Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lip Curling Whitetails

The whitetail rut seems to have slammed to a stop this week.  This is normal; although in some years the activity continues strong up to the opening of rifle deer season, Saturday November 30th in Maryland and Monday December 2nd here in Pa.
The lip-curl is performed frequently by bucks during the rut as they test a doe's urine to determine her reproductive state.  The following images are a collection  of lip curls I photographed during the 2013 rut.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rainy Day Cardinals

What started out in the morning as light snow turned to a steady cold rain by afternoon.  While I wanted to spend the time observing wildlife, with the whitetail rut slowing, I wasn't particularly interested in becoming soaked so I opted to sit in the truck at one of our naturalized bird feeders.  Since the shooting would be all hand-held I used the Canon 60D with 100-400mm lens.

Holding on with one foot the cardinal scratches its head.

For some reason unknown to me, the cardinal grasped a dead poke leaf stem in its bill and shook it violently.  After shaking the water from the leaf the bird flew away leaving the leaf much as it had found it.

Female Cardinal

While not as exciting as photographing the rutting whitetails, a raining afternoon with the cardinals was better than an afternoon at work!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Images Incidental to the Rut

 While my attention has been focused on the rutting whitetails, I try not to become so riveted as to have tunnel vision.  Simply being outside leads to close encounters with a variety of wildlife and by paying attention to our surroundings photos of incidental subjects can become the high point of the day afield.

Such was the case when this female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker lit close by.  After surveying its surroundings from its perch on a dead snag it flew into a tangle of vines and poke week, hanging upside down while feeding on the dried poke berries.

Rays of late evening sunlight bathed this scene of a female northern cardinal perched on a poke/vine tangle in a warm golden glow.  Even with hundreds of female cardinal photographs in my archives the scene was so pretty that I felt compelled to capture it.

A fox squirrel who has been visiting the naturalized feeders the past few months has became increasingly tolerant of our presence.  For this close-up photo the squirrel allow me to shoot from only a few feet away with the 100-400 lens.
While much of the time pursuing whitetails with either hunting or photo gear is "dead time" with no deer in sight, by breaking the tunnel vision and observing what else that is around can turn an unsuccessful day into an unforgettable day afield.   

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Running & Rutting

With the mating season peaking the normally reclusive whitetail bucks are very active and can be seen nearly any hour of night or day.  While I enjoy photographing whitetails any time of year there is no time like the rut to photograph and observe whitetail bucks.  Here a buck faces off with a smaller opponent.  Please note, this buck is not exhibiting aggression towards me but rather towards a buck just outside of the camera's field of view, note also that this shot as are most of my whitetail shot was made with a long telephoto lens; in this case I used a 600mm.  

The rut involves a lot of running and no doe is satisfied with a suitor until after she has led him and others on some long high-speed chases.

This fellow looks like he just kicked in the after-burner as he tries to catch up with a fleeing doe.

And finally when the time is right the chase stops.
When next June rolls around a new crop of  little spotted fawns, the results of this season's frantic activity, will arrive as a new generation continues the whitetails cycle of life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do Chipmunks eat Slugs?

When the chipmunk hopped up on a branch above the leaf litter below I thought it was holding a seed of some type in its paws.

 As the chipmunk began to eat I realized that this was not a seed!

After extracting and eating the slug's entrails it paused for moment with the slug's empty body grasp tightly.

 After a short pause little rodent resumed eating;

 finishing by licking its paws after the last bite.  The chipmunks diet mostly consist of seeds, nuts, fruits, and other plant materials however they have a carnivorous side as well as this series of photographs illustrates. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scenes from the Rut

This buck was approaching a challenger.  His posture and attitude were enough to shoo the other buck away.
Since last Friday I have been out morning and evening nearly every day photographing the whitetail rut in southern Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Sometimes it has been slow while other times have been action packed and the intensity of the mating season seems to be increasing with each passing day.

When making a scrape a buck will lick and nibble at overhanging branches and also rub them over his facial scent glands.  This buck stood erect to lick and rub prior to scraping and urinating. 

This doe was being pursued by a buck when she stopped to urinate.  This is the does' way of informing her suitor as to her state of readiness. 

And the pursuing buck stops and sniffs the spot.

Here a mature buck lip-curls, testing fresh doe urine.

And it's not just the big fellows that do the lip-curl!

Sometimes the doe chasing becomes a high-speed race.
If you are a whitetail fan now is the time to be out enjoying the most magical time in the Whitetail's year!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Rut is On!

For the whitetail enthusiast there is no time of the year that can compare to the mating season.  For most of the year whitetails are shy and retiring animals but with the onset of the rut they suddenly become much more visible as the bucks roam widely in search of receptive does in estrus.
While not nearly as vocal as their cousins, the elk, whitetails vocalize during the rut.  The buck, pictured here pursuing a doe, was grunting as the photograph was taken.
My biggest surprise of the weekend came when I photographed this male wild turkey gobbling!  Most gobbling is done during the late winter and spring months in conjunction with the wild turkey's mating season.  Perhaps this tom was a little jealous of the whitetails having all of the fun!
Of course when one is spending a great deal of time out of doors there is more to photograph than deer.  This white-throated sparrow posed nicely in the weather branches of a poke weed.

And a fox squirrel, busy fattening up for winter, pauses just long enough for a portrait.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Elk Season, Meadow Grounds Lake and More

The annual Pennsylvania elk hunting season opened Monday the 4th.  According to the PGC Facebook page 51 elk were killed in the first three days.  With today, Friday and Saturday to go along with another week of extended season in the open zone for unsuccessful hunters the kill rate should once again be very close to 100%.

Young bull on Winslow Hill

The Meadow Grounds Lake which I have reported on throughout most of the year remains drained to the six foot level.  The PFBC has contracted with a company to do a geotechnical study of the dam to determine the problems and guide engineers in designing the necessary repairs.

The cost of the study is around $64,000.  This will be covered by the PFBC however no further work including engineering will be done until full funding becomes available.     

The whitetail mating season is beginning to heat up so I will be focusing most of my free time in the coming weeks on photographing the rutting bucks.  While the November rut is the most exciting time of the year to be pursuing deer it is also an excellent time to photographing song birds while waiting for whitetail activity to occur.  With most of the summer's leaves down, birds are much easier seen now than they were just a short time ago.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Wildlife Activity Increases as November Begins

With a good portion of the leaves now down and a chilly nip in the air, wildlife activity is picking up here in South Central Pennsylvania.  Bucks are beginning to become more active as the rut nears.  This young buck paused momentarily from sparring with a round hay bale when I clicked this shot. 

Although nearly half the size of their mothers, fawns continue to nurse.  Nursing sessions now last only a few seconds.  If a fawn begins to nurse you had better shoot fast if you wish to capture a phtograph for it will be over in 10-15 seconds.
The does will soon wean the fawns.  While nursing at the beginning of November is common I have never observed fawns nursing from Thanksgiving week on.

Squirrels are very active now feeding and hoarding nuts for winter.

We have two varieties of squirrel living in my home area, the fox squirrel pictured here and the gray squirrel pictured below.  In years past it was not uncommon to spot the occasional red squirrel however for whatever reason the red squirrels have disappeared from the area. 

Gray squirrels are our most common squirrel and account for probably 75% of my squirrel sightings.

While not as noisy now as during the nesting season, the red-bellied woodpeckers are easily spotted as visibility improves in the woodland with the summer's leaves drifting to the ground.  Year-around residents, the red-bellied woodpeckers can be counted on to provide a bright spot of color in the outdoors no matter the season.