Swans of Squaw Creek

Yep, I went back to Squaw Creek today. Because of the mild weather, I suspected that there would be little ice and I wanted to see what might still be hanging around.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of swans.

We are not cygnets. We are all grown up!

They are very beautiful in the bright sunlight.  They weren’t too far from shore so getting a few good images wasn’t too difficult. Those pictured above are juvenile. Their parents were right next to them.

Just waking up and needing to stretch

Look who’s walking on water!

Look everyone! I can walk on water!

Beside the swans, there are still a lot of snow geese and mallards hanging around.  The mallards are very nervous. I’m sure they’ve been shot at a number of times by now.  They’d fly away when the car got within 50 to 100 yards of them.  I couldn’t get close enough for a decent image.

Standing Proud!

I always feel luck when I see bald eagles.  I saw 4 mature and 6 immature eagles on my first trip around the lake.  The one above just stayed perched begging to be photographed.

Great example of a very BAD background… I know better than posting an image like this! My photography friends will be disappointed in me!  Neither it nor I could move to get a better background.  I had to post it though because I love its attitude!

I then spied this very old house. I’ve been by it a number of times but had never seen it before today.  I wonder why?

Who lives here?

Talk about planting trees too close!  Is this what’s meant by the saying, “Some people bring the house to the trees”? (Dodge truck commercial)

A Fixer-upper!

All in all, it was a pretty good day.  I hope you enjoyed the swans and perhaps my rambling.

See Ya!  Come back soon.

Bill

Snowy Owls in Kansas & Missouri

As just about everyone in the area knows, we are lucky to have snow owls in Kansas and Missouri this year. The one pictured below was on lake side of the dam at Smithville Lake.  I watched and photographed him for about two hours until a jogger got too close and he flew away.  I was very luck to see two of them that day.

Snowy Owl

I sent pictures of this one to ornithologist, Mark B. Robbins of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute. He believes this one to be a juvenile male. In the picture above, he looks as though he’s angry that I’m close by.  He’s actually preening himself which means that he’s not upset by my presence at all.  I stayed quite a distance away so as not to cause him any stress.  In my view, no photograph is worth taking if it causes an animal stress.  I’d rather just watch and enjoy it from afar.

Snowy Owl

Snowys prey on lemmings which is a small rodent.  They eat other small animals as well.  Every three to five years, the lemming population crashes which causes some snowy owls to migrate south.  It must really be bad this year because no one can remember seeing the numbers of snowys that we’re seeing in our area.  Biologists and naturalists have said that many of them will not make it back up to the Arctic in the spring.  They’ll just be too stressed or weak.  Several have already been struck by cars.  Cars, people and trees must be very strange to them. There are none or are very rare where they live.

It’s been a real treat to see them.  I only hope that this one and many of the others in the area find enough food through out the winter to become strong enough to make it back home!  Good Luck Little Buddy!

Bald Eagles at Squaw Creek, Missouri

 

If you would like to see more recent photos of bald eagles see my post Bald Eagles of Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge at: http://wp.me/p1VR8B-rN

The last couple of years, I’ve gone to Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri on the Monday before Thanksgiving to take images of bald eagles. It is a 7,350 acre refuge that was established in 1935.  This time of the year, hundreds of thousands of geese and ducks stop to rest on their migration south.  Monday’s count was over 203,000 geese and 90,000 ducks. A lot fewer than the 1,200,000 that I’ve seen there in the past. It just hasn’t been cold enough for most of them to migrate yet

Just a few geese

Bald Eagles follow the migration to feed on the sick and injured. According to Refuge count on Monday the 21st, there was only 1 adult and 23 immature eagles but I saw 4 adults and 18 immature ones. Mature eagles heads and tails turn white around age 4 or 5. Below is an image of one of the 4 that I saw.  There were 2 adults in the same tree but the sun was directly behind them!  Because of that, there was no way to get a decent shot so I didn’t try to take it.

Just 1 of 4 Bald Eagles

The first weekend in December the Refuge hosts Eagle Days. There may be as many as 150 to 300 eagles there at that time. I’ll be there with a group. Because of the crowd of people on Eagles Day, the eagles become nervous and fly away as you try to approach them. You can still see them but often at quite a distance. That’s the reason I like to go the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Oh, you will see many other raptors there as well.  I took a number of pictures of them too. Most are red-tailed hawks. However, I did get lucky and saw what I thought to be a prairie falcon swoop down to get it’s prey.  That was very cool!

Just before I left, I counted 30 deer all yarded up in the same field. There were so many that I couldn’t get them all in the viewfinder at one time but I did manage to get 18 of them in one image.  Can you tell which one is the only buck in the herd?

Only 18 of the 30 seen all together

He is the 4th one from the left. Be careful when you count. You may miss one. He’s the first one that is facing to the right.

I’ve added a new gallery for Squaw Creek above. The first 5 images were taken in the Spring. All the rest were taken this past Monday.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog and the images in the gallery.  Thanks for coming. Comments are welcomed.

Bill

 

Can you really take good pictures when it’s cloudy?

Most wildlife and landscape photographers agree that the best light of the day is in the early morning and late afternoon.  I agree but I also like cloudy days.  You don’t have to worry about the deep harsh shadows caused by the sun.  It started out cloudy this morning so I brought my camera to the zoo. The following image is right out of the camera with just a very slight crop and with no color adjustments made. You be the judge.

Lilac breasted Roller

The image could be brightened just a little but I think it’s not bad. Another benefit is that on cool cloudy days, the animals are more active.  As you can see below, the Eland were frisky!

You push me and I'll push you back!

At one time or another, all the giraffes were running. Below, brother and sister, who are both under a year old, were racing. Look out Simitar Horned Oryx!!

Brother & Sister Racing!

The cats were on the prowl!

This is Gi

However, Nakita was content to just lay back and enjoy breakfast.

Nakita having breakfast

All these images were taken in the morning while it was still cloudy. I know people who leave their cameras at home when the sun’s not out but it’s one of my favorite times to shoot.

OK, now for my friends who came here from Facebook. They were asked to identify the image below.

Guess Who!

Congratulations, if you guessed…………………

Labor Day
Labor Day

I mentioned in a previous post that I might get controversial. I do hope that you’ll consider taking pictures on cloudy days.  You might be pleasantly surprised. It just may become one of your favorite times to take pictures too.

Hope you enjoyed the blog. Please come back.

Bill

So Kansas Is Flat!

Most people think Kansas is really…… flat. Well, there might just be a few surprises.  Some of you have heard of the Kansas Flint Hills but many have not ventured to the very western part of the state.  Yes, it is very flat in that part of the state.  However, if you venture down the long dusty road pictured below,

The Long Dusty Road

and after you think that you’re really lost this time for sure, you’ll find some very interesting formations. First, you’ll see

What happened to the Flat Land?

followed by what you came looking for all the while, Monument Rocks. This landmark is on private land but the owners are generous to share it with the public.  These limestone formations were formed 80 million years ago and were once the floor of a vast inland sea.

Monument Rocks

 

The image below shows my car as a reference to how tall these “rocks” are.  They’re about 70 feet tall and you can walk right up to them. As a testament to the people that visit, I saw no graffiti which is refreshing.

They are tall

 

Not too far from Monument Rock, you’ll find another surprise. It’s an oasis called Lake Scott State Park and Wildlife Area.  The flat plains drop to this startling oasis with natural springs, deep wooded canyons and craggy bluffs.

Lake Scott

While I had a bobcat visit my camp, I also saw many of these circling above. They’re turkey vultures. I kept wondering if they were trying to tell me something!!!

Turkey Vulture

I also saw the weirdest bison, I’ve ever seen. The owners claimed them to be purebred bison or American Buffalo but they look like Beefalo to me.  What do you think?

American Bison or Beefalo?

Oh, by the way, Lake Scott is rich in Kansas history too. Several Indian tribes have occupied the area. Indians reported French fur traders at the settlement in 1727.  Not more than a stones throw away, the last white casualty of the Indian Wars in Kansas, Colonel William H. Lewis, was wounded and later died while trying to round up some Cheyenne men, women children who had escaped a reservation in Oklahoma as they were crossing through the area.

And you thought that western Kansas was just flat cattle country. I hope you’ve enjoyed the images and the little bit of history along with them.

Hope you come back again!

Bill

Ernie Miller Nature Center

Ernie Miller Nature Center

Some of you have heard me talk about a very special place, Ernie Miller Nature Center.  It’s 116 acres of nature almost completely surrounded by civilization.  It has a stream, a number of nature trails and some prairie to explore as well as an interesting array of animals inside the main building.

The very talented and dedicated staff of Park Naturalists and Park Police provide an outstanding variety of interpretive programs for all ages throughout the year. The programs cover historical events, nature, conservation and are educational and always fun. The staff often dresses in costumes of the time period of the story to enhance the experience.

Often, animal ambassadors are used to  emphasize nature and conservation concepts. The animal ambassadors include: insects, frogs, snakes, turtles, fish, mammals and birds of prey.

I have been very fortunate to be included in some of what they do, especially storytelling.  Below, is an image of me as Farmer McGregor from Peter Rabbit.  Of course, I was telling my side of the story!  This Saturday evening for Haunted Kansas, I will be dressed as a frontiersman telling the story by a campfire of Josiah Wilbarger, the only known person to survive being scalped by Comanches.

Farmer McGregor

I’ve also been allowed to work with the raptors.  I’m sometimes referred to as the “Owl Man” because I’m often seen working with the owls and giving impromptu presentations about them.

The Owl Man

Up top, you’ll notice a new gallery which include images of animals and scenes that you’ll see at the nature center.  I hope you enjoy them and will come out to see us.

Oh by the way, on the evenings of October 28th and 29th, we’ll be doing an “Owl Prowl.”  It’s by reservation only.  I don’t know if there are still spots available but if you’re interested, call Cindy at: 913-826-2800 to reserve a your spot.

See ya next time!  Thanks for coming!

I Have Galleries!

As you can see, I now have Galleries in the black bar below the image of the Tetons. Hover your cursor over the word Gallery.  You’ll see the three sub-galleries. Just click on one of them and that gallery will load. They are slide shows that change images about every 5 seconds. You can click on the small images on the left to bring up that image sooner.  I’m sure you’ll figure it out.  You’ll have to click on the back arrow to get back to the previous page to view the blog or other galleries.

Some of you have seen some of these images but none of you have seen all of them.  I hope you enjoy them.  Let me know what you think!

Thanks for coming!

Bill