Posts Tagged: wildlife photography

Loon Chicks Now Eight Weeks Old

Thanks to everyone who stopped by at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair. Nice to know people are actually reading the blog. My next show is the Capital Arts Fest, September 24 & 25 in Concord, NH.

Yesterday, I got a chance to check up on the Eastons. The chicks are now eight weeks old and seem to be doing well. They’re big – nearly as big as their parents. Their feathers have grown in and their bills have elongated. They’re diving and foraging for themselves, but still expect their parents to feed them. They’re getting independent, for much of the morning the family was spread out over something like a third of a mile.

Other bird families have fledged their chicks as well. There have been kingbirds around all season, I haven’t been able to decide if we have two or three pairs. When I visited yesterday, there were something like 15 kingfishers out and about, making me suspect we had three nests.

The morning started out with a beaver swimming by the family. The chicks were curious and swam to intercept the beaver. The beaver passed just a couple feet in front of them before circling back and slapping. Both parents rapidly arrived on scene. The parents keep a good eye out under water as the family retreated.
Their path took them close to this branch sticking out of the water. Both chicks explored it and found things to eat, probably insects or larvae.
Mom was serving up delicate little morsels while dad went off to forage. When dad returned, he brought back this larger fish, the first of several fish he’d serve up throughout the morning.
The chicks have mastered the handoff, I didn’t see them fumble with any food offered. Note the size of the chick.
Dad also brought home several crayfish.
A pair of osprey have been regular visitors all season. They were joined by at least one, probably two (maybe even three) chicks. They appeared one at a time, but very shortly after this one headed out of sight, a second one appeared.
Osprey will often hover over the pond to let them watch for fish below. This one hovered a few seconds before diving.
The dive took the osprey completely under water, before it resurfaced.
Success! He’s nabbed what looks like a catfish.
The loons pretty much ignore the osprey while they’re overhead. Dad continued feeding the chicks. This looks like a white sucker for the next course.
Another fish being handed off.
With their feathers grown in, the chicks need to do a lot of preening. Lots of contortions are required to maintain all those hard to reach places.

The chicks are practicing adulting. They made a few runs over the water learning how to take off. Their wings aren’t yet strong enough to lift them, but soon…. I thought this chick was attempting a takeoff. As he opened up the range, I lowered the camera. He promptly dove and came up doing the penguin dance – a skill he’s going to need to take or defend a territory.
Coming towards the end of his run wing rowing, he made a sharp right turn.
After practicing the penguin dance, a wing stretch was required.
Not to be outdone, the sibling gave a nice stretch.
As I headed home for the morning, I passed several great blue herons, the pair on the pond must have raised a good brood.

I’ll get out to check on our other families as promptly as I can, stay tuned!

A Peaceful Morning With The Loons, et al, June 8, 2022

Monday morning was a beautiful spring morning to visit the loons and friends. Provided one doesn’t object to paddling about in 42° weather. Let’s see what I found.

The Adirondack Loon Center is raffling off a Hornbeck Canoe to raise funds for loon preservation in the Adirondacks. Hornbeck boats are beautiful, very light weight boats, worth taking a look.

One of our pair of loons was patrolling the pond and foraging as the sun rose.
A few minutes later, the loon departed on an errand. The pond is surrounded by hills. Often departing loons have to circle the pond to gain enough altitude to clear the hills, giving me an extra change to get in flight shots.
A song sparrow went through his repertoire to greet the morning.
Mr. Oriole was busy hauling groceries to his nest.
A couple mergansers promenaded around the pond.
Even Mrs. Kingfisher was generous enough to hold still for a photo – quite the rare occurrence.
Our loon on nest duty took a break to stretch, preen, forage and nap after a time.
Streeeetttttcccchhhh…..
On the surface between foraging dives.
Settled in for a midmorning nap.

Toadapalooza! Toad Mating Season Is Here

Spring takes a while coming to the North Country. A couple of pretty good signs that the risk of snow has passed is turtles coming out to bask in large numbers and American toads gathering to mate. I recently ran across a knot of about 200 toads getting together to find mates.

An American toad sitting on a log in the water near a gathering of toads looking for mates.

Many of my images are available as prints at: http://IanClark.com.

A male American toad calling to attract a mate. Toads inflate their dewlap to give a shrill trilling call to attract females.
Toads gather in groups in response to the male’s call. Here’s a toad floating not far from the brush pile where the toads have gathered.
A toad hopping out of the water onto a log.
Adult toads live most of their lives on land, coming to the water to mate and lay eggs. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles which will develop into toads.
The male in the foreground was sitting on a log calling when he was approached by another male.
Male toads try to grab onto any other passing toads to find a mate, sort of like a every frat party. If they realize they’ve grabbed another male, they’ll let go and move on.
male grasps the female from behind. She’ll lay her eggs in the water, he’ll fertilize them as she lays them.
A head on view of a pair of toads mating.
Sometimes many males will try to mate with a single female. They’ll grab on where they can, making a toad ball.
It was hard to tell what was going on with this toad ball. I think there were five toads involved when I found it.
The males will keep trying to improve their grip and to knock the other males off of the female. It is hard to tell who is whom while they wrestle.
The males continue their struggle to get closest to the female and drive the other males away. And, here, the toad in the foreground is a newcomer to the ball.
Take your best guess for how many toads are in the ball. They stayed together long enough that I began to worry about the female at the bottom of the pile drowning.

Turkey Shoot – Photographing Wild Turkeys

Wild turkey strutting

Wild turkeys are starting to strut here in Vermont. Strutting is a display by the males to attract the ladies. They’ll fan their tailfeathers and keep moving around to be in in front of the females. This is a great time to photograph them. Not only are the males showing their finery, but you’ll often see fights as the males try to drive each other away from the flock.

The light on turkeys makes or breaks the image. With low angle, early morning light, turkeys are iridescent and the male’s face and wattle are brightly colored. Wait a few minutes after sunup and they appear a drab brown. Shooting just after dawn is critical.

Finding turkeys is relatively easy. They’re sort creatures of habit. You’ll usually find a flock working through the same field(s) every morning. They roost in trees come dusk. You can hike along the edge of the field you’re planning to shoot the evening before to see where they’re roosting to give you an edge the next morning.

Turkeys are hunted regularly and are very wary of people. For the best photos, you’re going to need a blind. Fortunately, there are lots of blinds made for turkey hunters. They’re perfect for photography. If you have to hike in to your spot, a chair blind is easy to carry. If you’re shooting not far from your car, a larger tent style blind gives you more room. (Vermont is still chilly, having more room to pour some tea out of my Thermos is a big plus.)

You’ll want a relatively high, 1/1000th or faster, shutter speed to be ready when the kerfuffles start. Mounting your camera on a tripod with a ball or gimbal head saves the hassle of holding the camera and lets you pan to the action.

Be sure to check your local hunting laws, you don’t want to be in the field with hunters. If you’re on private land, you can usually coordinate with the landowner to keep you and the hunters apart.

So, get out and get some turkey pix. If you’re timing it right, you’ll be home early enough for a good breakfast.

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