Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sandhill Cranes: First Visit

I heard them coming last night. I could hear them even in the house. The sun set only a few moments before. I rushed outside with camera and scope. The platoons arrived from the north, circled, and landed in the shallow "lake" next to my property. They began feeding-- probing in the mud for fine arthropods and more.

This is why we must preserve habitat. Migrating birds depend upon areas in which they can safely stopover on their journeys for food, shelter, and water. Various species require various habitats. Some may require wetlands, others forests, prairies, grasslands, etc. 

The first group had 71, the second group 65, and the third group was 25. 
161 Sandhill Cranes migrating southward spent the night to rest. 

Sandhill Cranes Arrive in Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Cranes Prepare to Spend the Night

I awoke at 6:00 am and prepared to venture out to photograph the cranes. Based on past experience with Sandhills, they wait until the sunlight illuminates them and then they take flight. It was chilly this morning-- 28 degrees. I carefully walked to where I would have a clear view and sat down in the frosty grass between a cedar and a sapling. It was 7:15 am. I photographed occasionally in the dim light awaiting the sun. It was scheduled to rise at 7:59 am. Finally it began to break through the trees, slowly illuminating the cranes which were more northerly along the water's edge. It crept. The cranes were awakening-- shaking feathers and exercising their wings. At 9:10 am, I left my spot and walked slowly around the bend to get a closer view. I kept myself between the cranes and the sun so the light was in their eyes. Better for hiding my movements. 

I set the tripod down and began photographing. The cranes began talking to each other and the conversation became louder. I knew it was time. In a flash they began taking off in groups-- gaining altitude, circling, and then winging to the south. Many miles awaited them. Safe traveling my friends. 

Sandhill Cranes Waking Up in Sunlight

Sandhill Cranes Before Taking Flight-Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Cranes Taking Flight-- Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Crane Flying Overhead--Morgan County, Indiana

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Who Is Watching Who? Happy Thanksgiving!


White-tailed Deer                                                                                                               www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Black and White Photos vs. Color Photos I

I do not usually shoot black and white photos but have begun converting some of my color shots into black and white. I find the images below to be more dramatic in black and white, although I like the color images because of the touch of color from the beech leaves.

I am currently using Photo Elements (I have Photoshop but find PE does just as well since I do not process my photos all that much) and the plug-in Viveza 2. I go to "Enhance" and then "Convert to black and white and use the RGB and contrast sliders to make adjustments. This is much better than simply removing all Saturation from the image.

So occasionally I will post color images with their black and white counterparts. Please feel free to leave a comment as to which you prefer. It will be interesting to know if there is a definite preference-- tell me why too!

Which do you prefer? Color or Black and White?

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan Monroe State Forest- Color 1                              www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 1                     www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Color 2                                         www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 2             www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Fog Shrouded Forest- Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Color 3                                     www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 3                www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Don't forget to leave a comment-- comments section is under this post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Light I Seek

The Light I Seek

The Light I seek.
     Is that not the journey?
The Light. 
Light that seeks to erase the dark?
 Light that splits open the night?

                                                         It bursts upon my landscape. 
                                                                It is the primal dawn.
                                                  Sweet Light flows within and without
It  illuminates.
   It spreads its rays in an atmospheric dance
To reveal that which I can not see.
It is the Revealer.

I awaken.
Wash over me
Illumine me
Until I am the dawn breaking.

--Joni James 

"Let nothing come between you and the light."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Colors of Autumn

Autumn is gone. The colors this year were unexpectedly spectacular after the drought this summer. I noticed the last leaves on many of my trees at home have fallen after today's wind.

I thought I would share autumn scenes from October since today was a warm reminder (60+ degrees) of just a few weeks ago. 

It is fascinating how leaves change color. There are three types of pigments present in leaves. Chlorophyll gives leaves their basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis. This is the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food. Trees in the temperate zones store these sugars for their winter dormant period. Carotenoids produces yellow, orange, and brown colors in such things as corn, carrots, and daffodils, and bananas. Anthocyanins, which give color to such familiar things as red apples, blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. These are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.
Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. Most anthocyanins are produced in the fall, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within the leaf.  During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As length of night increases in the autumn,  the production of chlorophyll slows down and then halts. The carotenoids and anthocyanins present in the leaf are then revealed to show their colors.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year. The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors

Certain colors are characteristic of specific species.

Oaks > red, brown, or russet

Hickories > golden bronze
Aspen & Yellow-Poplar > golden yellow
Dogwood > purplish red
Beech >  light tan
Sourwood > crimson 
Black Tupelo > crimson

Maples differ species by species.
Red Maple > brillian scarlet
Sugar Maple > orange red

Elms shrivel up and fall showing little color but dull brown.

When the leaves fall they are not wasted. They decompose and restock the soil with nutrients. Fallen leaves become food for many soil organisms vital to the forest ecosystem and the ecosystem of your yard and land! You can benefit your yard by not raking all the leaves that fall and allowing them to enrich your soil.

The seasons change and beauty of each one enriches my life. Adventures await with the coming of winter-- the cycle continues.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

River Otters: Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge

I recently visited Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge at Seymour, Indiana. It is one of my favorite places to photograph and nature watch. On this trip in late October, I observed a River Otter playing/foraging a distance away. It was in a waterway along the auto tour searching for fish, amphibians, turtles, crayfish or small mammals. I pulled off and sneaked down to where I anticipated it would swim.

Trying to be small (getting low) and placing my tripod/camera in proper arrangement, I was suddenly surprised as the otter popped up several yards away from me. It immediately sensed my presence and rose out of the water looking at me (second image). It was wary yet curious. As it swam closer and eventually back and forth near me, it kept exhaling and making snuffling sounds-- likely a warning communication. 
To my disappointment, the vegetation along the levee was high and wide enough to be in the way of a clear photo. Soon several otters popped out of vegetation and slid down the side of the levee into the water.

By 1942, there were no breeding pairs of River Otters were left in Indiana. Between 1995 and 1999, more than 300 River Otters from Louisiana were transplanted into Muscatatuck, Patoka, south-central Ohio, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Upper Wabash waterways to help restore this species to the state. The project was so successful that in 2005 River Otters were de-listed as state endangered. They are now a species of special concern. This means that River Otters are no longer listed as in danger of disappearing from the state. Biologists will continue to monitor the species to ensure the population continues to grow. 

Otters are protected from both intentional and accidental trapping during the fur harvest season. It is illegal to take or possess the pelts of otters or of any other protected species.

The River Otter’s fur consists of two layers - a coarse, waterproof outer coat and a softer, finer layer that keeps the animal warm. When in the water air bubbles cling to the outer hairs, covering the otter in what appears to be a silvery sheen. Otters are part of the weasel family which includes minks, skunks and badgers. Although happy to play, river otters are solitary animals. Males do not associate with females until mating season. Only then will you see pairs chasing, diving and cork-screwing through the water as a sort of mating ritual. The otter loves to swim and can hold its breath for up to 8 minutes. Its eyes are even adapted for underwater vision, leaving them nearsighted when out of water. On land, otters rely on their sense of smell, hearing and touch to get around. River Otters are territorial and will mark their territory with feces (or spraint) as a warning to others. Length: 30-50 inches  Weight: 11-30 lbs. 

(The image below is the waterway where I found the otters.)

It is satisfying to know that River Otters are found in most of Indiana now, thanks to many people who had the foresight and made the efforts to re-establish this captivating mammal. Just another species who enriches the biodiversity of our ecosystems and our lives.
Visit Muscatatuck NWR and drive the auto tour loop or walk the trails--you are sure to see plenty of wildlife--plus they have the best nature bookstore!