Friday, June 29, 2007

Off The List!

American Bald Eagles; Our National Symbol of Freedom...These majestic rapters have made an amazing come-back! They are being taken off the Endangered Species list this week, and are now under the Protected list. In the 1960's they were nearing extinction, as DDT was a common pesticide for farming, which became a major factor in the eagles decline. Their numbers reached so low that our Icon of Freedom could and would slip away forever if our government didn't react. Bald Eagles were placed on the Endangered List, thus protecting the species from harm, along with banning the use of DDT as a pesticide. Since then, and over 40 years later, the breeding pairs have reached nearly 10,000 across the U.S. compared to just 200 pairs in 1963. Although they are no longer endangered, they are still on the Protected List which makes it illegal to kill the bird.

In my own neck of the woods, there is a pair just a few miles away, who have successfully bred an eaglet this year. The nest is out of camera range for a decent shot, but I did catch some action when one flew into the cornfield, looking for food this past winter. I was parked across the road from the field, and the eagle soared right over me. It also swooped down next to some geese, who seemed to huddle close for protection, but the rapter was only after some nesting material such as corn husks for their giant nest in a nearby tree.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Screech Owls

Screech owls are so cool. They are the smallest of Illinois owls, measuring 8-9 inches in length. They have yellow eyes and prominent ear tufts which are not ears at all, just simply elongated feathers. There are 2 morphs, red and gray. They tend to adapt their colors to their environment as represented here with the tree bark for camouflage. Their large eyes are fixed in the skull, making it necessary to rotate their heads to change their view. They nest in tree cavities, or even nesting boxes if necessary. The Screech Owl got its name from the call that they make, usually at dusk. They also have a low whistling call, sometimes sounding like a horse whinny. They eat a diet of small rodents, insects, snakes, and sometimes other birds.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Favorite Colors

Just because its pretty, its cute, and all of my favorite bold colors!

When I got this shot, I had been set up and waiting for a hummingbird to come by, which frequented these wild iris's one sunday morning (I never got the shot). I went back after work for a few days, trying to capture it, but instead, all I got was this cute lil bug.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Grand Opening: "Hannibal's Animals"

I wanted to change the name of my Blog for a while now, as I didn't think most people would "get" the old title, and the reference was getting tired, so I finally came up with my new blog name last week. I then created this header on Saturday. I posted the original shot that I used to "photoshop" the final product. A friend wanted to know if all the creatures in the header were my shots? Yes, and there were a total of 19 layers (individual pieces).

Creating this whole thing was a bit conflicting, because I wanted to put too much into it. I had to leave out a fox that I had posted before, because I just couldn't find a place for her. I hated to not represent the fox, because I actually have 3 deer in this, but perspective and placement just couldn't work. I wanted depth to the whole thing, so the buck turning the corner was a must. The white deer worked so well, even though it was the most grainy of them all, but I had to keep the dear butt-biting the squirrel. The fawn had to stay because of the butterfly and the raccoon just had to chase the hummingbird. The coyote was just tall enough so the fox couldn't go there either. I also had plenty of water creatures, but didn't have the environment, so those were the choices I made. If I had to critique my own stuff, I would have to point out that the shadows on some are wrong (on the originals), but I added shadowing here and there where it was needed.

Tell me what you think? I will change the blogger address officially to next friday, so be prepared to change your bookmarks!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Great Blue Herons are reliable. I can find them most any time I want. I have shot so many over the years, yet I am not tired of them. I found this guy at Gebhard Woods among the blooming wild iris's, lotus flowers and lily pads and just loved the setting.
Great Blue Heron Facts: Largest North American heron. A common wading bird that nest in trees near bodies of water. Wing span of up to 70 inches. Adults have a white crown and face; black plume extending above eye to back of head, gray/blue body. Stands 38 inches tall.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Red(Winged) Baron

I got these shots on my way home, and although these images are not clean, I liked the action. I'm just guessing, but I believe the hawk is a redtail, and of course the bomber is a red-winged blackbird. Why smaller birds mob larger birds is unclear to me, but just the nerve of those pesky birds is something to admire. I've seen smaller hawks eat bigger prey like cardinals, so I ask: What are they thinking?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers Day Dad!

I shot these Orioles on friday, and decided then, that that would be my Fathers Day Card. I made one for my Mom on Mothers Day, and was struggling with what I would do for Dad. I used geese and goslings for Mom, which turned out cute, but on the same theme, where would I find something appropriate for Dad? I thought of a buck photo I had, trying to go for that proud, handsome, strong Dad thing, but when I was shooting the sock nest with the Orioles, what I noticed was the male feeding the chicks much more frequently than the female. ( A ratio of 6 to 1 if I had to guess.)

So if you bloggers out there still don't know what I look like, I am the chick on the left. (click on the picture for larger view)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

1 in a Million

I am one of the luckiest wildlife photographers on this planet. Why? Because I have access to witness an extraordinary creature on an "at will" basis. A few years ago, a friend (Pam) told me about an albino whitetail deer she knew about, and has been craving to get a better look at it...She drove by the area hundreds of times, but had only gotten a few shots. She showed me a photo for proof, and...being that we are photography buddies, she revealed the site to me under the agreement that I would never reveal the location. ( I honor that to this day, so if you are wondering if I will give out that information, sorry, I keep my promises.) After cruizin by hundreds of times, one morning at sunrise, we made our usual trek to our favorite spots, including a drive by the "spot". To our surprise, the "white one" was pretty much as close as you can get, which shocked us. We were not expecting her, because we have become accustomed to "not" seeing her. We creeped into position, and let our shutters fly. Not much can be more exciting than that. My first close encounter of the "albino" kind. It was truly amazing! When I checked out the photos later, I just had to share them with my friends. I e-mailed low-resolution photos, and then one of my friends e-mailed me back, wondering if it (the white one) was near a certain area. Huh? How would she know that? I asked what she knew, and she told me about a co-worker who owned lots of land exactly where I saw her. I then told her that yes, that is where it was, and she asked me if she could forward my e-mail to her. I said yes, so then that person e-mailed me, wanting copies, because she had not seen such close photos of her. I printed off what I had and we arranged to meet. I asked Pam if she would like to go, so we did. They (property owners) were thrilled to recieve the photos, so with that, and with mutual respect for privacy, (for owners and the albino) they gave us access to their property if we wanted to venture about for wildlife. Since then, we have become great friends, and I get to see her (the white one) pretty frequently. This albino isn't a pet, she is completely wild, but we have gotten to know her habits, and during certain seasons, she can be quite regular with her favorite spots to rest and hide.
She has had many babies, all "normal" color, but experts say that albinos don't have albino babies, but do pass on that gene. We all are hoping that one day there just might be a pair out there that will mate and pass down the legacy, creating the next generation. The odds for albinos are 1 in a million...

Note: She has icy blue eyes, a characteristic of albinos, along with a pink nose, lips, eyelids, and inner ears.

Note: Killing an albino is against Illinois state law. The penalty is strict and unforgiving: Mandatory jail time, huge fines, and a completely selfish and defiant act of crime. No one wants to see a dead anomoly of nature hanging on someone's wall.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

17 Year Cicadas Are Here!

I took a reluctant trip with my friend Pam to see the 17 year Cicadas which she found in McKinley Woods in Channahon. She claimed that they were in huge proportions and the sound was amazing. These Cicadas are not in my particular area, so I eventually said that I would go, as long as I could stay in the truck (I'm very bug-phobic). Well, little did I know, I eventually became more interested in those lil ugly bugs than I did for my own welfare. I did leave the safety of her vehicle for some close inspection. Although I would have liked to use my macro lens, I instead, opted for my zoom, as keeping a 4.5 foot distance was better for my escape, if indeed I needed one.
The best part was watching the birds go after them. We caught this female cowbird snag one, pull off the wings, then gulp it down in one bite! I will definately go back, bug-phobic or not...

Creepy is COOL!!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cute as a Gosling!

Just plain cuteness! Canada gosling: This lil guy was plucking grass, along with his brothers and sisters, but I singled him out for this photo op. Taken at Channahon wide waters.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Baby Big Ears

White tail deer are giving birth at this time of year, so I found it appropriate to select this photo for posting. Newborn fawns at birth, weigh 6-7 lbs and have about 300 white spots for camouflage. The first few weeks after being born, Doe mothers leave their newborns in a safe place to look for food. Fawns have no smell at birth, so predators are not likely to find them in tall grass, unless they happen to stumble upon them. Does nurse their young for their first 3-4 months of life. Some fawns are just now growing old enough to follow their mothers when feeding.
I found these 2 in a soybean field near Channahon feeding on leaves which is a staple for grazers such as deer. They also eat corn, beans, berries, bark and grass.
The ears on the little one seem to be even bigger than mom's so I called this one, "Baby Big Ears"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baltimore Oriole Hitting the Juice!

How to attract an Oriole to your yard: (Male) Orioles migrate to Illinois in late April looking for nesting sites to attract females. They are looking for good places to eat for their site, as well as nesting material that is readily available. I happen to live in an area where Cottonwoods are everywhere (I have 3 in my yard) which produce a "cottony" pod for which they gather for nesting. I also put out oranges for eating, because they love fruit and large seeds. I have had success every year for attracting these gorgeous birds. They build a "sock" for their nest, which is softer textured than most stick nests.

Our National Symbol

I took these photos at Starved Rock in February this year (2007). I was lucky enuff to get to the parking lot early, and an eagle was in a tree right above me, which is a rare treat. There were so many great photo op's. that came out of that day, because the eagle count was up to 112. (an all time high). Eagles find open water during winter months for food, so they were feeding at the locks in a frenzy and the action was hot. There is a tree on the northwest end of the locks that the eagles perch in when not soaring, that held 81 eagles for this shot. I spent many hours of many days in the blustery single digits of temperature, but what is nice about shooting at the Army Corps. of Engineers, (which is directly across from Starved Rock) is that they have a Visitors Center for which you can go in to warm up. And...the background for all my shots is "Lovers Leap" which is a rock formation that adds for a great backdrop. They also give eagle watch tours from late Jan. thru Feb. For Illinois Eagles, Starved Rock State Park in Utica is definately the place to visit.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Screech Squirrel

I decided I wanted to try to get a screech owl in my yard, so I built a screech owl box to mount to my tree. I found some plans, built one, then customized it by adding bark and a perch on the inside and outside, just in case the owl had babies and would use the outside perch for my viewing pleasure. I got a friend to help me mount it to my tree, and with major difficulty, got it up high enuff (15 feet minimum). So, as days, then months pass, I see no signs of activity. I check it every day to no avail. Then one day after work, I see a head in the hole which looks like a squirrel. I grab my binoculars and check it out. Yes, indeed it was a squirrel, and I kinda got excited. It had been so long, that I didn't mind that it was a squirrel, at least it was something that found my box appealing. Anyway, I went out with my camera and got this shot. He was just so cute, staring back at me. After a few days pass, I notice that some of the bark was missing and my perch was gone, so then I got pissed. The frickin squirrel couldn't appreciate the fine living space I customized with great care, so I was ready to evict him. The least he could have done was had babies or something, but no....he just took and didn't give back-selfish bastard! Anyway, as of today, he still resides, and I am somewhat over it, because who could resist that face?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Free as a Bird!

Today folks, my good friend McGone is leaving me. He's got a better job, so I am sad but happy all at the same time. I wanted to dedicate this page to him and send him off with one word - -FREEBIRD!
Just showing you respect man! Anyway, if I were a dude, and I had guitar skills,... -PRIVATE CONCERT, PEOPLE!
But then again, there was that chick from "RockStar" who had a "weird and creepy, but somehow hot" vibe on. I could be Dilana rockin it out! I'd also jam to Ozzy-Mama I'm coming home! (I am taking requests for other appropriate "70's-80's cliche" farewell songs)
Love you man!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rockin the Foxes!

This fox is a mother of 5. She had 6 which is a horrible story, so I won't get into that. She resides in this wooded field which borders Nettle Creek. I have spent plenty of hours in the bushes waiting for her or her kits to come out of their den. As the picture reveals, she did spot me for this shot. She had just brought home dinner when a neighborhood dog flushed her from some brush. She ran into the den with her meal, and then ran past me for escape. She stopped, took a look at me, then bolted. While sitting in the bushes for 3 hours, I had heard a sound, which at first I thought was squirrel chatter, coming from behind me. I knew that wasn't quite right, then I thought that just maybe... it was a raccoon. I turned around and found a hole in a tree and waited. All of a sudden, it came crawling out of this hole and carefully climbed down a ways before it saw me. It stopped, checked me out, then continued down on the backside of the tree. A few minutes later, I hear that sound again, coming from the same place, and I immediately thought "Baby!" I turned around, and yes, there it was, head sticking out of the hole, crying for mama. Awesome! That whole day was just amazing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


This frog was shot on Sunday (June 3,2007) at Gebhard Woods in Morris, IL. I went to find blooming Lotus Flowers, but instead I found him. I liked the lighting and the angle alot. I have never seen a bullfrog up close so this was exciting (as far as frogs go) for me. His eyes had all kinds of flecks with a brilliant irridescent gold shine. I just had to capture that. He was under some heavy cover at the edge of a pond, so getting to him wasn't easy. There were large rocks jutting out from the water, so I set up my tripod carefully and situated myself as best I could. The best angle was as low as the frog, but the drink beneath me kept me from getting that low. What I noticed as I was focusing, was the spider that is within range of him. I thought that that would be really cool to get that action, and wondered why he hadn't yet captured his breakfast. Maybe he didn't know it was there? So, I shot a few lighting shots, adjusted, and was ready. I turned my focus to manual, so that I could use my remote shutter, and just then the frog decided to eat his breakfast. I couldn't flip the switch fast enough,and refocus, so that shot never happened. But...that's nothing new, that kind of crap happens on a daily basis. I do like the reflection so I am happy with the shot.

Great Horned Owl mother of 2

My first blogging post begins with my favorite, yet elusive subject. I look for owls wherever I go, but spotting them is rare. I have yet to find one that wasn't during nesting season. They are very shy and get disturbed easily. They will flush from a forest without you ever knowing they were near. Their wings have specialized feathers that cause them to fly off without a sound, so their stealth is great. This Great Horned Owl mother hatched 2 owlets in an unusual urban site for 3 years running. She uses the same nest found at the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva Il. The tree is accessible and the nest is about 25 feet up, so the photo op is prime. I spent a total of 4 days up there, waiting for the "perfect shot"!