Those of you in Wisconsin, and many of you in the upper third of the U.S., are once again experiencing a winter invasion of Snowy Owls. In Wisconsin, I am sure the purchase of mice in pet stores, to use as bait to make owl photos, is booming. If I were still making pictures, I would never even consider heading to a Snowy Owl sighting unless it was kept quiet by the one who discovered our northern visitor.
Like most photographers, the Snowy Owl pictures that I did make were mostly close-up, dramatic poses or light, or action. Still, more distant habitat shots have their own sort of impact. Habitat is where you find the owl and that includes a roadside sign.
Winter provides great opportunities for compelling shots of a variety of birds of prey.
Here we have an immature Bald Eagle pondering breakfast. When you work the dams along the Mississippi River for Bald Eagles in winter, wait for several days of brutally cold weather. When the only open water that is left on the river, resides right along the bottom of the dams, you have many (over four hundred here), eagles in just one place. I made this image in 8 below zero Fahrenheit temps. I had a friend who accompanied me to this location one week later. The temp had been around 32 F for several days and the eagle population was down to about 10% of what it had been. When you snooze you lose. I did not make my pictures on either occasion in a crowd. I had secured personal access to a place that the public could not enter. That spot was right in front of a mixture of open water and ice flows.
I no longer belong to any Wisconsin birding groups, but in my earlier days with those groups, the annual migration of the arctic breeding Rough-legged Hawk, was a big deal. I love these birds as much as I do Snowy Owls. Much like Snowies, on some years, there would be an explosion of them. Towards the end of my time with those birding groups only the real birders were interested. The more fickle and self gratifying, serious bird photographers of the area (I believe), tired of exercising the patience needed for good pictures, moved on to critters that were easy to control through baiting. I miss the explosion of RLHs even more than I do Snowy Owls. I spent hours with these birds. During one week, I began to distinguish one bird from another. This one was a favorite.
No stories or opinions on this one, just one of my favorite birds to photograph, the Northern Shoveler.
Many moons ago, I was fortunate to see Julie Harris in a one woman play about the life of poet Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers By Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I should preface my statements below by saying that this portion of today’s post was written on Monday, January 10th.
For those of you who live in Wisconsin and are sports fans, what we experienced in the last moments of the Green Bay Packer, Seattle Seahawks playoff game was painful. I admit I was not as devastated as some Wisconsinites because I didn’t think they would win anyway, and was shocked and happy at the success of our defense. An overtime finish was not on my radar. We are all asking questions today. Below is a mixture of questions (no answers) and statements.
The offense moved the ball well against the NFLs top defense. They also settled for field goals almost every time. Part of that was the inability of the quarterback and the entire offense to succeed in the red zone. Just the same, we have the most aggressive coach in the NFL, why when he was opposing arguably the best team in football, did he become the most conservative coach in the NFL? In the early part of the game, we were at fourth down and two feet on the goal line. The Packers often go for fourth down and 10 yards when they are on the opposing teams 40 yard line. In this case if we fail to make first down, the Seahawks will have their quarterback starting in our end zone. Even if we don’t gain a 2 point safety, they will almost surely have to punt from deep on our side of the field, which will give the Packers great field position and a new set of downs. How can a brilliant defensive performance by the Packers wind up with that unit giving up plays that a high school team could prevent? As for special teams, yes, the Packers do practice securing onside kicks, and fake field goals. Maybe not often enough. Special teams should thank God for Mason Crosby. Morgan Burnette had an incredible game and had a great interception. Why did he slide instead of run? Ha Ha Clinton Dix may have had the greatest game of all on defense. He had made two interceptions already when he stood and watched a Seahawk catch a touchdown pass for a touchdown. A ball he could have touched (obstructed) without reaching.
One thing that history does tell me, they will be back next year, they will most likely make the playoffs via winning the North Division title, and Packer fans will rise and fall with every success and failure.
Winning organizations, produce winning teams. Fans of our division opponents to the east, west, and south, would do well to remember that.
Stop back soon, Wayne