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.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Fawns Arrive As The Antlers Grow

Late May Morning Along The Stream
Late May and early June is a rewarding time for the outdoor photographer in Southcentral Pennsylvania. There is no shortage of subjects to photograph as the whitetail fawns are being born, the bucks are growing their antlers, and the meadows are loaded with many species of wildflowers.

Yellow Goat's Beard
Most does give birth to the fawns in this area between mid-May and mid-June with the vast majority arriving the last few days  of May and the first few days in June.  This doe was still pregnant on May 30th as indicated by the large swollen abdomen.

Pregnant Doe
Another doe that I usually see each day had a large distended abdomen on May 30th and then I didn't see her until June 1st and her flanks were shrunken indicating that she had given birth. On June 2nd I got a few brief video clips of her nursing a fawn in a thicket, but a thunderstorm was approaching so there was little chance to exploit the opportunity.  I saw her again on the following evening and this time I got several video clips although again the brush was thick and it was hard to get a clear angle.  This time I managed to take a few still photographs with the 5D MK III.

Doe Nursing Fawn
While the fawns are being born, the buck's antlers keep getting larger. This buck is the second one pictured in the last post..  That photo was taken on May 22nd.  Today's photo was taken just one week later and he is now developing a point on his left antler.

Young Buck-One Week Later
Growth is very rapid and by early-mid July the older bucks will have 3/4 or more of their antler growth. This buck has already grown significantly longer beams in the few days since this photo was taken.  If he does not disperse it will be interesting to document his rack as it develops.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.




Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gobblers, Bucks, and Bluebirds



The Eastern Wild Turkey is one of my favorite subjects to photograph during the spring months and I have spent many hours afield filming and photographing them this year.  I love to capture the gobblers as they perform the courtship display and for a time from mid-April thru mid-May I saw them doing this almost every day.  One thing I love about video is the ability to get dramatic close-ups at very long range, but with that being said I am not happy until I get a good supply of still photos each spring and on a few occasions this year, they came close enough for excellent still portraits.



I also like to document the development of the antlers of the whitetail bucks.  I have seen a few bucks with branch antlers so far.  I was not able to get still photos of them, but I have photographed a few that have not yet branched.  The first buck pictured below was a small rack buck last year with four or five points so he should grow a decent rack this year.

2nd Year Rack Buck
This deer has only partially changed from the winter to the summer coat and looks very ragged, but the buck below has almost completed the shedding process.  He was a small spike last year and should grow a respectable rack this year.

Another Prospective Rack Buck
While waiting for the deer and turkeys to appear I am always looking for other subjects to photograph and one morning a bluebird caught an earthworm in the meadow in front of me and flew to a limb and paused with it before flying on to its' nest with it.

Bluebird With Earthworm
 All photos were taken with the Canon 5D MKIII and the 600mmF4.0 IS L lens.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Strutting Gobblers and Other Springtime Wildlife

Spring, the wildflowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the male turkeys are gobbling--what an exciting time to be afield. I have been out every morning this spring and have seen a lot of wildlife, but good close-up encounters with mature gobblers strutting seem to be harder to come by than usual.  When the turkeys are not present it is good to photograph the wildflowers.

Spring flowers add beauty to a day afield

When the turkeys are present and one or more gobblers are strutting and gobbling it makes for an exciting photographic experience.

Mature Gobbler in full strut:Canon 5D MKIII-600mm lens
One of the most desirable and dramatic photos of a bull elk is to capture him bugling and over the years I have tried to duplicate these results with turkeys, but it seems the actual act of gobbling does not look as impressive as the elk bugling.  Maybe someday I will get the perfect photo and change my mind., but for now I would say that capturing them strutting usually yields more impressive photos.  It actually seems to work better to document the actual gobbling with video as you get to see the bird go through the entire process as well as hear the exciting sound of the gobble.

Mature Gobbler in mid-gobble: Canon 5D MKIII-500mm lens

Gobbler pauses from courting to look for danger: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
 Of course the reason for all of this excitement is the hens and often some of the best activity occurs when hens are present and the gobblers are performing the courtship display.  They also strut and gobble at times when no hens are present, but it is much more likely to happen when they are there.

Hen pauses from feeding while gobblers strut in adjacent meadow: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
If you look closely in the photo below, this hen has a small beard (look just below the first green brier that goes partly across its' chest), but it is a hen nonetheless.  You can tell this by a combination of factors the most important factors being the drab coloration compared to the gobblers and the smaller size.  Few hens grow beards, but they are not exactly rare.  I usually film or photograph at least one each year.

Bearded Hen: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
Filming and photographing other species that happen along adds to the enjoyment of the day and I especially like to capture the deer doing something interesting, such as this young buck browsing.

Young deer browsing: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
When I was young fox squirrels were seldom seen in my area, but now I am likely to see as many or more of them than the grays.

Fox Squirrel: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
With the arrival of May the trees will soon be covered with leaves and wildlife movement patterns will change to a certain extent.  Already the peak of the gobbling season is over and birds are not heard or seen as often.  Today is the first day of the spring gobbler season and this will also have a dampening effect on gobbling activity, but there will be periodic upswings in activity until the mating season is over in early to mid-June.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.