Lens Artists Challenge #225: Wildlife Close to Home

Stop. Look. Listen. Doing those three things will help you discover the abundance of wildlife you have nearby. You have wildlife in your yard, nearby park, local pond or lake and just about anywhere around you. We often overlook opportunities to photograph these animals because we are so used to having them around us.

We live in a community with beautiful green belts, old oak trees, a creek and the wildlife that enjoys it. I walk my dog, Gem, every morning. He and I are used to seeing a variety of animals each morning. Sometimes we even catch the nocturnal skunks if we’re out early like at daybreak during the summer. I’ve picked him up three times when I’ve seen coyotes. Twice, I’ve seen deer looking around for something to munch on.

Beyond my complex, I’m fortunate to live near parks and nature centers where wildlife abounds.

Let’s start with the pond we have in the middle of our senior complex. It has fish for catch and release, turtles and the usual geese and ducks.

Oh, we must give special attention to our wild turkeys that seem to take over the place only to be daunted by the coyotes. I’ve only seen coyotes while walking my dog and I’m without a camera. You’ll note that the last group of turkeys is not that sharp. That’s because it was taken with my cell phone, which doesn’t have a great camera. I just wanted you to see how they congregate. These turkeys are protected so there’s no thinking of enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with them on the platter.

Moving a little beyond my community, about 15 minutes away (I gage in time not miles!), is Effie Yeaw Nature Center. It’s right on the banks on the American River. It’s nature at its wildest. I’ve been there and seen deer carcasses that have been ravaged by vultures and other animals. On the brighter side, most of the time the deer know that humans are not their predators.

About the same distance, but in a different direction is the Gibson Ranch County Park. It has stables and a pond. On a recent visit, a family was feeding the squirrels. This one was a cutie. And I found a goose that was not a Canada goose.

Further down the interstate, about a total of 30 minutes away, is the Vic Fasio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. We find mostly birds when we go around the dirt route, and in this drought, they are even a rare sighting. Here are a great egret and blue heron I photographed during our last visit.

From squirrels to birds, wildlife is around us. What non-domestic animals live in your neighborhood or nearby? Do you have feeders to attract wild birds? Look through your archives or take a nature walk with your camera. Maybe some of those flowers have bees looking for nectar with which to make honey? Lizards, praying mantis or spiders may be lurking around the rocks. Oh, how about butterflies? Let us see your wildlife. Remember to link to this post and use the Lens-Artist tag.

I had fun and learned some new things while responding to Sophia’s Exposure challenge. I hope you did too. Next week I’m pleased to tell you that our guest host is Jude of Cornwall in Colors. Look for her challenge.

If you would like to participate weekly in our Lens-Artists Challenge, click here for more info. 

Another early morning outing: Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

I was out lensed as usual. Laura and I went for a tour around the Yolo
Bypass Wildlife Area before it got too hot for us and the birds. Laura is a
great nature photographer and uses a zoom that extends to 600 mm lens. I use my
trusty 300 mm lens. You can understand what I mean by out lensed! But, we have
great fun and lots of laughs. I’m happy when a bird is spotted close enough for
me to get a good picture.

This big bird did get close enough; almost too close. We couldn’t figure out what he was doing since he wasn’t spraying crops. I just kept thinking of Sesame Street’s Big Bird. That’s what happens when you’ve raised kids!

This Great Blue Heron was just about close enough for me. He was still and watching his prey.

The Great Egret is easy to spot!

The Mourning Dove was posing for us.

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Here are some non-wildlife images I was able to capture.

Decision: The Nesting Tree

To buy or not to buy! To use or not to use! That’s my dilemma!! I’ll start at the beginning. For wildlife photography, I’ve been using an old, used prime F/4 300 mm lens on my Nikon D7100. It’s a bit heavy, hard for me to hold steady and the Nikon is not that good in low light. I finally decided to buy a used Fuji 100 – 400 mm lens for, of course, my Fuji XT3. It worked great and was easy for me to hold steady, but the barrel was tight when I zoomed. It’s in the return process. Question: should I get another one? Or just keep using the Nikon set up?

Here are some images from the Fuji set up taken at what I call the nesting tree in nearby Lincoln.

Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest each year in these trees. It’s a treat to sit and watch the activity. They fly off and bring back food and nesting materials to the nest. These next pictures were taken with the Nikon set up. Since I photographed mostly egrets on my previous visit, I was trying to photograph more of the herons. The trees are not close and I had to do a lot of cropping with these pictures for both set ups.

Do you see much difference? Both sets were processed in Lightroom and Topaz Sharpener AI. There is the handling ease, but that comes with about a $1,500. cost for a good used lens. I don’t think I need a new one because I don’t do that much wildlife photography.

So that’s my decision and dilemma! What do you think I should do?

Oh, if you want to see amazing Great Blue Heron Photography visit Babsje’s blog for wonderful stories and images. She is totally dedicated to the herons.

With a little help: The Nesting Tree

Yes, with a little help we can accomplish what we thought we couldn’t. One of the reasons I bought a mirrorless camera was the need for a lighter camera. I could still hold my Nikon D7100, but with some lenses it was getting heavy, and I’m not getting younger. I currently use my Nikon for two types of shooting: ultra wide and telephoto.

The last time I tried shooting with my Nikon and an old prime (meaning metal casing) 300 mm, my photo buddy Ray saw I was having difficulty holding it steady. It was more than that, I couldn’t hold it steady. So, he made me a short monopod to anchor the lens.

I wanted to show him what I call the nesting trees in Lincoln and he wanted me to try out my new small, hand-held monopod, so off we went. And guess what, it worked. With just a little help from my friend I can now use a telephoto on my Nikon. If I ever get a telephoto for my Fuji, it would also help. The birds were across a small gully and a stretch for any 300 mm lens, but I was able to photograph them and really crop in.

The second bit of help also came through Ray. He let me know that Topaz was having a sale. Now I can’t resist a sale, can I? I bought Topaz Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI. I used Sharpen AI on all the birds and it was amazing.

We didn’t stay long. The egrets’ and herons’ mates were not flying back with food/nesting material. But I was able to get a shot of one flying in without branches and twigs in the way.

I’ll be going back to the nesting tree with my new monopod soon! Thank you Ray!!

Happy Mother’s Day: Negro Bar, Folsom & The Nesting Tree, Lincoln

I hope all of you mothers have had a wonderful special day. I received texts and calls from family members. We also had a delicious and filling brunch with Greg and Jess and the grandkids. So here I sit ready to talk and show you where my photography passion has taken me now.

I now know that even if the outing doesn’t give you great weather, clouds or scenery, there’s always a picture worth taking and processing. Negro Bar, a State park in Folsom was sort of a disappointment since it was crowded with people and there wasn’t a promise of a great sunset. But I walked around and in the short time we were there shot these images, including visitors, people kayaking and the historic Rainbow Bridge:

My next visit was a surprise one and stretched the limits of my walk around lens, 18 – 140 mm. Marlene and I were scrapbooking at Betty Carol’s home. During a breat she took us to a special tree in Lincoln. I call the tree the Nesting Tree because of all the nests and variety of birds in it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I really couldn’t capture anything good with the lens I had with me, so I went back the following Wednesday. This time I was ready with my F/4 300 mm prime lens! It’s amazing what you can see with a little extra reach. I found Great Egrets and Blue Herons. A few weeks later, I brought Laura to the tree. She caught even more with her 600 mm lens, and saw more species. Here’s what I captured:

So, when Jess asked me what I’ve been doing lately, I talked about photo outings. Yes, photography has become a good part of my life! Again, Happy Mother’s Day!

Going after a big bird: Sandhill Cranes

It’s a yearly expedition–shooting the Sandhill Cranes. They are found in and around the Sacramento Delta. This trip, Laura and I started out at Consumnes River Preserve.  Right away, I learned another valuable lesson: have your camera ready before you leave home! I was going to put the big F/4, 300 mm lens on the D7100 once we got to Consumnes, but as soon as we got off the freeway we saw a flock of Sandhills near the fence. They usually like to be deep in the fields. By the time I got my camera ready–they were deep in the field.

I’m always learning lessons! For me, experience is the best teacher. I’m not crying over not having my camera ready for the best shot of the day. I did manage to get some good images as we went from preserve to preserve.

I was amazed at how many Sandhills there were this year. They were everywhere. In past years they were scarce. The drought may have contributed to that.

It was a fun day, chasing the big birds, finding other wildlife and shooting landscapes. Here are the results.