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Posts Tagged ‘wetlands’

 

Gray Treefrog_244

A few nights ago I ventured out into a new pond that I had discovered where Gray Treefrogs are chorusing very loudly. The pond already has a dense growth of cattails so working my way out to the area of the pond where the frogs were located was tricky at best, but I was able to create a few new images that ended up in the keeper file :) Gray Treefrogs are the chameleons of the amphibian world, able to change their colors to blend in to their surrounding environment. Photographing them in the spring when they are at their breeding pools among the green cattails typically produces images of them in their splendid greens.

Gray Treefrog_260

Gray Treefrog_278

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Green Frog With Vocal Sac Inflated

Green Frog With Vocal Sac Inflated

By far the most productive nights for photographing frogs and toads tend to be those which are humid, rainy, or drizzly. Above is a recent Green Frog photographed with its vocal sac inflated that was created on a wet evening after the rain stopped. Using a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 105mm Micro lens, I knelt down in the shallow pond with my chest waders on and assumed a low and steady perspective¬† by resting my elbows on the pond’s substrate. Green Frog’s vocal sacs are only inflated for a brief period while they are making their loose banjo string-like song, but closely watching their movements you can easily learn when to press the shutter to capture a fully inflated vocal sac.

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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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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