Friday, February 28, 2014

Snow, Cold, Beauty All Around

And the Snow Grew Deeper Still...            21 February 2014

Along the Saint Croix River, deer beds are low, deep in the snow.  I imagine the insulation of three feet of snow must work wonders against the bitter, relentless subzero cold.   As I encounter each deer bed, my snowshoes tower above the tiny swirl of leaf litter in the basin of the bed.  The deer must be barely visible, if visible at all when bedded, a tiny black nose or soft ears poking just above the skim of white powder. My fears of Winter's ability to decimate the herd are fading quickly. This is a warm shelter that must rival a well-made quinzhee hut.   Indeed there are are good numbers of deer along the river, despite fifty days this winter with waking temperatures far below zero Fahrenheit (-18 C).

When the winds blow, even the winter-hardened, skillful hunter retires to hibernation.   On calm days, I venture out on snowshoes to see what stirs and to feel some connection with the bitter cold.  While birds are scarce this year, otters have decorated the snow with endless trails along frozen bays skirting the open water seeps.  There is life here and there in the frozen quiet calm.

These images were made with a refurbished Canon 7D and 300mm f4L IS lens.  The header image was made using a Nokia Lumia 928 phone with Carl Zeiss optics.  No fingers were lost in the making of this blog.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Open Water

Subzero Life Around the Currents                     27 January 2014

Bald Eagle, Mississippi River bluffs, subzero temperatures...

Wisconsin is a strange place in winter.  So long as the rivers flow, we will be witnesses to water in all of its forms when the temperature dips into the deep freeze.  Open water serves as a winter oasis for wildlife, and survival is assured for many species.

Hooded Merganser, female, over open water

Common Mergansers

Feet tucked in feathers, a Bald Eagle travels along the open water.

To the wildlife photographer, open water is a busy concentration of wildlife. To the waterfowl, it is a chance at overwintering, a hole in an otherwise frozen universe.   To the eagle, it is better odds, a source of captive prey.   As the winter moves along, the drama unfolds, shifts, and renews itself a thousand times over.

A young Bald Eagle tests mergansers and goldeneyes for weakness.

Young Bald Eagle, Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and Common Goldeneye

The rare bird alerts repeat the contents of each open water oasis, some of them tinged with humor or regret. "For those wishing to see the Long-tailed Duck, I will save you the trip. It has just been eaten by an eagle," reads one report.   Nonetheless, I venture to the spot and watch with my breath held as young Bald Eagles attempt to dine on Common Goldeneye ducks.

The sun goes down, and I continue on for home where the furnace and family are equally warm and dim lights yield academic reflection of a world that can be brutally cold.

All images were photographed with my old Canon 40D and old Canon 300mm f4L IS lens, thrown in the van for days when unexpected photography may arise through serendipity.  Be well, and pursue life in every breath, in every cup of tea.