Sunday, January 17, 2010

January Challenge: Wildlife in Winter

January's challenge subject is "Wildlife in Winter."  Please post your entry (one please) on the club's photo sharing site:

In your photo caption, please include the words "January Challenge Entry for [your name]."

I have seen a number of hawks near my house this winter.  Ken tells me there are a number of cardinals near his house.  Let's get out with our cameras and grab some shots of the beautiful wildlife all around us!  To meet the intent of the challenge, your entry should depict both wildlife and a reference to the winter season (snow, leafless trees, frozen pond, etc).  The January winning entry will be determined by highest total votes in a blind vote by all members present at the meeting.

Regarding the monthly photo challenge series, we will have an agenda topic at this month's meeting (January 25) to get your ideas about using the winning photos in a fund-raising effort, like a calendar, coffee table book, or something along those lines.  Any profits could be used to pay for a booth at a fall craft fair - where club members could sell pictures.  Please bring your ideas to the next meeting!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Next Club Meeting Date: January 25

This is to confirm the next club meeting date of Thursday, January 25.  On the agenda:  2010 Challenge Series (monthly photo contest), and Fund Raising Possibilities (calendar, coffee table book, etc).  Please "comment" to this post if you have an idea for an agenda item.

This month, the meeting will be held in the break area at Max Train (there was a mix-up in room scheduling).  Next month, we return to our training room.

Second Eagle Trip in the Planning Stage

By Larry Rogers

Club members who particpated in the eagle trip this month (Ken, Larry, Eric) are already planning a return trip.  Our undestanding of the migration habits of the birds is that mid-February is the beginning of attrition in total numbers of birds.  Based on that understanding, we are thinking that the weekends of January 29, 30 and 31, or February 5, 6 and 7 are best.  February 7 is Super Bowl Sunday, just in case that is a factor in your decision to particpate.

Please contact me, Eric, or Ken, if you would like to join us.  As of now, the most likely weekend will be January 29-31.  The preferred hotel is the Super 8 in Le Claire, Iowa.  We will not reserve a block of rooms in advance for this trip - please call the hotel to book your room in advance.

We hope to see you there!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eagles on the Mississippi: Day 2 Report

By Larry Rogers

My alarm was set for 6:30 am CST.  Last night, while dining at Sneeky Pete's in downtown LeClaire, we had all agreed to meet at 7:30 am for breakfast, and be ready to put the cars in "drive" at 8:00 am sharp.  For some unknown reason (could it be the Bald Eagles awaiting us?) my internal bat-signal went off early.  I used the extra time to make sure my batteries had completely re-charged overnight, double-check my camera settings, and just make sure I was ready.

Good thing I did all that.  What a day we were about to begin!  Why is it the sky is so much bluer in the winter?  One of you physics or astronomy buffs, please weigh in on that - I really do wonder about it.

I don't recall a prettier day - or a colder one, for that matter.  As I discussed in yesterday's post, the temperatures would lead a normal person to presume that it's simply too cold outside to get good photos.  But, to the contrary, cold weather also means no humidity to cloud the air and far smaller numbers of people at the Lock & Dam.

We only had about two and a half hours to shoot.  Checkout time was 11:00 am, and I still had to pack a few things, then load up the car for the drive back to Ohio.  The outside air temperature indicator read -13 degrees F.  When I say "I was not cold," I really mean it.  The key is preparation - and I was prepared.  My PolarTek thermals, Weatherproof outer coat, and air-activated heat pack in each shoe (just under the toes) and in each glove, really did the trick.  I did not even return to the car to warm up during the entire two and a half hours.

Eric found some discarded fish off to the side at the boat ramp - all of which were frozen solid.  At one point, Eric wondered if those frozen fish would attract any eagles.  The birds had all gone into the trees for rest, we guessed.  Eric tossed the first frozen treat into the river.  Suddenly, like black helicopters in a spy film, two eagles popped up from nowhere and took up the attack on the new target.  Dropping down to an altitude of about 10 (inches) just above the water, the first one suddenly went into a full stall with landing gear outstretched in front.  He sank his talons into the frozen filet and up he went - but no filet.  It must be difficult to grab.  Not far behind, the wing man takes aim, and "pow!" Water droplets spray from the impact.  Liftoff!  And, this time, success!

Success can be short-lived for the bird that makes the catch.  With his wing man nowhere in sight, this bird was under-equipped to defend his catch.  A few skillful maneuvers, though, and he was safely on his way to the tree line.  I watched him dine for a while on his delicacy.  It is not often that an Eagle finds fresh-frozen shad hand-served by the poparazzi.

Like moths to a flame, Bald Eagles everywhere!  I can't say for certain the number of birds overhead during the feeding frenzy - but I was able to count 12 right above me at one point.  Adding the 5 or six in the trees behind the parking lot, two more in the trees near the lock - I'd estimate at least twenty at once.  It was quite a show, and I am certain I will go back again some day soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Eagles on the Mississippi: Day 1 Report

By Larry Rogers

LeClaire, Iowa, is a cold place in January.  That fact is one of the factors that brings large numbers of bald eagles to the area.  When we left the hotel this morning, the temperature gauge in my car read "-10 F."  We had agreed in advance that we would not stay out in the cold for more than 30-45 minutes at a stretch.  After all, none of us wanted to be a hero.

A dense fog lay over the water, like an eery scene from a horror film.  When we reached the parking area, I fully expected to be back in the car in a relatively short time.    That is, until I looked up.  The tree line that forms a boundary around the parking area had at least six large adult bald eagles in it.  Instead of parking at the end closest to the dam, I decided to drive down to the opposite end, where several of the eagles were perched in trees right at the edge.

We stopped and stepped out of the cars.  The eagles were screeching at each other in their unmistakable tone.  Looking through the trees, I could spot 4-5 more eagles in flight just around the bend in the river to the right.  About that time, one of those came around to parking lot side, soared overhead, obviously checking us out.  I knew at that point, today would be a good day for eagle viewing.

Photos in this article are courtesy of Eric Curby (Nikon D-80 DSLR, Nikkor 70-200 VR f2.8 lens).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Here we Go! Eagle Trip 2010 is Under Way!

By Larry Rogers

This year's Eagle Trip story begins on Thursday morning, January 7th.  I met up with Ken Crites at his house at around 11:00, but that is only part of the story.  The legendary "white death of winter" rolled into the Tri-state over night.  The first inch was on the ground, and there was a lot more on the way, according to local weather sources.

"Much ado about nothing," was my description as we packed Ken's items and closed the rear hatch door on the Yukon.  We stopped for a burger, then headed down to I-275 West at state road 747.  I tuned the radio to WLW for their "news and traffic together" every ten minutes on the "tens," as they say.  A few minutes later, we got this news...  "We have one car off on the right shoulder on 275 westbound at Colerain, and we just got a report of a jack-knifed semi on westbound I-74 at the Indiana state line."

My heart sank.  "What are our options?" I wondered.  We could have driven north, up to Dayton on I-75, then taken I-70 across to Indy, and pick up I-74 West there.  But, there is still a lot of construction along that route, and who is to say we won't run into the same thing up there.  I will cut to the chase - it was Friday morning before this year's Eagle Trip really got under way.  But, we are here!  We arrived late afternoon today - a little bit late to see much flying.  But, there were two adults in a tree near Lock 14, two more in the air, and five more in a tree along the road back to the Super 8.  A total of nine adult sightings late in the afternoon - I'll take it...and hope for more tomorrow.  Stay tuned for an update.

Eric and his Mom (we call her Mrs. Curby) will be here real soon, and then we are off to the Bierstube (a local German restaurant) for dinner.  More tomorrow!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Photo Shoot Checklist

As I prepare for the club's Bald Eagle field trip, once again I will make use of a personal equipment checklist that I have been using for the past ten years or so.  My checklist is created in Microsoft Excel, and I have three "worksheets" in one file - one is for camera gear, one is for clothing items, and one is for things that I need to get done before I leave, such as making the house payment, or stopping by the ATM for some cash.

Another thing I do before a traveling shoot is to make sure my plastic parts trays are stocked up with such things as extra AA batteries, extra lens caps, and so forth.  I have found that carrying along these parts trays pretty much assures me that I won't forget anything that is really critical.  Most other things can be purchased at a local Wal Mart store.

Want to take a look at my checklist?  Please post a reply to this message, or send me an email message and I will gladly send it to you.