Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter Continues

Most of the snow is gone , but winter continues with a vengeance here in southcentral Pennsylvania and temperatures are often in the single digits at night.. Ordinarily I have already been to Middle Creek at this time in March or planning to go within the next few days, but the PGC website reports that the lake is still mostly covered with ice and only a small number of snow geese are present.  This could change quite quickly, but at this point I am not optimistic about it happening anytime soon.

Snow Geese at Middle Creek-2013: Canon 5D MKIII-Canon 500mm F 4.0L IS-ISO 160-1/1600 sec. f 5.0
I checked on the snowy owls in Franklin County on February 18th, but did not see them.  As a result wildlife photography has been spotty.  I see a lot of whitetail deer and turkeys, but it is difficult to capture exceptional activity or poses. I captured a young doe browsing by shooting from the vehicle with the Panasonic GH3 and the handy Lumix 14-140 lens.  This rig is so small and light compared to the Canons with the L lenses that one hardly knows they are holding it. 

Yearling Doe Browsing: Panasonic GH3-Lumix 14-140mm@75mm-ISO 400-1/320 sec. f 9.0
For awhile the snow was covered by a thick crust, which made it hard for wildlife to survive.  During that period I found a fawn killed by what was apparently coyotes.  I first noticed it because I saw crows landing in an area where they are not usually seen, then I noticed the shape of a deer in the snow and saw they were feeding on it.  I took the following photo after sunrise, when the deer was easily visible.

Fawn Killed By Predator: Canon 70D-Canon 600mm F 4.0L IS+1.4x extender-ISO 200-1/250 sec. f 8.0 

I was in the area at dusk on the day before so this had to happen at night. This rules out an eagle kill, so it almost certainly was a coyote or a pack of them (I found where the fawn was first attacked and the animals fought with it and dragged it for over 100 yards).  At first I feared this was the beginning of a rash of coyote kills, but that proved to not be the case.  Soon there was a break in the weather, the crust softened, and  in no time the snow was mostly gone making it easier for the deer to find food and escape predators.

The snow melts first on the south facing slopes and I found this deer feeding in an area that is sheltered from the winds, but exposed to the rays of the sun for much of the day.

Mature Doe Feeding: Panasonic GH3-Lumix 14-140mm@140mm-ISO 400-1/160 sec. f 9.0
I used the GH3 in this case also as it was on the passenger seat beside me and ready to go.  This type of camera works especially well for filming and photographing wildlife in situations where it is feeding near the roadway and likely to run if one gets out and attempts to set up a tripod.  The 14-140 Lumix has image stabilization and it is possible to shoot  video clips handheld without the annoying jiggle and bounce that is so common in video shot without the use of a tripod.  It is especially effective at the shorter to medium focal lengths.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.