Thursday, June 21, 2018

FIELDS OF SPRING HAY BALES


The Monday rains had washed away the heat, and as the sky began to clear, I headed out in the evening to take pictures of the countryside.



I passed a horse farm on my way and snapped this image of these hay bales which had been stacked near farm machinery all winter.



Imagine my surprise when I came upon this hill with fresh rolls of hay bales.  I'd always associated baling hay as a fall endeavor, but I learned it happens in the spring too.  The light and dark lines on the hill puzzled me, though.



When I came upon a field, plowed but not yet baled, I could see how the lines must have been generated.



As I drove on, I could see it wasn't just one field with spring hay bales.  Field after field along the road was filled with them.



I was really enjoying the scenes unfolding before me, and I began photographing the bales from various angles.



This one turned out to be a favorite.  Having exhausted my creative photography of the bales, I drove on and began taking pictures of deer, which seemed to be popping up everywhere.  I'll share those in another blog post.



It was time to head back home, and I swung past the hay fields one last time.  The setting sun was providing a beautiful backdrop for my final hay bales image.



But further down the road, I got a spectacular image of the setting sun.  No bales of hay.  Just gorgeous farm country.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

FOILED BY THE SUN


The weather report called for clear skies, so a friend and I decided to head over to Empire Bluffs for the sunset.  The area is packed with beautiful scenery, and we were looking forward to exploring Otter Creek and the beach at the Bluffs.



 I love the Empire Bluffs beach.  It's not as accessible as the village beach, making it less populated and more serene than some other places in the National Lakeshore.  The dunes are striking with their combination of sand and vegetation.


We arrived at the beach well before sunset, but it was already becoming clear that clouds might prevent the vista we'd anticipated.



 Despite the remoteness of Empire Bluffs, footprints in the sand told the story of the popularity of this beach.  It's such a long stretch of sand that people can spread out and enjoy themselves without being packed in.



 Just before we arrived, a family was in the process of leaving with their children.  They left behind remnants of the sand castles the kids had been building.



 I didn't have my heavy, long lens with me, but I enjoyed watching the gulls and photographing them as they scrounged the beach for leftover tidbits and then took flight. 



 I even saw a man fly fishing on the beach.  I wondered whether he was using real bait or if he was just practicing his technique.



 As the time for sunset came closer, clouds continued to encroach on the space of the setting sun.  People who'd come to watch nature's show began to leave the beach.



 A thick cloud bank sat at the horizon, and we decided that what we were seeing was as good as it was going to get.  While the clouds and sun had painted the sky with lovely, colorful patterns, a clear sunset wasn't going to happen.  We packed up and made the long trudge through the sand to the car.



As we stowed the last of the gear in the back of my car, I turned towards the beach one last time.  Oh, my!  We'd gotten a beautiful sunset after all.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

NO BIRDBRAINS HERE


It's no secret that birds are one of my favorite critters to photograph.  I have feeders around my deck that attract several varieties, and I can enjoy watching them throughout the day.  Their beautiful songs fill the air, and I'm starting to learn to identify the birds by their vocalizations.



This beautiful House Finch is one of my favorites, with its lovely bright coloring.  Sometimes it's a challenge to identify birds who have similar coloring.



The House Finch is similar to both the Purple Finch and the Pine Grosbeak.  I've seen the female which isn't as showy, and that has helped me narrow the breed to the House Finch.



I generally prefer to photograph birds in a natural environment, but sometimes I can only get them on a feeder because they move so quickly from the surrounding branches to the feeder.  This male American Goldfinch is brilliant in his bright yellow, spring coat.



This female Red-winged Blackbird looks nothing like her striking mate with his sleek black coat and bright red shoulder patch.  She's more comfortable at the feeders than he his.  I see him more on the ground picking at the seed that I throw there regularly for the ground feeders.



All is not easy with bird feeding, however.  Critters such as squirrels and large nuisance birds constantly are a challenge to keep off the feeders.  My squirrel proof feeder really helps, however.  With a tension ring down the center that I can set for a particular weight, most large critters are deterred.  If a large squirrel steps on one of the perches, the spring-loaded perch hole closes and keeps the squirrel from reaching the seed.



I'm finding, unfortunately, that some birds are craftier than the squirrels.  This Common Grackle, with its bright yellow eye and metallic purple sheen, is one of the smart ones.



When it lands on a perch, and the food door begins to shut, it lifts one leg up to lighten the weight and keep enough of the feed door open to grab some seed.



Another piggy bird is the European Starling.  It has a different technique for foiling the closing doors of the squirrel-proof feeder.  When it arrives on a perch, it flutters its wings, so it doesn't put its full weight on the perch.  Sometimes the starlings and grackles come in such large numbers that I have to take down the feeders for a few days, which drives them away looking for other food sources.  The other birds aren't happy about that, and neither am I so I only do that as a last resort.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

STILL HANGING AROUND


It was 88 degrees outside and I had the A-C in my car cranked up to keep the interior cool.  I was going to show a friend some of the places where I enjoy taking pictures.  We headed out south of town and I decided to cut through the ball park to show her where I'd seen and photographed Snowy Owls over the winter months.



I'd heard there were still some Snowies in the area, but I hadn't anticipated seeing one.  But off in the distance I saw the familiar shape perched atop a light post.



While it's always exciting to see these magnificent birds, I was also somewhat disturbed because it was so hot and the bird should've returned to cooler climes, or so it seemed to me.



The bird didn't tip its head down to acknowledge we were watching it, although one pupil appeared to be trained downward to where we were.  It seemed way more intent on watching something out in the distance.



I hadn't expected the Snowy to take off, but it did soon after we'd arrived.  We'd missed catching it in flight, but did track it as it flew inside a chain-link fenced area.  It landed right next to a metal storage area and immediately turned towards us.  We followed it and photographed it through the narrow openings between fence sections.



She was the largest Snowy Owl I'd ever seen.  Those bright yellow eyes were focused intently on us as we tried to photograph her.  I wondered if she had picked up prey along the way on her brief flight into the fenced area.  I looked at her feet and it appeared there was something there, but I couldn't tell for sure.



As suddenly as she'd taken flight, she turned her back on us and began waddling away, lifting those big feet with long, sharp talons one at a time.



She was scurrying pretty fast and I admired the beautiful markings on her feathers.  I wondered if she'd wanted to get away from us, why she'd not taken to flight.



And then she turned and I saw why.  She had prey in her mouth, what looked to be a young bird.  She had been masterful at picking off the bird in her short flight, and then concealing it from us eager photographers.



We left her alone to eat in peace.  My hope was that she was fueling up for the next leg of flight to cooler habitats.  Or maybe she'd been porking up so much over the winter that she wasn't up to flying those long distances.




Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BLOSSOMS CONTINUE TO DELIGHT


Warm weather, no heavy rains, and light winds have kept the blossoms intact for another week.  Hillsides are especially lovely with their patches of white that stand out, even from a distance.