Category Archives: Photography

Red Tail Hawk Dive Bomber

I went for a drive today, to check out Leavenworth State Fishing Lake in Tonganoxie, and of course I took my camera. I was driving along a gravel road, looked down for a moment, and when I looked back up I saw a big red tail…and the hawk it belonged to, right in front of my windshield. The tail was completely fanned out and looked really red, and really huge. It swooped down from behind me, passed in front of me, and flew up into a tree beside the road. It was almost as if he was dive bombing me…I was buzzed by a red tail hawk! I of course stopped, and he didn’t seem in a big hurry to leave. Here are a couple of the pictures I took.

Red Tail Hawk IMG_7648 cropped reduced

Red Tail Hawk IMG_7642 cropped reduced


Creature Swim

Fishing, for me, almost always means trolling. There are several reasons for this. For one, the tedium of cast and retrieve fishing drives me nuts, not to mention how it wears out my arm. It would be OK if you got a hit every few casts, but you can easily go 50 casts between fish, and for some fishermen THAT would be a good day. Then there’s bait fishing. Sitting in one spot, staring at your pole, waiting for a fish to bite. Total boredom. No, trolling is for me. Constantly changing scenery, just going for a drive around the lake—well, on the lake; and you never know what will be around the next point, or in the next cove. Which is one of the prime reasons I like to troll. For me, a fishing trip is a fishing trip/photo shoot, and what better way to find a good pic than to go out and look for one. Sometimes the fishing gets in the way of the photography. Sometimes the photography gets in the way of the fishing. But hey, there’s a better than even chance that one of the two will be good on any given day. And when both hit, WOW!

Here is a collection of pictures showing some of the surprising things you can run into while trolling around the lake. There’s a lot more than fish!

The first is a very entertaining muskrat. Over and over he would dive down to the bottom and come back with a clam. Holding it in his hands, he would chew away until he got the meat, then go down for another. He almost always came back with a clam, and generally with a spot of mud on the top of his head.

059 Muskrat with Clam 4x6x180

056 Muskrat with Clam 4x6x180

049 Muskrat with Clam 4x6x180

OK, I'm taking my clam and I'm outta here!
OK, I’m taking my clam and I’m outta here!

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014 Swimming Squirrel 4x6x180
This squirrel decided a swim across the lake was a quicker way to get to the other side.

020 Swimming Squirrel 4x6x180

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IMG_1952 Deer Swimming 4x6x180
These are the only 2 deer I’ve ever seen in the water.

IMG_1967 Deer Swimming 4x6x180

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IMG_7012 American Coots swimming
The fall colors created a beautiful and very colorful reflection on the water around these American Coots.

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IMG_1614 Great Blue Heron on Dock
Yeah, I know, he isn’t swimming, but I think he’s as interested in what’s going on around the lake as I am.


Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, female
Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, female

There are over 5000 different species of dragonfly. They are important predators that eat insects such as mosquitoes, flies, bees, and wasps. In fact, an adult dragonfly can eat hundreds of these stinging pests in a single day.

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American White Pelican

IMG_2343 Two Pelicans in Flight 600x72

These are big birds. Weighing in at over 16 pounds, they are over five feet long and have a 9 foot wingspan. They are one of the largest birds in North America. They winter on the coasts, but only breed inland. You can see two in the pictures posted here that are in breeding condition – they develop a knob protruding upward from the upper mandible.

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Purple Finch

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The Purple Finch is a small bird–5.5 to 6.5 inches long. They summer in Canada and winter in the Eastern United States. Some are resident in the Northeastern United States. I don’t see as many as I used to here in Kansas—sad because they are such beautiful birds. Because of warmer winters the southern line of their winter migration has moved north as much as 400 miles in the last 40 years. Their population has also declined in the East due to House Finches. A more aggressive species, House Finches generally out-compete the Purple Finches whenever the two species come together.

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Double-crested Cormorants may look clumsy, even comical out of the water, but in the water they are swift and agile swimmers. They are a big bird with a solid build and a 4 foot wingspan. Unlike most birds, they have solid, dense, heavy bones and feathers that are not water proof. This makes them set very low in the water, with nearly their entire body underwater. These are the characteristics however, that make them such good swimmers. They can dive up to 30 feet deep, swim 38 miles per hour, and stay under for 30 seconds. They will typically fish for an hour, then they must sit on a perch to dry out their feathers.

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Turkey Vulture

IMG_1900 600x400x144Why is it that the Vulture gets such a bad rap? Really nice coloration: brown to black feathers with a red head. Well…a really ugly head. But, they do an enormous part in keeping our environment clean. And, they go to great lengths keeping themselves clean. They are constantly preening themselves, and often bathing in water. It is vital that they keep themselves clean after eating to prevent serious infections.

They are often seen spreading their wings, especially in the early morning. They lower their body temperature significantly at night and spreading the wings to the sun helps get their body temperature back up for the days activity. It also helps dry the feathers and exposes more of them to the UV radiation of the sun, helping to kill off unwanted bacteria.

Pardon the W.C. Fields and the Jungle Book references below–just couldn’t help myself.

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American Coot

2011_04_05_0268 Coot 600x400x72

The first time I saw a Coot was very early in the AM at Perry Lake, and I immediately thought, “What in the world kind of duck is that?” Well, there was just enough light to take a pic good enough for ID, and as any Coot will tell you, “I am not a duck.” A beak not a bill, and HUGE lobed feet instead of webbed feet. I’ve taken many pictures of them since, one series in particular made for quite a story.

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The Awesome Wings of an Osprey

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An Osprey’s wingspan can be nearly 6 feet. Wings so long and yet so slender. Their diet is 99% fish and a family raising young–they lay 2-4 eggs–must have 5 or more fish a day to keep all the bellies full. This responsibility falls to the male.

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