Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carrying On...

Eastern Red Cedar now covers what was once prairie for hundreds of years.

Not meaning to make this another "weather" blog, but I learned from listening to the state climatologist yesterday that this is the first year in perhaps 20-25 years that the arctic polar front is now south of Des Moines, Iowa. If you're as old as I am you'll remember winters just like this one! We've been more than 20 below zero each night since last week. We may be dancing with this weather the rest of the winter! Another note...this polar front cycle usually lasts 10-15 years. Nice to know we may have a lot to look forward to next winter too doesn't it...hmmm.

I had to get out of the studio yesterday afternoon...getting stir crazy. I sauntered down into the Waterman Prairie complex south of here and tried to garner some images from this frozen place. My hands don't work as well as they used to in this temperature but I tried my best.

Subadult Male Bald Eagle

The first thing I happened across was a subadult Bald Eagle that was sitting in a dead snag along the northern edge of the prairie. Unfortunately the bird was sitting at such an angle from the vehicle that I could not get a good base under the camera and telephoto lens for a "sharp" image. I could have stepped out of the truck with a tripod but the bird would have flown immediately.

I've found the vehicle to be your best blind for birds of prey "as a rule"...there are always exceptions. To leave the vehicle for a steadier shot in this case looked hopeless...I was just too close for the bird's comfort. The bird was also situated in such a way that the only shot I had was twisting to my left and shooting over my shoulder...that seldom works...what to do?

I sharpened the image some for this blog and you may not be able to tell from this image but the bird is "not quite there" as far as adult plumage is concerned. This male (judging by it's smaller stature) Bald Eagle is a tad off from it's ultimate adult plumage with some mottling and brownish tinge in the head and tail plumage...I'm guessing maybe it's a 4 year old? Hope to see him again next year...maybe he'll pose for a tripod shot! (Oh, he did fly after I took a handful of photos from inside the truck.)

Near the Waterman Prairie Valley Complex

I wandered down along the valley near the Little Sioux River and tried to capture a sense of the sky as it turned darker to the north with a nice herringbone effect in the clouds. The only thing around to put in the image's foreground were some bales that didn't make it out of the field before the last snow storm. It was late afternoon with only 15-20 minutes of sun left yet the temperature was still way below zero...the only thing in my favor was the absence of wind - thankfully! My fingers still went numb and my batteries failed...replaced them and tried again...uh...I much prefer spring, summer and fall!

The hills off to the left in the far background became part of the greater Waterman Prairie complex this past year! I'm really looking forward to getting to explore it in the years ahead.

The image at the top of the blog is a privately owned piece of property near the Waterman Complex that was once tallgrass priairie. It has been allowed to turn into a monoculture of Eastern Red Cedar trees. Looks very dramatic in it's winter garb but unfortunately does not support a fraction of the diversity that the original prairie would have. It does give winter refuge to a lot of White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, and even a few species of songbirds such as Cedar Waxwings, American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds.

More snow on the horizon here - batten down the hatches!


Wanda said...

If I had a good possibility of seeing a Bald Eagle, it just might inspire me to get out and resume my long walks in the woods, inspite of these very cold temperatures. For now, I will let the deer, turkeys and birds visit me!

Prairie Painter said...

I think I'll wait till one comes to the farm here...it does happen, had one 2 weeks back. Maybe it'll warm up???!!!