Finally finished editing my video of a Bobcat in Carlton County in northern Minnesota. See the previous post for photos from this once-in-a-lifetime encounter at a friend’s cabin. I said it before, and I’ll say it again…truly a beautiful cat! Enjoy!
Posts from the ‘video’ Category
I had the great fortune of having a good friend who was willing to share the location of a Great Gray Owl nest he had found recently. Kim Risen is a professional bird guide based out of Tamarack, Minnesota, who leads birding trips across the globe, from South Africa to South America to Costa Rica to Mexico and even in his ‘backyard’ of northern Minnesota. Kim found this nest on a June trip with a client. He’d seen young in this general vicinity several times over several different years. He graciously shared the site with me.
I first visited the Black Spruce/Tamarack bog with Kim and his wife Cindy on June 18th and made several more visits, the last on June 28th. Two owlets were in the nest until at least June 24th, then must have “flew the coup” around June 27th or 28th when we found them on the ground.
VIDEO SHOWING BEHAVIOR & COMMENTARY ON FAVORITE PHOTOS (7 MINUTES)
You can see more of my wildlife videos HERE
Note mom in the bottom left corner of the image…She was never very far away. The young were generally silent…until they saw an adult when they gave a loud screech (can hear it late in the video). But the female often gave a rising “Whoop!” call. Robert Nero, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Great Gray Owls, says this call “is often given by the female on the nest as a means of communicating with the male.” Robert Taylor, author of The Great Gray Owl: On Silent Wings calls this is “food request call” and it is given more frequently during years of low vole supplies. It likely helps the male find the female too as he delivers the food to her so she can feed the owlets. May this also be the female’s form of communication with the owlets?…”You’re okay…I’m right here.”
On June 28th I went to photograph the owlets from my blind…But I saw no action in the nest. Just as I was contemplating this, I simultaneously heard my cell phone ring as well as a screech from ground level. I assumed the screech was one of the owlets who’d left the nest. It was Kim on the phone and he was in the bog and had seen the young on the ground. As he was talking I found one of the owlets ‘teed up’ on a stump… “Found one! Gotta go.” I set up my tripod and folding chair, then draped camo netting over myself and started shooting. The owlet stared at me for 20 minutes without taking its eyes off me, though its posture relaxed over this time. Then when he/she was comfortable that I was not a predator, the owlet started to look around, and even stretch.
STREEEEETCH! FRAME EXTRACTED FROM VIDEO CLIP. The young Great Grays often stretched like this…Working their flight muscles I imagine. Fortunately he was facing me head on and gave me this unique perspective. [Note that when you extract a frame from a HD video clip you only get a 1920x1080pixel image to work with…and it’s shot at 1/60 second…and its basically a jpeg. Very limited use, but fine for the web].
Though the owlets can’t fly at this age, they sure can get around! They will walk across the bog then climb leaning trees and stumps by using their talons for grip and using their beak to grab branches like a parrot, pulling themselves up, wings held over their back for balance.
The ticket to not alarming wild critters is to move slowly, stay low, avoid eye contact, and talk to them in a low soft voice (don’t whisper!). And stay in plain sight so you are not mistaken for a sneaky predator. I got very close to this owlet…Close enough to use my 10-20mm lens with full flash. I love the low angle and wide perspective which really puts the owl in its habitat.
Eye-level shot with Canon 400mm f5.6. I WISH I’d put my big flash and Better Beamer on! The images looked okay on the LCD but there is a weird greenish cast from the light filtering down through the canopy. Live and learn!
The sibling to the owlet on the stump, is this fuzzball. I found him/her on a comfy cozy patch of super-soft Sphagnum moss. I laid on my belly, crawled towards her (got soaking wet!) and inched to within a foot of her/him. He/she began bill clacking, an alarm signal, so I snapped a few photos (full flash) and backed off.
I wish this little family well and hope they find many fat voles!
[All photos and video taken with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 lens or Sigma 10-20mm lens, Canon 580EX flash, Cabela’s Lightning Set pop-up blind, Manfrotto tripod]
GREAT NORTH WOODS GOBBLERS
If someone had told me when I bought my land back in the early 90s, that I’d have up to 19 Wild Turkeys at my feeder someday, I would have told them they were CRAZY! At that time, Wild Turkeys in Minnesota were extremely rare outside of the very southeast corner of the state. “Besides,” I would have told them, “turkeys need acorns and open meadows…My land is pines and aspen and maple, very densely wooded.” Plus, I would have pointed out, they can’t survive in areas with deep snowpack. Good thing I didn’t make a wager!
TURKEYS IN THE SNOW (NOT “TURKEYS IN THE STRAW”)
I first noticed Wild Turkeys in our neck of the woods a few years ago when I’d hear a distant Tom gobbling on clear and calm April mornings. He was far away…maybe a half mile or more back in the Schillo’s south field. And I recorded a small group on my trail camera. Then last year one or two made a couple appearances at our feeders, but never when we were home. This year, the floodgate opened. Up to 19 Wild Turkeys have foraged under our feeders this winter. I started throwing out buckets full of cracked corn. But they are extremely wary…and any motion inside the house often sends them scurrying for the shelter of the ravine.
TOM TURKEY DISPLAY VIDEO
The above video was taken from our living room while I was in my pajamas trying to balance the camera on a coffee table and a stack of books, all the while trying to keep Birk (4) and Bjorn (2) from jumping off the couch and shaking the video camera….That is why there is no audio..You wouldn’t want to hear it!
SURFING WITHOUT A SURFBOARD
In late March, I got a big surprise when, not one, but TWO Toms began displaying right outside our picture window. A half dozen hens were feeding and seemed oblivious to the male’s full-on, fluffed-out display. The males would slowly circle each other and occasionally bump chests in slow motion. An occasional ruffle of the feathers is meant to impress. Then one morning, I saw a Tom displaying over a hen sitting in the snow. He eventually hopped up on her back and stood there for nearly ten minutes, all the while balancing on his precarious perch. Every time she made any movement, he had to react and respond to keep his balance. It was literally like watching a novice surfer on a surfboard. Impressive balancing act! Finally he hunkered down and she shifted her tail and the actual mating took place, lasting mere seconds.
WIDE ANGLE FUN
The two photos above were taken with a super-wide telephoto lens from snow level. How did I take these without spooking these spooky birds? I set my camera up on a mini-tripod outside where the turkeys usually fed. Then I used my remote trigger to release the shutter from inside the house. So I could sit in my easy chair drinking coffee and watching the morning news, and still be taking wildlife photos! But note that this is very low percentage shooting.
**NOTE THAT ALL THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN FROM OUR LIVING ROOM! …THROUGH DOUBLE-PANED, KID-SMUDGED WINDOWS. DON’T LET PEOPLE TELL YOU THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TAKE PHOTOS THROUGH YOUR WINDOWS.
[All taken with Canon 7D…Most taken with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and camera set to Shutter Priority 1/500 second and auto-ISO. Wide angles taken with Sigma 10-20mm lens and remote trigger]
I’ve never been attacked by mammal when in the field shooting…sure I’ve been dive-bombed by Skuas in Iceland, terns in Alaska and MN but never charged. Ryan spotted this Coyote first…It was crossing Slough Creek and never once looked at us. I decided to lay up against the river bank to see if he’d come out of the woods near me. Ryan went east to see if he could cut him off in the meadow. A few minutes later here comes the Coyote, only 50 feet away and slowly stalking something. But he was staring at me. I didn’t put 2 and 2 together that THE COYOTE WAS STALKING ME! I took video until he got within 30 feet or so. I then switched to taking stills. I got off 2 or 3 shots and then I stuck my head behind the camera again to check the LCD and when I looked around my camera a second later the Coyote was in my face! His head was above mine and he was only six feet away. I jumped up and started yelling at him…He sauntered off…He did not run…I finally found a rock and chucked it at him. He kept going. No time for fear until it was all done. My heart was beating! The Coyote had covered the last 25 feet is a split second…If I was a rabbit I wouldn’t have had a chance.
Watch the video and “reenactment” below
We let a nearby campground host if he’d heard any strange Coyote stories lately…He laughed and said, “About an hour ago a couple in the campground were approached by a Coyote that just walked up to them to within 3 feet!…Not stalking just like it was begging.” We later found out that a woman had been bitten pretty badly by a Coyote a week previous in another part of the park. I don’t think this guy had rabies…eyes were clear, fur nice and thick, no foaming mouth…but this behavior is a bit unnerving. Anyway, a ranger was dispatched to the area to check it out…but we never did hear what happened to the Coyote of Slough Creek.
My hand was actually shaking…I eyed my “escape route” one last time, wondering how fast I could really climb that birch…Because I could hear large branches breaking and the deep guttural grunt of a bull Moose getting closer. I calmed myself and found the very tall dark blob through the vegetation in the viewfinder, focusing until the blob became the sharp image of a bull Moose. He was staring straight into my eyes…or the singular “eye” of my lens… I couldn’t tell which. His nostrils flared, trying to catch the scent of a cow Moose, and drool dripped from his mouth. Now was the critical time when he had to decide if he should come closer or retreat. He circled around me to get a better look…Maybe to actually get a better smell, since their eyesight is not great. As he shook his back and head violently, morning dew flying off his hump, his ears making audible flapping sounds, one could get a glimpse of the strength and power these animals possess. After another stare down, he moved off towards the west, grunting a few times as he departed. Sorry buddy…Hope you get lucky next time.
I’ve called in Moose before (see this post about a 2-Moose Adventure), but each time it is a rush…a thrill. Of course there are many unsuccessful attempts that make the successes so much sweeter. It was just a good day to be in the woods and there were many more highlights to come…a male Spruce Grouse feeding on the road, a Timber Wolf that appeared about 40 yards from me but then disappeared silently before I could get a shot, a Goshawk streaking through the trees. Then the most bizarre encounter…I drove a remote 2-track road a couple miles to a little used trail head…I’d only seen a couple grouse hunters all day…but there was a car here…odd, I thought…then my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jason comes out of the woods on the trail. Crazy! We talked wildlife encounters for about an hour before my day-ending hike into the Boundary Waters Bog Lake. Yeah, a good day.
Birders and photographers from across North America put the Spruce Grouse high on their list of highly desirable target birds. Many of the folks I guide in winter would love to add this grouse to their life list. We usually cruise Superior National Forest roads at dawn hoping to catch a glimpse of one picking grit along the shoulder. And we pray that no logging trucks have already spooked (or smashed) the birds before we get there. Like many boreal birds, it is not rare, but rather rarely seen, due to the inaccessibility of their remote boreal forests and bogs in Canada, Alaska, Maine and Minnesota. Lake County has a reputation for being THE spot to find them (They do not occur in the Sax-Zim Bog).
I found this male Spruce Grouse picking grit along a remote dirt logging road in northern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest a few days ago (early September 2012). He was a long ways down the road but I thought I’d get some “insurance shots” anyway. So I eased out of the car, put the camera on the tripod (set to its lowest level) and threw some camouflage netting over me and the camera and started stalking. I’d shoot some video and some stills and then move about 15 steps closer…slooowly. Then I’d sit for a while until he began feeding again. Initially I had stacked a 2x and a 1.4x telextender on the 400mm to get enough reach, and had to shoot at ISO 3200 (noisy!), but eventually, after getting much closer, I was able take off the 2x telextender and reduce the ISO to 800.
You can turn the HD feature on or off depending on the speed of your computer.
He flew up into some Tamaracks and began feeding on the needles. In summer they eat insects, blueberries, leaves, fungi and other berries. In fall and winter they switch to a diet of conifer needles. Tamaracks are utilized in fall before they lose their needles in mid to late October. Black Spruce and Jack Pine needles are the preferred winter food. They can store up to 10% of their body weight in needles in their crop. The slow digestion of this food during the long northern nights helps keep them warm. The grit picked from the road helps the gizzard break down the needles. I once found a road-kill Spruce Grouse and dissected it. I found that that individual only picked white/clear quartz stones for its grit….Maybe it instinctively knew that the quartz is very hard with sharp corners and would be a great needle grinder. Oh, and by the way, I ate that road-kill Spruce Grouse after dissecting it! I had to prove/disprove the myth that “spruce hens” taste like pine needles. In fact, it was as tasty as any Ruffed Grouse I’d ever eaten. Myth busted!
Shot with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 and 1.4x telextender on tripod. Camo netting over me and camera for stealthy approach.
This is my flood video from Jay Cooke State Park…only a few miles from our house [Taken morning of June 22nd].
The swinging bridge is normally about 25 feet above the river this time of year! (see below photo for “normal” water levels and span)
It is a suspension bridge that spans 126 feet of river. The stone support pillars were built by the CCC but the bridge itself was replaced after the 1950 flood.
The river set a new all-time record flood height yesterday, eclipsing the 1950 spring-runoff flood. That’s what 9 inches of rain in 24 hours will do!