Jersey and New York City waters.

As it turns out, seals (pinnipeds) are common during the winter. Although they are not classified as threatened or endangered, according to Conserve Wildlife NJ, “They are protected by the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.” It is against the law to approach a seal, touch, feed or bother it.



Harbor Seals (Pinnipeds) hauling in calm, shallow water on a warm April day at Sandy Hook, NJ, USA.

Nine Things to Know about Harbor Seals in New Jersey


Why do seals lay around in the sun?

On sunny days, seals need to come out of the cold water to warm up their bodies. Known as hauling, they need peaceful, undisturbed rest in the sun to recharge their energy. If they become disturbed, they will abandon the haul-out site and may never return to that location again.

What is a Pinniped?

It means fin-footed. These amphibious marine mammals include seals, sea lions, fur seals and walrus.  The Harbor Seal is the most common seal spotted in New Jersey. Other species include the gray seal, which is larger; the harp seal, and the least common hooded seal.  Male and female seals look very much the same; the male is a little longer and heavier.

Why do seals haul out in large groups?

Seals are social animals. They also hang out in groups to avoid predators. While hauling, they will interact with other seals, watch over and raise their pups, molt, and even give birth!


A Harbor Seal suns in shallow water along the shore.

Photo by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Do seals go far on land?

Seals have very limited mobility on land. If you see one on the shore, keep a least 50 yards away. Even though they look like giant puppies, it is important to remember that they are wild animals with sharp teeth. Their powerful jaws mimic the bite of a pit bull dog. Furthermore, their mouths contain a harmful bacteria, resulting in infection, loss of fingers, or much worse.

How long can seals go under the water?

Seals can go underwater for up to 30 minutes, although, they typically spend about 15 minutes underwater. They can even sleep underwater!

What do seals eat?

They mostly eat fish, but shellfish and crustaceans are also a big part of their diet. Depending on availability of food, they will do shallow and deep dives while searching for their next meal.


Harbor Seal Pup near the shore on a sunny day. 

Photo by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

How long do seals live?

The lifespan of the harbor seal is longer for the female, which live up to 35 years. The male seals typically live 20 to 25 years old; a shorter lifespan that may be affected by the stress of fighting during breeding seasons.

I spotted a seal on the beach – what should I do?

If you spot a seal on the shore that may be injured, call the NJ Marine Mammal Stranding Center at (609) 266-0538. Do not approach the seal. If the seal is injured, you can scare it back into the water where it may be killed.

Are seal numbers declining?

Actually, the number of seals have increase each winter – a positive outlook for these fin-footed cuties. If you hearing of a sighting in the area and get a chance to see them, bundle up and bring binoculars. Since they are not always in the same place, expect to walk up to a mile in sandy beaches.


A Harbor Seal on the beach working on her abs.  

Photo by TheOtherKev from Pixabay


So there you have it. Although very cute, seals are quite dangerous. Enjoy them from a distance to leave them undisturbed so that they will return again and again. Bundle up, pack your binoculars and camera and hope you get to see some Harbor Seals along the New Jersey shore!

What It’s Really Like to Live with House Rabbits

What It’s Really Like to Live with House Rabbits

The traditional Easter Holiday is on the way. It has different meanings for some folks, but many associate Easter with Rabbits, specifically, the Easter Bunny Rabbit. Cute photos of bunnies pop up everywhere surrounded by pretty flowers, brightly colored eggs and baskets brimming with candy. Their adorable faces create demand for pet rabbits.

Forget about putting a rabbit in a hutch outside. Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to living with House Rabbits?  I’m here to tell you!

Be sure to read to the end to watch “30 seconds of Cuteness”!

Believe it or not, our rabbit journey began by fostering Guinea Pigs. We would drive over an hour to the “Guinea Pig exchange”, which was a mid-point for the Guinea Pig dealer and our house. It was in a parking lot behind a budget hotel off Exit 8 on the NJ Turnpike! We would be so excited to meet a new little furry friend and care for them until their forever owners were found. After fostering over 20 Guinea Pigs, we thought it would be fun to get a rabbit.


baby bun

Baby Bun was a visitor in the yard – not actually a pet.  Sure had a personality, though!

Our local pet/farm supply store had a rabbit running around the store with a bell around it’s neck. It was adorable and amazing. Soon after, Benjamin Bunny became available to foster. We drove over three hours to get him. After just one day, we realized we failed Rabbit Fostering 101 – we decided to keep him. That was 15 years ago.

Benjamin was with us for about eight years. During that time, we also adopted two older rabbits, Thumper, a lop-earred rabbit from my cousin and an older dwarf named Fred. Benjamin was the last to pass over the Rainbow Bridge.

We found a bonded pair about two weeks later. We frantically emailed the facility and already had new names for them. Luckily, they were still available for adoption and we brought Reggie and Rufus home.

reggie rabbit




Here are 10 things to know what it’s really like to live with two House Rabbits.


1. Bonding basics: Do all Rabbits get along with each other?

As cute as they seem, not all rabbits get along right away. It is necessary for one rabbit to be the dominant rabbit. This is usually the larger one. They must go through a period of bonding – getting used to each other, like a gradual buildup of friendship – so that one rabbit is declared dominant.  Ever see Watership Down?

Best Bunnies.

Once bonded, it is very sweet to see them groom each other, look after each other, be best bunny buddies.  Bonding is most successful with neutered and spayed rabbits.


Reggie and Rufus lived together in the same cage. They were considered bonded, but it was probably out of fear. As they began to experience some freedom in our house, they discovered more of their own personalities and their so-called bond was broken. We did not recognize the circling behavior – the first step of aggressiveness.


Until the dominant rabbit is established, they can become violent towards each other . It happens very quickly – some nipping escalates into an all-out fight with tumbling rabbits tearing tufts of fur.


Upon arriving home one day, it was clear that they had an episode of fighting.  We immediately separated them. In the days and weeks that followed, Rufus would try to make friends with Reggie by sniffing through his cage, but Reggie would usually nip back.  We could not bond them – they would be kept in separate houses from then on.

Bonded buns from Rebekka D of Pixabay

2. Are rabbits destructive? What to know about rabbits chewing.

Chewing is done out of necessity because their teeth grow constantly.  Same as Guinea Pigs.  All wires must be covered or tucked away. They especially love laptop wires – all it takes is a bite – and the charger is ruined. Hope you have an extra one!

Chewing on wood is popular.

Whether it’s the coffee table or the door molding, rabbits will chew them. It helps to have some untreated wooden crates to house them in, where they can also get their share of chewing. Heavy cardboard works too. Be creative – the more it resembles some type of housing or cover, they more they chew.

3. Do rabbits like to dig? What to know about rabbits tearing and digging.

Rabbits also love to tear things, especially rugs and carpets. If you have some old blankets, they’ll fix ’em up too – like Swiss Cheese – in a matter of seconds. Have lots of little area rugs and old blankets for them to work on. They will also eat part of them – natural cotton is the best choice in this case.

4. Are rabbits territorial? What to know about rabbits marking.

One of the main reasons to get rabbits “fixed” is so that they do not have the desire to mark their territory by spraying a little urine. They also rub their chin on objects they deem as their property – a much better way of proclaiming their possesions!

rufus chin

Rufus about to “chin” the Easter Bunny

5. Picking up after rabbits: Beans.

House Rabbits is that can easily be litter trained. Bedding material consists of newspaper, fluffed paper bedding and a sprinkling of pine pellets.

Rufus is excellent at using his litter box. However, he does drop a few beans, especially where he spends the most time relaxing during the day. This is normal and OK – rabbit beans resemble Cocoa Puffs and can be cleaned up quickly with no odor or mess left behind.

6. The other stuff

Now for the fun facts – Rabbits have a very complex digestive system. They need to eat a high-fiber diet, consisting of about 80% Timothy Hay. About mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, they produce a different type of dropping called cecotropes. They must ingest the second type, which has a different consistency and odor.

According to House Rabbit Society, cecotropes are not considered feces. The cecotropes contain essential nutrients that are eaten soon after production. Without them, rabbits can quickly succumb to malnutrition. In any case, they usually produce cecotropes at a time when you’re not around and it is done quickly. What a relief!

7. Can rabbits learn tricks?

If you spend a good amount of time with your rabbit, they can learn how to perform a few little tricks, go in their cage, and most often, show up for a snack. For example, Rufus will stand on his hind legs if you stand with a small treat and say “Up Up”. With some hesitation, they will go return to their house with “Bye Bye”. If they hear a certain sound, they will show up expecting a snack and won’t give up until they get one.

Bunny Tricks by Francis Delapena at Unsplash

8. Do rabbits make noises?

Rabbits are very quiet animals – one of the great reasons for having one, especially if you are not a fan of barking dogs. However, their sense of awareness is quite amazing. If they hear a strange sound or suspect there is a predator or large animal outside, such as a cat or deer, they will thump loudly, requiring you to inspect the area for safety.


Some rabbits will also make a purring-like noise when they are relaxed. Rabbits do this by gently grinding their teeth together, quietly.


Don’t startle a rabbit, especially during nap time.  They will likely grunt at you and a nip may follow. This happens with Rufus if you “bother” him during his afternoon nap or if Reggie doesn’t get his breakfast quickly enough. They will also bite the wires on their cages to get your attention if they are not happy about something. In Reggie’s case, again, it’s not having breakfast ready fast enough.


Rabbits have a very keen sense of hearing. A quiet, calm enviornment is required. A certain crinkly bag noise will alert them of their favorite treats. The sound of the refrigerator door opening also warrants attention to a snack.

9. What should I feed my rabbit? A proper Rabbit Diet.

Timothy Hay consists of 80% of a proper rabbit diet. The fiber helps their digestion and also helps them keep their teeth trim. Otherwise, a small serving of fresh greens like Kale, dandelion leaves and Romaine lettuce is provided for breakfast and supper.

An occasional treat includes a grape, baby carrot, apple peel, raisin, banana piece. Finally, they enjoy Timothy Hay biscuits and a very small serving of cereal – Rabbit pellets – a tiny pinch sprinkled on their hay.


Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail relies on fresh greens – so do House Rabbits

10. Rabbit maintenance: Care and Grooming.

a.  Do rabbits shed? 

Rabbits molt their fur once per year. The amount of fur is remarkable – brushing takes too long and best saved for the end of this process. Luckily, they molt during early Spring, so this can be done outside: A towel, brush and bag is used and each rabbit spends at least 10 minutes per session being “plucked”.


The fur is removed in stages, but some parts come out faster than others. Fur is never yanked – just a gentle tug when petting the rabbit releases an abundance of fur.

Most molting is done over a two-week period, but can last longer, depending on the rabbit. Reggie can tolerate grooming for hours and hours. Rufus gets nervous after about ten minutes. During the remainder of the year, rabbits do shed, but it largely depends on the breed. Reggie barely sheds.

b.  Do you have to clip their nails?

Rabbit’s nails must also be trimmed regularly. This is done by placing the rabbit on it’s back. It helps to cover the rabbits eyes and be in a very quiet and calm environment – otherwise, you will get scratched and kicked and the session will need to resume the next day. I’m not an expert, but usually hold each nail taught and securely trim to the paw hairline. This is done about every six weeks.

c.  Do rabbits need baths?

Rabbits are very clean and do not need baths, nor do they smell. They usually groom each other. In our case, we mimic grooming by petting them with a stuffed animal. Reggie will move his head under your closed fist for more petting and grooming.

d.  Do rabbits have to go to the vet regularly?

They do not require regular vet visits. However, if they do go, prepare to pay a lot, about $400 USD for an average visit. Be sure to have a vet before getting a rabbit.


Do you think you would like a house rabbit? You can sense that they have unique personalities. They are quiet and smart. They need a specific diet and lots of free time to move around a rabbit-proofed house. They typically live eight to ten years long.

It’s hard for me to imagine not having a pet rabbit, but it’s not for everyone. Think about it before getting an Easter Bunny for your kids – most likely, you will be the one to clean their litter boxes and provide the proper care, maintenance and attention they require and deserve.

Hope you enjoyed learning about what it’s really like to have a house rabbit!

11 Tips to Make Your Average Zoo Photos Awesome

11 Tips to Make Your Average Zoo Photos Awesome

After a long winter, Spring has arrived and the annual bird migration will soon be underway. Not into birds? Go to the zoo!

Some may consider Zoos prisons for animals and wildlife photographers say it’s cheating. However, photographing animals at the Zoo can also be challenging and rewarding, and a great way to practice your skills.


Here are 11 tips to make your average zoo photos awesome.


The biggest challenge of getting better photos of Zoo animals is dealing with barriers. Many of the animals you encounter will be behind a fence, glass, or some other type of enclosure that will partially obstruct your shot. There are a few things you can do to get around this.

1. Get your lens close to, or directly onto, the fence.

If you’re using a phone or point-and-shoot camera, zoom in so that the fence is no longer noticable. The animal should be far enough away but close enough to get a clear shot. Basically, the closer you are to the fence, the less noticable the fence will be.

2. Camera settings:  Use a large aperture (low number) setting on your lens.

By doing so, the light will wrap around fence, greatly diminishing it’s existence in your photo. Your subject should be in the middle section of the enclosure, not right up against the fence.

Be sure to use continuous shutter or burst mode, depending on your camera. This will allow you to take a series of photos at once, instead of snapping away one photo at a time. Especially if the animal is moving or doing something interesting, multiple frames will get you better chances for a good shot.

African penguin body closeup (1)

South African Penguin with 400mm lens

African penguin body closeup (5)

Penguin is a little closer, softer background

African penguin closeup (3)

Penguin closeup with clean background

3. Use a long lens or zoom lens.

A long telephoto lens, such as a 400mm lens and low aperature will be able to “cut” out much of the fence and focus on the animal. Again, the best scenario will be when your subject is in the middle of the enclosure, not up close to a fence.

4. Look for a shady spot.

By doing so, any distracting reflections or glare from a metal fence will dissapear. You make need to increase your ISO – make sure it’s not too high in order to avoid excessive noise.

5. Pay attention to backgrounds and other distracting elements.

The animal may have a large metal water bowl or food tray – not exactly the look you want in your photo, unless the animal is doing something funny or interesting. Depending on the enclosure, be sure not to include signs, bright spots or other people. Using a large aperture will help get a blurry background.

egyptian goose

Average shot of a tagged goose in an enclosure next to it’s water bowl

egyptian goose (2)

Closeup shot of the Egyptian Goose with blurred out pond in background.

6. Bring a walking stick or monopod.

This will help stabilize your shot, especially if you intend to record video or use a very long focal length. Many zoos do not allow tripods because they take up a lot of room and could be a safety concern to someone not paying attention – imagine that! Little kids may run into them over sheer excitement and you may inadvertently trip them with your tripod – whoops!

Another tip is to balance your lens or camera on a fence post or railing for extra support.

bald eagle

Bald Eagle in center of enclosure shot through fence – some remnants of fence appear in background.

barred owl

Barred Owl up against wall shot through fence – would be better if it was also near center of enclosure.

Other tips to elevate your photos from the average to awesome:

7. Plan to arrive early.

Many animals are more active in the morning, during feeding time or anticipating what the day may bring. Lighting conditions are also more favorable in the morning by eliminating harsh sunlight.

Generally speaking, most people begin to arrive by mid-morning, especially when they have kids in tow. Some zoos may even offer special early morning viewing before they open to the public, usually for an additional fee.

8. Check for events.

If there is a special viewing of an animal on exhibit, get there early to get a good seat closeup to the action without too many obstructions.

9. Be patient.

When you approach an exhibit, the animal be appear to be resting but something may cause it to change it’s behavior soon after. The animal may get up, yawn, stretch, eat, roar, jump or stand to attention. It may just pick up it’s head and open it’s eyes. Anticipate these behaviors and improve your chances of getting a keeper.

river otter

Approaching the River Otter with eyes closed, enjoying the sun. OK, but not that exciting.  Let’s see if anything changes…

river otter yawn (1)

Less than a minute later, he steps up and takes a giant yawn.  With continuous shutter, got his paws lifting too.  Very cute!

10. Check for good angles.

The sunlight, shade, distracting elements, background, distance and angles are all factors to consider. Ideally, the animal will be around the center of the exhibit at eye level in order to cut through the fence and harsh sunlight. You may need to change your position by getting down lower or perhaps moving further away or holding your camera higher for the right angle..

tiger roaring mouth open teeth (5)

Afternoon light in fall.  Tiger in middle of enclosure, shot through fence.  Waited a few minutes to hear and see a very load ROAR!

11. Be aware of photo policies.

Most people just want to capture some good photos of zoo animals. However, if you plan to sell any of these images, be aware! Zoos own the rights to their animals – this is their property.

They will need to sign a property release form in order to allow you to use the photos commercially. There is usually a fee associated with the release. Think of it as photographing private property and getting it published on a magazine cover – you can get sued if you do not have the proper release forms.

Check the Zoo’s website FAQ’s, photo policies, Rules, or speak to the Public Relations office.  A little hassle upfront will save you down the line!



It can be fun and rewarding to photograph animals at the Zoo. Get there early, use a wide aperature, get close to the fence and use a zoom lens for your best chances of getting keeper photos of Zoo animals.

What’s your favorite tip? Let us know in the comments below!

Red-Tailed Hawk:  11 Fascinating Facts and Photos

Red-Tailed Hawk: 11 Fascinating Facts and Photos

One of the most common species of Hawks in North America is the Red-Tailed Hawk. You may see it perched on a tree or telephone pole along the roadside. It’s also common to see them soaring above open fields and marshes.

No matter where you see them, they are always on the lookout for prey. But what else is known about these great creatures?

Here are 11 fascinating facts about the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo Jamaicensis) that you might not know.

1. Identifying Characteristics

The Red-Tailed hawk is a large bird of prey, weighing between two to four pounds (about 1-2 kilos). The interesting part is the variation of plumage. From young, immature stages to adult, their undersides are primarily light-colored with streaked belly.

Young hawks’ tails are brown with dark terminal bars. The Rufous – red tail – doesn’t appear until the second year. Adults may or may not have a dark terminal bar on their tail.

There are 14 subspecies that vary in appearance by range and is most evident in color variation. A polymorphic hawk, it can appear almost all white to nearly all black. The females, like many birds of prey, are larger than males, averaging about 25% larger and heavier.

Wingspan ranges from 3.5 feet to 5 feet – just shy of one meter to over one meter in length.

red-tailed hawk perched fall

Red-Tail in backyard during fall

red-tailed hawk rock

Red-Tail plumage variation

2. Range

Being the most common hawk in the Buteo genus in North America, Red-tailed hawks have a large range. They can be found throughout the US, Mexico, Central America and parts of the Carribean, including Puerto Rico, Panama and West Indies. They breed in northern US and throughout most of Canada. They will stay in the same general area their entire life, anywhere from two miles to ten square miles.


red tailed hawk (3)

Red-Tailed Hawk about to perch on telephone pole

3. Population

Red-tailed Hawks have extended their range over the last century. There are about two million nesting hawks in North America and Red-Tailed Hawks account for 90% of them.

4. Names

A commmon nickname for this hawk, or Raptor, is “Red-Tail”. Although they do not hunt chickens, they are one of three species also referred to as a “Chickenhawk”. (Cooper’s Hawk and Shar-Shinned Hawk are the others.) The use of the Chickenhawk name is used in rural farm areas because of their perceived threat to small livestock animals.

The most famous Chickenhawk was made popular in the Looney Tunes cartoon series, known as Foghorn Leghorn.

Foghorn Leghorn


Not so big and tuff!

5. Diet

Red-tailed hawks are opportunists – they’ll take what they can get. Most of their diet consists of small rodents that are commonly found in fields. Mice, voles, small ground squirrels, rabbits, crabs, lizards and birds make up their food source, depending on their range.

Sometimes they will hunt in pairs, blocking escape routes of their prey. They will also eat snakes, including Bull Snakes and Rattlesnakes!

They hunt during the day, which is why you may see them more often than other species. They are most active in the early morning or afternoon – they do not fly or hunt at night. They are fierce fliers, reaching up to 120 miles per hour when diving for prey!


red tail diving (1)

The Red-Tailed Hawk can soar up to 120 miles per hour hunting for prey

6. Vocalization

The fierce, screaming cry of the red-tailed hawk is a popular one. It is commonly used to depict many birds of prey, such as the Bald Eagle, in movies and media. In general, the cry of the red-tail is a two to three second raspy scream that begins at a high pitch and slurs downward, similar to a steam whistle.

7. Courtship

Like many Raptors and Birds of Prey, the Red-Tailed Hawk puts on an amazing courtship display. They will soar together in circles, sometimes locking talons, and plummet towards the ground before breaking apart. As monogamous birds, they mate for life. They will only look for another mate if the other dies.

8. Nesting

Red-tailed hawks typically begin breeding in their third year. They build large stick nests 30-40 inches wide and up to three feet tall; about a meter wide and 1/2 meter tall. Nests are built at the top of deciduous trees near the edge of woods. They will also use billboards, cliff ledges and other high locations, providing vast access to the landscape beneath them.

Hunt is on!

Red-tailed Hawk departs perch

9. Young

Laying the first eggs is greatly dependent on the climate. In most of the United States, egg laying commences in early April, when anywhere from one to five eggs are laid every other day.

Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs. The male will hunt for food during the month-long incubation period. In about 45 days, the young will begin to fledge, although they will typically stay near the parent for two months as they learn how to surive on their own.

10. Lifespan

Although they are the most common hawks in North America, many die before two years old. The oldest known hawk lived to be 30 years old, from Michigan. It was banded in 1981 and died in 2011.

red tailed hawk (2)

Red-tailed hawk soaring through blue sky

11. Predators

The Great Horned Owl is the main predator and it is hassled by Crows. Since it is common along roadsides, vehicular collisions account for many deaths.


The Red-Tailed Hawk is a common Bird of Prey that may be seen while you are out driving, either soaring above fields or perched in trees or a top telephone poles. One thing is for sure – they’re looking for their next meal! Hope you enjoyed learning about the Red-Tailed Hawk!

Rare Half Male, Half Female Cardinal in PA

Rare Half Male, Half Female Cardinal in PA

Double-take!  A rare half-male, half-female Cardinal has been spotted in Grand Valley, Pennsylvania.  The birder, Jamie Hill, has been watching birds for over 48 years.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime rare bird alert, for sure! 


How can this happen?

Naturally, male Cardinals sport vibrant red feathers, especially in the Spring during mating season.  Meanwhile, the female has a more buff look with red highlights on the tips of her feathers and tuft on her head.

Also known as “half-siders” among Ornithologists, it is a trait known as sexual dimorphism.  The iconic plumage of the male cardinal makes it more recognizable than in other species.

This rare Cardinal was half male and half female:  It was half red and half buff.

The scientific name for this is Gynandromorphism.  It is when an organism contains both male and female characteristics.   In early development, the chromosomes that cause male and female development do not separate properly during mitotosis.  As a result, the organism has tissue that is largely female AND male.

What is even more crazy is how the photographer describes the bird:

“This bird would have a functioning ovary on its left side and a functioning single testis on its right,” Hill wrote, adding, “Theoretically, this bird could either mate with a normal male cardinal and lay fertile eggs, or it could mate with a normal female cardinal and father her eggs!”

This paradox also occurs in many insects and crustaceans.

To read more about Jamie Hill’s experience and to see more of his photos, click on the FB screenshot below.

Hope you enjoyed this rare bird alert!

Early Spring Birding:  Five Favorite Field Guides

Early Spring Birding: Five Favorite Field Guides

Need some help identifying birds? Although the Merlin Bird App is free to use, many times, it is more helpful to flip through a field guide. Using a field guide can expand your knowledge of the species in question.  It also points out similar species and other interesting variations.


Here are my five favorite bird field guide recommendations:

1.  Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern & Central North America, Seventh Edition (Peterson Field Guides)

Having many old Peterson guides dating over 20+ years on birds, insects, butterflies, etc., the plates and notable parts of the birds make it especially helpful to quickly ID birds.

2.  The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America: Second Edition (Sibley Guides)

Amazing Illustrator, David Sibley, with the popular Sibley Field Guide

3.  National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition 

I keep this in my vehicle at all times. It’s on the bulky side, but the notches for each type of bird species provides quick access for bird identification.

4.  The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds (The Crossley ID Guides)

The coolest bird book – it is really fun to look at the composite images. Birds are depicted in their common habitat, in the water, in flight, and with other birds you may find with them.

This makes a great coffee-table book or gift to anyone getting into birding – it’s 10 years old and not the least expensive, but I love this book.

5.  The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Stokes Field Guides)

For Bird Songs, the Stokes Field Guide is a classic. Of course, I have the CD’s, but it’s available as an Audiobook too.  If you subscribe to Audible, it’s free.


What is your favorite way to identify birds?  Let us know in the comments below.

Early Spring Birding:  Five Favorite Birds

Early Spring Birding: Five Favorite Birds

After months of snow on the ground, freezing temps, and frozen icy trails everywhere, these five birds in early Spring are a very welcome sight!

Many of these birds are present in the winter; however, they become much more prevalent in the Spring.


Here are my five favorite early spring birds:

red winged blackbird blue background

Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

1. Red-Winged Blackbirds 

are considered short-distance migrants, travelling up to 800 miles to southern Canada and northern United States. They are one of the most abundant birds in North America. They are also easily recognizable with their bold flashes of bright red and yellow wing patches sported by the highly territorial males.

During breeding season, they can be found in marshes and wetlands, commonly atop cattails.

Although the males spend at least 25% of daytime hours fiercly defending their territories, they are also highly polygynous. In some cases, he will have up to 15 female mates. However, up to half of the nestlings will be be sired (fathered) by another male out of the territorial range. Busy birds!


Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

2. Eastern Bluebirds 

Although Bluebirds can be found all winter, sightings increase in early Spring, as they begin to look for nesting sights. Bluebirds use nest boxes, but they will also use tree cavities if necessary.

The male will pick out the nesting site, usually oferring more than one nearby location. He will bring nesting material guide to each site, show her around, and she will ultimately decide if it is suitable to raise their family of up to seven baby bluebirds.

Once the nest is confirmed, the female will build the nest. The male will gather food for her during incubation. He will fiercly defend the territory by dive-bombing and making a loud clicking sound to anything or anyone approaching the nest.

flicker looking left closeup

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 

3. Woodpeckers

Here’s one you don’t even have to look for – just listen for the drumming sounds of Woodpeckers tapping away. Their goal is to make the loudest sound possible, which is why they may sometimes drum on metal objects like the downspout on your house. Drumming is a major communication tactic to defend territory and to attract a mate.

Woodpeckers are cavity-dwellers. The male will begin to carve out, or drum, a tree for his female mate. Once breeding has begun, the drumming will mostly likely stop.

eastern goldfinch

American or Eastern Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis)

4. Goldfinches

If you are familiar with the Eastern or American Goldfinch, then you know their Sweet song. During Winter, it may be difficult to recognize them when they are not singing because they blend into the scene, sporting buff or dull-looking plumage.

However, as the temperatures begin to rise, the Male Goldfinches begin to molt. They unveil a brillant and happy shade of yellow that pops along bare branches and at the feeder. Their beautiful hue is reminiscent of the first Daffodils to appear.

american robin

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Perhaps the most sure sign of Spring is the first arrival of Robins. As the snow melts and the warmer temperatures thaw the ground, worms begin to rise to the surface. A tasty and nutritious food for the Robin, they will also settle for mealworms (the Bluebirds also love mealworms).



So there you have it, five favorite birds that indicate Spring and warmer temperatures is on it’s way. What is your favorite Spring bird?

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Pet Rabbit Photo Bloopers

Pet Rabbit Photo Bloopers

Photographing a pet rabbit is not always easy.  The rabbit needs to be comfortable and in familiar settings.  Here are a few bloopers from our Easter photo shoot.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (3)

Rufus Rabbit is not quite finished with his snack.  

In order to photograph your pet rabbit, or just about any pet, a little snack helps to keep them interested.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (2)

Caught exactly at the wrong moment – silly rabbit!

Be prepared to take a lot of photos.  In many cases, you will only have a short window of time before they become distracted and walk off the set.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (1)

Here’s what I really think about this photo shoot!

Hope you enjoyed this super-quick post and have a few things to keep in mind for your next pet photo shoot.  Have a great day!

The Easiest Way to Get Quality Snowflake Photos

The Easiest Way to Get Quality Snowflake Photos

We got a lot of snow this week

…about 3 feet (about 1 meter), then some ice and a power outage, and today – more snow. The little voice said get your butt outside and take some snowflake photos!

So, I got all the gear together – my Canon 80D, a Canon 100mm macro lens, a sturdy tripod, and some dark microfiber towels to catch the snowflakes. Seems like an easy way to photography snowflakes, doesn’t it?

No worries – there’s a Plan B.


Macro like this on a point-and-shoot camera?

The challenge:

Accuweather predicts there’s only 20 more minutes of snowfall. Of course they’re reliable, so I put on all my winter gear, grab a few extra towels for the camera and start shooting straight away.

The photos aren’t looking great so far with setting at f/8 and ISO 400. With a shutter speed of 7 FPS, there is obvious blur in the tiny snowflake. I move closer, move away, focus manually, change a few more settings.

Meanwhile, the towel covering the camera

is covered in snow

and my feet are already frozen.


After ten minutes, I retreat. Come in, wipe off the camera and let it be still while it acclimates to a balmy 65 degrees F in the house.

Zoomed in all the way – captured on the Olympus Tough TG-5 compact camera

Plan B?

It’s the Olympus Tough TG-5. It’s a little brick of a camera that fits in your pocket. The camera is mostly metal, waterproof, handles freezing temps, tolerates a few good drops (table to floor), can shoot RAW, slo mo, 4K. It can also shoot macro.

  • There’s a microscope mode
  • a zoom microscope mode
  • a focus stack mode in-camera
  • and a focus-bracketing mode

It’s attached to a Gorillapod most of the time.  I grab it and head outside with a fresh towel.


Size compared to a US dime

Snow accumulates quickly

Ten cents and a snowflake

Snowfall lightens up.   The camera is set to the zoom microscope mode, which can also do video. The Gorillapod is bent so that the camera is sturdy, about one inch from the towel. Everything can be seen clearly on the back of the screen – it’s waterproof and freeze tolerant. Forgot to mention – shoots 20 FPS!

When you photograph snowflakes, it has to be really really cold, or you have to be really really fast, like within a second. Otherwise, the snowflake turns to mush.

After ten minutes, the battery dies. It was not fully charged, but lasted long enough to get the job done.

If it kept snowing, I could have stayed out there much longer – it was really fun and SO easy to shoot with the Olympus. I didn’t have a ton of stuff to set up or any worries about damaged gear, settings, etc. Only two decent shots with the Canon setup – had many more to choose from with the Olympus.

Canon 80D + 100mm Macro


Olympus Tough TG-5 zoomed in all the way

My Olympus is at least two years old. Latest model is the Olympus Tough TG-6 with some notable improvements. A bundle goes for about $389 USD.

Favorite things about the Olympus:

  • Compact and quiet – no shutter noise and fits in your pocket
  • Video features are good when stabilized and used in daylight, including 4K, Slo Mo (60 FPS) and regular
  • Macro mode is really fun and easy to use – get super-close
  • Shoots RAW
  • Waterproof
  • 20 FPS
  • Has many other standard features like Scene mode, Timelapse, and Timer

Not so great

  • Does not perform well in low light – grainy
  • Video is best when stabilized, to much ghosting, IMO, when moving
  • Image quality is best in daylight
  • Battery life is not great and the battery indicator is unreliable – always carry an extra charged battery
  • A little expensive for a point-and-shoot


Would you get a point-and-shoot camera for not only macro photography, but suitable for all of your outdoor adventures?  Consider the Olympus Tough, for fast photos and 4K videos.  Don’t forget that extra battery!

Snowy and Short-Earred Owls

Snowy and Short-Earred Owls

One of my favorite bird photographers on YouTube is Mark Smith, from Florida, USA.  He has amazing photographs and video of Osprey, Eagles, Herons and more.  He narrates his videos in a unique and entertaining style.

Recently, he visited New York (Long Island) to photograph Snowy Owls.  He then made his way over to the  Shawangunk Grasslands NWR – about an hour north of here – which is an annex of the Wallkill River NWR, detailed in my blog.

Check out his amazing photography of the Snowy Owl and even more impressive, the Short-Earred Owl, in this video. 

Enjoy – as we recover from the Ice Storm and brief power outage this week – Winter Weather!

Snowy Owl photo feature by Zdenek Machacek from Unsplash.



The Great Backyard Bird Count is Here – Will it be the Biggest One Ever?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Here – Will it be the Biggest One Ever?

Have you heard?

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is here!

For four days, February 12-15, 2021, spend at least 15 minutes counting the birds you see.

Just as the name implies, the birds you count can be right outside your window. Or, head to your favorite birding spot to count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Birds Canada.

Who can participate?

Everyone! This is a global event. Watch updated observation lists as they are submitted from around the world. For more ways to participate, check out the official website.


Use to track your birding activity

Get the Merlin Bird ID app for FREE for help identifying birds. I personally love the app. Not only does it make it easy to ID birds on the spot, but they have a library of excellent sounds. 

Dark-eyed Junco backyard bird

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), aka Snowbird is a common backyard visitor in the Winter

Stats from the GBBC from 2020, according to the official website:

  • over 270 thousand participants

  • over 27 million birds counted

  • almost 7 thousand bird species identifies

  • 194 Countries participated

Why might this be the biggest event ever?

With the Covid pandemic and social distancing continuing into 2021, more people are staying home or finding activities in small groups. And, an interest in nature and birds continue to increase. It’s a great way to participate in a global event. It’s fun for individuals, friends and families.

One sponsor, the National Audubon Society, explains:

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free, fun and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at


American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) may be one of the birds you spot this weekend in your backyard for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Submit your photos for a chance to win!

Categories are:

  • Overall
  • Habitat
  • People
  • Composition
  • Group
  • Behavior

Check out the 2020 winners (a PDF gallery)

For more info about submitting your photography, check out the official rules and Share your photos


Get your checklists and cameras ready for the 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count! It’s a fun activity to enjoy from the comfort of your home, in your car, or your favorite birding spot.

Just spend at least 15 minutes documenting the species and number of birds you count. And perhaps best of all, submit your photos, which may be shared on social media, the Macaulay library, and a chance to be a photo Winner!

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