Today I had the opportunity to take a few photos of Trumpeter Swans in a private backyard pond in north Iowa. It seems that Spring should be here soon, but we still have several feet of snow most places. The corn fields are covered with snow and and most of the lakes and rivers are still frozen over, but these several swans, Canada Geese and Mallards found a small spot of open water in this pond and settled in. Photos taken from the deck of the homeowner's house.
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There are a lot of different birds and wildlife to be found in the Sax-Zim Bog area in Northern Minnesota, you just need to spend some time driving around to find them. All photos were taken with the long telephoto lens from the car, except for the Northern Hawk Owl. I had to hike back in the the woods to get that one this time to get better lighting. But it was very high at the top of a very tall spruce tree looking and listening for voles under the snow. The Great Gray Owl and Pileated Woodpecker were both quick grab shots out the window and then they flew away. There are so many more birds and wildlife that I didn't get, but because of heavy snow I decided to head home early.
Click the pictures below to see larger in a slide show.
Driving home from the Lime Creek Nature Center and Conservation Area after an unsuccessful hike to look for a Saw-whet Owl I spotted a couple of deer along the pond by the road. Not an unusual sight, but I noticed a reflection on the frozen pond and it looked like they were trying to drink from the pond. I stopped, grabbed the camera and telephoto lens and quietly crept up through the tall grass and weeds to get to a point where I could take a photo. The deer were licking the ice, trying to get a drink. I'm not sure if they actually broke through to the water, but I did get a few photos before they wandered off in to the prairie grass. I liked the reflection on the ice.
We have at least two pair of House Wrens nesting this year- one pair in the front and one in the back yard. They are active little birds and start singing and chattering early in the morning before sunrise and don't stop all day long. They will nest in very small cavities or small nest boxes and will fill every other possible nesting location in the area with sticks so that other Wrens don't move in too close. They are extremely busy now as they hunt down bugs to feed the hungry babies. Challenging to photograph because they are always on the move and don't sit still long.
These were taken a couple of weeks ago near Park Rapids, MN. Left to right -
1. The Osprey nest is on the top of a power pole next to the highway. I had stopped on the opposite side of the road to take pictures from the sunroof of the car with the telephoto lens and was lucky enough to get the male returning to the nest with a fish in his talons to feed the chicks.
2. There is an Eagle's nest on an island on a small lake. From the canoe I took photos of one of the adults perched on a nearby tree in the evening. Hand-holding the big telephoto in a moving canoe was challenging.
3. While paddling a bit further I spotted a Kingfisher. Just as I quickly snapped a few photos a second Kingfisher flew through the frame and they both flew off. Kingfishers are very wary around people and I felt very lucky to get any photos.
4. A great Blue Heron flew over the lake while we were in the canoe.
Click an image to see larger.
When I am out photographing birds, wildlife and landscapes I occasionally shoot some video at the same time. Here is a little video sampler of some of our photo adventures over the past few years. The still photos can be found throughout this web site.
I started out the new year taking pictures of Pine Siskins and House Finches in the back yard, very distant photos of Snowy Owl near Ventura, IA, then headed up to Sax-Zim Bog northwest of Duluth, MN to try to get pictures of a Great Grey Owl. This was my second trip (see previous post from February of 2014). I was lucky this time and got pictures of two different Great Grey Owls on Admiral Road and McDavitt Road that were fairly cooperative in allowing several photographers and birders to get some pictures from a distance with telephoto lenses while the owls were searching for an easy meal. It was fun watching one owl swoop down and land on a mouse in the snow (wild mouse - not baited). It was a dark, cloudy, dreary day, with snow and sleet in the morning. Not my favorite kind of day for bird pictures - a little too dark, but I got a few photos. Others included Purple Finches, Common Redpolls, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Gray Jays, Chickadees, a Barred Owl and many more. There were also several Red Squirrels. I did not get to see a Snowy Owl , nor a Northern Hawk-Owl which often frequent the area in the Winter, and apparently I just missed and Ermine. Maybe next time. There is no guarantee that you will see a Great Grey Owl if you go to the bog. It is a very larger area covering many square miles. Some people go to visit and never see an owl of any kind. Watch the Sax-Zim Bog Facebook page for recent reports. and drive around the likely areas many times. Early in the morning at sunrise and late in the afternoon at sunset are usually the better times, but it can vary day-to-day. Good luck if you decide to go. Be sure to stop at the visitor's center on Owl Avenue, where there are lots of opportunities to see and photograph smaller birds at the many feeders.
You can learn more about the bog and find maps here - http://sax-zimbog.com/
[Click the pictures below to see larger.] More Owl photos here...
Short Video of the Great Grey Owl (click below):
Friday, January 2, 2015, Admiral Road
A week in Rocky Mountain National Park is barely enough to to soak in the beauty and splendor of one of our grandest national parks. It's hard to say what impressed me most. I took photos of sunrises, sunsets, rivers and waterfalls. I love the mountain streams and waterfalls, and the reflections of the mountains on the surface of the lakes early in the morning when there is no wind. We saw and photographed Elk, Mule Deer, Moose, Yellow-bellied Marmots, Pikas, ground squirrels and Chipmunks. We looked for for Bighorn Sheep and Black Bear, but had no sightings in the week that we were there. Perhaps a good thing, because I did see recent Bear droppings in the middle of a trail at 4:30 in the morning as I was hiking around Sprague Lake to set up to take sunrise photos of the lake and mountains in the distance (I started talking to myself and the shadows rather loudly as I continued down the trail - just to alert any large furry critters that may still be around). We saw lots of Mountain Bluebirds and Magpies and a few Clark's Nutcrackers and Osprey, but there didn't seem to be a lot of birds in late July.
I gave in. I finally decided to post some pictures on Facebook also. Go to my Facebook page then click the Like or Follow button and you can stay updated on some of my photo adventures. Of course you will need to log in to Facebook to see them. -
After an exciting day at the Buffalo Roundup (see previous post) at Custer State Park in South Dakota, I got up early to look for a sunrise photo opp. Unfortunately, staying in Custer City we were on the wrong side of the mountains (hills?) and it was a longer drive than I had expected to get to the top to see the sunrise. Driving on the Wildlife Loop road on the south end of the park I spotted a Coyote prancing down the middle of the road in the twilight about 15 minutes before sunrise. I got the camera ready, resting it on a beanbag lens rest on the door window and slowly approached the spot were I had last seen the Coyote. To my surprise it was laying in the grass, about 30 feet from the road. I took several shots from the car window without even shutting off the engine and then the Coyote got up and walked away, poking its nose in several prairie dog holes along the way. This was just the start to an interesting morning. A short while later I saw several Wild Turkey walking along the road and in the grass along the road, Western Meadow Larks, Mountain Bluebirds, Magpies, Mule Deer, Pronghorn Antelope, Prairie Dogs, and of course Bison.
Click to see more photos of Custer State Park Wildlife (bottom half of the page).
Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.