Sunday, November 15, 2015

Images From The Whitetail Rut

Mature Whitetail Buck
The area where I do most of my wildlife photography is home to a substantial herd of whitetail deer, but it is not usually good summer range for the bachelor groups of mature bucks. Most of the deer are the does and fawns and the yearling and occasional two year old bucks that are still traveling with the family groups.

In many years buck sighting pick up in early October and the full-blown  rut gets underway during the last week.  But this year things were very slow and I became impatient as it seemed the rut would never start. That changed in the middle of last week and I have been able to photograph several bucks since then and will share some images  of this activity today.

Photos of bucks lip-curling as they search for does in heat often make dramatic photographs. The buck in the photo below tried to breed a doe shortly after the photo was taken, but she ran from him.

Scenting For Does
Whitetail bucks do have serious fights from time to time, but what I usually capture are only desultory sparring matches, which are not violent, but still make for good photo opportunities.

Sparring Match
Other favorite photo opportunities are to capture them making scrapes, checking their scrape lines, and chasing does.

Checking A Scrape

6 Point Erupts From Woods After Doe
Chasing Does
Although the rut will soon peak if it has not all ready, good activity should continue for the next two weeks before it comes to a crashing end because of rifle deer season.

Cameras used were the 5D MK III and the Canon 7D Mark II.  while the lenses were the Canon 300mm f2.8 and the Canon 600mm F4.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coyote Attack

It was nearing 5:30 on a mid-August evening and I was watching a meadow where a herd of whitetail does and fawns were feeding along with two spike bucks. Suddenly a large coyote came into the meadow.  The Panasonic GH4 was sitting on the tripod nearby with the Canon 100-400mm IS L lens attached by means of the Metabones Speed Booster. I carefully moved into position behind it and began filming.  As I filmed I alternated between filming in 4K and the special ETC mode which this camera features.  With it a 1080P frame is read from the central portion of the sensor, which results in greatly increased ability to shoot at long ranges and still get frame filling  footage.

This was a large animal with wolf-like features. Some , including many  PGC officials, consider the coyotes in our area to actually be Eastern Brush Wolves as they bear more of a resemblance to small wolves than they do to the western coyotes.

The coyote showed no inclination to attack the large extended family group of deer as it slowly stalked through the meadow , but as it neared the tree line at the far edge of the meadow it sniffed the air and picked up the scent of a small spike buck that was feeding out of sight over a rise in the meadow.  The coyote trotted toward the spike and as it came over the rise it launched an attack on the deer, but then aborted it at the last moment before contact.  I can only speculate that it began the incident with the intention of driving home the attack if it was a fawn, but after getting close, realized there was no chance of successfully killing a deer that large and broke off the attack.

I am perhaps my own worst critic and I was extremely disgusted that I bobbled the camera at the crucial moment of the attack, but it was easy to fall into the pitfall which caused the problem.  As it was I was filming in the ETC mode because the coyote was far enough away that he did not look impressive on the monitor screen, so at the moment of the attack I had too much magnification and too narrow of a field of view to follow the action and smoothly film the happening.  As soon as the coyote broke off the attack I shifted to 4K in case he followed up on the attack, but instead he went into the woods.  In retrospect I would have been better off had I filmed the entire segment in 4K and then cropped the footage in post production, or once I was committed to ETC mode I should not have changed the camera to 4K after the attack as had things continued I would have missed a lot of the action as it takes awhile for the camera to be ready to shoot after making this change (because of the external monitor). This is only a few seconds , but that can cover a lot when things are moving quickly.  It would have been better to have stayed in ETC and simply zoomed out a bit, but that is the mistakes one makes.

Regardless of the mistakes and less than perfect filming, I still got some decent footage, and the memory of the event is one that I will treasure for a lifetime. At the end of the day that is really what it is all about anyway.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mid-October At Middle Creek WMA

Sunrise at Middle Creel Lake
Most  recent posts have been devoted to Pennsylvania elk, with the  issues concerning the new viewing areas on Winslow Hill  and documentation of  elk rut activity during a two week trip in late September being the main subjects..

With the end of that trip my attention shifted to wildlife closer to home, which mostly involved keeping a close eye on the local deer herd,  but I took a break from this for several days when I visited Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area from the afternoon of Saturday, October 10 until late morning on the 14th. for several days of filming and photographing the waterfowl and other wildlife that may be found there.

A favorite way  to start a day at Middle Creek is  to photograph the sunrise from the area where Hopeland Road passes close to the lake.  The sunrise was especially fiery and vivid on the last day of the trip, which is the one featured at the beginning of the post, while the one on Monday was not as vivid due to a heavy fog, but was just as dramatic in its' own way, if not more so.

Foggy Morning Sunrise
I saw several species of ducks such as Mallards,Coot,  Pintails, Grebes, Black ducks, and Ring-necked ducks, but they were there in limited numbers and mostly far enough away that I did not photograph them, but filmed them with the video camera instead as it gives more satisfactory results at long range.  The most commonly seen species by far was the Canada Geese.

A modest flock of them could be seen most mornings and evenings where Hopeland Road passes along the lake.

Morning At Middle Creek
Great Blue Herons were seen in this area, as well as a few Great Egrets.

Great Blue Heron Watching For Fish
The pothole across Hopeland Road from the lake is also an excellent spot and it was here that I got a few photos of the Great Egrets and of Canada Geese landing.

Great Egret
Canada Goose Landing
Great Egret Looking For Fish
Although this trip  lacked the intensity of the spring migration with the vast numbers of Snow Geese that make such spectacular sights, it was nonetheless a very rewarding experience.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

River Encounters

Another September has come and gone and I am back home after nearly two weeks in Pennsylvania elk country .  Many years ago a photographer remarked that each year is different from the others.This is often because the best food sources will vary depending on what is planted in certain areas or if there is a good mast crop in a particular year, which will cause the elk to spend more time in the woods.  Whatever the cause, this was a very different year than most in the recent past, as this was the first time in many years that there were very few elk in The Saddle area during the time that I was there.

Resting In The Woods
Although elk were seen consistently along Dewey Road it was not as good as in most recent years and consequently I spent more time in other areas.  In twenty years of photographing elk I have spent little time along the streams in elk country, but that changed this year when I spent a few afternoons along Bennett's Branch.  One day I arrived a short time after an impressive dominance fight had occurred and found several  photographers discussing the events.. The largest bull involved in the fight was the one in the photo directly below.

7x8 The Day Before The River Fight
Even though the fight was over, the air rang with bugles as satellite bulls drifted back and forth across the stream, pausing to drink and to bugle.

River Crossing
6x6 Pauses To Drink
Bugling In The River
I have had many exciting times in elk country, but  this afternoon stood out from many of them because this was the first time I had photographed bulls during the rut in this type of setting.

All photos were taken with the Canon 5D MKIII and the Canon 600mm f4.0 IS L lens.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.