Archive for May, 2012

31
May
12

Northern Flicker

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Often heard and very shy, rarely do they hang around long enough to get a photo, this Northern Flicker hung around long enough to get a couple of shots.  You’ll more than likely hear them and not see them.  They have a laughing-like call similar to Pileated Woodpeckers.

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The male has the red stripe on the back of his head.  They nest in trees but perform their courtship ritual in the middle of a field.

30
May
12

Great Blue Heron: No Cooperation

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Having seen a Blue Heron in the same spot on both Friday and Sunday morning, I decided to return on Monday morning with all my long gear.  I lugged a tripod, my camera, the 100x400mm lens, and the 2x converter back to the same spot.  Using this 800mm setup on a tripod, oh I was going to get some great shots.  I setup and I waited for the bird to step out of the reeds.  An hour and a half later, I knew I had been stood up.  So I packed up my gear and dragged it back to the truck.

This part of the park has an observation deck in the middle of the marsh, so I walked out there just to see what was on the marsh.  Guess which bird was sitting at the other end of the marsh, too far away for any decent shots, even with the long gear.  Yep, the Great Blue Heron.

Wild animals will rarely cooperate with our desire for photos.  When this happens, accept it for what it is, a learning experience, and then understand there will be other opportunities to get the photo.  These two shots are from the same shot taken Sunday morning.  I’ve cropped them differently to show you what would have been the difference between a 400mm shot at the top and an 800mm shot at the bottom.

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29
May
12

More Sandhill Cranes

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28
May
12

Sandhill Cranes Active Again

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Sandhill Cranes nest on the ground and when nesting they get very quiet.  When the nestlings first hatch these big birds don’t stray far from the nest.  Yesterday, very early in the morning, I could hear Sandhill Cranes calling.  They are very vocal and can be heard for miles.

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I also saw them take flight for the first time since their eggs hatched.  My conclusion is the young must be old enough to defend themselves so the parents can demonstrate to the young what these birds do.  Make noise and fly.  I found a you tube video that will let you hear them.

Today is the last chance I’ll have for fawn pictures until Thursday.

27
May
12

A Buck’s Curiosity

Judging by the underwhelming support I’m receiving for these deer posts, I’m guessing you folks would like me to finish this story and move on.  I’ve been taking deer pictures for several years now and this buck was one of the first deer whose photos I actually liked.  I guess because I got close enough.  When I got home and pulled the photos up on my computer, I discovered he had a wound on his nose.  I decided it had been from a fight with another buck, but as I said, it bothered me.  The time of year was wrong for bucks to be fighting.  It had been several months since they had lost their antlers.  The wound seemed only a few days or a couple weeks old at the most.

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Most of the time this buck is very protective of the females, but this time of year they separate, because it’s time for the does to have their fawns and they don’t need or want the buck around for that.  They each stake out their own nursery area and will not tolerate other deer in that area.  I know where several of these nursery areas are, but that does not guarantee I will find fawns.  If the does don’t want me to see their fawns, I, or anyone else for that matter, won’t see them.

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When the buck separates from the females his whole demeanor changes.  He stops acting like the king of the hill, trying to impress the does with how brave he is and becomes…hmmm…in a word – friendly.

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I’ve actually walked through fields with him, spending as long as forty-five minutes to an hour taking his photos while we walked along.  He and I have circled each other in the woods, without him running away and he has shown me his family.  He’s very close to one of the females, so I’m guessing she was the first to bear him offspring.  On one occasion I followed him into a field and nearly stepped on a Wild Turkey who was very well hidden in the tall grass.

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He’s become like a faithful dog, never very demanding and just seemed glad to hang out with me.  A two hundred pound (91 kilos) dog, capable of going from 0 to 35mph (0 to 55kph) in a heartbeat.  I watched several tourists pass right by him without even noticing him sitting in the field the day I took these photos.  What can I say, city slickers always bringing their city to the forest rather than leaving all that crap behind.

So, where did the scar come from?  The day we walked through this field I stayed on the man-trails because it had only been a couple weeks since I had nearly stepped on the turkey and I did not want to repeat that.  I was also aware that a family of birds was nesting out in the middle of this field, right where he was headed, but when I didn’t follow him, he turned around.

Here are the new photos.  I think I know where he got the scar from.

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He began inching forward, even seeming to crouch down like a big cat stalking prey.

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I like to think he learned that from me.  But wait, it gets better.

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At this point, when I realized an encounter between a very large animal and a male and female animal protecting their young was happening, I just held the button down on the camera.  My camera taking pictures as fast as the processor would allow.

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Eye to eye.  Face to face.  One of the Sandhill Cranes walked up to the deer and…

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bam!  That had to hurt.

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Then…the stare down.

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It would take nothing for this two hundred pound deer (91 kilos) to stomp the heck out of this 10 pound (less than 5 kilos) bird.  However, as you can see, the crane ain’t backing down.  Wild animals will die trying to protect their young.  The buck eventually looked away.

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Now look at their posture.  The crane holds his head slightly higher than the deer.  He’s won…the encounter has ended.  The deer will move off and the crane’s family has been saved.

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26
May
12

Buck in Tall Grass

When you look at how tall the grass is, which nearly obscures this full grown buck from sight, you can appreciate the difficulty in trying to find something the size of a Chihuahua.

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It’s a hunter’s dream to find a buck like this during the Fall hunting season.  He grows a big basket like ten point rack and I would guess weighs in at about two hundred pounds.  He’s so focused on where he is going, he hasn’t even noticed me taking pictures of him.

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All of his primary senses have locked onto what he is looking at.  His ears, eyes and nose all pointed at the same thing.  He’s always been curious about other things in the park, whether it be other animals or people.  This time of year the bucks separate from the does because the females are having their fawns.  Sometimes younger yearling bucks, separated from the mothers for the first time, will team up with their fathers, but this only lasts until the Fall breeding season when their fathers will drive them off.

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Whether you’re a hunter or a Whitetail enthusiast such as me, you’ll recognize this as the hold position.  Having detected something directly in front of him he has gone into the hold position, which is to remain motionless while trying to process what he is seeing.  Like I said yesterday, he has a scar on the right side of his nose, which I had attributed to a possible fight with another buck.  That explanation never sat well with me because the scar first appeared at this time of year when the deer are still in velvet.  Whitetails lose their antlers during Winter and regrow them during Summer.  When the antlers regrow they are mostly cartilage much like your nose and incapable of causing that kind of scarring.  But like I said, he’s always been curious and I now believe his curiosity may have contributed to the scar.

26
May
12

Field Sparrow

While on my failed quest for fawns yesterday, I encountered many types of birds including this Field Sparrow.

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He stayed on that branch, which is about waste high, while I snapped photos of him.  Turns out he wasn’t just being friendly and posing for me, but, when a Field Sparrow is scared they will fly up into a bush to watch what happens and then decide what to do next.

It’s 4:00 AM here and raining quite hard outside right now.  Glad I’m not huddled inside a tent listening to the rain pelting the top, while thinking that there is only a thin layer of nylon between me and the lightning.

Web traffic on my blog was very slow yesterday, but something significant happened with those numbers.  For the first time since WordPress has been tracking what countries my visitors come from, foreign visitors outnumbered American visitors.  American visits usually outnumber foreign visits by 2 to 1.  I would conclude this is a side-effect of the first major American Summer holiday being this weekend.




May 2012
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