Tuesday, May 7, 2013


The whole week so far has been overcast with rain every day all day.  Today looked like a carbon copy of each of those days.  I almost didn't even take a camera along today due to the really horrible light conditions on this dingy looking day.  Boy, am I glad I threw it in the truck!
The first critter who came into view was the sentinel.  He's always there on that same spot.  It's interesting that birds have favorite places to spend their quality time.  There's a red tail hawk down the river the other direction who is always on the same limb of the same tree and stands on the exact same spot on the limb. 
I really like photographing any wildlife that comes my way but, I've been gravitating more and more toward birds.  It's the challenge I think.  I'm in a boat and photographing while constantly moving even when stopped dead.  I also believe that part of the attraction is the research to find out what species I just photographed.  It's really fun.  Mammals are no less important or interesting but birds are mysterious on all fronts.  Below:  He's on the job just like every day.  Mom's probably feeding the kids while he keeps an eye out for trespassers.  They'll both hunt together later in the morning.
There is one bird, a heron, that I always look for but rarely see.  It is a black crowned night heron.  As luck would have it I saw one land just ahead and to the left of the boat.   I about fell out of the boat.  The opportunity to put this fellow in the camera was totally unexpected.  

These guys are very secretive and usually will alight on limbs covered with foliage.  Even when seen they are almost impossible to photograph.  This is not always the case but it's what I've noticed on the shorelines I frequent.  This is a fantastic opportunity for me.  I was extra careful with the camera to assure I didn't mess up on the camera setting  selections.  The light is horrible for photography.  No luck.  The shots came out quite nice I think.

He's getting ready to fly.  I remember thinking, "here he goes.  Don't blow it.  It might be years until I get a shot of one launching into flight".

I couldn't set the shutter faster than 1/400th.  Oh no!  I'd have to pan the launch.  I bent my knees and leaned back against the console and prepared to pan the shot.  I anticipated the timing when his feet would leave the limb and started slowly panning the camera away and ahead of him, in anticipation of his flight path before he ever jumped off the limb.  He would fly into my panning motion - if that makes any sense to you.  The results are below.  Lucky....

I felt confident the shots would work out.  
It was time to cross the lake.  The sun made an appearance shortly after the heron ordeal and the surface of the river lighted up.
A large patch of brown was stationary between two trees and I threw the glasses to my eyes.

"Don't get excited sweetheart.  I'm just passing by.  You're a pretty little girl."

The bird that follows is, I think, a juvenile red winged blackbird.  I'm not certain as I've never paid attention to red wings at any time in my life.  The markings on the wings are positioned where the red markings are located on adult birds.  I have no one to ask and I'll bet the field guides won't show a picture of a juvenile bird.  I'll leave it as I've stated until I find out differently.

The day, so far, has been an amazing wildlife day.   I would never have expected to see all these great critters out here on a dreary day like this.  It's even spitting rain.  I would have been satisfied with the photography of the morning if I'd not see even one more bird or mammal to photograph.  But, the morning wasn't over.  The best was yet to happen.  I had an amazing piece of luck.  Amazing!  I saw a beaver cruising toward me up the shoreline.  He would pass directly in front of the boat.

I took a few of the usual shots of the beaver swimming and didn't get too excited.  Then he went to the shoreline and put his back against a log and picked up a thick stick and started to chew on it.  I dropped the electric motor and carefully and quietly eased up behind him.  Logs and weeds kept me hidden as I approached.  What follows is a unique series of shots like you've probably never seen before.  If you get bored - just turn me off.  I won't put all the shots up here but I will put the one's I really like.  He's eating dinner and you're invited.

Whatever kind of bark he is chewing off that stick has him in a euphoric state.  His eyes are closed and he's really focused on the experience of removing the bark off that stick.  Then, I realized I didn't shut off the electric motor and the bow of the boat, with me on it, was moving up beside him.  Oh no!  He noticed me and looked directly at me.  The electric motor was on the lowest speed and the boat started to hold it's position in the slow current.

He didn't show concern and went back to removing the bark from his treasure stick.
Then he looked at me again.  He didn't face me head on but sort of cocked his head in my direction.  He was looking at me without being obvious about it.  Notice his claws holding the stick.

He began to keep his eyes on me constantly and I knew he was onto me.   He would go into evasive action soon and he did so.  You can see how effective a canoe is for slipping up on critters.  They can approach in total silence but they are a terrible thing to shoot pictures out of, especially with a 500 mm lens.  This is due to their inability to remain fixed in one spot.  Current and even a gentle breeze will constantly push a canoe any and every way making it very difficult to hold the camera on the subject.
The beaver was on the move.

And then - he was gone.  What an experience!  The whole affair only took about ten minutes.  It was a speck of time out of the morning - a speck of time I'll never forget as long as I live.
I noticed swallows flying about near a mud cliff and suspected they were using the tiny holes in the vertical cliff face.   The cliff is in the shade and I could only get 1/200th of a second shutter speed.  I was going past on the way back to the boat ramp so I had to pass by the cliff.  It would only take five minutes to see if I could get a shot or two.  I couldn't stop wing motion at the slower shutter speed but the pictures were interesting, I felt.  

So, there is another day.  Amazing what I can come up with sometimes.  This has been an unbelievable morning.  They don't happen often this way.  
Shade and I will be going to Calderwood Lake for a camp out soon.  It will be a while as I don't have two days off in a row for a spell.  I appreciate your interest in this blog and I'll do my best to keep the material coming.  I have quite a lifestyle and it should be no problem.  See ya.