Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Feeder Fotos

When I awoke Monday morning the snow was falling at a rapid pace.  I decided that spending the day at the feeders was a more appealing option than driving the slick roads across two mountains to get to the office.
The following photos are the best shots of the day.  All photos were with a Canon EOS 6D, Canon 600 f4L IS USM.
Dark-eyed Junco

White-throated Sparrow
 Northern Cardinal Female

 Northern Cardinal Male 
 White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January at 600mm

While I wouldn't usually consider the 600mm lens for a landscape photograph in this instance it came in handy.  One cold evening near sundown as dark clouds and rain squalls turned the countryside into a patchwork of shadows I spotted this unusual scene many miles in the distance.  With a lesser lens this distant spot would have been too small to have drawn ones attention.

The 600 finds itself right at home at the bird feeders, capturing small subjects at relativity close range.  This female cardinal was busy cracking sunflower seeds while keeping an eye on me and what I was doing.  A seed hull can be seen falling just to the right of her.

A Tufted Titmouse poses prettily in the fresh fallen snow.

And a White-breasted Nuthatch watches warily before hopping into the nearby feeder.
And keeping a close look-out from overhead, a Golden Eagle cruises past.
All of the photos in this post were shot with a Canon 6D and a Canon 600mm f4L IS USM lens.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mid-Winter: The Strutting Begins

Mid January, with over half of winter still ahead, the first indication of the wild turkey's spring mating season can be seen in the bachelor flocks of gobblers.

Gobblers spar throughout the year testing each others strength and determination.  At this time of year the sparring becomes more intense with the occasional fight breaking out.

The gobbler pictured to your left is using a technique I had never witnessed before.  Notice his left wing pressing upon his opponents back.  This bird held the submissive gobbler under his wing, circling continuously as the submissive gobbler tried to break away.  I have little doubt that this would have become an all out full contact fight if the submissive bird had resisted. 

While gobblers sparred, strutted, and occasionally gobbled this tom wandered a few yards from his companions and simulated mating.  When I first noticed his actions I was surprised to see a turkey mating at this time of year but a closer look revealed that he was alone. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014, The Last and a First

As 2014 drew to a close today I had the opportunity to photograph three wild turkey gobblers as they sparred with one another.

After photographing the turkeys I drove by a stream where I commonly spot mallards during the winter months.  I was surprised to see that a pair of pintail males and one female were feeding with the resident mallards.

This is the first time I have ever observed pintail ducks in Fulton County Pa!
Wishing you and yours a healthy, prosperous, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

As 2014 Comes to a Close

While 2014 was a year of considerable change for me personally, the appearance of the Meadow Grounds Dam remained for the most part unchanged.  The former lake sits empty awaiting funding for the design and repair of the dam and spillway.  This lake that once teamed with fish and was visited by many species of migrating waterfowl is now little more than a 200 acre grassland with a stream running through it. 

Early on a grassroots organization, Friends Of Meadow Grounds Lake, was formed by concerned locals to exert political pressure and raise awareness to restore the lake to its former state.  Our state politicians recommended that the group raise $100,000 to demonstrate the local community's commitment.  Fundraising began in earnest once the groups 501c3 tax exempt application was approved by the IRS in late August and on November 22nd the goal was surpassed!  With the local funding in place we are now looking to our state senator/s and representatives along with the our newly elected governor to approve the necessary funding to get this project moving.  With our state government facing a 1.9 billion budget shortfall it is questionable when money will be approved.   

Spotting a dandelion blooming in the pasture today reminded me of how in recent years having dandelions blooming around New Years Day is not uncommon.  I don't remember seeing these during the winter when I was a kid.  Is this a sign of climate change or was I not as observant back then?  I wish I knew!

With the passing of my father in February of this year I took on the added responsibilities of managing the cattle on our small family farm.  The above photo was taken in early April as two young calves raced across the pasture.

This photo taken today is of the calf bringing up the rear in the previous shot.  Four, as I call her for the number on her ear tag, is on her way to becoming a brood cow while the other calf went to market in early October.

Today I enjoyed spending some time with the camera at the bird feeders and the regular suspects were there to entertain. White Throated Sparrows will seldom get in the feeders but they are always ready to pick up what other birds spill on the ground. 

The Red-bellied Woodpeckers don't hesitate to grab whole kernel corn.  They fly to a nearby tree, wedge the kernel in the bark and break it apart with their sharp powerful bill.

And a White-breasted Nuthatch, cute as ever, poses momentarily before grabbing a sunflower seed and flying away.

I am looking forward to finding more time in the coming year to again pursue my photographic interest and to update this blog on a more regular basis.

Thanks for visiting,

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rut Photography Ends in a Bang

As daylight creeps across the Pennsylvania landscape the sound of gunshots will be heard in the more rural areas.  Firearms deer season will open with antlered deer being legal statewide and antlerless being legal in a few management areas.  While Monday morning will be the beginning of "deer season" for the firearms hunters it will signal the end of photographing the whitetail rut.

The whitetails two most important defensive tactics are stealth and speed with this racing buck illustrating the latter.
Thousands of hunters across the state will fill their tags tomorrow while many will return to home or camp with the story of the deer they missed.  Along with the successful kills and the misses will be a significant number of deer wounded and unrecovered.    
A casualty from and earlier year, this old buck actively participated in the 2014 rut even though his left front leg was missing.   For any hunters reading this please remember, Safety First!  Be sure of your target, make sure you have a safe backstop, and choose your shot carefully.  Remember once fired a bullet is a lethal missile that cannot be recalled.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Death in the Outdoors

The seemingly endless cycle of life goes on mostly unnoticed by today's modern humans.  We are so insulated from reality by our society and technology that most Americans no longer have any connection to the source of their food.  While backyard gardens are making a resurgence, the rearing and home butchering of meat animals is practiced by a comparative few.  I dare speculate that few people who sat down yesterday for a Thanksgiving dinner gave a second thought to the fact that a real live turkey with thoughts and feelings was killed to make their feast possible. 
However in the outdoors the animals must deal with the cycle of life on a first-hand individual basis as shown in the following photographs.   
While driving a back country road Thursday morning I first noticed a raven feeding on something in the fresh fallen snow.  As I began approaching, the story of the nights event was spelled out in tracks and blood stains.

A fawn, one which was either sickly or born late judging from its small size, had been pulled down by coyotes.  The snow told the story of where it was first pulled down, regained its feet and moved a few yards before being taken down the second and final time.  The remainder of the blood stains were where it was dragged as the coyotes fed on its small body.

I have heard a lot of people complain about coyotes killing deer and some will view the photos shown here and condemn the coyotes.  While coyotes do kill some deer I have rarely had the opportunity to view their kill sites.  Unlike human hunters which harvest the biggest and the best, coyotes kill the frail, the weak, the ill, and the very young.  I cannot help but think that the selection practiced by the coyotes and other predators is beneficial to the deer herd as a whole, unlike the selection practiced by humans.    

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Season's First Snow

Today the first snow of the season blanketed our area.  While areas to our north have been inundated with unusually heavy lake effect snow in the past weeks, Fulton County is located too far south to be significantly affected.
When I looked out the door this morning a little before daylight the first big wet flakes were splattering on the deck.  Throughout the morning the huge flakes continued to fall, clinging to everything they touched.  By late morning the electricity was flickering frequently and the power lines stretched under the weight of the soggy, sticky, snow and only spending a few minutes outdoors unprotected was sufficient to soak your clothes completely through.
 Though I was unsuccessful locating any rutting bucks, at least this doe posed nicely for her portrait.

The cows gathered at the hay feeder do not seem to mind the snow building up on their backs.

And a pair of snow covered leaves still clinging to a dogwood tree makes an interesting composition.

While winter is still nearly a month away, with the snow here it feels as if winter has already arrived! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Poke Weed: More Than a Perch

Dead poke weed is a favorite of mine for providing photogenic perches for winter bird photography however poke is also a good wildlife forage plant as well.
In casual conversation with my brother, he mentioned that a fellow photographer had noted that he had never seen anything eat poke.  I began to think of what I had observed and photographed in the past.  While I have observed a few different species of bird eating poke berries the below photos document both deer and a cardinal utilizing the plant.  While I have never seen a deer eating green poke leaves I have watched many times as they stripped a plant bare of its dead leaves during the winter months.
Here a doe eats poke berries that are beginning to shrivel after having been killed by an earlier frost.
A molting male cardinal sits on a poke branch, his bill stained by the plump ripe fruits.
 And a whitetail buck nibbles poke berries that have just ripened in the late summer.


So while poke does make great perches for bird photography, it is also a good natural food source as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Images from the Rut

With the whitetail rut in full swing I took off work this week.  Each morning and evening was spent watching for bucks and while I was not able to put any outstanding bucks in front of the camera there was enough activity to make the time enjoyable. 
I do miss those days of photographing the huge bucks of Shenandoah National Park but sadly those days are over and the deer herd is being "managed" by destroying what was possibly the very best place in the eastern US to photograph large bucks.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with what the National Park Service has done and plans on doing in the future make no difference, the incredible whitetail photograph at SNP is finished.  For a more in-depth look at the SNP situation click here.
Below are a few of the 2014 rut images I have gotten to date.  From chasing to threatening to posing with a freshly broken antler, the bucks of 2014 like there predecessors are busy ensuring the next generation of whitetail fawns.