Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fuchsia & Yellow

While winter cloaks the countryside in earth tones and white, summer scenes are alive with vibrant colors.  With flowers blooming and birds displaying their breeding plumage brilliant splashes of color can be seen everywhere. 
 
While taking care of my daily chores I recently noticed that the ripening seed in a stand of thistle bordering my west pasture was attracting a large number of goldfinches.  Finding some free time this morning I setup near the thistle with a Canon 6D mounted on the 600 F4.  In a short time the brightly colored little birds returned to feed on the ripe seed heads.  The scene was a feast of color with the yellow and black birds surrounded by the beautiful fuchsia color of the newly opening blooms. 
 



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Scenes

Each season adds its own special flavor to the landscape and to life itself.  Mid summer is a time of hot days and warm misty mornings.  The following images were taken while spending a little time quietly watching daybreak unfold on our family farm.
 
 
 
 





Monday, June 23, 2014

Changing Focus

 
As I noted in a post at the beginning of the month this year has been a year of dramatic change in my life.  The change began with my father's passing and every time I think that I am beginning to arrive at the new "normal" something else changes yet again.  This has been a year of loss and at the same time a year of gain.  It has been a time of renewing and repairing of old relationships and the building of new ones.  In the midst of all of the change my wildlife photography has had to take a backseat. 

 
While outdoor photography has taken on lesser roll in my life temporarily I still make time occasionally to enjoy to the peaceful solitude of daybreak on the water. 

 
An hour spent one Sunday afternoon watching a pair of red-headed woodpeckers carry insects to their young was a special treat.  I located this den tree last year and upon checking it this summer was elated to find that it housed not only the red-headed woodpeckers but a nest of yellow-shafted flickers as well.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Wildlife Babies Arriving

 
While it has been over about two months since I first encountered the fox pups back in April, wildlife babies continue to arrive.  The big event over the past week has been the arrival of the whitetail fawns.  I spotted my first one of the season Sunday morning.  While its not much of a fawn photo it is the best I was able to capture as the mother lead her new charge to safety.
 
A little later as I was driving along a dirt road I noticed a black object lying in the entrance to a pasture.  I was already past the lane by the time I was able to stop, having to back up for a second look.  At first I could not identify it but as I reached for the binoculars a head and long neck stretched up.  Identifying it as a wild turkey hen I immediately suspicioned that she was hiding her poults with her body.  While I waited a few minutes, other than to move her head the hen remained motionless.
 
As my time was running out and I needed to be on my way I hit the trucks ignition.  The sound of the engine starting was just enough to startle the hen into moving, revealing her brood of about a dozen poults.
 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Changing Times

 
The one thing in life that remains constant is change.  Everything in our world is always changing and for the whitetail deer it is that time of year when they are making the change from their cold weather coat to the light coat of summer.  I photographed this yearling buck early this morning.  While parts of his face has lost the long hair of winter, the remainder of his face and his entire body is still covered by the now sun-bleached lifeless hair.
 
 
Also photographed this morning, a two year old buck grooms in the first rays of morning sunlight.  With his antlers growing rapidly now the buck has completed the transition to his thin, red, summer coat.  For the does, now is the time for birthing the new fawns.  While I have not yet seen any new fawns I have noticed a couple of does with plump udders; a sure sign that they have new-born fawns hidden nearby.
 
 
 
And while things are changing rapidly in the world of the whitetail deer, rapid change has been occurring in my life as well.  Instead of spending my spare time pursuing wildlife photography as I once did I am now using much of that time to manage the small herd of cattle and whip the farm into shape.  As the regular readers of Country Captures know some of my favorite wildlife shots are of deer and elk lip-curling during their respective ruts.  Now the rut can happen any day as evidenced by my new herd bull performing the lip-curl just the same as is done by his distant relatives in the wild. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunrise: The Most Beautiful Time of The Day

 
For many of us the day begins without notice.  For some the new day arrives before their alarm clock sounds while others are already at work, busy with the day's activity.  For me the latter is the case for five days each week so when the weekend arrives being up and out before the dawn becomes a high priority.  While some will argue the case for evening being the most beautiful time of day it is difficult to make the case for evening when comparing it to the incredible beauty of a dew-soaked mid-spring morning.
 
The above panoramic image was created by merging 14 vertical photos capturing approximately 180 degrees of view.  The individual photos were shot with a Canon 6D, 24mm-105mm lens set at 24mm,  F7.1, 1/320, ISO 160

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tranquility ?

 
What could be more tranquil than a spring evening on a small rural Pennsylvania farm? 
 
I took this photo while making my evening rounds.  Dad loved his cattle and even though both of his hips and one knee had to be replaced over the past decade he still took care of the day to day chores tending to his herd of 25-35 cattle.  With his passing in February a decision had to be made as to the future of his herd. After discussing it with my brother, Willard of Pa Wildlife Photographer, and my wife I decided that I would continue the tradition with only minor downsizing of the herd to take place later this year.  The downsizing will be necessary to provide more land for increased wildlife food plots.  As for now the herd has been increasing with the spring calves still arriving periodically.   

 
As tranquil as the meadows seem one needs only to step to the edge to find some little predators just now beginning to explore their new world.  There is no doubt that they and their parents eliminate any chance for tranquility in the life of their prey living nearby. 

 
With each passing day the little foxes ventured farther and farther away from the den.
 

 
Checking out every nook and cranny
 


And engaging in playful roughhousing
 


 
This fox pup retreated to the one of the den entrances when I approached a little too close for comfort.  From the safety of the den the little fellow watched me intently and unmoving for better than five minutes before dropping below ground for good.
 
Since this series was photographed the fox pups have disappeared.  As they were regularly leaving the den for extended periods of time I don't know I am just missing seeing them or if they have moved to a new location.  This was my first time locating and being able to photograph an active fox den making it one of the high points of my spring.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Catching Up

 
I noticed last evening that it had been nearly two weeks since I last updated Country Captures.  This year has proven to be very busy for me but busy or not it is time to do some catching up here.
 
Across Pennsylvania hunters were up and out early in hopes of calling in a big tom this morning as today was the opening day of the 2014 spring gobbler season.


Most of the year wild turkeys are just big black birds but when they puff up into full strut with the sunlight lighting up their colors they are sight to behold.


 
And this big fellow really lit up when the early morning sunlight hit him.
 

 
With turkey hunters in the woods my attention turns elsewhere.  Today I began the day checking out some of my favorite crappie spots.


And later spent some time photographing some solitary sandpipers.  While checking on the cattle last evening I noticed that a number of solitary's were feeding in a wet area along side of the pasture.  With better light this evening I returned and was able to photograph three of them as they bathed. 



 
Checking in on the fox den I was delighted to find the pups outside.  When I closed in as close as the fence would allow three of the pups sat on top of the den watching me closely.

 
However they soon relaxed and went back to playing.

 
With the light all wrong and the distance a little on the long side it was impossible to get truly great shots but it was still a thrill to watch the little canines.



Monday, April 21, 2014

Foxey Tails

After spotting the fox den in one of our hay meadows last Sunday morning and photographing them from long range in the afternoon I had no more sightings of the family.  Willard was able to video them from long range on Monday but the foxes failed to appear the remainder of the week.  Foxes are reportedly quick to move their family if they feel threatened and I was beginning to believe that this was the case.
 
With that in mind, yesterday morning with the intention of using my truck for a blind, I parked about one hundred yards from the den just as the day began to break.  As the sky lightened the spring bird chorus filled the air, Canada geese and whitetail deer arrived in the meadow to feed, but no sign of activity around the fox den could be seen.
 
As the sun began to touch the treetops on a distant hillside I spotted what I though was a squirrel race from the edge of the woods into a grassy opening and back again into the woods.  A few minutes later it happened again.  Since this didn't seem consistent with squirrel movement and what I was seeing was some 300-350 yards distant I trained the binoculars on the area to get a better view.  Imagine my surprise when in a moment I spotted a little fox pup racing into the meadow to join other pups already there! 
 
 
At that distance photography was out of the question so I knew I must move closer.  Hoping that the truck would be less alarming than a human form I drove from the hay field into the pasture that adjoined the woods where their new den is located.  From about 125 yards I was able to photograph the pups with one of the adults.  At that distance neither adult seemed to care about my truck as long as I stayed inside. 
 

 
After photographing from that position for 15 minutes or so I decided to make one more move in hopes of getting even better photographs and this time moved the truck within about 50-60 yards of the den.  This was too close for the adults as they slowly moved away into the woodlands and all but two of the pups went into the den.

 
However only a few minutes elapsed until another pup reappeared.
 

 
And soon others began surfacing as the pups resumed their rough-house playing oblivious to my presence.

 
Watching these little foxes play reminded me of how much animal babies are alike for their play was very similar to that of domestic pups and kittens.


Sadly I had very little time to spend with the pups until other obligations called me away.  When I hit the truck starter the pups disappeared into their burrow moving with near lightening speed.

 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wildlife Welcomes Spring

 
On a recent frosty morning I was able to photograph a male Red-winged Blackbird as he perched on a grassy hummock singing lustily.  The males always are the first to arrive late each winter with the females arriving later.

 
Noticing a large mound of bare dirt that appeared in one of our meadows as the snow was beginning to melt I assumed that a woodchuck had reopened an existing burrow.  Although I often looked in the direction of the burrow I had not spotted any animals using it.

 
This all changed Sunday morning when I noticed a red fox disappear only to remerge a short time later followed by a fox pup.  While I had no luck photographing them at that time I returned in the afternoon to find the young foxes cavorting about the den when a adult lay nearby.

 
After shooting a few images at long range (over 200 yards) I tried to close the distance.  The adult quickly noticed my approach and began moving off followed by one of the pups.  After the adult stopped for a few seconds the pup turned back to the den and the entire group of pups disappeared underground.  Although I waited for over an hour they did not return leaving me with only the long distance photos.


At one of the cattle watering holes a killdeer stood stock-still hoping to go unnoticed. 


 
And a snapping turtle lays basking in the bright afternoon sunshine.


Vernal wetlands are teaming with life now and the singing of various frogs and toads fill the air with the beautiful song of spring.  The photo above is of a wood frog eggs mass while a wood frog itself is shown below.