Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bring on Spring!

Spring has for sure arrived finally. I have been busy with our new chihuahua puppy Jack, planting my flower garden and pots, and enjoying time spent outdoors on my patio watching and listening to all the bird activity. I've also been attempting to get some practice in on my 'new' camera and have finally deciphered how to shoot in manual and set my own aperature and shutter speed. I am also trying to master my tri-pod. One would think it would be a simple device to operate, but it can be tricky with all of its knobs. So even though I have not taken any spectacular shots lately, I have been getting in a bit of practice for when that perfect shot opportunity arises! Here is the relaxing view from my patio this last weekend.

This afternoon I heard some commotion outside and went to check. It was two male Mallard ducks 'discussing' some business. I thought it might be a fun picture, so grabbed my camera. By the time I got back, the discussion was over, but there were now three male Mallards, and another unidentified duck. They were far enough away that I knew the pictures wouldn't be the greatest, but took a few snaps anyways. The unidentified duck turned out to be either a female or young male Common Goldeneye. I'm gonna assume it was a female given the behavior of the three male Mallards!

Every time I leave my house or come home, I drive by a particular Red-necked Grebe's 2nd annual nest atop of a floating orange life jacket. It's nothing fancy, but seems to provide these pair of grebes a suitable nest each year. I was excited to get pictures this year since I have a better zoom camera now. I parked my car behind the cabin that the nest is by, and used the cabin as a blind while I adjusted all my settings. Zoomed right in on this pretty lady duck, as she sits on her nest. Her mate is never too far away. The nest is only about 25 or 30 feet from the shore. I'll be looking forward to seeing the baby chick. Only thing is, once the chick hatches, they are off to explore the lake and will no longer hang around the nest. My main chance to get pictures of a baby grebe riding on it's parents back will be in my bay with the resident grebes nest there each year. They defend the bay as their own most of the summer. I think I saw a grebe possibly nesting on the island when I looked through the binoculars the other day. The bay pair I was just talking about was over by the island squabbling and raising a rucus. As I looked through the binoculars, I saw a grebe (I think) ON the island. Maybe I can confirm that at a later time.

We are gearing up for the big Memorial Day weekend here at the lake. The official beginning of summer. Actually, it is just the beginning of the busy season, when all the summer neighbors show up. After the long winter, it is good to see everyone. By the summer's end, it's good to see them go and have the place to ourselves again! The weather is not supposed to be great this weekend, of course. When is it ever great on a holiday summer weekend? So we are in for 60'ish and 40% chance of showers. Enjoy your Memorial weekend!

Monday, April 25, 2011

I ♥ Faces Photo Challenge | Happy Easter!

Look what the Easter Bunny brought! Meet Jack E. Cheez, our new chihuahua puppy. Jack is feeling right at home, and we are so enjoying this lil' guy. When I saw that I ♥ Faces was doing a pet photo challenge this week, I knew I had to enter this photo! This is my first entry at I ♥ Faces, but I am a frequent visitor and admirer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Bird Day!

Yesterday was the best bird day! Yep, that's what I mean when I say "Happy Bird Day", nobody's birthday or anything. After enjoying the snack fest between Bruchi's the Heron and the otter yesterday, I continued to have some great bird moments throughout the day. I had been wondering how long it would take the Osprey to catch on to the un-netted fishpen, and take a dive into the pen. Not long at all! As I stepped out onto my balcony to get a better look at a loon (my first of the season), I heard the giant splash, and as I look over to the fishpen, the Osprey emerges from the water and flies off. It didn't look to me like it had a fish. But hey, it was the first try. I'm sure there will be more attempts. Also, new to the bay yesterday was a swarm of American Coot. I love these tiny funny ducks. They always hang in a huge crowd. They duck, and splash, and play around in the water and are a joy to just watch. Here's a bit of video for you to appreciate the experience. Much better than just a photo. Of course, the highlight to my day was the Heron and the Otter snacking on fish together. (See yesterday's blog for video) I also got a video of just the otter eating a fish. It is such a treat to have this guy visiting our bay again. Never, in my life on this lake have I seen an otter before this one came last fall. Probably won't be the last time we'll see him. I have a feeling he'll stick around as long as the fish pen is here. They usually release the fish in May sometime. So until then, I will enjoy my little friend the otter and watch him gorge himself on free fish!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Visitors at the Fishpen Buffet

Last night I happen to look out my window, and saw something on the skidock. It was really dark out, but I immediately thought it could be our friendly otter that we haven't seen since before the ice formed on the lake last winter. Sure enough, it was our fella! I watched him through the binoculars as he preened himself and snuggled down on the dock, looking like he was gonna hold up there for the night and have a nice sleep.

Well, first thing this morning when I got out of bed, and looked out my window like I do every morning. There was a swarm of American Coot, probably 100 of them out in the bay. Bruchi's the Heron was at the fishpen as usual. I was also watching an Osprey flying around the area. The Osprey returned just a week ago or so, to inhabit their nest for the summer, which is just a few trees away from our house. Around and around the Osprey flew, finally choosing to land in a tree right in front me. I suspect that the Osprey will eventually catch on to the fishpen's lack of netting and take a dive into the pen for a snack. If you recall, during a wind storm this winter, the netting blew down and had to be removed. This opened the way for many visitors to sneak in and steal a fish, or two, or three! I wonder how many of the 10,000 fish that were planted will be left when they go to release them in May?

Within a couple of minutes, my Otter friend appears and swims up to the fishpen to visit Bruchi's and share some breakfast. He climbed right up on the pen, just a couple of feet from Bruchi's, dunked down in the water, and imerged with a fish! I sat there and watched the two catch fish after fish and gobble them down together. I snap a couple of photos from my balcony, and take a quick video.

Deciding this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I decide to quickly dress and get my shoes on and take the tripod and camera down to the beach to take better photos/videos. I sneak around the pucker brush, and behind our neighbors boat house. Realizing that I forgot the mount for the camera for the tripod, I find something to lean on for a steady hand. I see Bruchi's, but not the otter. I take a quick photo. Then the sun came out and lit up the scene just perfectly! I snap a couple more photos before my husband, who is off from work today decides to come down there for a closer look. He just comes waltzing across the beach and kept walking towards the dock after clearing the boat house I was hiding behind. I was like "What are you doing"?!?!?! He slips behind a tree, as the bird flies off... Ah, too late dude, you already scared him off. I was not pleased with hubby at this point. The otter was no where to be found either. Grrrrr.... Here is one of the sunny photos I managed to get before he scared off my damn bird!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still waiting for Spring

I'm still waiting for Spring to come. Yes, officially Spring has been here for a few days. But I continue to see snow and rain just about every day. As soon as the ground clears, another snow storm will be upon us. The lake is still frozen over. I should be happy that the ice on the ground is clearing and at least I can walk around some places outside, and I can park my car down our steep driveway again. I am anxious, to get out with my camera and enjoy the warm weather and the photo opportunities that it will bring. Flowers and birds, birds and flowers. Blue skies! No coats, or boots, or gloves. Today, it looked sunny outside, but you culd still feel the chill out there. But I could not wait any longer. My friend the Great Blue Heron had been at the fish pen for some time today. So I grabbed my camera, the tripod, and a jacket and ventured outside. I snuck around the neighbor's puckerbrush so as to not alert my subject. Tip-toed behind the boat house and set up shop. I even went high tech and got out my new iPhone with the iBird app and played GBH vocals and calls. He knew I was there, and kept a watchful eye on me. That eye was my focus. I only had a few minutes of battery and had lunch cooking in the microwave, so I decided to try and get a flight shot. I moved up a few feet, and then proceeded to make a fool of myself with awkward vocals and calls of my own. It worked, because off he flew and landed out on the ice. I pretty much missed the action, so I packed up and went back inside for lunch. The rest of the day, I watched from inside, my friend spent the entire afternoon there. Never did see a fish being caught. I really do love how cool his beak looks here. Very appropriate for catching fish.

I decided I really must name my Great Blue Heron friend since he is a daily visitor. The name "Blue Cheese" came to mind. But it is a little too literal, so I decided on "Bruchi's", which is a local restaurant and a play on Blue Cheese. So everyone, meet "Bruchi's".

I also used my new iBird app to identify a new bird that I saw a couple of days ago. Whenever I go to town, there is a certain fence in the Half Moon area that I always watch for birds. So far, I have added three life birds to my list by watching this fence. The first bird was a Say's Phoebe, then a Western Meadowlark, and now a Northern Shrike. A gray bird with a black mask. Simple enough to ID. An interesting fact about the Northern Shrike is that it is also known as the "Butcher Bird" because it stores food for later by impaling it on a thorn or barbed wire. The following is NOT my picture. Just posting so you could see what a Northern Shrike looks like.

My life list is now at 89. My goal is to get to 100! Of course you know I won't stop there. My life list is on the right, be sure to check it out! How many of these birds have YOU seen?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rain or Shine, Sleet or Snow...

Just when I thought spring was on its way, we get hit with a monsterous snowstorm. Today, the snow was especially thick with huge flakes coming down. I could not see the island or the cabins across the bay. Through the snowstorm, I could see our favorite fish pen attendant, the Great Blue Heron. A daily visitor come rain or shine, sleet or snow, the heron sits quietly for hours on end, waiting for his opportunity to snap up a fish or two. Shortly after I took this video, he caught a fish! Every time I see a heron swallow a fish, I wonder how that would feel, with that fish swishing around in your stomach? How long do you think it takes for the fish to quit flopping around? And how does it feel to poop out those fish bones? Yikes!

So here I sit, dreaming of springtime, when I can get out in the neighborhood and really enjoy my new camera. Meanwhile, I am having fun with my new iPhone, hanging with my favorite pets, Boof, Cubby and Stan. Next week Cub & Boof go in for their shots. That should be fun.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Moose Rescue Video

A couple of years ago, my husband and lake neighbors saved a mamma moose who had fallen through the frozen ice on the lake. I mentioned it in an earlier blog. I had posted a video of the rescue on YouTube, and occassionally will get a comment on it. Out of the blue, I get an email yesterday from a TV producer from the UK (Southern England). They produce a series called "Real Rescues" and are wanting to start a new series about animal rescues. They would like to use my moose rescue video for their program. After thinking, "Is this for real"?, I checked out the company, confirmed their validity and emailed back the gal. She assured me it was legit. The program is still in its early stages, but she said if the budget allowed, they might even come interview us. They want all of the footage that I have, which includes video of the baby calf that was with the mamma moose that day.

Anyways, it's kind of exciting! If you haven't had a chance to see the incredible footage (and even if you have), be sure to check it out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Walk This Way...

My friendly neighborhood Great Blue Heron was helping me test out the video capabilities on my new camera. Figured out right away, that the settings were not right. Next time I will shoot at a higher speed. This one looks like it's in slow motion and a bit jerky. But, I still love this video of the Great Blue Heron walking on the ice to the fish pen. They are so graceful! If only I could figure out how to get some still photos from this clip of the heron creeping around the edge of the fish pen.
OK, so I tried and tried to upload the video, but it is 9MB's too large! Wahhh! I don't have a way to edit it and keep it in an uploadable format.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mid-winter Blues

I don't know about you, but I've had about enough of winter. Spring has been on my mind lately. Ice covers the ground and the lake. Well, almost all of the lake. The neighborhood fish pen stays unfrozen, as they keep the water moving inside the pen. So like I've said before, there is a Belted Kingfisher that hangs out at the fish pen, and catches a snack or two every day. Now the last couple of days, we have a new visitor to the fish pen... a Great Blue Heron! It's an unusual time of year to see one of these magnificant birds here on the lake. I am loving the added wildlife and birds that have been attracted by the fish pen. If you haven't already, check out the otter that visited before the ice took over the lake in my earlier blog. This Great Blue Heron spends hours patiently waiting on the ledge of the fish pen. And I have spent quite some time patiently waiting for the heron to do something exciting like catch a fish! I have seen it about to strike, but then doesn't. I couldn't get quite close enough on my balcony to get a decent shot, so I decided today to get my boots on, and some warm clothes and head outside with my camera and tripod. Now this is quite the feat, because it is very icy around my house, and now we have a new cover of snow, so it's hard to see where exactly the ice is. So I grab my ski-pole, and head out with my gear. Unfortunely, the little dog gets out when I open the door to get my tripod through. Darn it, I didn't want the dog to scare the bird. But I continue on my task, and head across the icy ground and sneak behind the bushes and hide behind a boat house on the beach. Here I set up my tri-pod and get all focused in on my special winter visitor. I snap a couple shots. Maybe half a dozen, and our big dog comes to see what's up. Oh hello! I see you are trying to photograph that big bird over there... Let me help by running out on the ice and scaring him off! Do you think I might have been lucky enough to get a flight shot? No, no, no. I was in the middle of saving a 7-shot series, and missed the window of opportunity. Thanks doggy!

Well, at least the shots were a little better than the ones way up from my balcony. I still plan to stalk this fella to get a better shot. Would be nice if the weather wasn't quite so gloomy!

After the dogs had scared away my chances of getting any more heron pictures for the time being, I still wanted to take advantage of being out in the snow in the woods. So I set up my tripod on the patio and decided to get a few shots of the Red-breasted nuthatches that were at my suet feeders. There were 4 of them there at one time, how fun! Do you think I could get a shot of them, before little dog, and his Unlce kitty ran over to the tree and off went the nuthatches. Next time I will have to be more careful about the pets getting outside! But hey, they were excited about the bird visitors too! Little dog barks at the birds when he sees them outside. All is not lost, there is a Song Sparrow that has been in the gang with the nuthatches, and it is still in the bushes. I take a couple of crappy shots of it, before I hear a Raven overhead bickering at it's partner. This causes the Song Sparrow to freeze and hide behind the branches for a couple of minutes or more. The Raven takes off, and down the tree comes a Downy Woodpecker. They seem to hang with the nuthatches and the sparrow, all of them coming to the feeders at the same time. I am happy to be on the patio, with the tripod and the camera all ready to go. Didn't last long with my friends the pets outside. Oh well, it was an adventure that I enjoyed. Got me out of the house, and was good for the winter blues.