Tree Swallows could make a happy home from mid-May to July in this type of nest box in the Horicon Marsh area. Nest boxes should not be opened, like this one, during nesting season. If you are interested in building your own nest box, nestwatch.org is a website that is a part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and it is loaded with information. The interactive home page allowed me to type in my region (“Great Lakes”) and my habitat (“Marsh”) which took me to a page listing 10 bird species whose numbers are declining in this area. I can download construction plans for a nesting box to encourage these birds to nest here. The site tells me how high I should put the nesting box, what I should attach it to, and what direction it should face. I can decide whether it is a project I want to tackle, because it lets me know if it is a complex or an easy box to build. I can also find out when each species is expected to nest in my region. What a great way to encourage declining bird species to nest at the Horicon Marsh!
This pair of Rough-legged Hawks was perched high in a tree on Highway 49. This type of hawk spends its summer in the arctic tundra and it travels south to our area in the winter. The name “Rough-legged” refers to the feathered legs. There are only two other American raptors that have feathered legs to the toes. Do you know what they are? In my previous post, we discussed the legs of raptors and one reason that they can perch for so long. Another reason is the structure of their tendons. Raptor tendons have a covering surrounding them called a sheath. This is similar to an electrical wire with insulation around it. Picture the wire with little bumps all over it. The insulation has ridges on the inside of it next to the wire. Stretching the tendon causes increased tension that presses the tendon and sheath together. The bumps on the tendon catch in between the ridges of the sheath producing a ratchet effect and preventing the tendons from sliding. The weight of a hawk’s body increases this effect when it perches. This adds to the ability of the hawk to stay perched for long periods of time without expending energy.
The bold black wing patch is a distinctive feature of the Rough-legged Hawk. This hawk has a gorgeous feather coloration pattern that is visible as it takes flight.
This residual tree stump embedded in barbed wire caught my eye. This could be a good metaphor. If you come up with one, I would love to hear it in the comment section.
Two male Ring-necked Pheasants were strolling in the tall grass along Dike Road.
I got to make the rounds today from Palmatory Street in Horicon to Highway 49 to Dike Road. It is always a fun adventure of discovery at the Horicon Marsh.
Seven inches of snow fell in the Horicon Marsh area a few days ago and more is on the way. The winter wonderland creates some great opportunities for photography. Snow presents some challenges for proper exposure, especially if the sun is shining. Often, photos of snow look gray and flat.
This Ring-necked Pheasant was a pleasant surprise. He meandered along the side of Palmatory Street in Horicon undisturbed by my car. I drove alongside him and stopped occasionally to snap a few pictures. He displayed no fear as he walked closer to inspect my car. He did look both ways before crossing. I’m not kidding. Eventually, he walked in front of the car and I waited until he roamed back into the snowy brush. I focused on his head when taking his picture. I didn’t care if the snow was a bit overexposed in this case. I was more concerned about the Pheasant being exposed properly.
I switched to manual mode when a correct exposure of the snow was important to the photo. I set the ISO to 200 since less sensitivity to light is needed. The aperture was set to give me the depth of field I wanted. I experimented with having the whole bridge in focus and having the back of the bridge go out of focus. Then I adjusted the shutter speed until the exposure level scale at the bottom of the viewfinder was in the center. I took a shot and looked at the histogram. I wanted the right-most color in the RGB graph to be just at the right edge of the graph. If it wasn’t, I adjusted the shutter speed up or down. For RAW images, we want the right-most color on the graph to touch the right edge of the graph without climbing up. For JPEG images, we want the right-most color to be just short of the right edge of the graph.
I added a polarizing filter and took a few more shots using the above technique. I stood about 90 degrees to the sun and rotated the filter until I could see more texture in the snow. It darkened the sky and cut the glare on the snow.
I would love to have spent more time playing with depth of field and composition, but it was only 10 degrees and breezy. Fingerless gloves allowed me to work the controls on the camera. A couple of hand warmers in my pockets kept my fingers warm. I just discovered these biodegradable hand warmers from L. L. Bean. Just open the package and they start to warm up. After returning home, the warmers went in my slippers to warm up my toes. They last up to 10 hours.
Before getting back in my warm car, I put my camera in a plastic bag. Then I put it in my camera bag. When I got home, I let the bag warm up before removing my camera. Condensation stayed on the outside of the plastic bag and not in my camera. I made myself a hot cup of tea while waiting for the camera to warm up.
It is early in the winter season and there will be plenty more opportunities to play in the snow. If only it could be 70 degrees at the same time.
Note: I do not receive any compensation from LL Bean.