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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

American Coot aka Marsh Hen

Today's surprise snowfall was a firm reminder that winter is just around the corner.  This was one of those days where the temptation was strong to just stay indoors and enjoy the fresh snowfall from the comfort of the living room.  Well maybe that would have been the smart thing to do but that just isn't the way we roll.  We decided to load up the camera gear and see what kind of animals were around.  We checked out the local elk herd but they seemed to be sitting pretty tight and probably resting comfortably under some thick hemlocks.  Our next mission was to check out a spot where a big old bruin has been frequenting but that didn't pan out either.  So far it's not looking like it's going to be a very productive day.

We decided to check out a couple area ponds and reservoirs to see if there were any waterfowl that stopped for a rest on their southern migration.  As we approached the one large body of water we spotted a couple birds but they had made up their mind that they didn't want their picture taken.  One bird that we watched through the binoculars was definitely a Loon.  A Loon is a diver and can travel quite a distance underwater.  After watching this Loon for a few moments it was obvious he wasn't getting close enough for a decent picture.

Our next subject was a Grebe.  This little duck is a diving duck and he was anxious to demonstrate his skills.  For a good 15 minutes we watched this little duck and tried to anticipate where he would surface so we could be ready to snap his picture.  Let's just say that the Grebe won this little game.  He always outsmarted us and at times would dive and we never did see where he would surface. 

After playing "chase the Grebe" for a good 15 minutes we spotted something that we just had to check out in a nearby wetland.  As we scanned the wetland with the binoculars we spotted a dozen male and female Mallards casually swimming along.  But there was another bird close to the right side that definitely caught our eye.  We worked our way over towards that side of the pond and got a pretty decent look.  We identified this duck as an American Coot.  These are real cool ducks.  They have a whitish bill with a grayish bad around the tip and a featherless shield just above their bill at the front of their head.  In fact this is where the saying "bald as a Coot" was derived from.  Their feet aren't webbed but instead they have floppy lobed toes.  The American Coot can actually run pretty fast on land and seem to run on the water to take flight.  Seeing this American Coot made our day outdoors worthwhile. 

We ended our day by once again trying to get some close up pictures of the albino's that we have been watching.  One of these days we will be in the right place at the right time and get some great images but today would not be that day.  All in all though it was a great day to be out and about enjoying nature.

American Coot
I have tons of excuses for these being bad pictures.  It was snowing hard and mixed with rain.  I was shooting with my tripod fully extended which doesn't make for a stable platform for sharp images.  Aside from that it was a dreary day which made for slow shutter speeds and a duck that bobbed continuously.  If it sounds like I'm whining it's because I am.  Poor pictures or not, we were still thrilled to add a new duck to our photo collection.
As I said, their feet are rather unusual.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Early Morning Mist

This is another prime example where the quality of an image doesn't mandate whether it will be Blog worthy or not.  Once again  poor quality photos are included because of the story they tell.  These particular images were shot on a particularly foggy Sunday morning.  Fog and beautiful sunsets are two things that I just don't have the ability to predict.  In fact, I'm not sure anyone has that ability.  The way I work around that is to not worry about it.  If an evening sunset turns out to be vibrant and beautiful we enjoy it to the fullest.  In the case of fog, I can't change it, I can't worry about it and it won't stop me from pressing the shutter release. In fact I am finding more and more that I'm embracing it and amazed by it.  Sure it doesn't make for the sharpest of images but the images left in my mind are priceless.  My advice is to get out there on a foggy morning and as the fog clears just watch nature unfold before your eyes.  Those sights and sounds won't soon be forgotten.

On this early foggy morning I found myself sitting in the middle of a large herd of elk.  Since I was there when the fog began to lift the animals didn't seem bothered by me.  I on the other hand was a bit concerned by how close I was to an enormous bull. As the fog lifted I became aware of the identity of this large bull.  Sure enough this was "Ear Hook" probably the toughest bull on the hill.  The day before he had done battle in this same field and I would imagine some of the  cows present today were the result of yesterdays battle.  He's a huge intimidating animal with a very noteworthy characteristic.  He's got one tine on his left side that curls around in front of his ear.  That would be an awesome find come shed time.  We'll be looking for it for sure.

The other thing that stood out on this foggy morning was the sight of a small calf with the herd.  This calf was way too small for this time of the year.  I come to learn that this calf was born in mid August which is quite late in the year.  We hope he's strong enough to endure a hard winter.  I shot a few pictures that really show the contrast between Ear Hook and the baby.  We call this Big and Little.  I'm sure you'll see why.  One of the images show what I like to think as the family with Daddy, Mommy and the little guy.  While I'm not certain if that cow mothered this calf, she sure seemed to keep an eye on it.

The final picture shows a head shot which really gives you a grasp of how he got his name.  Hope you enjoy Ear Hook, Momma and baby.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How about some color!

What a day!  Early in the morning we were capturing images of our local elk herd in the peak of the rut.  Toward evening our viewfinder focused on a big old black bear, some deer and of course more elk.  The subjects for our afternoon shooting were quite a bit smaller but still proved to be a challenge.  The models for our afternoon photography session were Monarch Butterflies.  One thing is certain these little buggers also require a lot of patience to get a decent shot.  The reward for your patience is a viewfinder full of vibrant color.  Yep, big or small, we shoot em' all!

Close encounter with a bruin

One thing about Winslow Hill you are pretty much guaranteed to see wildlife and it's not always elk.  Recently we were prowling around up on the hill in search of our world famous elk herd.  Sure we saw lots of elk and surprisingly enough we even saw some deer.  This night we were treated to getting up close and personal with a big old Black Bear.  He tried his best to be uncooperative as far as getting his picture taken but we persevered and got off several shots.  For several minutes we played cat and mouse as we fought for position trying for a clear shot.  Whenever we would Zig, he would Zag and we feared he may tire of this game and get a bit nasty.  Fortunately we didn't end up bear bait and somehow got into a position that provided a great shot.  It was quite unnerving looking through that telephoto lens as it made him look like he could actually take a swipe at us with his claws.  After firing off several shots we made a quick retreat for safety and let Mr Bear alone to do what bears do.

Shimmering Silk

Sometimes even during the peak of the Elk Rut there are quiet moments of waiting and reflection.  This was the case recently as my wife and I sat quietly waiting for a herd of elk to emerge into our view.  Mid morning the elk leave the fields and head to the trees where they spend most of the day.  We knew it would just be a matter of time and the quiet forest would be filled with the sounds of stomping hooves, bugling and yelping.  This is a sound that just gets our blood flowing and peaks our senses.  As we sat we were noticing all the beautiful silk webs laden with the morning dew.  I definitely didn't have the right lens for this but I still couldn't resist firing off a few shots in hope of capturing this beauty.  I hope you enjoy these images.

The image below is just a small enlargement of the web above just to show the droplets of dew.