Saturday, March 15, 2008

Another Sign Of Spring

Mating or "gobbling" season for the Easter Wild Turkey

While spring has not yet officially arrived, here in Pennsylvania a change can be felt in the air and wildlife movement and feeding patterns are changing in anticipation of the warm weather to come.

The migration of waterfowl is now in full swing and the wild turkeys are showing the first signs of the arrival of the mating season or “gobbling season”. The male birds begin gobbling with the onset of warmer weather in March but it is usually sporadic in nature until the end of the month or early April when it intensifies.

I saw the first signs of this today when turkeys came to my photographic blind both this morning and evening. Only one mature gobbler was there this morning, and he was interested only in feeding.

Mature Eastern Wild Turkey Gobbler: Usually only the males, known as gobblers grow beards.

He returned in the evening and resumed feeding, but then a small flock came running to the area with another large gobbler in hot pursuit. His head was swollen and his feathers were ruffled as he aggressively chased some of the other birds. I recorded this activity with the video camera, and then switched to the still. At one point he came quite near the blind, in fact actually too close to get a full portrait shot with the 500mm and there was no chance to change to a smaller lens. Unfortunately, by this time his head had reverted to its' normal appearance.

Mature Eastern Wild Turkey Gobbler Close-up

Eastern Wild Turkey Beard: The average long beard is 9-9.5" but some exceptional gobblers may have much longer beards.

Although these shots do not show how mating season affects the appearance of a gobbler, they do show how one looks up close and personal.

All Shots: Canon 40D-500mmF4 IS

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Waterfowl At Middle Creek

Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is truly a haven for Pennsylvania waterfowl, most of them migratory birds on their way north to their summer range. Many if not most of the Canadian Geese are resident populations, but the Tundra Swans and Snow Geese are not and they are only there for a short time before they continue their journey to their nesting areas in the arctic tundra. A large flock of Canadian Geese and Tundra Swans were on the lake during our visit of last Monday, but the light was not the best for photographic purposes and I got no good flock shots of the swans.

Canadian Geese and Tundra Swans: Canon 40-D 500mmF4
(the white spots on the water is feathers or down from the birds)

Mallard Drakes and Hen: Canon 40D 500mmF4

It is easy to confuse female Mallards with Black Ducks as the coloration is quite close, but the Black Duck is, as the name implies, darker, or black appearing.

Black Ducks: Canon 40-D 500mmF4

Much of the land at the management area is off limits to public entry. This makes good photography difficult at times, as the birds are often too far away, but it is essential to keep overly enthusiastic viewers and photographers from frightening the birds, and causing them to leave the area. There are a few small ponds or "potholes" close to the roadway and photography is possible in these areas.

Here is a link to the PGC website that explains the reason for their restricted entry policy along with other information on the waterfowl.