Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Rally on Raptors

Eagles and hawks were the highlights for last few days.

Driving past this fenced off cornfield, I occasionally see wildlife within it's boundaries. Yesterday served up this eagle feeding on carrion. It was a thrill to be quite close to the raptor. Here is a cropped shot.

This photo is posted full size, for perspective. I'd have to guess about 100 feet away, using the Canon 100-400mm lens.

I had taken this photo over the weekend at a cooling lake that was used to serve our local power generating station that has since closed its doors. The lake is iced over, but is a magnet for eagles in the winter months. I spotted this guy, but didn't spot the 6 others in the background until reviewing the images later. Doh! I might have stayed out there alittle longer, if I had known they were out there.

I found this cooper perched over a small stream. He sat there the whole time without flushing. I love when I can leave without disturbing his post.

This giant red tail flew across the road just a few feet from my windshield and landed in this tree. He too, stayed put.

This dark morph red tail finished off the carrion that the eagle left behind.

Lastly, this turkey vulture was trying to mooch off the hawk for a taste of his prize.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Critter Captures

When I started out dabbling in wildlife photography many years ago, what drew me initially was animals. I had never, believe it or not, seen a buck up close. A friend had blown up a photo of a buck and showed it to me while I was over at her house for a visit. It was beautiful! I wanted to see in person what she captured, so I asked her to take me with her sometime. She agreed, so I dug out my college camera, which was a Pentax K1000 manual film camera. I had gotten a cheap 500mm zoom many years back, and I don't even know why I had it, but I am glad I did. We went out to her favorite deer areas, but didn't see a buck. Well, that elusive buck fueled the desire to capture one even more. I took shots of everything. Squirrels, robins, sparrows, you name it, just to shoot something, and the obsession was born. I wanted to shoot everything. Bucks, raccoons, fox, etc. were my focus, but to find them on a regular basis was a mighty tall order. Birds were abundant, so my lens shifted to the trees and skies. I didn't know a thing about birds. I knew your everyday basics, but even capturing, say a cardinal, was not what I could walk out the back door and shoot. I discovered all kinds of species along with their interesting markings, and absorbed every tidbit of information on them. I bought my first field guide. I bought my first digital camera. I bought my first printer. I bought my first everything from zooms to filters to remote shutters and tripods. I made a few mistakes. I bought plenty of junk and had to buy over again. I was now beginning to understand quality/price. What an expensive road I have been down, and I am still stepping...So I ask...What is your story?
Ahhh, the memories...But, I digress...What made me think of my beginnings was this series of photos. I saw alot of critters, and didn't photograph any birds, which is rare.

An up close opossum, which was exciting. Actually it's a first for me! The hair textures were interesting, and the delicate pink nose was intriquing. It's worth clicking on the photo to see the detail.

I've seen this particular coyote many times, as have you, so I wonder why? Are food sources scarce that he needs to be exposed? I don't know, but he looks very healthy.

I've also seen this buck many times, as have you. How can you not take just one more photo? I can't.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Flickering of the Eyes

Northern Illinois had the weirdest weather over the weekend...

Last week was hell froze over; this weekend was spring temperatures in the 60's. The snow and ice melted, it rained all day, and flooding was the main concern. Sunday was pleasant with clear skies and temps in the mid 30's. I went for a drive:

I found a flicker on the side of the road ...

...falling asleep...

...good night lil fella...

Cool Facts from All About Birds:

A common ant-eating woodpecker of open areas, the Northern Flicker has two color forms found in different regions. The yellow-shafted form is common across the eastern and northern parts of North America, while the red-shafted form is the one found in the West.
Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its favorite food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.
The Northern Flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. Flickers in the northern parts of the range move south for the winter, although a few individuals often stay rather far north.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ice Sculptures

I have a few left over icy pictures to share...

Interesting ice sculpture capturing the blue sky in the icicles.

It was tough trying to capture the fog rising along the ice covered tree line.

This starling was huddled behind a bush trying to stay out of the wind and conserving energy.

This deer used this bushy tree for cover.

Today is supposed to warm up to over 50 degrees. Flooding is a great concern, with rivers frozen over and no place for the melt to go.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bluebird Icicles

I found these bluebirds foraging for anything they could find among the ice-laden ditches along a wooded road. There were at least 5 in the flock, but I suspect more.

I found a decent parking spot and watched them as they combed the brush for a morsel of food.

I don't know what they might find in this ice-stricken forest.

As I listened for their communication peeps, I mostly heard the branches of the trees crinkling and crunching from their mummified enclosures as the wind moved through them. What an interesting sound...

I never could get the bluebirds to land on my good side, putting me between them and the sun.

Perching on a snowball, was the chief patrolman, looking for those potentially dangerous cars to alert the flock if need be.

Since it's the 24th, and I didn't (forgot) prepare a Christmas greeting, I will just end this post with: Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pheasants Forever

The pheasants were everywhere I went, looking for food, which is unusual since you rarely see them...

I'm sure it is tough finding food with all of the ice coating everything...

An ice storm blanketed the entire region...

The birds must be struggling to find things to eat...

My heart goes out to them...

I took bird seed with me on this trip and threw it around...

The forecast for the next few days is frightening...

Lots of snow, then lots of sleet, then more snow. I don't remember a winter this severe, and it has only just begun...

Lots more "icy" pics tomorrow...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Shots

Well, hello deer! She was just a few feet from the road, so I stopped and took her portrait.

This lil guy wasn't as accomodating, so I left him alone.

This 8 pointer still had a few ladies hanging around, just out of frame.

Winter's christmas ornament adorned with snow.

The Playboy logo. I'm hoping a screech owl might find it attractive in the future.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Not Delivery, It's DiGiorno!

First and foremost, I must apologize for these photos.

I am finding out that my first winter season lens (Canon 100-400mm) has a tempermental focus with varying temperatures of inside car degree and outside degree difference. It must be because it is built like a tank with plenty of cold steel bulk to absorb the extremes. I have never had a problem with my other lenses of lesser quality. So...I've been freezing my lens for better results...Let me explain: Since the lens is fogging inside the car, I have to keep the car colder on the inside to regulate the temperature. If you ask if I am out of my mind???? You are right...I am freezing my booty off, but...I prefer quality...sooo it's worth it...kinda...but only when I apply the technology! Doh! This explains these crappy photos, I was not prepared when I happened upon this coyote desperate for a meal.

He was only 15 feet away, but my car was quite warm, causing grainy blurry photos.

The title to this post refers to the "frozen road pizza" he was taking home to eat.

I'm not sure on what the frozen critter is...Rabbit? Opossum?

I feel bad for this guy, because as the winter has only just settled in, and just like our economy, this coyote is in a recession, settling for frozen carcasses to get him through the season. It will be a long and cold winter. I hope he makes it...

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Want to Fly Like an Eagle...

Last week I went to Starved Rock where the Eagles congregate during the winter.

I didn't expect to see any, but I thought I would take the chance...

As you can see, I saw some...

Talking to the guys over at the Army Corps. of Engineers, where they have a visitors center, only a few residents are around, because the cold temps have only now settled in to the area. The waters are still open, so the birds have fish available for the most part...

Although the waters are open, a few select eagles took advantage of the lock and dam...

...which stuns fish as they pass thru the churning waters.

Starved Rock is a special place because of the stunning backdrop for scenic photos.

Starved Rock is an erosional remnant of St. Peter Sandstone that forms a high terrace in the Illinois Valley. The rock is a historic site of a successful siege against the Illini Indians, resulting in the starvation and demise of the entire tribe.

In 1673, French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette passed through here on their way up the Illinois from the Mississippi.

Exploring the majestic bluffs and canyons is the park's primary attraction, and there are 13 miles of trails to enjoy.