A year ago I was able to wonder around in a nearby forest taking in wildlife. You can read about it here if you would like. There have not been as many opportunities to get out with my camera this spring but recently I did get to spend some time taking in the ever greening forest in search on new life. On this particular outing my goal was to see if a mother coyote had taken up residence in a familiar spot to raise her little ones again and to find out if Eagles had once again laid eggs in their nest from last year.
While slowly making my way in the woods attempting to make as little noise as possible I heard a low growling sound coming from nearby. Scanning the area I saw a head hanging out of a hole in the tree. Watching for a minute or two I noticed this raccoon ever so gently resting its head in this hole looking exhausted from the day.
Enjoying this raccoon for a short time I heard a noise in leaves up the hill from me but couldn’t see what was making the noise. Shortly after a little deer made its way near me but hadn’t noticed me yet. Fortunately I was standing on a log right next to another tree so there was no shuffling of leaves to slowly turn to watch it. As I began to rotate, the deer spotted my movement causing us both to stop immediately. It was so dark in the woods that taking pictures of moving animals was a challenge and I was in a poor position to steady my camera so all I could manage was a few blurry shots and it was gone. This was ok because I wanted to focus more on the raccoon.
Once the deer had disappeared I hopped onto another fallen tree nearby trying to keep the noise down as I moved closer to this hollow tree being used for a home. Once on this tree I quietly removed my backpack and took out the tripod in order to steady my camera in hopes of getting sharper photos. While doing this out pops a bunch of tiny heads trying to figure out what I was doing. Now I understand why this larger raccoon appears to be so tired as to be almost lifeless. It was a mother with several little ones to tend to.
Almost settled in with my backpack and tripod, there was another rustling in the leaves near where the first noise came from but this time it sounded slightly different. I quickly frozen, standing on this log trying to look for movement and then I heard a sound – a turkey. Wow I’ve never had turkeys walk up to me. I always seem to come up on them and scare them away before getting a decent picture. Now what do I do? In order for me to get to cover so they wouldn’t recognize me I would have to move significantly. I decided to concentrate on these baby raccoons but tried to remain steady as to not disrupt the turkeys too much. They did eventually move on away from me so I could once again focus on these little critters right in front of me.
Now I was able to get the camera set up on the tripod and sit comfortably on the log I was just standing on and shoot away as this family would pop in and out of this larger hole in the tree. Enjoying my time watching these little fury creatures I heard another noise off in the distance. It sounded like thunder! I didn’t think there was really any storms in the area so I dismissed it as possibly an airplane overhead or something. Than I heard it again with a much longer rumble. That had to be thunder so I pulled out my phone all while being watched and check the radar. Now what should I do? I can pack up and try and get out of hear or wait it out since it appeared I was on the edge and may only get a little rain. Waiting it out seemed like the better idea as I could see sun near the horizon so this couldn’t last very long. Back to taking pictures of the raccoons.
While sitting there defying the weather, the thunder got closer and more numerous causing me to question my decisions to stay. Finally when it was almost overhead I decided it was time to pack up and leave. It must have been the right decision as the raccoons had all retreated back into their tree as well. Getting out to the edge of the woods I could see the storm which appeared to have just passed overhead. Now the wind was picking up at my back so the approaching cold front must have just came through. Do I go back to the raccoons or continue on to the eagles nest or keep going towards the car? My answer came in the form what sounded like a strong wind gust. But it wasn’t wind. I new my time was up and my choice now was to seek shelter among a clump of large maple trees just as heavy rains began pounding down. After a short downpour I decided to continue to the car and enjoyed watching the sun set behind this small spring storm. Definitely worth getting wet for.
Recently while exploring a local park there was a quick movement rustling fallen leaves right in front of me. It was a bit confusing at first as I couldn’t detect any wind so this leaf movement made not logical sense. After searching for a cause I spotted a snake just a few feet from me. Ahh, the reason for this leaf rustling.
Expecting it to quickly disappear I planned on continuing my hike however as I moved it stayed motionless so I grabbed the camera and began taking pictures of this snake. Moving around it I crept ever closer and it stayed there without so much as a flinch allowing me to practice with the camera in such a situation.
This continued for about 30 minutes as I adjusted to take pictures from different angles until I decided I should move on and let the snake move to where ever it needed to as the temperatures where getting colder making it more challenging for the snake to get to a safe place for the night. Near the end it would begin to turn its head towards me and flutter its tongue as if to let me know it was getting more comfortable with my presence and knew I was not a threat to it. An entertaining interaction with it on a pleasant late October afternoon.
This summer has provided some great opportunities to observe egrets and take a few pictures along the way. They are challenging to photograph in the blaring sun due to their pure white feathers but I still enjoyed the experience.
For most of the time they were looking for food which brought entertainment as they strolled through the shallow water. It was interesting to listen to their calls and see their actions towards other egrets, heron, and ducks. Unfortunately I was unable to get a good picture of most of these interactions. They really didn’t seem to care about the ducks but herons and other egrets seemed to bring more aggression.
When not looking for food they would find a stump or branch to rest in and preen for several minutes. They didn’t seem to stay in one place very long requiring me to stay on top of the camera settings if I wanted decent shots along the way.
On occasion there would be multiple egrets together but that usually ended in squawking with one or more birds leaving that spot in search of a bit more solitude. The fishing must have been pretty good to bring several together. Did they realize there were multiple birds there or were they distracted by the search for food and then realized they weren’t alone?
As they day neared the end, egrets continued to hunt for every bit of food they could find before nightfall. Slowly stalking whatever moves under the surface of the calm, warm water. I enjoyed being able to watch as they went about their prowl and snap a few pictures here and there.
Ever since taking the photo below of a relatively close up of a Great Blue Heron I’ve wanted to find an opportunity to do so again once I upgraded cameras to the Sony mirrorless NEX-F3.
Unfortunately every time I seemed to be getting close for a nice picture of a heron it would get spooked and fly away all the while squawking at me eliminating any hope of capturing an image. This summer I found a couple of opportunities for photographs. While learning how to become a part of the landscape for hunting purposes, these skills were not adequate for pictures of this somewhat elusive bird. Keep in mind I have limited distance with my zoom lenses as the bigger ones require a fair amount of money which I am unwilling to spend as this is just a hobby. However I found a larger lens for relatively low expense by renting it for a couple of days at a time. The image below was taken with a 150-600mm telephoto lens which brings wildlife considerable closer than my little 210mm zoom lens.
With that in mind, the photograph below was taken using my little 210mm lens. One of the skills I’m working on is hiding amongst my surroundings in order to achieve better results and it seems to be working. Of course finding the right location helps as well. The heron below was taken at a local lake frequented by such birds increasing my chances of getting closer to one. Here it is captured just as it spotted something moving in the water. Moments later it successfully caught something to eat.
On the same lake but another location I caught this one sharing the area with a trumpeter swan and some ducks. I would like to have been closer but I still enjoy being able to photograph a heron before if flies away.
This next group of pictures were taken from a dock where the heron was obviously use to people being around making the potential for pictures easier. The next four photos are a sequence of a heron diving for food. In the photo below it saw something to strike at.
In the next picture the heron is leaping into the water attacking a potential meal where it was almost complete submerged for a time.
Below is of the heron shaking water from its feathers after being soaked by the water. I couldn’t tell if it actually caught what it was after making its efforts worthwhile.
Finally the heron is back standing on the log it began on to begin the search for food all over again.
My last image shows a heron with wings fully expanded as it takes off right in front of me in the evening sun. This particular heron flew away and returned to this same area multiple times over a few hours given the opportunity to practice photographing herons and learning how they act in this situation. I could identify this heron because of the feather or two missing from its left wing. For much of the time I was about 25 feet away from it just to give you an idea how close they have to be for a 210mm zoom lens to fill a frame with a heron. A very enjoyable time at the lake to spite the mosquitoes trying to distract me.
While out and about recently I’ve been privileged to see life emerging to grow and flourish in the abundance of spring. Some has been persistently pursued while others have been fortunate surprises while exploring local lakes and forests during the beautiful days of May. I feel so lucky to have been a part of life in the greening woods and warming waters to share in the lives of animals as they begin to experience the world around them.
My goal is to go unnoticed by the animals around me so they will continue about their daily routines naturally. Usually I’m unsuccessful in this goal at first but eventually I become a part of the forest over time and the life around me goes on about their business as if everything is normal. At least that’s what I attempt to do and it’s a great feeling when I’m successful at it. Usually animals begin to notice I’m there as I move the camera to get pictures of their activity but I try to be as stealth as possible.
This becomes more challenging because of equipment limitations. Often to get the best pictures, wildlife need to be within 20 feet of me as my zoom lens is limited to this distance currently. I struggle with acquiring more equipment at a considerable cost in many cases and accepting the limitations of what I am fortunate to have. As other photographers will often say, there is always another piece of equipment to get and another lens they would like to get to make certain pictures easier.
Going through the progression of these photos, the first picture is a pair of wood ducks paired up ready to nest and lay eggs. Next is a trumpeter swan sitting on the nest for the long process of incubating eggs. Third is a pair of sandhill cranes teaching their young what to eat and how to stay safe by watching and avoiding threats. Below is a group of baby ducklings skirting across the lake grabbing food along the way. The larger photograph above is of a baby coyote exploring the forest around it’s den while mom is sleeping in the den.
Canadian Geese should be expected this close to Canada so not a big surprise.
This is a caterpillar of a Luna Moth. I’ve only seen one other caterpillar like this and still haven’t seen the moth itself.
I believe this is the Painted Lady Butterfly. Fairly common in this part of the country.
Somehow squirrels made it to the island. They were always eager to help with meals. Unfortunately for this one we didn’t leave anything behind as feeding the animals in a national park is not allowed.
Seagulls are fairly common. I just liked how this one was posing appearing very proud.
There are a multitude of ducks around Isle Royale. I believe this is a Mallard enjoying the morning sun.
Another animal that I can’t quite grasp how they got to the island. They must have stowed away on a boat at one time.
We enjoyed watching this group of ducks. When we first saw them we could only see the mother swimming. After watching for a few minutes one of the babies popped up from under the surface of the water, then another, and then the other 3 or 4. It was entertaining to watch as they would swim on the surface for a minute or two and then dive into the water staying under until the surface was calm and there was no sign they were there. All of a sudden they would begin reappearing in the blink of an eye.
Of course one of the more popular animals on Isle Royale are moose. We were fortunate to see this mother with her two calves stroll right in front of our campsite. There was another moose with her calf that met us on one of the trails causing a slight delay because those who know understand that the moose owns the area they are walking on. It is not considered a good idea to confront a moose, especially one with a calf. Some of the other wildlife on this island include foxes and wolves. We did not get to see either one. It is my understanding that the foxes are sneaking creatures finding creative ways to steal campers stuff so it may not be a bad thing that we did not see any.