Monday, 16 April 2012

Last grouse pictures for this spring

When the alarm chimed in the middle of the night, I really didn't feel like going. Somehow it just didn't feel nice. After about 15 minutes of struggling I got out of bed and made my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. While the coffee was dripping, I had time to get dressed and take the dogs out. After having my requisite two (large) mugs of coffee, I felt awake enough to load my gear in the car and head out.

The dirtroad was barely driveable, the warm weather we had for the last couple of days had softened the surface in some places, and to make matters worse, a tractortrailer hauling lumber or some other large vehicle had left its tracks in the surface of the road. In my car, I had to be carefull not to get stuck. I really need to get that 4x4 I've been looking for for some time now..

At the end of the road I put on my skis and headed towards the hide. The problems started as soon as I got moving. The path I normaly use was pretty much bare, the snow had melted away. The young forest next to the path is so tight with saplings that trying to get thru it with a sled in tow was not a good option. Luckily next to the path was a narrow strip of snowcovered ground that I could use to move on, though much slower than I am used to. At the edge of the swamp I ran into the next problem. The border between the forest and the swamp was completely bare, and even the ice under the snow had melted. I took my skis off and after some scouting, managed to find a route accross that was shallow enough for my boots. The sledge floated well and came accross almost dry, even with the weight of my gear on it. At this point, I was happy I decided not to take my daughter Nea out for photography on sunday as there is no way she would have made it accross without getting her feet wet. We would have had to turn around at the edge of the swamp or suffered freezing temperatures with wet clothing at the hide. Either way, the joy of a good naturephotography outing would have been far from what we would have been going thru.

After making my way thru the edge area, the going became really easy. The swamp was covered in a good layer of ice, with a few centimeters of ice crusted snow on top, making skiing almost effortless. Even the sled seemed to glide towards the hide almost on its own. When I got the hide, my problems continued. The lines holding the hide in place had given and the wind had blown my hide over, breaking the other arch of the tent. I managed to fix the arch with some line and got the hide set up again.

I got in, set up my gear and once again got to watch a beatifull sunrise:
As the light increased, the grouses started to arrive:
Last time around, there were 40 or so birds about, this time I counted only twenty. As the birds kept arriving, disputes over the best spots broke out:
I managed to get some decent pictures of the clashes, I will post them as soon as I have managed to go thru all of the mornings pictures. A lot of the pictures are blurres, because the clashes happened mainly as the birds arrived just around sunrise and there was simply not enough light to stop the movement when taking the pictures.

When the birds had sorted their pecking order out, I got to take some nice pictures of single birds, as their positioning and the light matched up well:
When the grouses were done and had left, I took down the hide and packed it on the sledge and started skiing back to my car:
I took a slight detour and dropped the bottom part of the hide at a different location in anticipation of the coming summer. The tent part of the hide I took home with me to dry it and fix the parts broken by the wind.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Grouse morning

The weather was good for my photo-outing, the temperature had gone just below freezing during the night, creating a icy crust on the snow. The crust carried my skis and sledge nicely as I made my way to the hide. Dawn was just breaking when I got to the hide and the half moon I had admired along the way lost its beautiful red color just moments before I got my camera out:
The rising sun colored everything around me in different shades of purple, red and orange as the morning progressed.
While waiting for the grouses to arrive, I had my usual "hide breakfeast" of tea and sandwiches. It was still a bit dark for photography, but when the lone swan that had been hooting nearby took to its wings, I decided to try a inflight pic against the dark background created by the trees surrounding the swamp:
As the light increased, the grouses started landing around my hide and soon territorial disputes broke out. A quick count gave me approximately 40 males at peak time and a couple of hens dropped by to bring even more heat to the situation. Clashes between males happened in every direction around the hide and at times I had trouble trying to figure out which birds to follow for the best photos. Below are some of the pics I took of the clashes that occured:
When the grouses had had enough and took off, I packed my gear and moved the hide a couple of meters to the side, since the melting snow was creating a flood right next to it. As I was moving the hide, a lone goose flew by. I would not have noticed it at all, had it not honked loudly as it approached me. Thanks to the sound it made, I had plenty of time to grab my camera from my backpack and take a picture of the fly by:
As I was skiing back to my car, I saw my old friend, the osprey that nests at the swamp:
All in all, I am happy with the outcome of my morning outing. I will try to go thru all the pictures I took in the near future, so more picture are to be expected to published soon. I am hoping to take my daughter out for one more "grouse outing" in the next couple of days and then I'll most likely move the hide to another location for the summer. I am hoping the snow will hold for the next few days, since that would make our journey to the hide much more enjoyable, after all, being finns, we love to ski whenever we need to move thru the woods.

Monday, 9 April 2012

No Capercaillie

I headed out this morning with a friend of mine. Our aim was to get some capercaillie (a.k.a. caper tailed grouse) pictures. My friend had scouted a good spot for getting pictures, the entire hillside was covered with tracks and while we were waiting for the sun to rise, some capercaillies landed in the trees around us. The nearest one was in a tree no more than 10 meters from us. Unfortunately, the birds obviously had noticed us, since they did not come down from the trees, nor make much sounds. After some time, we decided it was a no win situation for us and headed for home. With a slightly different approach, there are some great photos to be gotten from that location.

The best capercaillie this morning was this one, in a tree on the other side of the clearing. So, so far away:
The capercaillie in the tree right next to us was so hidden by branches, that there was no photo-opportunity there. As the sun rose and the day became brighter, some smaller birds took flight also, some close enough for quick pics:
Eventhough we didn't get the pics we were aiming for, I think this was a good morning outing. The only thing I didn't like was that my feet were cold. I'll have to re-evaluate my footwear for these cold spring mornings.

Friday, 6 April 2012

A bit late

Nea and I headed out a bit too late, there was no darkness left when we started skiing towards the hide. As we approached the hide, we saw a flock of 30 - 40 black grouses right next to our hide. When we got closer, the grouses flew away as expected. We set up our gear, put on warmer clothing and had some sandwiches and tea. As we were eating our second set of "ham and cheese" two swans landed beside the hide. We decided they were worth photographing:
It was great watching Neas enthusiasm and how she was really into taking pictures, the two swans made up for the missed grouse pics:
The weather was not real good for photography to begin with, and as it was only getting worse with the wind picking up and heavy snowfall, we decided to pack up and start skiing back to the car:
Nea stopped a few times along the way, as she spotted something interesting and maybe worth photographing on the snow:
Here are some of the pictures Nea took:
So, all in all, not a bad trip out to the boonies, eventhough we didn't get the grouse pictures we were aiming for. On the downside, Nea has obviously caught the same bug her sisters had last week, since soon after we got back home, she had a high fever and felt terrible. And we had planned on going for another photo outing during the easter holidays to get the grouse pics Nea wants. I guess we'll have to go out some other time.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Hide in place

A sunny spring day made me head out to the wild after a long break. With the temperature just below freezing, there was a nice crust layer on the snow that carried my skis well. Even with a sledge in tow skiing was light and enjoyable.

I located a lonely birch tree at the swamp and dug up the bottom part of my hide and loaded the boards on the sledge:
I pulled the sledge to the same spot I have used for the last couple of springs, right were the black grouses have their mating season shows. To secure the hide in place, I made some "dead men" from branches and buried them under the snow:
When I was done, this is what the hide looked like:
Judging by the tracks in the snow, the hide is in a good place, there are tracks of grouses clashing just a few meters from the hide:
On the way back to the car, I spotted these tracks in the snow:
I won't tell who / what made the tracks just yet. Anybody want to take a guess?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Up north

My blog has been on hold for way too long. I just haven't had the time nor inspiration for photography and even less to write. In january I was up north with a few good friends for some x-country skiing in the boonies. The whole trip was four days, two days for travel and two days of skiing with rifles on our backs. This time our accomodation was in Finland and the hunting areas just accross the border on the swedish side. Didn't catch anything, but I had great time with good friends. Below are a few pictures I took during our trip: