Posts tagged ‘video’

Yellow Rail—Midnight Madness in the McGregor Marsh (VIDEO calling, preening, sleeping)

YELLOW RAIL in McGregor Marsh, Aitkin County, Minnesota. June 13, 2019

Okay, so I was home and in my own bed by midnight, but “10:44 pm in the McGregor Marsh” isn’t quite as catchy as the title, “Midnight Madness.”

It has been about 30 years since I’ve actually SEEN a Yellow Rail (one of Kim Eckert’s multi-birder late-night Yellow Rail “round up” in the 80s). 

Yellow Rails are one of the most secretive birds in North America, and only nest in localized sedge marshes in MN, ND, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan (and a few other isolated spots). Seven were calling last night (June 13). The rails are only the size of a softball, and they walk around under the cattails…usually. A tape of another male, or clicking two rocks together to imitate their call can elicit a vocal response. But they are used to semi-close neighbors so you have to be in the heart of their territory for them to come out from beneath the sedges/cattails.

Access to the McGregor Marsh is difficult, but an old railroad grade (now an ATV trail) runs through it off MN65. It is a vast sedge marsh, which is the vegetation Yellow Rails prefer.
First glimpses of the elusive YELLOW RAIL. They are only the size of a softball and usually scurry around like mice UNDER the downed layer of sedges and old cattails.

Thanks to my friend Kim Risen who suggested a place in the Marsh to start listening. He has heard and seen many more in the area this spring/summer. Good year for Yellow Rails! They are dependent on proper water levels.

I waded into the marsh at sunset (about 9:15pm) wearing knee-high rubber boots with rain bibs over the top. One bird was calling just off the trail but quit. The McGregor Marsh is a floating mat of sedges and cattails in ankle- to calf-deep water. Good thing I’d laced myself with Deep Woods Off (25%DEET) since the mosquitos were thick.
This rail was calling on and off (sometimes as close as 6 feet away!) but it took 1.5 hours to actually see him in the sedge marsh (in the full company of mosquito hordes, and stumbling around in waders). A powerful flashlight aided in the search. I would sit in the marsh, click my rocks and wait. If he called, I’d sweep the area briefly with my flashlight. 
It was very dark by 10:30 pm when I started photographing him. This Yellow Rail was so calm that he called, preened, and even tucked his head into his back feathers and slept all within 15 feet of me. I only stayed with him for about 15 minutes.

SEE VIDEO OF YELLOW RAIL CALLING, PREENING, SLEEPING HERE

But it took me 15 minutes more to find my backpack (including my car keys!), which I had left laying in the marsh when I started tracking this Yellow Rail. Home by midnight!

Sony A6500 and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; f5.6 at 1/60; ISO 1600; pop-up flash and flashlight for illumination.

Yellow Rail male in northern Minnesota’s McGregor Marsh; June 13, 2019; 10:15-10:45pm
This little guy got so comfortable with me only 10 feet away that he actually would preen and even tuck his head in his back feathers and fall asleep!
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Video—Dancing Chickens: Shooting with Sparky

A morning on the Greater Prairie-Chicken lek at Tympanuchus WMA in Northwest Minnesota; April 26, 2019

Bobcat at our House: Cute Kitty

March 16, 2019

A couple weeks ago Bridget and the boys got to watch this same Bobcat (likely the same one) go up to our rabbit pen and paw at the hardware cloth enclosure. A great experience from 6 feet away. PS The rabbits are just fine.

Bobcat Lynx rufus outside our living room window Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_2663

This morning the Bobcat was sitting just 20 feet away from our house for about 30 minutes at dawn. She’d sometimes glance towards our two pet rabbits who are kept outside but didn’t go over to the pen.  I got to watch her just “sitting pretty” for about a half hour. Bridget woke up and she got great looks too. The Bobcat even “meowed” a couple times. So cute!

She eventually sauntered away in the direction of our cabin. Since we have free-range chickens, I decided to distract our feline friend the next day with some wild food. I found two road-kill Snowshoe Hare and a deer rib cage which I put out in the woods. One Snowshoe Hare was gone the next morning.

Neat experience. Hopefully she will eat some of the Wild Turkeys that come to our feeders…It is a favored prey of Bobcats. Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota. (I don’t really know if this is a female…but this Bobcat was fairly small and has delicate features so I will call it a “she”)

Bobcat Lynx rufus outside our living room window Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_2706

Bobcat (Lynx Rufus) at our home in Carlton County, Minnesota (March 16, 2019)

All photos taken through our living room window (uncropped!)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/25 of a second at f5.6; ISO 3200 (!); +1 ev; braced on dining room divider wall and shot through living room window]

Video taken at dawn. So cute when she “meows” a couple times. No audio.

IMG_2133

Purrrdy the house cat watching a BOBCAT through our Living Room Window

Golden Eagles & Northern Goshawks in flight videos: Hawk Ridge, Duluth, Minnesota

Every October a fair number of Golden Eagles drift down our way from breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra and the shores of Hudson Bay. Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota is a great place to see them on strong northwest wind days following a cold front in October and November. And some even winter in the bluff country of southeast Minnesota/southwest Wisconsin. Here is some slow motion video taken on October 20, 21 at 180 frames per second with a Panasonic GH5 and Sigma 50-500mm lens; handheld; manual focusing.

NORTHERN GOSHAWKS in super slow motion flight. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth: October 16, 19, and 20, 2018. Adults and juveniles. Love seeing these strong solid accipiters in flight. Note bulging crops on a couple of these birds. The bigger females prey on Snowshoe Hares and Ruffed Grouse. The smaller males stick mostly to Ruffed Grouse and probably Red Squirrels and woodpeckers. Click on the gear icon if you want to view at a higher resolution. [Panasonic GH5 and Sigma 50-500mm lens; shooting at 180 frames per second]

Mega-Waves from Lake Superior Storm: Tettegouche State Park, North Shore, Minnesota – October 10, 2018 (photos & video)

October 10, 2018

After unsuccessfully chasing a rare Sabine’s Gull on Duluth, Minnesota’s Park Point, I realized how big the waves on Lake Superior were. I knew that the wind had been blowing hard all night, but I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together…Until I saw the flooding in Canal Park. The parking lot by Duluth’s canal and Marine Museum was already flooded and closed off. I parked as close as I could and skirted the floodwaters behind a hotel. Sheltering in a cluster of pine trees some 100 feet from the shoreline, I started snapping photos. Every few minutes, a series of bigger waves would roll in and explode around the East Pier Breakwall Lighthouse (photo below). I had to frequently turn my back on the lake and shelter my camera from the spray. I had rubber knee-high boots on and a rain coat, but it did little to protect me when a massive wave broke out of my peripheral vision and soaked me up to my waist. This wave must have been significantly bigger than the rest since up to this point only a couple times had the water even reached me. Time to go!

I headed up the North Shore for Tettegouche State Park. The huge rhyolite cliffs there are at a perfect angle for taking on the giant waves of a nor’easter storm. I called my photographer friend Paul Sundberg who intimately knows the photo opportunities on the North Shore (See his website here). It was no surprise that when he answered his cell phone I could hear the wailing wind in the background. He was already shooting the super-waves. He pointed me towards Crystal Bay on Lake Superior near Illgen City. He said the fall colors made for a unique shot since most big storms happen in late spring (no leaves yet) or during the “Gales of November” (leaves all gone). Paul is very generous with his info and I thanked him as we crossed paths at the spot. He’d already been shooting for a couple hours and was headed to find lunch. I took his spot.

The highest cliffs in these photos are about 80 feet tall I believe. That puts some amazing perspective to these monster waves. I took photos with my Canon 7D and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens, while simultaneously shooting video with my Panasonic GH5 on a tripod next to me. I didn’t record good audio just because I didn’t think about it. Wish I would have.Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4803

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4797

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/1600 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4759

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4779

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 180mm; 1/500 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4734

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 100mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4752

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4676

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 154mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom; processed in Lightroom]

Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4580

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4623

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Video shot with Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 50-200mm (depending on shot) on Benro tripod;  frame rates varying from 30fps to 180fps (super slow motion). Created in iMovie.

Video of my Bobcat Encounter

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!

Boreal Owl Bonanza!

First of all, let me say that Boreal Owls are the cutest bird in the entire world! About the size of a Kleenex box, nearly as wide as they are tall, the Boreal has bright yellow eyes with two black “tear drop” marks and a face framed by black. Immaculate white spots dot the forehead. This has been a great winter to see this most elusive of all owls in northern Minnesota.

Roughly every 4 years there is an increase in Boreal Owl sightings in Minnesota. Usually, late in the winter, a few may be spotted hunting in the daytime, which often means that they are hungry!…possibly starving. You see, Boreals are normally nocturnal hunters. So when voles are at a low cycle further north, the Boreals need to move in search of food. In late January of 2013 they started showing up in Sax-Zim and along the North Shore. Guide Chris Wood found SEVEN in one day along the Scenic 61 highway north of Duluth. This has been a huge IRRUPTION! (yes, irruption is the right word).

And since Boreal Owls are rarely seen, this influx of day-hunting Boreals is big news. Most of the folks I guide still need it for their life list. So irruption years become BUSY years for the local guides (and I’m no exception!). In fact, the tiny owl hadn’t even been recorded nesting in the Lower 48 until the spring/summer of 1978 when a Boreal Owl pair took up residence in a nest box in Tofte, Minnesota.

Here is a compilation of video from 4 different Boreals taken between January 27th and February 8th.

Boreal Owl Scenic 61 nr Stoney Point Duluth MN IMG_0074437
Boreal Owl preens nr Stoney Pt Scenic 61 St. Louis Co MN IMG_0074883
Boreal Owl Dodges Log Lodges Scenic 61 Lake Co MNIMG_0074823
Boreal Owl Dodges Log Lodges Scenic 61 Lake Co MN IMG_0074782
Boreal Owl sleeps Dodges Log Lodges Scenic 61 Lake Co MN IMG_0074762

All photos taken with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 lens. BUT note that the top photo was taken with the 400mm AND stacked 2x and 1.4x teleconverters! Don’t let anyone tell you that you should NEVER stack teleconverters…I did and the photo turned out all right I think.