The past week has been a whirlwind of activity for our family. Tuesday December 23rd my wife & I departed our warm little Pa home at 2:45 am with the thermometer registering a cool 14 deg F. With breakfast in Rocky Mount North Carolina, a few comfort & fuel stops along the way we arrived in Kissimmee Florida by 7:30 pm.
Although we took time out to celebrate Christmas with family, our attention was directed upon December 28th, the day chosen by our son Chad & Sandy to join their lives in Holy Matrimony.
After months of planning and preparation, at 4:33pm, the pastor finally gave Chad permission to kiss his New Bride!
While I was busy this autumn photographing the larger creatures such as elk, whitetails, and turkeys I still found time to captures some of the smaller birds when the opportunity presented.
White-throated Sparrows spend much of their time hopping around in the thick underbrush. A slight disturbance will cause them to fly to a nearby vantage point to check for danger. This defensive mechanism of the White-throated Sparrow came in quite handy when attempting to get one to pose for its portrait.
Partially screened by branches, the fighting gobblers demonstrate their fine style of combat.
I had previously observed brief scuffles between gobblers but never had I been treated to a show such as this. The fighting between these two gobblers continued for eight minutes. If it had not been for stopping the action with photographs I would not have been aware of what an important part the legs played as impact weapons.
Occasionally while watching wildlife one is treated to a Special Event. This photograph was taken during one of those events.
The event began with one wild turkey gobbler arriving to feed in the field. As the sun lowered in the western sky turkey talk could be heard coming from inside the woods. In a few minutes some turkeys arrived at the woods edge. The lead gobbler in this flock spied the lone gobbler feeding and immediately began a fast aggressive approach followed by the remainder of his flock.
As he closed the distance both he and the feeding gobbler displayed aggressive body language and I knew that a gobbler fight was imminent. Soon the gobblers were engaged in combat, jumping into the air attempting to kick their opponent with their powerful legs.
Much of this fight took place behind a screen of branches from the tree to their right. The gobblers were a considerable distance away and this shot with my 100-400mm lens is cropped considerably.
As dusk fell across the countryside this evening another Pa deer season closed. Slowly life will return to normal for the deer as the winter chill deepens.
Many have voiced their sentiments in comments here both pro and anti hunting. I do respect everyone’s opinion and am glad that you all feel free to share. I grew up hunting and continue to hunt although my weapon of choice today is usually a camera but not always. Hunting is a very useful tool for the modern wildlife manager to control certain wildlife populations. Hunting also generates considerable economic activity. Fees and taxes paid by hunters provide the majority of the money spent on wildlife conservation in this country.
My attitude towards many hunters or so called sportsmen has been tainted by the actions of many that I have had contact with over the years. Too many hunters disrespect the wishes of those controlling property and could not care less about infringing upon landowners rights. Frequently this type of hunter also cares very little about wildlife or the regulations that govern the taking of it.
I shot this photograph today. The hunters who were cruising a back road with the window down (temperature was below freezing) had just observed me with the camera. There is little doubt the only reason the window was down was so a rifle could be thrust out quickly if deer were sighted. This is just some of the actions that give hunting and hunters a bad name.
Shenandoah National Park provided me with many memorable moments this fall as well as images. I visited SNP a total of three mornings, arriving before dawn and leaving by noon after the morning whitetail activity subsided.
This buck treated me and others to a great photo-op in the meadow in front of the Byrd Visitor Center. At the moment I captured this image the buck was actively chasing after a doe. As he ran towards me across the meadow I was hoping he would make the turn pictured here and allow the sun to light him fully. As he ran up the grade, as if on cue, the buck made a 90 deg turn allowing the sun to shine fully upon him.
In an intense shooting situation such as this I try to do everything right behind the camera. It is only later when reviewing the images magnified on the computer monitor that I find just how successful the event was.
Regardless of the quality of any particular image, the display this magnificent animal treated me to was a Memorable SNP Moment.
Realizing that these Raccoons were presenting me with a unique photo-op, I photographed them a number of times throughout the day.
I was less than satisfied with the background of sky and twigs in this photo series. Positioned as they were it was impossible for me to put them against a different background. To make the best of a difficult situation I decided to use Photoshop to create a dark background fading to the properly exposed subject. I hope you like the effect.
Some have noted what a pest raccoons can be and it is true but I have not had any problem with them as I do not have anything outdoors for them to cause problems with. Also the rabies problem was mentioned. We do have some rabies in our area and it would be unwise to handle a sick acting animal. This pair of raccoons appeared fat and healthy.
As the day dragged on the temperature began to fall. The young Raccoons cuddled together perhaps in an attempt to stay warm.
I don’t know why the Raccoons decided to spend the day in my small maple tree instead of in a snug den somewhere. I continued to check throughout the evening with my last check at 10PM. At that time one raccoon had descended until it was only about four feet above the ground while the other raccoon was still perched near the top where they had spent the day. I checked again at 5AM and they were gone.
My wife had quite a surprise while walking to our mail box this morning. In a small maple tree, near our dog’s house, a pair of young raccoons were perched on a limb. Our geriatric old beagle, Sparky, was asleep in his house oblivious to his visitors overhead.
I checked a few minutes ago and they are still there although it has been dark for over three hours. I expect they will leave during the night and I hope them well. Thanks to their daytime visit I have some “Masked Bandit” shots to share with you.
I captured this image one chilly November morning in SNP at the Spitler Knoll overlook. The sky was completely cloud covered at daybreak but as the morning wore on it began to clear from west to east. As the scattered rays of sunlight broke through they painted the mountains and valleys with beautiful patterns of sun and shadow.
As with all transient light the beautiful light show ended nearly as quickly as it had begun as the last of the storm clouds rolled away allowing the sun to evenly light the area.
Yesterday I posted a shot from my first photo encounter with a Bobcat. Today I share my first of an Eastern Bluebird.
Bluebirds are fairly common in my area but I have never specifically attempted to photograph them. While sitting in the woods in my portable blind, a pair of bluebirds alighted and began eating dogwood berries. I hope to capture better bluebird shots in the future but for now I’m glad to have added another species to my archives.
Driving north on Skyline Drive I happened to look in the rear-view mirror as we were descending the grade just north of the Big Meadows. I was astonished to see this bobcat getting up from the road ditch where it apparently had crouched as we drove by.
It stepped out into the road and began walking away as I brought the car to a stop. Willard and I both tried our best to get our cameras into action as the cat walked across the road and hopped over the stone wall. It was only later that I realized that the cat had crossed the road at a designated crosswalk!