Opossum…… Really?

I just had to get out of the house. You see, a skunk has moved in under our front step. Yes, we have traps set but….. I just had to get out! A walk in the woods seemed like a good choice. The temp was to get to 37 degrees and I needed some fresh air. I learned some time ago to always bring my camera. I normally don’t go out in the middle of the day looking for wildlife and today was no different.

As it is, I always see deer no matter the time of the day but I certainly didn’t expect to see this at 2:30 in the afternoon!

If I get up high he won't see me!
If I get up high he won’t see me!

Yep! It’s North America’s only Marsupial. It is a Virginia Opossum. It’s nocturnal which is why I was so surprised to see it.

Oh No! He does see me!
Oh No! He does see me!

The temperature over the past several days has been very cold so it must have been out today looking for food which is why it’s out during daylight. Hunger might make it do that. The black dots on its nose looks like mud or dirt to me. So, it must have been rooting around for something. They are omnivores so their diet is varied.

If I stay really still, he'll think I must be dead!
If I stay really still, he’ll think I must be dead!

In the above photo, you can see that it doesn’t have fur on its tail.  The fur on other mammals tails helps to keep them warm when they are all cuddled up. Poor thing!  Another thing that’s kind of sad it that they rarely live longer than two years.

I'm good looking.... Don't you think?
I’m good-looking…. Don’t you think?

While my wife doesn’t agree, I think it’s kind of cute!

Well, that was my major sighting for the afternoon.  I sure hope that skunk wakes up and goes out looking for food too.  When it does…. We’ll have it trapped…… I hope!

Oh yeah, I saw this Nuthatch too.

Am I called a Nuthatch because I can do this?
Am I called a Nuthatch because I can do this?

I think they’re very cool because they can walk up and down a tree trunk! I wish I could do that!

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to go and light a few scented candles.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Big White-tailed Bucks on New Years Day!

Those of you who have been visiting my blog know that I’ve been trying to find some white-tailed bucks over the last several weeks.  I even went out very early Christmas morning looking for Rudolf.

I had planned to go again this morning because it’s the first day of the new year. There shouldn’t be many people out and about very early, especially today. However; because it was only 16 degrees out there with a slight wind, I almost didn’t go. It was so nice and warm in the kitchen. The coffee was really good! And, well, it was damn cold out there!

I argued with myself and finally said “Get your butt out there before the sun comes up! You won’t photograph anything sitting around here drinking coffee!”  Am I ever glad that I did. Below is the first deer that saw me!

I see you Bill!
I see you Bill!

Look at his rack. The tines closest to the center of his head are huge!  His rack almost looks like a crown. Below is the second one that I saw.

Big Buck!
Look at me!

His rack is more spread out and larger than the one above.  While each is unique, both are beautiful. WOW!

The sun was not up and I was trying to hand-hold the shot at a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second which is why the photos are a little softer than I like. Trying to keep 10 pounds of camera and lens dead still with freezing hands is not easy!  I just may have to break down and get a monopod.

During the next two hours of hiking, I only saw does. I seem to have no trouble finding does. They are beautiful too but I was looking for bucks. No more were to be seen.

However just as I was about to leave, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk all puffed out trying to stay warm. I just couldn’t resist taking its photo. As did so, I thought it looked familiar.

When I got home, I looked at some photos I took in March of a hawk. You may recall the post, “Coyotes or Hawks.”  I think it may be the same hawk I took photos of back then! It has the same kind of cow-lick like feathers on the back of its head. I’ve never noticed that on any other Red-tailed Hawk.

Remember Me?
Remember Me?

I didn’t want to disturb it so I didn’t get too close. Below is the photo I took in March 5th.

Bye Bill! It was fun.
Bye Bill! It was fun.

You can see the cow-lick that I’ve mentioned. What do you think? Is it the same Hawk? If it is, that is so very cool!

Those of you who know me, know that I love to photograph eagles, owls and hawks so this capped a wonderful New Years Morning for me. The New Year has already started off just GREAT!

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful New Years Morning and day too.

I wish you all a very Grand and Prosperous New Year!

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Birds of Ernie Miller Nature Center

With snow covering the ground for the first time this year, I knew the bird feeders at Ernie Miller Nature center would be quite busy. I thought it would be a great time to practice some bird photography.

It's busy at the feeder!
It’s busy at the feeder!

There is a terrific viewing area in the Sun Room with plenty of large windows. Now, all these photos were taken hand-held. I wanted to practice as though I was in the field but was in the comfort of being inside.

You can get some decent shots at the feeder as you’ll see below.

Blue Jays are beautiful too!
Blue Jays are beautiful too!
I thing female Cardinals are beautiful
I believe these to be a female and male Purple Finch
Beautiful female Cardinal
Beautiful female Cardinal

You can also take some photos that are away from the feeders which make them look more natural.

Male Downy Woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker

Now, this next bird is a bit harder to photograph. They come to the feeder very quickly, grab a seed then fly off to a tree. This one must have been waiting for an opening at the feeder. I feel lucky to have gotten the shot.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

Environmental shots are my favorite. With a lot of patience, you can take some shots that shows them in their environment and looking quite natural. These are my favorite types of shots.

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Male Purple Finch
Who you looking at?
Who you looking at?
Female Cardinal
Female Cardinal
Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal

When you’re tired of taking those kind of shots, you can then practice trying to get them in flight. This is great fun and it’s very rewarding when you finally get one that you really like.

Coming in for a landing!
Look out! I’m coming in for a landing!
The birds on the upper left, "It was my turn! No, it was my turn!"
The birds on the upper left, “It was my turn! No, it was my turn!”
A very quick fly-by!
A very quick fly by!

Of course, no bird feeder would be complete unless you had someone to clean up the mess the birds make throwing all those seeds around.

MMMM... Keep um coming guys.... mmmm
MMMM… Keep um coming guys…. mmmm

If you like photographing birds, come on out. There’s plenty of room. As you can see there is a lot of variety of birds to photograph.  There were several other species that came to the feeder this morning but I was just not quick enough to get my glass on them.  Maybe you will be luckier than I. If you’re in the Olathe, Kansas area, come on out and give it a try! The folks are friendly and it’s warm inside!

I hope you enjoyed the birds.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

Moose Antler Rub!

In a post last year, I mentioned how I was hiking in an area looking for moose in the middle of the day. They should be bedded down in the shade by then because they don’t handle the heat very well.  You might remember that I came across an area where the moose had been rubbing the velvet off their antlers and how astonished I was with what I saw.

Moose bedded down in the shade
Moose bedded down in the shade

This year, I was lucky enough to see a couple bedded down. However, I thought you might like to see what I saw and believe to be  “Moose Rubs”.  Below, you will see three different rubs

Rub #1
I don’t think a deer did this!
Maybe it was an elk?
Maybe it was an elk that did this?
Now this is way too big for an elk!
Now, this is way too big for an elk!

I also collected some fur that was still stuck to some of the nearby branches. I’m reasonably sure this was done by moose rubbing the velvet off their antlers before the rut. I have seen one rubbing the velvet off on a bunch of bushes but not on trees like this. It was very violent as it got all tangled in the bushes and seemed very agitated.

I think it’s all very cool but don’t want one to rub on me!

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Only in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

It took me only a few minutes to capture dozens of people all photographing the same thing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What can it be???

Got to get it just right!
Got to get it just right!
Hold steady now!
Hold steady now!
If I tilt it this way.....
If I tilt it this way…..
It takes two to line it up....
It takes two to line it up….

But what can be so intriguing about it for a person to want to photograph it three times with three different cameras? By the way, she wasn’t the only person I saw doing it.

Got to get the right angle!
Got to get the right angle!
No, maybe from this angle with this camera!
No, maybe from this angle with this camera will be better!
Well, just in case... I'll get with the big gun!
Well, just in case… I’ll get it with the big gun!

People were even taking photos of it from their cars ……. But what can it be?

I hope the light doesn't turn before I get this shot!
I hope the red light doesn’t turn before I get this shot!
Go real slow now....
Go real slow now….

Well, I have a dozen more photos that I could show you of different people all taking pictures of the same thing but I don’t want to bore you with them. If you’ve been to Jackson Hole, you probably have taken a picture of them too.

If you’ve been there, you probably have guessed by now.  People are taking photos of the Jackson Hole Elk Antler Arches.

Only 1 of 4!
Only one of four!

They are massive and there is one of them on each corner of the town square. They are so impressive that people just have to stop and take pictures of family members or friends under them. Each arch is made of around 2,000 antlers and weighs in at 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. I’m told that no elk was harmed in the making of the arches. Elk naturally shed their antlers each year and they are collected from the ground.  

Based on the number of people I saw taking pictures of them, these arches are probably photographed as much as the Grand Tetons.

In a few weeks, they will be decorated in lights for the Christmas Holiday. I’m sure you’ll find more information and pictures of them if you do a google search for them.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Ospreys on the Wing!

It’s an Osprey Nest!

It was mid day. Not a time to be photographing much because of the harsh light. I was on my way to Hidden Falls behind Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park to get an idea of how I might set up to photograph it very early the next morning. From a distance, I saw this……

Hi there! Mind if I come in?
Hi there! Mind if I come in?

It’s an Osprey nest. What seemed odd to me was the Raven that seemed intent on getting into the nest.  There was one Osprey in the nest at the time and it seem to  be defending it. I knew that there shouldn’t be any very young Ospreys in the nest because it’s just about time for them to fly south for the winter. Ospreys are fish eaters. Once the lake freezes, they’ve got to migrate to where there is ample open water for them to get fish.

We Do Not Want to Share!
We Do Not Want to Share!

As I got closer, I saw that there were two Ospreys. Both were trying to keep the Raven at bay and out of their nest. The Raven was extremely persistent so much so that it eventually won out. The two Ospreys left the nest. The Raven quickly got in the nest and got a beak full of something. I’m guessing that it must have been some fish scraps that the Ospreys had not yet eaten.

A very persistent Raven
A very persistent Raven
Nice of you to leave what's left for me. Why Thank You!
Nice of you to leave what’s left for me. Why Thank You Very Much!

While the light was not the best, I think I got a few decent shots of the drama. However, I decided right then and there that I’d be coming back in the morning when the light was better. I hoped to try to get some decent shots of the Osprey on the wing.

The two Osprey were there the next morning. While they were both squawking, one was in the nest really making a racket while the other was on a branch close by. It was as though the one in the nest was saying “feed me…. feed me… feed me!”  While the other one was saying, “Go feed yourself!” This went on for about fifteen or twenty minutes.

I should have used these on that Raven yesterday!
I should have used these on that Raven yesterday!

After a while, the one on the branch finally flew away. I knew then, all I had to do was wait and hope that the light would be in the right spot when it returned to get a decent photo.  I waited almost an hour when it finally flew back.

20140917-093911_BBA8328

As I had hoped, It flew back with a fish in its talons. As you can see, the head of the fish is gone. I’ve learned when Osprey feed their young, they kill the fish before giving it to them. Often, they will have eaten the head.  It probably serves two purposes. Not only is the fish dead for the young to eat, but they also get a bite for themselves. When their young are older, they’re known give to them live fish so they will learn to kill the fish themselves.

What have you got for me?
What have you got for me?

The youngster didn’t wait until it was served at the nest. When it saw what was coming, it flew to intercept it.  I didn’t get to see them eat the fish because they flew out of my sight with it. However, I think these shots of them were well worth my wait.  As a matter of fact, they may just be the best photographs of this trip. None the less, it was very cool to watch and photograph.

Can I have it NOW!
Can I have it….. NOW!

Some have said that I’m very lucky and I would not disagree. I AM VERY Lucky!  But ….. You know….. it seems, the more planning I do, the luckier I get.

I never did get to photograph Hidden Falls but I think these last three photographs make up for it.  What do you think?

Lesson learned……  Just because you have your mind set on one thing, keep your eyes open for other opportunities too. Some may turn out better than you might have hoped for.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these magnificent birds.

Thanks for coming by.

Bill

Photos in the Dark!

After posting this photo on my Facebook page, a few have asked how I took this shot.

This photo and a few more that you’ll see a little later in this post were taken in the dark. Because the light is too harsh in the middle of the day, I like to use that time to scout out my next mornings shooting location. I do that because it will be totally dark when I arrive at the location and I want to have a good idea of where exactly I should be and how to find it in the dark.

Taken in the darkTaken in the dark

While you might get some of the same effect in the evening after the sun goes down, I prefer early, early mornings. Most of the time no one else is there to spoil this quiet peaceful time. While setting up to take this shot, I heard a couple of elk bulging and had two beaver swim right in front of me. The only noise was that of the critters. There was no wind. Talk about a time to reflect. Yes, I know, I know!  I’m in bear country, by myself, in the dark….. but ….. Hey ………… I have my bear spray!

The technical part of this type of photography is quite simple. You’ll need a sturdy tripod, a wide-angle lens (I use a 16-35 mm), your camera turned to manual mode, the shutter to bulb mode and a remote shutter release. The remote shutter release is important because the shutter will need to be opened for more than a minute. Any camera movement will cause blur in your image during that time. The photo above was taken at 78 seconds. The ISO should be at the lowest native setting, typically 100 or 200. Oh yea, you’ll need a flashlight. I use a head lamp on red. The red light doesn’t affect my night vision.

After you’ve hiked to your spot and set up your camera on the tripod, do your best to compose the shot in the dark. One you’re all physically set up, set the aperture in your camera to a high f-stop number like f-19 or f-22. set your focus to the infinity indicator on the barrel of the lens. Be careful not to go past the infinity mark as some lens will allow you to do. That seems to cause everything to be slightly out of focus. I don’t know why it does so but……..

Now comes the fun part. In bulb mode, the shutter will remain open once it’s activated and close when you release the shutter button. Using a remote shutter release allows you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera. Depressing the shutter button on the camera can cause the camera to move which will cause blur.  Hold the shutter release button on the remote, then start to count. As stated above, the first photo was taken at 78 seconds. Once you release the shutter, look at your LCD to see how the photo looks. If it’s too light, time the next shot for a few seconds less. If it’s too dark, hold the shutter open a little longer. Keep doing it until you’re satisfied with the results. That’s it…. Almost!

Grass is removed
Grass is removed

It’s only ALMOST done because it’s dark and sometimes when you’ve composed the shot, you may have some distractions in your photo that you didn’t notice while composing it. In my first photo, you will notice some grass in the bottom left area of the picture. I didn’t see it because it was so dark out. It took all of 2 minutes to get rid of them in post processing.

But it's Dark Out!
But it’s Dark Out here at Oxbow!
Blue time at Oxbow
Blue time at Oxbow

Don’t be discouraged if after all your planning and scouting for your location, you wake up to find fog has rolled in. Don’t go back to bed! ….. Don’t do it!

The fog had rolled in on the morning I had planned on getting some brilliantly colorful shots of Oxbow in the early morning glow. Because I was there before everyone else, I got the blue light photos you see above. Then, I waited. Before the sun had burned off the fog, a lot of the photographers that had showed up left because they knew the light would be harsh once the fog lifted. I’m glad I stayed!

Fog was starting to lift
Fog was starting to lift

By using the same technique, but not holding the shutter open nearly as long, you can get shots like these. While I didn’t get the photos of Oxbow with the billion colors of early morning light, I’m still happy with what I did get.  All in all, it was a terrific morning!

Beautiful Morning at Oxbow in the Grand Teton National Park
Beautiful Morning at Oxbow in the Grand Teton National Park

I hope this tip gives you something to try…… but ……. remember, you’ve got to be patient and you must get up before the sun to get these types of shots.

I know, I know………… But It’s DARK OUT!

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill