Friday, November 22, 2013

THE MINK


This morning was very overcast with drizzle that would start and stop continuously.  I love it.  There's a special clean, fresh smell to the outdoors when conditions are like this.  
I just had to throw a couple shots of this guy up here.
 He's a sweetie!


I cruised past the spot where I saw the mink yesterday and allowed the boat to slowly drift past the beaver lodge with the current.  This is the lodge where the little mink dove into and hid from me.  He wasn't there.  I initially thought this lodge was old and uninhabited by beavers.  I was wrong.  There are fresh cut branches piled up on the sides of the lodge in preparation for winter.  Look at the ends of the sticks and you can see where they have been chewed upon by the beavers.
 A shot of the lodge is below.  It's located right on the river bank.
I continued on across the river and up the other side.  The boat was moving along at 8 miles per hour and I saw no fishing boats on the water at all.  Of course, it's very early.  I was looking up on the mountain side where I saw a red fox the other day and my peripheral vision caught a quick dark movement on the top of the bank just above the water.  At first I thought it was a stick falling off a tree.  I scanned the weeds and brush and there it went again - very quickly.  It had legs and was black.  It was a mink.  Engine off, run to the front of the boat and lower the electric motor, with camera in hand and turn the bow around.  This is a lot of coordinated work here for one person.  Yikes - there's no light.  I'd have to make this work shooting at 1/40th of a second.  That's definitely tripod speed.  Oh well---   He was a black streak..
I felt that every picture would be blurred and I was willing to accept that because it's a rare thing to even find a mink let alone photograph one and I wanted pictures so bad!  I was willing to accept the blurs.  Mink do nothing slow, it seems.  They do not seem to linger in any one spot for longer than mere seconds.  I had to stop this guy somehow or I'd lose him.
He was doing a great job of keeping wood and brush between himself and me.  I looked ahead to see if I could see where he was heading so I could focus the camera on that spot and wait until he entered the field of view at that point.  I saw a beaver lodge in the water.  Could he be heading there?  I focused on a stick in that small open area and waited for him to get there.  He passed across my lens before I could react on the shutter button.  I was about to lose him.  It was then that I switched on the ignition and bumped the horn button briefly.  And, he stopped and stared directly at me.
I clicked away.  As I shot pictures, I wedged my shoulder against the console to gain support to steady the camera.

 I noticed my hands quivering a little.  I was excited.  This is an opportunity that many outdoor photographers spend years to acquire and, some still do not realize success.  These critters are very secretive.
I was making minor adjustments to the camera in hopes that a few of the shots would be acceptable.  I adjusted lighter and then darker, all the while trying to find an adjustment that would allow a little more shutter speed.

 There are a lot of shots here but, his head may be tilted slightly differently or, his foot may be placed slightly back or forward.  I want this guy documented in a very solid fashion so I printed all the acceptable shots here on the blog.  What a piece of luck to get this guy to stop.  
 These pictures were all taken in about thirty seconds.  So you can imagine how busy my hands were making adjustments to the camera, focusing, trying to remain steady and slowly moving my body to keep alignment with this critter while compensating for the movement of the boat.

 I knew my time with him was about to end and I felt so privileged to have this time with him one on one.






He was ready to head for cover.  I could sense it and there wasn't anything I could do.  

 Then - he was gone - like smoke in the wind.  This mink was one of the toughest shoots I've ever done.  As I stated previously - these telephotos need a lot of light and today was probably the worse day ever to use a telephoto.  I tried everything I knew to get these shots.  Yes, they lack clarity but, I got him.

He disappeared into the beaver lodge.  The mink on the lower end of the river also disappeared into a beaver lodge.  This tells me that mink and beaver coexist together.  I wonder how many observers realize this.  Minks are creatures of opportunity and a beaver lodge is perfect habitat for them.  Beaver lodges would be a prime area to seek out mink it would seem.  The pictures are not National Geographic quality but they're special to me.  Long lenses require lots of light and lots of light didn't exist today.  Gotta make do with what's at hand.  I'm happy though.  I slowly pulled away from the shoreline to the center of the river and kept moving upstream.  
 The resident turkey herd was out and I grabbed a couple photos just to do it.  They can be seen in this field each and every day.
Well, what a morning!  I'm off for three days in a row now so I don't know if I'll be in the wilds or not.  The weather is to take a turn for the worse, cold, and I don't know if I want to deal with it or not.  We'll see.  Hope you liked the mink.  See ya.