A River Walk for the Birds


Like I said last post, I went to Buckhorn Island State Park to photograph migrating birds. Shooting moving birds in nature is much more difficult than those in my backyard. I do it far less frequently and the birds are never close enough, EVER. Plus, you usually only get one shot before they leave. In my garden they return, even the hawks. Check out the links if you are new here. I photograph a lot of birds.


The Great Blue Heron was fishing by the shore, but he spotted me and took flight. Fortunately, he was not the only one in the wetland at Beaver Island State Park, where I thought I was meeting the group of bird watchers.


I went to meet the folks at the Buffalo Audubon Society on Sunday, but missed them for the nature walk.

I left plenty early enough, but did not realize I had no idea where I was going. I thought the park was at the wrong end of the island, and I even lived on Grand Island for a few years. The tiny park actually was a place I went all the time when I lived there, I just did not know it was called Buckhorn Island State Park.


It is just a gravel and dirt trail along the river for the most part, ending at the marsh.


So I was driving around for an hour, missing the meetup time. I took the walk anyway, but would have loved to have the birders help me to identify birds I saw.


I think I have the birds in the photos correctly identified since most are very common. I don’t see Eastern Towhees very often though.

gray bird

But one, I had no clue and I could not find it on Cornell’s site. I guessed it a female finch, but it kinda looks like a female Brown-headed Cowbird from pictures I saw. Males are very recognizable, but females are very plain. The color is very dull gray with a reddish/brownish tinge on the head. It was in the thickets, like many birds I saw.


I saw a Cardinal pair, numerous Red-winged Blackbirds, some Grackles, and tons of Robins. The herons were the highlight.


Another heron flies by.


Remember the post Die Daisy, Die? In it I was talking about how some native plants can become invasive. I illustrated with a field of Goldenrod, but mentioned that cattail are also very invasive. See what I mean?


One bird that was everywhere was the Goldfinch. None was very close to me, but they really populated this park.


Ducks were common in the Niagara River, but also very far out. This is Red-breasted Mergansers above.


There were not that many Canada Geese, but here is a pair below.



More ducks doing some aquatic ballet. That is a Bufflehead sliding in for show. The Mallard at the beginning also had a mate.




The Great Blue Heron really has a large wingspan. I was lucky to get him in this position, but I would have preferred much closer.


Of course, what waterway is gull free? I photograph a lot of seagulls too!


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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70 Responses to A River Walk for the Birds

  1. Loving your captures, especially the captures with the birds taking flight:) Happy Monday!

  2. I always love your posts with bird pictures, and this one is no exception. My favorite: the heron in flight.

  3. todd says:

    what type of camera ? and did you crop these shots in iphoto ?

  4. What a great place to photograph birds. You got some amazing images. I don’t know if I have the patience to capture birds that much. I’m lucky to get a few in the garden.

    • Thank you. There was so much tweeting going on and I could not find the birds in all the dense brush. That is why the bird watchers would have helped a lot. I went off trail and went by the river for easy pickings. Many more visible birds on the river.

  5. Your pictures are beautiful.

  6. Great shots, Donna. You are a true pro! I’ve seen those little plain gray birds around here, too, so I’m curious to find out what it is.

    • I am going to identify that bird. It was hard to determine how big it was since it was far away, so that is why I guessed at two different birds. I will call someone at Audubon and find out.

    • I checked with the Naturalist from the walk and he said it is a female Brown-headed Cowbird, so my guess was right. They really are not lookers are they? I guess the males think so though.

  7. I agree that shooting birds in their more natural setting is much more challenging. In my garden I have many more birds per square foot than I would find out on a nature walk. The inflight shots are very impressive but I also really like the shots of birds on branches. You had a very successful day out!

    • You really hit the nail on the head. It is the numbers. I am not a bird watcher so I am not like them who can hear the tweet and zero in on the location. I scan the dense brush and see nothing but tweeting shrubs and trees.

  8. Glorious post! Margie

  9. alesiablogs says:

    It was really nice to see the birds in a different element. Capturing them this way may be harder, but it still is wonderful looking at the shots you got. It also gives me a good idea of what birds you have in action up your way! : )

  10. A.M.B. says:

    I love it when you post pictures of birds! I adore goldfinches, even the drab female ones, because I associate that bird with my youngest daughter. The very first time they visited our feeder was the day we brought her home from the hospital.

  11. Beautiful shots here!

  12. minqan says:

    Great capture! 🙂

  13. Great photos. Herons are awesome! I’m surprised you didn’t see many geese; I’ve seen a lot at the beach on Beaver Island.

  14. Lovely shots of birds. I am sorry you didn’t see all the blue herons on Cliff. I think you should look up the federal definition of invasive and maybe come up with another term. Native plants cannot technically be “invasive” and they do support the local flora and fauna. We don’t want people thinking it’s OK to rip them out because the word invasive has a bad connotation. Of course you wouldn’t recommend planting cattails in a small pond or rampant goldenrod in a highly designed perennial garden.

    • Carolyn, you know me very well and most likely know how I feel about invasive plants. The difference is between noxious plants and invasive. http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver

      Honestly there are too many laws and regulations that differ statewide to make any cohesive campaign to return all places in the US back to native. Nor is it even feasible. I think concentration should be on those truly invasive/noxious and identified as such. I am not condoning removal of goldenrod or cattails, but when they interfere with diversity, I can see how this presents a problem. They become “invasive” in meadows and marches. In the other post I question what does one do in these cases? Control is warranted, yet the environment they are in guarantees they will return.

      The problem is with the law as written, it becomes far too inclusive, yet in another way, open ended. I cannot see how the daisy for instance, is causing “economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Extrapolate that and look at the honeybee. As a non-native, does that mean such an important being should be eliminated? Does the plant or animal in question have to fit both (1) and (2) below because of the word “and”? Many non-native species do not fit (2).
      I think it almost silly the lengths this discussion on native vs. non-native goes to in the grand scheme of things. We really are getting far too involved in “nature’s business.” Look at (e) below discussing human activity which is literally unavoidable .

      I am aware of the federal definition, and in summery it is:

      1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and
      2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
      The law, Executive Order 13112, can be found here: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/laws/execorder.shtml#sec1

      Here are a few of the legal definitions.The whole Order is in this link too.

      (e) “Introduction” means the intentional or unintentional escape, release, dissemination, or placement of a species into an ecosystem as a result of human activity.
      (f) “Invasive species” means an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
      (g) “Native species” means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.

  15. catmint says:

    dear donna, these photos are really impressive. I find it difficult to photograph birds in my own garden – how much harder to do what you did and photograph them in the wild. thank you – i enjoyed this post immensely.

    • I will post on the “how’ soon. I know one can go to the pro sites and get this information, but often they really don’t mention the tricks. My problem is really finding the birds in the first place. That is why I am starting to join the Audubon group. Next time, I will make sure and find them. The other problem is once you find them, the birds find you too and leave. There are some tricks to that too, but I am not going to look like a paparazzi at a public state park. Too many people to see the hilarity of the hunt!

  16. Christy says:

    Wonderful pictures of the birds in their environment! I really like the Geese.

  17. laurie says:

    such beautiful photos! Spring has brought everyone back out, we had herons on our shore and they never looked like they were looking at us but one wrong move, to close and off they go!I love the photo of the birds in flight, its alawys so hard to catch them in such beautiful shots such as you have, you are very talented!
    thankyou for visiting me , now I have found you!

    • Thank you Laurie for visiting GWGT. I have book marked your site and will be back often. I love learning the birds, and find so many new varieties visiting the garden each year. My highlight last year is the leucistic sparrow family. The golden one is back in the garden this spring too. It never left all winter either. It is such a pretty bird and I hope it mates like its white mother did last year. I never got many pictures of her because I was away most of the summer. This summer looks to be the same. My garden is really tiny, but is still a good place for birds to come and nest. I get all kinds of birds nesting each year.

  18. Skeeter says:

    Beautiful Photos of birds in nature! Do you make prints and sell them for a hobby? Your photography is so beautiful I bet you could do just that if you do not! Seeing birds live their everyday life in nature is so soothing to my soul. Great job….

    • I have had my photos on a photo site for sale and they did pretty well. I don’t really invest the upkeep time on it and have to look at it as a business to really sell. That is my problem, since it is not my profession, I just don’t have the time to make photography a business. I was asked to do a garden wedding this year and declined the offer because that really takes someone who knows that business. I am sure I could have done great shots of the garden, but it is all about the bridal couple.

      • Skeeter says:

        I understand your feelings. Things are fun until they become work then the fun goes out the door and in comes work, stress and everything else along with it…. Yep would be difficult to zero in on a bride with so many beautiful blooms around. 🙂

  19. Rosie says:

    I have, what I think are, house finches that come to my bird bath for drinks many times a day. The male has red markings, and seems to be getting redder as the weeks pass. His lovely lady is dressed in brown and greys. I love having them visit the deck, I am working on getting good pictures of them.

  20. HolleyGarden says:

    Great photos. So sorry you missed the group, but perhaps you got to see more birds being alone. I always love seeing heron photos, but the little goldfinches are adorable!

    • I too was sorry. I wanted to follow along and see them in action. There is a few walks coming up and I hope to go. One is on Spring ephemerals, and another on secretive birds of the marsh. There is an owl prowl too at night. I would love to go but probably may not make that one. No pictures at night either.

  21. Brian Comeau says:

    Looks like it was still a good day. Great shots of the Heron. I love them too.
    I also find birds in flight difficult especially raptors. I actually missed a golden chance at a bald eagle last year. He was perched at the end of a boardwalk and only 10 feet away before I scared him and he flew away… I didn’t see him soon enough and lost my chance. Still makes me sad to think about it… 😦

    • Oh Brian, that is disappointing, so close too. That happens to me with hawks. They are sitting at eye level on a post and I happen right onto them. I swear they take off when they see me raise the camera. Not when I am standing there looking at them, no, it is when I raise the camera. Like a game they play. The Heron in the pond did that to me. I kept moving around to get the reeds out of the way. He put up with me until I found a good spot. I raise the camera and he takes off. And of course I am in the middle of all the brush and cannot get a good shot of him leaving. Glad he had friends, but they were really far away. The only other problem was he was back lighted at ten in the morning. Not the best for exposure.

      • Brian Comeau says:

        Sometimes I honestly wonder if animals can sense infrared AF beams. 🙂 It’s like they are saying, “look all you want, just don’t take my pic”

  22. Indie says:

    Oh, herons are so beautiful! I actually love your shot of all the cattails, though. That’s a lot of cattails! I went to a lake the other day that is known for its prevalence of Bald Eagles. I got a shot of one as well as some large water bird that I need to look more closely to identify, but it is so hard to get good photos of them in flight (and from so far away)!

  23. Karen says:

    Great shots, the last one of the gull in flight is wonderful, it is hard to take photos of birds, especially in flight trying to get a good crisp image. Seagulls are my fave birds they are so photogenic. I don’t usually go after birds, but if I encounter them wherever I am I will take a few shots. The bottom shot of the Cardinal is beautiful.

  24. These are beautiful, Donna, especially the one with the heron and the awesome reflection. I, too, am happy when I get a good capture because it is not often. The birds are often moving and moving quickly.

    • The reflection surprised me. It looked like it was painted there. Did you know when pros photograph the eagles in say Alaska, that they bait them with frozen fish. I just learned that on one of their sites. I always saw these beautiful images so close up and never knew they were baiting. Kinda like up with bird feeders I guess.

  25. Well, even though you missed the twitchers, we have had the pleasure in sharing in your walk.

  26. Tom says:

    That mystery bird is Indeed a female Brown-headed Cowbird

  27. Your bird photos are what I aspire to achieve. They are wonderful. We have Eastern Towhees here year round, sadly a female hit our big window and died. There was a male around for a long time… I think looking for his mate. Of course we have the Heron year round too…. big ol’ Pterpdactyls.

  28. Kevin says:

    Beautiful photos. I especially love this time of year — particularly in the morning, when songbirds are at their most vocal. I’m also a fan of mallards. I love the velvet green of their heads.

    • I too like the mallards. I saved a female once that got hit by a car and crows were pecking its feathers out. I drove it home on the front seat of my Jeep (7 miles). It sat quietly until I placed it in my garden. It was in shock but otherwise unhurt, it then flew out of my yard on its own.

  29. Pat says:

    Great post, beautifully photographed.

  30. Fergiemoto says:

    Wonderful bird shots! They are also one of my favorite subjects to photograph.

  31. supernova says:

    Hi Donna, I must take my hat off to you for your bird photography. I had to smile at your comment on looking like a paparazzi in a state park though ha ha!
    One does forget oneself and become engrossed in the moment, getting some funny looks along the way!
    Speak soon Donna, my regards James 🙂

    • Thanks James. I have been going to wildlife preserves and wetlands lately…. no people to follow me around. At the Falls, people are everywhere. It the wetlands it is just me, birds, beavers, deer… ahh the life.

      • supernova says:

        Oh yes! Sounds wonderful 🙂 Looking forward to your next post on this type of photography.
        Cheers Donna 🙂 James.

  32. Late again catching up with blogs….I love those shots of the heron….just amazing Donna

  33. sanscera says:

    wow… beautiful birdies… i absolutely loved those pics. 🙂

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