Category Archives: wildlife

Are You A Mink?

I was watching the water in the bay looking for the beaver to come out and feed.  I saw something swimming across the surface and at first thought it was a beaver – if only a small one.  It didn’t look like it was moving like an otter but it also didn’t seem like a beaver.  A while later, I saw some more movement on the water heading for the shore.  It looked a little different but I couldn’t say what it was.  It then climbed out on to the bank and ran along a log.

I grabbed a few shots and thought it looked a bit like an otter but somehow different.  I then lost it again and carried on shooting other subjects.  When I got home, I went through the shots and realized I had been looking at two different creatures.  The first one will get its own post in due course.  The second one had me confused.  I started googling images of stoats, ferrets and so on until I got to mink.  The pictures of the mink look exactly like the animal in my shot.  I think that is what it is.  I have never seen a mink in the wild before so this was a pretty cool find for me.

A Little Spider Gets Macro Treatment

While getting ready one morning, I saw a little spider in my bathroom.  It was wandering around on the vanity unit and would stop for periods of time without moving.  I figured I might want to give the macro lens a go and went to get the camera.  The introduction of the camera was not ideal for encouraging it not to move but I got a bunch of shots.  Unfortunately, they were at a pretty high ISO.  However, stacking shots can help with the ISO so the result was okay.

A while later, it was back.  This time it had climbed up a cable and this reduced the number of ways it could go.  This time I decided to tool up and got a clamp to hold the camera and set things up to shoot a proper sequence for stacking.  The shutter speeds were low with the clamp which meant ISO could be a lot better.  Here are the results of those experiments.  (Sorry to people I know that don’t like spiders but, really, this thing is tiny!)

Sometimes You Get Lucky With Timing

One evening after work, I decided to head back down to Juanita Bay to see if I could get more shots of the beavers.  I had been pleased with my first encounter and wanted to see whether there was a chance of getting some more shots.  The weather wasn’t so nice but I had nothing on for the evening so decided to hang out for a while.  I was there with nothing happening and the light gradually fading so set myself a target of 7pm.  If nothing happened by then, I would go home.  With about a minute to go before the top of the hour, a guy came out on to the deck I was on.

I figured I wouldn’t leave as he arrived since it would look like he had driven me away.  I would wait to give him time to get bored and leave.  Instead, a couple of minutes after I had planned to leave, out came a beaver.  It swam straight towards me along the shore eventually coming right under where I was standing.  I only had the long lens so it ended up way too close.  I should have used my phone to be honest.  I would never have seen it if it hadn’t been for his arrival.

I had a repeat a couple of days later.  I had seen a pair of beavers swim by – not so close this time – and they had gone around into the inlet and I hadn’t seen them return.  I was beginning to think I was not going to see them again but got a message from Nancy (who was traveling) to say she could chat.  We had a call for a short while when I noticed a tree shaking not far from me.  I told her I would call her back.  One of the beavers had come across the land and was chomping on the tree.  A little while passed and then it came down to the water, dropped in to the lake and swam right past me.  I was ready for it to be so close this time.  Another lucky break that I would have missed if it hadn’t been for the call.

Otter Skirting The Bay

We have a few otters that are regulars in Juanita Bay.  One afternoon, while waiting to see what would show up, one of them could be seen swimming along the shoreline across the inlet from where I was.  It seemed to be on the move rather than hunting so the question was where would it go?  It headed right into the inlet and then came along the shore.  It would pop out of the water on to the land and wander a little before slipping back into the water.

It came around the edge of the inlet and up towards where we were on the boardwalk.  Would it try and cross under us?  No, it continued along the edge of the water swimming and then climbing on to land again.  Back to the water, around the edge of the inlet and then around to the open part of the bay.  It stayed close to the edge but kept on moving and disappeared around the corner and to the larger lake.  At its closest, it was in the long grass which meant getting a clear shot was tricky.  Still, it was pretty close for a long time which is unusual for the otters.

Random Heron Shots

I have spent a lot of time at Juanita Bay recently photographing wildlife.  One thing that you won’t have to wait long to see there is a Great Blue Heron.  They are a regular feature of the bay and they often come very close to the viewing decks.  Consequently, I have got a lot of shots of them.  Here is a sample of some that I have recently seen.  I haven’t got bored of shooting them but I certainly don’t rush to shoot them when they show up like I used to!

Juanita Bay Birds

Ducks don’t make for the most exciting photographic subjects but, when you are testing out a new camera, everything is fair game.  The eagles had been flying around Juanita Bay but they had been keeping their distance from us.  A whole host of coots had been near the shore just tempting the eagles to come hunting but they hadn’t bothered.  Consequently, I photographed the coots and the ducks instead.

Red-Winged Blackbird Versus A Heron

The herons at Juanita Bay are not universally popular.  The red-winged blackbirds are not keen on them at all and, since it seems that the herons may have raided one or more of the nests, it isn’t hard to see why.  The blackbirds will get quite aggressive at trying to drive the herons away from their nests.  I have seen them do this on more than one occasion.  At one point, I got some video of a heron getting attacked by two of the blackbirds although it wasn’t keen on leaving its fishing spot.  Usually, though, the herons decide to move on rather than take the abuse.

Finally Catching The Beavers

I had been chatting with the photographers I meet down at Juanita Bay and they kept telling me about the beavers that come out in the evenings.  I could see the marks they had left so knew they were active but I had not had any luck seeing them.  The timing of their foraging was not ideal since it matched quite well with my own dinner.  With Nancy taking a trip, I decided to commit some time to trying to get some photos of them.  I didn’t have to try too hard!

My first evening down at the bay, I had barely got there when I saw my first beaver.  The head out of the water was easy to spot when the water was calm.  It was slower than the otters which we see there often and noticeably larger.  The lily pads are growing quickly at the moment and this is a snack of choice for the beavers.  They don’t need to come ashore to eat and instead float around the inlet stuffing as many lily pads in to their mouths as they can.

I decided to move from the end of the trail around to another deck area in the hope that the beaver would come that way.  Predicting the path of wildlife is a tricky game but this time I got lucky and it came right in to the spot I was standing.  A couple with a screaming child approached the deck and I feared the beaver would scram but it didn’t seem to care about us at all.  It was happy chewing on its dinner.

After a while, it swam across to the bank and disappeared – presumably to digest the huge amount it had just eaten.  The question was how long would it be gone?  The light was getting very nice but much later and the sun would be behind the trees.  I thought we might have a long wait but it didn’t take long before it popped out again.  Swimming around in front of us and then heading back across the bay meant I was very pleased with my luck.

Red-Winged Blackbirds Are Fearless But Stupid

When we lived in Chicago, I first became acquainted with red-winged blackbirds.  The red flashes on the wings are fine but they have a terribly annoying call and they get quite aggressive when you get close to their nests.  There are a lot of them in Juanita Bay and I have to say that they are clearly not the sharpest tools in the shed.  They build their nests very close to the heavily trafficked areas where people walk.  There is a lot of space in the park but they build nests within feet of the boardwalk.

The result of this is that they are constantly freaking out about how close everyone is to their nest.  They fly up on to the boardwalk, swoop around the heads of people and land on the handrails right next to you.  It is quite fun to have them so close (except when they start with the calls) but you would think that they would have made life slightly easier for themselves by building a nest just slightly further away from everyone!

Stalling On The Back Of A Duck

Watching the bird flying around Juanita Bay can bring out the aero guy in me.  I was watching some ducks flying across the water and coming in to land.  While the wings were working hard, it was also possible to see the feathers fluttering on the back of the duck just below the neck.  Clearly, the flow is separating in this location when they are maxing out the lift and the feather get disturbed by the separation.  Does anyone else but me care?  Probably not so maybe no one is even reading at this point!