Canadian photographer R. John Knight shares the stories behind some of his nature and wildlife images

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Cymbidium Orchid from the Easter Bunny?

There's never a better time to experiment with macro-photography than when fresh flowers arrive in your home; in this case, a spectacular Cymbidium Orchid from the Easter Bunny!

The orchid stem; 1/25 sec, f11
The following shots were taken using a range of f-stops to vary the different depth-of-field, selective focusing and focus stacking, and achieve different results.

1/50 sec, f11; focus stacked
1/30 sec, f11
1/30 sec, f11

1/15 sec, f8; focus stacked

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gray Partridge - A Winter Visitor to our Backyard

Although apparently year-around inhabitants at our latitude and location, we tend to see Gray Partridges in our backyard only during the winter months when they come to forage seed left  on the ground beneath our bird feeder.

Beautiful plumage
Heading off to look for seeds under the bird feeder
When they arrived this year, there were six.  By the end of winter, only two came.  The reduced number may be the result of predation by Coyotes which frequent our neighborhood periodically during the winter.

The Gray Partridge tend to be very nervous feeders.  If they spot you watching them, they immediately head for cover beneath a nearby Juniper bush, or scurry one at a time to the perceived safety beneath a Spruce tree.  About half of the time, they simply fly-off.  Once they settle in and begin feeding, they mine the ground surface beneath snow-cover in a somewhat mechanical systematic way by moving their head from side to side.

Hiding under Spruce tree
Three heads are better than one?
If it's a sunny day, you might find them nestled in shallow depressions that they've dug with their feet in the warm soil next to a south-facing wall for short periods.
These partridge were introduced to North America from Eurasia in the early 1900's.

Proper Name:  Perdix perdix
Food:  seeds; ground forager 
Length:  11.8–13 in (30–33 cm) 
Wingspan:  20.9–22 in (53–56 cm) 
Weight:  13.6–17.6 oz  (385–500 g) 
Habitat:  cultivated fields and grasslands 
Range:  year-around, predominantly west to central parts of southern Canada & northern USA

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Great Blue Herons, Chilcotin Region, British Columbia

Early in the morning when the sun's rays weakly stretch down through the mist to the river from the horizon, or towards the end of the day, as the sun begins to set, you might be lucky to see the occasional Great Blue Heron quietly fishing, or resting, in quiet bays and backwaters along rivers in the Chilcotin Region of British Columbia.

Great Blue Heron resting at river's edge
Note the airborne pollen and insects in the images.

Standing on rock and stretching neck for better view
Being such a large bird, Herons have to work hard to get off the ground, consuming a lot of energy.  'Graceful' is not the word that comes to mind when you see one taking off.  Better words might be 'amazing' or 'wow'!  In the end, they do what they have to do to get airborne.

Running up the engines just before take-off
Transition to flight looks awkward, and somewhat gargoyle-like
Unusual wing position during transition to flight
Finally, enough forward speed and height is achieved for graceful flight!
Some general information about the Great Blue Heron:

     Proper Name:  Ardea herodias
     Diet:  carnivore; fish, insects, frogs, toads, moles and small animals
     Wing Span:  5.5 to 6.6 ft (1.7 to 2 m)
     Body Size: 3.2 to 4.5 ft (1 to 1.4 m)
     Height: ~1+ m
     Weight:  4.6 to 7.3 lbs (2.1 to 2.5 kg)
     Habitat:  salt or fresh water; costlines, in marshes, or near ponds or
          streams; need islands and woody swamps for nests; typically hunt
          alone, but next in colonies
     Range:  across southern Canada, from coast to coast, down to the Gulf
          of Mexico

A quiet moment of contemplation

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Surprise Grab, Fly and Eat Visit by Cedar Waxwings

Yesterday, about 3-4 dozen Cedar Waxwing birds paid a surprise visit to the Crab Apple tree in our backyard.  They do this each year, and visit either our Crab Apple tree, &/or our neighbor's Mountain Ash tree.  We never know when or if they will appear, but when they do, what a treat.  They are interesting to watch, and have such beautiful coloring and distinctive markings.

Grabbing a Crab Apple
When they arrive, they come en masse as a flock.  They descend into our tree, grabbing an apple from one branch or another, then quickly disappear into the treetops of nearby Spruce to eat.  A few minutes later, the flock reappears and they repeat their fly-in, grab and fly-off routine that only takes a few seconds.  They do this, perhaps a half dozen times, and then are gone until next year. 

Cedar Waxwings are challenging to photograph.  First, your camera needs to be nearby and ready to go because you don't know when or if they might arrive during mid to late winter, and certainly not the day, or the hour.  Second, you need to use a relatively high ISO and shutter speed because they never seem to sit still.  And third, they stay for such a short time, take what images you can, and enjoy the moment.

Beautiful and distinctive markings of Cedar Waxwing

     Proper Name: Bombycilla cedrorum
     Diet:  specialize in eating fruit, particularly during the summer,
          supplemented with berries from cedar, juniper and other scrub bushes,
          and insects and budworms
     Wing Span: 8.7–11.8 in (22–30 cm)
     Body Size: 5.5–6.7 in (14–17 cm)
     Height:  75 to 100 cm
     Weight:  1.1 oz (32 g)
     Habitat: deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands, particularly areas
          along streams; also find them in old fields, grasslands, sagebrush, and
          even along desert washes
     Range:  southern Canada from coast to coast during the summer (breeding)
          to Central America and northern Southern America during the winter

Grabbing a Crab Apple before heading to nearby Spruce to eat it

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bald Eagles of the Chilcotin Region, B.C.

We went to the Chilcotin Region, west-central British Columbia last fall to photograph Grizzlies, and again discovered that Bald Eagles were equally interested in the salmon run.  It was difficult to decide whether to point your camera at the grizzlies, or the eagles.  Both were entertaining, and numerous.

"The salmon was this BIG!"
First, here's some general information about eagles:

     Proper Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
     Diet:  carnivore; particularly fish, but are known to eat small birds, rodents
          and dead meat
     Wing Span: 6 to 8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m)
     Body Size:  34 to 43 in  (86 to 109 cm)
     Height:  75 to 100 cm
     Weight:  6.5 to 14 lbs (3 to 6.5 kg); males about 25% smaller (3 to 4 kg)
          than females (4.5 to 6.5 kg)
     Lifespan:  ~20-30 years
     Habitat: lakes, rivers and coastlines with nearby forests
     Range:  Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico on both sides of the Rockies

For the long migrations south, Bald Eagles congregate where the salmon spawn.  They stay for as long as they need to top up their protein reserves.

Juvenile Eagle between bites
Don't even try ... this one is mine!
Eagle starting to do the "Salmon Dance"

 With one meal done, it's back to tree-tops to look for the next course.

It's takes a long runway to get airborne with a full-stomach
Keeping an eye on the river below while relaxing in the sun
Much better visibility from an old snag
Yea, yea ... I know that I don't blend into the autumn colours very well
Once a salmon is in sight, it's time to get airborne, and this is easily done from the tree-tops..
Diving from the treetops is the fun part!
It's fun to fly low so that just your wingtips graze the water's surface

Being a Bald Eagle looks like a lot of fun between eating fresh salmon sushi and the flying.  However, they still have to watch out for food that is tainted with pollutants, such as DDT, mercury, heavy metals and long-lasting organic chemicals, and of course, the occasional human who uses them for target practice.

What a beautiful bird to watch in the great outdoors!

We went with John Marriott, and stayed at Tsylos Park Lodge.  Contact Karen for details.