Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Wanderings

I wandered around all weekend, looking for the good stuff, and although I didn't get a whole lot, I was happy with a few shots.




This is my first female Kestral. It just seems that I always photograph males, so this was a treat.








I've run across this coyote on several occasions, but this time, I caught him in mid field for a more detailed view. I really liked the "gassy-fumy" air in the background which skewed the landscape.








This guy is quite healthy according to his heavy girth around the middle. He/she is about the biggest/baddest coyote I have ever seen.









Now this guy is a special sight. He is the first buck I had ever captured well enough on film, many years ago. He is quite old as you can tell, but I see this particular guy every year around this time. How can I tell it is the same buck year after year? It's quite obvious to me, looking at his rack which has the same shape, and the features on his face and snout and those distinctive eyes. I have just never forgotten his face. This could very well be the last time I will ever see this special guy...








I go over these tracks every time super slow, as the approach is partially hidden, and at times can produce a hidden buck for a great photo op. On this day, for some reason, I went over them with distraction and missed a great portrait shot. When I backed up to shoot, he turned and went for cover. I learned my lesson...again...








This guy trotted into cover quickly, reminding me that the "peak" of the rut has most likely passed, with his alertness to his surroundings back in focus.








This shot was taken just after sunrise, when the lighting has a red hue to it. Another buck on high alert.








This black squirrel was found eating a walnut, hiding under a pine. Black squirrels are actually a morph of the gray squirrel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love Triangle

Once upon a time...


...two dudes fell in love with the same girl. She was a pretty girl who seemed quite shy. She really didn't seem to favor either guy, but both knew she was the one for them...







...both were willing to fight for their love. Each was determined to show her their strength...








...even though both were pretty equal in size...








...but the one who had the most heart always wins the girl...








...so they scrapped and grappled, knowing that in the end, it would all be worth it...








...each tried to gain the advantage...








...never losing site of their pride and honor of winning her love...









...the girl would love their wounds away when it was all over...







...and then, all of a sudden, the girl just got up and left with another guy. The dudes could only watch and learn from their mistake. Never lose a friendship over a girl.








The girl's heart beat for another, and the dudes bonded over their loss.

The End!

The story is fiction.
The dudes were just sparring.

Two cool things happened.

I have never seen bucks sparring in all my years of wildlife photography, so seeing this was amazing! I have also never seen deer love each other. So, I just had to put this story together so that I could include both images, even though some might scowl at the last one, which is why I brought Austin Powers into the mix to lighten the graphic nature. No offense intended, only humor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tufted Titmice!

Passing thru this forest, I stumble upon about 5 titmice flitting around from branch to branch, making all kinds of strange noises. It was awesome! I had never heard such noises from them before. It wasn't the usual peeps, which totally made my day! They played and played, and eventually went in too deep into the forest for shots, but I stayed and listened for quite some time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This one is for Birdgirl

(This one is for you Birdgirl! [She has some terrific shots of Piebald deer] You seem to love the big bucks from Illinois, so here ya go! It's the biggest I've ever seen, although they are not the best photos of him, as he was quite a distance away.)

As usual, I was driving along...

...and as usual for this time of year, I am looking for big bucks...

...so I mosey on down the road, and find this one I've seen before...

...and that one I've seen before...

...and then all of a sudden, I see a truck stopped ahead, which usually means someone sees something...

...I get closer and see that it is my friend, but I don't want to interfere so I drive past...

...I saw that there were a handful of deer that she was videotaping...

...I spend some time at a parking lot trying to keep busy...

...I get bored and felt I had given her plenty of time, and drive back through...

...this time, I see a buck as I pass her by...

...I couldn't keep driving, I needed to have a second look...

...so I pulled over, giving my friend plenty of property to call her own, but enough for me to get some looks...

...all I can tell from this location was that this buck was a badass!



He was protecting his doe from another buck who was close by...




The doe stayed low for most of the time...






The massive buck tangled in the branches to leave his scent, which should deter other intrusive bucks...






I could not count the tines while shooting, but after closer inspection, I discovered he had 16--yes--16 points! He had 7--yes 7--brow tines! That is highly unusual! The spread of the rack is massive! My boss at work who is leaving for gunshot season which starts this friday morning was drunk with envy. I can only smile because this guy is on protected land.


(click to enlarge to count the points)

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Almost that Time of Year for Bald Eagles!

Not a whole lot was happening on Saturday morning, with the weather laying heavy under rainy/cloudy skies. I did my usual route, and was surprised to see a few Bald Eagles at the dam, scanning the horizon and passing the time. I do see them from time to time throughout the year, but its a pretty rare sight. There are a few residents scattered around the counties, as American Bald Eagles have been taken off the endangered list, just last year. It's awesome to see them populating back into Illinois!



The best time of year for eagles in Illinois, is in the winter when it is cold enough to freeze the rivers over (Jan./Feb.). Just find a dam where the water is still open, and you can bet there will be eagles looking for food. Starved Rock State Park is a famous site for attracting Eagles. One of the parks greatest features in the winter months, is the coastline along the Illinois River at the lock and dam. Two years ago I went during a particularly cold winter, and counted 104 eagles in just one single tree!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Last Post About Sandhill Cranes+Video!










A bonding moment...
















So long, my friends...until we meet again next spring!




Enjoy the sounds of the Sandhills with my video at this magical place! (Sorry, I'm no Spielberg!)

video

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Few More Sandies from Jasper-Pulaski

In this 2nd post about the sandhill cranes from Jasper-Pulaski, I will keep it simple and start with a photo on the ground, and end at the moon!



I got lucky with my 2nd visit to JP and found a family somewhat close to my lens in an outlying farm field.



The paratroopers were landing in mass numbers...



...ready to invade the pasture!



If I could only describe the sound...



The sky turned blue after a dismal morning...



..allowing for photo op's in any direction...



..just try NOT to snap off a few hundred frames...



...they just keep arriving every few seconds...


I stayed until dark, and I am glad I did, or I would have missed this!

I will say it again, if you can ever go to this place, it will not disappoint!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Indiana Sandhill Cranes

After hours and hours of searching, and hiking, and waiting, and driving...I went to Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana, which is about a 2 hour drive. I just found out about the place a few days ago, or I would have went alot sooner--ALOT sooner!

It was A>M>A>Z>I>N>G!!!!!! Anyone who is close enough, should really plan a visit. There were thousands of cranes, seriously! I had no idea what to expect, but it was so thrilling, it seemed like a vacation. You could see them for miles in any direction, flying in continuously...A photographers dream!



Exerpt from Chicago Wilderness Magazine: http://chicagowildernessmag.org

AFTER THE FIELDS HAVE YIELDED THEIR LAST HARVEST, chill north winds signal the time when greater sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis, head to warmer climes. From their nesting grounds in the northern Great Lakes states and provinces, the gray birds will set their internal compasses on a southeasterly course toward Florida and southern Georgia. Ten thousand, twenty thousand — and in peak years as many as thirty thousand birds — will stop to rest at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, 50 miles inland from Lake Michigan near Medaryville, Indiana.



This seasonal mass-gathering of the sandhills is a marvel that attracts birders, nature lovers, and the just plain curious. The number of human spectators in past seasons has topped 30,000, with busy days drawing upwards of 200 visitors.



The long-legged, long-necked sandhill cranes depend on this wetland habitat for protection and rest, while the surrounding agricultural land in this still-rural region provides them with meals of waste grain, small rodents, and insects. Such large numbers of cranes may also choose Jasper-Pulaski for its convenient location along an almost direct line between their start and end destinations. They also seem to be funneled here along Lake Michigan, an obstacle they won’t fly over.



Beginning with their arrival as early as August, the cranes — which are joined by Canada geese, ducks, and occasionally even federally endangered whooping cranes — stake claim to Jasper-Pulaski’s 300-acre Goose Pasture, a field planted in winter wheat and surrounded by wetlands, where they’ll stay for three or four weeks. As early, smaller flocks continue south, massive new flocks flood in. By mid-November — peak fall viewing time — daily crane counts swell to 15,000, and sometimes 30,000 during warmer autumns. They congregate again February through March, though the autumn stopover yields the greatest numbers of cranes at one time.



During the daytime, motorists can observe cranes on the wing or feeding along US 421 and along Highway 143 near the main entrance to Jasper-Pulaski. The cranes forage the open fields within a ten-mile radius of their main staging grounds. They return to Goose Pasture around sunset to loaf and socialize, before flying off to sleep in the safety of the open wetlands. The birds’ trilling calls — likened by some to a wobbly trumpet burst — rise to maximum volume just after sunrise and again near sunset, the best hours for viewing their peculiar dance. In this ritual, one crane bows low and then jumps straight into the air. The pair will call in unison, and often one will fling bits of grass while jumping. Considered a courtship ritual in February and March (when the cranes come through on the way to nest up north), the fall version of the dance is thought to be more of a bonding ceremony between lifelong mates.



Visitors can watch from an elevated viewing platform equipped with three scopes. “It’s quite a spectacle,” said assistant property manager Jason Gilbert. “We have people who come all the way from overseas. Ninety percent of the total eastern crane population stops over here in the fall.”



Commercial hunting and habitat loss early in the 20th century — here and elsewhere — had caused sandhill crane numbers to diminish. Nesting sandhills disappeared from Jasper County after 1929, the same year Jasper-Pulaski became a game farm and preserve. But populations began to rebound in the 1940s, and by fall of 1967, the count at Jasper-Pulaski was at 2,500. No cranes were nesting though.



Beginning around 1982, thanks to enforcement of crane protections and efforts to save their habitat, birds began nesting once again in Indiana.



Today, an average of 2,000 sandhill cranes stay at Jasper-Pulaski through the winters and summers. And some that stay here are breeding. The nests are in remote areas of the 8,062-acre preserve.



All visitors must register at the sign-in shelter near the headquarters, where they can also pick up maps and information. To the west is a shaded picnic area and restrooms. Visitors should dress for the weather and consider bringing binoculars. The preserve is on Eastern Time (one hour later than Chicago). For more information, call (219) 843-4841.