Fun Friday: Struttin’ His Stuff

From 2009, this male Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) is “booming” on a prairie “lek”, in north-central Missouri:

Greater Prairie Chicken male

“Booming” refers to the rather eerie noise the male makes, by filling his air sacs, then exhaling in several, short bursts. This behavior is performed to attract the females (hens) for mating. And the “lek” refers to the short grass prairie hill, where this attraction/mating behavior takes place. Prairie Chickens are a unique bird, requiring both tall grass prairies and short grass prairies to survive. The tall grass prairie is needed for nesting and cover for the young chicks, after they hatch. And the short grass prairie is required for mating; the short grasses make it very difficult for predators (coyotes, hawks, badgers, foxes, etc.) to sneak up on the chickens.

When this image was made, I was one of 3 tour guides who rotated around, taking visitors to a special blind for viewing of the prairie chicken’s behavior. 2009 was the last time we were able to provide tours, as the prairie chicken population had decreased to only a handful of birds. But Missouri has recently been involved with a program from neighboring Kansas, to bring in more chickens in an attempt to keep the population alive. Kansas, as anyone who has traveled through the state knows, still has a lot of prairies … and a rather large population of prairie chickens.  In fact, hunting of prairie chickens is still legal in Kansas. I’m hoping one of these days I will get a phone call asking to once again help with guiding visitors to the blind!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon1D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 500mm, f/4 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Wimberly gimbal head, captured from a blind
  • ISO 800
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/250 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2009, 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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It Doesn’t Get Any Better!

Today’s post comes from second trip to a blind at Rowe Sanctuary, on the Platte River in Nebraska. This blind visit was on my last evening on the Platte River and I still had one goal that hadn’t been reached … to capture cranes flying in front of the sun, or in front of a waning moon. As so often occurs, persistence paid off!

As we entered the blind on this last evening, I had a lot of doubts as to the photo opportunities we would have. A cold front was coming in (temperatures during the day reached 92F, which ended up at ~45F by the evening!), along with an extremely high winds (wind speed reached up to ~50 mph). So, I wasn’t very optimistic about having a chance to reach my goal!

As we settled in the blind, the wind was making the view quite distracting … the wind was blowing so much dust around that not only was the air “hazy”, but the birds seemed to be having a difficult time maneuvering overhead as they reached the Platte River:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

But as the sun began setting, the winds eased up a bit, although still windy. But this resulted in better views of the setting sun and the incoming cranes:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

As observed in the above photo, the cranes began moving around a lot, even after settling on the river. But things continued to get better! And finally … birds in front of the sun!

Sandhill Cranes returing to the Platte River to roost, as the sun sets

A few frames later, I captured what I was looking for (this next image was cropped a bit, to bring the view even closer):

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

So, no “bird over moon” shot, but I went home with my “bird over sun” shot  :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot from 460mm to 560mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Giottos ballhead, captured from a blind on the river
  • ISO 1600 (all photos)
  • Aperture f/16 and f/18
  • Shutter 1/400 sec. to 1/800 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Killdeer

One of the common birds found during my short visit to the Squaw Creek NWR last week, was the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). At one location on the refuge, the refuge road runs between two pools of water, both pools just feet from the road. As I drove this part of the road, several Killdeer would run back and forth, across the road. And when I would slow down to capture an image, they usually would start running down the road. This was a bit frustrating for me, but I finally managed to get one to sit still as I slowly pulled up close:

Killdeer

I managed several images of this guy, but they were so similar that I’m only showing the one above.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Handheld, with IS “On”, from my car window
  • ISO 500
  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter 1/160 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Ring-necked Ducks

On the way home from photographing the Sandhill Cranes on Nebraska’s Platte River, I made a short stop at the Squaw Creek NWR, located in NW Missouri. Bird numbers had been quite high in the days leading up to my visit (650,000 snow geese, 500 trumpeter swans, etc.), but the temperature had warmed so much that most of the birds had already left the refuge when I arrived. But I did find a few interesting birds, like this small group of Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) that was flying over the refuge waters:

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks

I always enjoy seeing these ducks migrate through, especially seeing the beautiful eyes of the drakes (males) against their dark heads.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 500 (all photos)
  • Aperture f/8 (all photos)
  • Shutter 1/800 sec. (all photos)

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Rowe Blind, Part 3

Today’s post concludes the first evening I spent in a Rowe Sanctuary blind on the Platte River in Nebraska, photographing Sandhill Cranes as they returned to the river for overnight roosting. If you missed the previous two posts from this blind, you can find them here:

As time moved past sunset, the sky exhibited some wonderful colors. At the same time, cranes began “falling from the sky” much closer to the blind I was in. Here are a few of my favorite images captured during this timeframe:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

At times, it seemed that someone needed to call Air Traffic Control for assistance:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Three evenings later, I spent another evening in this blind on the Platte River. During that evening, there was a strong cold front moving in from the northwest and winds were strong … up to 45-50 mph. This made it interesting as the strong winds were blowing so much dust around, there was no really colorful sunset. However, this resulted in some wonderful photo opportunities with a bright, golden sun. I’ll share some of those images in upcoming posts.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Giottos ballhead, captured from a blind on the river
  • ISO 5000 (all photos)
  • Aperture f/9 (all photos)
  • Shutter 1/125 sec. to 1/250 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Rowe Blind, Part 2

Following up on yesterday’s post, where Sandhill Cranes were returning to the Platte River to roost (“Rowe Blind, Part 1″), today’s post features images captured just minutes later, when the sun was below the horizon and the sky filled not only with beautiful sunset colors, but thousands of cranes:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost

Through these images, the cranes were all landing just a little ways upriver from my blind. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share some images of the cranes as they dipped right in front of the blind and landed even closer!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 220mm to 400mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Giottos ballhead, captured from a blind on the river
  • ISO 5000 (all photos)
  • Aperture f/9 (all photos)
  • Shutter 1/125 sec. to 1/160 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Rowe Blind, Part 1

One of the highlights of photographing Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River is photographing from one of the Rowe Sanctuary blinds. The blinds are located right on the Platte River and usually gives one a front seat to a wonderful morning, or evening with the cranes as they either leave the river (mornings) or return to the river (evenings) for roosting. The cranes roost in the shallow waters of the Platte River, where they are protected from predators like coyotes. My favorite time in the blinds is in the evening, where the sun sets out in front, or just to the side of the blinds, allowing for some wonderful photo opportunities (mornings can also be wonderful, but the rising sun cannot be photographed from the blinds).

Today’s post is one of several that I will publish from the blinds. In this post, the sun is not yet over the horizon, but very low. The entire area is softened with the wonderful light of the low sun. Here are a few of my favorite images captured as the cranes were beginning to return to the Platte River:

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Sandhill Cranes returning to the river to roost, as the sun begins to set

Early in the sunset, the birds were landing a ways upriver from the blind. But as the sun began to set, the cranes began landing closer to the blind. I’ll share some images of close-up cranes in upcoming posts.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 385mm to 560mm
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Giottos ballhead, captured from a blind on the river
  • ISO 400 (top photo only) to ISO 1600 (last 3 photos)
  • Aperture f/9 (all photos)
  • Shutter 1/320 sec. to 1/1000 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: The Dance of Joy!

Sandhill Crane jumping with joy

On my last full day along the Platte River, I continued my quest to capture some decent video of the Sandhill Cranes as they danced and jumped about in the cornfields. For the past few mornings, they would be dancing/jumping when I stopped the car on the roadway. But after pulling my camera up, they would stop! But today … finally! With time runnin’ out, I managed to find a large group of cranes that were having a lot of fun in the fields. Their behavior is downright awesome to watch … bowing to another bird, then a high leap into the air. I could just “feel” their enthusiasm for the new spring, and for life!

Here is a short video I captured of their cornfield behavior:

http://youtu.be/nONS10W2l_Q

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Handheld, shot from the car window to prevent frightening the birds
  • ISO 3200
  • Aperture not recorded
  • Shutter not recorded

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Fun Friday post, Nature Photography, Travel Photography, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Sandhill Cranes in Silhouette

Returned home last evening from a wonderful week on the Platte River in Nebraska. Thanks to everyone for all the shares, tweets and kind comments on the sandhill crane images I’ve been posting while away. And sorry I wasn’t able to keep up with the tweets … we stayed very busy with the cranes, shooting from sunrise to sunset.

Today’s post features a couple of sandhill crane silhouette images I captured from a blind on the Platte River. Around sunset, the cranes begin to return to the river where they roost for the evening. As light fades, this is a great time to capture silhouettes of sandhill cranes returning to the river. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Silhouetted Sandhill Cranes

Silhouetted Sandhill Cranes

 

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 450mm (top photo) and 560mm (bottom photo)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Giottos ballhead, captured from a blind on the river
  • ISO 1600 (top photo) and ISO 4000 (bottom photo)
  • Aperture f/8 (both photos)
  • Shutter 1/2500 sec. (top photo) and 1/450 sec. (bottom photo)

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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A Gobble Among the Croaks

During one of my morning visits to the Platte River for sandhill crane photography, I came upon a group of wild turkey. Two toms were displaying in front of about 8-10 hens. With the occasional “gobble”, it was quite a different sound than the raspy “croaks” of the sandhill cranes! Here are a couple of images I captured in the early, overcast morning:

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Tomorrow’s “Fun Friday” post will feature some more behaviors of the migrating Sandhill Cranes, and then I will be featuring a few posts of crane photography from one of the blinds at the nearby Rowe Sanctuary … including some awesome sunsets (quite common along the Platte River!) and thousands … lets make that hundreds of thousands … of sandhill cranes returning to the Platte River for roosting overnight.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 2500
  • Aperture not recorded, but likely f/8
  • Shutter 1/20 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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