During my 5 weeks at "Ketelsen East" this Fall, I kept my eyes open for wildlife. Out in the woods around the house I often saw signs of 'possums, and skunks, but rarely saw their mostly-nocturnal outlines in the dusk. I saw "Bruce", our resident groundhog, but didn't catch him on film this time, nor the white-tail deer I would occasionally spot bedded down adjacent to the access road to the house.
Probably the stars of the trip were the nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes and their nestlings. I literally spotted them in River Bend Community Park, adjacent to the bike path, where I was able to bike to within 50 feet or so where I took the picture at left with my cell phone. I spotted them on an almost daily basis, both in the park and down the road about 150 yards where I think they stayed the summer. Not always carrying the "big" camera, after spotting them one day I had time to run home (a mile) to get the camera and get back with a telephoto. Of course, once off the bike or out of the car and they suddenly recognized me as a dangerous human and started fleeing, but was able to catch the male at right.
Of course, the image at right is reduced in size to fit the blog 1600 pixel-wide limit. While the plumage is a little drab, shown at full resolution at left, more details in his feathers can be seen and the bicolor feathers stand out nicely!
After spotting the house whose backyard they stayed in, I could find them most any time. At right is their usual stomping grounds between the house and a water lagoon. How cool would it be to have sandhill cranes living in your back yard?! I guess after the novelty wore off, it might be a pain - likely against the law to disturb them and even mowing the yard might be considered harassment... Again, if I was on foot they were quite wary, even when they were 50 yards away as shown here.
To get around their fear of humans, the cure, of course, was to drive up to them in a car! I drove down the street leading to the front of the above house, and the cranes nearly walked up to me! With the 300mm lens, it was quite easy to get the closest view I'll ever likely get of them! At right is the male again, and at right is the male in the background and one of the fledglings in the foreground. In this view you can see the youngster has lost some of the feathers off the top of its head and will likely be replaced by the characteristic red plumage that is on top of the adult heads! These pics were taken a few weeks ago when I was still there - duh! But they didn't seem in any hurry to head southwards. Hopefully the cold weather they've gotten since has motivated them to move further south!
Besides the cranes, Canada Geese were literally everywhere! There is a contingent of them that spends the winters in the Fox Valley and there were thousands lining the streets as seen at left, as well as school yards, local cornfields, really most everywhere there was space for a few hundred to congregate. They have certainly lost their novelty and the little "surprises" they leave behind don't particularly make them popular... Not particularly common, but seen several times were the odd egret and heron, though not as numerous as a half dozen years ago when they were seen most every day fishing along the banks of the river.
About the only other creature seen that I had not before was a garter snake that my friend Jane spotted while we were out walking. I've NEVER seen snakes of any kind on the grounds of the camp, so this one took me by surprise. It was also quite willing to pose for me and besides the still frame at left, I also took a stereo pair at right. Get out the red/blue glasses to see the view in 3D!
And, of course, I can't have just one anaglyph image on the blog - it just ruins the symmetry of its Tao, or something like that, so here is another, though it has nothing to do with the fauna of the area. It is of a little patio table that usually holds an ashtray for Melinda's friends to gather around outside to smoke when they visit. Well, the ashtray is still there, but unseen under the pile of leaves that fell naturally to cover table and chairs. And yes, I did my duty and swept off the sidewalk and table before leaving for Tucson, making sure the majority of the leaves were off the tree before doing so. Again, the red/blue glasses are needed to see the 3D!
It was a nice trip and I'm already looking forward to a return, though now that winter has a grip on the area, I might wait till it is closer to warmer weather. But you never know - I might get a hankerin' for some snow and cold weather!
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