My last blog goes all the way back to November! What happened?? I'll tell you...I hatched an idea and it took much longer to follow through with it than I ever imagined. You see, every now and then I get asked why I don't sell my photos or asked if I could get some prints made for people. My idea was to add a store to my site so that people could buy prints, mugs, canvas wraps, etc. I had the hardest time trying to figure it out and finally decided to hire someone to build this store for me. I made my initial payment on December 28th and was excited that in, according to the contract, I'd have a store in 2-3 weeks. Perfect! The next blog would be to introduce the store. Well, 2-3 weeks turned into March. Very frustrating. I won't get into that whole thing except to say that if I want work done on my site again, I will figure it out for myself. F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-I-N-G!!
The store is now live and while I honestly don't expect to make any sales, it will be there for those interested. I still have a great deal of pictures to add and if you see something that is not in the store and you would like to purchase it, let me know and I will see if it's doable. Why would you not be able to purchase a product? Well, it could be that the picture is heavily cropped and that to get you a good quality print in the size you want would distort the photo and you would not get a print of the quality you would want (or that I would want you to purchase). I go through each photo that is in the store to be sure that they are of the quality needed to make a great order!
The orders are printed and shipped directly from Order A Print. They say that orders will be delivered to you in 12 working days. I did a test order to see what they are like. I ordered 3 different canvas wraps, a metal print, and a framed print. Part of the order arrived in 10 days and the rest on the 13th day. Everything was packaged extremely well and the products were as they should be! Note, this did fall over the Easter holiday, so that may have made a difference in the 13 day delivery. If you have any questions, please contact me!
Let's start all the way back to when it snowed - no, not April 20, way before that!
It was one of those heavy, wet snows and the woods never looked so beautiful. I remember the ride out was a lot longer than normal, but the trip was well worth the effort.
Mr. and Mrs. Great-horned Owl didn't seem all to thrilled about the snow. Matter of fact, the Mrs. gave me a big Bah-Humbug and turned her back to me! More on these two a little later.
This past winter really was the winter of the owls. The Snowy Owls always seem to be the big draw, especially when they show up early in the year.
Those eyes! They really are a special treat. Something I've learned along the way about Snowy Owls is that, while we typically associate owls as being nocturnal, the Snowy hunts in both day and night. Makes sense since it's home range has periods of nearly 24 hour darkness and 24 hour daylight. We had reports this year of one as far south as Georgia!
Most of the time when I am out and about looking for owls or birds of prey, I am alone. This past winter my son asked, somewhat out of the blue, if he could come with me to look for Long-eared Owls. He is not the early bird I am, but he got up and was ready to go, on time. We headed to a mid-Michigan area where I had seen one the weekend before. It wasn't looking good for a while there and so we split up. I was nearing the end of the area I was covering and had stopped to check the big field for Northern Harriers. As I turned around and made my way past the last evergreen, something caught me eye. There it was, deep in the tree near the trunk. We stared at each other for a minute before I raised the camera for a quick photo. I backed slowly away and went to get my son. Keeping our distance as to not flush the bird, I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to point it out to Matt. Not until he used the binoculars could he spot it. His response, "Wow, how the heck did you see that?"
In addition to the owl, he got to see two Bald Eagles feasting on a deer carcass (cameraman was slow, missed the pic, oops!) and a male Northern Harrier, also known as a Gray Ghost. The picture isn't all that great and covered quite a distance, but I finally got he male. Having a second set of eyes with me really helped. He was the one that spotted it.
A favorite spot in southern Michigan brought the good fortune of another Long-eared Owl.
Back north to check on another owl sighting. This time it was a Short-eared Owl. These guys always seem to pop up right at dark, making photographing them a real challenge. But this day was different. I couldn't believe my eyes when this bird sat right there for me.
I've made multiple trips back to this area and have not had any more success for the Shorties. I did, however, find that the area holds a great number of Rough-legged Hawks! A winter-time visitor, these birds are just awesome. The Rough-legged hawk, Ferruginous Hawk and Golden Eagle are the only American Hawks to have fully feathered legs down to their toes.
With so many hawks around, I got to wondering what they were all hunting. It didn't take too long to figure out...
I have never seen so many wild pheasants in my life. Every evening they would start out of the heavy brush in the fields and start to forage for food. Those hawks and owls were eating very well!
A special treat this past winter was a Mink that was busy collecting fish for it's family. It appeared once the little pond in the area had froze up. It would make a few holes in the ice and dive in one and pop up in another. It didn't seem bothered by the guy with the camera, but would never give a good look when it had a fish. Next year little Mink, next year!
Every now and then we get that visitor to Michigan that just leaves you scratching your head. Well into the winter months, a Glossy Ibis was hanging out in the Saginaw Bay area. These birds are usually found in wetlands and marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It was off course for sure, but healthy and eating and flying. Then one day, gone.
Until February, we really didn't have that bad a winter. The lakes had, for the most part, stayed open. It did not help me much in the way of photographing migrating ducks. By the time Lake St. Clair froze, most ducks were already back in the big waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Common Redpolls were abundant this winter. I guess most would say it looks like a sparrow, but they just have a different quality about them.
The Horned Larks were along the roadside near the Short-eared Owl location. Not sure what it was picking up there, but must have been important to twist it's neck around like that!
Unlike their traveling companions, the Common Redpolls, the Snow Buntings this year were elusive. Below is one of only 3 I saw the entire winter.
The Dark-eyed Junco is a fairly common visitor to Michigan in the winter months. Chances are, if you have a feeder and seed on the ground, you will eventually have a Junco come visit. They come in a variety of shades of grays, blacks and browns.
Sometimes it's the unexpected visitor that makes your day! Seems this year I have had better luck finding them when I am not using a call than when I am!
As always, the usual suspects were a part of the trips.
If you remember, last Spring I had a Wood Duck that was hanging around my yard and roosting in the tree next door. We have no water, no pool, nothing. We live in the city. Bigger than average city yard, but a city yard none the less. So imagine my surprise when, as I was walking out to my car, I had a hen turkey in my yard! She was feeding under the bird feeders. I went in the garage and grabbed some corn, threw it out for her and she came running toward me. She roosted in the tree over the garage for the night, but was gone the next day when I got home from work.
Obviously the turkey told the ducks about the corn because TODAY these three showed and again were very happy when I threw out a few handfuls of corn. This is actually the 2nd time they have been in the yard this week. The funniest part is that the dog just walks right past them. My thoughts on the dog I will save for another day....
The biggest surprise this Spring has been the Eastern Screech Owl that came to visit us for 3 days in April. It would sit in that spot all day long, then as night moved in, off it would go to find some food. I had really hoped it would nest there, but one evening it took off and did not return.
This was not in my yard, but the way things are going, maybe one day it will be!
A few people have asked about my equipment and so below is one of my camera bodies on a Canon 500mm F/4 lens. The body is the Canon 1D Mark IV. This is my typical wildlife photography setup, although lately I have been using a 5D Mark IV body. The camo lens cover, made by LensCoat, isn't really for "hiding" the lens, it's more for protecting it as I stumble through the woods and try avoiding a face plant in the marsh.
LensCoat makes some great gear for wildlife photographers. Recently I bought a "blind" from them. It's really more a sheet with a drawstring hole for the lens and a mesh top for me to see through. Have to give them a little credit, it's the best blind I have ever owned! I used it 3x and each time I have had waterfowl landing at my feet. I have no idea why this is any different than a pop-up blind, but I can't wait to try it out of other critters!
Remember Mr. and Mrs. Great-horned Owl back at the beginning? Well the other day I past by and saw both adults once more. One gave me a partial shot and the other was in no position for a photograph.
They were both near a new nest they have made and inside was a little, shy owlet.
The Great-horned Owls have been a big hit this Spring. A friend found a different nest, not far from here, on March 14th. He has been out practically every morning since, documenting the two owlets that have hatched from that nest. I feel very fortunate to be one of the few people he trusted enough to tell about this nest. I have yet to get a picture of the male owl, but the female is around almost all the time. My friend has named them. Mom is Wink, as she has only one eye! The owlets are Flap and Jack. The father is called Hunter, as he is constantly being hunted after by us photographers!
These last two photos were taken last weekend as they had fledged the nest. I wasn't going to go out, but I got that 6am phone call and the voice on the other end said, "You need to get out here, NOW." We will try to keep track of them as they will be with Mom and Dad for a while yet, but as the leaves on the trees bud out and they move deeper into the woods, it will get very difficult.
As I was headed home that day, two Tom Turkey caught my eye. I had one on each side of me. Naturally the one that was poorly lit was the one strutting and showing off and the other, while lit perfectly, would not do a dog-gone thing! That's the great outdoors for you!