Friday, November 30, 2007

Raucous Blue Jay

I have always admired the beauty of the colorful Blue Jay. As a young hunter I was frequently disturbed when a flock of Jays discovered me and sounded the alarm with their incessant calling. As my outdoor experience grew I soon realized that most woodland creatures ignore the Jays. Perhaps they have learned the Jay is much like the character in Aesop’s Fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

I recently learned an interesting fact about the Jay. The striking blue coloration of their feathers is not the result of pigmentation but is rather the result of light refraction caused by the internal structure of the feather. Wikipedia explains that if one crushes a blue feather the color fades as the feather structure is destroyed.

I have tried repeatedly over the last few days to obtain a good photograph of a Blue Jay. Low light, harsh sunlight, shadows, motion blur, missed focus, poor backgrounds etc. have been the common obstacles. I cannot say I am completely satisfied with this shot but suffice it to say it is the best I have obtained to date.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Falling Leaves

This evening’s blustery wind was busily ripping the few remaining leaves from the trees

After noticing the leaves sailing through the air it became a challenge to capture one as it sailed by on its one way trip to the ground. This endeavor proved to be no easy task and the beautiful evening passed by all too quickly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Leaf to Leave

With winter just around the corner, this single Maple Leaf tenaciously hangs on

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who visit Country Captures and in particular those who take time to post a comment. With a slow dial-up connection and my limited time I must apologize for not being able to get back to each of you frequently. I am pleased that many of you enjoy what you find here and I promise to keep fresh rural/wildlife photographs coming.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Running Buck

With deer season in full swing, this buck needs all of the speed he can muster.

I captured this image last week. I wonder if his speed and whit have been sufficient to keep his hide intact.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Poachers Moon

As the beautiful full moon rose on Friday evening my mind wandered back to the days when Willard and I were Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers.

November was the month of the Deer Poacher.

Sporadic reports of night shooting would begin filtering in during August and increase with each passing week. As late November approached the calls of illegal hunting activity were coming in almost daily. The nature of the call would vary from that of late night gunshots being heard, to finding deer with only heads removed, to incidents where the landowners encountered or chased the offenders.

As Deputy Officers we worked whenever we could find time between our full time careers and family obligations. November was the month of little sleep. Weekends were spent doing long nights of patrol, often barely making it to bed before the dawn.

Watching this moon rise reminded me of those times. It reminded me of those beautiful cold clear nights standing outside our vehicles watching and listening for the poachers. By the light of the moon the dark shapes of deer would frequently pass by. The bark of a fox was always a pleasure to hear. The howls of the coyotes would sometimes filter past on the breeze. Along with the quiet sounds of nature were other sounds, squealing tires, roaring engines, blaring two-way radios and wailing sirens.

Night Patrol was my favorite part of the job. Catching the criminals, who think that it is great fun to drive the country roads late at night shining a light into animal’s eyes and then gunning them down, that was what made the job worthwhile.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Flying South

With the mercury hovering around 20 deg F this morning the inclination to follow the geese is strong. Unlike the geese I must stay here to face yet another winter.

Where did we humans go wrong? We proudly say we live in freedom but we must only look to the birds to see an example of true freedom.

Consider the life of a Wild Goose; energy, home building, food prices, insurance, taxes, education, child care, and health care are of no concern. The goose is not bound by any laws. He goes where he pleases, gathers food where ever he finds it, and rest wherever he pleases. He has no concern for water bills or sewer; why only yesterday as I jumped into my truck I noticed where a high flying goose had “bombed” my bed mounted toolbox making a total mess of it and the rear window.

Looking up at a flock of high flying geese I see freedom, true freedom; a freedom that for we humans is utterly unattainable.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Autumn Bulrushes

The soft browns of the bulrushes against the small lake in the background caught my attention. This shot was taken moments before the sun set.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

This morning while photographing with Willard we encountered a flock of Eastern Wild Turkey Gobblers, just in time for Thanksgiving!

As the Pennsylvania turkey hunting season is past; Thanksgiving should present no problem for this beautiful Gobbler.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Frosted Pine Needles

Temperatures were hovering just below the freezing point and a heavy fog enveloped Sidling Hill Mountain on Monday. As I reached the summit I was pleased to see the woodland turned into a winter wonderland by the exceedingly heavy frost.

If it were not for photography I probably would not have stopped and noticed the unique pattern the frost had formed. Photography has taught me to “see” as I have never seen before and to notice that which I once would have never given a second glance. In doing so I have found beauty that most will never see.

I expect that those of you who visit my blog feel exactly the same and we all are richer for the experience.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Inquisitive Fox Squirrel, another pose

This is another pose of the Fox Squirrel I posted a few days ago

While I was growing up in the ‘60’s fox squirrels were something I heard a few folks talk about but was something I had never seen. We had Eastern Gray Squirrels, some years there wasn’t many but most years they were quite plentiful.

Squirrel hunting was very popular and opening day of squirrel season would find the woods echoing with the sharp crack of .22s and the loud booms of shotguns. Most local folks hunted squirrels and many hours were whiled away arguing about what was the best squirrel gun. Among the shotgunners most preferred the full choke 12gauge but the 16’s 20’s and even the little .410’s had their proponents.

It wasn’t until the early to mid 1980’s until I encountered my first Fox Squirrel. By then the composition of our forest was changing as the first onslaught of the gypsy moth was underway.

Nowadays as one wanders our local woodlands they are as likely to encounter a fox squirrel as they are a gray. No longer are squirrels eagerly sought after as most hunters are pursuing deer with archery equipment. The woods have grown mostly silent and the squirrels have one less predator to be concerned about.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Northern Harrier, Perched

This shot as well as the photograph in the preceding post were both shot from the car window. With a little care; road hunting wildlife can provide photographs that otherwise are exceeding difficult to obtain. Most wildlife is accustomed to vehicles and may only flee when a person emerges from it.

First and foremost if one wishes to attempt this type of photography safety must be the first consideration with consideration of other drivers the next highest priority.

It is always best to turn off the ignition before shooting as engine vibrations will frequently blur the image. Another concern when shooting in cold weather is image distortion from heat waves escaping from the window. It is best to keep the automobile interior somewhat on the cold side and try to ensure the end of the lens is well outside of the window when shooting.

Wildlife’s vulnerability to hunters in vehicles has resulted in many states passing regulations prohibiting people from killing wildlife in this way and imposing heavy penalties for doing so. Fines not withstanding, many “sportsmen” in our area regularly engage in this illegal and unethical activity during our Pennsylvania deer season.

Fortunately there are no such restrictions on photographers that I am aware of.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Northern Harrier in Flight

As we pulled onto Skyline Drive from the Big Meadows Visitors Center I noticed a large hawk swoop low and drop out of sight over the edge of the meadow. Pulling the car onto the far berm we saw that it was now perched on a snag looking intently for prey.

Fearing the hawk would fly if we tried to exit the car we both began shooting through the open side window. After a few minutes the hawk flew on, soaring low across the meadow through the falling snow while I shot feverishly. Neither of us was aware of its identity so upon returning home I consulted a bird guide and learned that this was a female Northern Harrier also known as the Marsh Hawk.

A note about my new header:
I shot this skylined buck during the snow along Skyline Drive. Willard mentioned that it would look great if the exposure of the buck were to be darkened to create a silhouette and the gray sky replaced with a sunset. So here you have it, a Virginia whitetail skylined against a Pennsylvania sunset. It makes me wonder how we ever survived before Photoshop :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

In the Rut

This magnificent Ten Point was the star of the show during our Shenandoah visit.

We found him guarding his doe near the Big Meadows Visitor Center. Another lesser buck was staying nearby but afraid to approach too near with this big guy keeping a constant vigil. As we photographed this buck the lesser buck dared to close the distance somewhat a few times and each time he was greeted by alert glances along with displays of dominance from this larger buck.

We stayed with this buck for well over an hour shooting whenever the opportunity presented.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hiding in the Blind

As I mentioned in an earlier post I spent a great deal of time last week photographing woodland wildlife. This shot is of the blind I was using to mask my movements from the wildlife. It works rather well although on occasion I had deer spook when they noticed the little hut that wasn’t there yesterday.

I made this self portrait by holding the Canon S2 IS out the side window. The flip LCD allowed me to frame the shot to my liking.

Here the entire rig minus the tripod sits ready to move to a new spot. The blind (hide to my English friends) rolls compactly into the round camouflage bag, a folding camp chair and camera bag complete the setup. The blind, sold by Ameristep, is appropriately (or humorously) named The Outhouse.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nature's Snowcone

A spent Queen Ann’s Lace flower and a little snow
Created a Natural Snowcone

A perfect Country Capture

Monday, November 12, 2007

An Unusual Encounter

Upon arriving at Big Meadows daylight was just beginning to lighten the leaden sky. We parked at a pull-off a little south of the visitor’s center to await better photographic light. After sitting there for a few minutes I noticed a large owl swoop into a tree and perch out of sight. As the morning slowly brightened the owl moved numerous times until it came to rest on a snag nearby.

We began shooting although the light level was extremely low. I was shooting the Canon 100-400 F5.6 lens and even with the ISO set to 1600 I could only achieve a 1/15th shutterspeed. Soon the owl moved again and I followed unsure if the photographs I had taken were sufficiently sharp.

The Barred Owl allowed me to follow it around with camera and tripod as long as I maintained a distance of 15 – 20 yards. At one point it even launched a successful attack capturing some small prey animal along the roadside and eating it in only a few bites.

This game continued until the day brightened sufficiently for me to attain the 1/60th shutter speed at ISO 500 used to capture this image. I felt certain by this time that I had captured images of acceptable sharpness and left the Owl to continue its hunt in peace.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Let us pause today to remember our Veterans both past and present

Just as this tank appears to be doing, our military is standing ready. Ready to protect our great nation from harm and ready to extract a terrible price for acts of aggression against us

This image is of a Viet Nam era M60 Tank
now displayed as an American Legion Monument

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ready to Rumble

This Shenandoah buck began to show signs of aggressiveness as I approached to a position from which I could shoot. My concerns that I had encroached upon his space evaporated when I seen the cause of his hostility was another buck approaching.

Although bucks will posture frequently very seldom does their behavior result in them coming to battle. Usually dominance is settled through aggressive behavior frequently accompanied by thrashing small trees with their antlers.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sky High on Skyline Drive

Today Willard and I traveled to Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park.

Leaving home at 3:00am we were greeted by light rain just south of Winchester Va. followed by light snow as we ascended the mountain on RT 231. Fortunately with the temperature near the freezing point there was no significant accumulation on the roadway. As we traveled through the darkness our anticipation for the morning shoot grew stronger as the weather was proving perfect for spurring whitetail rutting activity into high gear.

Not only did we capture some outstanding images of Whitetail bucks but a female Northern Harrier and a Barred Owl made their appearance to make this a truly memorable morning. Another treat that I am unable to share with you was listening to the Coyotes howling while photographing the Owl at daybreak.

Check back daily for more images from this trip and from my “Week in Penn’s Woods”

Ps. Chad, this shot’s for you!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chilly Cardinal

Our weather turned blustery on Tuesday with a strong cold front moving in. Wednesday again was cool and blustery, finally triggering rutting activity in the Whitetail herd.

While watching a field for bucks last evening I noticed this male cardinal watching from the bushes. He sat there all fluffed up insulating himself from the cold.

The Cardinal reminded me of myself all bundled up trying to remain comfortable in temperatures to which we have not yet grown accustomed to.
Canon 30D 100-400 1;4.5-5.6L

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Real Woody Woodpecker

This Pileated Woodpecker was the highlight of my day Tuesday.

He delighted me by drilling a dead locust tree near my blind. The two major obstacles to photographing him were the speed that he pecked and that he seemed to always be in the shadows. As you all know, when photographing wildlife one cannot ask the subject to move or to hold position while we obtain a better position.

I shot well over one hundred images and while many show bits of wood flying in all directions, motion blurr detracts from the overall image quality.

Note, to differentiate between the males and females look for the line that connects the beak and the throat; on males it is red while on females it is black.

Captured with a Canon 30D EF 100-400 1:4.5-5.6L

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


This Fox Squirrel became curios as I watched him from a portable blind yesterday. He had been busy gathering nuts until he spied me.

He approached with quick jerky movements for a better look. I captured this shot on his first trip in. A short time later he came in again but unfortunately was too close for the 100-400 to focus. I guess he seen all he wanted on the second trip as he scurried off and didn’t return.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fishing, Natures Way

I was excited to have shared this moment last year with Chad. We photographed this Great Blue Heron stalking the shallows for quite some time.

Suddenly with a quick stab of its beak it speared a crappie making for this unique capture. I quickly shot this frame and then seen the sickening notice in the viewfinder that my memory card was full. While I changed cards the bird deftly flipped the fish into the air catching it head first and swallowing it whole.

This photograph is currently published in the Pennsylvania Game Commission Calendar. The wildlife photographs featured in it are all taken by agency employees or retirees. To visit the Pa Game Commissions Outdoor shop Click Here.

Captured with a Canon Power-Shot S2 IS

Sunday, November 04, 2007


A dilapidated old Road House along the Lincoln Highway provided me with this image.

Vacation at last

Thanks for joining me for the count down!

Friday, November 02, 2007


While capturing autumn foliage shots I chanced upon this shadow

Yellow Jackets are far from the top of my most favorite creatures list. I have been known to spray entire nest of them when they decide to build somewhere not to my liking.

On this day, with the Yellow Jacket posing no threat, I was pleased to catch her shadow before she hurried along her way.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Two & Counting

Sunrise and Sunset, the most beautiful times of the day. With my work schedule of late I have not had the opportunity to greet the dawn. Last evening while suffering from shutter withdraw I grabbed my camera and hurried to the top of the hill just in time for this shot.

I suppose you all can tell that I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming break. Although my job has been stressful for the last few months I fully realize that job stress is not nearly as bad as the stress one goes through when our doctors deliver bad news to ourselves or a loved one.

I ask you all to keep our friend Faye in mind through her stressful time. Faye has been a great inspiration to me. Faye posts the most stunningly beautiful photographs of Oregon and frequently takes what must be a great deal of her valuable time to drop kind notes of encouragement on her cyber-friends blogs. Let us all keep her in our thoughts and prayers as she goes through this trying time. Please take the time to drop by and offer her a kind word of encouragement as she has done for so many others.

To visit Faye Click Here