Saturday, April 10, 2010

Camera Critters: Turkeys And Whitetails

Mature Easter Wild Turkey Gobblers
Spring is a dramatic and beautiful time of year and my primary focus at this point is documenting turkey activity and the emerging leaves and flowers.  Later my attention will shift more toward the whitetail deer as antlers increase in size and the new fawns are born.

Antler growth has been very slow until recemntly, but the older bucks have made a noticeable gain in antler size in the past week.

The Buck's Antlers Develop

Deer are not their most photogenic at this time as the winter coat has a faded, ragged appearance and a lot of the hair is loose and falling out.  By late May or early June, the winter coat will be completely replaced by the beautiful, red, summer coat.

The does are pregnant and their abdomens will grow larger as spring progresses.  Most fawns in this area will be born in late May though mid-June.

Pregnant Doe-Starting To Shed The Winter Coat
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Eastern Wild Turkeys Mating-A Morning To Remember

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I have spent about 99% of my mornings in the past few weeks photographing the Eastern Wild Turkey during their mating season.  The gobblers have now gone from spending most of their time in bachelor groups to usually being seen with a flock of hens in the mornings, although I still often see them without the hens in the evenings.  Mornings are more productive for good photo opportunities as the birds are much more likely to strut and gobble.  Later in the spring, it will become more common to see the birds strutting in the evening.

On Wednesday morning I photographed and filmed  a group of mature birds gobblers strutting and gobbling directly in front of me as the first faint rays of the early morning sun casting a golden glow over the meadow.

Mature Gobblers Strutting

Suddenly I looked to the left and noticed another gobbler standing by a solitary hen that was lying on the ground.  It is quite rare to see this, and I began filming them with the Canon XL-H1 video camera.  I let it run unattended while I took a series of stills of the action.  As luck would have it the sun went behind a thin veil of clouds during the entire time that the following action took place.  The photos from this series were not as good as those of the gobblers as the birds were  further away and the increased distance combined with the murky light, resulted in the photos not being as dramatic and sharp as I would have liked.
Standing Guard

Soon, he walked to the hen and stood on her back.  This continued for at least ten minutes.

Standing On Her Back For Over Ten Minutes

During this time I frantically took still photos and periodically checked to see the the camcorder was working correctly, at one point putting the 70-200mm f2.8 lens on it, which with the EF adapter gave me an effective focal length of over 1400mm. This should yield dramatic footage.

Finally  the birds completed mating, with the actual process only taking  a short time.  I have photographed turkeys since 1974 and do not recall having seen or photographed this before.


With mating completed, the gobbler jumped away and the birds ran about, circling each other and then left the meadow.

With Mating Completed, The Gobbler Leaves

I have found that observing and photographing nature is one of the most rewarding experiences in life.  If one is in a hunting type situation they may observe wildlife behavior to a certain extent, especially of species they are not hunting on that particular day, but they do not get to witness some of the most interesting aspects of wildlife behavior as their attention is devoted to setting up a successful shot. Often the animal is either shot at or taken before anything especially noteworthy happens.