Friday, July 31, 2009

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Close Ups

I was really lucky yesterday, as I found a real hotspot for attracting the giant butterflies. I was able to approach very close and stay for as long as I liked. I have found that most butterflies do not really care for humans and avoid them with a flutter, but the ones I am posting today were drawn to the meal much more than being afraid of my predacious tendancies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Click each photo for some up-close hairy details!)

Here are some left and right profile views

I really liked how this one filled the frame

He or she is quite hairy! I guess that is why I love macro. It's the details you never see!

Tomorrow: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I seem to find Kingfishers in the strangest places as this female was on a cable over the tiniest ditch, no where near a main waterway. You just never know...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sandhill Crane Baby!

My first look at the new sandhill crane baby! Well, he isn't a baby anymore, as he stands just as tall as his parents! It was so cool to see it, as this is my second year spotting the resident pairs' offspring, and getting this close was a thrill!

Although I was granted such a lucky sighting, I have to rant about wildlife etiquette because here is what happened that evening:

I strategically parked along the side of the road, just beyond a brushy hill so that the cranes could not see me. I chose this position because it was just before sunset and I wanted a flight shot as they headed back to their grounds. As I waited, another car drove past and spotted the cranes in the field. They stopped, put on their hazard lights, backed up, and got out of the car to take a few photos. What is wrong with this? Well, I was there first, obviously observing the same sight, and I really don't have a huge problem with that, but...The hazards on became a beacon, so if they were not already stressed, that just did it! O.K., so you might say that they were thinking of safety first, and I will even give you that, but the disregard when they stepped out of their vehicle to walk a mere 5 feet with their tiny "point n shoot", causing the cranes to flee sent me over the edge! Not only did they disturb the cranes in their natural setting, but they completely and selfishly ignored my position and discovery rights as the first one there. They just had to get out of the car, creating a second threat, as if the flashing lights and headbeams were not enough to create a hostile environment for them. The people needed another lousy 5 feet to get the shot, as if that made all the difference...Seriously!?! I gave them the "stink eye" after the birds disappeared and continued down the road, but passing them just a few miles down, I see their hazards on again as they were watching some deer grazing, and I am sure they jumped out again for those 5 feet closer shots, as the deer fled. "Learn anything morons?" was my shout as I passed them by. ...Probably not...


The Sandhill Crane does not breed until it is two to seven years old. It can live up to the age of 20. Mated pairs stay together year round, and migrate south as a group with their offspring.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

16 Pointer?

It is common practice at this time of year to go looking for bucks in velvet. I don't see them very often, especially the big ones, but every once in a while, you get very lucky and find a beefcake. This one here is the biggest I've seen this year!

He grazed for quite some time...

...before getting too irritated with my presence.

I tried to count the tines while shooting, but you can never quite get them all. I felt that he was definately a 12, but possibly a 14 pointer.

Upon further inspection, I see that he has a few more bumps, and since he is still in velvet, he is still growing at a pace of about an inch a day, so I can say with confidence that he is definately a 16 pointer when all is said and done, and it wouldn't surprise me if he grew a few more stickers at his brow. The bumps are there...Who knows?

(Here's an extreme close up for your inspection...What do you think?)

I hope I see him when the velvet has shed in a month or so...18 would be incredible!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Day in Chicago

I had some out-of-state guests over the weekend, so we planned a trip to Chicago for some sight-seeing. We stopped at Navy Pier and walked the boardwalk.

We stopped at a Funhouse mirror to get a laugh. From left to right is Jack, me, Cuttidad and Monnie. Strategy played a part in putting me at the back.

A Pirate Ship leaves the harbor for a sightseeing adventure out on Lake Michigan.

Then it was off to Millenium Park to walk through Cloud Gate, otherwise referred to as the "Bean".

And a stop at the Crown Fountain for a look at the faces on the water wall.

You couldn't ask for a better day! It was great weather with great company!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


A resident Great Egret strikes a pose as it stalks it's prey!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


When I get bored with not finding any exciting photo ops, I always turn to messing around with Photoshop.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Family Play Day

I love catching natural behavior without being seen. You see the moments that occur without scaring your subjects into hiding. This family was playing in the field and the smallest of the twins tested out its speed, jutting in and out and around it's sister, tempting it to chase after her.


Swallows love barbed wire! Or... maybe they love the lands they surround! I don't know, but it sounds reasonable, so finding swallows can be pretty easy if you know where to look. Here are a few found on a particularly good day:

Adult Barn Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Juvenile Barn Swallow

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Strangest Sighting Ever?

While observing some swallows on some barbed wire in the country, something weird caught my eye. I see a mouse running across the road ahead of my car, but the shape of it was strange. I asked Cuttidad to check it out, as it came into her view. She couldn't get a good look, but said that it was headed back in my direction, so I jumped out of the car and shot a few frames. I tell her that "he" is dragging 2 babies. She found that puzzling. I said that "he" was having babies and was dragging them around. She got it then, and used my words against me later. Upon further inspection of the photos, it was determined that "she" was a vole. It was really weird to see. It seemed to be trying to run away from it's attachments in a panic. Who knows why it did what it did? First time parent? I would like to say that I hope the kids are o.k., but then I am talking about vermin, so do I hope that? Not really, but they were babies, so yes...but no...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grasshopper Sparrow

A bird of open grasslands, the Grasshopper Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet, but also from its insect-like song.

Now, if only I can get him to eat his name-sake in front of the camera...

Monday, July 20, 2009


This handsome guy gets up pretty early to get to where he is going, and if you are lucky enough to be up that early too, you just might get to greet him on his journey. I didn't catch him in a very scenic place at all, but just seeing him was enough.

Update on Baby Raccoons

I still haven't seen mama, but the babies have pretty much stayed where I had first found them. I'm hoping that is a good sign! Playing on the road IS NOT a good sign! I waived off a vehicle yesterday, so that the driver would see them in the roadway. The lil guys eventually went into the brush for safety.

Some more Velvet Bucks

This big guy stays a pretty good distance away from any source of danger while his antlers are so fragile. Most bucks take shelter in high grassy fields instead of timber so as to not damage them while they are still soft. In about August or early September, the testosterone filled blood pumping through the tissue will cease, and the antlers will harden.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Finding my first set of twins of the season was another bonus to the week I had. These guys were found pretty late in the evening, so the graininess was a bit more than I would have liked, but I am always thankful for the experience and end up complaining about the quality later.

I was very happy that I caught the baby nursing for a brief moment. This frame was when mom was telling her baby that enough was enough.

Inspecting the photo later, I can't even imagine going through life with flies such a constant bother, let alone the ticks, mites, etc. (Click for a closer view of the pests.)

Is it just me or does this mother have a bit of donkey in her?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bandit Baby

It must be my week for finding babies (more to come). This lil guy had 2 other siblings who were much more shy than him. They foraged around the forest edge as I went by at 2 different times, nevering seeing mom around. I wonder if they might just be orphaned. I will go by tonight to check on them, and hopefully find mom.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Turkey Babies!

Another post about turkeys, since I can't find much else lately...

Still quite exciting, I found a bunch of baby turkeys with location advice from Rattlin Antler

I was pretty lucky, because this lil one was too curious to duck into the brush for cover. I'm sure his mom was none too happy either...

On a sunrise shoot the next day, I found them again, and just like my last post, they were on the wrong side photographically, but backlighting can be interesting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Wild Turkey was a very important food animal to Native Americans, but it was eliminated from much of its range by the early 1900s. Introduction programs have successfully established it in most of its original range, and even into areas where it never occurred before.

A flock of 7 hens just happened to be crossing a country road when I spotted them. I quickly scanned the group for babies but saw none. Being on the wrong side of them for photographic purposes, I found their brightly lit red necks interesting and took some shots, highlighting plenty of features I wouldn't call attractive.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saddle Bags Full of Pollen

Bumble bees are important pollinators of many plants. Both queens and workers collect pollen and transport it back to the colony in pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Seen here are the "saddle bags" of pollen!

Milkweeds have a unique and fascinating pollination mechanism in which the plant relies on butterflies, moths, bees, ants, and wasps for pollination. Hundreds of pollen grains are packaged into two connected sacs, which is collectively referred to as the pollinarium. When a foraging insect lands on a flower, the pollinarium can easily attach itself to its leg. Once removed from the flower, the pollinia actually re-orient as the translator arms bend as they dry. Upon landing on another flower, the properly oriented pollinarium is deposited into a receptive stigmatic groove where the pollinia breaks down and the pollen germinates, growing pollen tubes through the stigma to the ovules in the ovary.

The milkweed fruit is a follicle, commonly referred to as a pod, which splits at one suture to release many seeds, sometimes hundreds, depending on the species.

Macro Monarch

Birding has been quite slow, so insects have been the focus lately. The milkweed blooms are still producing plenty of food for butterflies. This time of the year is great for Monarchs, which are starting to hatch from their cocoons.

Click for a close up inspection!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Good and Grainy Day Nuking It!

Nothing too fancy today, but I wanted to show that you can even have a good day when it's a bit overcast and gloomy.

I was disappointed when I got off work yesterday, as the skies were blanketed in a thick cloud layer. It's been that way for a few days now, and it's building up a frustration in me. I haven't been on a "good" shoot in a while, so every cloudy day adds up. This day had just enough light to tease... So, I set my course despite the less-than-perfect conditions because I have been checking on a few sights that have chicks yet to be born. As I am doing that, I notice a lot of seagull activity near the "nuke plant" lake shore.

I see plenty of Caspian Terns, a rogue American White Pelican and a few Great Blue Herons in a matter of minutes. My hopes increase...

The local birding hotline has had sightings of a Laughing Gull at this location, so I sit in the parking lot for a few minutes. A few Caspian Terns go by, and as I follow their route, I see a great place to park my behind and wait for them to come to me. As I am trailing a tern, a shadow from above hints at a flyover I didn't see coming, and as I look, I see it's the (notorious) Laughing Gull. Damn! I am walking and my hands are full with my camera, water, phone, and monopod! Oh well, I can wait him out when I get to my spot. I get set up and wait, and as I am waiting, a few photo ops go by and I take a few close up fly by shots.

A few fishermen walk by, we chat about the crappy weather, and I lose my vantage point with their arrival. The gulls shy away even farther down the shore, so I end up calling it a day. I never did see the Laughing Gull again, but today looks promising, weather-wise...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Buck Portrait

Exploring a new back road produced this buck who was kind enough to stay put as I backed up with my car to get the shots. He's a cute fella, but not yet wise enough to know that I am a potential threat. He stood there eating the whole time with out much care other than chewing on some tasty weeds. I hope he finds a mentor soon!

(Click on photo for a close up look at the velvet rack.)