Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Previously at the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Downy Woodpecker

Again another week of working at my job and not being out at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I had a few more people like my Facebook page yesterday. Thank you!

I made this photo of a male downy woodpecker searching for bugs on a mullein plant back in August 2010 with my D5000 and Nikkor 70-300mm. I can't wait to for spring to try out my new setup.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Previously at the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Hawk

Hawk D7K_5128 by Mully410 * Images
Hawk D7K_5128, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
Here is another view of one of the red-tailed hawks I saw at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area last Saturday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Today at the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Crane and some Swans

Crane D7K_5470 by Mully410 * Images
Crane D7K_5470, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
Lots of new construction in the Arden Hills Army Training Site started in 2011. The US Army built a reserve center and the Minnesota National Guard built a new readiness center. I'm not sure what building is being built with this crane but it's now visible from the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I'm kind of disappointed that view will be obstructed by a building.

I stood around the TCAAP WVA for an hour and half this afternoon and only saw mallards. Thousands of them hang out in the pond at the bottom of the AHATS gravel pit and they fly out in the morning and evening. Not sure where they go. Sometimes they just circle around and go back to the pond.

As I was leaving tonight, I had to quickly put the tripod down to get a shot of these trumpeter swans. Had I waited another 2 minutes on the bridge, I might have made a better photograph.

Blue Swans D7K_5481

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Today at the TCAA WVA, I Saw a Northern Shrike

From seeing my first northern shrike a couple months ago, it seems I'm seeing them every time I go to the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I watched this one hunting for about an hour today. The temp was in the 20s with a biting wind.

This shrike was unsuccessful while I was watching.

I saw a bald eagle far off in the distance and two red-tailed hawks stopped by to check me out. No mammals this time out.

Red-tailed Hawk D7K_5057

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Previously at the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Deer Up Close and Personal

I Smell You DSC_7370 by Mully410 * Images
I Smell You DSC_7370, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
I'm really getting anxious to get out to the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. It's still dark out when I get home from work so I have to wait until the weekends. Last Saturday, it was -20F windchill and I wasn't motivated to get out there. Sunday is was cloudy and misty rain all day.

I saw this buck back in July 2010. It let me walk up within just a few yards. In fact, I had to back up because it came close to me in order to fit it in the frame.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nowhere Near the TCAAP WVA, I Saw Eagles Fishing

Rather than head out to the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area last weekend, I went south to Lake Pepin in search of eagle.  It was very easy to find the eagles but tricky finding a good spot to get shots.  The trick was to find a place near the edge where the ice and water meet.  It won't help you much knowing exactly where we were because the ice is changing daily.  Just head down there with your long glass and give it a go.

This slide show looks best in full screen.  Hit the four little arrows arrange in a box like fashion on the bottom right of the frame. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Previously at the TCAAP WVA, I saw Snow

Bridge DSC_4962 by Mully410 * Images
Bridge DSC_4962, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
The winter at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area has been pretty lame this season. Very little snow. Here is a shot from March 2011 when we had lots of snow. Hopefully, things will turn around soon.

Please visit and like my Facebook page. I often post exclusive photos on there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Not to Spend $600 or More on a Wimberly or RSS Gimble Head

I'm often pennywise and pound foolish. I'll spend a crapload of money on a long lens and skimp on a mount. Here's how I got a great gimble head to work with more industry standard Really Right Stuff foots and plates for less than a Wimberley.

After I bought the Nikkor 500mm f4 VR G lens last fall, I knew I'd need a good gimble head for those time where I would be hanging out rather than hiking around. The gold standard for gimble in wildlife photography is the Wimberley. I'm sure it's a great head but it runs about $600. I settled on the great Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod Bracket.  It's built like a tank and holds the lens where I want it while fluidly tracking whatever I'm shoot. Plus its only $174 as of today.  I don't know why they market this as a monopod bracket. It would be very awkward in that capacity. I much prefer my Really Right Stuff MH-01-40LR head for my monopod.

And therein lies the rub.  The Manfrotto and RSS products require different mounting plates.  I decided to get the RSS replacement foot for my 500mm lens so I needed a way to attach it to the Manfrotto gimble.  I contacted Really Right Stuff customer service and received a prompt answer and suggested solution.  Get the RSS B2 LR II:  60mm LR clamp with dual mount.  That was a great suggestion.  The Manfrotto plate has a screw that fits into one of the holes in the plate.  The safety catch on the plate fits in one of the other holes.  At RSS's recommendation I used some blue loktite to make sure the screw doesn't come loose.  I had to trim the rubber padding on the plate so I could close the clamp and the clamp lever won't open or close while the plate is mounted to the gimble but that's not a problem.  I quickly mount the plate/clamp setup on the lens and slide the whole thing into the 393 lickitysplit.

The whole setup is rock solid and I love it.  No more plate switching when I go from monopod to tripod and back.  Gotta be quick with wildlife photography and this helps a lot.

Here is the RSS Clamp mounted to the Manfrotto plate mounted to the 393 gimble.

Manfrotto 393 Gimble with RSS Clamp D7K_3700

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Today at the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Frosty Morning Bridge

Got up before sunrise again today. Fog was predicted so I was ready with the wide angle lens. There wasn't any fog but everything was covered in hoarfrost. I had the big glass ready on the tripod but ended up spending most of my time looking for landscapes. This is my favorite frosty bridge shot but I also like this one too.

Frosty the Bridge DSC_4013

Here is my favorite shot of steam rising from the hoarfrost on one of the signs at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area:

Happy Steam D7K_3131

There wasn't much animal activity this morning other than chickadees, blue jays and this northern shrike.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Previously at the TCAAP WVA, A Bird Said: Talk to the Wing

It's going to be few months until the eastern phoebes come back to the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I'm looking forward to shooting the birds on the barbed-wire this year even more than I normally do. I've upgraded my flash and fabricated a bracket for my gimble and tripod setup. Most of the wire is severely back lit in the afternoon so I'm hoping that adding flash will open more possibilities.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Previously Near the TCAAP WVA, I saw a Beaver Lodge

That's right. There is a beaver lodge on Lake Marsden. I can see it from the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area and always thought it was a muskrat house. The experts I know in the AHATS are convinced it's a beaver lodge. They've seen the tree damage. I haven't yet but I'm keeping my eye out.

The TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area is way off in the distance on the right side of the frame.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Previously Near the TCAAP WVA, I Saw Another Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle DSC_2275 by Mully410 * Images
Bald Eagle DSC_2275, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
I think this is a different eagle than the one I blogged about earlier.  There are two that hang out in the Arden Hills Army Training Site near the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Previously Near the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Coyote Exit

I saw lots of coyotes in the AHATS last week...or the same one many times. I haven't gotten to know them enough to tell them apart yet.

So far, the best lit coyote photos are of their behinds. I think this one was enjoying the warmth of the day somewhere in this grass until I walked up on it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Today Near the TCAAP WVA, I Saw a Cold Doe

Cold Doe D7K_2738 by Mully410 * Images
Cold Doe D7K_2738, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
I've been waiting for this shot for a while: the Minneapolis city skyline in the background on a cold snowy road. The deer didn't cooperate fully so I'm still looking for a better shot.

Here is another view of the sunset:

After Sunset Curve DSC_3996

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Top Favorites of 2011

I don't exclusively take photos at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area although I click more there than anywhere else.  Some of my clicks at the WVA made my top favorite list for 2011 (scroll to the bottom for a link to the whole slideshow).

Frosty Barbed-Wire DSC_0874
Frosty Barbed-wire

Tree Swallows DSC_5852
Tree Swallows (they didn't nest here)

Osprey with Fish DSC_6430
The biggest fish I've seen in Osprey claws

Monarch Caterpillar DSC_3415
Watched this caterpillar for weeks...missed the butterfly

Snake in a hole DSC_9204
Watched this snake wriggle in and out of this hole.

Harvest Moon DSC_1026
Two egrets flying by the harvest Moon

Buck Leaping DSC_4682
Finally caught a deer jumping over the fence.

The Tree in the Mist DSC_2386
I made a big print of this, wow!

Here is the complete slideshow with 30 various photos. Click on the four arrows in the lower right for a full screen show.

Today Near the TCAAP WVA, I saw a Sunset

Sunset DSC_3989 by Mully410 * Images
Sunset DSC_3989, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
Today was cloudy, cold and super windy (20-30mph) for most of the day. Late in the afternoon it became party cloudy, so headed out to the AHATS for a quick drive. I saw lots of deer and coyote tracks on the road and a red-tailed hawk with a squirrel in its clutches.

As the sun set it clouded up so I figured the sunset was all done. I was making one last slow cruise through the area, mostly to count deer (12 total, mostly does and fawns, only one buck) when the sky lit up with brilliant orange, red and purple.

In the lower left foreground is an old building from the days of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant. If the Viking end up fooling the tax payers for a new stadium, this is where it will be.