Wildlife among us

We’ve been wrestling with a raccoon over who controls the various bird feeders on our deck.  I’ve tried most of the tricks outlined on the web for thwarting the critter’s ability to climb up and vacuum out the seed and hummingbird feeders, only to learn just how agile and acrobatic a roly-poly looking animal can be.  We’ve finally resorted to simply taking the feeders in around dark and leaving some seeds on the deck for a late snack.  That enabled me to get this shot.

I did read that problems with raccoons usually pop up in the spring and then die off in the summer.  The theory is the mothers are filling up on food so they can produce enough milk for young in the spring, a need that tapers off as weaning takes place.  So I got to wondering – is that why are we the target of these munchie urges?

Tonight we confirmed (at least partially) that theory as these guys showed up.

The climbed on the rail because that’s where mom was right before she went into the feeder to fill up for the evening.  They couldn’t climb the pole with her so they sat together patiently waiting.  A little light didn’t seem to bother them.

Checked back later and dad had showed up, busily finishing off the seeds in our supposedly squirrel-proof feeder.  Ah, the joys of having almost opposable thumbs.

Look at those faces – would you buy a car from this pair?

 

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Snow shapes

The last snow storm blew through with constant, strong winds.  No softly wafting flakes drifting down around here.  Snow was plastered against any vertical surface, clearly showing the direction it came from and revealing the power of the wind.  Trees looked like someone had taken a white marker and drawn a line down one side.

The snow is stuck so strongly to the trees that as it melts even a little it doesn’t slide off the trunk.  Instead, it gradually separates in various places, part holding firm to the bark and part curling down under the force of gravity.  It makes some interesting miniature sculptures.

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Icy Moustache

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Inchworm

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Reverse coathooks

Not only was the snow blowing hard but the crystals were very small.  I guess water vapor moving that fast doesn’t have time to form large flakes.  Being so fine the snow was able to cover small objects, making small caps or outlines depending on the underlying surface.

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Ice rimmers

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Wind shield

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Prayer cap

Sky on fire

The northern lights are shifted very south right now due to a large solar storm that is impinging on our upper atmosphere.  Nothing like the view from Alaska or north Canada, but still a great occasion to see a rare event.  Here’s the best single image I got.

That’s not too bad for being thousands of miles from the North Pole.

Did you see the lights?

Looking for one thing, finding another – just another day in the woods

The sun is coming up later and going away earlier, cool weather grass is growing faster, football is on TV and harvest festival dates are being promoted.  Must be fall.  Time for the last great burst of color before the long, white sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, the last one is less about color and more about tone and structure.  I read an article recently by a photographer who loved cloudy days because of the great light for B&W photos.  Soon after getting into the woods today a line of overcast just moved right over the woods, cutting off the bright colors I was looking for.  At first I was frustrated (going out to shoot in the woods is as good as being a rainmaker sometimes) then I remembered the writer’s words, stopped being ticked off and started looking around for some B&W opportunities.  I don’t know what the plant above is but it really stood out against the green forest floor.  After making this image I started looking around for similar sights but of course the sun came back out!  Oh well, back to color.

Wasn’t summer just here?

In 1816 a convergence of solar conditions and volcanic activity resulted in a significant lowering of temperature in the northern hemisphere.  What resulted as has been called an agricultural disaster.  Between the cooler temperatures throughout the summer and unusual patterns of rain or fog many crops never matured and food supplies fell.  It is speculated that farmers in New England and the upper east coast started a movement west because of the bad weather, beginning the settlements of the Midwest and leading to the expansion onto the Great Plains.

Why do I bring this up?  Because this summer has been very pleasant if you like cool, slightly wet weather.  In this area of Wisconsin we’ve rarely seen days in the 90’s and enough rain to really green up the corn, soybeans and lawns.  If you hate heat and humidity, this has been the place to be.

One result of this, though, is some foliage believes fall is coming much earlier than usual.  Sumac is turning bright red, summer plants are blooming later and berries on trees are ripening.  It looks like the harbingers of seasonal changes are telling us something.

For an autumn photographer – no problem!

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Too much time on your hands

Visited the Art Institute of Chicago this week and viewed an exhibit I’d not seen before.  It was an installation of miniature rooms that had been commissioned over the years.  The detail of these presentations was stunning and the story behind the craftspeople who created them was amazing.  Imagine building a faithful reproduction of a famous room (say Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, at scale of 1 inch = 1 foot.  Everything, from wooden furniture to floor textiles to wall coverings – all exactly reproduced to a tiny scale and with intricate detail, using materials similar to the ones in the original room.  These images don’t begin to do justice to the visual delight of these (reflections on the glass were a big problem) but I wanted to share some of them if only to encourage people to get there and view them in person.  Gaze into the rooms long enough and you expect people to come walking into them.  Stand in the right place and the perspective makes the scene like looking into a window of a house.  Simply amazing.  From a photographer’s view the lighting used in each one really enhances the sense of a full-sized building.  I would love to have the opportunity to remove the glass and photograph these directly.

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