Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Splash of Green: Damselfly

Venturing through the high weeds in the remnants of the path leading to the old swimming hole of my youth I came upon a number of brilliant metallic green Damselflies.

The late evening sunlight lit the scene well as the Damselflies would land on a leaf for a moment, then zoom off only to return to the exact same perch after a few seconds. I didn’t have the tripod or the extension tube with me so I made do shooting handheld at the 400mm lens’s closest focus.

Most of the shots were slightly out of focus since I could not hold the camera still enough to stay in focus but a few were acceptable.

Damselflies come in many sizes and colors with these being some of the largest specimens I have taken notice of.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Inquisitive Deer Family

While riding along the creek bottom this evening a Whitetail Fawn bounced into the path and ran towards me bouncing as it came. Stopping the gator I leveled the camera as a buck and doe stepped from the bushes, their attention focused on me and the naive little fawn.

When the fawn stopped I framed the shot so as to include the adults in the background. In a moment the fawn realized its mistake and bounded back to mom and together they all made their escape.

As you can see the fawns are growing rapidly. Compare this fawn to the one in the header. The header image was captured only three weeks ago.

For more Critters of all kinds visit our friend Misty’s Camera Critters Blog

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dragonfly in Flight

Dragonflies are always great photographic subjects and capturing them in the air has proven quite difficult.

When a dragonfly hovers it seems that they stay in one place for some time but it is an entirely different story when trying to locate them through the camera lens. Once I do get on them achieving focus and firing before they zoom off has proven nearly next to impossible.

Although far from perfect this is the best I have been able to obtain so far this year.

Life has been a little hectic lately and I haven’t found much time to pursue outdoor photography or blogging thus the sporadic posting of late. With some time away from work coming up next week I do hope to collect some new images for future Country Capture post.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wood Duck Hen

Usually my encounters with the local Wood Ducks ends almost immediately once the ducks discover my presence. The encounter with the woody hen was different.

While walking the dike that separates the deeper water of the local wetland from a swampier portion that borders the creek I noticed this Wood Duck hen among the high grass. The hen was reluctant to leave swimming slowly in the shallow water and finally disappearing after a couple of minutes into the grass.

I don’t know her reasons for not taking flight as most do. I have considered that she may have had young nearby but usually in that case the hens do the injured duck routine.

Whatever her reasons were for hanging around I enjoyed the encounter as am pleased that she gave me the opportunity to capture her portrait.

For more Critters of all kinds visit our friend Misty’s Camera Critters Blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Honeysuckle Memories

Back in the years of my childhood honeysuckle grew rampant in the fence rows. The lovely trumpet shaped flowers each contain a sweet edible droplet of nectar. I don’t remember who taught me the trick of picking the blooms and plucking the end off to lick the tasty droplet but I do well remember the taste of the honeysuckle on those long ago summer days of my childhood.

After making this image I again relived this old childhood memory by plucking a few of the blooms and tasting them again.

The honeysuckle is still as sweet as I remembered it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Living Waters

Water rushes over miniature water fall on its journey from the clouds to the ocean in its endless cycle of supporting life.

Photographing the tiny rivulet I thought about how this water fell from the clouds onto Scrub Ridge Mountain a few days ago. Seeping into the ground it resurfaced in a wet-spring and traveled downhill to this point. Its journey will take it to Licking Creek, then to the Potomac River, on to the Chesapeake Bay and finally into the Atlantic Ocean if it makes it that far. Along the way Hagerstown and Frederick Maryland, Washington DC and others will be drawing upon its life giving flow. Finally at some point it will once again rise to the clouds where the cycle will begin all over again.

Lately I have noticed that I have been focusing almost exclusively on wildlife and doing so have not been noticing some of the natural beauty around me. While taking an evening stroll my wife pointed out the beauty of this tiny waterfall while I had my attention riveted on the birds flitting about the undergrowth.

This shot was made with the 100-400mm lens at 400mm, F5.6, 1\8 sec. from the prone position with the camera rested over the camera bag. The green colorcast was created by allowing two out of focus leaves to hang near the front lens element.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hunting Kestrel

For me the American Kestrel has been an illusive bird. I frequently see Kestrels sitting on powerlines during my daily commutes. Since my primary goal is to capture wildlife in a natural setting until this encounter my files contained very few Kestrel images and none without the omnipresent wire.

While sitting on our deck last evening I noticed a Kestrel high in the sky hovering as it searched the ground for prey. With the sun at my back I grabbing the camera and began shooting each time the bird stopped in mid air. The Kestrel would hunt for 10-15 minutes hovering over different spots in the meadow behind my house and then fly to a distant cedar tree and rest in its top branches. After a short rest it would again resume hunting. This image was the best I obtained. The shot is heavily cropped as the distance was too far for the 400mm to do its best work.

This evening I again observed the Kestrel but with clouds covering the sun the bird was not lit well so I contented myself with watching. After hovering a few times the Kestrel stopped nearly directly high over my head. Hovering for a moment it then dropped down about half way, hovering again momentarily and then plunged into the high grass of the meadow some thirty yards from the deck. I watch intently and was rewarded a minute later when the Kestrel rose from the grass and flew to the tree line carrying prey in its talons. From the size and color of the prey I am pretty sure that it had caught a mole.

Maybe another evening with better light will give me the close-up image that presented itself tonight but for now I am content with the image posted here and the memories of the Kestrel’s successful hunt.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flash Flubbs

Flash can be a very useful photographer’s tool both indoors and out but forget it when shooting Raccoons. Encountering a family of young raccoons late in the evening last fall I decided to resort to shooting flash as it was much too dark for natural light photography.

A Cottontail sitting under my lilac bush didn’t fare well with the flash treatment either.

The use of direct flash under low-light conditions while photographing animals with good night vision is a no-win situation. The highly reflective retinas of nocturnal animals are responsible for the unbecoming Headlight effect.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

House Wren & Bluebird Box

House Wrens set up house keeping in another Bluebird box placed near the one occupied by the Tree Swallows. The Wrens are not as bold as the Tree Swallows and have proven somewhat difficult to photograph. The Wrens are quite small and even with the 400mm lens I need to be inside their comfort zone to capture an acceptable photograph. This is the only shot I have been able to get of the Wren visiting the box.

The Wren will fly in nearby keeping a screen of branches between us while it tries to determine if it is safe to return to the nest box. On this occasion it flew into an evergreen and hopped about from branch to branch calling loudly. The heavy cloud cover this evening necessitated the use of flash and one shot was all I got. Although I sat for another 30 minutes the Wren had had enough.

Although I cannot see into the Wren’s nest I assume that young birds are present. The Wrens are now carrying food and visiting the nest with increasing frequency.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

First Fawn, Other Takes

This is the same fawn displayed in the previous post and the current header. Only a very narrow angle allowed good photography otherwise the fawn was concealed quite well as illustrated by this photograph.

I returned an hour later after the initial photo session to find the fawn still resting in the same place.

Shortly after I returned the fawn stood and stretched before moving off into the shade.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

New Arrival with a Waterfront View

I encountered my first Whitetail Fawn of the season while fishing yesterday. While rounding a small finger of land jutting into the lake I noticed a very young fawn bedded by the water’s edge. The little fellow (yes, it is a little buck) was unconcerned about my nearby presence.

The morning was partly cloudy and clouds obscured the sun while I shot some 30 images as I maneuvered the boat about to obtain different angles. Finally the sun broke through lighting the little fellow perfectly.

Guiding the boat closer with the electric motor, I was able to approach within only a few feet of his bed. Moving back into deeper water, I reviewed the images on the camera’s LCD. The shots looked good so I moved on with the fawn still resting as when I first found him.

This encounter gave me what I believe to be the best Whitetail Fawn images I have captured to date.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Whitetail Red-wing Interaction

Arriving at our family farm this evening, I noticed a doe with a Red-winged Blackbird perched on its back. As I photographed this unusual scene the blackbird walked the length of the doe’s back pecking periodically. I assume the bird was feeding on ticks or other insects hiding in the deer’s short summer hair.

Tired of my unwanted attention the doe fled with the blackbird, apparently not finished with feeding, giving pursuit. The Red-wing followed for over one-hundred yards before turning back.

In all of my many years observing deer this is the first time I have ever observed a bird of any kind perched on a deer’s back. Unusual occurrences do not always happen under ideal photographic conditions and this was case in this instance. These shots were made hand-held braced on a fence post from 150 – 200 yards with a considerable amount of haze, a heavy cloud cover, and a fine mist falling.

For Critters of all kinds visit Misty at her Camera Critters Blog

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cottontail Close-up

Walking out of the wetlands a few evenings ago I encountered this young Cottontail sitting in the path. I’m sure it noticed me first as it sat very still watching me intently. No doubt the little rabbit who was no larger than a softball was hoping I would pass without noticing its motionless form.

Spreading the legs on the tripod I began photographing the little bunny while occasionally approaching a few steps closer until I was close enough to capture frame filling images and all the while the only movement I noticed from the rabbit was the occasional twitch of its nose.

When approaching wildlife I have found it best to close the distance slowly and at an angle. A direct approach with often cause the animal (or bird) to flee much more quickly than an angled approach were they have reason to believe that you may pass safely by.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

More than Bluebirds use Bluebird Boxes

During the winter I built four Blue Bird boxes and placed them about my home. Having read that Bluebirds are territorial I was well aware that I was placing them much too close together but I didn’t care as other species would possibly use them.

Currently three of the four boxes are occupied and none by Bluebirds. A pair of Tree Swallows was the first to claim a box. Sunday afternoon I set up the camera with the 100-400mm, tripod and flash near the nest. Soon the pair began doing flybys and after a few minutes the female perched momentarily.

After a few more passes she returned and perched allowing me a few minutes of photography before disappearing into the box. I’m pleased to have attracted these beautiful acrobatic speedsters to my home for not only are they quite pretty but they also consume vast quantities of flying insects.

These birds fly over our rear deck frequently in the evenings and I was surprised to see male carpenter bees chase them for a short distance. The swallow’s flight is much faster than that of the carpenter bee and after only a short pursuit the bees return to the territory they are defending. As for the swallows, they seem to pay no attention to the pursuing bees.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Feeding the Need…Red-winged Blackbird

Bird activity is at a fever pitch around the wetland now as birds work feverishly to feed the voracious appetites of their rapidly growing young.

This female Red-winged Blackbird was worried that I was too close her nest but continued gathering insects and feeding her brood hidden somewhere in the brush quite near my position.

Returning with an insect she would perch nearby bobbing her head and fly from perch to perch while calling incessantly until after a few minutes she would disappear into the greenery only to reemerge empty beaked in a moment. Upon her return from the nest she would land among the bottom branches of the brush and continue her hunt for insects along the water’s edge.