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?


Birds – up close

I’m not a hard-core bird photographer.  Having said that, I do enjoy the opportunity to make some images that give me a closer look at these remarkable creatures.  A photo’s ability to freeze time is the perfect way to get to know their details.

Horicon marsh is close enough for an easy day trip and right now there are lots of birds up there.  Memorial Day weather was perfect to wander around the trails enjoying the sounds and sights of the flocks of birds making it a temporary home.  Here are a few of the birds I saw.

All images made with 300mm f/2.8 Olympus lens on E-3 digital camera.

Black crowned night heron

Egret with fish

Canada goose and gosling

Sunny nap time

Purple martin

Female red-winged blackbird

Things close to home

Cold weather can be tough for photography, from the batteries and tiny buttons on digital to the adjustments and exposure for film.  The scenes can be interesting if you’re willing to deal with the chill.  And the almost monochromatic look to everything.

So winter is my time to look for B&W opportunities, including infrared.  The bare trees and drifting snow make for some wonderful shapes and textures, and the stark sun in a cloudless sky provides plenty of contrast for shadows.

I continue my education on Ansel Adams’ Zone system for exposure and snow covered landscapes are perfect to experiment with.  The dazzling white snow can through off exposure meters or at least lull you into a sense of complacency on how the image will come out.  Fortunately the dynamic range of my digital and film cameras is usually sufficient to simply place the mid-tone greys in Zone V and let everything else fall where it does.  Here’s an infrared image where I put the grey stones in the wall right on Zone V and was able to retain some detail in the shadow of the wall while holding the texture of the snow in the foreground.  Snow is an almost perfect reflector of all colors so it will be white in infrared just as with B&W.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


I’ve had this image for a couple of months, playing around with it.  I really like the detail in the cattail “fuzz” against the dark sky.  I wanted enough depth of field to give a sense of the three-dimensions of the stalk but keep the background blurred so the subject stands out.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve finally got our bird feeders arranged to keep the acrobatic squirrels out of the flat feeder we installed for the ground birds like juncos and cardinals.  The feeder is high enough to keep squirrels or raccoons from jumping over the baffle.  Surprisingly it’s also strong enough to support the larger feathered diners who have started coming by.  The snow is apparently deep enough to annoy the turkeys in their scratching for food, so they come by our place for an easy snack. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey are amazingly tolerant of us watching them through the windows.  I think we’ve had upwards of 10-12 on the deck at one time, vacuuming up the sunflower seed and corn I put out for critters who just like to crawl around and graze.  The squirrels don’t really like to mingle with these ladies so I usually put more out after they wander away. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turkey populations have really grown in my lifetime.  Driving around Door County a couple of weeks ago we saw a field with close to 50 of them, all scratching for the corn left from harvest.  Are these the next Canada goose for urban parks?