Saturday, January 29, 2011

Whitetail Family

A Whitetail family feeding under a leafless apple tree alerts to my early morning arrival.  A moment later with tails held high in the cold dim light of the predawn they made their escape. 

As winter's hold strengthens and snow depths increase the never ending search to find an adequate food supply becomes more and more of a struggle for the Whitetail Deer. 
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Looking Back: Spring Run Bull 2008

Sifting through my archives from 2008 I came across this image of the Spring Run Bull taken during that year's rut.  We had a number of close in photographic encounters with him and I came away with a quite a few decent photographs.  It was during one of these encounters that Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer captured a bugle shot that made the cover of Bugle Magazine. 

This bull, like nearly all bulls encountered on Winslow Hill was very trusting of humans; allowing us to photograph him with no concern for our presence.  Also like most impressive bulls seen on Winslow Hill he was killed during that year's elk season.

I have heard it said that a hunted herd is a healthy herd but what is left unsaid is that a hunted herd is a young herd. Very few Pennsylvania bulls are allowed to reach their full potential and fewer still are allowed to live through their years of maturity.

For more in depth information about the issues surrounding the Pennsylvania Elk herd visit Willard at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stalking: Great Egret

A Great Egret cautiously stalks its hidden prey.  The ripples from its slow steps are visible on the water's surface.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eagles on the Wing

An Immature Bald Eagle soars efortlessly over head

And a mature Eagle flares as it executes an abrupt turn.

The early morning lighting cast a warm glow over the eagles while in fact the temperatures were anything but warm. Even with gloves my fingers quickly became numb making functioning the camera difficult.

I'm still catching up on processing my photos from our recent visit with the eagles along the lower Susquehanna River.

The recovery of the Bald Eagle has been remarkable. Until less than two decades ago I had not heard of an Eagle sighting in my area. I remember well the first Eagle I ever observed in the wild. I was hunting squirrels one October day when a large bird flew into a nearby tree. Checking it out through a pair of 7X binoculars I could scarcely believe my eyes when I identified it as an immature bald eagle. My next sighting came the following summer and that was of a mature eagle soaring over Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County.

Little did I know that these first eagle sightings were harbingers of better days to come. Bald Eagle sightings are now quite common in my area and even the occasional Golden Eagle can be seen. Many good people worked tirelessly to return these majestic birds to our skies.

The return on the investment has been breathtaking

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eastern Wild Turkey

As winter's grip tightens and woodland food supplies dwindle Wild Turkeys are now becoming more commonly seen foraging in open fields. 

The acorn crop in our area was tremendous this fall greatly influencing the activity of many of our wildlife species.  Squirrels, not as numerous as in some years, were scattered throughout the woodlands as food was everywhere.  Deer, taking advantage of the abundant food supply, spent their time in the woods during the rut; greatly limiting the whitetail rut photographic opportunities.  And although our Wild Turkey population is very high by recent historical standards they too were difficult to locate throughout the fall with the wide spread food supply.

In years of scarcity the turkeys and other wildlife are much easier to locate once one learns what food sources they are utilizing.  The food source can vary; sometimes its wild grapes, other times its redbud seed pods or dogwood berries; what ever the case when the food source is limited it is usually only available in certain areas effectively concentrating the wildlife utilizing it.  Whether one is a photographer or a consumptive hunter targeting these food sources will greatly increase the odds of success. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The thermometer read 8 degrees when I headed out this morning, the coldest morning yet this winter.  The snow squeaked under my feet as I walked to the truck.  Bundled up as I was the cold quickly began seeping through the thick layers of clothing. 

After watching and photographing this squirrel I was convinced that not only was the cold bothering me but it was bothering the squirrel as well.  While the little guy sat on lookout he would clutch one front paw to his body warming it in his thick fur.  A few moments later the squirrel would switch paws giving each paw equal treatment.  

Come what may; cold, heat, rain, snow or sun ,wildlife meets the challenges of the environment head on.  Survival depends upon the abilitly to find food and shelter without being able to alter their environment in any great way.  

If we humans could not alter our environment any more than wildlife we would never have became the most successful species inhabiting the earth.  I shudder to think what facing this morning would have been like if I had to face it naked, like this little squirrel!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Change of Plans

After considering the weather forecast calling for 2-5 inches of snow overnight we decided to scrub our plans to visit Pennsylvania's elk country today.  Staying close to home seemed a better option.  Only a light dusting of snow arrived overnight but shortly after dawn the wind kicked up as an intense snow shower filled the air.  These bucks seemed undaunted by the wind-driven snow.

With snow laying on her back; a yearling alerts at a strange sound emanating from the woodland.  The sound was an animal call, one that I am unfamiliar with, but it certainly gained the deer's attention as the entire group left the meadow sneaking away in the opposite direction.

The snow shower was so intense that my camera's auto-focus refused to function.  With the auto-focus confused by the falling flakes I switched to manual focus and to capture these images of the deer and the falling snow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Egrets in Flight

This photograph of three Egrets in flight was captured during my recent Florida visit.  Shortly after sunup Egrets which were roosting near my vantage point began flying out for their day's foraging.  The warm low angle sunlight played perfectly upon their white plumage painting them with a golden glow.

This is a mixed flock of Egrets; the two birds in front are Snowy Egrets with a Great Egret bringing up the rear.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hunting Harrier

Sometimes I venture far afield looking for wildlife photo ops but this time the photo op came looking for me.  While preparing lunch Sunday I noticed a female Northern Harrier hunting over the adjoining farm.  I readied the camera in case she moved closer and soon was rewarded when she began hunting the meadow directly behind my home.

Northern Harriers fly slowly and close to the ground when hunting, sometimes within a foot or two of the tops of the grass.  This photograph caught the hawk as she rose in the air to make a turn.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists my area as the southern edge of the Northern Harrier's breeding range but I cannot recall ever seeing one during the summer. During winter it is not uncommon to see these large owl-faced hawks gracefully swooping low the the ground.

Going into a short stoop she can be seen here plummeting into the meadow

And rising a moment later with a vole nest clutched in her talons.  Take note of her head position; she is intently looking at the nest, not where she is going.

Apparently satisfied that the nest failed to contain her prey she is seen here dropping it as she continues her hunt.

These shots were taken hand-held at a distance of about one hundred yards and cropped heavily. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Deer Season Ends

After three and one half months deer season finally came to a close this evening.  First it was archery, then a week of muzzleloader, back to archery then to gun, a short break followed by three weeks of flintlock and archery combined.  Now the deer will be safe from lawful human predators for eight months. 

This yearling apparently thinks that the end of the deer hunting season is something to kick her heels up about as she kicks up a cloud of snow playing with her sibling.

The coming weeks will not be easy for the deer as winter's cold and snow will test their strength.  The season of the hunger moon is upon us and the deer will need to spend more and more time in their quest for nutritious food to sustain their bodies.  Coyotes will occasionally test the deer looking for weakness in a particular animal.  With the coming of spring life will become easier but survival in the wild is always a challenge.  With the guns silenced the deer have one less thing to worry about in the coming days.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

SkyWatch: Florida Dawn

My last morning in Florida I had little time for photography before beginning the long drive north.  Determined to capture a few more images I headed out looking for a worthwhile sunrise shot.  As I drove south watching the sky brighten I was beginning to think that my efforts were all for naught.  That is until I noticed the lone palm tree filtering the rays of the rising sun.

Scenics are seldom shot using long telephoto lenses but in this case I used the 400mm.  The longer focal length allowed me the cut out unwanted items and increase the visual impact of the morning sun.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blue Jay & Woodpecker

Larger birds will utilize a feed mixture that contains corn as this Blue Jay demonstrates.  The Jays will collect as many kernels as possible before retreating to a tree where they can peck them into smaller pieces.  This Jay perched just a few feet from the end of my lens as it displayed its beak full of food.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers like the female pictured here also utilize corn.  Unlike the Jays they are contented to gather the kernels and break them up one at a time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Immature Wood Stork

This evening I sit here in Pennsylvania working on photographs taken recently in Florida.  The cold air outside is filled with gently falling snow.  A hush has fallen across the landscape, a quiet that only exists during a snow fall as the ambient sound is absorbed by the fluffy crystals of falling water.

Such was not the case when these photos were taken for the air was filled with the calls of birds as they began their morning routine of wakening up to a new day.  This immature Wood Stork lit in a nearby tree and was immediately concerned about my presence as it watched every move that I made.

After watching me for a short time the Wood Stork decided to relocate to a place with less human intrusion.  The encounter was short lived with the best image coming as it's great wings lifted it from its perch.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Great Egret

With a curtain like backdrop of Spanish Moss draped branches the contrasting white of a Great Egret's plumage becomes a contrasting focal point.

Wildlife close-up are usually my goal but in this situation I feel that including a significant portion of the environment contributed to the overall appeal of the photograph.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Carolina Wren

After posting "travel" photographs for the past couple of weeks its time to post a local bird. 

The Carolina Wren seldom lingers in a one spot for long and is usually found flitting about on the ground under a canopy of low growing bushes.  When they do appear in the open it is usually at a bird feeder and even there they do not sit still for long.

I always strive to make wildlife photographs which contain only natural elements but even with our naturalized bird feeders these little birds normally elude me by flitting away as I am attempting to aquire focus.  After many missed tries this wren finally stayed put just long enough for one photograph. 

Friday, January 07, 2011

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets are frequently see wading along the edges of most any Florida wetlands.  A strong breeze caught the crest of this egret giving it a momentary "bad hair day".
Standing stoically a Snowy Egret watches over its watery domain
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Conowingo Bald Eagles

During my recent Florida visit I enjoyed viewing the numerous eagles but did not have a good opportunity to photograph them.  With my work observing New Year's day on Monday January third Willard and I headed for Conowingo Dam to check out the Bald Eagle action.

Arriving before daylight we observed that the hydro plant was in operation. As daylight slowly arrived hundreds of gulls could be seen flying in the dimly lit skies.  A few Eagles began arriving as the sun began peeking over the horizon.  A fellow photographer shared that he had been there a few days before when there was about thirty Eagles present.  During our visit we there was never more than five or six eagles in sight at any one time.

Only once did I observe a Eagle pick up a fish and I was just a little late swinging the camera into action to photograph the instant of catch.  A little after 10:00 am the generators shut down and soon the eagles could be seen flying up river away from the area. 

These images were shot with my Canon 30D attached to Willard's 500mm F4 Canon lens which he so graciously loaned me while he busied himself with shoot video.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Crested Caracara

The Crested Caracara is listed as a threatened species in Florida and according to one website I visited only about 400 adults make up the state's population.  This was the best Caracara image I was able to get during my recent trip as two birds swooped overhead and landed in a nearby tree top.

I missed focus on a much closer shot of the bird in flight and once the pair had landed they were mostly obscured by foliage.  Not quite the image I had hoped for but considering the small size of Florida's population I am very pleased just to have sighted these beautiful birds and very pleased to have gotten a decent shot to remember the moment by.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Wood Storks

Wood Storks, while being a United States endangered species is easily located in the area of Florida I recently visited.   Chad and me were able to photograph this flock as they fed in a small roadside wetland.  Here a Great Egret seems to stand guard as the Wood Storks feed.

A closer view of the Storks as they demonstrate their unique feeding style.

The dramatic lighting effect was created by a shaft of early morning sunlight shining through an opening in the surrounding foliage

While hidden under white feathers while on the ground the Stork's black wing tips are very prominent in flight.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Camera Critters: Otter Surprise

During my recent Florida visit Chad and me were busily photographing the incredible bird life at a small roadside wetland when I began noticing occasional ripples of water emanating from under the low bridge.  As time passed and the ripples continued I walked nearer trying unsuccessfully to peer under the bridge and locate the source of the disturbance.  Drawing Chad's attention to the ripples I stated "there is something alive under there"! 

After a few minutes we moved across the road and had just gotten our tripods set up when three Otters swam from beneath the bridge.  The Otter's reaction to us was more one of curiously as the rapidly swam about alternating between diving for food and popping up, looking us over as they chirped and huffed. 

The Otters were in constant rapid movement and I was very much concerned that it would be impossible to get sharp photos with the light levels present.  Although the sun had just came up in the eastern sky only the reflected light from the surrounding trees was lighting the area.

Occasionally an Otter would shake the water off.  In each case I was just a little behind and did not capture the full effect of the spray flying through the air.  In this shot you can see the water appearing to boil as the spray hits the surface.

 A few flying water drops are still visible in this photograph.

After seven minutes of action the Otter experience ended as abruptly as it had began when all three left the pond; scurrying away through the thick undergrowth.  This was my third encounter with Otters in the wild, the second of which I was able to photograph and truly and unforgettable experience.  I am very thankful that I was able to share this rare moment with Chad.

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