January 2012, Eagle season

The cold weather has arrived, and with it the bald eagles.  I’ve been going down to the riverfront here in Canton to photograph them on cold, clear mornings.  Sometimes it works.  On other days, the birds don’t cooperate.  One day the eagles weren’t flying, but as I drove out I spotted an American Kestrel on a wire.

American kestrel with half a mouse, From January 2013
When I saw it was eating something, I took my time and got plenty of shots.  I like to capture any kind of natural behavior these days.  A bird on a stick just doesn’t excite me any more.
Two eagles, one fish.  From January 2013
So I was excited to see these two eagles fighting over a bloody chunk of fish three days later.  Too bad the camera took two frames to focus.  In the earlier ones, the eagles were one above the other, the lower bird perfectly upside-down, and the fish in between them.  For years, I’ve been trying to get a perfect shot of an eagle catching a fish while flying straight toward the camera.  I almost got it this time.  It was just a bit too far away and a little out of focus.  Click through to the album to see the big fish it caught.
Caught!  From January 2013
One morning I arrived early enough to see the sun rise.  The mist rising on the Mississippi River created a nice effect.  
Sunrise over the Mississippi, From January 2013

The Canton Ferry, From January 2013

One day I took the vertebrate field biology class down to Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy. My former student Brent is the park ranger, and took us up onto the dam.  Eagles were abundant, and we saw 5 or 6 fighting over one fish.
Look closely to spot the fish.  From January 2013
I used to think eagles were rather stupid for stealing fish, when they are so abundant.  Sometimes you can see them floating by.  But I have since read that this could be a type of play or training behavior.  We tallied over 30 that day, and got a few close fly-by’s down by the launch ramp.  There was, as is often the case, a flock of ducks at the outlet from the sewage treatment plant.  An eagle dived on them.  I was just picking up a fish, but they took no chances and scattered.  They returned almost immediately, presumably because they’re addicted to the submergent vegetation that grows in the high nutrient water at that spot.
I’ve been wanting to try a nifty photo technique I read about recently.  It’s a type of light painting.  I’ll let you figure out how I made it.  Those in Canton Camera Club will hear at the next meeting.
Hint: not a spirograph.  From January 2013

After recovering from a persistent cough that had kept me indoors, I took a morning to go out to Lowell’s.  We went down to the fish house to check out the fox den Lowell discovered.  I should have taken a flashlight, as I could not see very deep into the hole.  As we hiked around the lake, he noticed that the tree was gone.  By the tree, I mean the tree I had tried to cut down a month or so ago and drop into the lake.  Unfortunately, I was a little out of practice in felling trees.  I botched the cut and the tree ended up leaning away from the lake.  We decided to leave it there in hopes that the wind might blow it back in the right direction.  I came back a week later with plastic wedges to try to pry it in the proper direction, but by then the kerf of the chainsaw had closed up, and the tree was leaning even more in the wrong direction.  I had some idea later of using a jack  to push it over, but never had a chance to execute it.  We hiked around the north arm of the lake and down the peninsula to the tree.  Much to my surprised, it had heeled over and fallen neatly into the lake.  Many shouts of joy and surprise ensued.  We are a couple of lucky bastards.  There had been a big wind recently, which had also blown the pontoon boat around on the lake. It must have taken down the tree.  Good thing it didn’t drop the tree on the boat.  There’s another dead tree next to the lake that needs to be similarly cut, but I’ll be more careful next time.  
I had some leftover little pumpkins from Halloween (yes, they can last that long) that I took out to Lowell’s for target practice.  It didn’t take long to figure out that the air gun was no longer sighted in.  I had dropped it on the scope that morning.  After considerable shooting to get it close, I finally shot one of the pumpkins, using heavy pellets.  It had a devastating effect.  Who needs firearms?!
I hiked around on a short hunt.  I saw one cottontail, but it performed a disappearing act like no magician’s bunny I’ve ever seen.  The best thing I found was an owl roost tree.  Lowell and I later went out and picked up the owl pellets.  On the way home I stopped by Wakonda State Park to look for the swans, but they weren’t there.  Maybe next time.
Smashing Pumpkins, with little pieces of lead.  From January 2013

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