Posts from the ‘floating blind’ Category

2021 “Top Ten” #5 Bird Behavior

“Is this just another category so you can show more bird photos Sparky?” Why, yes, yes it is! And just so you know…I do include flying as a behavior for some reason. I guess technically everything a bird does is “behavior,” so I’m good!

Bald Eagle and Goldeneyes; February; Mississippi River

I can feel my frozen finger tips by just looking at this photo. So COLD! Most of the Mississippi River was frozen at this point in February; only spots below locks and dams were open…and this spring-fed spot near Buffalo, Wisconsin. Though it appears this young Bald Eagle is preying on the Common Goldeneyes, it is actually plucking small fish from just below the surface. There were several eagles and they made multiple passes each. I just laid down on the snow with my Canon R5 and Canon 100-500mm lens and started tracking them as they approached. The R5 did amazingly well, even in the well-below-zero-F temps. I like the monochromatic blue cast to this image.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 100; 0 ev; handheld]

Green Heron; October; Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

The critical moment. It has always been a thing of wonder to watch birds of all types landing on perches. Can you imagine the vision and motor skills this takes? How about a Great Gray Owl alighting on the tip top of a tiny spruce? It can’t even see the bough when it actally lands! This Green Heron made a perfect two-point landing I am proud to report.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1250 second at f7.1; ISO 640; 0 ev; handheld]

American Avocets; May; Prairie Potholes of North Dakota

Courtship in American Avocets is highly stylized. This water-thrashing by the male is performed immediately before he mounts the female. The only way I was able to get this behavior shot from such close range was because I was invisible! My floating blind hides the human form which is what alarms much wildlife.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 472mm; 1/1250 second at f7.1; ISO 100; 0 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Evening Grosbeaks; January; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Not a great photo but kind of fun with all the “bird bickering” going on. This, of course, is common behavior at bird feeders. Evening Grosbeaks are some of the feistiest! Sax-Zim Bog is the best place to find big flocks in winter.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 451mm; 1/800 second at f7.1; ISO 2000; -0.33 ev; handheld]

Hooded Oriole; July; Box Canyon, Arizona

It is not only Carpenter Bees (in background) that find the blossoms of agaves irresistable! Hooded Orioles also make a beeline for the blooms where they can feast on nectar.

I waited a couple hours to get this shot. I chose a single blooming agave that was at or below eye level (most others were higher up so it would be a less interesting angle with a blah sky background). A few female Hoodeds came in but I really wanted a male. But I kind of blew it with the autofocus as it locked on the flower and not the bird (so don’t blow this photo up too much!).

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1250 second at f7.1; ISO 500; 0 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Wilson’s Phalarope preening; May; Chase Lake NWR, North Dakota

Preening takes up a lot of a bird’s resting time. You’ve got to keep those feathers nice and aligned! The floating blind again worked its magic on this prairie pothole lake in North Dakota as I was able to approach this Wilson’s Phalarope closely…Not unnoticed, of course, it knew a big floating blob was only 10 yards away, but rather completely ignored. It didn’t care that the blob was close since it was not a human- or prey-shaped form.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 428mm; 1/1250 second at f6.3; ISO 320; +0.33 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Snow Geese and moon; North Ottawa Impoundment, Minnesota

In recent years massive numbers of geese have migrated through western Minnesota in spring. Part of this is due to the creation of the huge North Ottawa Impoundment in Grant County. It is part of a multi-county watershed project that has benefited wildlife immensely.

I noticed the moon and intentionally shot straight up as flock after flock of Snow Geese headed north overhead.

In hindsight I should have shot with a MUCH smaller aperture to make the moon sharper in the image. After all I was only at ISO 200 and I could have got a clean image up to ISO 5000 or higher. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 254mm; 1/1250 second at f5; ISO 200; 0 ev; handheld]

Wild Turkey courtship; May; Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota

Human and Wild Turkey courtship have a few similarities: Males strutting their stuff to impress the ladies! The backlit feathers in early-morning light really make this shot.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1000 second at f8; ISO 320; -2.0 ev; tripod]

American Avocets mating; May; central North Dakota

Prairie potholes aren’t just for ducks! Shorebirds benefit greatly as well. American Avocets mating in the prairie pothole region of North Dakota.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 472mm; 1/1250 second at f7.1; ISO 500; +0.33 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Western Grebe; May; prairie potholes of North Dakota

This Western Grebe is not just getting a drink; it is actually performing part of its courtship ritual. “Dip-shaking” is when one grebe faces another, extends its neck and dips its head in the water, lifting it slowly, water dripping from its open mouth. This behavior occurs just before “rushing,” in which both birds race across the water in a vertical position. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 428mm; 1/1250 second at f6.3; ISO 320; +0.33 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Black-throated Hummingbird and Agave; Box Canyon; Southeast Arizona

Ready for take-off! Black-throated Hummingbird showing its true colors (Shouldn’t they be called “Magenta-throated Hummingbirds??)

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1250 second at f8; ISO 800; +0.33 ev; handheld but braced on car door frame]

Broad-billed Hummingbird; Madera Canyon, Arizona

I simply like the vibrant colors (and blurred wings) of this Broad-billed Hummingbird feeding on garden flowers in Madera Canyon in southeast Arizona.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 300mm; 1/320 second at f6.3; ISO 1000; 0 ev; handheld]

Black Tern; May; Stutsman County, North Dakota

Black Tern cruising over a prairie marsh in North Dakota.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 200mm; 1/1000 second at f5.6; ISO 320; 0 ev; handheld]

Yellow-headed Blackbird; May; Arrowwood NWR, North Dakota

Male Yellow-headed Blackbirds showing off his white epaulets during his courtship song. Interestingly, Yellow-heads are dominant over Red-winged Blackbirds.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/3200 second at f7.1; ISO 1000; +0.33 ev; handheld]

American Avocet courtship; May; North Dakota

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 451mm; 1/1250 second at f6.3; ISO 400; +0.33 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

Northern Shoveler; May; prairie potholes of North Dakota

Birds MUST preen their feathers in order to keep them in top shape. Preening aligns and locks the barbules on each feather. It also cleans the feathers and removes parasites. They also rub a waterproof substance from a body gland on the feathers to keep them from soaking through.

This Northern Shoveler was so busy preening that it paid my floating blind no attention at all.

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1250 second at f7.1; ISO 500; +0.33 ev; on tripod head in floating blind]

I’m Invisible! Floating Blind Hide Bird Photography Prairie Potholes of North Dakota: Birding Canon R5

Ryan Marshik and I go on a bird photography video trip to the prairie pothole region of North Dakota …specifically Kidder and Stutsman counties west of Jamestown. We use our floating blinds in some alkaline lakes and cattail marshes to photograph ducks, grebes, shorebirds, gulls and more. 

Sparky risks his Canon R5 by putting it only inches above the water line in the floating hide/floating blind.

From the blind/hide we witness Western Grebes doing their rushing display/dance, Franklin’s Gulls courting, Willet courtship, mating ritual of the American Avocet, Eared Grebes dancing, Northern Shoveler’s and Wilson’s Phalarope preening and much more.

We also find a Ferruginous Hawk nest.

What a great place…and only 7 hours from home!

Floating Blind Hide & Seek: Rail-a-palooza!

Sparky all dressed up with SOMEWHERE to go!
Kimmes-Tobin Wetlands, Douglas County, Wisconsin

It was a gorgeous afternoon in Duluth yesterday…Absolutely clear, sunny, and about 70 degrees. I knew I had to get out of the office and into my floating blind ASAP (“floating hide” according to the Brits). So Bridget and I picked up the kids at daycare and grabbed a take-out Hugo’s Pizza on the way home (1/2 green olive and black olive, and 1/2 sausage and mushroom if you must know…Best pizza in Duluth…Thin and greasy!) This expedited the usually lengthy dinner circus so I could get out to the marsh before sunset.

Fortunately for me, we live only five miles from one of the best and most expansive cattail marshes for many miles around. Kimmes-Tobin Wetlands is a string of manmade wetland mitigation ponds created in 1993 on 470 acres by the Wisconsin DNR to replace wetlands lost through the construction of US53, WI35 and WI13. I stepped into my new neoprene waders that Bridget got me for father’s day…Luxurious compared to the last few pairs of leaky hand-me downs. Pulled on my camo mask and eased the PVC floating blind into the water. There’s a few things you seem to conveniently forget between your trips…
1. Swamp gas really stinks!
2. Leeches thrive in these ponds
3. Muck and pond weeds are not easy to crawl through
4. Cold water ALWAYS spills over the top of your waders just as you’re leaning over to take an award-winning shot.
5. Every thing your leg bumps into under water MUST be a feisty Snapping Turtle
6. …and Wood Ducks are notoriously spooky!

It was nice just being out…even though it was under the dome of visibility-limiting camo netting. Not a breath of wind…Not a cloud on the horizon. A pair of striped juvenile Pied-billed Grebes gave me the slip…Too bad, they are interesting looking birds, Then in quick succession a female Mallard and two Wood Ducks wanted no part of this floating green and brown blob with one giant eye. But then I spotted a pair of loafing juvenile Wood Ducks. They seemed pretty relaxed on their log, so I slowly worked my way towards them.

juvenile Wood Ducks [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 on ball head with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/1000 ISO 200]

Sora [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 on ball head with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/1000 ISO 200]

Time to head home…So I plucked a few leeches off me, jettisoned about 100 pounds of pond weeds that were clinging to my legs, and waded to the narrow canal leading to my take out point…Then a movement caught my eye…It was a juvenile Sora coming out of its safe zone in the cattails to feed on a tiny mudflat. The light was golden and hit the Sora like a spotlight. I underexposed by a stop and a half so to keep the background black and keep the bird from blowing out. I was less than 25 feet away!

Virginia Rail juvenile stretching [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 on ball head with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/250 ISO 1000]

A second rail was coming out to the flats…I assumed it was a second Sora, but turned out to be a Virginia Rail…Even more unusual than the Sora. It is a bird restricted to cattail marshes and we have few this far north. This was a juvenile also…Not as colorful as the adult but still a striking bird. By now the spotlight of sun was gone and it only backlit its hind end. But this rail put on a show. Check out the brief video clip (excuse the slight motion from trying to keep the blind stable while shooting). This is the real beauty of the floating blind…You could NEVER get this close to any rail, let alone watch it feeding, bathing and stretching. Oh, and did I mention that a Muskrat swam within five feet of me?

Virginia Rail juvenile [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 on ball head with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/200 ISO 640]

frog [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 on ball head with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/1000 ISO 200]

p.s. I have instructions on how to make a floating blind on my DVD (and much more video): Get Close & Get the Shot: Wildlife Photography Tips & Tricks. Available for purchase (DVD or download) at www.getclosevideo.com

Hot off the Press! Sparky’s new DVD: Get Close & Get the Shot


Eight months in the making…and now it’s finally done…just in time for Christmas! Christmas 2012 anyway. Wouldn’t this make the perfect Groundhog’s Day gift? Wait, we missed Groundhog’s Day (or is it Groundhogs Day??) Okay, how about Father’s Day?

If you’ve ever wondered how wildlife photographers get those amazing shots you see in magazines, calendars, books and on the web, then this is the DVD for you. And we have alot of fun doing it. Check out the two clips below.

Click HERE or on sidebar icon to Purchase OR Download this 90-minute DVD (same price for each)

Want to see how these mini-adventures end? You can go to my online store: www.birdnerdz.net to purchase.

Crammed and jam-packed with helpful wildlife photography tips on getting closer to birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. In this 90-minute DVD you’ll learn tips and tricks of the pros, including…

FIRST & FOREMOST
Number 1 secret to great wildlife photography revealed!

EQUIPMENT
Why you DON’T need a 500mm f4
Teleconverters get a bad rap
“Leica” syndrome

HIDING
I once used a Blind and Now I see
Hunting Blind=Photo Blind
Grouse Blinds at Leks
The Perfect Perch: Place it and they will Come
Camouflage Clothing: Do you need it?
Camouflaging Your Equipment
The Floating Blind: Getting Mucky for Duckies
“Snow Blind”: Using Ancient Technology to get close in Winter
Canoes & Kayaks to Get Close
Floating Blind/Floating Hide
How to make your own inexpensive floating blind

ATTRACTING
Hummingbird Feeders
Backyard Bounty: Feeding our Feathered Friends
Christmas Tree Trick
Drips & Pools: Build it and they will Come
Attracting with Sound: iPod, MP3, FoxPro and your Mouth
Moose Calling
Plastic Owls: Hawk’s Worst Enemy, Photographers Best Friend

STALKING
Thinking Like a Predator
Crawling for Shorebirds: Sandy Knees equals Success
Ice-out Ducks and Otters
Get Wet to Get Close
The Stealthy Subaru: Using your car to find…and as a Blind
Bean Bags
The “Fruit Loop”: Find Fruit Trees for Fine Photos
Fence Post Friends: Roadside Routes with Fences

THE TOLERANT & THE HABITUATED
Wildlife that isn’t so Wild
Tolerant Species
Tame Individuals
Home Sweet Home: Nest Burrow and Den Photography

REMOTE SETUPS
It’s Working When You’re Not
Trail Cameras