Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eating Poke: Male Northern Cardinal

Some time ago I posted a Tufted Titmouse posing in a poke plant. Eileen asked in a comment if any birds eat poke berries. Here is your proof Eileen; Cardinals do!

Normally a bright and flashy red, this Cardinal’s more splotchy and subdued colors are caused by the molt which normally takes place from late summer to early autumn.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Steely Gray November Day

The calendar reminds me that it’s still October but the weather today was stereotypical November. The weatherman called for partly cloudy with a twenty percent chance of rain. This morning dawned gray and gloomy with fog rolling in over the mountain around 9am.

Just because the skies are heavy its no reason to stay indoors this time of year, the first exciting moment occurred when an Eagle soared low overhead obviously hunting for prey. It was quite dark at the time so I shot the encounter on ISO 1600 capturing a number of silhouettes. One of these shots is superimposed in new header image above.

Later in the day while visiting the local lake, inspired by reading Scott Kelby’s new three book set, Digital Photography, I set up with the tripod at its lowest height along the lake shore. Setting the camera on ISO100; the lens to 24mm, F22, and installing a .9 neutral density filter I was able to get the shutter speed down to 1sec. Using the mirror lock-up feature and the cable remote to minimize vibration I made this shot of the lake shrouded in fog.

The slow shutter allowed the wind blown waves to meld into a smooth mystical surface while the swaying vegetation painted it path delicately into the image.

I like the results, do you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SkyWatch: Country Road

Bringing the car to a halt at a rural stop sign I glanced left then right and immediately forgot about traffic conditions as my attention was riveted by this home surrounded by brilliant foliage and framed like a picture by the bridge above.

After ditching the car I shot the scene from under the low bridge. The resulting image lent itself well to a panorama crop.

With only a small bit of sky showing in the image I still could not resist sharing it with my Sky Watch friends.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lines & Leaves

When digital renewed my interest in photography and with my graduation to the DSLR & telephoto lenses I found that photography compliments another of my passions, fishing.

Photographing waterfowl and other water oriented birds can become painfully boring at times when no subjects are visible. Fishing conveniently fills the otherwise dead time until more photo-ops present. Combining the two has proven to be a winning combination. During these frequent forays I have photographed a multitude of waterfowl species along with herons, eagles, dragonflies, and even my best ever fawn image.

Using the boat & the electric motor has proven to be an effective way to approach wildlife to within camera range and also allows me to maneuver for the best lighting angles. On the minus side, high shutter speeds and image stabilization are necessary for telephoto use as all shooting must be done hand-held. Using a tripod or other support worsens the situation by making a solid connection between the camera and the constantly moving boat.

Taking a momentary break from fishing, I used the colorful autumn foliage to provide a backdrop for a shot of the fishing rods poised for action.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn Overlooks

After the rain Friday and Saturday, Sunday dawned a beautiful clear day. Finding some free time in the afternoon my wife and I visited a couple of the local mountain overlooks. With a slight chill in the air and warm sunshine it was a perfect autumn afternoon that drew more than a few sightseers to the high spots.

This first shot was taken from the Bark Road overlook on Sidling Hill Mountain just south of the Lincoln Highway.

Our next stop was at the overlook near the north end of Summit Road. The little village visible here just to the left of center is Hustontown Pa, a small rural village with only a couple of stop signs and no traffic lights

The Twist & Shake at Hustontown was our next stop where my sweet little wife could not be satisfied with only one small cone :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Storm Clouds Gathering

Friday afternoon I spent some time on the nearby lake as ominous storm clouds darkened an already cloudy sky. Having spent the early morning in the woodland I decided to spend the afternoon fishing only to have my outing cut short when a steady rain began to fall.

While watching the clouds swirl in I knew that soon I would have to beat a hasty retreat but not before pausing to capture some images of the pending storm. Upon reviewing the images my impression was that the camera had not captured the celestial drama I had observed. Loading the image in Photoshop and after applying some tweaking its impact is now greater than what nature created in the first place.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Camera Critters Bull

The young bull pictured here, while sporting nice 6x6 antlers, was no match for the huge herd bulls who dominate the breeding in Pennsylvania’s Elk Range.

This fellow apparently was feeling the mating urge quite strongly but not strong enough to challenge the big boys. During the time I observed him he kept close to the big guys harem but would quickly shy away whenever his antics drew the unwelcoming attention of the dominate bull.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

SkyWatch: October Skies

This evening was one of those rare “perfect” autumn evenings. After being cooped up in the office and with rain in the forecast for the next two days a little foray with the camera seemed a fitting way to end day.

This is the view from my deck as the sun sank low into the western sky. Our fall foliage is reaching its zenith and the forecasted rain and wind will probably cause many of the bright leaves to cascade to the ground leaving in their wake the muted grays of winter.

The gorgeous sunset I was hoping for failed to materialize but my wife and I still enjoyed watching as the pastel colors of the sky slowly melded into darkness under a cresent moon.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk, Extinction & Restoration

Although once silenced,
The Bugle of the Bull Elk again rings with defiance
Across the Elk Range of Pennsylvania.

In a comment on the Shagger’s Inn post Troutbirder posed a great question asking whether elk were indigenous to Pennsylvania.

To answer this question I turned to "The History of Pennsylvania Elk County" authored by Ralph L. Harrison.

Elk were present in Pennsylvania when the first settlers began arriving. Mr. Harrison sites locations over much of the state named for elk as evidence; using Elk Creek, Elk Valley, Elk Lick and Elk County as examples. He also sites Philip Tome (1782-1855) in his book, “Thirty Years A Hunter” as stating that he and his brother killed twenty five to thirty elk annually for years.

Mr. Harrison sites “Extinct Pennsylvania Animals” by Henry W. Shoemaker. Shoemaker wrote that elk were gone from the southeastern and south central parts of the state by 1800, from the southwest by 1830 and from the Pocono Mountains in the northeast by 1845. Harrison states that “elk were likely gone from the state by 1870”.

With the growing conservation movement across the nation’ Pennsylvania founded the Pa Game Commission for the protection of what little wildlife remained in 1895. In 1913 fifty elk were received from Yellowstone and released in Clinton and Clearfield Counties. From that first stocking in 1913 until its conclusion in 1926 a total of 177 animals were released.

The elk that Pennsylvania enjoys today are the descendants of this restocking effort.

Mr. Harrison’s book is an excellent read chock full of great information on both the elk and also the region. When I began reading it I soon found that I could not put it down.

Published by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, this book is a great resource for anyone interested in Pennsylvania elk and the elk range This book as well as two others also written by Mr. Harrison can be purchased from their website by following the link above and clicking on publications.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shagger’s Inn Shallow Water Impoundment

During my recent visit to the Pennsylvania Elk Range a side trip took Willard & I to the Shagger’s Inn Shallow Water Impoundment. Shaggers Inn is a picturesque thirty acre lake completed by Pennsylvania DCNR in 1989. The lake provides habitat for migrating waterfowl and is one of the few places where Osprey nest in our state.

We did not observe any Osprey during our short visit but the beautiful scenery was reward enough.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Camera Critters: White-breasted Nuthatch

Regardless of how often I see these perky little birds running up and down trees, when I have the camera ready I’m always clicking away hoping for a better pose or a better background or better lighting than what I already have.

This shot bathed in the warm light of the evening sun with the reds and greens of poke weed for a background makes this one of my favorite captures of the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Our drought has finally been broken with a cold rain that has been falling for the past three days. Temperatures have hovered from the mid to upper 30’s F making this feel more like late November than mid October.

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Friday, October 16, 2009


Did you ever walk by the water's edge on a moonlit night and pause to admire the shining path its light traces across the gently rippling surface?

Nature's beauty surrounds us, in the rush of our everyday lives it is all too easy to miss seeing that which is right in front of our eyes.

Have a great weekend and take time, if only a moment to relax and absorb the beauty around you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Evening at Gilbert VA continued

8x9 with Harem
Chris, in a comment on the previous post, expressed his concern as to the people disturbing the elk. I believe this photograph clearly illustrates that these animals show no sign of stress and are completely relaxed with the crowd of onlookers nearby. The people here are confined to a narrow strip along the road. To enter the food plot here is a violation of law.

As the evening passed a number of bulls attempted to approach the harem. In each instance the dominate bull drove them away by simply heading their way.

Brad commented “I try and stay away from these areas also to get different settings and less noise.” Same here Brad, the traffic and people are quite noisy. Willard & I decided to spend this evening here because it was raining intermittently. We were concerned about getting the camera gear caught in a downpour. With some nice bulls around it was quite a bit better than sitting it out in the house.

This challenger approached the harem a number of times but with only a few intimidating steps from the dominate bull he would beat a hasty retreat. From the looks of his antlers his best bet may be to wait another year and hope for a better set of head gear. This shot was made with Willard’s 500mm F4 lens. The rain and fog made capturing a sharp image virtually impossible.

As darkness settled over the Gilbert Viewing Area, with fog rising from the valleys while bull elk bugled nearby, a good day of elk photography came to an end.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Evening at the Gilbert Viewing Area

The dominate 8x9 bugles forth a challenge near the Gilbert Viewing Area

While much wildlife photography requires stealth, concealment and or long hikes packing photo gear over rugged terrain none of these are required to observe and photograph Pennsylvania’s elk.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Gilbert Viewing Area, located near the intersection of Winslow Hill and Dewey Road, provides a place to park and enjoy the elk activity in the food plots while visiting with friends and striking up new acquaintances.

As these photos attest viewing and photographing elk at the Gilbert is quite popular during the rut. Here one can observe folks with all types of photography gear from the simplest point&shoot camera to DSLR’s with lenses that nearly require a second mortgage to acquire. No matter the equipment everyone is here for the same reason, to enjoy the unique experience of interacting with Pennsylvania’s Majestic Elk.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn Leaves

Our autumn foliage, although not at its peak yet, is colorful enough to entice one out for a nice afternoon drive through the countryside.

Our Sunday afternoon drive included traveling northbound on the Bark Road through a part of the Buchanan State Forest. In some sections the colors were quite nice

At one of our many stops my wife leaned over a small bridge with her little Lumix and shot this foliage reflection in the little rippling pool below. I think she captured the best shot of the day!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Camera Critters: Tufted Titmouse & Poke

Posing prettily in among the ripening poke berries the Tufted Titmouse shows it preference in food by tightly clutching a sunflower seed in its beak.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Wetlands: Changing Seasons

As those of you who frequent this blog know I frequently photograph the local Haines-Seville Wetlands. Haines-Seville is a man-made wetlands, a cooperative project between Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and various other state and federal agencies. The benefit it provides to waterfowl and wildlife in general is immense.

The above photograph was taken May 9th of this year when the wetlands were full.

Again visiting the wetlands a few days ago I discovered as a result of the dry weather of the last three months that the wetlands are no longer wet. The area pictured here is of the deepest pool. The shallow areas have grown up with wetland grasses with some waist high.

This is as it should be for the vegetation will soon be submerged by the winter rain and snow and will once again provide food for wildlife and a new cycle of life will be supported by this small but important conservation project.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wild Bouquet

Autumn treats us to some of the most delicious colors of the year. Colorful foliage combined with the last of the season’s flowers closes out the growing season in a blaze of glory. I found myself drawn to the arrangement of this natural bouquet with the goldenrod and the dark forest providing the backdrop for the colorful wild asters.

This image was taken at the Mosquito Creek Watershed Restoration Project while visiting the Pennsylvania elk range.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Elk Scenery

When shooting wildlife I usually find myself pursuing frame filling close up images. Sometimes the scenery surrounding the animals demands zooming out to capture not only the animals but also their environment.

Such was the situation on this morning with the elk pasturing in the meadow as the fog swirled over the ridge beyond. For the best view click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sparrow Identification Help Needed

While visiting the local wetland, which I discovered had gone dry, I realized that if I were to obtain any wildlife photographs on this foray that I needed to begin searching for species other than waterfowl.

Locating a fruiting tree with a considerable number of birds about I settled in under the shade of a nearby tree. Soon this little sparrow landed in the nearby branches posing for its photo op.

Sparrow identification is not one of my strong suits and I would much appreciate the help of anyone who feels they can provide positive identification.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Published: 2010 Pennsylvania Game Commission Calendar

I am pleased to report that three of my wildlife images were selected for publication in the 2010 Pa Game Commission Calendar

Common Loon

Pennsylvania Elk

Rutting Whitetail

Submissions for this annual publication are accepted from employees and retirees of the agency. The 2010 calendar showcases the work of four photographers.

The photographers whose work it features are as follows;
Willard Hill retired Game Lands Maintenance Supervisor/ Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer
Jacob Dingle Radio Dispatcher in the Northwest Region
Timothy Flanigan retired Wildlife Conservation Officer
Coy Hill retired Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer

The calendars may be ordered by calling the Game Commission at 1-888-888-3459 or soon via internet by visiting Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop on line