In the three years that I have been living in a more rural location I have been fortunate to be able to experience nature more up close and personal than ever before. It has enhanced my life in many ways. I have become a better photographer and more importantly a better person.
Unfortunately or fortunately, being more present in nature I have also witnessed the struggle to survive that goes on daily for the wildlife that surrounds us. I have seen a hawk in hour yard fly off with a freshly killed rabbit. I have watched as smaller fish are eaten by larger fish. I have walked in the grass only to find a hatchling who has fallen from its nest and died. And this is only what I have seen happen and what I have seen happen in my own back yard.
Today when I was getting ready to go out and take some photos I thought to myself I think I am going to see something unusual today.
I walked down to the stream I almost always go to and as I started walking I began seeing common mergansers. There was a large group of common mergansers swimming in the stream. This might by name sound, um common, but for me it was unusual. I have seen common mergansers frequently but not in this location and not exhibiting the behaviors that they were.
I am diverting my posts from my normal subjects to a matter that is very important to me and perhaps more important than photography.
This is an issue that I am conflicted about. I am a passionate dog and animal lover and I despise animal cruelty. It makes my stomach turn. Michael Vick committed heinous crimes against helpless animals. However, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced for what he did. He served a sentence that was determined to be suitable to the crimes he committed as determined by our laws. If I do not feel that his punishment was severe enough then that is a mater that I need to take up with our judicial system and our lawmakers. I could never forgive a person for committing acts of animal cruelty to my dogs, nor do I think I could find it in my heart to forgive Michael Vick for his actions. Perhaps I am a lesser person for that.
This past Saturday I decided to get up early and head down to the Chemung River in hopes of photographing some bald eagles. When I arrived the fog was thick and it was impossible to see far into the distance. This would create an added challenge. Usually the eagles can be spotted off in the distance and I can prepare as they close in on my direction and be ready for them. I saw on eagle perch in a tree a short distance up river from me. In a tree that will be cut down shortly. I began to aproach the eagle but it took flight long before I got close. Later as I turned my attention elswhere another bald eagle emerged from the fog right in front of me as if appearing from nowhere. I was able to get some shots as at flew by paying me no mind. I am not sure how I feel about the photos as they did not come out idealy clear due to the fog but they also did not produce anyvisible evidence of fog.
In wildlife photography there are two traits that are very beneficial to ones success. A wildlife photographer often benefits from having patience. It is often necessary to sit and wait for long periods of time for your subject to happen upon your location or you may have to wait for a bird you inadvertently startled to get used to your presence and come back. It i also important to persevere. One may have to endure some rough weather and uncomfortable conditions to get the desired shot but if you want the shot that is what needs to be done.
Recently I was lucky enough to benefit from both of those traits in my own photography. I Will admit that I am not the most patient man by a long shot. Perseverance is a little bit more up my alley, but I am also working on that as well.
Yesterday was quite a frustrating photographic venture. When you set out to take photographs you are bound to miss a great shot every now and then. Yesterday it felt like I missed every great photo op. I went to the lake and walked around this little path that passed between the lake and a pond. It was pretty overgrown which made it difficult to see anything much around me until I was right up on it. So I knew I was going to have to react fast to anything I saw. Even knowing this and being prepared did not help me. I stumbled upon a pair of bittern along the lake shore and scared them off without getting a single shot. Twice a belted kingfisher landed on a tree branch not more than ten feet away directly in front of me and in perfect position but saw me and took off before I could get a shot. A green heron was wondering around the pond area but kept taking flight before I even saw it. There were numerous small birds flitting around of which I missed many shots. So it was quite a frustrating day. I would love to be able to chalk it up to equipment failure or miss fire, which I think it may have been on a few occasions, but for the most part it was likely operator error. I simply was not on top of my game. I was not quiet enough, patient enough, or fast enough to get the shots I was presented with. It is a learning experience every time I go out into the field. I did get some nice shots but also missed some possibly remarkable ones. So in circumstances where I fail more than I succeed I try to at least bring away a bit of learning and new knowledge. And even though I missed the photos I still was privileged to be able to go out and see these amazing animals up close and witness their behavior.
Sorry that there has been such a long delay since my last post. Many things that came up that kept me away. One of which was a very good thing. I completed and submitted my first article and photography for publication in a magazine. My work will be published in a regional NY magazine, Life in the Finger Lakes. This is a magazine that I have enjoyed reading frequently so if you have the opportunity to pick one up please do. Not just so that you can see my work but so you can see all of the other great articles and photography that appear in this magazine. I have been out taking many more photographs lately and I think I have a lot more great images to share and hopefully find publications for them as well. I am hoping to work with Life in the Finger Lakes magazine more in the future. This is the second item I have worked with them on. I also had an article published in their e-newsletter and on their website.
I frequently visit the same locations over and over again. I also frequently visit these same sites at the same time of the day repeatedly. Taking this into account it is amazing that I also am able to see a wide variety of wildlife at these sites even though I am always at the same place at the same time. When I go to these repeated locations I often find that some of the same animals are always there. I visit a stream near were I work every workday on my lunch which is at almost the same time every day. There are always mallard ducks and grackles congregating in different areas around the stream. I frequently take time to photograph some of these specimens. Even though they are always around they may be displaying different behaviors each time I am there. Every so often I am treated to a photographic treat. I will be walking along the stream and I will see something that I do not usualy see or have ever seen here. Today down at the stream was one such day. I was fortunate enough to be walking by as a female hooded merganser was swimming up the stream with her chicks. I had only seen hooded mergansers once or twice in my life so I was quite surprised to see them in this location right in the middle of town. The chicks were already pretty good sized and some of them were diving under the water and catching food. It was a nice surprise and I was able to sit and watch them and photograph them for most of my lunch break. I have not checked the photos yet, but I think I got at least a few excelent shots.
This past weekend was quite a fortunate one for me. I had a great time. I was able to get out in nature and enjoy myself quite a bit. I was able to experience nature first hand both at home and at local nature sites. It was a great time as a nature lover, birder, and photographer. I went hiking two days during the weekend. The first day I went hiking I was able to see a pair of yellow bellied sapsucker at their nest cavity. I was actually able to see the male emerge from the hole and land on a nearby tree. This was a first for me as I had never before seen a woodpecker at an active nest cavity. I could not tell if there were young inside. I did not hear anything to indicate there was and the adults were not bringing food to the cavity. I was able to watch them flit around amongst the nearby trees. It was quite an experience for me. This also resulted in me being able to get the best photographs to date of yellow bellied sapsuckers that I have ever been able to take. I look forward to visiting that spot again. That same day at home I noticed a pair of Baltimore orioles flying around our yard. After watching them for a while I determined that they kept returning to the same place over and over. I walked over to where they were going and discovered that they are building a nest high up in one of our aspen trees. This is the first active nest of Baltimore orioles I have ever seen. It will be nice to have a nest close by to observe over time. I was also able to get some nice shots of the orioles.