Archive for Winter

Baskett Slough Sunrise

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , on January 25, 2016 by chamimage
Sunrise on Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Sunrise on Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

It was raining when I left home in Salem, Oregon yesterday. But, some of my best landscapes have come from stormy days so I set out for a drive, if nothing else. It had stopped raining by the time I got to Baskett Slough NWR. Fog shrouded the hill I wanted to hike and I usually like to check out the ponds first, anyway so went to the pull out at the narrows. I was just leaving when a huge dusky Canada goose blast off went up right to my left, out where this image was taken.

After a few experimental shots on the geese against the foggy hillside, none of which survived editing, I noticed the break in the clouds. I grabbed my 70-200 mm lens for a few landscapes. You can see the silhouette of a bald eagle just above the horizon on the right. He was apparently what had triggered the goose blast off. They fly over and watch for geese that can’t fly. Those geese are henceforth called breakfast. He had no luck with the geese, but as I finished with the landscapes I noticed he dropped something into the water. It was about right for for a coot carcass. Quickly another bald eagle swooped up the carcass. Then two more materialized to chase the bird with the food. While editing this image I could see the other eagles perched on trees out there.

Two weeks ago I photographed an adult eagle in the back part of the refuge. When it flew, I knew exactly where it was going by the direction it flew and found it again in an old snag on the hill I like to hike. Two weeks ago my hike produced no sightings of deer, which is unusual. I was starting to wonder if they had all died off from some disease or something, but yesterday I saw deer in every location I expected to see deer.

Stormy Sunrise

Stormy Sunrise

This image from 2006 is from the same angle, a bit tighter. Some of those trees have either fallen down or been cut. The bald eagles loved those trees so it is a shame. There is more plant growth now as the marsh is filling in, as they do. Didn’t get the color of the sun shining through a lsot this time. That was also Velvia film in 2006. That was another rainy morning when I went out, anyway.

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RIP #10

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by chamimage
Sleeping #10

Sleeping #10

“Numbers, as you know, are in some ways mischievous.”

V.V. Raman

Bull elk #10 was found dead today in Yellowstone National Park. Earning an ear tag number means you have been dealt with in some manner by the Park Service and #10 earned his tag by being a bit of a rascal.

He was found near his favorite winter hangout where he and a bunch of these big guys go on Blacktail Plateau. Wolves had been on the carcass, but he apparently had a broken leg so no one is sure if he was hit by a car first or what exactly happened.

I guess if a car hit him it might be a bit of an irony since he liked to thrash cars with his antlers during the autumn rut in downtown Mammoth, which is what earned him an ear tag. He was just taking over a tradition from old #6, who preceded him in Mammoth.

Old #6

Old #6

#6 is shown here the day after he got his antlers cut off (again) by the park service in response to the mischief he had made with cars evening prior to that. In fact I think I made both of the above images on the same day. #6 did not survive an entanglement with a fence a few years back. What must he have been feeling that day? One day you are the king of the world and the next day you are emasculated by the park service.  That’s rough. In their defense, the next year the park service worked more on people management and let him keep his antlers, but then they were criticized for their shepherding of people.

Winter Elk

Winter Elk

This is a very vulnerable time of year for these bull elk. They have lost their antlers, so are relatively defenseless except for kicking. They spend all of their time and energy courting females in the autumn so don’t go into the winter in the greatest nutritional health. Then they have to dig for dry grass beneath the snow all winter, as shown above.

The dormant grass they eat in winter is not nutritious enough to maintain their health so they are pretty nutritiously depleted by spring.  It may be spring here, but there is still snow in much of Yellowstone so they still haven’t had much nutritious food yet. When last seen alive #10 was looking pretty thin and wasted, but spring was so close around the corner there was hope he would make it.

Someone said he was seventeen years old. That means he was born in 1996. Elk are said to generally live ten to fifteen years in the wild so he was old.

Winter Elk

Winter Elk

If he was hit by a car then he has damaged his last car, but he probably suffered. I would like to believe maybe he broke a leg running from wolves. The Canyon pack was on Blacktail Plateau at the time, but he was found very close to the road so in all likelihood he was yet another casualty of the car wars. Please drive slowly in National Parks and wildlife refuges, especially from late afternoon to late morning. It’s a national park, what’s there to hurry about? Life is all about the journey, anyway. Why speed past the good stuff?

How Elk Scratch

How Elk Scratch

“La coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point.”

“The heart has its reasons which reason doesn’t understand.”  Blaise Pascal

You Can Never Go Back

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by chamimage
Sunrise on Tule Lake NWR

Sunrise on Tule Lake NWR

One of my goals for my trip to the Kalamath Basin a couple of weeks ago was to see if I could get a second chance at this landscape. I like the look and feel of it, but it is not sharp. I took about ten exposures and none of them were sharp. I am pretty sure I left the vibration reduction turned on on my 70-200 mm lens when I used it on the tripod – guaranteed to be blurry.

Sometimes I go through a mental check list in my head when I think a photograph may be really good. I call it the “What could I possibly be doing to totally screw this up?” list. I obviously didn’t bother on this particular morning. Probably not enough caffeine yet.

On the first morning in the refuge I headed for my landscape photo with a laser focus.

Lower Klamath NWR Sunrise

Lower Klamath NWR Sunrise

Then I stumbled onto this on the way. I figure an image on the compact flash card is worth two in the bush so I stopped.

Tule Lake Sunrise

Tule Lake Sunrise

Then I found this. Another bird in the hand.Of course by now the sun was too high for the landscape I had in mind. Maybe tomorrow.

I was back out early the next morning and almost made it to my destination…

Sunrise_Tulelake

Sunrise_Tulelake

I found this. Another bird in hand. I was close enough to my destination to realize that the conditions for the first photo above were not going to replicate themselves. The fog was consistently setting up altogether differently this year. You can never go back. That’s why you need the mantra the first time, “What could I possibly be doing to totally screw this up?”

One of my favorite quotes is from the late Galen Rowell ( a lot of my favorite quotes are from Galen Rowell so if you haven’t read his books, you should). He said “If it looks good, shoot it. If it looks better, shoot it again.” Meaning don’t trade your bird in the hand for a possibly prettier bird later. It may rain for days on end. The tree you are photographing may fall down.

Lakeside Snag

Lakeside Snag

I had shot this tree the year before from the same spot. I almost didn’t take this photograph because I already had one I was very happy with. But I was standing there with the camera and the tripod and it was just stupid not to take the photograph. It was better than my previous one. “If it looks better, shoot it again.”

Fallen

Fallen

And then it fell down. Nothing lasts forever, especially old rotting snags.

Tangentially speaking, Malheur Lake (technically it is a marsh) is so shallow that the lake expands and contracts dramatically from year to year based on rainfall, which differs markedly from year to year in the southeastern Oregon desert. This creates a significant shoreline area during drought years. This area of shoreline came into dispute during the Peter French cattle baron era in the late 1800’s. The cattle baron claimed he owned all of the land. The squatters in the community of Narrows (where this tree stands; it may have been planted by those settlers) that sprang up claimed that he only owned to the high water mark and that the land between the high water mark and the actual lake was up for grabs. I guess they assumed the lake would never fill up to the high water mark ever again? Anyway it all got so hotly contested that Peter French was shot dead by one of the homesteaders in the contested area. Some say that man just drew the short straw and was assigned to be the assassin. Others say he didn’t draw the short straw, but volunteered, anyway. He was not a nice man, but he was acquitted of the murder by a jury of his peers, mostly because his wife and baby would probably starve to death without him. He then wandered away, leaving his wife and baby to face a grim future alone. I love history.

Klamath Day 1

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2013 by chamimage
Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

On arriving in the afternoon I checked in at Klamath National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and found that there were no snow geese at Tule Lake, and only about 16,000 at Lower Klamath (there are about 59,000 white-fronted geese and 60,000 thousand swans). I assume that has to do with the amount of open, unfrozen water available (not much in either refuge). Naturally I decided to tool around Tule Lake. I don’t know why, I just wanted to.

I intended to take only 30-40 minutes driving around Tule Lake and then go scout the Lower Klamath refuge, but found an eagle eating a coot and then another eagle came and another eagle and my afternoon was shot. My memory of the bald eagles at Lake Coeur d”Alene in Idaho was that they were constantly fighting and stealing fish from one another. These eagles got along just fine. When the second eagle showed up and was allowed to eat on the coot I assumed it was the mate, but then the third adult came along. Maybe they have an alternative lifestyle. A raven was also allowed to pilfer at will, as long as it wasn’t right under a beak. I think there must be lithium in the water here.

All eagles left but the female. She seemed to be enjoying the spotlight and being photographed. Then I noticed the raft of coots was edging closer and realized she was waiting for them to get too close. They seemed incapable of preventing themselves from slowly coming closer, like some sort of momentum pushed them forward. She did finally make a play for them. I must not have seen the one she was going for, if it was a coot at all, because she stopped short and plunged into the icy slush short of open water. Something obviously dived. She came up empty.

On the way out I came across a refuge employee who informed me he had been photographing the sunset, and also that I wasn’t supposed to be in the refuge after sunset. So he was doing personal photography after sunset, but I’m not supposed to. Okay. I was thankful for my all wheel drive on the way out. There were mud holes.

On the highway back to Klamath Falls, just short of town, when I had long forgotten about being worried about hitting a deer, I saw a quick flash of an image of a coyote in my headlights in the opposite lane as I went by. Then I saw a semi barreling down in that lane. I tried desperately to find my light switch to blink my lights to warn him, but failed. I looked in my mirror, hands clenched in terror. The coyote was lit up by the semi headlights and he was standing stock still. Just as I braced for the impact, at the last possible nanosecond, the coyote took a step forward. Just one step. His tail must have dusted the side of that semi, it was that close. There was a car coming in my lane, the lane now containing the coyote, but it was too far behind me to see what developed. I’ll have nightmares about that damned coyote. It was really dark out there and having dust and mud on your headlights doesn’t help. Only a sliver of a moon this weekend.

‘Only’ 270 or so bald eagles here currently. The number always varies, depending on how foul the weather is north of here. Bad weather up north, 500 eagles here. There are still plenty of them to go around this year.

George Lepp is speaking at the Wild Wings Festival tomorrow night at Oregon Institute of Technology, but I have heard him talk twice in the past two years so chose to not have to hustle in from the refuge to clean up and eat in time to go. He now lives in Bend, Oregon so we are seeing a lot of him here.

The Balds

Posted in Photo Stories, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by chamimage

Bald Eagle Nest

I have been busy optimizing images from the Klamath Basin trip. I have posted a few of the bald eagle images here.

There were approximately 300 bald eagles in the Klamath Basin, which includes south central Oregon and northern California. I spent all of my time on the California side.

I photographed mostly the Tule Lake Refuge, but the eagle images in this post were all from the Lower Klamath refuge. The eagles are everywhere, but there are a couple of areas that were definitely hot spots.

This nest is a pair of local eagles that were doing some remodeling. Most of the other eagles were just here for the winter. The number of eagles depends on how nasty the weather is elsewhere. In severe winters more eagles come to Klamath, where it is relatively warmer and less deep snow.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I found a spot in Tule Lake where the eagles were hunting the snow geese pretty hard. I was told of a similar area in Lower Klamath that I didn’t have time to check out.

The eagles fly over the flock of geese, resulting in a massive blast-off of geese. The slowest goose, or the one who flies up into the eagle’s trajectory path, gets to be dinner. The injured and aged geese get culled out pretty quickly. The eagles seemed to be targeting the snow geese exclusively, even though there were more white-fronted geese in the refuges. Snow geese are smaller. I don’t know if flight speed has anything to do with it. Tundra swans ignored the eagles, though I did see a swan carcass or two during the trip.

When I photographed bald eagles on Lake Couer d”Alene in northern Idaho in winter they were feeding on spawning kokanee and there was no end of fighting and thievery going on. In Klamath there didn’t seem to be any of that. Even juvenile birds were left alone to feed on their goose carcass while other eagles sat patiently nearby. The only aerial interactions seemed to be acrobatics and play and not the fighting they were engaged in in Idaho. Perhaps the hunting is just easier in Klamath and there is no competition for food.

Bald Eagle in Flight

The eagles roosted in fir trees in a refuge that is accessible only by permission since the road crosses private property. I was in Klamath Falls during the Winter Wings festival and they did have daily trips to the roost early in the morning to witness the fly-out. They traveled to the site in buses and there was a fee. I wasn’t aware of the access problems so hadn’t signed up for the fly-out and it fills up quickly before the festival. From what I heard I don’t think I would have wanted to sacrifice one of my morning shoots for it, anyway, though it would be fun to see all of those eagles fly off. Perhaps if I was there for more days next time I would be willing to devote a morning to the fly-out.

I would encourage anybody who loves seeing bald eagles or likes birdwatching and doesn’t mind 14 degree temperatures and wind to attend the Wild Wings Festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon in mid February. There are all manner of field trips offered, both birdwatching and photography. The birds can be found on your own, but it may involve a bit of exploration on the first day. The hot areas are not obvious or on the outer parts of the refuge so involve driving on a lot of dirt roads. There was a few inches of snow on my last morning and I didn’t even try to drive on the refuge roads that day. The best bet would be to drive out into the refuge and sit with the windows open and listen for a goose blast-off and go to where the geese are. The eagles won’t be far away from the geese. You can stop by the Tule Lake refuge headquarters and ask about the eagle nest location and look through their spotting scope at the nesting great horned owl mama while you’re there. They close the road near the eagle nest after the festival so festival weekend is a good time to be there.

Klamath NWR Trip Update

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2012 by chamimage

Bald Eagle Nest

I am in Klamath Falls, Oregon this weekend for the Winter Wings Festival. The 33rd year for it, apparently. I dec ided to come down this year after seeing Arthur Morris’ great photos from here last year when he was a keynote speaker. I believe he got an honorable mention in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year contest with one or two of the photos.

This year’s keynote speaker last night was Darrel Gulin. I met Darrel in Svalbard a few years back when we spent nine days together on a Russian ice-breaker ship photographing polar bears, among other things. Great guy and it was a great presentation. He is doing some interesting things with bird feather photos these days.

The main attraction down here this time of year is bald eagles. I believe I heard there are about 100 of them here. They are gobbling snow geese like chicken tenders. You pretty much can’t swing a cat without hitting an eagle around here. I saw a couple of golden eagles today, as well.

I knew there would be snow geese and there are 55,000 of them at last count. What I didn’t realize is that there would also be about 88,000 white-fronted geese, and 39,000 tundra swans.

When the eagles fly over the geese they all blast off and the mix of the white and dark geese is a salt and pepper blast off, compared to the pure white blast off you get at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. The eagles eat the geese that don’t blast so good.

There are swans everywhere. The eagles fly over the swans and they glare at the eagle and dare him to even try it. They don’t even flinch.

This morning was overcast and freezing (literally) and windy. I couldn’t do anything right, but it didn’t matter because there was no good light and I didn’t miss anything. You know you’re having a bad morning when you have to drive back to town for Super Glue to fix your flash. It was getting so comically bad it was a good thing I had to stop for a while. Ithink I invented fourteen new ways to miss a shot. Getting wrapped up in the seat belt being just one example.

This evening was unbelievable. Good light and endless birds flying low right over me. Reviewing my images showed more softness than I would have preferred so I’m going to have to crank up the ISO and shutter speed tomorrow.

The star of the show here is a leukocystic bald eagle. He is tan colored. I saw him last night when he flew from a telephone pole before I noticed him. It was too dark for a photograph by then, anyway. I saw him again today in flight right over me. I thought it was an immature bald eagle until I saw him in the binoculars. He is gorgeous in flight from below. He flew off before I got the camera up. Maybe I’ll luck into a photo of him. There is a picture of him on the Wild Wings Facebook page.

It is supposed to be a cold one again tomorrow, only with fewer snow squalls. After the morning shoot I think I’ll set up downwind of the eagle’s nest a ways and photograph the eagles bringing nesting materials in. I like to give the nest lots of room and not spend much time close to it. They will close the road near it once the festival is over on Monday.

White-fronted Goose Blur

The blur on the above photo was intentional. The sun went behind a cloud on the horizon for a while so to occupy myself until the light was good again I slowed the shutter speed to 1/30th second and shot blurs. Obviously the sun came back a bit for this photo.

Recent Work

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by chamimage

Princess

I just wanted to post a couple of images that I’ve worked on recently that really rock my boat. The above image has gesture. I can’t define that, but I know it when I see it. It has color (though it actually looks pretty good as a black & white). I got some reflected light on her face, which really draws the eye right there, as if you needed me to point a face like that out.

Winter Elk

This photograph speaks to the minimalist in me. It is from a scanned film slide from 2005 and is just a great scan. The slide has sat unappreciated in my file cabinet for six and a half years. Diving into the old file cabinet is a bit like treasure hunting, you never know what jewels might be in there. I pulled it and scanned it to include in a submission to a magazine wanting photos of elk in snow.

It’s getting to be time to decide which images are going to end up as prints that will be entered in the state fair in September. These two are contenders.

We are getting into the dog days of summer where I don’t usually shoot as many new photographs…which is okay because there are still 2,175 images in my edit file I need to get around to.