I’ve decided to try the "52 Hike Challenge” this year. The goal is to get out and hike at least once a week for at least a mile. The soonest you can complete this is 52 days from the day that you begin. You can hike the same area each time or you can go out and discover new areas. I’ve notched one already as I hiked 1.45 miles of the John English Memorial Trail at Evergreen lake. 51 to go……
Stories of my adventures....
I love long exposure photography. Through the use of filters and experimentation, you can create some very beautiful images. I generally shoot at 20-30 seconds using a 10 stop neutral density filter. I adjust the aperture as I see fit. I came across this icy log on a recent hike. I loved the little stream running below and the way the light hit it was spectacular. You need a tripod and a remote shutter release to do this right. I also block my viewfinder to stop any light that may leak in during the exposure.
This image was shot at 20” @f/11 ISO 100
Last year, I decided to embark on a “little” quest where I would document, via photographs, all of the life forms along a .3 mile stretch on the south end of my beloved Evergreen Lake. It went well and was quite enjoyable. I’m way behind on editing photographs though. I hope to catch up in the coming weeks. I’m going to continue doing this instead of limiting it to just one year. I will now call it “Life Innumerable”. There are still a few creatures who have eluded me as well as many trees that need to be documented. I will post occasional updates.
This past weekend I participated in the 119th annual Christmas Bird Count (though it was only my 10th). Up until 1900, hunters would go out and shoot as many birds as they could. The person with the largest pile would be declared the winner. Finally, an ornithologist named Frank Chapman decided to do a bird census on Christmas Day instead. It continues to this day and grows more each year. It is a great way to protect species and their habitats. Locally, our groups counted 59 species which was down from last year. Foul weather in November may have pushed some species out of the area. The weather was perfect! I’ve added a few images of some birds that couldn’t avoid be counted. I often get Sandhill Cranes late in December- this was a first for our count circle.
American Bald Eagle
When, I get bored, I dig around through my images and find some new ones to edit. I wanted to share this image of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird who visited my yard in late summer/early fall. I often have several hanging around for a month or so as the Trumpet Vine and Zinnias are in full bloom. You may notice the pollen on his bill (this is an immature male) as well as a white substance on his head. The white powder is simply a build up of pollen. Obviously, he has gone quite deep to find the sweet nectar that he requires to make the long, upcoming journey.
Winter. I love it. Some birds love it as well. Yes, there are actually birds who call our area home during the coldest of months. One- the Lapland Longspur, nests in the very northern parts of Canada on the open tundra. They come south a bit to hang out in open fields. These birds, along with Snow Buntings and Horned Larks are generally the ones who fly up from the edges of rural roads. Sometimes they can mess with you as they drop into corn stubble and, quite simply, just disappear.
I find this time of year quite enjoyable. The sunrises are often spectacular and I don’t get bitten by bugs! I also have great luck finding owls. I found four different Barred Owls over this past weekend- photographed 2, passed on one, and had another not quite as cooperative. I also love seeing the bucks strutting their stuff. The guy I photographed had a doe nearby. I got to hear a few grunts out of him as I took a few shots….stay hidden buddy- not everyone is like me.
A few years ago, a wayward Rufous Hummingbird showed up in a small town about an hour away from me. I didn’t chase it. I’ve regretted that decision ever since. About a week ago, a lady reported another on at her feeder in a small town 20 minutes to my north. I managed to get there in the late afternoon on Saturday to get my first ever views. It was awesome and the homeowner and I spoke for a bit. Sunday morning it snowed. I ventured back to her home to see if I could get a shot that I had imagined from the previous day. I sat and waited for about twenty minutes-no sign of him. The home owner then came out and brushed the snow off of the feeder- boom! Our little visitor came right to the feeder! I waited. Finally, he landed where I had envisioned. I got my shot.
Rufous Hummingbirds are tough little guys. They nest farther north than any of our other hummingbirds- all the way into Alaska. Hang in there little guy.
Talkin’ Birds is a weekly podcast that I listen to as well as promote during my birding class. After writing him, he gave my website a little promotional time. Thanks Ray!
Instead of a "Photo Big Year" centered around birds, my newest quest is to photograph all forms of life that call my favorite area home. This area- south side of Evergreen Lake encompassing 6 Mile Creek- is where I spend so much time. It is .3 miles from Shady Hollow to Redtail Trail. I have seen so much there that I have decided to try to document it over the next year. I may question myself as things pick up in warmer weather, but my mind works in strange ways. I will keep a list going on here with occasional updates. I will probably post most of my images in an album on Facebook.
Geez. Here I go.....
One of my favorite podcasts is "The Art of Photography". One recent photo assignment was for the topic "red". Of the over 1500 images submitted by viewers, I had one featured on this episode.
I ended the month of January with 57 different species photographed. It's been a very mild winter with almost no snow. I need snow in order to have a better chance at certain birds. I have photographed 3 birds already this year that I was unable to get in my previous attempt in 2014- Hairy Woodpecker, Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl. It's nice to see owls at any time- it's even better when you have your camera along. I'm hoping that February is as fruitful.
Starting on January 1st, 2017, I will begin my Photo Big Year- I will see how many species I can photograph over a years time. You can follow my progress here and by clicking the link at the top of the page.
Look up. You never know what you'll see.
I was photographing swallows with a friend on a quiet Sunday morning recently when the sun went behind some clouds. My friend says " you can come back out now Mr. Sun." As I often do, I looked up to see when the cloud would pass and we would again be in good light. When I looked up, I saw something soaring way up among the clouds. I raised my camera to get a better view. The first thing I noticed was it's tail. I shouted out "It's a @$#&!*# Swallow-tailed Kite" as I shot some pictures for proof. I reported this rare bird via ebird. I have since found out that this is the first recorded sighting of this bird in McLean county.
I enjoy podcasts. Birding. Comedy. Photography. All of these topics interest me. When played through my earbuds, they make a work day go a bit quicker. I recently asked a question to a podcaster that I listen to. He was kind enough to answer it as well as promote my website.
Here it is.....around the 9:00 minute mark.....
While most birders depend upon plumage for bird identification, occasionally you run across an abnormally "marked" bird. Leucism can partially or fully effect an individual. It is simply a genetic defect that causes a lack of pigmentation. I discovered this male Northern Cardinal last year at Evergreen Lake. He still resides in the same area and has seemingly found a mate. I call him "Paleface" and check in on him regularly.
I was the appointed leader for the Sunday morning bird walk at Ewing Park. We had a fairly small group in attendance but, despite the persistent fog, we managed to come out in the end with 33 species. We had great looks at a Canada Warbler right as we entered the park. This was my lifer view as this bird has eluded me for years. A few of us got an awesome view of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and then we all got to hear it vocalize. This too was a first for me. Black and White Warblers were the birds of the day- they far outnumbered any other species there. It's getting quite warm so migration may be on hold for a bit. I hope to see them again soon.