Four bird, one mammal and two “experience” photos – all taken within the last several weeks.
1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
I include this shot because it’s my first decent Loggerhead Shrike image of the year and it demonstrates a rather subtle behavior in dealing with strong wind while perched. The bird had aligned its body facing the stiff, very cold wind and simply refused to give me a head turn with eye contact. But the flip side was that it had rotated its tail about 90° and spread it slightly to give me a good look at the black and whites there. I assume it did this so its tail would in effect act as a weather vane and aid in keeping the shrike facing directly into the wind.
1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in
Turkey Vultures began returning to northern Utah a couple of weeks ago. I caught this one in the midst of a rouse before taking off. At this shutter speed there’s some motion blur in some of the feathers but in this action situation I’m fine with that since the head is sharp.
1/1600, f/8, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 108 mm, not baited, set up or called in
I don’t post many bison photos partly because it’s hard to catch them in interesting behaviors. But this bull had an itch on its chin that wouldn’t quit so he was relieving it with intense scratching on one of the several water “guzzlers” on largely dry Antelope Island. He had been scratching when I drove up and continued to do so for several more minutes. I almost expected him to be groaning and moaning in enjoyment and relief but he was silent the entire time.
1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
On one of my recent posts involving mating and nesting Red-tailed Hawks some readers expressed surprise that red-tails would nest so close to the road (that nest was in rocky cliffs about 200′ away from the road). Some red-tails are even more tolerant of humans and traffic than that – much more. This pair has been building a nest on a telephone pole only about 20 feet away from a paved road with significant traffic. They seem unphased by traffic that close – including many large trucks and stock trailers.
I worry about this nest. Utility companies remove nests on utility poles because of fire hazards and danger to the birds (they don’t do it if there are eggs or young in the nest). On this morning one of their crews removed a raven’s nest about 15 miles further north on this road along the same utility line. I suspected that they would also remove this nest later in the morning but the next time I visited the area it was still there. And it still was yesterday, even though it’s now much larger and closer to completion.
1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
Normally I’d delete this shot of the same birds because it’s soft (I added extra sharpening to compensate) but with my finger on the delete button I hesitated when I noticed something interesting. The female of the pair is delivering nesting material to the nest but when I looked closely at what she had in her beak I could see that she’s carrying seven individual straight and unbranched twigs that almost look like giant toothpicks.
Usually these birds carry single branches or sticks to the nest one at a time (in either their beaks or talons, depending on size and awkwardness). But it seems to me that these single, straight “sticks” would all have to be picked up individually, one at a time. I often watch red-tails foraging for nesting material and I don’t recall ever seeing one of them picking up sticks with other sticks already in its beak.
A little thing perhaps but it caught my attention.
It will come as no surprise to readers that bird photography trips often don’t go as planned (and hoped for). Following are a couple of examples.
A week ago today I awoke before 4 AM, spent almost two hours completing my blog post for that day and then drove just over 100 miles to be at my birding destination at about dawn. The forecast was good and there were mostly clear skies (when it got light enough to see) the entire way.
But this is what greeted me on my arrival – dense fog that stuck around the entire three hours or so we were there. There were raptors in those cliffs but in these conditions it was mostly a waste of time and effort to attempt to photograph them. This is the chance you take whenever you’re near the Great Salt Lake this time of year. On my way home, within 20 miles of leaving the area the fog disappeared and conditions were good again. Frustrating!
On our bird photography trips Mia rides up front until we reach our destination and then she moves to the back seat for photography so we can both shoot out of the same side of my truck. When she walks around the pickup to get into the back seat she always does me the favor of pushing my huge drivers side mirror far forward so it’s not in my way as I photograph birds out my window. She reverses the process when we’re ready to head home and gets back into the front seat.
But she had a nasty surprise a few days ago as we left Antelope Island.
On that morning midges were incredibly thick along the causeway (you’d have to experience it to even believe how thick…) so the front of my pickup, including the front of my mirrors, was covered with fresh, thick and juicy “bug” guts. We didn’t think about that before she pushed my mirror back into position (black bugs on black plastic are hard to see) so this is what her hands looked like when she pulled them away from my mirror. She wasn’t a happy camper (and I don’t blame her) so after that experience she’s been using an old plastic bag to grab the mirror before moving it back into position.
Today’s post is somewhat fragmented and disjointed with no truly common theme but sometimes I just go with the flow and see where it takes me.
This was the result…