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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shots from the weekend: 40 degree temps in December? & Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge


Well, I mentioned on last Sunday's entry it looked like we were going to lose our snowpack and we did. Now we have A LOT of water on the ice, mud, and hardly any snow. The only snow left is where it drifted in the trees or into deep ditches. Back to square one.


With the crappy conditions I wasn't very motivated to look for critters. The snow makes it much easier to see the animals or at least find tracks to know where to start looking. 0-2 with the brown ground now.


Foggy, dark, and dreary for sure but the swans didn't seem to mind. Sometimes in conditions like this, black and white photography works, so...



I got antsy to at least get out of the house. There was no real fall migration to speak of in western Minnesota and I totally missed the spring flight so I figured it was a good time to run over to the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge near Odessa and see what was going on.


The correct answer here would be "not much". I saw one red tail hawk and a tundra swan destined to be coyote food as it didn't appear to be able to fly and was a long ways out on the ice. There were a lot of muddy furbearer tracks though. With the fog getting worse by the minute, I didn't hang around too long. I was hoping to stay until dark when the critter would be out but it just wasn't in the cards. The highlight of the day was seeing golfers out on a course near Winsted in the morning.


Ever wonder what the Yellow Bank River looks like in B&W? Here you go.

Looks like some freezing rain changing over to maybe 3" of new snow tomorrow. At least it will cover up the brown a little. I really want to start heading north into my more traditional areas but I need some help from mother nature as the snowpack (or lack of) is just a dismal at the time.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Shots From the Weekend - Barred Owl, Swans, and Deer!

Salvaged one day out of the weekend for a little photo fun. With temps around 30 it made for a nice day to get a December hike in.


Saturday started out with checking out some of the flocks of trumpeter swans working the fields by our home.


Lots of birds in the air working the corn stubble and soy beans.


The rolling fields made for some interesting perspectives at times.


Including birds flying straight at me as I sat in a snow filled ditch.


In the afternoon, my wife and I decided on a 2.5 mile winter hike along the river to see if there were any deer left or if they had moved up to the woodlots for the yarding season. Quite a few eagles on the drive over.


Not too far into our hike Melinda spotted a barred owl along the trail.


Shortly after we did find a few groups of deer moving towards late in the afternoon. Although we didn't see any big bucks, it was still fun to watch. At one point the little buck in the close up above decided to have a stare down with me. Pretty funny as I would stomp one leg to mimic what they do and we would bob and weave his head if I did that and put my arms over my head like antlers.


The weirdest thing was we saw two deer which appeared to be bucks which have already shed their antlers this winter. Seems early by a month or so.


The hike ended as the day had begun...with an eagle. This one was keeping watch over a pool a bunch of common mergansers we keeping open.


On Sunday Melinda and my step daughter, Jessica, accompanied me on a dry land swan rescue after I received a call from one of the local game wardens. All those years of hunting pay off as it's basically the same skill set in capturing these critters...just with a different end result most of the time. So, the good news is Jess finally got to hold a swan on her own!

The above normal temps this week are going to do some more damage to our dismal snow pack so may take a week or two off in hopes once we get closer to the holidays the pattern will allow for a cold, wet system to restore my white backdrop and get out shooting again.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shots from the Weekend - First Snowy Owl of the Season!

There is always something about returning "home". Regardless of where we end up in life, there is always a tie to where we grew up. The holiday season is a perfect time to visit some of those places which we hold near to our heart for one reason or another. For me that spot is Fergus Falls in Ottertail county Minnesota.


A lone bald eagle watches over the ducks, geese, and swans on the Ottertail River as it winds though town.


The sight of the sky filled with Canada geese was once taken for granted as it was a daily occurrence. Now it is a trigger for a couple of decades of memories.


The river becomes a wild display of waterfowl as the surrounding waters become locked in ice for the next 6 months. The air temp the morning these photos were taken was -13°F.


Upstream from the power plant in town, there in a stretch around the Broken Down Dam site which still has a wild feel to it. Although mostly lined by expensive homes, this area still gives you a feel of what the river used to be like. Thanks to careful management and the near elimination of farm run off, the water is clear and free flowing as it makes a 53 foot fall in elevation over 3 miles.


Speaking of dropping 53 feet in 3 miles, this river makes for some fun kayaking with very little technical paddling needed. The Ottertail is part of the state water trail system and the stretch from the canoe put in near Wall Lake to the East Mount Faith take out is a great moving water paddle. Heads up though...the double drop near the power plant will test your bracing skills! It's fun to sit in the eddy below the drop and watch tubers in the summer become swimmers as they try to hang on.


Saturday the 30th brought on the first couple of snowy owls in the area. I really wish people would quit posting the location of the owls on MOU and some of the other birder lists, Facebook groups, etc. I heard through the grapevine it got to be kind of a zoo in spots. Reminder: get a longer lens, or be happy to view through a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. You aren't going to make a million dollars off your snowy owl shot SO QUIT STRESSING THE BIRDS! The image above is how most of your sightings are going to be anyhow. If you do get lucky enough to find one alongside the road, stay in your car or stay well back. The birds do not see a car or truck as much of a threat but they sure do when a two legged predator lugging a huge lens and tripod goes running after them into a field.


Here are my two shots. Now onto finding a hawk owl and a great grey this winter up at the in-laws!


Sunday brought the usual rounds. The deer are staring to yard up for the long winter ahead as the evening drive through "the loop" yielded 49 sightings.


And with this nice sunset over the cedars near the river the weekend came to an end. The chances of a significant snowfall are pretty bleak yet. I am dying for some backcountry snowshoeing in the Sawtooth along the north shore soon. Wish we could have saved up some of the 13 feet of snow from last winter!