Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cranberries and a few quick photos

It's been about three months since my last trip to swamp. Much too long a time to be away from there in my opinion, but sometimes one just has to make choices because time is so limited. In this case, many other things were much more important than photography. This time around I went with a good friend of mine to pick some cranberries. I was surprised how little berries there were, but we managed to get just about what we needed. I took a few quick pictures while picking berries, mainly as proof for myself that I did manage to get to swamp before winter.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The summer went by

I could not find the time for photography or updating this blog during the summer. From the beginning of June until the end of July my days were spent either at work or trying to complete the "project" in our backyard. I fixed our basement wall and then built a new terrace behind the house. Most of my time was spent shoveling sand, first digging a deep, large hole next to the wall and then filling it:
I will not calculate how much sand I had to move back and forth, but there sure was a lot of it. Now the basement wall is done as it should be, the drainige etc are up to modern standards.

The terrace turned out nice, it is good to sit down and enjoy the evening, or to have a barbeque. And if you're wondering, no, the terrace was not built sloping down. The camera was not straight when the picture was taken. I decided not to start straightening the image with photoshop, it's good enough as it is.
When the terrace was done, I made good on my promise to my eldest daughter and took her on a photography outing to the boonies. Here are a few pictures from that day:
Nea took this picture of a small spider that decided to hitch a ride on my sleeve:
I've promised to take Nea to see and photograph migrating cranes, so the next update will be coming much faster than this one did.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A spring morning at the swamp

I headed out at five in the morning. Just as the sun was rising I was at the end of the dirt road and started to walk towards my hide. At first the going was nice and light, there was either clear ground or snow with a nice icy crust to make walking easy in the forest. Once I got to the swamp, things changed completely. With the exception of a few small shady spots, all the snow and ice on the swamp had melted and there was plenty of water everywhere. Step by step I continued forward, eventhough I kept sinking about knee deep with every step. Along the way I stopped to look and listen at the sights and sounds of spring. A lonely crane was calling out near my route to the hide:
As usual, the crane was rather far away and as I kept moving, eventhough away from the bird, it took to its wings and flew away:
Eventually I arrived at the and as I had suspected, the tiedowns had let go. As the snow and the surface of the swamp had melted, the attachments had come loose. Luckily I had made a backup tiedown to a tiny pine and this had stopped the hide from being flown completely away. Eventhough the tent was lying on its side in the water, looking all battered and beaten, nothing was broken:
I took a few landscape -type pictures, mainly as a memento for myself of how wet everything was this time around:
The pair of swans that were close to the hide had received some company since my last visit:
I loaded the hide up and started to head back. The weight of the hide forced me to take short stops to rest along the way. I used the breaks to take some pictures. On one of my stops some calls from afar caught my attention. It took me some time to locate the source of the sounds, but I finally spotted four cranes making quite some noise between the trees close to the edge of the swamp:
The sun was out and heated the air fast and pulling the hide along in the soft and uneven surface of the swamp got me sweating quickly. Even with the heat of the sun, there were still some spots of terrain that were rather cold:
On my way back to the car the sun had heated the edge of the forrest so much, that I managed to take my first butterfly pictures of the year:
This one was a rather rough trip, but now the hide is at home drying and waiting for coming photography trips to the boonies.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A few drops of spring

The snow is melting, spring must be here:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

More black grouse pictures

I went thru the pictures of my "grouse morning". Quite a load of pictures, considering it was only one morning, but in my opinion, it is better to keep shooting when there is some action. The following pictures should give some idea as to how violent the confrontations between the birds were:
I could hear the thumps and slaps even in my hide as the birds attacked each other. It is a shame I can't add sound to the pictures. Maybe I should shoot a video of this sometime?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Morning grouses, again

Yes. I must be crazy. The alarmclock went off at 2 am. I had slept for about three hours. I turned the coffeepercolator on, to get the caffeine dose my body needed and took the younger dog out for a few minutes. When I got back inside, the coffee was ready and as I sipped my morning cup, I made some tea for my thermos that I was taking with me for the mornings outing. I put the thermos and some sandwiches in my backpack along with the rest of my gear and loaded the whole thing in the car.

A little after three I was at the end of the dirtroad and started skiing towards my hide. After the first hundred meters I got a harsh reminder of how important it is to check EVERYTHING, even for a short outing. This time it was the bind on my ski that broke. I managed a quick fix to it in the middle of the forest. (Detailed description of what happend will be posted later)

As I got closer to the hide, things got rather wet. There was a thin layer of snow on top a thick layer of wet slush and water on top some ice at the swamp. At some places I was lucky that my boots were long enough. The hide had stayed dry, but was surrounded on three sides by very deep water. All I could do was hope that the whole thing would not slide off the small mound it was sitting on.

I got into the hide and put on warm clothing and set up my gear. Then I had nothing to do but wait and have some tea and sandwiches. It was 4:35 am. that I had everything set up. Since I had nothing better to do, I put a few short updates for the folks at home on how things are going thru FaceBook on my mobile.

As the sun began to rise, there was enough light that I could see out of the hide. The sunrise was not as clear as I had hoped for, the thin layer of clouds gave the sunrise a gray/bluish tone instead of the yellow or orange that I wanted:
I was feeling a bit cold and maybe that is why I was also somewhat frustrated. I was starting to wonder if this would be one more entry in the long line of "I went but got no pictures" trips. Just as there was enough light to start seriously thinking of taking pictures a few grouses and some lapwings landed close to the hide:
The grouses made a lot of noise and strutted around quite a bit, but no real confrontations took place. The pecking order seemed to be clear to everyone:
All of a sudden, all the birds flew away. I spotted them landing several hundreds of meters from the hide. I was thinking of packing my gear and heading for home, when more and more grouses started landing, until there were about twenty birds around my hide. Soon lapwings arrived in great numbers also:
This second set of grouses was really active and skirmishes erupted all the time as the birds fought for the best spots:
After the grouses had had enough, the "clean up crew" arrived and seemed to be very interested in the spots where the toughest battles had been fought:
I'll post more pictures of the morning when I have had a chance to look thru all of the pictures I took.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Opening tracks and springtime

It looks as if spring has arrived. I went for a quick "ski about" in the boonies and noticed how the warm rainy days that we have had lately had caused the snow to become soft. There was simply no icy crust left and I kept sinking knee deep all along the way. This slowed me down quite a bit, but I just kept on going, my aim was open a track to my hide, since I am planning on going out on saturday morning to take some pictures.

I eventually got to the hide and noticed that it had become loose. The melting snow had revealed the tiedowns I buried earlier. The snow had also melted from underneath the hide, tilting the whole thing over to one side and submerging it partly in water. I moved the whole system a few meters to a drier spot and re-did the tiedowns.

Arriving at the hide I noticed plenty of grouse tracks in the snow around the hide and a flock of ten birds took off nearby as I approached. The hide seems to be situated well.

My old friend from previous years had come back also, a sure sign that spring is here:
I also heard a crane calling out from somewhere amidst the fog, but did not see where it was. The sound seemed to come from quite far away. On my way back I saw bunch of tits amongst the trees along the dirtroad. I stopped for a moment and took a couple of quick snapshots:
It would have been nice to get a better picture of the longtailed tit in the second picture, but I decided not to stay and wait for a better shot this time around. I felt that I needed get back to the car and head for home and a hot shower.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Too tired

Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about heading out to the hide this morning to try and get some grouse shots, but decided against it. Getting up in the middle of the night two nights in a row felt like a bit too much. I'll be able to get the grouse pics some other time. The morning turned out to be real good for photography, the night had been just cold enough that skiing would have been nice and easy with a good crust on the snow and the sunrise was giving good light with plenty of color and tone. Looking at the morning sunlight, I felt a bit of regret for being too lazy to rough it out. The good thing about not going is that I managed to help out with household stuff, we seemed to have plenty to do around the house once again.

I have a certain grouse picture that I want to take. Once again I have a vision in my mind but I don't know when I'll be able to get it, if ever. I know that if I don't get it this time around, I'll be trying for it again in a years time when it's black grouse mating season all over again. The weatherforecast said tuesday morning would be good, which suits me just fine, since the weekend is fully booked with other activities.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Too cold

The weather forecast was correct, it was well below freezing at night and a sunny morning followed. Nea and I headed off in the middle of the night and skied to the hide. Along the way we stopped a couple of times to look at the stars. Being away from city lights, we could see just how many stars there are in the sky.

We got to the hide nice and early, there was only the slightest hint of light on the horizon. We unpacked our gear and crawled into the hide. Once inside, we put on plenty of warm clothing and started setting up our cameras in anticipation of the morning and hopefully arriving grouses. That is when things took bad turn on us. Eventhough Nea had enough clothing on to cause the average eskimo to die of heat exhaustion, the cold of the night got thru. We tried to tough it out for awhile and tried to come up with some way of keeping Nea warm, but it was hopeless. In the end we had no choice, but to pack our gear and head back to the car and the warmth of home.

Skiing back to the car warmed Nea up enough that she felt good enough to stop and take a few pictures along the way:
These few quick snapshots saved the whole trip, the sadness of not being able to take pictures of grouses was forgotten. As we skied along, we did hear grouse calls in the distance, but did not ponder on them for long, we decided to talk about the tracks on the snow, the beautiful colors of the sunrise and what we would be photographing when the weather becomes warmer. Nea did ask me if the birds would flee if we skied to where the sounds were coming from.

At the end of our outing, Nea and I agreed that we could go skiing and taking pictures, but sitting in the hide with freezing temperatures is a bit too rough for Nea at the moment. Now we are just waiting for spring to really arrive and the snow to melt so that we could go for a walk-about to see what we can find for us to see and photograph.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tracks on the snow

It was such a lovely day outside, that I decided to go skiing and have a look if there were any tracks in the snow that had fallen over the last couple of days. I found several:
The weather really was perfect for being outside, temperature just below freezing, sun shining, hardly any wind at all and an inch or so of new powdery snow on top of a icy snow crust that carried my skis well:
My hide had taken a real beating from the wind and snow:
The snow had packed against one wall and pressed the whole thing lobsided. I hadn't thought of bringing a shovel with me, so digging the hide up took quite some time but I managed to get the whole thing back on top of the snow. Then I decided to move the hide to a slightly better position in preparation for upcoming photo-outings:
I tightened the tent up and used "dead men" to anchor the whole thing in place. (In case you are wondering, "dead men" are large objects, in this case branches, buried under the surface of the snow or ground. They work better than simple pegs that tend to slip from ice.) There were plenty of grouse tracks on the snow right next to the spot were I set the hide up:
The weather is supposed to be good on thursday, with a cold night and sunny morning, so I think I'll have to take my daughter Nea for another round of black grouse photography..