Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flight Shots

It was a pretty windy day at Goose Lake Prairie yesterday, so I didn't expect to find much, but what I did find were a few species in the air. I found Killdeer, Tree Swallows and a Snipe!

I call these guys "Flying Orca's". Is it just me or do they look like a mini Killer Whale?

Common Snipe

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cooper's Hawk

I found this raptor while following a few wood ducks around a creek. Stealthily on my way in pursuit of a couple, this guy comes soaring in low into the woods, squawking up a storm. I froze in my tracks. I didn't see him land, but I knew he was just feet from me. I find him with his back to me eating on something freshly caught. I got the best angle I could and snapped off a few. It was obvious I was disturbing his lunch, so he chose another perch. Well, he chose unwisely, because visually, it was a much better perch for the photographer, so I snuck over to that one and snapped off a few more. He wasn't nearly as tolerant, moved again to a close branch, and finished his lunch. What was on the menu, I don't know...But, he was pretty cooperative I must say!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I don't know what this Leopard Frog was thinking, but the crop suggested a pondering...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

King of the Island

King of the Island, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

After a good bath, preening, wing stretching and flapping was in order.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Original Fauxhawk in Action!

This is a test. I bought the new Canon 7D body a few days ago for many reasons. Not only have I heard great things about the performance, but I wanted to combine HD Video with my setup utilizing the same lenses. A few notes...I noticed that shooting stills, then switching to video with 1 convenient button does have a drawback. It seems that when I do switch to video, I would want to make some highlight compensations. The video seems to wash out verses the stills using the exact same settings. A minor drawback, but hey, keeping that in mind, I think the quality is pretty good...What do you think?

The Original Fauxhawk

Pileated Woodpecker (Male)

Grundy County, March 22, 2010

This male is preparing his nesting cavity for this springs clutch (3-8 eggs). Pileated Woodpeckers, the largest of North America, choose their mates for life, are non-migratory and both incubate eggs. I love these guys! So handsome...

(Click on photo to enlarge!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

Signs of life are everywhere! Movement from the ground to the sky are inching, crawling and flying!

My first caterpillar of the year inched across a trail!

A small snake made its way across my path!

Sandhill Cranes migrating...

...made a pitstop at the prairie...My favorite place!

A Grackle taking a bath!

And some Meadowlarks displaying for a lucky lady! Look how huge their bellies get! Sorry for the lack of quality. This was taken thru my car window!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Newest Invention: The Carpod

I thought I would write about a problem I have with shooting my camera out of the passengers window while in the drivers seat. The restricted shooting range without support is awkward, let alone contorting to the body. I shoot many photos out of the drivers side window, resting the lens on a cushioned piece of angled plastic draped over the glass, instead of those window mounts which are hard to set up and expensive when you are talking about quality and weighty lenses. Anyway, I am pleased with the results of my setup out of the drivers side window which isn't the issue.
The issue is shooting thru the passengers side window. It is extremely difficult! I sometimes prefer to drive past something interesting, just to turn around and avoid that darn window. I cannot keep a steady arm holding up the 11+ lbs of camera in that awkward position. I've been searching the web for years, looking for something that I could utilize to shoot from my car's passenger side window as a tripod. I've tried everything including a full size tripod, strategically placing legs strattling this and that, but it just wasn't portable and easy to set up on the fly, let alone quite dangerous! I've used boxes propped up to rest my lens on, but they weren't stable and certainly not moldable to the unlevel seat or the barrel of the lens. I've used my passengers shoulder when present, but breathing on their part became a problem...I don't know why...
Well I finally came up with a viable solution! After rummaging through my cars trunk the other day, moving things out of the way, and discovering an item I had never used, I found a potential piece of usable equipment. I had purchased a rifle bipod a year or so ago for what I thought might be a lighter solution to carrying a tripod on my hikes. A friend had this contraption and liked it well enough, and after handling it, I found it to be much lighter than my tripod. I purchased one, took it out for a test drive, and didn't like it. It sat in my trunk ever since. It has a trigger for releasing the leg extensions that can be set to any height up to 60". Cool right? It also has 2 interchangeable mounts adapting to cameras, scopes, etc. or a large V mount for resting the rifle in between. Versatile...Yes! Well, it really was the "bi" part that gave me problems. I found that I'd rather not carry the thing, since it couldn't support itself in the upright stance. It's why I rarely use a monopod. I do have to say that it worked very well for what it was supposed to do, it just was not my thing...
Anyway, my idea was to keep the V mount, cut off the legs to the right height and use it squeezed between the car seats. I took some measurements, got out the hacksaw and cut away. I wrapped up the sharp edges with some duct tape, reattached the rubber feet, shoved it in between the seats and voila! It is really stable and I can move it out of the way when I'm not using it. Another additional bonus was a rubber strap meant to strap down the gun barrel if needed. I used that strap across the top of the V mount with lots of tension, to buffer between the lens barrel and the hard plastic "V". It grips well and absorbs potential vibration between the 2 hard objects. I love it! It's portable, handy, and very functional. It's everything I ever needed to solve the problem! It only took 6 or so years to think it up and all of about 6 minutes to make!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sky Carp

Greater White-fronted Geese, otherwise known as Specklebellies or even Sky Carp were migrating over Goose Lake Prairie yesterday. These are lifers for me and quite a surprise because I saw some geese flying in, thought nothing about it, until I heard their call. I knew they couldn't be Canadas. Pretty cool!

Click on photo to see the "specklebelly"

Northern Pintail. A favorite duck, but extremely elusive!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Northern Harrier

I got some close up looks at this gorgeous female Northern Harrier! I saw 6 of them, all female hunting the prairie!

Interesting Fact: Most male Northern Harriers are mated to one or two females at the same time. Some males pair with up to five mates in a season.

I wonder if this might be the case out at Goose Lake Prairie... Lucky guy!

Click on photo above to see their intense hunting eye!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Snow Goose Migration

Found out the snow geese were migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and wanted to see something of that magnitude, so waited for a nice day to go. Wednesday was the day, drove south about 3 hours and found them.

From what I have researched, our leg of their journey is nothing compared to the millions found more west, but with what I witnessed, I couldn't fathom what that could even be like.

They started to come in, flying over our heads in small flocks to the far side of the giant lake...

There were 100,000 estimated on 1 day, and on this day, they were estimating 300,000. We got there around noon, so the lighting was harsh but you get the picture...

The swarm of geese was amazing! They would move with such a fluid motion! At one point, geese were flying in 2 different directions. The band of birds stretched to a thin string and finally broke off, with geese flying opposite ways. That didn't last long, as they flew back together into a tight ball-o-geese.

The only thing that would have made this a better experience, would be if we were enveloped in the madness!

Signs of Spring!

Eastern Meadowlark, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

A welcome sound of Spring at Goose Lake Prairie, this meadowlark was a tough bird to photo, as my approach was never welcome. I did catch some distant frames of flight and a few poses not very "postable". But exciting!

Most of these shots are not exactly great, but the excitement factor was way up seeing so many signs of Spring!