Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Killdeer

The striking markings of the Killdeer allow it to virtually disappear anywhere there is contrasting light and shadow.

I encountered this bird while checking on our cattle last evening. These little speedsters are spending much of their time around the spring seeps in the cow pastures where earthworms are easily found at this time of year.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ice Patterns

Cold spring nights sometime result in delicate ice patterns that soon disappear in the morning sun. While pursuing waterfowl with the boat on a recent morning I discovered these feathery ice patterns on the shallow water of a small cove.

While I do not comprehend the how’s and why’s of the formations of these interesting patterns produced as the liquid becomes solid I certainly do appreciate the fleeting intricate beauty that nature sends our way.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Return of the Loons

The light seeped slowly through the morning fog as I prepared to once again launch my little boat. I was a little disappointed with this morning's dreary weather and more disappointed when I arrived at the lake to find that a bass fishing tournament was in progress. The prospects of a morning of waterfowl photography could not have been much worse. As I was stowing my gear onboard through the fog came the distinctive beautiful call of a Loon. Once again the Loons have returned!

It was not until nearly noon that I encountered the loons and with all of the other boats present the loons were considerably disturbed and would not allow me to approach to within range.

For a closer look at a Common Loon I referred back to my 2008 archives and found this previously unposted image taken in late April. The Loons usually arrive here around the end of March and are gone by early May.

For more Camera Critters visit our friend Misty at her Camera Critters Blog

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SkyWatch: The Sunset of Winter

March; a month of change, winter’s icy grip loosens as the month passes ushering in the beginning of spring. As the sun sets on another winter the new life of another season is awaiting the warming rays of a new day to burst forth in splendor.

For more great skies from around the world visit Sky Watch and join in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Waterfowl in the Morning Mist

Continuing with the photographs I captured during my Saturday morning boating foray, this first scene greeted me as I was approaching the north end of the lake. (Click on the image for better detail) With the air temperature at 23F and calm and the water much warmer at 39F the conditions were ideal for fog formation over the water.

The morning sun warmed the air and the fog was beginning to dissipate when this lone Canada goose flew past between me and the shoreline. The remnants of fog remaining above the lake imparted the light blue color cast to the central part of this image.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reflection: Canada Goose

Our resident Canada Geese are establishing their nesting sites and this goose was reluctant to leave the point of land jutting into the lake. As I slowly moved the boat along the shoreline the goose swam parallel to the boat allowing this close-up photograph. Later in the morning I observed this goose and its mate picking grass on the earthen dam breastwall.

The sharp reflection captured here is what made this particular image stand out above the other images captured during this close-up encounter.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wood Duck Explosion

Whereas some ducks must patter during take-off the brilliant little Wood Ducks can seemingly leap straight into the air.

Last year, despite my numerous attempts, I was only able to photograph Wood Ducks on the lake on one occasion. This past Saturday morning provided numerous encounters around the lakeshore throughout the morning.

While slowly motoring along the shoreline this drake and his lady allowed me to approach within camera range and shoot quite a bit before tiring of my company. As they became nervous I focused on the drake intent on capturing him as he exploded into flight.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Butterfly of the Spring

This afternoon marked my first butterfly sighting of the season.

While visiting with Willard and Andy at Willard’s wildlife observation area a butterfly began flitting about. With wings folded it appeared much like a dead leaf and camouflaged quite well with the bare ground on which it repeatedly landed. Today is the warmest that it has been for some days. This morning was a balmy 27F warming to the upper 50’s by late afternoon.

A little later the butterfly attempted to gain Willard’s attention by landing on his 500mm lens with its wings open wide displaying its splendid colors.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wood Ducks

I again took to the water in search of waterfowl photos this cold frosty spring morning. As I prepared for the morning foray I noticed that the thermometer had sank to a chilly 23F and the truck and boat were covered in frost.

Launching the boat as the first rays of morning sun touched the mountain top beyond the lake I could hear Canada geese honking in the distance and the whistling of wood ducks as they flew through the mist rising from the lake.

This morning was an outstanding morning for waterfowl photography. Following is a list of species that I was able to identify, Wood duck, Scaup, Ring-necked, Red-head, Mallard, Bufflehead, Horned Grebe, along with a grebe and a duck that I have been unable to identify.

As I rounded a bend in the lake’s shoreline I spotted this pretty pair of Woodies preening. As the distance closed they became nervous with the hen taking to the air just seconds before her mate.

For more Critters of all kinds visit our friend Misty and her Camera Critters Blog

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fly Away

The company I work at has been going through heavy job cuts and reorganization as a result of the economic situation we currently find ourselves in. Those of us remaining have had to pick up the pieces and try to continue operations with about a 40% reduction in the workforce and probably more to come. To say work has been hectic would be an understatement.

One of my good friends who has been with the company for many years took the opportunity to fly away into retirement today. I imagine that shedding the heavy responsibility of his position makes him feel as free as these mallards winging on their way to their summer home.

The best to you Don, may your years be long and your cares be few.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SkyWatch: Misty Morning

Misty morning skies greeted me on my first boating foray of the year

For gorgeous skies from around the world visit Sky Watch

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Visiting the Creek: Canada Geese

With daylight savings time and the lengthening days I am finally able to work in some evening outdoor time before the sun sinks below the horizon. This afternoon the sun broke through the clouds that have been obscuring the sky for days and the thermometer climbed to 50F. I decided after dinner to check the local creek for geese and whatever else that may tickle my photographic fancy.

As my wife climbed into the truck I checked the focus distance setting on the 100-400 lens, set the ISO to 400 and the F-stop to 6.3 and thought I was ready to go. Arriving at a creek crossing we hopped out to walk and I put the camera to my eye pressing the shutter button halfway…….and nothing! The camera did not focus or set the shutter speed, instead in the bottom of the viewfinder was a flashing no cf. I had not replaced the CF card after my last download. Having only taken the camera and leaving the camera bag (full of CF cards) at home there was no option but to return home. With the trip only being one mile it was no big deal. So much for being the one preaching “always be prepared”!

After securing a card I headed to another crossing and here my luck improved. A pair of geese feeding a short distance down the creek allowed me to approach quite closely while keeping their heads held low in an attempt to remain unnoticed.

Once I began approaching directly they raised their heads watching me intently until I was forced to look down while taking my next step. The geese seized the moment when I broke eye contact to depart.

As the geese took to the air I was able to get off three shots, posted here are the first and second images. By the third shot I was off-focus but what the heck two out of three ain’t bad :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Up Up and Away: Wild Turkey

A flock of Wild Turkey Gobblers were feeding in a field where a local farmer had recently spread cow manure when I surprised them while driving by. The gobblers ran out of sight over a small rise in the terrain.

Hoping to make the most of the encounter, I parked the truck and circled on foot to crest the rise to the side of where they had spotted me. The maneuver however did not fool the gobblers as they spotted me as I crested the ridge and took to the air on powerful wings.

Considering that a mature gobbler such as the one pictured may weigh twenty + pounds I am always impressed at how their wings can carry them aloft so quickly. Turkeys are not long distance fliers preferring to walk or run when they have the choice but when pressed they are capable of a rapid take-off followed by a long gliding decent carrying them well out of harms way.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boating for Photos: Bufflehead Hen

Last year, for the first in my many years of fishing & boating, I decided to try combining it with waterfowl photography. The results were definitely worth the effort and I have been looking forward to open water and the spring waterfowl migration with considerable anticipation. I have been anticipating the migration photography much more so than fishing.

Although I did take a couple of rods along Saturday morning the main objective of my trip was waterfowl photography. Putting out a couple of trolling lures, I searched the lake for birds. With the cold 36F water temp I didn’t find any fish willing to bite.

At one point during the morning I spotted a couple of duck on open water. As I attempted to approach they would slip under the surface and soon pop up quite some distance from where they had submerged. Once I was within about 200 yards I was able to identify them as Bufflehead hens. Before I could close the distance to within photographic range they swam towards shore and disappeared.

Some time later while rounding a small point I discovered this Bufflehead hen sitting in a small cove. Approaching with the boat, I began pressing the shutter button half way every few seconds to keep the focus set for when the duck would begin her take-off. When I was within about 30 yards the little duck began to patter across the surface in a frantic burst of action.

When shooting take-off shots I find that it is very important to keep the focus set very close to the distance of the subject as you approach, otherwise the camera will frequently hit focus on the background or some other unintended object when the action does occur.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Boating for Photos: Canada Goose

A Canada Goose patters across the water’s surface during takeoff

With the local lake finally clear of ice, I decided yesterday that this morning would be my first boating foray for the year. I was greeted by a heavy frost and the thermometer standing at 30 F under overcast skies. Launching at first light it was some time before decent photographic light arrived.

There was some waterfowl present but not the numbers I was hoping for. By the time I was ready to call it quits I had observed the following; Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Bufflehead and Canada Geese. All of the waterfowl was quite skittish apparently with still fresh memories of the fall & winter hunting seasons.

A pair of Canada Geese did allow me to maneuver the boat to within camera range and as I slowly closed the remaining distance was rewarded with this image.

For more Camera Critters visit our friend Misty at her Camera Critters Blog

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SkyWatch: March Sunset

With the all of the gray skies we have been having this month gorgeous sunsets have been quite rare. The evening of March 10th didn’t become a top-notch sunset but it was pretty enough to share.

Now that daylight savings time has come I will have more opportunity to capture good sunsets instead of watching them fade during my evening commute.

For gorgeous skies from around the world visit the team at Sky Watch

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Waiting for the Robin Snow

It’s not uncommon to get some snow after the Robins return in fact according to the old timers we must.

My grandmother had a number of named snows; the Cabbage Snow, the Fuzzy Snow, and of course The Robin Snow. She had more named snows but at the moment I cannot remember them. I think the Cabbage Snow arrived after grandma had started cabbage seeds indoors, the Fuzzy Snow was a wet spring snow that clung to everything it touched and the Robin Snow always came after the return of the robins.

Although I know spring is just around the corner, like Grandma did, I’m looking for the Robin Snow any day now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twofer: Belted Kingfisher & Coot

A Belted Kingfisher watches from a partially submerged post while an America Coot feeds nearby. This tranquil scene was captured at Florida’s Joe Overstreet along the shore of Lake Kissimmee during my December visit.

I noticed my first robins over the weekend. A few appeared on Saturday and by Sunday they had arrived in droves. Sunday also marked my first Grackle sighting and where as there were a only a few Red-winged Blackbirds on the previous weekend by this Saturday they were present in good numbers.

Even without the calendar to mark the days until spring, the masses of migrating birds tell the story of the rapidly approaching season of new life.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Muskrat Morning

Once again my Saturday morning was spent set up beside a small wetland. With the heavy cloud cover daylight was slow in coming. As I sat in darkness the occasional outburst of quacks and honks accompanied by the sounds of wings flapping assured me the wetland was well occupied by waterfowl.

As the first vestiges of light began to penetrate the gloom I could see v-wakes moving swiftly across the nearby water. Checking through my binoculars I could faintly make out a splash of white about where a ducks head should be. My first thought was of hooded mergansers and as the light strengthened I found my hunch was right. A lone male was chasing two other pairs of hoodies, apparently challenging the other males for their mates.

Soon the wetlands began erupting with the sounds of the flapping of wings and wave after wave of ducks and geese exited in a northerly direction.

By the time adequate photography light arrived the flocks that had rested here during the night were gone, moving along on their ancient migratory paths.

Soon I noticed a wake moving across the water's surface and a moment later a small brown head appeared above the water. The muskrat passing my hidden location provided one of the few images of the morning. Although the morning was lackluster for waterfowl photography the outdoor memories were well worth the effort, the muskrat image was a bonus.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Feast: White-throated Sparrow

While visiting with the “feeder birds” this afternoon I happened to notice movement on one of the dead perching sticks. A closer look revealed what I took to be a swarm of winged insects, possibly termites, crawling about.

Soon this White-throated Sparrow arrived and began to feed in a good demonstration of the natural food chain. The dead wood provides food for the insects who then becomes food for the sparrow who in turn becomes food for other creatures. The endless cycle of life and death continues.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Migrants: Northern Pintails

With the early spring waterfowl migrations now underway a number of transient species are beginning to move through our area. Some will linger to visit while others will pass through quickly as they move towards their nesting grounds to the north.

For more Camera Critters visit Misty at her wonderful Camera Critters Blog

Friday, March 06, 2009

BNWR Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is one of my favorite wetland wildlife photo subjects.

With their large size one does not need to get extremely close to capture and acceptable image. Perhaps the old saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” applies to this bird but I do find them to be quite handsome birds capable of striking extremely elegant poses. Another point in the GBH’s favor is that many of these birds are not overly wild and can be approached to within acceptable photo range.

I captured this close-up backlighted image during my February morning visit to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. As we were slowly driving along Wildlife Drive I noticed this bird standing in the shallows just to the side of the road. The heron never moved a muscle as I stopped the car only a few yards distance and took a series of shots hand-held from the car window.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

SkyWatch: Eagle Skies

Nothing signifies Freedom more than a Bald Eagle soaring high in the heavens against a backdrop of dramatic skies.

For more Sky dramatic skies from around the world visit the Sky Watch Team and join in!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Singing Grackle

As spring approaches I always anticipate seeing the first Grackles arrive. The Grackle flocks usually begin arriving here in early to mid March. Often my first sightings are of Grackles perched in trees along watercourses. With this in mind I have been watching the treetops along the creeks during my daily commute hoping for an early sighting.

I captured this image one foggy morning during my February 2008 visit to Florida’s Lake Parker.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


One image does not tell the entire story

This image of one deer casually grazing while the other falls to its side was not as it appears!

The two young bucks pictured were engaged in late season sparring

During breaks in the sparring they would pause to groom each other

During one of the sparring engagements the buck to the left in the first image managed to hook his antler into his partner. What had been a relatively slow-motion exercise became one of quick maneuver as his opponent attempted to separate and regain his balance.

After a couple of minutes to regain their composure the two friends continued their light-hearted combat.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Heads or Tails: Canada Geese

As the Canada Geese became more accustomed to me and my little pop-up blind they began feeding on the submerged vegetation nearby.

The geese were feeding in pairs and as I observed them I noticed that one would tip while the other kept a close watch for danger. Not once did they allow hunger to cause them to drop their guard and both tip at once.

In the hustle bustle human world we frequently are tempted to throw caution to the wind but in the world of wildlife where every day is a life and death situation, caution is always at the very top of each day’s agenda; a lesson well worth remembering!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saturday Morning’s Ring-necked Duck

With the weather forecast calling for partly cloudy morning skies Saturday I set my alarm for 5:30 am in anticipation of a good morning in a local wetland. When I stepped out on our deck in the morning I was greeted by a sky full of stars so with much anticipation I loaded the gear in my truck and headed off.

As the first light of day began to brighten the landscape I arrived at the wetland only to notice the sky was now covered with heavy gray clouds. While walking in, ducks and geese flushed from the cold waters disappearing like wisp in the predawn darkness, but still the calling of more geese and ducks filled the air.

Upon arriving at my previously chosen spot I erected my little pop-up blind and settled in for the morning. As I opened the window a mink ran across the dike some 50 yards away. Although mink inhabit this area their nocturnal habits usually keep them well hidden from human eyes.

Photographic light was slow in arriving and the waterfowl present showed considerable concern about approaching the area around my blind but with all of these factors against me this pretty Ring-necked drake finally appeared and swam into camera range. Because of the low light levels I was forced to make this shot using ISO 1600 which degraded the image quality considerably while at the same time capturing the colors or lack thereof of a drab late winter morning.

Ring-necked ducks do not frequent our area and when I do encounter them it is always in late winter or very early spring. Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Birds does not show my area as part of the ring-necked duck’s range but never the less a few do appear from time to time. Encountering both the Mink and the Ring-necked duck made this a wetlands morning to be remembered.