Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mid-Summer Elk Calves

Cow Grooming Calf

At the conclusion of the post about the bulls I saw during my mid-July trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country,  I promised to post some calf photos from the trip and today I have finally got around to doing that.  I was not as successful at photographing and filming the calves as I was with the bulls.  In most cases, areas that are good for seeing bachelor groups of mature bulls are not usually the best spots for seeing elk calves and I spent the most of the best elk sighting times in prime bull range.

Prime Summer Bull Range Is Often Not Best For Calf Sightings

But on at least one evening and one morning, I concentrated on working with the calves.  At times it was easy to see a lot of calves on Winslow Hill, but they were usually a bit far away,  or it was too early or too late for the best quality photos.

Calf At Woodring Farm In Early Morning

Cows And Calves Shortly After Sunrise On Winslow Hill

Cows And Calves Near Sunset On Winslow Hill
An encounter at the ponds on Dewey Road had the potential for exceptional photos when a cow nursed a calf on one the pond banks, but as luck would have it the grass was too tall in front of the cow and the calf was mostly obscured.  Otherwise the grass contributed to the wild look of the photo and made for a much more pleasing setting than short, lawn type grass.

Cow Nursing Calf On Pond Bank
When nursing was completed the cow stepped away and  the calf stepped into a more open spot, licked its' lips, and  looked out at the surrounding countryside.  The only problem here was that it was a bit far even for the 600mm for a close-up portrait. In this case I cropped the photo to 2MP in Adobe Camera Raw  which which works quite well for the web, but would start to fall apart on big enlargements.

Alert Calf
All in all it was one of the better, if not the best, July trips to elk country that I can recall. After filming on Friday morning it was time to return home and it was with mixed feelings that I headed for Fulton County.  For one thing it is always good to get home and see the family and resume photographing the local wildlife, but on the other hand it seemed that had I been able to stay for a few more days that I was getting a system worked out that seemed likely to yield a lot more good photos and video.

Soon the bulls will be losing the velvet and sparring will begin in earnest. In fact a few bulls may have lost it already, but most will do around the middle of August or a bit later.  Soon I hope to return to elk country to document this exciting event and when this is over it will be only a short time until the rut begins.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July Bulls

Mature Bull Feeding In Natural Meadow
I spent last week in Pennsylvania Elk Country filming and photographing the Pennsylvania elk herd.along with any other wildlife that I happened to find.  It was one of the better July trips to Pennsylvania Elk Country, that I have experienced with a lot of encounters with bulls in velvet and calves. Today we will focus on the bulls and look at the calf photos in a future post. Except for the young spikes, bulls were mostly  found either by themselves or in bachelor groups and they were usually seen either very early or very late.

Portion Of A Bachelor Group Before Sunrise
 The bulls usually left to spend the day in the woods soon after the first rays of the morning sun hit the meadows although sometimes they lingered much longer as in the case of the largest bull of the trip which is shown in the first photo featured today.  He was still feeding after 8:00 a.m. on a bright sunny morning and was still there when I left at 8:15.

Bulls Slowly Head In As Sun Hits Meadow
 We will close for the day with two more photos of 6x6 bulls both of which were taken in the early morning.

6x6 Bull

6x6 Pauses By Roadside
I hope you enjoyed the photos.  As usual, I took a lot more video than stills, but it is getting harder to find the time and motivation to edit so I will not promise when I will post some video clips, but I do hope to make a post soon about the calf encounters.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Early and Late Is The Key For Successfully Photographing Summer Bulls

7x7 Along Winslow Hill Road

 Today,s post features more photos of bull elk from the mid-June trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country.  While I saw several cows and calves it seemed that bulls were much easier to see and photograph.  Some had impressive antler growth, but most were young bulls such as the one in the photo below. This class of bull needs to get a few more years on him to grow truly impressive antlers, although they can look quite large to someone used to seeing only whitetail deer.

4x4 Pauses From Grazing
I found another 4x4 grazing in a small opening by the roadside  along Dents Run Road and photographed him with the 7D MKII and the 100-400mm IS II lens.

4x4 Along Dents Run Road
 It seems especially in the summer, that one can only see bulls consistently either very early in the morning or late in the evening.  They are usually back in the woods either before the first rays of the sun touches the meadows, or shortly thereafter in the mornings and they usually do not emerge again until shortly before sundown or later and the hotter it is, the more this rule applies.  The bull below was photographed on the first evening of the trip as I found him feeding along Winslow Hill Road.   This photo was taken at ISO 1000 with a Canon 5D MKIII and the 70-200 IS II L lens at f2.8 and 1/50 sec. shutter speed. This lens and the 300mm f2.8 are my two favorite low light elk lenses.

4X4 In Low Light-Winslow Hill Road
One cannot tell from the angle of the photo above but this bull will be at least a 5x5 as his main beams were beginning to fork into another set of points.  I cannot be certain as bulls with this general configuration are quite common,  but I think I filmed this bull several miles from this spot on Thursday morning with the GH4, but this was video only so I cannot post a comparison shot.

The next photo was taken at 5:44 a.m. on June 15th and  helps make the point that one needs to be out early. The equipment used was the 5D MKIII and 600mm F4 IS lens.  It was taken at ISO 1000 at 1/60 sec. f4.5.

Bachelor Group Interacting
The last photo for the day contradicts my advice somewhat as you did not need to be out extra-early to get it as these bulls were still in the meadow at 7:08 a.m. on June 16th.

Still Out After Sunrise On A Foggy Morning
I hope you enjoyed the photographs and remember that the key to success is getting up early and staying out late.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mid-June In Pennsylvania Elk Country

5x7 On Winslow Hill
I spent most of last week in Pennsylvania Elk Country, meeting with some of the members of The Support PA Elk Facebook Page and photographing and filming the wildlife of Pennsylvania Elk Country. This was my first trip there since late March and I wish to thank members Charlie Cropp and Paul Staniszewski for doing most of the work on the Support Elk page since that time.

Most of the calves have been born by now.  Each year a number of calves are captured to gather biological data, and the animals may be fitted with ear tags and in some cases radio collars.  This program was still underway  while we were there and we got to observe the team at a distance as they finished processing a calf at the Woodring Farm on Wednesday morning.

Team Processes Calf While Cow Looks On At Woodring Farm
 The team was composed of both professional conservation agency employees and volunteers, with the PGC Elk Biologist, and the KECA Biologist included on the team along with  Widlife Conservation Officer, Jason Wagner and Land Management Officer, Colleen Shannon.. According to WCO Wagner this was the last day they were capturing calves this year.

I saw a lot of calves at times. As is my usual experience at this time of year, they were a bit on the shy side and it was hard to get good photos or video, but nonetheless I did get a few usable still photos.  Both of the photos below were taken while I was standing watch from a parking lot beside a marshy area with ponds on Dewey Road, but they were taken on different mornings.  In the first case elk were feeding near the site of the old Gilbert House and for whatever reason suddenly came running down the hill and across Rucki Road.

Running For The Woods
I was in the same area briefly on Friday morning when a cow and her calf quickly crossed the wetlands.  In both cases the elk were far away and the photos are cropped substantially even with using the 600mm F4 lens. The second encounter was an especially challenging situation as the animals were in the shade, but the sun was shining in the top portion which made the highlights difficult to deal with.

Crossing The Wetlands
 Friday morning was the best period of  trip for seeing calves  but this encounter was the only one in which I successfully photographed one with the still camera that day . Shortly after dawn I filmed a large group of cows with several calves, with the Panasonic GH4..   I hope to complete a short video of some of the better footage from this trip in the near future  and it will hopefully include footage from this encounter.

The last photo of the day is of the 5x7, taken while he browsed on a multi-flora rose bush along Winslow Hill Road.

Browsing On Multi-Flora Rose
I hope to post a few more photos from the trip in the near future as well as the video.  By this time next month the antlers will be almost completely grown and the velvet will be shed in August. The calves are usually easier to photograph as they are no longer as fearful of predators as they can escape them easier, and the capturing and tagging period is now a faint memory..

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.