Friday, April 30, 2010

Aerial Refueling

So I was shooting this male harrier, panning as he flew with a mouse in his talons. Cool right? Anyway, he starts calling and I thought, oh this should be good...The female takes flight from somewhere below, starts calling to him and I just knew what I was about to see, although I have never seen it before. Check these out!

Here's where the quality goes south but still, exciting!

She is calling now...She comes in closer...


He drops his cargo as she pulls into range! Can you see her talons moving forward?

She catches the mouse and flies to the same place on the ground from where she started. I wonder if she is feeding chicks?

He landed on a post a few yards from her. I walked a ways and investigated. I heard nothing in the way of peeps. I could see him the entire time, never saw her, he flew off when I got about 10 yards from him. My suspicions, although not confirmed, are still there...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

American Family Values

American Bald Eagles with at least 1 Eaglet!

This is Mom! (Click on photos to enlarge!)

Discovered the chick yesterday! And so exciting to see the general population of eagles comeback and are thriving locally! This is the second year for this nesting site! Woohoo!

This is Dad!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Befuddled by a Bittern

It's easy to say that American Bitterns are a difficult species to find, let alone photograph. I am lucky, I know of a pair close by. I expect to see them every spring and hope for that "great" photograph. I check on them every chance I get, hoping they don't move to a more private pond, as they always do every spring. The race is on with every moment I catch a glimpse, wondering if this is the last day I might see them. The pictures below are over several days, and the different areas they cover around the closest pond at the prairie.

On this day, I sat directly across from one on the complete opposite side. I didn't see him for hours, but I sat and sat, scanning the edges, and as you see if you look closely, he is there. Enlarge for better view. The car in the background is mine in the parking lot about a quarter(ish) of a mile away. (I used 600mm lens for all shots)

This photo is in the same area, but just north of the last. He was not as easy to see as it looks. I passed by him and then did another pass and spotted him. He is about 100 yards away.

This is his mate. She (I don't really know which is which!) was just east of him, and again, I didn't see her until after the photoshoot of him was over. She looks so obvious! She wasn't!

On this day, I was at my original spot, on a bench across the pond. I had been there for hours again. A couple of people were making there way in my direction, so I thought I should check the shores before they spook it if indeed it was close. I scan to my right, nothing, I scan to my left...There he was just 30 yards away. I passed right by him, within a few short feet. I stopped the people from approaching any closer, set up my tripod, and took some shots. The people decided to turn around, (Thank You!) and I continued to approach ever so closely. I gained about 15 feet, shot a few more and this is the result. He was backlit, and getting on the other side would be a miracle, but I tried. It took forever to move, because I would only move when he put his head down below the grasses. As I rounded the corner, I saw him running low, all hunched over, waddling his way thru his escape route. Oh well, I crave to shoot another day...

Greater Yellowlegs

IMG_0855, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

Greater Yellowlegs migrating through southeastern Grundy County at a corn stubble fluddle

Monday, April 26, 2010


Eyelashes, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

Eastern Meadowlark
Goose Lake Prairie

Never noticed these guys had such long eyelashes before...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Barred Owl

Barred Owl, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

Luck was what I had yesterday as I stumbled across this Barred Owl. Although I flushed him, he flew just a few feet. It was good enough for me, as the backlighting was pleasing, making this a much more colorful owl photo than I can usually muster. I attempted another view, but he had had enough and flew off deep into the woods.

Click on photo for larger view.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

David vs. Goliath

David vs. Goliath, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

Short Story:

David was quite happy sunning on his little nugget of a log. Goliath came by, and tries to force David off by pulling his arm with his mouth. David refused to budge. Goliath tried again. Again, David stood his nugget. Goliath gave up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do the Hokey Pokey

I found this couple very photogenic and tolerant of the photographer which is highly unusual, as their instincts are to flee first and ask questions later!

It seems as if they are doing the Hokey Pokey: "Put your right foot in..."

...and the Drake says: "What are you lookin at? She's making me do this stupid dance!"

Click on either photo for larger view!

Monday, April 19, 2010

American Bittern

I found this guy with a backward glance almost passing him by. As I tried to position myself focusing in-between the tall grasses, I scared up another one just ahead that was practically in the clear. Doh! The flight shot in the comments section is the one I flushed.

Although common in much of its range, the American Bittern is usually well-hidden in bogs, marshes and wet meadows. Usually solitary, it walks stealthily among cattails. If it senses that it has been seen, the American Bittern becomes motionless, with its bill pointed upward, causing it to blend into the reeds. It is most active at dusk. More often heard than seen, this bittern has a call that resembles a congested pump.
Like other members of the heron family, the American Bittern feeds in marshes and shallow ponds, dining on amphibians, fish, insects and reptiles.

Click on any photo to see larger!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

The Wood Duck hen is often overlooked, focusing on the brilliantly colored drake. But if you look close enough, she has some pretty significant, albeit subtle colorings too. The golden yellow eyeliner surrounding her deep maroon eye, the muted irridescent patch on the top of her head, and the green/blue metallic hues flanking her wings, just to name a few of her gorgeous markings... She's a beauty! (View Large)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things I've Seen Lately

FOY Yellow-rumped Warbler (Butterbutt). I called him in closer, but he wasn't very cooperative. Oh well, FOY's are for documentation. Hopefully the "good" shots are to come later!

Brown creeper. Cute lil guy, but always in the shadows!

FOY Hermit Thrush. He was with 3 others, but they were camera shy.

FOY Eastern Towhee. He called quite a bit before we saw him. He was right in front of our eyes. I hate that. All this time I could have gotten a possibly better angle. He flew off just after this shot.

Eastern Bluebird Female- The male wasn't so cooperative. They are now in a battle with the Tree Swallows for nest box rights. The swallows always win. They have the numbers to chase them out. I hate that though, they dominate all of the boxes!

Ring-necked Pheasant- First flight shot...Ever!

Blue-winged Teals-Last week at a nice pond, as most of you know, Teals are very flighty!

FOY Eastern Phoebe- I got this one while in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, shooting the wood ducks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher with Prey

Waiting patiently for warblers to arrive, I spotted my first Butterbutt and froze as they flocked into the trees in front of me. As I tried to focus on one as it hopped from tree to tree, I spied this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and aimed my lens. Wouldn't you know, he grabbed a worm just as I focused and gobbled it down! Pretty good action for my FOY Gnatcatcher! I also found a Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Greater Yellowlegs, and the Butterbutt. I can't wait to see what today brings!!!!!

(Click on photo for larger view)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lady Killer

Male Wild Turkeys display for females by puffing out their feathers, spreading out their tails and dragging their wings. This behavior is most commonly referred to as strutting. Their heads and necks are colored brilliantly with red, blue and white. The color can change with the turkey's mood, with a solid white head and neck being the most excited. They use gobbling, drumming/booming and spitting as signs of social dominance, and to attract females. Courtship begins during the months of March and April, which is when turkeys are still flocked together in winter areas.

Interestingly, I found this guy crossing the road at about 2:30 in the afternoon. There were at least 3 hens in the woods. He didn't mind me all that much, but protested as the audience grew to 3 cars and people getting out of them to get closer. I understand curiosity, it's just frustrating...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

Found the barn bokeh to be kind of cool.

Sky Goat

This well camouflaged bird is usually shy and conceals itself close to ground vegetation and flushes only when approached closely. They fly off in a series of aerial zig-zags to confuse predators. Snipe hunters, therefore, needed to be very skilled to hunt these birds and they came to be called snipers, a term later adopted by the military. These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, also plant material.
The male performs "winnowing" display during courtship, flying high in circles and then taking shallow dives to produce a distinctive sound, which has given the bird its Finnish name taivaanvuohi, "sky goat", because the sound is similar to the baaing of a goat. Common Snipe nest in a well-hidden location on the ground.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Friday, April 9, 2010


Whistle-Pigs, originally uploaded by Hannibals Animals.

The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck or whistle-pig, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. Groundhogs are found as far north as Alaska, with their habitat extending southeast to Alabama.

I found them at Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris, IL and thought they were so adorable. They chased eachother quite a bit, and it was hard not to laugh! Cute couple!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snipe Drumming

Shooting the camera between raindrops yesterday, the sky was filled with the sounds of Snipe. I sat in the parking lot at Goose Lake Prairie as the rain gently came in and the Snipe took to the air for their aerial display. During breeding season, they first fly up high and then plunge downward vibrating their outer tail feathers (As seen in the photos) to produce a curious whirring sound called drumming.

Note: Although the photography isn't of good quality, I couldn't put the camera down, as I was addicted to the moment. I saw at least a dozen performing and lots of chasing. I also heard a Wilson's Snipe, but couldn't find it.