Thursday, March 06, 2014
The tufted titmice that visit our feeders have become exceedingly trusting. One cold afternoon, wanting to try something different, I put the 24-105mm lens on a Canon 60D and placed a couple of sunflower seeds in the hot shoe on the other camera.
Since I hadn't refreshed the seed in the feeders the titmice wasted no time in beginning to feed from the top of the camera.
The ultimate though was feeding them from my left hand while holding the camera and shooting with my right.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
After experiencing mostly mild winters for the past two decades, this winter has seen sustained cold and snow. I captured the photos posted here before a brief warming spell melted much of the snow pack a week ago. Now with snow and 0 deg. temps in the forecast for tomorrow there is no doubt that we must wait a while yet until winter loosens its grasp.
Canon EOS 6D, EF 24-105mm f/4L USM @28mm f/5.6,1/800/ISO-160
Canon EOS 6D, EF 600mm f/4 IS USM F/5.6, 1/100 ISO-320
Canon EOS 6D, EF 600mm f/4 IS USM F/5.6, 1/400 ISO-800
Canon EOS 6D, EF 600mm f/4 IS USM F/5.6, 1/2500 ISO-320
Canon EOS 6D, EF 600mm f/4 IS USM F/5.6, 1/125 ISO-320
Canon EOS 6D, EF 600mm f/4 IS USM F/5.6, 1/160 ISO-320
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
An empty hole in the ground is all that remains where the beautiful Meadow Grounds Lake once lay.
Pa State Senator Eichelberger and Representative Topper attended last night's Friends of the Meadow Grounds Lake monthly board meeting to deliver an update on the repair and refilling of the lake.
Senator Eichelberger pointed out that the geotechnical study of the dam is completed and awaiting review by PFBC officials before being made available to the public. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, the PFBC had committed to funding the $400,000 design phase of the project.
Senator Eichelberger advised us that the recently passed transportation bill provides for a steady stream of revenue to be used to repair high-hazard dams across the state. He also noted that government funding for the repair of the dam will likely come from a number of sources. Along with government funding the community is expected to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 of a local match.
The direction of the FOMGLis now changing from raising awareness and political contact to fundraising as we move into the design and funding phase of the project.
|Meadow Grounds Lake; the way it was and will be again!|
As we move into the design/fundraising phase, I am excited to think about being able to document the repair and refilling of the lake soon to come!
Saturday, February 15, 2014
While the awesome snowy owl irruption of 2013-2014 has faded from the news, the sightings continue.
I have been able to locate at least one owl most times I have tried to find them near Mercersburg but usually they are too far from the road for good photography.
When I first spotted this snowy before sunrise one recent morning it was sitting in a field some two hundred yards or more from the road. After watching it for a few minutes it took flight, landing on top of a barn vent. While it was not the most "natural" appearing perch at least it was very near the road allowing me to approach closely and shoot out of the car window.
I watched and photographed this owl over about an hours time. During this time the owl kept a sharp lookout over the surrounding countryside, casting its eyes upwards and swiveling its head following passing birds. While watching the owl swivel its head, I was most struck by the fantastic range of motion. A quick visit to Wikipedia revealed that they have an approximate 270 degrees of motion!
From what I have read we can expect the snowies to begin returning to their tundra home later this month or sometime early next. As for myself I am thankful that these amazing birds of the northland chose to venture south making this a very special winter indeed!
Sunday, February 09, 2014
A gobbler stands on one leg while resting and warming the other
Mid-winter; a time of freezing temperatures, snow and ice makes survival in the wild a daily challenge for wildlife. Without the cover of leafy foliage to hide behind and with the ground covered by white snow, many species of wildlife are more easily spotted now than at any other time of the year.
Adult Wild Turkey
During this past week we experienced two winter storms, first a wet snow on Monday followed by a snow and ice storm Wednesday. Following Wednesday's snow and rain the temps dropped, turning the heavy wet snow that blanketed the ground into ice. Neither deer nor turkeys are able to break through the resulting crust and cannot reach the food below.
A yearling buck stands with his coat fluffed to ward off the cold morning chill.
During weather like this deer spend a considerable time each day browsing.
And nibbling at dried grasses that remain uncovered.
Winter also presents its own set of challenges for the photographer. Aside from how to keep warm enough to spend time outdoors and what we must do to keep our photographic equipment functioning, snow presents a challenge of its own when it comes to properly exposing a photo. As anyone who has spent any time on Facebook can attest, most of the snow photo posted are exposed much too dark. With the exception of some snow-scene photos taken in bright sunlight, the camera's built-in light meter will under-expose any photo shot on auto.
Manual exposure, exposing strictly for the subject, or exposure comp can be used to nail down a good photo. Since I usually shoot in aperture preferred I use the exposure comp wheel and watch the histogram to assure that my exposure is within the proper range. I used exposure compensation of +.3 to +1 stop to nail down the exposure for photos in this post.
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
During the bleak days of winter I often daydream of traveling south to shoot the splendid birdlife of Florida. At other times my mind drifts to Maryland's eastern shore and relives a winter daybreak in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. While photo trips to more distant places are fun and often quite productive, many a winter day can be brightened by spending time focused on the visitors to a backyard feeder.
The following photos were shot at our naturalized feeders using a Canon 6D, EF600mm f\4 L IS.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Each season presents wildlife with its own set of challenges; during the short cold days of winter finding adequate food and shelter is challenge enough. The predominately oak forest in my region usually produce an acorn crop that many species including wild turkey depend upon for winter forage. With the 2013 acorn crop a bust, this flock of turkeys has located a field where a local dairy farmer has spread manure. While cow manure does not sound appetizing to us, the bits of undigested grain it contains brings these big birds back for a daily life sustaining meal.
While deer have no choice but to stay out in the cold, they do have ways of coping with the chilly temperatures. During cold windy weather deer will seek out thermal cover, vegetation that breaks the wind. On cold sunny days they will often be found on southern exposures where the warming rays of the winter sun makes the day much more tolerable. In addition to utilizing protection from the terrain, deer also have the ability to make their insulating coats thicker or thinner. This deer, photographed on a morning when the thermometer read about 10 degrees, has its coat fluffed for maximum warmth.
Humans can play a considerable role in the winter survival of some species. Many songbirds depend upon backyard feeders to supplement their diet with high calorie foods such as sunflower seeds and suet.
In a sometimes undesired way, backyard bird feeders also provide a ready food source to predator species. This coopers hawk, with breast feathers fluffed to ward of the chill, watches intently for its chance at an unwary bird.
In the ongoing cycle of life, the stress of winter removes the old, the weak, the infirm, and the unwary. In death they in turn become food for the predator and scavenger species continuing the unending cycle of life and the continuous evolution through survival of the fittest.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Around a month ago, I began to notice snowy owl photos taken in Presque Isle State Park and posted by some of my Facebook friends. Reports of Snowy sightings kept filtering in until it was clear that a major Snowy Owl irruption was underway.
My niece, Amy, a devoted birder e-mailed me about a late December sighting in neighboring Franklin County and then later about a report of a bird sighted in the Clear Ridge area of Fulton County. Following up on the Clear Ridge tip, I spent a Sunday morning unsuccessfully trying to locate the bird. When she e-mailed again Wednesday that Snowies were being sighted again in Franklin County near Mercersburg I drove through the area on my way home from work and spotted one bird a long distance from the road. Returning the next evening I located two owls. The photos above are of the second bird.
This morning Willard and I were in the area at daybreak and spotted our first owl well before sunrise. With the temperature in the low twenties and the wind howling we set up the tripods and tried to shoot sharp images even though it was impossible to steady the cameras.
This owl was quite active, taking flight and relocating several times.
From what I have gleaned from the reports on the 2013-2014 irruption, it is pretty much an eastern phenomena with at least one owl reported as far south as northern Florida. Some are reporting that this is the largest irruption in fifty years while others describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
As for me, Wednesday evening was the very first I had ever observed a snowy owl followed by my first photographs on Thursday making the impressive white owl my first lifer for the year!
Later in the morning after the first owl had moved out of range we spotted another snowy a mile or so away from the first.
This owl relocated a number of times with this photo being of one of its landings.
While reading about this unusual owl irruption on the web I ran across an ongoing snowy owl migration study called Project SNOWstorm, a study involving GPS tracking. Currently three owls have been fitted with transmitters and are mapping their travels.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
With the local whitetail activity at a low point and the ground remaining free snow for the most part, I have been spending my free time catching up on things around home. In the midst of all my catching up I realized that I had not posted to Country Captures in nearly a week! Sometimes a fellow just can't win!
Since I have not been shooting much new material lately it is time to step back, and this time step back to one foggy late September morning on Winslow Hill and revisit the mature bull elk, Limpy, as he pursues a cow waiting for that moment that she will accept his advances.
Saturday, January 04, 2014
Feeders will draw birds for easier viewing all year long but when snow blankets the ground birds will descend on established feeders in droves. Provide a variety of natural or natural appearing perches nearby that takes advantage of the natural light and you will have a perfect winter bird studio.
The song sparrow and the white-throated sparrow in the above photographs both posed for me today on a multi-flora rose bush overgrown by an unidentified vine.
A tree standing beside the feeder provides a multitude of branch perches such as the one used by the above chickadee.
Female Northern Cardinal
This female cardinal perched on a broken poke stalk during a snow storm. I am particularly fond of poke weed growing near my bird feeding areas as it not only provides a good variety of photogenic perches but feeds the birds as well.