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Wrapping Up 2011 at Riverlands Conservation Area
12/31/2011 12:58:08 PM

Off to an early start this morning in hope of getting some good waterfowl photos at Riverlands Conservation Area.  I think almost every other outdoor photographer in the area had the same idea given the number of trucks and cars there this morning.  Missed a really beautiful pre-sunrise photo because I was on the Interstate when I saw it and had no place to pull over for a shot.

Arrived at Riverlands and found a good deal of ground fog which created some nice but challenging photos.

The geese on this pond were fairly close to the road through the area (not allowed off the road right now because Riverlands is considered a wildlife refuge in the late fall and early winter).

I had seen deer in the area previously but they were usually in the far distance offering few photo opportunities.  This morning, however, they were near the road when I first arrived.  There was some frost this morning but temperatures weren't too bad.

This small pothole pond was almost covered with geese and ducks this morning (mostly Canada Geese).  The fog gave the early photos a little different feel.

As the deer moved further back into the Conservation Area I was surprised to be able to get these photos of the deer wading across a small pond.  The ducks and geese in the pond seemed totally unconcerned by the five or six deer that waded within inches of them in single file.

Saw my first bald eagle of the winter season.  He was well hidden in this tree in the middle of a large open field which prevented getting very close or getting a good photo without so many branches in the way.

When I took this photo I thought this guy was a Little Green Heron because of his size.  After opening the photo and adjusting the levels, it appears he is an immature Great Blue Heron.

This is the same pothole pond as in the two earlier picture but after the fog had burned off (about 45 minutes after sunrise).

Christmas 2011, New Lens
12/25/2011 1:56:08 PM

Up early this morning (well, probably not as early as I should have) for a trip to the Riverlands Conservation Area near Alton, IL to try out a new lens.

Found this to be a bit humorous.  This is a small island in one of the ponds at Riverlands.  Usually you find a few ducks and geese around the island but this morning, in the midst of the Canada Geese was a Great Blue Heron.  He seemed totally unconcerned when more geese arrived and landed nearby.  The only thing I could think of was "odd bird out?".

On the same pond there were a number of Goldeneyes apparently feeding on something beneath the surface.  A tough photo subject because they dived so often and when they dive they usually don't come up near where they went down.

Mixed in with the Goldeneyes were a large number of gulls.  Some floated on the surface while others circled above.  When the gulls circling saw some food they would literally fold their wings and drop from the air to below the surface so quickly you could barely see the move.

Another group of Goldeneyes.

And yet another.

These geese were on a farm field a few miles away from the Riverlands.  The Mississippi River and bluffs on the Illinois side of the river are in the background.

And the final photo is a group of Canada Geese at the Busch Wildlife Area near St. Charles, MO.  I didn't see many waterfowl at Busch today.  Not sure if that is because the weather has been so warm or for another reason.

Lone Elk Park, December 2011
12/17/2011 12:19:10 PM

I've been remiss in posting to the blog but family issues have taken precedence.  Spent some time this morning at Lone Elk Park in western St. Louis County.  This park, along with many others, was recently slated for closing by the County Executive due to budget problems.  Luckily the County Council saw the wisdom in keeping our parks open and defeated the County Executive's proposal.  The park is the home to a small bison herd and a small elk (wapiti) herd as well as other native birds and animals.

The bison herd was feeding almost right beside the road this morning making photography difficult.  I did get this photo of one of the larger bulls.

Only saw one whitetail deer this morning but she didn't seem concerned about having her photo taken.


This squirrel also seemed to want to pose for photos.

The elk herd was also fairly cooperative today although many were bedded down and those that were up were grazing, often with their heads almost buried in leaves (other than those who wanted to stand in the middle of the road and stare at me).  The first photo is one of this year's young which is then followed by a few photos of the bulls.  Since the rut is over the bulls usually don't stay around the cows and the young.

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