The snow storm from yesterday was followed by a sunny day with blowing wind and very cold temperatures. It didn’t stop us from driving through the open country and looking for some wildlife. Joan and I went to the gravel road where I had seen the American Kestrel a few days ago but we didn’t have any luck today. Instead the fresh snow and some clouds made for a wide angle shot of this old farm house on the hill.
Joan wanted to see if we can see the Blue Birds again that I discovered last weekend in the valley. To my surprise we found three of them sitting in a tree above the creek at the same place. Despite the very cold temperatures the creek had open water. This and the fact that this location in the valley is a little protected from the icy wind draws probably the birds in. We also discovered a bunch of American Robins in a nearby tree. I guess spring can’t be that far away anymore…
Yes, this photo was made today! It snowed again last night and most of the day today and staying home was probably a wise decision because of the road conditions. My daughter told me today that the snow bells and crocus bloom already over in Germany. Well, ours here are still under a heavy layer of snow and ice… I admit, I’m a little jealous!
I haven’t posted an image of the White-breasted Nuthatch this season yet, although they are here all winter long. This one wasn’t moving much for several minutes, a sure sign that a hawk was nearby somewhere in the trees around. Every woodpecker or nuthatch tries to stay on the opposite site of a tree, away from the hawk, while the raptor is in the area. This gives me usually an idea where to look for the hawk. I hope I don’t bore you too much with another winterly photo but there wasn’t much else to shoot today, at least outside…
While cruising around this weekend and scouting for the first signs of spring I came across this male American Kestrel. The falcon was sitting up high on an electrical line beside a gravel road. If it would have been a bird that I had photographed many times before, I would not have made the shot because the distance to the bird was fairly long and there was nothing I could do about it. Because it was the first time that I had a chance to point my lens at a kestrel I had of course to make the clicks. Needless to say that the image is cropped quite a bit. I have seen other kestrels before, so it wasn’t a first sighting, but now, after the jinx is broken, I look forward to find another opportunity that hopefully may not require to crop the photo in the post process. Happy to add another species to my Iowa Wildlife gallery
This photo may make you believe that spring has arrived. The truth is that the ground is still covered with a heavy layer of snow in most places. However, down in the valley of the Little Maquoketa River I discovered the first Eastern Bluebirds today.
This photo is for you, Tarja Alma Exner. Welcome in this world. It is wonderful to have you.
I’m still very happy about the opportunity to have a Sharp-shinned Hawk in front of the camera. This photo was made shortly after the bird landed in the first tree. No, I haven’t been that close. the picture I show here is cropped. It is sharp enough to do it for the web, however, printing the image on paper in a larger size may not turn out that well. The distance to the bird was about the same like the one in my previous post. I haven’t seen the hawk since but I’m sure it is still around…
There has been a story about this hawk already before I even was able to make this photo. During the last couple weeks two of our Downy Woodpeckers were the victims of a deadly attack by this accipiter. I witnessed one of them but couldn’t identify the raptor. The remains of another little Downy told me that the hawk had struck again this week. Sharp-shinned Hawks feed on smaller birds and are attracted to bird feeders if they are visible from the air. Well, we offer them paradise here…
Today it paid back that I have the camera ready to shoot most of the time. I saw the bird flying into our front yard while sitting at my desk. It landed on a low branch but I had a hard time to focus because it showed me its back and there were little branches that obstructed the view. I took several shots, more for identification than anything else. Suddenly the hawk flew up again to a taller tree. I run upstairs back to my office window. And there it was! The Sharp-shinned Hawk sat on a branch just across from the window and showed me its front side in best light.
I like to mention that there is of course a little doubt about the identification of this bird. The Cooper’s Hawk is very similar and I read even experienced birders may have problems to identify them sometimes. There is great variation in plumage and in size for these two species. The tail of this hawk is more square while the the tail of the Cooper’s Hawk has more rounded tips. A couple other field marks (shape of the head and leg size) make me believe that we see the Sharp-shinned Hawk. It would be nice if a more experienced birder could give me their opinion.
This was the first time that I was able to make an image of the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the first “first sighting” in 2014. I’m very happy about this photo and I hope you enjoy it too.
I realized a few days ago that I missed the 4th anniversary of having this blog online. Not a big deal but it’s almost shocking how time flies by. I wasn’t really sure what I tried to accomplish in 2010 when I started the blog. I guess I just tried to do something different than just publishing photos on a public website like the German “fotocommunity” or pbase. There is nothing wrong with that and I still do the pbase thing. I had the feeling the time was right to do something more specific, to tell stories with my photos, and most important to share my adventures in the great outdoors, share wildlife encounters or good locations for photography. As deeper as I dived into the whole thing as more I understood that my photos can create awareness about the vulnerability of our environment and wildlife. Reading many other photography blogs and writing my own helped me to become a better photographer. It is a wonderful challenge to publish a new image that is better than the last one. It doesn’t always happen but I’m trying. The blog wouldn’t be anything without you my friends, who stop here and shave some time off to read and view my photos. I’m very thankful for that and for any comment, your messages or “thumb up” at Facebook. I like to thank my dear wife Joan, who is my best consultant and friend and helped me many times to find the right words, and to get better with my “Sauerkraut”-English. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Four deer passed through our front yard at 5:54PM today. No, the deer doesn’t show up earlier during the evening but the sun is much longer above the horizon with the approach of mid February. This is an environmental photo I had in mind for several years already and finally had my chance to make it today. The sun paints beautifully on the head and legs of the animal and its reflection on the snow leaves no doubt about the late hour of the day. It isn’t a perfect photo, it has a certain softness due to the fact that I had to make this photo behind a closed window because I discovered the group of White-tailed Deer too late. If I would have opened the window, they would had run away and my chance to make the click would have evaporated. It is not easy to isolate a deer from the bird feeders or bushes in our front yard but here pretty much everything came together well, the light, the background, and the gesture of the deer…
Everyone has their way to battle the cold temperatures and to stay warm during the winter. This Fox Sparrow was captured while standing on one leg for a moment and having the other one in its feathers. The Fox Sparrow is normally in our area only during migration, according to my books, but it was already the second time that we have seen this species during the winter. I wrote about the first encounter in “Nature clicks #133”. It is a chunky little bird, bigger than other sparrows. It was actually a couple of them that we saw during the last few days and I’m sure our feeders and water supply play a role for this observation.
As you can see by the golden background, the White-tailed Deer showed up in our yard during the last minutes before the sun finally disappeared behind the ridge yesterday evening. It is a doe with two fawns that hang around in the neighborhood and try desperately to find something to eat. Our bird feeders in the front yard are often on their route. The amount of snow we have on the ground makes it really difficult for them to find anything. This fawn was looking after its mother who had already moved on.
This shot wasn’t easy to make. Exposure was already down to 1/60s at ISO 400 and I didn’t have the speed light with the soft box ready to use when I saw them. In the original image I can see that is not tack sharp but I really like the background for this photo that helps to tell the story.
I took off early from home yesterday morning. The air was cold but it was sunny and clear. I had hope to find some Bald Eagles on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. The river is frozen and only a small stretch of maybe 50- 100 yards below the dam had open water. Unfortunately there were only a couple eagles in a tree, too far away for a photo. They must have had a good breakfast already because they didn’t move at all during the whole time I was there. With other words, I got skunked by the eagles!
I have the habit to take more than just one lens on every trip, even if the goal is wildlife photography with a long lens. You never know what may come your way and it allows to change plans and look for different subjects and opportunities. The clear air, the nice light, the snow and ice, the mist from the water coming down the dam, this all invited me to make an architectural image of the dam. I have made photos from this vantage point before but these were by far the best conditions ever. The Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm/f2 is my favorite lens for this kind of photography. It has manual focus but I love its color rendition and the incredible sharpness. I’m glad I had the 35/f2 in the bag yesterday… ;-) By the way, both photos just add to what I wrote about snow and colors in my last blog post. Wishing all of you a wonderful week!