The Focus of Her Attention « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Focus of Her Attention

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This image of Helen Hays leaving one of the few blinds that escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy last October was created on Great Gull Island on June 1, 2013 with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto zoom lens with the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (teleconverter) (hand held at 125mm) and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/15 sec. at f/20 Tv mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the blind and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Helen Hays

Helen Hays spent her first season on Great Gull Island in 1969. She had no clue that she would be here in 2013 for this, her 45th season. She spends an average of 17 weeks here each season directing a team of volunteers and researchers that number from a handful to 20 or 30 during the peak of hatching, usually sometime in mid-June. When asked why she is still here she said, “There are so many things to do.” Simply put, she has devoted her life to studying the Common Terns of Great Gull Island and to a lesser degree, its Roseate Terns–the latter species often nests among the huge boulders and is much more difficult to trap. Since 1995, in Helen has made 14 trips to South America in search of her wintering terns. On the very first trip, that to Brazil her team found the previously unknown wintering grounds of Roseate Tern. She describes it as pure luck. After a 23-year absence, I am spending a week here thanks to Helen’s kindness and support. I am both thankful and blessed.

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This image was created on Great Gull Island on the morning of June 2, 2013 with the with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/10 in Manual Mode.

Central sensor Expand (by necessity)/AI Servo/Rear Focus on the bird’s eye and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Focus of Her Attention

Over the decades on GGI Helen has overseen the clearing of habitat, finding and marking nests, banding, weighing, and measure chicks, and trapping and banding the adult commons, all with the goal of helping the birds. Last season was yet another record year for the Common Terns of Great Gull with about 9,500 pairs. Late July 2013 found more than 32,000 Common Terns on the island. GGI is likely the world’s largest Common Tern colony and the Roseate colony, with about 600-1000 pairs, is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. It should be noted that Helen directs the Great Gull Island project under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History and has been ably assisted by Joe DiCostanzo since about 1975.

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This image was created on Great Gull Island on the morning of June 2, 2013 with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Dealing With a Morning West Wind

The west winds have been relentless since I arrived late on Thursday past. Great in the afternoons but not so great in the mornings. Somewhat out of desperation I tried doing some backlit stuff yesterday morning as we were returned from a round of marking nests in heavy vegetation with orange fiberglass rods so that they can be easily re-located once the chicks hatch. I was quite pleased with several of the images. The weather had been great until today.

Help Keep Great Gull Island Open For Terns!

This spring crews are continuing to fight vegetation and to rebuild most of the blinds to be ready for the terns when they arrive. 31 of 34 blinds, many already in dire need of repair, were finished off by Hurricane Sandy. Crews are ready to help with both of these projects, but the GGI Project needs funds to purchase lumber and equipment. Contributions of all sizes are both welcome and appreciated AND are tax deductible! Please make checks payable to: AMNH, and send them to:

Great Gull Island Project/AMNH, Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

Kudos to Julianna Barrett (UCONN) and Suzanne Peyton (USFWS) who obtained grants to expand the Roseate Tern terraces and rebuild the observation blinds but more help is always needed. Not to mention that the GGI’s best-ever dock that was completed in 2010 was totaled by Sandy. The project is looking to FEMA for help but as above, any and all donations would be greatly appreciated.

You can learn more about Great Gull Island here.

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