BRENT PENNINGTON A Gray Catbird perches at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015.

Each May I embark on my Great May Photo Expeditio (GMPE), which is a fancy name for what really amounts to my wandering around the region for a weekend, cameras in tow, kayaking, hiking, and exploring.

This year my adventure began at Sapsucker Woods, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY, for a morning of bird photography.  Sapsucker is one of my favorite birding sites, and I try to visit a couple of times a year.  This year, the harsh and lingering winter pushed the migration back a little, and my visit coincided with a lot of bird activity.

BRENT PENNINGTON A pair of Green Herons perch in a dead tree over the marsh at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015.

The Gray Catbird at top was a real gem, as I was able to grab the shot from only a few feet away in the moment before he flew off.  He was sitting on the side of the trail as I came around the bend and I think we both startled each other.

I was also lucky enough to see not only one, but two Green Herons!  These are my first Greens of the year, and from their behavior I suspect that they were a mating pair, as I’ve never before seen two of them moving about together.  They flew in and landed in the dead tree as a pair, and sat together for several minutes before flying off together.

BRENT PENNINGTON A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sits on eggs in her nest at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015. BRENT PENNINGTON A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sits on eggs in her nest at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015.

Speaking of luck, I was also able to get a photo of a Rose-breasted Grosbreak (a new species for my life list) on her nest.  She still had eggs – it’s too early for hatched baby birds yet – and she was well hidden just off one of the Sapsucker boardwalks.  If another birder hadn’t kindly pointed her out, I’d have missed her altogether.

BRENT PENNINGTON A White-tail Deer drinks from the marsh near Kips Barn at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015. BRENT PENNINGTON A White-tail Deer drinks from the marsh near Kips Barn at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015.

I deviated from birds for a while to grab a few shots of a White-tail Deer who visited the wetlands near Kips Barn.  She slid in through the reeds on the far side of the marsh, no doubt looking for a cool drink on a sunny day, before moving on.

BRENT PENNINGTON A lone Canada Goose in the wetland near Kips Barn at Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, NY, on the morning of 21 May 2015.

Conspicuously absent this year are the Great Blue Herons, which had previously nested in the middle of the pond at Sapsucker for as long as I can remember.  The branch of the dead tree upon which they had built their nest came down over the winter, and to my knowledge the herons haven’t relocated within the preserve.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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