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Posts Tagged ‘wetlands’

Sunrise at Tiny Marsh with early sign of the ice starting to break-up

Sunrise at Tiny Marsh with early sign of the ice starting to break-up

Today I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to start my 45 minute drive to the Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area in Elmvale, Ontario. I have never had a disappointing day at Tiny Marsh and I often am rewarded with something I did not quite expect to capture during each visit. Today would be no exception. As usual I like to arrive with plenty of time to walk out along the main dike that extends out into the marsh, as I often find this to be most productive for sunrise imagery. Spring is getting underway a little slower here as the wetlands are still quite frozen over, a result of the extended, brutal cold we endured this winter which in turn created thick ice on the lakes and wetlands. In the image below you can see that things are starting to open up some now.

Tiny Marsh at sunrise in early spring

Tiny Marsh at sunrise in early spring

It was a cold morning with lightly formed ice on the surfaces of the newly open water sections. Along the edges of the marsh I noticed thousands of dead catfish, a result of winter kill, which is a common occurrence and quite simply a part of mother nature. These dead catfish will provide food for numerous wildlife, including racoons, snapping turtles, and many others. Having never encountered such an abundance of dead fish from winter kill I could not help but create a few images of them frozen beneath the ice.

Brown Bullhead Catfish winter kill

Brown Bullhead Catfish winter kill at Tiny Marsh

Brown Bullhead Catfish winter kill at Tiny Marsh

Brown Bullhead Catfish winter kill at Tiny Marsh

Tiny Marsh also supports a very large breeding population of Canada Geese and during today’s there were a few pairs hanging out in the open water near the main parking lot. In the distance you could hear the loud cackles of the majority of the marsh’s population.

Canada Geese at Tiny Marsh in early spring

Canada Geese at Tiny Marsh in early spring

Lastly, I wanted to scout out the boardwalk trail to see how things were looking for some of my soon to commence frog photography. The ice has receded completely in this area of the marsh but the water levels are very high this year – a result of the significant snowfall this past winter. I slowly made my way along the boardwalk, which was sinking into the water as I walked along it, and by the time I was done my feet were thoroughly soaked.

Tiny Marsh Boardwalk Trail submerged due to high water levels

Tiny Marsh Boardwalk Trail submerged due to high water levels

For folks that have never visited Tiny Marsh before I urge you to add it to your list of must see destinations, as it never disappoints. For private in-the-field photographic instruction please be sure to check out my newly added Workshops page on the blog by clicking here.

Long Point Workshop

For folks that are interested in a photographic workshop / tour to the tip of the Long Point Peninsula on Lake Erie, a destination that is only accessible by boat be sure to follow this link for further information. This workshop will take place on Saturday, May 31st.

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Common Snapping Turtle_7893Common Snapping Turtle at rest on beaver dam, Parry Sound, Ontario

While I was in the Parry Sound region of Ontario last weekend I came upon a very large Common Snapping Turtle floating in a beaver pond while I was out for my daily walk with my dog. Afterwards I decided to return without my dog and this is when I found the turtle basking on the beaver’s dam. Most often in situations similar to this it is difficult to approach the turtles closely, but nonetheless I decided to see if I could make my way in for a turtle-scape with my 24-85 VR lens. I decided to use this lens for its image stabilization feature as I knew I would never be able to get my tripod into position without disturbing the turtle. As it turned out I was able to get quite close and actually sat myself down within 1-2 feet of the turtle. It was so comfortable with my presence that it decided to close its eyes and have a nap, periodically opening its eyes to check me out. Each time the eyes opened I created my turtle-scapes. Above is my favorite.

Common Snapping Turtles evolved roughly 40 million years ago and shared the planet with dinosaurs.I am always reminded of the dinosaurs when I find these reptiles and marvel at how they have survived through the years, including the events that led to the mass extinction of dinosaurs. Sadly, after sharing the Earth with humans for a short period of time they are now listed as a “species at risk’ in some parts of their Canadian range.

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Gray Treefrog_7662Gray Treefrog and Caddisfly

Early last week I could here a couple of Gray Treefrogs chorusing near my home, so I decided to try to locate them and I did. It was most difficult to photograph these frogs as the ponds substrate was very mucky. Often with each step my feet would sink about 12 inches into the mud. Once I was able to position myself close enough to the frogs I would kneel down in the mud to allow myself to be able to photograph from a low perspective. As I worked my way into position for the above image I was initially bugged by the bug resting on the frog’s head and then I thought that this may just make a fun image, so I happily captured numerous frames of this male Gray Treefrog chorusing with the Caddisfly atop its head.

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Those of you that have been following along here at the blog know that I have been photographing frogs and toads in vernal ponds found in an abandoned cattle pasture behind my home for a number of years. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are critical habitat relied upon by frogs and toads as breeding sites every spring. Each and every spring chorusing frogs and toads would filled the air with song. Late last fall, the land which was zoned for agriculture was sold to an industrious farmer who promptly cleared every tree that lined the plots of land and then plowed the land. By plowing the land the farmer wiped out much of the frog and toad population in the immediate vicinity of my rural home.

As the temperatures began to warm this spring I would listen intently from my back deck listening for the songs of chorus frogs, which are always the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. A couple of weeks ago I heard the calls of one or two individuals. As the temperatures warmed further, the calls of the chorus frogs should have been incredibly loud, but not so. One or two individuals was all I ever heard. Last week the final nail in the coffin was delivered to this field as a farm drainage company arrived and tiled the field to drain the land, making it suitable for the planting of crops.

No longer will I hear or photograph the seven species of frogs that would breed in these ponds, or the snapping turtle that would come to gorge on the frog’s eggs. No longer will I see the chimney crayfish that would rise from beneath the ground on wet nights, or the bizarre insect larvae that depend on such habitats, and the fairy shrimps will no longer dance through their watery world.

This field had been laying fallow since 1975, but was always zoned for agriculture. I honestly feel that all agricultural lands that are left unattended to for such lengthy periods of time should undergo environmental assessments prior to turning the soil for agricultural purposes again.

Amphibians are the most threatened species on Earth, mostly due to habitat destruction, global warming, and the deadly chytrid fungus. We are responsible for each and every one of these that affect the world’s amphibian population.

Below you will see a selection of photos showing the tile drainage being buried. The field is so wet and soggy that a backhoe was need to pull the tile plow through the muck and frequently it looked as though the backhoe would flip into the soft muck of the field. In the first image below you will see the before and after versions of my favorite pond. The before image was photographed in the spring of 2012 and the after image was taken last night. In both images if you look on the left side you will see the abandoned barn. In the before image the barn is hidden slightly by the tree-line.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Before and After Frog Pond

Before and After

Habitat Destruction_7167

Backhoe tipping into pond while pulling tile plow through

Habitat Destruction_7125

Tractor driving through pond with weeping tile spool

Habitat Destruction_7209

View of the pond from the road after tiling – the level has dropped significantly

Habitat Destruction_7134

Draining Away

Green Frog_9446

Goodbye

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Bullfrog_0578

Bullfrog in Wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

For those folks who have been following the blog for some time now you may recall my review of Sigma’s 8-16mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens. For those who are new to the blog and for those who might like to read the review of this great lens again please click here for the complete article with loads of accompanying images photographed with the lens.

In the April issue of Canadian Geographic Magazine the above photo has been used as a double-page spread for the beginning of the article ‘A Frog for the Killing‘ found on pages 46 & 47. Bullfrogs are an invasive species in British Columbia and are a very serious threat to the ecosystem in that province and must be eradicated. The frogs are not to blame – we are! Bullfrogs have actually invaded at least 15 countries as a result of importing them for the farming of frogs legs. Bullfrogs are known carriers of the deadly chytrid fungus which has decimated frog populations throughout the globe. To better understand just how this deadly fungus is affecting frog populations I urge you to please click this link.

The use of the image above as a double-page spread is a testament to the image quality that one can achieve with this amazing lens. I have primarily used the lens for bullfrog images in the wetlands of Horseshoe Lake, located near Parry Sound, Ontario. And because the lens focuses very close I am able to fill a large portion of the foreground with the frog while maintaining the vast expanse of their wetland homes.  I have also used this lens with great success in my waterfall photography as well. If I had to describe this lens in three words I would have to say it is a “ton of fun” to use.

The Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses in Canada is Gentec International. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Gentec International for loaning me this lens to create specific photographs that will be featured in my eBook on Frog Photography, which is in the writing stage and will be an extensive guide to creating stunning images of these amazing amphibians.

Please do remember to click on the above image to view the larger, sharper version.

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Bullfrog in wetland_1503

Male Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

Looking back over the past year I realized I probably photographed a little bit more wildlife than landscapes, which is some what different for me. Mostly I was photographing frogs and toads for various chapters in the frog book that I am currently writing. As a result it is easy to see why my top 12 images from 2012 contains a few frog photos :)

Here is a selection of a few of my favorite images created in 2012.

Tiny Marsh_9697

Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area, Ontario

Massassauga Rattlesnake_1773

Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Rosseau River_734

Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Ontario

Bullfrog_juvenile_1695

Over-under juvenile Bullfrog

Sandpiper_2172-1

Willet on Liebeck Lake, Ontario

Horseshoe Lake Sunset_2213

Horseshoe Lake wetland at sunset, Ontario

Common Loon (Gavia immer) with chick on Horseshoe Lake

Common Loon with chick on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

Zimmerman's Poison Frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)_2921-1

Zimmerman’s Poison Frog

Beaver Pond_Algonquin_3429

Beaver Pond, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Horseshoe Lake_2459

View from the dock at sunset, Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

White-breasted Nuthatch_4543

White-breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch image above represents the last photograph captured for 2012. It was visiting my suet feeder set-up frequently yesterday while I was out in the blind for another round of winter songbird photography.

Wishing everybody all the best in 2013.

Happy New Year!!!

Please remember to click on each of the photos to see the larger sharper version.

See ya soon!

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As readers of this blog will remember, about a year and half ago I had the pleasure of photographing an unusually colored heron in Cuba’s Jardines del rey archipelago, an UNESCO World Biosphere, on the island of Cayo Santa Maria. My photos of this odd looking heron eventually made their way to Dr. James Kushlan of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Heron Specialist Group. It is believed that this heron  is either a melanistic or genetic variant of the Green Heron and is most likely the first record for such plumage in this species.

Below you will see the JPEG version from the latest issue of Conservator, a beautiful magazine that is published by Ducks Unlimited Canada  and sent out to those that hold a membership with Ducks Unlimited Canada. The most recent issue of the magazine began hitting the doorsteps of DUC members this week and features an InfoGraphic on my Melanistic Green Heron that I photographed in Cuba. The inset image shows a normally plumaged Green Heron that was also photogaphed in Cuba.

Please take a moment to check out the Ducks Unlimited Canada website particularly the page that celebrates their 75 Years of Conservation Excellence.  DUC has conserved 6.3 million acres and has completed 9,000 projects all aimed at conservation. That folks is an amazing track record don’t you think!

To see a larger version of this excerpt from the magazine do remember to click on the image.

 

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Boardwalk at Sifton Bog, London, Ontario

Over the next week I will be hitting the trails, traveling to some of my favorite destinations for fall colour photography. I’ll try to pop back in to say hello and perhaps show a few fresh images during the coming week. For those of you in south-central Ontario I hear that Algonquin Provincial Park is at peak colour now, so it would make a great destination for folks to head out to this weekend coming. I will be there on Monday. The above image is of the boardwalk at Sifton Bog in London, Ontario which I made a quick stop at for a few new photos of the area. Sifton Bog is an Environmentally Significant Area, being one of the southern most acid bogs in all of Canada.

Please remember to click on the photo to see a larger, sharper version of the image.

See ya soon!

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Whenever I am out photographing Bullfrogs I can’t resist creating some frogscape images when I come across a cooperative fellow. This male bullfrog was more than cooperative for me as he chose to hang-out under this raised lily pad leaf for three days in a row, before moving on elsewhere in the wetland. I guess it was a cool place to hang out. Photographing images like this have become easier than ever with Live View technology. To create the above image I simply brought the canoe up alongside of the frog, used my wide angle lens set to approximately 35mm, composed the photo, and auto-focused on the eye. I also used a 2-stop neutral density filter to hold back the sky. This is often a necessity for frogscapes as the foreground is usually much darker than the sky. To keep the frog square with the world I always refer to the double bubble level that is in the cameras hot-shoe.
If you haven’t checked out the latest issue of the Creative Photography eMini Magazine yet be sure to click on the link in the sidebar to see the latest issue. And while there do note the first photography contest for the magazine has been announce – The MiniMag Sunflower Photo Contest. All the details you need to know to enter the contest are on the front page of the MiniMagazine and to view some of the great images entered already check out the Facebook Photo Album here. If your image is chosen as the winning image your photo will be featured in the Creative Photography eMiniMagazine and Arthur Morris’ Birds As Art Blog. You will also receive a copy of Denise Ippolito’s must-have eBook ‘Bloomin’ Ideas’ and a free ticket to a 2 day nature photography seminar with Denise and Arthur on Staten Island, New York.

Hope to see your sunflower photos soon. :)

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Bullfrog and approaching storm

(Nikon D800, Nikon 12-24mm lens with a 2-stop ND Grad Filter)

One of the features that I am absolutely in love with on the Nikon D800 is the “Live View’ feature. While this is not new to DSLRs, it is new to me and it is saving me boat-loads of time when I am creating my frog-scapes. To photograph my frog-scapes now I simply activate the feature, extend my arm out from the canoe and position the camera at the water’s surface, compose the scene and press the shutter. Presto! I have the image I wanted. Prior to this I would be shooting ‘blind’ firing off many frames and then review the images on the LCD screen to see if I captured the one I had hoped too. The images above was photographed using the Nikon D800 in crop sensor mode as I was using my Nikon 12-24mm DX lens. A 2-stop Graduated Neuratl Denisty Filter was used to hold back the cloud formations of an approaching storm. Below you will see a couple of additional images that were photographed using the live view feature. Please note that when I am utilizing the live view feature on the D800 for my frog-scapes I am still using my double bubble level in the hot-shoe to make sure the camera is square with the world. Even though the D800 has a ‘Virtual Horizon’ feature I find the double bubble level to be more practical for my frog-scapes.

Please click on each of the images to view a much larger version. And stay tuned tomorrow for an announcement about a very cool e-mini mag that I am honored to be a part of.

Bullfrog in wetland

(Nikon D800, Sigma 8-16mm lens)

Bullfrog at dusk in wetland

(Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm lens)

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