Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jerry Smith Park Burn


We burned the entire prairie today. The fire was the largest that I'd ever participated in and took about 5 hours. The start was confusing and overcrowded, but as the day progressed and people left I became more comfortable. It was the first event like it I think the news has covered- Many photographers attended and even had a helicopter land near the event. Ive watched the local news, but haven't seen anything- Imagine that!
Most of the day was pretty uneventful, but there was a few exciting moments. However, the entire day was beautiful and full of nice photo opportunities. I felt that there was a lot of bad communication between volunteers and I am eager to learn more- so that I can make decisions for myself.

Parts of the fire were very hot- others were cool and smokey.

This depended on the type of fuel and the wind. The green fescue burned slow and with dark smoke- the dryer, dead bluestem and oily cedar burned hot and quickly.

I was surprised to find large amounts of insects and other creepy crawlies fleeing the fire. Like this grasshopper, many of the creatures who flee get burned or suffocate in the thick smoke that is trapped low in the brush. Most creatures hide in or under downed trees, logs and moist earth. These critters are not harmed, as the fire rolls over them and does not significantly heat the ground.

don't know why I like this one- not too many others seem to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The moon was low on the horizon and was to the NE when I took this photo around 11pm the other evening. Mars was very bright and was located just below and to the right of the moon. It was very beautiful.
I shot this photo with the 300mm lens at 1/320 @ 5.6. I tried getting mars in the photo but all of my attempts made the moon too bright and/or mars was invisable. I'll figure it out.

I believe that the color in this photo was due to the light passing through our atmosphere and bending before being reflected off of the moon. It is what makes the moon bright red, yellow or orange during an eclipse or when the moon is close to the horizon. In this photo, the moon is ~81% illuminated.

Keep an eye out over the next week or so! The moon will rize after 9:30 (tonight it will rise at 9:21 and will come up later for the rest of the week.), and will stick close to mars throughout the night!.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Squaw Creek

The family took a sunset drive around the refuge- there was little wind and few clouds early.

We drove from the entrance, past pintail pool to hwy 118. The water was iced over in most places and last weeks snow still covered the low spots.

Compared to last weekend, we found very few ducks, many geese and eagles and a few pelicans. Many of the ducks that we spotted were in flight exiting the refuge. Gunshots from neighboring properties were plentiful.



The snow geese and white fronted geese were thick on the surface of the water. There were a few canadas, but they were overwhelmed by the others and went unnoticed by drivers. We saw many eagles- more than twenty -the majority of which were juvinals.

It was 4:45 and the sun was low when we came to the 1/2 way point shortcut. We knew the refuge would close at five and didnt want to rush through the remaining five miles. We took the road - past the eagles nest and into duck country. We found a handful of N.shovelers, a few grebes and a coot. In the distance, a lage eagle continually swooped the larger goups of ducks and the horizon glittered with the light that was reflected off their underwings.

It was gorgeous, and the sunset was the sugar on top! I cant wait to visit it next weekend during eagle days!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lone Jack & the MO river

I spent the morning at Lone Jack CA. The lake was misty and the shallow parts had frozen overnight. The remenants of wednesdays flurries were still very visible. There were many hunters: waterfowl, rabbits and deer. The cops patroled the parkinglot; I guess they had nothing better to do ?
I walked around the area and saw many squirrels to shoot- I never pulled the trigger as I didnt think that cleaning them in the crisp 23*F was going to be very much fun. I really wanted a duck or some quail, though I never found any. I heard some geese- found an opening and waited. A few snow geese flew over. THey were high and I never got a good opportunity to shoot. A few Canadas flew nearby, and well within my range. I didnt think that they were in season- I was right.
I saw many birds, and had a nice conversation with a tiny kinglet. The yellow-topped bird chattered at me only a few feet away. I had left my camera in the car, but enjoyed him very much.


After returning from lone jack, I accompanied my mother for a walk along the Missouri River. We strolled over a mile of sandbar- there were no winds, and the surface of the river was glass aside from the occasional fish jumping. It was peaceful and serene, and the sounds of the birds and the river set the mood.

Come sunset, the ducks and geese filled the sky and shattered the silence. It clouded over, but the sun was bright.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SquawCreek NWR

I spent 24hours near BigLake, MO sunday and monday- I visited places like the NWR, McCormack CA, and areas around big lake State park. My grandparents have a small lake house on the oxbow lake - just across a shallow cove from the State park.

McCormack CA is a 227 acre property owned by MDC. The area has forests and grasslands, and includes the Loess Mound Natural Area.

The area is beautiful- I use it for hunting, hiking and photography. the grassland is native and diverse, and the oldest trees reveal the fire history of the area- some still blackened. Its most beautiful in the early morning- after 2pm the area becomes shadowed from the sun by its neighboring mountain.

The area overlooks SquawCreek NWR and towers over hwy159. A rigorous hike to the top of the loess mound provides a gorgeous view of the NWR-

Squaw Creek was empty of people visitors- I found only a few others on sunday and none monday. The birds, however, were abundant.

I viewed sunset from my grandparents cabin, and spent the night there-

COMET HOLMES in between clouds. As of the 18th the comet is fading. - I could hardly get it here with my 300mm lens!

Geese- snow, blue, canada, and white-fronted flocked and swarmed areas of the NWR.

Ducks like mallards, pintails, gadwall,teal and shovelers were also common- I saw others too-wood ducks, ruddy ducks and widgeons.

The hawks were numerous and eagles were present. I found herons and pelicans. Monday's warm weather summoned hoards of reptiles and amphibians.

A heron snatches a bluegill from squaw creek NWR- a piedbilled grebe disappeared while i was watching him, and reappeared with a frog. Of all the places to grab it!
The Bullfrog was glaring at me- you would have been scared too!
Other critters also enjoyed the warm weather- muskrats and beavers were very active.

A JUVI BALD EAGLE was the only eagle I was able to take a pic of- He was on a beaver mound about 100 ft out when I drove by. I quickly stopped- eager to watch him. He lifted, dropping his meal, and flew at me. He flew about 10 ft above the truck- about 20 behind me.

I wondered past the "do not pass" sign on the side of the road by foot- I got this photo at about 4pm. I think its my favorite from the trip. (right)


For both of these photos, I changed contrast, brightness and midtones with office photo to enhance colors and shadows.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

BlueRiver Glades

My parents and I took a walk on the glades this early afternoon; by 2pm it had become ~60F and the winds were still calm.

On our way down blue river road, near the glade entrance, a huge read-crested woodpecker flew above the car. the bird had large white spots on the undersides of each wing- My guess is pileated.

Other than the woodpecker we found nothing out of the ordinary on the area- almost all of the vegitation has gone dormant. there were a few elm-leaved goldenrod that still had a flower or stem of red leaves, and the columbine has greened up again, but the best phtoto opportunities were found in the colours of the grasses, oak leaves and sumac.

The loss of leaves has left the outcroppings bald and bare- the slabs of limestone made an interesting view through the woods.

Lone Jack CA

This morning was cold- the sky was crystal clear and the wind was non-existent. I arrived at the area around 815am to find that a group of duck-hunters had blanketed a cove of the lake in decoys. We spoke briefly- they had shot three mallard ducks, though the dog had not found one of the birds. I took my usual hike around the lake, through forest, old fields, tall grass and crop.

Nothing real special today, but the weather was PERFECT. The lack of wind created a world of reflections on the surfaces of the lake and ponds. I could not find my quail, but I got two squirrel and spooked a family of deer from their bed.

About half way through, I had not shot at anything- I entered a large plot of Indian grass and stood still. The sparrows and finches filled the air with songs- many of which I did not recognise (this doesnt mean anything). I took a step forward after about 3min. Upon doing so, another woodcock flushed a few feet to my left from a brushy fence row. he circled back and flew in front of me about 30ft away. I quickly mounted my gun and took one shot, I missed and did not shoot again in fear that I would loose him in the grass and brush he seemed to be headed for.

I found the simplicity of a large feather to be beautiful enough to spend a few minutes shooting. It was large, Blk&W, but did not have the bulk or shape of a turkey's. It lay on the ground beneath the corn that was left for the wildlife. I tampered with color saturation to make the color less vivid- I think it came out OK!

Another feather, left from the hunters- that of a mallard. It was still with the water.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lone Jack CA

I find it hard to multitask on my trip to lone jack. I carry my camera, a youth-sized 20ga. pump shotgun, and a backpack to carry extras, bones and game in. Like today, I often find myself stuck between raising my gun or camera; or which one to set on a stump while I shoot.

Today was cloudy, cool and windy. There were periods of sunshine, and those without wind- but by 10am, the day was lost to the poor weather.Today I hoped to get my first quail and maybe a duck while I was at the lake. i loaded a few rounds of steel #4 shot into the gun.

I circled the lake, and found nothing in the wooded portion of the property. The nieghbor has re-marked the property line with violet painted trees and fence posts. Once I got to the first clearing, and frequently from there on, I found a dead deer. The first was a large buck. his hind end was smashed- hit by a car? Many skeletons of deer, turkey and small game lay beneath the trees where they were killed days, weeks and years before.

I continued through the thickets of the far end of the area, and burst out onto the field of indian grass. A small, yellow and red-lookin sparrow welcomed me to the stand. Maybe a le conte's?

Cardinals and juncos swarmed the woodland edge.

In the grass, where I was hoping to flush those quail for a shot, I found this guy. My best guess is a song sparrow. A flock of goldfinch were nearby. no quail

Here, edible oyster mushrooms which are often inhabited by small black or black and red beetles scale a dead tree. I picked a bunch, stashed them in my bag and continued.

A bit further, while crossing a stream I found a handful of cricket and bull frogs. He posed for a picture where i found him and then left him
I walked. All of the sudden a squirrel poped up. This was no dilema-I mounted my gun. Within a split second, the smaller covey of quail erupted from a few feet away. five birds I counted.

I usually hear the quail in the leaves before I get so close- but this time the wind blinded me. Now I was in a dilema. Quail or Squirrel; camera or shotgun? I safetied my gun and took a second to hand my camera and pack on a tree limb next to me. I was about 20ft from the thick stand of trees where the squirrel had startled me, and was facing into the woods-where the quail had flushed to. I creeped up on the tree where i saw the squirrel- no squirrel. I continued in the direction where the quail appeared to have flown, with my gun ready. I found nothing for a long time, and then a single bird flushed from beneath me. he quickly dove behind a stand of trees and continued flying out of sight before i could get my shot off. I kept my gun aimed, and then he appeared. I disengauged the safety and pulled the trigger-

For all you hunters- considering the information I have given you- what was my mistake?

The quail burst into a flurry of feathers; I knew he had been shot. I went to where the feathers were still floating in the air- and spotted my bird- he was running behind a tree.

I had shot at him with a 3" #4 round- much too large for a tiny bird.I was lucky toi have hit him.I put my gun on saftey and chased him. the poor guy ran into a raspberry thicket. I continued after him until he stopped. I couldnt reach him, so I mounted my gun. He was only 3 ft away from the end of my barrel. I knew that if I pulled the trigger, there would be nothing left of the little thing- I continued to chase him until I had become so entangled and cut by the thorns and briars-- -I lost site and gave up.

On my way out I flushed a woodcock. I hadnt seen one in two years!?

I had a very good day- even if all I was able to kill was a bunch of mushrooms. It got very cloudy and windy by the time I arrived at the car- it was kinda nice in a not-so-nice way. My arms, face and neck burned from the tiny cuts of the quails' thorney trap- but I noticed only the cool wind stirring the leaves that float on lake and relieving the sting from my skin. It roared through the trees above me and was the icing on the cake that was my morning excursion.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blue River Parkway

Kansas City Wildlands minor park honeysuckle removal workday. the group, a large number of 'campfire leaders', arrived at 7am this morn. by 10am, they had removed enough bush honeysuckle to create a pile 80'x20'x10'high. The group had a significant impact on the park.

It was cloudy, warm and humid today. Not too typical of November, but Im not complaining. It was nice to work in. The river is up; many gravelbars are now islands, and are not accessable by foot. The water was clear, dark and still; the reflections would have only been better if the colors were there.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jerry Smith Park

Just befire sunset is an excellent time to spot deer at JSmith park. Across from the park today, on a fescue hillside, stood one of the largest whitetail bucks I think I'd ever seen! In the park we found dozens more, including several other bucks.

Took a quick stroll around the priarie in the low light. A small hawk, dark with a white spot on the lower back, flew low over the bluestem, circleing several times before landing in the grass. At first I thought he may have been a sharp-shinned, due to his sillouhette, but I dont know if Ive ever seen one on the ground. I wondered through the grass; found many asters still in bloom, and the ruins of the summers gowth. Everything seemed to glow in the sunset this evening.

I walked a little further and stumbled upon the hawk again. At this point, the sun was very low and things started to go dark.
I stopped by a milkweed pod on the way back to the car.