Posts from the ‘weasel’ Category

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]

White Critters of Winter

Ermine Owl Ave feeders Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_4463Winter white is still all around us, even on this relatively late date of March 23rd…Still about 24 inches of snow in the woods…and we’ve had nearly 4 feet of snow since mid February. So I thought it was fitting for a photo round up of some of our white winter critters. The Ermine above was photographed near a feeding station in the Sax-Zim Bog of northern Minnesota. Two Ermine were regularly feasting on deer rib cages and chunks of suet put out for the birds. They are quick critters and photographing them was a real challenge. In summer, they have brown pelage, but in winter they acquire a winter white coat save the black tip on their tail (photo below). It is one of the only mammals that has a different name in winter…Long-tailed Weasels become Ermine when they turn white. Note that some have a greenish tinge to their fur.
Ermine tail Owl Ave feeders Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_4457Ermine Sax-Zim MN IMG_0018358Fast critters! Ermine are carnivores and specialize in squeezing their narrow body in mice and vole tunnels.

Glaucous Gull Canal Park Duluth MN IMG_0072569The Glaucous Gull is a big bruiser of a gull…even larger than our Herring Gull. It is an arctic bird that nests only in the Far North including the North Slope of Alaska, Ellesmere Island, northern Labrador and Baffin Island. But we are fortunate that a few winter on the Great Lakes, especially in late fall and early winter when there is little ice on Lake Superior. This juvenile bird (note all white plumage and pink bill with black tip) was photographed in evening light against a dark background of the breakwall in Duluth’s Canal Park.

Snowy Owl Superior Middle School Sparky Stensaas IMG_0074842Snowy Owl Superior Middle School Sparky Stensaas IMG_0076189Snowy Owl Bong Airport Superior WI IMG_0074505 (1)The above Snow Owls were all photographed in nearby Superior Wisconsin near the Bong Airport…a suitable substitute for arctic tundra for this Snowy. Most of the birds we see in winter are young birds. They gravitate to the industrial ports of Duluth and Superior where there is plenty of food—pigeons, mice, voles, rabbits. To get a good viewing/hunting vantage point, they perch on light poles, buildings (including right above the main entrance to the Superior Middle School!), fences, and even spruce trees—an odd sight for a tundra-dwelling bird).

Snow Bunting Crex Meadows WI IMG_4878 (1)I love the black and white plumage of this lone male Snow Bunting that I recently photographed near Crex Meadows, Wisconsin. Note that he is nearly in spring breeding plumage, his back will become pure black as will his bill, but he’s worn off the yellowish and brown feather tips of winter. This is unusual in birds who usually go through a complete molt in spring. Snow Buntings only molt once, in the fall. They rely on the feather wear to reveal their spring plumage. They only grace us with their presence in late fall and winter, heading back north to their tundra homes in spring. Males arrive in the arctic when there is still snow and below zero temps to set up territories. Females return about three weeks later.

Northern Shrike nr Northwestern Middle School Poplar WI IMG_4031Shrikes are pint-sized bird predators who are only winter visitors to our “balmy” northern U.S. climes. They “tee-up” on tree tops in open areas to scan for small birds and mice/voles. They also appreciate our bird feeders…a real shrike smorgasboard! They nest in the taiga across Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavit, east to the northern Labrador Peninsula (northern Quebec and Newfoundland ). They are heading back north now. This cooperative dude was photographed near Poplar, Wisconsin. He allowed me to walk right up to him (usually they fly the instant you apply your car brakes!)
Snowshoe Hare Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0002192 copyRemaining motionless in a snow-blanketed environment is a good survival strategy unless a photographer has already spotted you alongside a Sax-Zim Bog road. This Snowshoe Hare is perfectly adapted to deep snow and extreme cold…and you need any advantage you can when you have feline predators such as Bobcat and Lynx after you.
Hoary Redpoll Matt Moses yard Solway Twp St. Louis Co MN IMG_4280Hoary Redpoll Admiral Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0076263It was a banner winter for Hoary Redpolls in northern Minnesota. Normally there is a ratio of about 1:100 Hoary’s vs. Common Redpolls. Hoary’s, like their name implies, are paler, whiter, frostier than Common’s, with limited streaking on their flanks, a stubby bill and “pushed in” face and very limited streaking on their rump. Both are winter visitors from the Arctic. They are still around but will soon be heading north.

Trumpeter Swans 2 flying backlit Monticello MN IMG_0073469How could I forget the largest white winter bird of all? The Trumpeter Swans congregate in the thousands on the Mississippi River near Monticello, Minnesota. A nuclear power plant keeps the river open even in the coldest temps.

Mallard albino Monticello MN IMG_0073451Leucistic Mallard. Okay, not naturally a white bird, but this Mallard was photographed this winter, and it is white-ish 🙂

[All photographed with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 lens. All hand-held]

**PLEASE SPONSOR ME in my BIG HALF YEAR FOR THE BOG effort to photograph 150 species of birds in Minnesota before June 30th. I am over 60 species now. This is a fundraiser for my non-profit organization…Friends of Sax-Zim Bog. You can pledge per species or in a lump sum. I also have a gallery of images linked here too. THANKS!
SPARKY’S BIG HALF YEAR LINK HERE

GOOGLE PLUS GALLERY OF ALL MY BEST BIRD PHOTOS FROM 2013 HERE