Wildlife Photography “From My Kayak”

So, I’ve watched the photography of Jay Stotts, for quite some time.  Some know him on flickr as “Walk in the Woods Photography” … others simply know him as the “from my kayak” guy.  See, he photographs a lot of his wildlife from … you guessed it … his kayak.  Yep, he gets a wide variety of birds (eagles, herons, grebes & loons – with babies on their backs) and also moose feeding on the vegetation, etc.  Well Tom & I love to kayak and have often photographed while kayaking in Alaska and Florida, so when we were visiting up in his neck of the woods, we knew what we would be doing at least one of the days.  Jay was gracious enough to meet up with us to show us his “playground”.

fullsizerender-11On this particular day, it was a bit cold and overcast, but that didn’t matter to us.  We paddled out through the vegetation in hopes of some moose in the water action shots as well as grebes.  It was so fabulous to be back in a kayak where we didn’t have to worry about alligators or venomous snakes.  😉fullsizerender-10Tom was in his element for sure and ready for the adventure.DSC_5187We all followed Jay’s lead, as he skillfully paddled out to his secret spots.  That’s when it hit me … oh no, usually Tom is paddling while I photograph, but this time I have to do double duty.DSC_5213Before long, we paddled past some beautiful yellow-headed blackbird, a species I had become familiar with earlier this year.  In south Florida, we mainly have red-winged black birds.  Their behaviors, at least to my unscientific eye, was quite similiar between the two species.  Their song was equally distinctive and beautiful.DSC_5159DSC_5162As fascinated as i was to see them, I had my sights on a moose!  The image below was unknowingly taken by Jay.  I think that I was trying to figure out where the moose were and where they might emerge into the water from.  LOL13323212_10208407841527207_2413208333219283595_oAs the day progressed, it became windier, though we had no idea of just how windy it would get.  I found it nice to hang out in the vegetation, which provided a bit more stability._DSC5039So we waited … and waited, while having lots of fun and laughs about being out there.fullsizerender-9OK, the red-necked grebe was spotted on the horizon and off we went to photograph it and those babies that would of course be on their backs just waiting for me to shoot.DSC_5069But unfortunately nature has its own timetable and we found ourselves a bit too early in the season.  We did get to see the nest, but no babies yet.  Not wanting to disturb or distress the couple, we decided to leave the area.  Next time.DSC_5080A great blue heron was visiting the lake as well.  Patience in stalking their prey is their middle name.  DSC_5237Seemed that we watched this one forever while it pursued its hunt.  Before long, we noticed Jay scoping in on something.DSC_5208On an higher ground island in the middle of the lake, he found a bunch of gulls congregating about.  One looked quite different of course, a caspian tern.  Known for being quite aggressive when defending its colony and nest, this one was quite docile to us.DSC_5259DSC_5309Before long, we noticed a few more were flying overhead.  I just love terns … whether it be these caspian or others such as forster’s, arctic, common, or least terns.  They are so acrobatic in their flight and angelic as they hover overhead preparing for a dive._DSC5053Guess this guy has hung out on this log before by the look of things.  LOLDSC_5365fullsizerender-8After some more paddling about, we came across the delightful, though quite loud, killdeer.  We didn’t see any nests, though mating season was clearly upon them.DSC_5373DSC_5376Paddling through the thick vegetation became a challenge at times (at least for Rebecca and I), but we all managed just fine overall.  A storm started brewing off in the distance and was clearly targeting us, so we had to call our time a bit short.fullsizerender-7One more look at that magnificent great blue heron.  Not sure if it finally got some dinner or not.DSC_5380Yes, we had some fun times out on the water.  As my friend Michael Libbe can attest to, sometimes I get a bit preoccupied on the water when there’s a lull in the action.  This time though it was apparently only Tom’s ears that I was caught checking out.  LOL.  Thanks to Jay for capturing this moment on the water of me actually using my lens as my impromptu binoculars.
13329431_10208407844367278_2416008689066263302_oSafely back on the dock, we took one last shot (iphone of course) of the fun times of the day.  We couldn’t thank Jay enough or Rebecca’s friend Donnette who loaned us her kayaks for the adventure.  Next time, we’ll bring ours with us Jay!  Check out his incredible wildlife photography on flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jays_wildlife).  We’ll be back next year!fullsizerender-6

Next Up:  More from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

There’s a First For Everyone

Earlier this spring, we took a trip out west … Tom drove cross country from Florida to Washington state … I flew to Salt Lake City and Tom picked me up along his journey.  We were meeting up in Yellowstone NP with some friends, but not before heading over to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah.FullSizeRenderWe had never visited there before, many times driving right past the exit on our way in or out of SLC.  This year was the year to visit and though we got off to a late start, we were certainly glad that we finally got there.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and is accessed via your vehicle on a 12-mile drive alongside the wetlands within its 74,000 acre boundaries.  Being from Florida, I just LOVE areas that can be accessed by vehicle and when we arrived the weather couldn’t have been nicer.  This was our first time that we photographed the yellow-headed blackbird, which seems larger than our red-winged blackbirds, but behaves quite like them.  They were flying everywhere and seeing that bright yellow head, I immediately thought I was seeing an oriole of some type.  However, it wasn’t and I’m sure I’ve seen them before, just never investigated more about them.  They’re beautiful.  🙂DSC_1400When we had stopped in at the Visitor Center, we educated ourselves as to what we might see along the way.  I was quite excited to hear that we would be seeing grebes … mainly western and Clark’s.

It wasn’t long before we saw our first Clark’s grebe.  Having only been around our pied grebes before (again, at least from what I can remember), I was surprised at how much bigger they looked.  They sure were beautiful too, especially with breeding season in full swing.  DSC_0870Sometimes we would see lone grebes, but before long, we noticed many pairs swimming about.  They look very familiar to the western grebes and in the beginning I had a hard time telling them apart.  Years ago, reportedly they listed them as a species within the western grebe, but then since they nested nearby without inter-breeding, they got their own species.  Overall, their black heads and white around their eyes, made them identifiable to me.  I’ll show the difference in a few images.DSC_0853I just love the way they swam around in unison, with their head positioned in unison as well.  DSC_0963Another difference between them and the western grebes is the color of their bill.  As you can see, this grebe has more of a yellow-orange bill.DSC_1757The refuge also had many other birds including these avocets, possessing their stunning breeding colors.DSC_1050The primary grebes that we saw were the western grebes.  As I mentioned earlier, they possess more black coloration around the eye as well as a greener-yellow bill.  DSC_1488Love that face with that spunky hair.  LOLDSC_1490They are the largest of the North American grebes.  I so wished that we would find some with babies on their backs.  DSC_1592Before long, we could see a storm out of the horizon brewing … it was an awesome sight.  Ultimately, we had windrain … then hail.  FullSizeRenderAs quick as it all started, it made a quick exit.  Thankfully!

I was quite surprised when I captured a great blue heron fly past us … with a red-winged blackbird providing him an escort out of its territorial area.  Love it when little birds boss around much larger ones.  🙂DSC_1022OK, I know that by this point in the day, the light was extremely harsh, but I want to share these images anyway.  This grebe got himself a fish, or so we thought.  Then he swam it over to its mate.DSC_1716She graciously accepted it of course.  It was a tender moment shared and I was quite excited.DSC_1726Down the hatch it went and they celebrated.  DSC_1743White pelicans were also out in force at particular section of the road.  It was fun to see them and I almost felt like I was back at home seeing them.  Well, also due to the immense numbers of mosquitoes out there!  OMG, I thought earlier how happy I was that this was a drive, but in reality, it was HORRIBLE for shooting from the car, at least from my side.  Every time I opened the window I was blasted by the most wicked mosquitoes I have ever seen and I’ve from south Florida (aka mosquito city)!  DSC_1824It was actually better to get out of the car because the winds were strong and kept them from landing on, and biting, you.  Pesky little critters.  The periodic outside walking was great too for capturing the birds without spooking them.  This lovely pair came really close as I sat still by the side of the dirt road.DSC_1834At one point there were 5 western grebes swimming about.  Two sets of paired grebes and then 1 lone grebe, who was intent on spoiling the party for the pairs.  It would approach a pair, then get chased off!DSC_1840At one point after the loner was defended against, the male came back to its mate with the sweetest face.  Though I didn’t get a shot of it, they swam off and danced on the waters surface … like 2 dolphins dancing on the water.  I almost broke into tears, it was so beautiful.  As much as I watned them to, they didn’t repeat their dance of love for me.DSC_1874As you can see by the number of images I took of them, I was fascinated by their look, behavior, and beauty.DSC_1881I kept seeing motion in the water.  Sometimes it was carp which had found their way into the wetlands … very strange to see.  Other times it was muskrat swimming around, gathering up leafy green branches for their home and nest.  I was thrilled to watch them as they went about with their renovations.DSC_1666I had to laugh as the grebes would swim in pairs, but then dive under independently, emerging from the water, looking around for its mate.DSC_1970They were calling out to each other, a sort of “Marco … Polo” game ensuing.  LOL.  DSC_1965Often it would take several calls before they found their way.  I tried helping them out saying “she’s over there” and pointing, but I don’t think it helped.  🙂DSC_1994We were also treated to eared grebes, but they tended to be more shy of the camera lens.  They were fascinating for me to see.  Though I live in Florida and therefore photograph birds often because of that, I’m definitely not a birder by nature.  So it was fun to spend a day trying to learn more about these birds of Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  The eared grebes are the most abundant grebe in the world (I did not know that!)  Also, amazing to me is that it is flightless for 9-10 months of the year.  Amazing!  Though I live in Florida and therefore photograph birds often because of that, I’m definitely not a birder by nature.  So it was fun to spend a day trying to learn more about these birds of Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.DSC_1281I love terns and there are so many varieties of them with very distinct differences between the different species.  This beautiful forster’s tern made its appearance for us on our way out.DSC_2090It is the only tern that is almost exclusively found in North America, so that makes it pretty cool to me.  Never knew that either.  DSC_2091We had a great time, mosquitoes and all, at the refuge.  We will be sure to visit again soon. If you’ve never been there, you might want to do the same.  🙂

Next up:  Just a few owls … not burrowing, not eastern screech … hmm, what can they be?

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com