December 31 , 2011

SUBJECT: The Best of 2011


Between my eco-friendly, house projects (see and other stuff, I rarely have time to post on the journal and for that I apologize. There are not enough hours in the day! I do however send out bird images on almost a weekly basis via email and if you would like to join the list, send me a comment and you will be added. It's the best way to see my bird pics.

I am however going to start an annual tradition of picking out some of my favorite images of the year and posting them here on the journal.

Without further ado, here are my favorite bird photos from 2011 in chronological order. I have picked them for various reasons: species rarity, beauty, unique poses and just for fun.

Enjoy and have a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

-- Alan Stankevitz


Great Egret with fish

Jo and I started off the year taking a vacation in Florida. Here is a Great Egret about to eat a fish.


Bald Eagle Lock and Dam 14, Le Claire, IA

An adult Bald Eagle about to pounce on a fish at Lock and Dam 14, Le Claire, IA.


Great Horned Owl - International Festival of Owls

In March of 2011, I attended The International Festival of Owls in Houston, MN and took this in-flight image inside of a packed gymnasium. I took the picture of the bird just before it was ready to land on the trainer's glove. The jesses were removed using Photoshop. The image was taken with the Canon 70-200, f/4 IS lens.


Cinnamon Teal, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL

Interesting birds tend to show up along Chicago's lakefront throughout the year and this past spring was no exception. A Cinnamon Teal showed up in Lincoln Park during the spring migration and stayed there for at least a month. This is a western species bird. How it ended up in Lincoln Park is anyone's guess.


Common Loon, Lake Arlington, Arlington Heights, IL

Loons do not breed in Illinois, but they do stop by on occasion on their way up to their northern breeding territories. This past spring, a few were held up at Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights, IL.


Horned Grebe - Lake Arlington, Arlington Heights, IL

Also at Lake Arlington were some beautiful male Horned Grebes.


Great Blue Heron with stick. NW suburbs of Chicago

Great Blue Heron with nesting material. NW suburbs, Chicago area.


Eastern Bluebirds in Love

Taken at Day Creek in Mound Prairie, MN, a male Eastern Bluebird feeds its female mate a mealworm. Love is in the air for our resident pair of Eastern Bluebirds.


Great Egret with nesting material

A Great Egret is attempting to bring in a rather large piece of nesting material. There were quite a few nesting pairs on a small island where this image was taken. Tragically as the chicks were about to hatch, every single nest was destroyed by predation. It was one of the saddest things I ever experienced. My guess is that it might have been a Great Horned Owl as the nests were left intact, while the eggs were destroyed. Every morning, more and more nests were abandoned until there were none occupied.


Sandhill Crane Nest - Parent and Colt

On a happier note, here are a series of images of a Sandhill Crane colt. In this first image, the colt had just hatched a few hours ago and is being fed pieces of its own egg shell by one of the parents.


Sandhill Crane Colt with egg

Here's the colt, less than 24 hours old standing next to a second egg. How did that bird fit inside of that egg?


Sandhill Crane Colt taking first swim


The colt is a few days old now and is taking its first trip to shore from its protected island. The first parent flew to shore, coaxing the colt to swim towards shore. Shortly after this image was taken, the other parent flew and then swam behind the colt.


Sandhill Crane parent feeding colt

Sandhill Crane parent feeding the colt a beetle.

Sandhill Crane Colt

Just too cute.


Black-Crowned Night Heron

One of the more unique locations for a heron rookery is at the Lincoln Park Zoo, South Pond in Chicago. These Black-Crowned Night Herons have been nesting here for a number of years now and even returned after the pond and adjacent area was renovated by the zoo. I am so very happy to see these birds continuing to thrive at the zoo.


Blackpoll Warbler with bug

This was a good spring for warblers. Pictured here is a Blackpoll Warbler with a bug taken at Myrick Marsh in La Crosse, WI.


Double-Crested Cormorant with nesting material

Here's a Double-Crested Cormorant bringing in nesting material. NW suburbs of Chicago.


Male Eastern Bluebird in Flight

A male Eastern Bluebird with dinner.


Least Bittern - Lincoln Park, IL

A male Least Bittern shows up at the south pond in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL. For a number of weeks it was calling for a mate, but was never successful. This bird was incredibly tame and photographable which is unusual for this species.


Short-Eared Owl

During most of the fall, I was working on the construction of our garage/workshop in SE MN and was unable to do much photography. But once the building was completed in November, I was back to doing what I love to do best. Pictured here is a Short-Eared Owl in flight. I have found Short-Eared Owls to be very curious and this one flew directly towards me to "check me out". I thought it might actually land on my head!

Photographer's Note: This image was taken with the new Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens (vers II). Although I loved this lens dearly, the autofocus was too slow when adding a 2x (vers III) teleconverter for doing any serious birds-in-flight photography. I was heartbroken by the number of short-eared owl images I missed on this particular day due to the slow-autofocus with the 2x teleconverter. With a 1.4x teleconverter it was acceptable and without any teleconverter it was very fast.

For any other photography other than birds-in-flight, this lens is incredible! Very, very sharp.


Short-Eared Owl in Flight with setting sun

With just minutes to spare before the sun was to set, I was able to capture this image of a Short-Eared Owl hunting over a grassland.


Blue Jay in Flight

There's only been a few days in SE MN in which there has been snow cover this fall. Snow cover acts as a great light reflector illuminating birds from all angles. Here's an image of a Blue Jay about to land on a feeding tray full of peanuts.


Snowy Owl in Flight

Snowy Owl Irruption!

Snowy Owls (mostly juveniles) have been heading south this winter in droves across North America. This is following an abundant breeding season in the Arctic due to large quantities of their food source: the lemming. Unfortunately there are not enough lemmings in the winter to sustain the population and juveniles are forced out of the area by the adults. A number of these birds have died due to starvation and collisions with vehicles, while others are surviving and doing quite well.


Snowy Owl in Flight

Juvenile Male Snowy Owl in flight.


Snowy Owl in flight close-up

The Snowy Owl is an incredibly beautiful bird!


Snowy Owl on pine tree

Juvenile Male Snowy Owl on pine branch.


Snowy Owl face
Incredible Eyes!



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All photographs © 2002-2007, Alan Stankevitz

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