Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Warm Winter Weather

There were a couple signs of approaching Spring at the Fontenelle Forest Wetlands today.  A flock of geese was flying north and our freezing weather was replaced with a 60 degree high.  The trails turned into a layer of mud but the lake was still completely frozen.

A Red-Tailed Hawk patrolled the sky overhead looking for lunch but wasn't having any luck.

Several kinds of woodpeckers were looking for insects that survived the cold winter.  This Red-Bellied Woodpecker landed in a near-by tree.

I watched this Red-headed woodpecker for quite a while but it didn't get very close.  It was moving from tree to tree with a regular pattern.  It didn't seem to be looking for food.  I think that it was looking for a mate.

The American Tree Sparrow was a challenge to photograph.  It stayed in a bush with hundreds of branches.  It was hard to get a clear view as it rapidly moved from branch to branch.

The stream was mostly ice covered.  I haven't figured out exactly what has happening at the edge of the ice.  The ice was white and water was running under it.  At the edge, portions of the ice turned black and then back to white.  At first, I thought it was trapped air that was moving under the ice.   After watching for a while, I think that it was some form of life, moving up to the edge of the ice.  It could have been fish, a turtle or just the hypnotic nature of running water.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Pair of Hawks

The cries of a Blue Jay alerted me to a problem in the back yard.  A hawk had been spotted.  All of the small birds around the bird feeders were gone.  I saw flapping wings and a red tail as the hawk spotted me nearing my kitchen window.  The hawk settled into a tree on the other side of the second hole of the Fontenelle Hills golf course.  He intended to wait for me to leave.

It didn't take long to set up my tripod, attach my camera and focus on the hawk.  Never underestimate the value of preparation and practice when fast action is required.  The hawk was still there.  In fact, it had been joined by another.

My kitchen window wasn't sparkling clean, but I took a few shots anyway.  I knew that the hawks would leave if they sensed any danger.  Even with over 100 yards of distance and over 30 vertical feet of loess canyon between us, they would remain cautious.

I knew I could do better without the window glass, so with several shots on the card, I decided to risk disturbing the hawks.  I set the camera up by my patio door and had my wife slowly open it until I had a view that was completely free of glass.  To my surprise, the hawks remained.  Unfortunately, the 20 degree outside air rushed in and the 70 degree air in the room rushed out,  The distortion caused by the differences in heat were worse than dirty glass.

I decided to risk moving outside.  My sun porch is next to the kitchen.   It is unheated and has a view of the backyard.  With considerable stealth I moved out to the porch and secured the screen door open.  One hawk flew away.  The other remained for a few more seconds before leaving as well.

I used a Canon 1D Mark IV with an 800mm lens for this photo.  The image above is cropped - its about 10% of the frame.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Rare Pileated Woodpecker

Today I photographed a rare bird in Nebraska - the Pileated Woodpecker.  It shouldn't be here - Nebraska is completely out of its range.  This isn't an undocumented vagrant that accidentally arrived.  It is excavating a nest and intends to stay.  

 The loess hills were formed from windblown glacial silt left over from the ice ages.  In Fontenelle Forest and the nearby area the loess provides a forest environment unlike any other found in Nebraska.  The Pileated Woodpecker likes what he finds here.  I'm amazed that I can photograph such a diversity  of nature so close to the urban environment of Omaha.