Sunday, March 31, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake: My Last Hurrah

Friday evening I checked the lake's water level and determined that I would be able to launch my boat Saturday, probably for the last time.  The water is now down 7-8 feet leaving only the upper launching area available.  Arriving just before sunrise Saturday morning I heard a loon's lonesome call as I readied the boat for launch.
Once on the water it didn't take long to locate the feeding loon.  This bird was somewhat boat shy but I did manage to photograph it on a couple of occasions throughout the morning.

While I expected to find a good amount of migrating waterfowl I was astounded by what I found.  I hesitate to estimate the number of ducks present but the total number had to be well over 100 and maybe as high as 200-300!  While this shot shows lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks and red-breasted mergansers the total number of different species was much greater, if fact it was the most species I have ever witnessed in any one day at this lake.

As the day warmed a number of boat loads of fishermen came to fish the receding waters.  Two boats carrying fishermen are seen here accompanied by a line of red-breasted merganser filing past in the foreground.

Green-winged Teal
The following is a list of the different species I observed:
Common Loon, Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Red-head Duck, Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Duck, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese.
Blue-winged Teal
This was my very first sighting of Blue-winged Teal at this lake.

Horned Grebe
I will be posting more images from this outstanding outing in the coming days.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lucky Break: Barred Owl

Canon EOS 6D, 600mm F4L IS USM   f5.6, 1/400,ISO800
With a little time to kill, I tossed the camera into the car this evening and went looking for some kind of wildlife to photograph.  As I approached the bottom of a back road hollow I spotted a barred owl perched in a roadside tree.  The owl would allow me to position the car, get the camera into position long enough for a couple of shots before flying away a short distance.  Out of four perches the owl settled on I was able to get shooting three times with this shot being the best for sharpness and background.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

As Winter Lingers On

Hunting Northern Harrier
While officially it is spring winter conditions with cold nights and occasionally snow continue.  A pair of Norther Harriers have been hunting the meadows surrounding my home the last few days.  This shot was taken from our home's rear deck.

Large flocks of starlings are frequently seen now flying in unison from one feeding spot to another.  Here you can see the remnants of yesterday's snow storm lying on the distant mountain side.

Red Fox exhibiting symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange
Recently I have observed a red fox hunting in the meadow behind my home.  The fox seems to prefer hunting in the warm sunshine.  From the poor condition of the fox's coat I would expect that it is having problems staying warm. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake: Going, going, going

A public meeting concerning the draw-down of the Meadow Grounds Lake held in the Central Fulton High School was well attended.  Click HERE to read the meeting report at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer.

With the draw-down having been underway for three weeks the lake was down approximately six feet during my visits there Saturday.  This photo was taken looking northward from the west end of the dam.  I had originally planned on launching my boat to photograph waterfowl but the cold temps and the lingering effects of a bad cold kept me shore bound.

Photo taken facing the dam from just South of the boat launch

 A flock of about 25 Tundra Swans were resting on the lake along with a number of Red-head ducks, Lesser Scuap, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

At 2:30pm the Tundra Swans lifted off heading North on the next leg of their journey.  On their return South this autumn they will find this resting spot missing.

A few fishermen were on the lake along with the ducks.  Here you can see a raft of Red-breasted Mergansers between the fisherman in the boat and the fisherman on the bank.  From the what I was able to observe it appeared that the duck were doing the most of the fish catching.

My wife and I walked to a small cove on the west side of the lake.  She is standing at where the waterline was during our last snowfall this past Monday. 

In a few weeks the lake will be empty.
The two questions that remain are:
Will the dam be repaired and refilled? and if so when?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ring-necked Ducks

A short trip to a local wetlands this evening revealed that the expected "culprits" were present.  With mallards, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and ring-necked ducks sighed only the ring-necked ducks afforded the opportunity for photographs.

A close look at this photo reveals the cinnamon neck band that the ring-necked duck is named for.

After a brief photo op the ringer pair swam away.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake: Update

The PFBC began lowering the Meadow Grounds Lake the week of March 4th.  So far it appears that the level has dropped between three and four feet.  The plan calls for completely draining the lake, inspecting the dam and spillway, and estimating the repair cost.  No money has been identified for repairs and without considerable local effort the PFBC may never repair and refill the lake.

The Meadow Grounds Lake is identified as an important bird area by the Audubon Society, the US partner for Bird Life International.  Without the lake the attraction it currently holds for birds will no longer exist.
Tundra Swans
Since I had not yet taken my boat out of winter storage I visited the lake by car today.  Most of the waterfowl was too distant for even the big glass but a handful of migratory Tundra Swans passed close enough for a photograph.  Using bino's I was able to identify Mallards, Common Merganser, Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, and Long-tailed ducks.
A public meeting has been scheduled by the PFBC at the McConnellsburg High School (Central Fulton) Auditorium. As with the decision to drain the lake, the PFBC failed to notify our County Commissioners. In fact, so much of the decisions surrounding the lake draining has been done seemingly in secret that I expect the meeting to become quite interesting when PFBC officials finally must face an irate public and our County Commissioners.

A number of folks were availing themselves of possibly one of the last opportunities to wet a line.  Fishing seasons and creel limits were eliminated; however the lake will probably be too low for most boats by the time the water warms enough for the fish to bite well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Middle Creek and More

Snow Geese

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swans off Willow Point

Wood Duck with reflected golden morning light

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Birds on the Move

Finally, after a dull drab winter, the bright colors of brilliantly marked waterfowl again grace our local waters. 

Spending the early morning in a pop-up blind along a wetland I observed Canada geese, mallards and wood ducks. 

Male Red-winged Blackbirds were busy singing their lusty territorial song as they lay claim the their preferred nesting areas.  I spotted Red-wings for the first time this year on Monday.  Today was my first sighting of Wood Ducks.

I was unable to reach the Meadow Grounds Lake by car this morning because of the snow remaining from Wednesdays storm; however from the top of the mountain I could both see and hear a flock of Tundra Swans on the lake. Returning with the truck close to mid day I found that the swans had moved on with only this mixed flock of ducks remaining. The flock seen here contained 3 male Red-heads, one male Red-breasted Merganser, and one male Common Golden-eye. Last weekend I observed Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked ducks here.

I still find it hard to believe that soon this vibrant wildlife community will be gone. Even now the level is dropping as the first of the stop logs were removed from the dam this past week.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities.
With lakes drawn down or drained all over the state, fish hatcheries scheduled to close, and boat ramp maintenance everywhere put on hold it seems to me that the time has come for either the PFBC to rewrite their mission statement or begin to step up to the plate.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

More Scenes from Middle Creek

According to the PGC's website the snow geese numbers today were under 5,000.  These images were captured Monday when the estimate was about 30.000.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Middle Creek Blizzard

After two false starts where Middle Creek plans had to be scrubbed, finally Willard and I were able to make the pre-dawn drive east on the Pa Turnpike to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area today.
Snow goose numbers were estimated at 30,000 this morning by PGC personnel which is a considerable drop from Friday's number of 55,000.   While 30,000 is not an impressive number for Middle Creek at this time of year it is an impressive number of birds when you happen to be in just the right position.

Where to land?

Trio Fly-by
I will be posting more from today's shoot in the near future but for now I need to grab some much needed rest.