Evening at the big river

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 21 2014

Clouds moving east


Joan, Cooper, and I spent some time down at the Mississippi at Mud Lake Park this evening. Some thunderstorm cells and clouds moved out of our area to the east, into Wisconsin and Illinois, and made for some nice subjects to photograph. We heard the calls of the Sandhill Cranes, saw pelicans and eagles, and got finally a great view to the young Great Horned Owl. This time the owlet didn’t retrieve back into the nest and we were able to make some good clicks. Time well spent!


Storm cell


Nature clicks #207 – Yellow-headed Blackbird

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 20 2014
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM


Today’s photo is not going to win a contest but it is nevertheless important to me. I know only one location where to find the Yellow-headed Blackbird in Eastern Iowa, a small pond in the Green Island Wetlands. I have written before here in the blog how difficult it is to get close to these birds because their habitat, a patch of reeds and cat tails, is in the middle of a pond and most of the time they hide in the reeds. It is easy to hear them, their call is different from the abundant Red-winged Blackbird, which shares the same location. However, I’m happy to report that I saw and heard at least two males and both made a short appearance in the upper parts of last year’s cat tails.

I’m not proud of this image because it is cropped, much more than I like to admit, but I will try again. If I ever will make a good shot of this not so common bird, you will be the first one’s who will know about it… ;-)


Light at its best

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Apr 18 2014
Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker


I can’t really tell how the quality of light was during the day because I spent most of it behind my desk, trying to finish a work project. However, early in the morning and early evening we had some awesome light for wildlife photography today. The first two images were made at our “woodpecker tree #2”. It gets the early morning sun at this time of the year because the trees have still no leaves. The critters must like it too because it was still quite cold this morning and they all posed well for my pictures. The two other photos were made this evening down at the Mississippi. Again, great quality of light for this Northern Flicker and the Blue-winged Teals. I hope you enjoy.

We wish all of you a wonderful Easter weekend!


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Blue-winged Teals

Blue-winged Teals




Nature clicks #206 – White-throated Sparrow

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 17 2014
White-throated Sparrow

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM


There is no day without some good bird sightings here on the bluffs above the Little Maquoketa River Valley at the moment. Yesterday we saw briefly an Eastern Towhee for the first time in our neighborhood. Today it was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet that drew my attention but it moved too fast for the camera. Easy to identify is this beautiful White-throated Sparrow that is probably on its way to the breeding grounds up north in Minnesota and Canada. I checked my records, means the metadata of the photos I made in the years before, and this year the White-throated Sparrow is exactly ten days earlier here than in 2008 and 2013. Probably because of my travel activities I have not seen this medium-sized sparrow during other years. This bird doesn’t seem to be so skittish as many others and it came close enough to fill the frame without that I had to wait very long.


Wildflowers are out

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Apr 14 2014

Hepatica –      Nikon D300s, Carl Zeiss Distagon T*, 35mm / f2 ZF


Every spring I say to myself, there is no need to publish more photos of the wildflowers that we can find in the woods behind the house. I have done it many times before. But then, after four or five months with snow on the ground, it is tempting to go out and make some clicks of the little beauties between the dry leaves on the ground. I have to admit it is a great exercise for learning about light, background, and depth of field. Returning to a subject over and over again makes you a better photographer and there is nothing wrong with that.


Bloodroot –     Nikon D300s, Sigma 150mm / f2.8 APO EX DG HSM


Finally I was happy about that we used the wonderful weather last Saturday to spent time outside and enjoy the first wildflowers. The Sunday came with rain nonstop and this morning there was even some snow. I knew it was a mistake to hang the winter coat already in the closet… ;-)



Bloodroot – Nikon D300s, Sigma 150mm / f2.8 APO EX DG HSM





Breakfast for the eagle

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 13 2014

Eagle with coot


I was about to enter my car down at the Mississippi River yesterday morning when I saw a Bald Eagle flying up from the water with something flapping in its talons. My first thought was it had caught a fish. The bird landed in a tree nearby and I realized that the eagle had preyed a small bird, which I later identified as an American Coot. They are here in abundance and obviously part of the eagles diet. What followed was a bloody mess for the bird and the eagle didn’t look too pretty either around its bill. I have seen many Bald Eagles catching and eating fish but never feeding on waterfowl until yesterday.

Eagle with coot 2

All images: Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM


My tripod was already stored in the car and so I tried to handle the long and heavy lens by hand. Branches obstructed the view and the sun was straight behind the eagle, means I had to move slowly to a different spot. The eagle gave me less than three minutes to figure out a way to overcome a tricky light situation and find the gap between the gazillions of bare branches. It wasn’t until a fisherman’s boat drove by behind me that the eagle took off with the remains of the coot in its talons. What an exciting moment to start a day with…


Nature clicks #205 – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and other bird infos

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 10 2014

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


We must live in woodpecker paradise and I’m absolutely thrilled to show you today’s photo. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the 7th woodpecker species that we have seen in our woods here and it is a first sighting for us. The yellow bellied is the only sapsucker that is normally found in the eastern part of the continent and is our most highly migratory woodpecker. (source: National Geographic Complete Birds of North America). I saw this female already three days ago on our big maple tree in front of the house and she has returned every day since.

Making this photo was not an easy task. The sapsucker is very skittish and it took me three days to make finally a click and produce an image that I can show here in the blog. The light came from the back and my lens had some problems to focus properly under these conditions. I may try something different tomorrow evening.

I know some birders read my blog and therefor I like to give an update on some other birds. The Brown Creeper is still here and I wonder if this one will stay during the summer. My literature tells me that this is a possibility for our area. The Eastern Phoebe has arrived this week and I made already some photos. I wasn’t at Mud Lake at the Mississippi today but saw the young owlet with the mother bird earlier this week. Not a great image, more a documentary shot for those who care. However, this old eagle’s nest is huge and it gives you an idea how big this Great Horned Owl really is. The young one seems to do well.

Great Horned Owl

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

Chipmunk cleans up

2 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 09 2014

Eastern Chipmunk


Two weeks ago this log was still covered under two feet of snow. It’s all gone now and the Eastern Chipmunk seems to enjoy this as much as we do. There was a bird feeder with sunflower seeds nearby during the winter and I’m sure the chipmunk found every single seed that fell into the hollow log and that the birds didn’t get. I saw it running with full cheeks several times and the dirt in its fur tells the story…



Nature clicks #204 – Bufflehead

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 08 2014

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM


I try this bird since several years and this is how much I got so far. The Bufflehead is one of those pretty ducks that are extremely skittish. We see them every spring during migration time, mainly on the Mississippi River, but every photo I made before showed only some white dots on the water. They keep their distance from the shore as soon they sense some movement. The Buffleheads have their breeding grounds in Canada and the Mississippi Valley is obviously one of their migration routes. I have updated my EASTERN IOWA WILDLIFE GALLERY recently but I guess I have to do it again… :-)




Nature clicks #203 – American Kestrel

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 06 2014
American Kestrel

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM


The photo of this American Kestrel is already a week old. Any time I can make a better image of a particular bird or other critter than the last one before I feel that I climbed the ladder one step up. My post “Nature clicks #197” in February was the first time I was able to show a picture of the kestrel but I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the shot (click HERE to see the older photo). Improvements in wildlife photography don’t come to you automatically. You may have to try over and over again. I really searched for kestrels during my little evening or weekend trips and finally got a better, although not perfect, shot of this wonderful falcon. I still had to crop the image. They like to sit high up on power lines along the roads and most of the time fly away as soon the car stops. A lot of things have to come together to make these kind of clicks. If I see one and it is on the passenger side of the car, I turn around and approach the bird from the other direction. If you try this make sure nobody is behind you! I have the camera in my lap and it is turned on already. I take it in my hands while still rolling, stop the car, focus through the open window, and finally fire the shutter release button. If you are lucky the bird gives you a few seconds but quite often they take off as soon the car comes to a stand still. I’m sure you can’t do this in downtown Chicago ;-) but on the small county roads and gravel roads we have here in Iowa I feel comfortable to work this way. However, having an eye on the road and in the rearview mirror all the time is essential for your own safety and the safety of others.


Love them clouds…

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Apr 04 2014

Thunder head


The avid reader of my blog already knows, if a photo from high in the sky shows up after a quiet week that I was on a business trip with very few opportunities for using the camera. I came back from a conference in Dallas, Texas last night. These two photos were made shortly after take-off in DFW and the shape of the clouds indicate we were flying around some heavy weather. What I didn’t knew at this time was that the weather created many flight delays and cancellations. Needless to say that I, of course, was effected and instead of having a two hour stop I spent ten hours in Chicago O’Hare. At least I got home around midnight, other people were not so lucky…


Puffy clouds

All images: Nikon D300s, Carl Zeiss Distagon T*, 35mm / f2 ZF


Shooting through the window of an airplane can be challenging. Little space, reflections, vibrations, or dirt and moisture on the glass are some of the difficulties you may have to deal with. My window was relatively clean and had only minor scratches this time but dealing with the tint of the glass or plastic isn’t my favorite task in the post process. I still kept it simple and just finished the RAW file in Adobe Lightroom, except for the downsizing and export as a jpeg, which I always do in Photoshop by using pre-recorded actions.

I used the Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens, which can only be focussed manually, but even with any of my AF lenses I would revert to manual focus mode for shooting through two layers of tinted glass. I love shooting clouds and making them the subject of my image. It doesn’t always turn out but it is always worth to try, and hey, there is a delete key on the computer… ;-)