Monday, April 21, 2014

Foxey Tails

After spotting the fox den in one of our hay meadows last Sunday morning and photographing them from long range in the afternoon I had no more sightings of the family.  Willard was able to video them from long range on Monday but the foxes failed to appear the remainder of the week.  Foxes are reportedly quick to move their family if they feel threatened and I was beginning to believe that this was the case.
With that in mind, yesterday morning with the intention of using my truck for a blind, I parked about one hundred yards from the den just as the day began to break.  As the sky lightened the spring bird chorus filled the air, Canada geese and whitetail deer arrived in the meadow to feed, but no sign of activity around the fox den could be seen.
As the sun began to touch the treetops on a distant hillside I spotted what I though was a squirrel race from the edge of the woods into a grassy opening and back again into the woods.  A few minutes later it happened again.  Since this didn't seem consistent with squirrel movement and what I was seeing was some 300-350 yards distant I trained the binoculars on the area to get a better view.  Imagine my surprise when in a moment I spotted a little fox pup racing into the meadow to join other pups already there! 
At that distance photography was out of the question so I knew I must move closer.  Hoping that the truck would be less alarming than a human form I drove from the hay field into the pasture that adjoined the woods where their new den is located.  From about 125 yards I was able to photograph the pups with one of the adults.  At that distance neither adult seemed to care about my truck as long as I stayed inside. 

After photographing from that position for 15 minutes or so I decided to make one more move in hopes of getting even better photographs and this time moved the truck within about 50-60 yards of the den.  This was too close for the adults as they slowly moved away into the woodlands and all but two of the pups went into the den.

However only a few minutes elapsed until another pup reappeared.

And soon others began surfacing as the pups resumed their rough-house playing oblivious to my presence.

Watching these little foxes play reminded me of how much animal babies are alike for their play was very similar to that of domestic pups and kittens.

Sadly I had very little time to spend with the pups until other obligations called me away.  When I hit the truck starter the pups disappeared into their burrow moving with near lightening speed.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Wildlife Welcomes Spring

On a recent frosty morning I was able to photograph a male Red-winged Blackbird as he perched on a grassy hummock singing lustily.  The males always are the first to arrive late each winter with the females arriving later.

Noticing a large mound of bare dirt that appeared in one of our meadows as the snow was beginning to melt I assumed that a woodchuck had reopened an existing burrow.  Although I often looked in the direction of the burrow I had not spotted any animals using it.

This all changed Sunday morning when I noticed a red fox disappear only to remerge a short time later followed by a fox pup.  While I had no luck photographing them at that time I returned in the afternoon to find the young foxes cavorting about the den when a adult lay nearby.

After shooting a few images at long range (over 200 yards) I tried to close the distance.  The adult quickly noticed my approach and began moving off followed by one of the pups.  After the adult stopped for a few seconds the pup turned back to the den and the entire group of pups disappeared underground.  Although I waited for over an hour they did not return leaving me with only the long distance photos.

At one of the cattle watering holes a killdeer stood stock-still hoping to go unnoticed. 

And a snapping turtle lays basking in the bright afternoon sunshine.

Vernal wetlands are teaming with life now and the singing of various frogs and toads fill the air with the beautiful song of spring.  The photo above is of a wood frog eggs mass while a wood frog itself is shown below.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Springtime has Everyone Running and Leaping

Whether wild or domestic, after a long winter, Spring is SOMETHING TO GET EXCITED ABOUT!
UP UP and


 A pair of three week old heifer calves frolic in the warm sunshine.

Their pair-bond may not last long but hopefully they will remain on the farm for years to come as they are destined to replace some of the older brood cows in the current herd.

While the cattle must remain within the fences the deer cross over easily. 

And no matter whether the fence is three foot high or six foot they nearly always use minimal effort, barely clearing the top strand during their jump.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Snipe Hunting Anyone?

As a kid growing up I heard stories about people being taken on snipe hunts as a practical joke.  Snipe were supposed to be some elusive bird, animal or whatever.  A snipe hunt occurred during the night with the victim trying to catch the mythical "snipe" in a burlap bag.  As the stories went the ending of the hunt would occur when the perpetrators would abandon the unwary victim deep in the dark woods.
While I was very familiar with hearing the "snipe hunting" stories, I was not familiar with the real thing; the Wilson's Snipe.  Some years later, perhaps in the mid to late 70's I remember spotting a bird I did not recognize at a spring where the cattle watered on our family farm.  Looking it up in a bird ID guide I found that I had spotted my first real snipe!
As the years passed I learned that snipe could be found nearly every year probing the wet pasture land surrounding the spring during late March and early April.  With that in mind I began watching for their return as the snow melted this year, intent on photographing the wary little birds.
As I was making my rounds on the farm Saturday a snipe flushed from near the spring, signaling that they had once again returned.   With nice weather both Tuesday and Wednesday I spent some of each evening working my way within photographic range with a John Deere Gator.  I had learned from past experience that they were much more tolerant of the Gator than they are of a man on foot.
As I would approach the birds would hide, and believe me when I say that with their camouflage they can disappear in open spots where it would seem absolutely impossible for a bird of their size to hide.  Once within range, with the tripod set up on the gator's deck, and the engine shut off it would be only a matter of 5-10 minutes before the birds would begin to make a few furtive test moves.  As I waited, remaining motionless, their nerve increased quickly and within a few more minutes the entire flock would be busy running about, preening, or probing the mud for tasty morsels.
The following are some of the better shots from the two evenings.