More fun from a distance

I keep returning to Horicon Marsh searching for a whooping crane.  Now that I’ve got the gear to reach out and touch this rarely seen bird, he seems to be avoiding me.  Just have to keep it up, I guess.

Not that the time there is a waste.  I’m learning more about the terrain, the roads, the wildlife.  Seems the swifts that hang around one of the viewing stands are starting to get used to me.  Not that they are any happier about my presence.

My photography colleague Steve Russell is building quite a portfolio of macro images – you should take a look the result of his effort.  His technique is usually the traditional approach – macro lens, solid tripod, lots of patience to get the subject framed and exposed to his liking.  I’m not as good as Steve at getting close nor as patient to wait for the right moment.  Fortunately with my 300mm lens I can stand back and fill the frame.  Great for getting tight with a subject you can’t easily get to.

Sure, I could have been like Steve and gotten to this with a macro lens but it would have meant wading through a foot of marsh whereas I was able to stand on the boardwalk and get just as close as I wanted.  Like I said, Steve is better at this than me.

The swifts are an interesting crowd.  They zip around the boardwalk chasing each other (or invisible insects) all the while chatting about something.  For a break, they sit on the rope banister for the boardwalk and chat with each other.  Must be lots of gossip to keep up with in the marsh.

At the other end of the activity scale are the egrets and herons.  Patiently waiting for the right snack to appear, not getting in a rush for anything.  It seems they even take their time talking with each other.  Maybe they are sticklers for using just the right sentence structure or word choice.

The marsh serves as a very large nursery each year, as parents raise kids to be a part of the huge avian world.  This time of year the youngsters are showing some post-adolescent plumage as they look forward to following their parents south to escape the chill that will cover the marsh with ice and snow.  This young sandhill crane, not yet with his red skullcap, is strolling through the fields with mom and dad.

With so much to see there are opportunities for a little abstract, countering the soft, rounded edges of the marsh with man’s insistence on linear and angular.

I’m very pleased with the performance of this lens – it stretches me to be a better photographer for composition, exposure, focus and storytelling.

Marsh scenes – summer

Continuing to learn how to get best results from a 300mm lens I recently bought.  The Horicon marsh north of us is one of the best places around to see a variety of birds and scenery so I wandered around a bit to see what I could practice on.  Most of the images below are cropped from a larger composition.  Where I used it best, the lens is sharp enough to allow significant cropping and still render detail.  Great when the subjects you want simply refuse to get any closer.

Great Egret

This bird appears to have been resting from a feeding session in the marsh just below the tree.  I was able to get closer by creeping up behind other trees and shooting through open spots in the leaves.

Sandhill crane and red-winged blackbird

Earlier I was walking a dike with a small cloud of red-winged blackbirds around me, all screaming warnings to everything within hearing distance.  Experiencing that I realized they are pretty bold but didn’t realize what they would take on.  A pair of sandhill cranes were slowly feeding across a shallow marsh when they wandered into the nesting area of a group of blackbirds.  At least a half-dozen of the blackbirds were swooping around them, driving them away.  The most effective method seemed to be landing on the crane’s butt and screaming at it, like the one above.

Swallows

The swallow on the left was patiently waiting on the right one for something.  As the cleaning proceeded past the limit of the left one’s patience it reached out and grabbed the other’s wing.  That got attention.

Mallard family

Families are growing this spring, as parents have just a few months to train the kids on survival and migration.

Lily still life

Before the wind gets up there are nice opportunities for some quiet scenes.

Egret hunting party

This group of egrets slowing moved across this small marsh, vacuuming up fish, frogs and other aquatic life.

Muskrat

He appears to be gathering moss or reeds since he’s carrying a clump in his mouth as he makes his way back to a small island of cattails.

Great egret

Always good in a portrait session to have shots from both sides.

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