Monday, August 31, 2009

Searching for Autumn

Driving slowly along the mountain top road I continued my search for early signs of Autumn.

A patch of ferns with only a few fronds beginning the transition was the setting for this image. The frond’s brown colors brightened by the rainy dampness came alive in the dripping wet woods with a glow as if lit from within.

A few colored leaves hung all by themselves as if begging to be photographed before dropping into the leaf litter beneath.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Foggy Morning Excursion

Heading out Saturday morning I found the mountain top I intended to travel socked in with heavy fog. With the fog making wildlife photography difficult I decided to focus instead on the fog itself.

While Autumn is still a few weeks away and peak foliage colors not expected until the third week of October some hints of fall are beginning to appear. The fog and moisture enhance the colors in the bits of foliage that are beginning to turn.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bumble Bees & Thistle

Late last evening I found these bumblebees to congregating on a single thistle bloom during a light rain. I don’t know what was so special about this one particular flower as others nearby were devoid of bees.

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Visit our gracious host Misty at her
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Friday, August 28, 2009

First Touch of Autumn

Today dawned with heavy leaden skies with rain arriving in the afternoon. It was under these conditions that I photographed this maple tree showing the first signs of autumn colors.

I look forward each summer to the brief splendor of autumn foliage although I well realize that autumn splendor is followed closely by the cold grays of winter. It seems like only yesterday when the spring peeper began calling and the first blooms of colt’s foot appeared along our rural roadsides.

Perhaps it is only an illusion, common to us older folks, that time passes more quickly now than it did in our youth but it certainly seemed real today as I photographed the first color of fall.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friday Night at the Fair

Friday night fairgoers were treated to a nice fireworks display by Phantom Fireworks

An attraction that certainly caught my eye was the display of the new military vehicle, the M-ATV.

The M-ATV combines the protection levels of the MRAP in a lighter all terrain vehicle designed to carry our troops safely into the rugged areas where our troops are being deployed..

Oshkosh Corp., a Wisconsin based company is building these vehicles with a very tight production schedule for rapid deployment to our current war-zones. This contract has resulted in about 600 workers being recalled at the local JLG plant, an Oshkosh subsidiary.

For kids the Fair means Rides and this shot captured my cousin's daughters enjoying their big night out.

Feeling a little lazy, I decided to leave the Canon 30D behind on this particular outing and carried instead my wife’s little Panasonic Lumix. The images speak for themselves. Although the camera certainly is not in the DSLR’s league it did a credible job handling the various situations with far less bulk and weight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fulton County Fair Photo Exhibits

Last week our little rural county celebrated with its 89th annual Fulton County Fair.

Not a big fair by anyone’s standard it still has plenty to see from new to antique farm machinery, livestock, produce, crafts etc. Once again I entered a few of my favorite photographs taken since last years fair. The following is a run down of the shots that placed.

2nd Place Color Animal

2nd Place Color Flower

2nd Place Modified B&W

1st Place Night

With Pennsylvania’s politicians unable to agree upon a budget the fair did not receive the expected state funding and was unable to pay premiums. Personally I didn’t mind the lack of premiums. My biggest disappointment was that the ID tags attached remained folded after the judging; keeping the names of the entrants concealed during the entire fair.

Fulton County is a small county with a small population and it is always fun to see who captured/created the various entries as more often than not one either knows or knows of the individual proud enough of their work to support the fair by exhibiting it for all to see.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Down for the Count?

Usually when a buck is seen in this position it means that he has met his end but that was not the case in this instance.

After bedding in the meadow this fellow began laying his head down in the grass and rolling it side to side. As the flies were particularly bad that evening I think that he was using the grass to shoo the flies away from his face and velvet covered antlers.

Although he may look like his day is past this nice buck is very much alive and well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Camera Critters: Family Fued

Many folks visualize the natural critters as always getting along in peace and harmony but such is not the case.
Animals fight for various reasons and at times the fights result in serious injury and even death. The series that follows is of two yearling deer acting out in a mild dispute, possibly one that involved establishing the pecking order in the herd. This little scrap ended with little more than hurt feelings and some bumps or bruises.

Life in the natural world is a daily struggle for existence and frequent fights among the Critters are a natural part of it.

For more Camera Critters visit our gracious host
Misty at her Camera Critters Blog.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Brothers: Then & Now

Mom wasn’t paying any attention to the background when she set her little boys up for a photograph in front of the family outhouse in 1956.

Fifty three years later the background was very much on my mind when I set up this self-timer shot of Willard & me checking out the wildflowers along Virginia’s scenic Skyline Drive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Muskrats & Memories

During the photo session with the muskrats this one decided to be brave and leave the safety of the water. After walking only a few feet from the water’s edge it seemed to lose its nerve; stopping and watching me intently trying to figure out what I was while listening to the clicking of the shutter

Bringing a tidbit to the surface the muskrats were content to feed in my presence with safety only a quick dive away.

My earliest memories of muskrats are of my grandfather trapping a few each autumn from the creek that borders our family farm. From his stories he had trapped muskrats quite a bit in his younger days when the money he made from the furs was important to him and grandma as they tried to make ends meet during the great depression.

As a little kid I would tag along with him as he carefully concealed his Victor #1 long-spring traps at the bottom of muskrat slides with the trap wired to a rock placed in deeper water so as to drown the rat once it was caught. Granddad had a couple of wire fur stretchers and a few boards whittled into the correct shape for drying the fur. I can still remember the sweet musky smell of the drying furs and the tales he would tell as he skinned, fleshed and stretched the pelts.

One of his favorite tales was of one particularly tough depression winter. He often spoke of those times, as he and many of his generation never forgot how difficult the Great Depression was. He told how that as long as they were able to keep the interest paid on their farm mortgage that the bank would not foreclose and in that particular winter the fur from his trapline provided the money to cover the interest.

To this day I when I encounter the little water rats they always bring back the long ago memories of granddad’s trapping and his stories of how he and grandma, a young couple with a recently purchased farm just starting a family, coped with the hardships that the Great Depression threw their way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wetland Muskrats

Another highlight of my morning visit to the wetlands was the opportunity to photograph the muskrats.

Muskrats are most active in dim light and during the hours of darkness making photographing them problematic however on this morning they were very active late in the morning.

After watching the muskrats swim about at the other end of the remaining pool I decided to reposition during one of their visits to their den. The move paid off when shortly after getting reset this muskrat surfaced near my position.

The little critter wasn’t overly alarmed by the sound of the cameras shutter but did soon submerge in the muddy water.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wetlands: Two in One

Taking the opportunity to visit our nearby wetlands again this morning I was rewarded with this photo op of an immature wood duck drake checking out a tiny painted turtle.

Having hidden where I could view the last remaining pool of open water I first spied the little wood duck waddling out of the surrounding vegetation into the water and swimming across almost directly towards my location. Only a short distance away he made a left turn under the overhanging branches with his attention riveted on the turtle. When I began photographing him his attention immediately became focused on the clicking of the camera’s shutter and he wasted no time beating a hasty retreat into the thick cover surrounding the pond.

After silently watching the wetland for a couple of hours I spent some time checking out the changes since my last visit about a month ago.

With the drier weather lately, the open water area has shrunk from a couple of acres to one small pond of maybe 50’ x 200’. Areas where I was previously photographing ducks swimming about are now covered in lush vegetation with some of it as high as my waist.

The flooding and drying cycle is what makes these wetlands so valuable to wildlife. The vegetation present now will be submerged during the winter and spring providing food for microorganisms along with larger creatures as it breaks down.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camera Critters: Woodcock

Driving along a rural dirt road at dusk last evening a Woodcock flushed from the side ditch, flew a short distance a settled down again.

Stopping my truck when I came abreast of it I attached the flash to the camera and attempted to focus but it was much too dark. Picking up a flashlight from the truck’s door pocket I held the light against the lens. This arrangement although awkward provided the necessary light for the auto-focus to function properly.

The Woodcock would flinch each time the flash fired and after half a dozen or so shots it walked off into the bushes.

Note on previous post: An anonymous commenter questioned the identity of the mergansers. Frankly I though I had it right but I sure wouldn’t bet the farm on being correct. If any one of you can positively identify these birds I would appreciate it.

For more Critters of all kinds visit our friend Misty at the
Camera Critters Blog

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Red-breasted Mergansers

During my last wetlands visit I was surprised when a small flock of immature Red-breasted Mergansers landed about my hiding spot

The young birds were mildly alarmed by my presence; taking evasive action disappearing into the brush surrounding the marsh.

This was the first time that I had ever encountered immature mergansers in our area and had been unaware that any mergansers nested here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Portending the Future

The Whitetail rut is still nearly three months away but already this nice buck is beginning to feel the first urges of the mating season.

The buck’s flehmen sniff was so fleeting that if I hadn’t captured it I would wonder if I had not been mistaken. This photo taken the evening of August 3rd is the earliest that I have ever observed whitetail lip-curling behavior.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

SNP Monarch

Although Willard & I didn’t locate any bachelor groups of mature bucks during our Friday morning visit to Shenandoah National Park we did encounter a good number of Monarch Butterflies visiting the milkweed plants that are prevalent in Big Meadows.

Many of our fellow bloggers have been noting the unusually low population of butterflies so far this year. The situation seems to be quite wide spread. I along with others have noted that it may be connected to the unusually cool and wet weather experienced in the eastern United States this spring and summer.

A news release dated August 6th from the Pennsylvania Game Commission may shed more light upon this subject. The news release deals with the recent outbreak of gypsy moth that we experienced here in Pa. By all indications this year should have proven to be devastating to our forest. Thankfully that was not to be.

According to this news release the caterpillars were hit by both a fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga and a virus Lymantria dispar Multienveloped Nuclear Polyhedrosis, both deadly to the emerging caterpillars.

Although no mention is made of these diseases affecting other caterpillar species it is possible that they also took their toll on some of our favorite outdoor photographic subjects.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Eagle Suprise

When the alarm sounded at 6:00am this morning, although later than usual, it was still too early for my tired body. After running on 4-5 hours of sleep each night for the last couple of weeks I decided, after looking out at the gray overcast skies, to postpone my planned early morning fishing/photography trip to the Meadow Grounds Lake.

Awakened by my wife at 9:30 I felt much better and with the sun beginning to break through I grabbed my gear, loaded the boat and was on my way. Working my way along the eastern shoreline casting to the weed edge I was surprised when suddenly a mature Bald Eagle flew from a nearby tree and crossed the lake landing out of sight.

Readying the camera I motored across the lake south of the Eagle’s position then turned north near the shoreline moving slowly waiting the Eagle to take flight. Approaching the Eagles position a flock of Wood Ducks flushed from the reeds and a few moments later the Eagle dropped from it hidden position in a large oak.

I only had time for five images before the Eagle passed out of sight but it was sufficient time to capture my closest image to date of a mature Bald Eagle in flight.

For more Critters of all kinds visit Misty’s
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Friday, August 07, 2009

Finally a Break: Skyline Sunrise

Finally with a break from work I traveled down Skyline Drive to Big Meadows this morning with Willard in search of Shenandoah National Park’s famous whitetail bucks.

Arriving at Big Meadows at dawn the first order of the day was to shoot the huge red summer sun rising over the horizon. Our search for the big bucks proved fruitless this morning with only does, fawns and small bucks appearing as the morning wore on.

After all of those long days at work I didn’t feel the least bit of disappointment. Although dog tired from work and lack of sleep; breathing the cool mountain air while soaking in the beauty of the meadow awash in wildflowers with the distant hazy blue mountains dappled by sunlight for a backdrop was worth the trip.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

SkyWatch: Grayscale

With the storms giving way to clearing skies the dramatic sunbeams present here enticed me to try a monotone image.
I like the results, do you?
For wonderful skies from around the world visit Skywatch

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Missing out on Summer

Recently I feel that my busy schedule has been forcing me to miss out on the rapidly passing summer.

I photographed these dew laden wildflowers back on July 18th on one of the last morning I have been able to spend in the outdoors. Wildflowers are always pretty and they are at their very best when covered with the heavy morning dew.

Hopefully things will be back to normal by the upcoming weekend and I can once again spend some quality time photographing nature. Thanks again for all of your comments. I’ll be trying to return to visiting your blogs soon.

This image was captured with the 100-400mm L and a 25mm extension tube.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Standing Tall: Whitetail Doe

Whitetail Doe Browsing

In areas with an overpopulation of deer not only will low growing brush be utilized as browse but they will also utilize the overhanging branches as high as the deer can reach while standing on its rear legs. As you can see from this photograph deer can reach to considerable heights.

Lack of food is not an issue in this particular area. The doe apparently had found a favored food and didn’t mind expending the extra effort to obtain it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Shooting & The Pennsylvania Game Commission

August was the beginning of the busy season during my twenty three years as a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Mandatory training was conducted over the weekend to accommodate us part-time officers who depended upon other full-time employment to support our families. The training covered a variety of subjects but first and foremost was deadly force training along with firearms qualification. Firearms are the weapon of last resort for a conservation officer. Proficiency in their use is very important for if the situation required them it would be in life and death circumstances.

The officers state revolver match also was held at Game Commission’s Scotia Range near State College Pa. on a Sunday near the beginning of the month.

Deputy Conservation Officers serve under the District Officer who is assigned to the area in which they live. My first District Officer was Mark Crowder, a man who was not only my boss but whom became a friend. Mark also was our first firearms instructor. Not only was Mark a NRA certified instructor but he was also an accomplished handgunner who enjoyed shooting and sharing his knowledge with others. During the early years we deputies would meet with Mark every other Sunday afternoon during the summer to shoot while he instructed us on the latest techniques and corrected our flaws.

This extensive training stood us well when the time to qualify came and also proved to be the winning combination when the Game Commission began the annual match in 1987. Mark and three of us deputies attended this first match garnering the third place team trophy. If memory serves me correctly I placed 21st or 22nd in individual score.

Knowing that we could do better the following year we practiced the course of fire intensely and the payoff for our hard work came. That year I was able to place third in individual score with my first first place finish in 1989.

Sadly this match was discontinued in 2005. The reasons were never stated but I feel sure that the tough financial straits the commission has found itself in had much to do with the decision.

The Fulton County team became known over the next two decades as the team who owned the match with officers from other areas mentioning to us that they had hoped that was would not attend as then they would have had a chance. Our team members varied over the years but thanks to the excellent training our district had a number of outstanding shooters. During the years that this match was held I was able to win the first place deputy trophy ten times and I have lost track of the teams wins but suffice to say our team placed first most years even in the years that I could not attend.

The old Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum pictured here is the gun that I used along with one of the winning targets from the match.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Raucous Welcome: Gray Catbirds

Upon arriving home one evening this week I was greeted by a highly agitated pair of Gray Catbirds. Swooping about my head, landing on the ground within inches of my feet and also on the deck railing; all the while calling loudly. The catbirds set up quite a commotion.

I have seen this behavior before and each time there was a fledgling on the ground nearby. This time I did not stop to find the fledgling but instead hurried in to the grab the camera.

I returned to the porch with the camera while the Catbirds continued their tirade at a slightly greater distance.

At one point both flew into the evergreen and sat momentarily screaming directly at each other allowing me to capture this image of the birds interacting. The still image captures their position but appears more as if they are carrying on a quiet conversation or perhaps pausing for a friendly kiss.

I cannot be sure of what triggered their behavior in this incident as I failed to locate a fledgling but I do feel certain that one was near.

For more Critters of all kinds visit our friend Misty at her