FOR WORLD ELEPHANT DAY

These are two of my favourite elephant photographs taken of elephants on two separate trips to East Africa years ago.

The portrait was taken in the early morning sun during a dust bath at Samburu and I remember the feeling of peacefulness as the elephant herd fed on the savannah in the Mara.

It is so sad to think about their diminishing numbers.

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                                                                                       ElephantHead2SepisI just wish I could go again!

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

SPOTTED SALAMANDER EGGS

I was thrilled to have counted twenty-two salamander egg masses in May In one section of the vernal pool that borders my property.  This is one of the pools nearly destroyed by the construction of a snowmobile trail.  In early June I collected one of those egg masses with the hope of being able to photograph the development of the larvae.

I have relied on the internet to inform me of the parts of the egg.  The developing salamander is the embryo.  The fluid in the egg is the Perevitelline Fluid.  The surface of the sphere surrounding the embryo is the Vitelline Membrane and the surrounding substance is called the Jelly Capsule.

This photograph was taken on June 8th, 2015 and one of the few where my flash set-up actually worked.  This shows the stage of development of one of the eggs within the mass.  None of the others were this advanced and this was the only one seen to move around within the capsule.

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The gills have formed as have the front legs.  It has spots and the eye looks to be well developed.

The next afternoon I took more photographs but by this time could not get my flash set-up to work.  The resulting photographs are much duller and it was difficult to see well enough to focus on the larvae within the egg even though I used an LED light.

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These photographs were taken with the capsules in a square glass vase.

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The very next day I got the next two photographs showing the larvae hatching.  The one above shows the wrinkling of the

vitelline membrane.

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One minute later this one shows the larvae partly out of the capsule.  In fact I did not see this happening and it was only after when I looked at the images on my computer that I could see the big event.

I can only hope that my images will be more successful next year as it was all very frustrating but rewarding as well.

Next to come will be images of the larvae and my successes and failures photographing them.

The images above were taken on my dining room table in front of a window with my Canon 7D and 7DII, the Canon 180 Macro, a Kenko 36mm extension tube, Manfrotto tripod, two light stands,  Canon 580 and 550 speedlights.

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

THIRD ANNUAL ALGONQUIN MOOSE PHOTOGRAPHY TRIP AND MORE

As I was unable to carry out my plan for going to Nome, Alaska, I was able, for my third year in a row, to go to Algonquin Park to photograph moose with Michael Bertelsen.  This really was only possible because my dear friend, Su Ross Redmond, had to cancel out at the last minute.  Pat, Margaret and Linda made up our group of four.

The forecast was rain by 11 am for our first day but I was very optimistic that it would hold off and we would have our full day out.  It was a beautiful sunny morning with some low fog on our way to the North end of Opeonga Lake.  We saw and heard loons on the way up but were in a hurry to get to moose habitat.  The first two we saw quickly departed back into the bush and we had to go quite a way into the protected area to find more mammals.  Michael found us four moose in one location and those four were soon joined by two more.

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As we sat watching and photographing the moose a pair of Sandhill Cranes flew in calling.  They fed for a while and then took off again, watched by one curious munching moose.

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Soon after the moose became aware of something in the bush and one after one they stopped feeding and quickly moved out of sight into the trees.

Surrounded by biting insects we searched for more and finding mooseless marshes we moved back out to the open lake.  Passing a tall topless pine we noticed, what we thought, was an old Bald Eagle nest.  We then watched a single Bald Eagle fly toward the nest and land.  Soon Pat, who has and eagle eye herself, thought she saw a white head between the live branches.  Over the next hour we saw both eagles fly to various perches and to the nest.  Very exciting for all of us!

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As you can see by the background of these photographs, by now the sky had clouded over and the wind was coming up.  Soon after the rain started and the wind became a “blow”.  We decided it was time to give in and head back to the boat launch.  After a terrible trip across the lake we arrived back at the landing at 1 pm for an early end for the day with the hope of being able to dry out our gear and clothes for the next day.

We were fortunate to have an empathetic waitress at dinner who told us about a fox den out of the park and we headed there after collecting out camera gear.  We found a single fox kit trying to escape the mosquitoes by lying in the sand right beside the road.  We were able to photograph her right there until another car came along and sent her down a steep bank.

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On our second day we got to spend quite a bit of time with a co-operative cow moose, several loons on nests, the Bald Eagles, and, of course, the blackflies and mosquitoes.

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After a very moose-filled second annual trip my big wish was for a cow moose with twins.  We did find and photograph just that situation.  The mother fed fairly far from the calves, though, and there was little interaction between them, however.

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With another moose photography trip over I now have the wish/goal of photographing moose calf twins interacting with their mother for next year!

Each visit has been quite different.  This year we had fewer moose than last year.  We had no bulls with large antlers, The bullfrogs were not yet in full chorus.  We did have a Swainsons Thrush singing in the bush near one vantage point.  We saw three loons on nests and the fox kit was a bonus.  Our final moose opportunity was a bull swimming up a creek.  We hoped he would stop and feed but he seemed to be surrounded by biting flies and he just kept swimming.

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This year not all of our group were avid photographers but just being out there in such peaceful and quiet surroundings is a rejuvinating experience in which I hope to participate again next year.  Many thanks to Michael and the other women who shared it!

All the photographs in this and all my posts are the sole property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without my written permission.  All images were created with a Canon 7D and 7DII and most with a 500 4f lens with or without a 1.4 converter.

WEEKEND AT THE ALGONQUIN WILDLIFE RESEARCH STATION

My adventures in 2015 have kept me closer to home than is usual and my weekend at the Algonquin Research Station, only two hours from Bala, was an exceptional adventure.

Algonquin Park has been hosting researchers since 1944 with last year being their 70th anniversary.  We began our weekend late Friday afternoon with introductions form Kevin Clute, Group Education Coordinator for Friends of Algonquin Park, and Tim Winegard, Research Station Manager.  We,the participants, introduced ouselves, had a tour of the station and were assigned cabins.

I was lucky to be assigned a cabin with running water, flush toilet and heat as the temperature went down to -5 C overnight.  The water system in the wash/bathroom house froze!

After an early breakfast Saturday morning “Small Mammal” researchers, Morgan and Sloan, from the University of Guelph, took us out to one of their trap lines to see what they had caught overnight.

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Morgan and Sloan are participating in studies that have been ongoing for 64 years.  Using Longworth and Sherman live traps they bait for shrews, jumping mice, deer mice and voles using water soaked sunflower seeds, meal worms and also polyester bedding.  Unfortunately, shrews do not do well when trapped but various attempts are made to mitigate the problems.  The only one captured had succumbed to by the time we found it.

For me, the highlight was the capture of a Woodland Jumping Mouse.  I have never seen one before and Doug Smith and I have discussed the possibility of doing an article on jumping mice.  They have beautiful colouring with a wide dark strip down their backs and a very long white-tipped tail.  I asked Morgan where I would likely find one and she told me she didn’t really know as she has seen them only in the traps.

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After weighing and measuring, each new capture is given an ear tag and released.

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Even though flying squirrels are not part of the research being done by Morgan and Sloan, three of their traps held Southern Flying Squirrels.  These were released without any measurements being taken.

Ironically, the squirrel researchers had not caught a single flying squirrel in any of their traps up to that part of the season.

From the small mammals we went on to reptiles and amphibians.  These guys did a great job capturing a few amphibians considering the cold temperature overnight.  They had a small and larger bullgrog caught near the dam where the local turtles nest.

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From frogs to turtles brought us to the beach where one of the large mesh traps was setup to show how they were trapped.  The biggest Snapping Turtle captured was Cujo, who had been counted for the twenty-first year.  He weighs about 18 kg and he took every possible opportunity  to attempt to get back to water.

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Matt Keevil is the man holding Cujo.  I met him again last Friday as I was trying to herd a female Snapping Turtle, tag #741, across Hwy 60.  She decided she didn’t want to go at that time and quickly turned around and headed back to where she had started.  I saw three other females laying eggs that morning in the soft, warm rain.  Matt said that one of their tagged females had been killed on Hwy 60 the day before.

We were shown several different ways of determining the sex of Midland Painted Turtles.  The first one is the long length of the male’s from claws.

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The female’s tail is shorter and narrower than the male’s as shown.

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Once again, during the day this time, and with no snow on the ground, Steve led us out to Bat Lake for an overview of the BLISS program.  BLISS stands for Bat Lake Inventory of Spotted Salamanders, in which I had been lucky enough to be involved during another wonderful workshop in early May.  Steve had managed to find a Spotted Salamander along with a Red Striped Salamander and its counterpart the Lead-backed Salamander.  Another surprise for this late date was a Spotted Salamander egg mass.  Here held by one or our participants, Laverne.  This egg mass shows the green algae associated with the egg masses of this species.

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Squirrel researchers, Elliot and Sarah, demonstrated their methods of trapping flying squirrels and Red Squirrels.  We saw one of their traps attached to a tree branch with one of several Red Squirrels inside.  They move the squirrel into a bag and then do measurements and apply an ear tag.

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All of the Red Squirrels that had been trapped, already had ear tags, showing that they were retraps and likely less afraid of the traps and measuring procedures than the promise of a goody consisting of a peanut butter ball with additional nuts and seeds.

On Saturday evening Coley and Alex spoke to us about the ongoing Gray Jay studies in which they were involved.  Tim and others got everyone but me up to see their banding of the latest recorded nest of unfledged young.  I was unable to bend my knees enough to get down from the dock into the canoe and I carried on with other things.  I was lucky to have been able to watch Dan Strickland and two of his assistants band a nest of young about twenty years ago and did not feel I had missed out on anything.

Our last event was presented by researchers Sandra, from Brazil, and Nathan who explained how they trap insects at various hours of the day and night to discover just what may be are available for birds to eat in the Park.

As I am unable to walk very far or on uneven ground I was allowed to use my car to get from site to site which allowed me to participate in almost every activity with no problems.  At times a couple of others joined me as well.

It was a well-planned and executed weekend with personal time included. Meeting the people who do the research and being able to see just what they do was exciting and informative.  All the other participants had interesting stories to tell as well.

Any adults interested in joining the group next year should begin planning now.  Be prepared for biting bugs, rain, cold, heat and all other possibilities.  It will be spring in Algonquin Park after all!

The Algonquin Wildlife Research Station needs financial help to survive.  Please consider doing what you can.

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

TRILLIUMS AND MEMORIES

As the Trillium grandiflora fade in Muskoka, once again I think of Joan Brown.  Joan was an avid naturalist who, as she had to sell her beloved home on Lake Roseau, gave me and others some of her truly grandiflora, grandiflora.  This year I have nine blooms.

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I have shared images of these spectacular trilliums before and every year I think of Joan and her love for all wildflowers and all things wild.

I have only one other Trillium grandiflora blooming on my property that I know of and it is the regular ones.   With mostly oaks and pines my soil is too acidic for most woodland flowers.  Bunchberry and Trailing Arbutus are the exceptions and not to be downplayed.

Thanks, Joan!

“MARCH OF THE SALAMANDERS”

Last Saturday, May 2, 2015, Friends of Algonquin Park put on a workshop titled “March of the Salamanders”.  The timing was perfect and the salamanders did march.  Kevin Clute, David Legros and Damian led us on the perfect evening –  not too warm, not too cool, dry, moonlit, no bugs and lots of salamanders.  There were 12 participants.

The workshop began with a very informative presentation in the theatre at the Visitor Centre.  We learned lots of amazing things about Spotted (the yellow spotted ones) and the Blue Spotted Salamanders.  For instance they have been known to live up to 35 years!

Research began in 2008 at Bat Lake which has some interesting characteristics.  The water in Bat Lake is more acidic than it was previously thought that salamanders could breed.  Breed they do and around 4000 are caught and recorded every spring.  Their egg masses, clear in other breeding pools, are completely cloudy white in Bat Lake.  The small vernal pool on my property hosts approximately 35 to 45 salamanders.

Our outing included a visit to a vernal pool where about 18 wood frog egg masses were found.  We saw and heard wood frogs and spring peepers singing and saw the predated bodies of a Blue Spotted Salamander and a couple of wood frogs.  Another creature seen was the predaceous diving beetle.  These large insects are known to give a person quite a bite.

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About 9 pm we began our trek to Bat Lake and found numerous salamanders headed there too.  My goal was to photograph the Blue Spotted Salamanders.

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The path into the lake still had areas of packed snow and I hoped to find a salamander crossing that area but discovered that the salamanders were being picked up and were getting a lift to the lake.

 

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About half an hour after we arrived at Bat Lake we discovered a mating frenzy of Spotted Salamanders right at the shoreline.  It seemed like there were between 18 to 24 individuals involved.  That was the icing on the cake!  We had seen the salamanders march and then we saw them dance.  Couldn’t have been better!

 

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Unfortunately I took many pictures of the frenzy but my flash wasn’t working so they are all very noisy.  At any rate the workshop was a very satisfying  experience that I would like to repeat.

The Bat Lake Trail publication and the Amphibians and Reptiles of Algonquin Park are two resources available for information.

 

Please note that all images in this and every one of my blogs are the sole property and copyrighted by the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose without written permission.

TIME TO SHARE LOONS OF SUMMER 2014

I had to be far enough away from this experience to share my loon photographs from last summer’s adventure. and that is why there has been a delay in sharing these images and this experience.

After a cold and windy spring I discovered that the loons on my lake had produced two chicks.  I had been unable to go out daily to check on them because of the weather and by the time I saw the chicks they were two weeks old.

My usual routine would have been to go out in my open-topped kayak every morning from about 7 -9 am.  It was, however, too cold and windy to be safe out there until almost the middle of July.

By that time the adults were still content to be close to my boat but the chicks were not.  After a week or so the chicks were familiar with me and my kayak and came much closer.  One of the chicks was obviously dominant by that time and in a couple of days the submissive one had disappeared.  I have seen this happen several times on this lake, Lake Joseph and been involved with chick reintroductions with A Wing and a Prayer wild bird rehab centre.

This is a very small lake with not enough fish to sustain two chicks.  Some people have suggested stocking the lake but that would bring in species not native to the lake and that could cause many problems for the native fish.

After awhile the loons came closer and closer and I decided to buy a GoPro camera and attempt to photograph them underwater.  I got lots of underwater video and then took screen grabs from that video for large prints.  Most of the video is just water with only a few parts with loons and most is not useable for anything.

As with most projects there was fun and lots of frustration.

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This one is of the four-week-old chick with adult.  All of these have been printed on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation paper at 30″ x 16″.

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The next one, titled “Loon Feet” should probably be titled Loon Legs, is currently hanging in a show at the Summit Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, until mid-May.

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I have been making my prints on canvas for the last few years but these images needed a different treatment.  Because they are soft to begin with I felt that the texture of the canvas would blur them too much.   The prints are applied to art boards which are then attached to  cradles or stretcher bar frames.  The prints are coated for UV and wear protection and fixed into black floating frames without glass.

I like the soft and mysterious, yet intimate, feeling of these images.

All images and video in these posts are the copyrighted property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written permission of the photographer.