Posts from the ‘Porcupine’ 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.

Birding with Sparky 3: Virtually Live from Sax-Zim Bog: April 28, 2020

Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Join Executive Director Sparky Stensaas on a 5 hour birding, photography, video tour in northeastern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog. We visit Nichols Lake, the Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk, Admiral Road willow flats and the Welcome Center. Wild Turkeys in full display, slow motion video of Wilson’s Snipe doing their aerial courtship display, Porcupine eating willow catkins.

NOTE: If you view in highest possible format, you can actually see the stiff outer tail feathers of the Wilson’s Snipe vibrating. The air rushing through these specially adapted feathers is what creates the “winnowing” aerial courtship display sound.

Best Wildlife Photos of 2015 (non-bird)

I’m finally getting around to posting my favorite non-bird wildlife photos of 2015. This is as much an exercise in editing (and learning) for me, as it is sharing photos with you all. It’s always great fun to review the year’s adventures and try to whittle down the images. I give a far higher priority to photos that are a bit creative vs. a standard portrait in front light. I also tend to favor images that show some kind of animal behavior, such as the cooperative hunting between the Badger and Coyote. Enjoy!
Ermine Weasel Peary Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_7542 Ermine of the Bog

My parents and sister and family came up north to see the newly-completed Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center where I am Executive Director. We had a nice visit on a cold February day and headed out on a tour of our lands. At the Friends’ Yellow-bellied Bog I saw something dash across the snow-covered road and I immediately recognized it as a winter-pelaged Short-tailed Weasel that we call Ermine. I quickly rolled the window down and started squeaking on my knuckle to attract its attention. This inquisitive guy made three lightning fast circles around our car, pausing only to look for the squeaking prey. He moved so fast that I only got a couple in focus, including this shot.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/4,000 second; ISO 250; handheld]
[Ermine (Short-tailed Weasel); Sax-Zim Bog, northern Minnesota]

Badger and Coyote hunting Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5687Huntin’ Buddies
I chose this image more for its rarity. Cooperative hunting between Badgers and Coyotes is a rarely seen behavior, limited to areas where their ranges overlap and where Coyotes are not persecuted by man, in this case, Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. In this large Black-tailed Prairie Dog village, the Badger would go head first down a hole and try to dig the Prairie Dog out, the Coyote stood attentively nearby, hoping for the ‘dog’ to pop out another of its escape holes. Mammalogists have proven that the Coyote benefits from this partnership by catching more Prairie Dogs than if it was hunting solo. It is assumed that the Badger benefits too, as possibly the Coyote may chase an “escapee” back down its hole and into the jaws of the Badger.
[Coyote and Badger; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bison backlit sunrise Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5996 Backlit Bison

There is one easy thing that can really help your wildlife photography (that doesn’t involve expensive equipment!) and that is to GET IN THE FIELD EARLY! Dawn is the time when crepuscular critters may still be active and diurnal animals are also moving around. In summer, the mornings are cool and wildlife is more energized, much more so than during the heat of midday.

We found a heard of Bison backlit by the sun which was giving us gorgeous rim lighting on the coats of the Bison. Underexposing by several stops highlighted their breath on this chilly morning.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/8000 second; ISO 100; -3 ev; hand-held]
[Bison; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bison Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7032Horn of the Beast
I LOVE Bison! Can’t get enough of them. Every time I see a herd (in Yellowstone, Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park, Custer State Park in South Dakota, or here, in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park) it reminds me how close we (selfish and wasteful) humans came to wiping their millions off the face of the Earth. Plus, they are just MASSIVE beasts…beasts that let you get quite close. I love the texture of their hair/fur and the shape of the horn.
[Bison; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN Bobcat IMG_3390

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN IMG_3373

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN IMG_3429 Pretty Kitty

Rarely do you get a chance to see, let alone photograph, a Bobcat in the daytime. But at a friends cabin in Carlton County, Minnesota last winter, I had that chance. After about 45 minutes of sitting quietly, it was an unbelievable thrill when Gene whispered, “Here she comes.” (We’ll call her “she” as her size seems small and features delicate…Plus, what a pretty face!). She cautiously slipped between the hazel brush, slinking her way towards the road-killed deer that Gene had provided. Sensing her surroundings with acute hearing and smell and vision, she crept closer, occasionally stopping to sit and relax, making sure the coast was clear. In the nearly 3 hours we sat there, she came in about four times, but retreating after a few minutes. I included three images of this rarely seen predator.

[Shot under low light with heavy overcast skies at dawn; Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/250 second at ISO 1000. Firmly locked on tripod!]
[Bobcat; Blackhoof River Valley, Carlton County, Minnesota]

Coyote Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7224 Sliver Hunt
I’ve been trying to do more “Animal-in-the-Landscape” images in the last few years…mainly using my Canon 70-200mm f4 lens. Ryan spotted this distant hunting Coyote and we could see that it was working its way to the sliver of light illuminating the ridge top. What I liked about this scene was the spotlight like light, and the Coyote stepped right into it.
[Coyote; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

IMG_5509 Fat and Happy
I included this mediocre photo because it just makes me smile. This Black-tailed Prairie Dog appears well fed and ready to hibernate!

Like many mammals that become more sedentary in winter, the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs try to put on a little fat for winter. This guys really accomplished his goal! These burrowing rodents are a blast to watch…And their “alarm” behavior is awesome; they stand upright and suddenly throw their paws straight up in the air and give a sharp “Yaah” call.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/1000 second; -1/3ev; ISO 200; handheld braced on car window]
[Black-tailed Prairie Dog; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

IMG_5818
Pronghorn herd
Late in the day we headed overland and came upon yet another massive Prairie Dog town, but on the fringes was a cautious herd of Pronghorns. They were in deep shade but I kind of like the subtle colors that the lighting conditions brought out. Pronghorns are very hard to photograph on sunny days…The whites of their fur blow out.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/160 second; -2/3ev; ISO 400; tripod]
[Pronghorns; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Antheraea polyphemus Polyphemus Moth Skogstjarna Carlton Co MN IMG_9367Polyphemus
One of our Giant Silkworm Moths, the Polyphemus lives up to its name with a wingspan as wide as your outstretched hand…up to six inches across! This one was attracted to my garage lights and I carefully moved it in the morning to a more attractive background.
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4; f8 at 1/250; ISO 1000; flash at -2 2/3 ev]
[Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus); Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota]

Mule Deer Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7551

Frosty Muley
It really helps to know how your camera sees versus how your eye sees. This pre-sunrise shot looked quite blah to my eye, but I knew the camera sees dawn shade as quite blue. I really like how the warm brown of the Muley contrasts with the cool blue frosty plants.
[Mule Deer; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Pine Marten Echo Trail Ely MN IMG_7940 Grandpa Marten
I was able to keep up with this American Marten (Pine Marten) as it hunted a logged area north of Ely, Minnesota. He/she loped along quite slowly and, that, combined with the very gray muzzle, led me to surmise that this was one old weasel!
[American (Pine) Marten; Echo Trail; Superior National Forest, Minnesota]

Porcupine silhouette Stone Lake Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_7560 Porkie in Purple
April in to early May is the best time to see Porcupines in the North Woods. The Porkies seem giddy to get at the newly-sprouted catkins of willow and aspen. They relish these spring edibles and will crawl out on the most bendy branches to get at them. Sloth-like, they’ll reach out with their paws to pull inaccessible branches closer.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/250; ISO 800; tripod]
[Porcupine; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota]

Prairie Dog Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6053 Late for Dinner
A fun shot of a prairie dog doing what prairie dogs do all day long…going in and out of their underground tunnels. I strongly underexposed this image to highlight the rim lighting of this prairie dog against the setting sun. I didn’t plan that I’d get an image of one going down its hole, but I just kept shooting and this was actually my favorite.
[Black-tailed Prairie Dog; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Porcupine Spring Snack

If you live in the North Woods, you know that the Pussy Willows are in full blossom right now…Fuzzy catkins adorning bare branches. What you may not know is that Porcupines crave the big fuzzy catkins! After a winter of a strict diet of tree bark, they seem to relish the newly sprouted grass and the catkins of willows and other trees.

Willows are dioecious…male and female flowers are on separate plants. The visible yellow on the catkins are the yellow-tipped anthers and stamens depending on if you’re looking at a staminate (“male”) willow or a pistillate (“female”) flower. They are a very nice addition to a bleak leafless landscape.

Almost every spring I find a Porcupine about head-high in a Pussy Willow, clinging to the small trunk, feeding on catkins. This guy/gal? was feeding in Jay Cooke State Park. He was very mellow and allowed me to film and photograph him from quite close. Watching him slooowly reach out for a catkin-ladened branch with his long-clawed paw reminded me of the Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths Bridget and I had watched in Costa Rica. Once the Porkie bent a branch close enough, he’d eat every accessible catkin with gusto. You can see this in the video below.

Porcupine Spring from Sparky Stensaas on Vimeo.

Note the orange front teeth. This is the result of iron salts in the enamel which act as a hardening agent. Under a microscope, you can see that the enamel is made up of layers of crystalline prisms at right angles to each other—the same layering principle that makes plywood so strong. And it must be strong since Porkies gnaw on tree bark daily. The incisors are sharpened to a chisel-like edge by the contact with the opposite incisor which wears down the softer white inner tooth. Since Porkies are rodents, their front teeth never quit growing. In fact, the entire length of each incisor is worn down each year, but since they keep growing from deep inside the jaw, the result is a net zero gain. You may have noticed the orange incisors on other rodents…Beaver, Rats, Muskrats, etc.

Porky’s orange teeth: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, f5.6 at 1/640 at ISO 2000
Porkie wide in willow: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, f5.6 at 1/3200 at ISO 3200 (Why 1/3200 at ISO 3200? because, when driving around I have the camera set to a fast shutter speed in “TV” or shutter priority mode…in this case a crazy 1/3200 of a second (enough speed to freeze a flying bird’s wings)…And I forgot to reset it before shooting. But in a scene like this (not much out of focus background) you can get away with this.