Posts from the ‘otters’ Category

2021 “Top Ten” #3—Mammals

**OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS I WILL BE POSTING 10 “TOP TEN” POSTS OF MY FAVORITE WILDLIFE & LANDSCAPE PHOTOS FROM 2021: Bird Portraits, Black-and-white Wildlife, Mammals, Humor, Animals in the Landscape, Creative Wildlife, Insects, Landscapes, Flora and Bird Behavior. (PSSST…Here’s a secret…I have a hard time narrowing down photos to actually my top 10…so there may be more than that in each post!)

Unlike birds, mammals are hard to target during an outing. They are often just difficult to find, let alone photograph. But sometimes you get lucky. Every single photo in this post was of a mammal I just happened upon (usually while looking for something else!). Below are my 11 favorite mammal photos from 2021.

Moose; January; Superior National Forest, Minnesota

Interesting Moose behavior! I found this pair just after sunrise. I stayed quite a ways away so I would not disturb them and could watch some of their behavior. They stuck very close to each other and at one point the bull mounted the other Moose, who quickly moved to get him off. I assumed it was some very late mating behavior, but after looking at the photos on the computer, I realized both were bulls! The one had scars where his antlers had fallen off already. Likely siblings, and the mounting was just domination behavior over his brother. You can see the video of this eventful encounter here Virtually Live 14 [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/1000 at f7.1; ISO 10,000; tripod]

White-nosed Coatimundi; July; Madera Canyon, Arizona

After about 5 trips to SE Arizona over the last 25 years I finally saw a White-nosed Coatimundi. And this is embarrassing…I didn’t even know they existed in the U.S.! Bridget and I had seen a troop in Costa Rica years ago so I associated them with Central America. This cute guy was at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon. I suppose locals might see them as pests (?), but I enjoyed their antics. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 123mm; 1/640 at f5; ISO 640; handheld]

River Otter; March; Crex Meadows, Wisconsin

It is always a treat to see a River Otter! This guy was poking his head out of holes in the ice. But I was never in the right spot to get the stellar photo I could see in my head. But this will do! [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/250 at f7.1; ISO 800; +1 ev; handheld]

Bison and calf; May; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

“Red dogs” is what westerners call baby Bison. And Ryan and I found a nursery herd at Teddy Roosevelt one morning. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/320 at f8; ISO 320; handheld]

Moose; January; Superior National Forest, Minnesota

This is actually two bulls. Not easy to see, but the one on the left has the scars where his antlers fell off. I intentionally blew out the whites and added a white vignette. You can see the video of this eventful encounter here Virtually Live 14 [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens with 2x teleconverter; equivalent 836mm; 1/320 at f13; ISO 12,800; tripod]

Mink; April; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Why did this photo make my Top Ten? Only because its my best Mink photo ever! Which I realize is not saying much, but they have been a nemesis species for me over the years. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/800 at f9; ISO 800; +0.66 ev; handheld]

Gray Fox; February; Crex Meadows, Wisconsin

Okay Sparky….now why is this photo in your Top Ten mammals? Well, how often do you see a Gray Fox? You can see the video of this encounter (with a Red Fox and a Fisher) in my YouTube video called Ice Eagles [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/800 at f8; ISO 12,800; handheld]

Wild “feral” Horses; May; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

I guess the correct term is “feral horses,” but I really hate that term. I much prefer “Wild Horses” since they are truly wild and live in bands that have their own social hierarchy. The battles between bands can get intense, and “wild.” [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 363mm; 1/320 at f8; ISO 100; -0.33 ev; handheld]

Porcupine; May; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Porcupines are an exotic species to many Americans, but we often take them for granted in northern Minnesota. They are surprisingly difficult to photograph since they are often high in the trees, have small dark eyes that are hard to see in a photo, and rarely show much behavior. But this guy was darn cute eating his tree buds in spring. I intentionally shot through the yellow willow catkins to create a frame for this Porkie. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/800 at f7.1; ISO 1600; handheld]

White-tailed Deer family; August; Carlton County, Minnesota

I always keep my camera in my van just in case I run across a scene like this. Only 200 yards from my driveway I saw this doe and twin fawns in gorgeous light. Just a nice family portrait. [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/500 at f13; ISO 3200; -1 ev; handheld]

Moose; January; Superior National Forest, Minnesota

Yes, yes, the same two bulls on a frosty cold morning in the Superior National Forest in January. You can see the video of this eventful encounter here Virtually Live 14 [Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm lens with 2x teleconverter; equivalent 836mm; 1/320 at f13; ISO 12,800; tripod]

Virtually Live 16—Porcupines, Otters, Mink, Sandhill Cranes and more…”Early” spring in Sax-Zim Bog

NEW SEASON OF VIRTUALLY LIVE FROM SAX-ZIM BOG!

Virtually Live 16: Sax-Zim Bog in early Spring: Birding—S2E1 April 2021

Birding in the Sax-Zim Bog in April can often mean birding in snow…and we had snow on both mornings of shooting…April 14 & 19….but the birds are returning! In Virtually Live 16 (Season 2, Episode 1)  we search for Sandhill Cranes in the hopes of capturing video of them performing their courtship dance. Sparky finds a cooperative and cute Porcupine along Nichols Lake Road, Ring-necked Ducks on Nichols Lake, and he shares some very cool sightings from this past winter and early April—Great Gray Owl, Porcupine, River Otter, Mink.

Lovey Dovey River Otters

Well, it is Valentine’s Day after all…and the pair of River Otters appears to be a cuddly couple, nuzzling, hugging, rolling around together. But now the romantics may want to quit reading and just watch the video, as the lovey dovey couple is probably a female and last year’s pup. Males and females don’t stick together very long after mating. Most groups of multiple otters we see are probably mom and offspring. Sorry.

But their behavior is quite interesting. You see quite a bit of preening and allopreening (mutual preening in social animals that helps maintain bonds). Otters must preen often to keep their fur waterproof. They dry it off by rolling in the snow or ice, then “comb” the fur with their claws, and rub oils from their underfur into the hairs. They are also rather vocal…”talking” with chortles, snuffles, snorts, huffs, and growls. You’ll also see them munching minnows…On this day I didn’t witness them eating any other food.

This video was shot last week on the St. Louis River only about 7 miles from my house. I cross the river every day on the way to preschool/work and there are often River Otters lounging on the ice near open leads.

Otterly Funtastic!

Late March is when River Otters seem to become more visible on the St. Louis River. Maybe it’s because the river ice is breaking up and they spend more time loafing/feeding/playing on the shelf ice conveniently located next to open water. Or maybe that’s when I stop on the Fond du Lac bridge to scan for critters.

Just recently I spotted a family group (five total) using a thin crack in the ice as their access to the river’s surface. I set up my camera and tripod so I could just peek over the edge of the railing and so not disturb them. I watched them for at least 45 minutes. One would come to the surface and drop two or three minnows from its mouth onto the ice, munching the bunch quickly before slipping effortlessly and silently back into the water. Sometimes two would appear and they would bask in the morning sun for a brief minute. One spent a couple of minutes preening its dense water repellant fur.

I love otters…They just seem to love life. Play is as important to them as eating it seems. When traveling overland in winter and across wind-swept lakes, they will run and slide on their bellies for great distances…run…slide…run…slide. I’ve seen three together on the ice, rolling, tussling, having a grand time. We could learn something from otters…Like my mother always said, “Work hard, Play hard” (at least I think she said that).

Most of these images are looking down on the otters from 40 feet up on a bridge…Not a great technique for wildlife photography. You don’t get as intimate a portrait as with eye-level images. The last shot is eye-level and it was taken a week ago on another stretch of the St. Louis when I crawled on my belly across the ice to the shelf’s edge. Every time the otter dove, I’d work my way closer. The otter was fine with me until I crossed that invisible line of his comfort zone…and then he was gone.