Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Red Skies In the Morning..."At The Vermilon River. A Post To SWF.

To finish the adage "... sailors take warning. Red skies at night sailor's delight. " Feel free to add your adaption to one of the apparently quite good, in the sense of accuracy, old adages about weather.These shots are sunrise photos, and did lead to poor weather. ALL PHOTOS ARE RESIZED,SO CLICK ONE TO ENLARGE AND WATCH THE SLIDE SHOW.

We went from the early warming to cooler with snow flurries today, to possibly snow on the weekend. But its still early for spring, and winter returns every so often to keep us honest.

What's amazing about this series is the brightness of the colours and the changes.

From the molten red to the gold below.

And from the gold to the blue.

These colour variations took very little time to occur, and left the day overcast.

 This is my artsy photo for the day. It's the sky reflected in the common room window of the apartment that we live in. Nice digs, eh? And of course we senior citizens deserve them.
The cooler weather did not impede the break up of the river ice. As well the River is in flood, we were unable to get to the rapids on the abandoned railway track. But now its clear why the track was abandoned. The scenes are all of the upper River and I'll use captions now.

Looking North.

Rocky Shoreline

Vermilon Wetland Still Mainly Frozen

The Big wetland is ice free.

I was really lucky to spot this Male Mallard in a small wetland.

The wetland is still frozen. I tried looking for his mate.

But as I approached she took off, joined shortly by him.

Male And Female Mallards In Flight.

These Geese landed up river setting off clouds of water.

Part of Spring is the arrival of the Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird.

 This guy is all caught up in the wind. The winds have been high also.
Common Grackle.

This is a male Downy Woodpecker. You can just make out the black spot in his white tail feather, and his beak, and body are smaller than the female Hairy Woodpecker shown below.

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Female Hairy Woodpecker.

The Song Sparrows were shot in the big wetland, and are, of course, spring arrivals. Soon the big wetland will be full of aquatic birds as  the River current will be too heavy with the spring flood.

Song Sparrow

Huegy, the Northern Crow.

Huegy,Making a Point.

Red Squirrel

Pussy Willows are a sure sigh of spring.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Muskrats of The Vermilon River. A Post To MWT and WBW

I'm posting the foggy scenes again to show the conditions on the River, which is the effect of this unusually quick thaw. Remember all the photos are reduced, so read the copy and click on any photo to enlarge and watch the slide show.

The fog takes until noon time to clear, as you can see from this photo.

You can also see the fog lingering in the ridge area in the back ground.

The thaw brings out the near hibernators such as the beaver, and the muskrat pictured opposite.Otherwise all these guys are mainly nocturnal, but the spring brings them out in search of food. The muskrat will hole up in bad winter weather with a food hoard, but move around in good winter weather. Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents, but not rats.

Their fur has two layers, and  is medium brown in colour. The two layers insulate them against cold. Their tail is covered in scales for the same purpose. They are able to stay under water for 12 to 17 minutes, and close their ears to prevent water penetration. Exceptional swimmers, their tail is used for propulsion.

They are territorial and will fight to protect it. In fast moving rivers, they live in dens in the banks, and in wetlands in lodges.

They are nocturnal creatures and feed on aquatic weeds , but are omnivorous as they also feed on turtles, frogs and small fish, or crayfish.

.They in turn are preyed upon by all the wild canines such as wolves,or coyotes, in addition to wild mink,or fishers. So many enemies means that nature has made them like the red Squirrel, prolific. They have 2-3 litters per year.

 Mature animals weigh about 1.5kg and are 40 to 60cm (16 to 24 inches) in length.
All the information came from Wikipedia, and Museum of Natural History.

The river is in flood now and most of the local ice is gone, although the weather has become more seasonably cold, say 10C or 40F. I'm not so happy with the quick thaw as the four legged critters will be harder to find as they move to their nocturnal hunting.

I put this photo of the beaver in so you could see the obvious differences with the muskrat

Since this is a post to WBW, I thought I'd post some token birds. Also Dave had asked me to post some comments about the Sigma 150-500mm lens, and this is a good area to do it it. All of the the muskrat shots above were made with the Sigma lens. I have a Nikon camera, but I'm not brand loyal,so if the Canon had been available for the same price I would have bought it. I use a Nikon D3000, a starter DSLR. All my money went into the lens set up. I started off with a Nikon70-300mm, and added a Nikon 18-55mm as soon as I started to shoot wildflowers, insects, scenes, and trees. Its usual in camera lingo to relate to a 35mm camera so unless you have a full frame you multiply the lens lenght by 1.5 to see how it acts in in a 35mm situation. For instance my 70-300mm is in 35mm camera terms a 450mm lens (1.5 x300=450)

I really became frustrated when the 70-300mm failed to have the reach for wildlife, especially four legged critters. I found this out when I missed a coyote pack, simply because I was too far away. Nikon in its infinite wisdom does not make an extender for the 70-300 mm. So I started looking around at the same time that the Sigma 150-500 came on sale. So I tried it out, and bought it. Before I go any further let me remind you of the area in which I hike,because that's important in any choices that I make in equipment.

It's a wilderness. There are no rangers, and usually no one else for that matter. The wildlife is not habituated. And some of the animals you don't want to be near.  The trails are abandoned railway lines, railway maintenance roads, mining roads and snowmobile trails, and are not groomed, nor do they go where you want them to. The forest has a heavy underbrush, so short cuts are impossible. The ridges are high, and the weight you carry is important. It's the rocky Canadian shield and setting up tripods, or playing with unipods is almost impossible. The subject is gone, the moment you make a noise. So you're going to be hand shooting. It's cold and snowy in the winter, and warm and buggy in the spring, so you're carrying water, seasonal clothing, and personal safety gear.

Added weight is exactly what you don't want. On the positive side, I don't have to drive to it since I'm already there. So now back to lenses.The Sigma weighs 1.91kg or 4.2 lbs. So a major disadvantage is the weight. The 70-300mm weighs 745g.The Sigma 150-500mm lens is an f 5-6.3 lens, so it loves bright light. In grey light, its slow and sometimes useless. If you go to the bottom of the this post, you'll find a red squirrel. The lighting was just the same for that shot as in the first scene above,but the squirrel was in a dark cedar. It was just too dark for the Sigma, but the Nikon performed OK, because its a f 4.5-5.6.

Would I give it up? Absolutely not, it has the reach I need. In fact I'm just debating whether to get the 1.4x, or the 2.5x extender to use in one of the wetlands which is the size of a small lake. In bright light it produces sharp images every bit as good as anything in the field. Its configured for all brands, adapting readily to the non-shake technology of all brands. How do I carry it the lens? Cradled in my right arm

And suspended on a chest carrying case, which although somewhat unorthodox works. Maybe next year I'll add a cotton carrier case which would work also.Hope that answers your questions. YOU SHOULD SEE THE COMMENTS BELOW FOR MY ANSWER TO SOME OF THE QUERIES!!
Since this post is so long I'll just caption the remaining photos. Opposite are a male and female Hooded Merganser, as are the ducks above. The series started off with a Common Grackle. Of course you recognize the Geese.

Ring-billed Gull In Flight.

Male Downy

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow.