BRENT PENNINGTON Sunrise amid the fog on a 34* morning on Lackawanna Lake, 24 May 2015.

The final morning of my Great May Photo Expedition dawned sunny, but cold.  As in, really-goddamn-34-degrees-in-late-May cold.  I dragged myself out to Lackawanna Lake and launched from Bullhead Bay, shivering and glad for having grabbed an extra sweatshirt on my way out the door.  The sun was just over the horizon, igniting the steam coming off the lake.  It was lovely, and the sun itself felt good.  But in the shade it was still cold!

In the beginning, I was just concerned with paddling and admiring the fog.  But as the morning drew on a little and the air began to warm up, the bird activity warmed up with it, and before long I was encountering some really great stuff.  One of my first captures of the day, down in the marsh by the outflow of the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek, was a rather small Gray Catbird hiding in some scrub along shore.

BRENT PENNINGTON A Gray Catbird peers for the brush at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015.

As I was drifting past him, I noticed another small bird atop a sapling.  It was a difficult shot to capture, and the outcome wasn’t the greatest – he was somewhat back lit, and rather small in the frame.  But I got a better shot of another individual shortly after and was able to determine that he was a Willow Flycatcher, which is yet another first for my life list this spring.

BRENT PENNINGTON A Willow Flycatcher perches in a branch at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015.

As I paddled back towards Bullhead along the northern shore, I found several of the common avian residents – Tree Sparrows, Tree Swallows, Canada Geese, a Mallard or two.  All were lively, save the Tree Swallow, who was busy preening near the Wood Duck nesting box he had commandeered, as opposed to sweeping the sky of insects.  (Although in retrospect, it may still have been too cool for flying insects.)

BRENT PENNINGTON A Tree Swallow preens on a branch at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015. BRENT PENNINGTON A Tree Swallow sings for sunrise at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015.

As you can see in the photo above, the Tree Sparrow was singing his heart out from his perch over the water.  I think I’ll forever be amazed at how much volume such a small creature can pump out; and not just birds, but others such as frogs and crickets – they are capable of being very loud when they choose, much more so, in proportion, than I think we can be, unaided, as humans.

BRENT PENNINGTON An adult male Common Yellowthroat hides in the brush at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015.

My real prize for the day is this little guy here, an adult male Common Yellowthroat who, despite his name, isn’t someone I’ve seen before, making him my second new species of the morning.  And, as a warbler, he was somehow a more exciting find than the flycatcher.  I have a soft spot for warblers, I guess.

This was a lucky shot.  I only saw him exposed in the brush for a few seconds and was able to fire off two frames that were, thank goodness, in focus, before he fled to the safety of the inner brush.  Some birds are very tolerant of me in the kayak, while others are still easily spooked.

BRENT PENNINGTON A Cedar Waxwing pauses amid hunting flights at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015. BRENT PENNINGTON An Eastern Kingbird feeds its young in its nest at Lackawanna State Park on the morning of 24 May 2015.

My morning wrapped up with a sighting of a few more Cedar Waxwings, followed by the discovery of an Eastern Kingbird nest, where at least one of the parents was busy catching insects to feed to its brood.  I wasn’t able to get a good look through the branches, as the best was over the water and above me in the kayak, and I didn’t want to get too close and disturb them.

By that point the sky was clouding up and, without the sun, the day’s efforts at warming itself stalled.  Plus it was time for breakfast.

And so concluded another annual GMPE; the rest of the weekend was taken up with Memorial Day cookouts with friends and family, which I always look forward to.  And perhaps a bit more than usual this time, for as much as I love nature and thoroughly enjoyed my annual adventure, it was nice to be surrounded with good people after several days by myself.

BRENT PENNINGTON Sunrise amid the fog on a 34* morning on Lackawanna Lake, 24 May 2015.

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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