ALGONQUIN PARK MOOSE – JUNE, 2014

In June of 2013 three friends joined me on a photography tour with Michael Bertelsen for spring moose in Algonquin Park.  We saw and photographed lots of moose.  We were surrounded by the most mosquitos and black flies I have ever seen in my life and did get to see and photograph a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers at their nest.

 

This year was an all-women trip and I was thrilled that Su Ross Redmond was able to go as well.  We had perfect weather.  Not sure but maybe the mosquitos and blackflies were even worse this year.  Su had never experienced blackflies before and they were not kind to her.  Moose we saw in quantity and quality.

 

Our first sighting began with this moosescape in early morning light.

 

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There were a couple of others in view at the same time.

 

We found a cow with calf and managed to refind them several times over the two days we were out.  The calf was quite skittish at first and led the cow back into the bush.  They would reappear on the other side of the island and we ended up with lots of opportunities  together and separately.  Michael told us that the calves begin eating grass after about a week and this one was eating grass, leaves and waterlilies.

 

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We found several bulls and a couple of cows feeding on waterlilies and had lots of time to photograph them.

 

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We saw one of the bulls we photographed last year.  It was identified by its ear tag and a hole in its left ear where a button tag had come out.  The ear flopped a bit therefore it was named  Yoda.

 

A cow we saw with a calf last year, identified by a piece out of her ear, was without a calf this year but in the same section of marsh where we saw her in 2013.  She kept looking into the bush but no calf appeared while we were there.

 

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A cow and calf swam from an island to the mainland and we were right in the perfect spot once again.

 

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After this cow and calf fed in a wide open area they moved and we thought they might be going to swim on to another island.  As we watched and photographed a black bear came out of the bush beyond a small point and it looked like he too, wanted to swim to the island.  He ran into an unexpected dead head, swatted at the offender and climbed back on shore heading in the direction of the moose with calf.  Su and I were very worried about the calf while Michael was concerned that the bear might head our way.

 

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He moved around the the point, saw the moose and calf and raced after them.  The two moose charged off into the bush with the bear in pursuit.  Fortunately for us the bear did not decide we looked like easy prey and we did see the two moose later and were happy that the calf had escaped.  At that time of the year many moose calves become a bear’s dinner.

 

This bear was in beautiful condition and so close that I had to merge two photographs of him to have any  grass below his paws!  This is full frame with an addition!

 

Not all trips are as successful as this one and we had seven moose our first day including a cow with calf and eleven the second day with two cows with one calf each.  The only thing we didn’t have was morning fog.

 

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Now I would like a cow with two calves, please! 

 

We have plans for another women’s trip in 2015 although I am sure we won’t be able to top this one!

 

All images in this post are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose with out my written permission.

 

 

MICHIGAN UPPER PENINSULA IN MAY

This was a trip I had been wanting to do for five years!  My goal was warblers and sparrows that may migrate through Muskoka but never stay long enough for me to get good photographs.  Since I am unable to do much walking Point Pelee is no longer an option.  Matthew Studebaker, with his knowledge of bird songs and calls as well as breeding bird habitat made this the best option for me.

This trip requires driving to Sault Ste. Marie which is only six hours from me.  I would rather do that drive than the one to Toronto which is only two hours away!  Our first base was the very nice Magnuson Grand Hotel Lakefront Paradise.  They have the regular style continental breakfast which was fine getting us out and on the road by 6:30 am.  All our searches were done on the local National Forest logging roads as our targets were woodland warblers.

Although Black & White Warblers were not on my target list I like the red osier branches in the background of this bird.

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We had good opportunities with Blackburnians, a Black-throated Blue on its way further North, many Black-throated Greens, a brief encounter with a Canada, Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, but my main goal of Cape May eluded us.  I must have mentioned the bird at least thirty times.  Matthew, to his great credit, just carried on without saying a word.

I do like photographing in the Upper Peninsula area as most of the forested places we visited easily could be transplanted into my own area with the same trees such as this Palm Warbler in tamarack.

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There are not many restaurants in the Paradise area.  Some don’t open until the Memorial Day weekend.  One place we went for both lunch and dinner a few times was, I think, called something like the Fish Bar.  Salads in all the places we ate were very basic.  We did manage to get the cooks to put together a few ingredients that were quite acceptable.  My favourite meal at this place was an Olive burger.  Simply a regular hamburger with a mayo/green olive topping.  What more could you want – salt and mayo!  Brunches were had at the Berry Patch they were hearty.

On our fourth day we left Paradise and headed for Grayling and spent the morning in the Munuscong Bay State Wildlife Management Area.  We had driven only a few hundred yards when we stopped and got one of the most desired birds on my list – the Le Conte’s Sparrow!  Couldn’t have asked for better!

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Matthew found Cape May Warblers here, too.  A little more environment than I would like to make it my favourite but I can always go back!

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After Munuscong we headed for Grayling for Kirtland’s Warblers.  We did get them with Matthew’s knowledge of the area.  The Ramada Inn Grayling has seen better days.  Most of us had either the inner or outer door that did not work with their key card.

Last on my list but not least was a very co-operative Vesper Sparrow.  There used to be one place in Muskoka to find them for the Bailey Birdathon but houses have gobbled up their habitat.  The dry gravelly field where we photographed this guy had the flowering plant seen in this photograph.  It has a woody stem with alternate plain leaves and six petaled flowers.  I haven’t been able to ID it and if anyone knows what it is please do let me know!

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It was a pleasure to spend time with the other participants, all from Calfornia, and hearing about their trips was inspiring.  This was a most satisfying photography trip and I enjoyed it immensely!

I would like to thank Doug Bolt for getting his used Canon 7D to me very quickly for use on this trip after dunking one of mine in my lake just before I left home.

All the photographs in this and all my posts are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose without written permission and negotiation.  Not just sure why the photographs are appearing so small in the preview.  I’ll have to figure that out for the next post!

OHIO TRIP AND LOON NEWS

There are two loon chicks of approximately two weeks old doing well on my little lake!  With all my limbs and digits crossed I hope for their success!

 

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During the second week of May I participated, once again, in one of Matthew Studebaker’s Photo Tours.  This tour was the most difficult of his that I have done.  More walking and some of it over rougher terrain than some of his other tours.  Also, some of the locations were crowded as there were five participants rather than four. Matthew always knows where to find the birds and get them in front of your camera so we had good opportunities.

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We had both male and female Blue Gray Gnatcatchers and I really like the perch this guy chose.

 

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This Bobolink gave us some great views both front and back and on several perches.

 

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I have long dreamed of having images of Eastern Bluebirds with blossoms and we got both male and female with these budding blo0ms.

 

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Orchard Orioles were one of the species I specially hope to photograph on this trip and there were lots of opportunities for males but few for females.  Having both is one of the goals of my photography.

Of course we photographed more species and went to some interesting places.  One of the nicest things that happened on this trip was getting THREE big smiles from Matthew’s baby daughter while I got to hold her.  It has been quite a few years since I got to hold a baby.  A precious one, she is!

All the photographs in this and all my blogs are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose with my written consent.

PLAYING IN THE POOL

Playing in a vernal pool, that is.  As the weather began to warm up a bit at the end of April it was time for me to check on one of the vernal pools on my property.  This pool had been severely damaged by the construction of a snowmobile trail and I had hopes of discovering whether or not any amphibians were using it.  Getting in there was difficult as there was lots of snow left and it was getting soft.  That meant that I had to be very careful that I didn’t go through the top level and wrench my delicate knees.  The first night I took in my gear I saw Spotted Salamanders!

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I had been told about their “dance” which is when the males move around a female to entice her to breed.  Unfortunately this occured under some vegetation and no photographs were possible.

I had researched the ways of counting salamanders and the next evening I took in a minnow trap one  before it rained to see if I could get an idea of how many were breeding in the pool.

First thing the next morning I went back with my camera gear, spray bottle, large plastic container and my walking stick.  It was just a short distance but difficult for me with many loose rocks, broken branches and logs.  To my great surprise there were thirty-three Spotted Salamanders in the trap.  Also, I had caught a couple of large water beetles and a caddis fly larva in its case.  I put all but three salamanders back in the pond immediately and watched them quickly disappear under the vegetation.

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I sprayed a nearby mossy log with water, sprayed my hands with water to make sure I didn’t damage their skin.  Carefully, I placed one of the salamanders I had retained on the moss.  I was able to get a few photographs before putting all three back into the pond. Once again they were sprayed with the pond water before their release.

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Note the snow in the background as salamanders begin to move from the surrounding forest into the vernal pools with the first warm rains.

After several more night visits I had photographed a few of the other creatures found in the pool and those are for another time.

This was quite an exciting and memorable experience!  Now that I know that there are many Spotted Salamanders using the pool I will not attempt to trap any again and plan on using the egg mass count method to judge the health of the breeding salamanders. They are really quite handsome creatures!

All the images in this and all my posts are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose without written permission.

FIRST LOONS OF THE SEASON

The ice didn’t leave my little lake until Saturday, April 26, 2014.  That is the latest date since I bought my place in 1998.  The next morning at 5:20 am I heard a male loon calling.  Spring is really here!  Two days later the female arrived and now their two voices call out during the night.

 

This morning the men who put in my kayak launcher and my dock ladder did their thing and by late this afternoon I was out on my lake checking things out.  The water level is the highest it has ever been and the loons will have a difficult time finding a nesting site.  That doesn’t seem to slow them down, however, as late yesterday afternoon I saw them mating.

 

During my paddle I saw two Wood Ducks fly in and four Canada Geese along a back shoreline.  They don’t appear to have a nest but they have been around since before the snow melted and the ice went out.  The loons may have changed their nesting plans.  Found one frog egg mass.  Could be spring peepers as they have been calling.

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First loon images of 2014 taken with my Canon 7D and the 70-200 @200.

The fall-like colours are from winter kill of some of the pine needles.  Along with the dark red of the leather leaf the reflections in the lake are rich and deep on this shoreline.

 

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The beavers have taken down a few small pines to reinforce their lodge and I think their may be only one family this year.

As I paddled in from my inspection the sweet song of a Hermit Thrush floated over the lake and a distant Barred Owl made its presence known.  It was a very satisfying excursion with hopes for many more and a successful breeding season for the loons.

 

the images in this post are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose without the written permission of the copyright holder.

GREAT GRAY OWL – PART TWO

I am now sharing the second part of my Great Gray Owl experience in northern Minnesota a few years ago.  I photographed this owl over about 1 1/2 hours as it hunted along the side of a little traveled road.  I was quiet, stayed behind my car and/or photographed it from the car window.  Eventually it flew off and I didn’t see it again that day or the next.

 

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It is so well camouflaged that it would be difficult to find if you didn’t know it was there!

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Ready to take off it flew to yet another perch where I was able to photograph it again.

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This last one is my favourite.  It reminds me of a Rousseau painting!

 

I had great plans to duplicate this trip in June this year but other exciting things are coming up that will bring me home instead.

 

All the images in this and all my posts are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any reason without my written consent.