Posts Tagged: wildlife photography

Loon Chicks at 10 Weeks

Monday morning there were stars above and a thick fog over the river in the valley below. I decided to risk a trip to visit the Eastons. Most of the trip to the pond was slow going through the fog. As I started to climb towards the pond, I rose back above the fog to find a beautiful morning.

Dad was foraging by himself near the boat launch, he paddled in close to hoot softly to me before returning to feasting on crayfish. Mom called a couple times while I was getting the boat in the water. This is the pond where Dad is banded, letting me tell who is who if I can see a leg.

Heading down the pond, I encounter our great blue heron doing some predawn fishing.
And our other heron posing nicely in front of the shadows.

The chicks were keeping mom busy. They’re very demanding, poking and pulling feathers whenever she got near. She didn’t spend much time on the surface, she’d dive quickly when a chick got near. I’m convinced this is why the parents leave the pond before the chicks – they just want some peace.

Mom has just handed off a crayfish that the chick swallowed quickly. The chick started to crowd mom to encourage her to find more.
Just in case mom forgot she has chicks and chicks get hungry, our chick gives her a gentle reminder that it is time to eat.
Mom takes the hint and finds another crayfish.
Mom dives again before the chick can grab some feathers.
Mom is looking good. She surfaces close in, but on the side of the boat where she’s hidden from the chicks.
One of the chicks wanders off on his own and waits for me to look the other way before practicing taking off. They’ll both be practicing, but there’s still a while before they get airborne.
Mom passing by with another crayfish for the chicks.
The crayfish isn’t going to last very long.
Giving a quick head shake after swallowing the crayfish.
Mom serves up yet another crayfish.
Our chick wrangles the crayfish into position.
The chick is trying to swallow this one head first, the crayfish objects.
The crayfish gets a temporary reprieve as the chick spits it out. He’ll flip it around and swallow it tail first.
The chick seems to be pleased with the way that battle turned out.
Mom is inbound with another crayfish, but needs to stop and stretch.
One of our chicks takes a moment to stretch.
Our chicks posing nicely for a pic.
The chicks are still hungry and need to remind mom they’d like to be fed.
Mom comes through with one more crayfish before I had to head out.

Heading back to the boat launch, I pass dad who is lazily paddling along, seemingly enjoying the peace and quiet on this end of the pond.

I was surprised the fog hadn’t shown up on the pond, there’s usually a period where the pond gets foggy as the fog lifts from the valley. Driving back towards home, I discovered why – the fog was still sitting heavy on the river.

Back at the house, the goldfinches have discovered the thistle I left for them.

A small charm of goldfinches are enjoying the thistle as it goes to seed.

More Time with the Loons

Last weekend, I was able to spend both mornings on the Middleton’s Pond. They’ve got a new neighbor, it looks like they may be having second thoughts about the nest location and they, once again, told an intruder to go away.

I’ll be down at the Paradise City Show in Northampton, MA, over Memorial Day Weekend. I’ll have lots of wildlife prints, including lots of loons, as well as note cards. Stop by to say hello. All the show details here.

Saturday morning found a great egret foraging not far from where the loons nested last year and may again this year. The loons were off in another cove on the pond.

Our loons were busy making little loons again.
Once again, an intruding loon arrived on the pond. The home team left their cove to challenge him. The home team male yodeled a couple times to explain the situation to the intruder.
This time, the intruder quickly took the hint and departed. The home team went off to look at real estate.
Several sandpipers have arrived on the pond and spend time foraging along the water’s edge or from downed trees.
Painted turtles took advantage of the morning sunlight.
The great egret moved over to a stretch of reeds along the pond.
Shaking water off after an unsuccessful strike.
The next try was successful, the egret came up with a bluegill.
Whenever I watch an egret walking through the reeds, I think they look like someone stalking off to speak to the manager.
There were two osprey around the pond. While one would circle the pond, the other would perch and call. It sounded like a challenge. I wonder if a third osprey was visiting the pond and the home team osprey were objecting.
A quick wing stretch.
Sunday morning, the loons had a long discussion near last year’s nesting site, the same site they worked on last week.
The literature says male loons select the nesting site. From what I’ve seen, it appears to be a joint decision. They’ll both explore the options and exchange soft hoots and wails. If they see a promising spot, one or both loons may haul out and sit on the spot for a few minutes. They also seem to explore the underwater escape routes from any potential site.
After checking out three sites near last year’s site, they moved over to the reeds and explored options there. This is where they nested in 2017 when the female was killed by a Canada goose with a nearby nest. If we still have the same male, I wonder if that will play into the decision if they’re looking in the reeds.
The loons seemed unconcerned about the egret’s presence. I suspect that will change when the chicks arrive. A young chick would be an easy meal for an egret.
And, I can’t resist a nice wing stretch for a pic.
One more wing stretch….

I’m anxiously watching the weather, itching to get back to see if they’ve decided on a nesting site.

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.
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:

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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