Saturday, January 24, 2009

Camera Critters: Winter In Shenandoah National Park


4:00 A.M. Thursday found Billie Cromwell and I traveling to the central district of Shenandoah National Park for a morning of wildlife photography. It was a balmy 14 degrees Fahrenheit in the valley, but the wind was blowing on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a wind chill factor of well below zero.

We were primarily looking for large whitetail bucks that had not yet shed their antlers and we encountered one by the roadside somewhat south of Skyland, which is one of the developed areas in the park.


Whitetail Buck: 70-200mm at 85mm ISO 400 1/250 sec. f2.8

Soon we arrived at the Big Meadows Complex. It would be a shocking experience if one had never visited SNP on a brutally cold winter day, but I had been there several times before and knew what to expect. We only saw two other civilian vehicles that morning. One was another photographer and the other was an elderly gentleman driving the top of the mountain. Of course there was a ranger on duty and there were some maintenance workers traveling about. All of the facilities except for a small restroom were closed.


Closed For The Season

The Camp store is a bustling place most of the year, but today the crowds of summer were gone and it was deserted.

The Crowds Of Summer Are Gone

The highlight of the day was when we encountered an Eastern Coyote along the roadside just south of Big Meadows. In fact, it was unclear whether there were one or two of them, but we did only see one at a time so it is possible that all sightings were of the same animal.

It is rare to have close photo opportunities of these animals in SNP, so at first we photographed him from the vehicle, but eventually we decided to get out in hopes of getting him in a better background and to our surprise he approached us. It soon was obvious that he expected us to give him food, which we did not do as it is a violation of park regulations, but it was clear that he was used to getting handouts from humans. After a few attempts at approaching us, he seemed to realize that we were not a potential food source, so he went back into the woods along the drive.

Eastern Coyote: 100-400mm at 400mm ISO 500 1/60 sec. f5.6

Like so many wildlife shots, the buck and the coyote were taken under low light conditions, which required the higher ISO settings.

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27 comments:

floreta said...

great captures on the dear and coyote!!

Gretchen said...

Never got that close to a wild coyote. Heard them plenty when we were hiking and camping though. Great shots!!

Bruce said...

very nice wildlife photos:)

Carletta said...

I think it is such a shame that buck has to lose that huge rack of antlers. :)
I had three in my yard today. Two hadn't lost any and one seems to be hanging intently on to his one remaining antler.
I love this coyote shot. So glad you could share it with us.

People with Cameras said...

Amazing photos! Their eyes are so intense.

Tootie said...

Very interesting post and nice photos.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

I didn't know some bucks still have their antlers this late in January.

Everything there looks so quiet and peaceful. The animals must LOVE it.

Babooshka said...

Exceptional again, images and info.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I really like that coyote, Willard. Glad to see they are still around. Once in a blue moon they will be seen here going down the street late at night.

Sara G said...

Great post and photo's. My hubby sees coyote's when he is out hunting sometimes. He finally broke down and bought a small camcorder to take along to start taping some of the things he tells me about while out in his hunting blind.

Carolina said...

Beautiful photos! Enjoyed your post. It's so lovely to see all these Critters from all over the world. Really amazing to see that people encounter coyotes or vultures (one of the other CC-entries).

Ken Conger Photography said...

Interesting post. As many times as I have been to SNP, have never seen a coyote in the daytime. They have been through my campsite a number of times while backpacking and I have heard packs make chase on deer, but only at night, so your siting was unique. The other comment that he was looking for a handout is disturbing. If people begin to feed them and in turn lure them into the meadows, it will not bode well for the fawns. Although the fawns are born w/out scent, just the fact that they are nursing so regularly creates an added danger if the coyotes are frequenting the meadows for handouts. Blue Skies.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Hi Willard... I would be so pleased at seeing a wild Coyote I think I'd have missed the chance to get a shot off.. excellent capture..
Tom

Wiggers World

dreameyce said...

The Coyote pic is amazing! Thank you for sharing on Camera Critters!

kjpweb said...

Great pictures! I'm with Ken on the handouts for Coyotes! Some people just don't get it...
Cheers, Klaus

Tommy said...

nice post... I guess the coyote did not see the closed sign.

Tabib said...

Great wildlife pictures.
White tail Buck is stunning!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A wonderful experience Willard but I am afraid that when these animals become too used to humans they might be hurt by someone thing it is going to bite them. I think at this time of year food is so scarce that they do loose so of their fear too.

Bradley Myers said...

It looks as if you had a very productive trip. Both are great photographs. I don't know why people can't just enjoy the wildlife without interferring. Think of the bears that are put down becuase of man's doing.

Dianne said...

I love your photos!! feels like I'm there

Leedra said...

The coyote is handsome. He is standing so proud.

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T and S said...

Beautiful images of both the buck and coyote and I was smiling at your mention of high ISO setting.

In India I invariably have to use ISO 400-800 throughout the year. The thick habitat of the Southern Indian wilderness pose a lighting challenge all the time.

Philip said...

Just goes to show you what lengths we go to for such a shot well done !!

Kerri said...

Thanks for braving the COLD to give us these beautiful shots!!

The Birdlady said...

Oh, man! I'm having serious "SNP deprivation" problems. We alost drove up yesterday, but just couldn't get our cold bones moving. The deer are my favorite things (after birds, of course), but that coyote is so exciting!

Shellmo said...

I think that's one of the most beautiful coyotes I've ever seen! He looks pretty healthy - congrats on the shot! (I've had this coyote that keeps crossing our frozen lake but I keep missing the photo opps!)

Louise said...

Low light or not,the photos are wonderful.