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Entries in Nature (11)

Monday
Jun252012

The Birds and Butterflies of Carden Alvar

We've visited the Carden Alvar several times already this year but we wanted to go one more time before the birding begins to quiet down.  Of particular interest was the Loggerhead Shrike which we were eager to add to our LBY list.  So, last Saturday we rose with the sun and spent a beautiful morning exploring the alvar.  We thoroughly enjoyed all of what the alvar had to offer -  the birds were plentiful and vocal and the flowers were in bloom, covered with butterflies and bees.  We met a few people along the way, including Jean Iron.  It is always a pleasure being surrounded by those who love to observe and photograph the same things we do.  Once there we drove directly to Wylie Road and headed for the location where a Loggerhead Shrike family has been observed this season.  While I scanned the landscape for our goal species Nate spent some time photographing the other local birds, including the Barn Swallows...
...the Catbirds foraging for breakfast...
...and the Eastern Blubirds bringing food to their young.
It was about 8am when Jean Iron arrived and kindly let us know where the Loggerheads were located.  It turns out I had been looking on the wrong side of the road for the entire morning. LOL  It wasn't long thereafter we saw two young Loggerheads along the fence and we were happy campers!! :-)  The birds were positioned into the sunlight making shooting conditions practically impossible but we did get to observe them via Jean's scope which was great. 
Across the road from where the Loggerheads were located was a nice sized collection of Spreading Dogbane buzzing with butterfly activity.  We were able to photograph a few new species including some Bronze Coppers. With their wings closed male and female Bronze Coppers look like this...
...With their wings open, a male Bronze Copper looks like this...
...and a female Bronze Copper looks like this.
Here is a photo Nate captured of a Milbert's Tortoiseshell when closed...
...and a Milbert's Tortoiseshell open.
We spent a couple of hours with the Loggerheads and butterflies before heading down to the Sedge Marsh area. This area was also busy with bird and butterfly activity.  Within the first ten minutes were were able to photograph a European Skipper on Birdsfoot Trefoil...
...and a Marsh Wren performing its little heart out.
Timing was on our side when Nate happed to see a young Virginia Rail at the side of the narrow road.  We chose a spot and hunkered down to wait and see if any others would emerge.  Sure enough the young one popped out again... 
...and then another...
...and finaly the mother emerged.  The whole family crossed the road together, making their way into the growth on the other side then disappreared.  Getting to watch this crossing was a lot of fun, we were both grinning from ear to ear.
Around the puddles on the rough gravel of Wylie Road we were able to photograph American Ladies.
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph this gorgeous White Admiral when it landed right in front of me. I find with this species to be almost more beautiful closed...
...than they are open.
Finally, I wanted to let everyone know that  the government has proposed to establish a portion of the Carden Alvar as a Provincial Park.  You can show your support by visiting the Environmental Registry page and leave a comment.  Click HERE to be directed their webpage.
I hope you're all having a great weekend.
Friday
Feb032012

Nature 10+1 - 2.33 "Into the Wild"

Shot in Oro ~ iPhone 4S

Thursday
Feb022012

Nature 10+1 - 2.32 "The Inspector"

Red-breasted Nuthatch shot at Tiffin Conservation Area ~ Canon 7D, EF 100-400mmL IS

Tuesday
Feb222011

Tuesday Photo Tip - The Big Three Pt. 2 ~ Head Angle

Image A

Image B

We'll start off this post with a quick question - which image do you prefer, A or B?  Nine out of ten people will pick image B and the interesting thing about this choice is that most can't tell you the reason behind it.  Both images are identical except for one small difference, head angle.

The first few times I read about head angle I just couldn't understand how a couple degrees of difference could make or break an image.  Despite my willingness to learn I couldn't wrap my head around the idea, no pun intended! :)  It wasn't until someone posted two images highlighting the difference that I immediately understood what it was all about.

In Image A the ducks head is a couple degrees away from the camera's sensor (bad head angle) and in Image B it is a couple degress towards the cameras sensor (good head angle).  If the birds head is exactly parallel to the cameras sensor then it's considered an acceptable head angle.  

Here's two more images which are very similar - which do you prefer?

Image A

Image B

Image B has an acceptable head angle, but Image A is much better! :)  The difference is quite subtle but the emotional impact of the image dramaticlly increases when you get the head angle just right.  If you want to delve into this subject a little deeper here's a good discussion to look at on Bird Photographers.net (a great site to learn from),http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/69804-Head-Angle-Fine-Points-Thread-in-the-ER

A little while ago someone mentioned to me how awesome it was that all my bird images have catchlight in the bird's eye.  Flattery aside, I thought about it for a second and realized that catchlight isn't something I even think about anymore.  By following last weeks tip of proper light angle and this weeks tip of proper head angle catchlight in the birds eye becomes a given. :)

Next week we'll finish off the trinity with Perspective and Backgrounds.

Sunday
Feb202011

Nature 10+1 - 1.50 "Redpoll to the Rescue"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF-S 55-250mm 4-5.6 IS @250mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO 640

There was an increase of activity at our feeders today and we were lucky to have both Redpolls and Siskins show up!!  A full post with lots of pictures to come tomorrow morning.  Hope you had a great weekend!

Great Backyard Bird Count/Project Feeder Watch Results : Am Goldfinch (43), BC Chickadee (6), Dark-eyed Junco (5), Mourning Dove (3), Am Crow (3), COMMON REDPOLL (2), Downy Woodpecker (2), House Finch (2), PINE SISKIN (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Eu Starling (1)

Monday
Feb072011

Nature 10+1 - 1.38 "Mrs Hairy Woodpecker"

Shot in Oro ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @400mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 640, EV + 1

Wednesday
Feb022011

Happy World Wetlands Day!!!

I have always thought of today as Groundhog Day - the day we find out how much more of winter we will have to indure....but not anymore!!  Since becoming involved in nature photography our focus has shifted towards a deep appreciation of our natural spaces coupled with a burning desire to help conserve and educate.  February is no longer just Groundhog Day for us, it is also, and more importantly, World Wetlands Day!!!

WWD first began in 1997 and marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands back in 1971 at the Ramsar Convention in Iran.  The Ramsar Convention was put together to address global concerns regarding the loss and degradation of the worlds wetlands.  Its mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world."  Ramsar's list of wetlands of international importance now include 1,888 sites from all over the world.  I am proud to say that Canada has the greatest area of listed wetlands in the world with over 130,000 square kilometers, which represents approximately 25% of the worlds wetlands!!!

On a scientific level wetlands are defined as areas of land where the soil is saturated with moisture on a permanent or seasonal basis for long enough each year to support aquatic plants.  Wetlands include lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, detlas, tidal flats, near shore marine areas, mangroves, coral reefs and man made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoires and salt pans. Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems because they include an abundance of plant life and wildlife.  

Wetlands play a major role when considering our environment and climate change.  Wetlands help abate pollution through their natural ability to sink and retain carbon.  When these areas are destroyed for the purpose of development the stored carbon is expelled into the atmosphere.  It is estimated that 7% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions comes from this.  

Water is one of the most important environmental issues of our time and wetlands play a major role in this as they are natural water purification systems.  Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen enter our water systems because of agriculture and industry.  Research indicates that sediments and organisms that live in wetlands trap, breakdown and absorb these nutrients.  Wetlands also filter, trap and absorb harmful bacteria, trap sediment and lessen the impact of erosion.

Sadly, by 1993 over half of the worlds wetlands have been drained.  I think Dave Matthews hit the nail right on the head with the lyrics from his song Before These Crowded Streets, "progress takes away what forever took to find."  I couldn't of said it better myself!!  Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! :)

Sunday
Jan302011

Nature 10+1 - 1.30 "Junco on Cattail"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Tripod, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 @400mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 640

Project Feeder Watch Counts : Am Goldfinch (13), Dark-eyed Junco (9), Mourning Dove (4), BC Chickadee (3), House Finch (2), Purple Finch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Cardinal (1), Downy Woodpecker (1)

Saturday
Jul172010

Camping At Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park

On Sunday, July 11th (Nathan's birthday), we left Barrie and headed for Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park (SDCPP) in Mattawa, Ontario to spend a few days camping with family.  Neither of us are particularly fond of camping to begin with and a looming weather forecast of humidity and rain had us expecting the worse but hoping for the best.

We arrived at the park late Sunday afternoon and quickly unpacked our gear - we wanted to take full advantage of the stellar lighting conditions.  Nate took the next two photos of the flora surrounding our campsite.

Before dinner we went down to the beach and explored the area.

We tried to capture the sunset after dinner but we had difficulty locating a good spot to shoot from.  Instead, I took some landscape type shots of the view from the beach.

Later that night, after our family had gone to bed, we roamed around the park playing around with shutter speeds, the Lensbaby, and a flashlight.  We're not used to the clear northern skies so seeing the many stars above was absolutely amazing.  I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a shooting star!  Here's a few of our shots from that night...

Nathan woke up before dawn on Monday morning.  The skies were partially overcast but we set out to photograph the sunrise nonetheless.  Here's a few of the shots we were able to get...

On Monday, while sitting on the bench pictured below, I wondered to myself 'who the heck is Samuel De Champlain?!?!'  Once I got home I googled his name and found out.  WARNING:  HISTORY LESSON IS IMMINENT!!!!

SDC was a navigator and map-maker who explored North America at the beginning of the 17th century.  In 1605 he participated in the creation of the first permanent European settlement north of Florida in Nova Scotia (Acadia) called Port Royal.  He has been dubbed the "Father of New France" for establishing a second settlement in 1608 which is now known as Quebec City.   It was there he developed a vast trade network and was eventually appointed governor.

HISTORY LESSON OVER!! :)

All in all we had a great time spending time with family and exploring the park.  Here are some random shots taken throughout the trip..

...a close-up of a spectacular Jerusalem's Artichoke...

...this Great Blue Heron landed right in front of Nathan...

...at tree that just won't let go...

...and finally a group of Canada Geese swimming upstream!?!?

As a footnote, I wanted to mention that we visited the small town of Mattawa twice while we were camping and we found it to be quite picturesque and lovely.

Happy birding!!

 

Wednesday
Jul142010

Nature 365 - Day 193

Geese at Sunrise on Lake Moore - Shot at Samuel de Champlain PP

Wednesday
Jul142010

Fort Willow Conservation Area - NVCA Tour Part 2

Last Saturday we decided to visit another Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Area and this time we chose to visit the Historic Fort Willow.  HFW is located on Portage Road in Minesing and only takes about 10 minutes to get to from the west end of Barrie.

Historically, Fort Willow was a supply depot in the War of 1812 but even before that the area was part of a larger transportation route called the 9 Mile Portage used by aboriginals, fur traders and French explorers.

The first thing we noticed was a small wildflower garden as we entered the fort.  Nathan continued to acquaint himself with our new macro lens and was able to capture a few stellar shots:  a Bouncing Bet flower...

...and a daisy-like flower I have yet to ID.

As Nathan worked the garden I took the Lensbaby and played with the pillory.

We strolled around the grounds for awhile then headed down the Ganaraska Trail to the Minesing Swamp Lookout.   The bugs were a nuisance for the entire hike.  At one point I could see well over 10 flies swarming around Nate's head.  This took much of the enjoyment out of our excursion and we hurried back to the car.

This is a shot I took with the Lensbaby of Nathan going back up the stairs to the fort.  

The weather started to heat up as noontime came near and the bugs were relentless so we decided to leave, but not without a sense that our visit had been much too short.