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Old Dec 12, 2010, 9:04 PM   #1
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Default Holla Bend NWR and a First for Me

This weekend I was determined to relax and spend some time with the camera, and I got an early start with the trip to Garvan Gardens Thursday night for the Christmas Lights. However, on the way, I got an omen that was definitely good.... a barred owl flew across the road and landed in a pine tree. He watched as I turned the car around drove back to above him on the road and stopped below the tree. He let me get to within 20 feet, and even let me take three shots with on-camera flash. The longest lens I had with me was my Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM, so I was relatively pleased.



It was the first owl I have every shot in the wild.

Today Brenda and I took off two hours north to the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge along the Arkansas River. This is normally an excellent place to shoot bald eagles in December. Today, however, was just short of a total strikeout as the only one I saw was very, very high and far away.



This is a 100% crop. The trip, though, turned out to be far from a waste. I recorded another first....about as far as you can get on the size spectrum from the owl and eagle....a little American kestrel. This is the smallest member of the falcon family in North America, about the size of a small fist. Again, I'm way out close to a 100% crop because of the size of the bird and his naturally shy habits.



Beginning falconers often trap these birds with which to learn their craft. I have shot hunting kestrels, but this is the first I've seen in the wild.

There was a notable absence of the huge flocks of migratory waterfowl I've seen in the past, and a general lack of water. Evidently, with the drougth we suffered in the summer, not enough water can be spared to pump into the area normally inundated into wetlands. On this same weekend last year, I literally had to run for cover when thousands of snow geese flew over me. Today, the only large clouds of birds were Red Winged Blackbirds, but even they can definitely get your attention



Ring Billed gulls are not uncommon, but American White Pelicans are very rare in Arkansas.




Finally, I get lots of shots of Red Tailed Hawks and little Killdeers around here, but I just liked these two....a flight shot on the hawk, and maybe the best stationary killdeer I've shot




All photos shot with Pentax K-7 and Sigma 50-500mm "Bigma."

Paul
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Old Dec 12, 2010, 9:19 PM   #2
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Looks like you're getting your grove back, Paul.
And having a ton of fun doing it!
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Old Dec 13, 2010, 6:34 AM   #3
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So glad you took the time to get out & enjoy. And so glad you chose to share some fine photos with the rest of us!
Great stories with all of these - Barred Owl is my favorite for mood & composition...
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Old Dec 13, 2010, 7:57 PM   #4
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Wow, that was a very productive day of shooting Paul! Great shot of the barred owl.
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 4:31 AM   #5
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Lovely series Paul ! I really enjoyed looking through this thread - absolutely NOTHING like that over here

My fav was also the owl - one of my favourite birds anyway. Though the shot of the Killdeer is publishing-worthy.

I can never get over how Americans shoot so much wonderful wildlife though - I guess it's because having been raised in the UK and then having lived in parts of the world where guns and shooting are not part of our culture (except against humans !) it's just not a common practice - not to say there aren't hunters there too, but just on a much smaller scale.
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 5:16 AM   #6
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Nice series, really like the first and last two shots, mostly because I'm still a noob with predators, haven't gotten 1 descent shot in the wild.

Cheers

Ronny
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 5:56 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogfish View Post
Lovely series Paul ! I really enjoyed looking through this thread - absolutely NOTHING like that over here

My fav was also the owl - one of my favourite birds anyway. Though the shot of the Killdeer is publishing-worthy.

I can never get over how Americans shoot so much wonderful wildlife though - I guess it's because having been raised in the UK and then having lived in parts of the world where guns and shooting are not part of our culture (except against humans !) it's just not a common practice - not to say there aren't hunters there too, but just on a much smaller scale.

Thanks for the kind words. I think you bring up an interesting point, but after watching a TV story about how manic birding is in the UK, I'm not so sure it's just Americans.

I think you may have a valid point for many of us who grew up in families where hunting wasn't a sport, but an important part of the family fare. My parents were "city folk," but the rest of my family lived on farms and out in the wooded area. The earliest photo of one of my ancestors, my great great grandfather, circa 1875, was of him posing with his long gun. Wild game was an important supplement to a meager diet. One of the traditions that goes along with the lifestyle is a love and respect for nature, coiupled with the creed, "Don't kill it unless you plan to eat it."

I found out early I didn't like killing wild game, and I really don't like the taste of much of it, so I got away from the woods. When I picked up a camera for my first serious shooting in 40 years, about four years ago, I rediscovered my love of being in the woods, but now it's a love for the nature that is predicated on preserving and recording its beauty, rather than killing it.

Paul
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 8:14 AM   #8
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Yes I can quite clearly see how it's a cultural remnant, and of course the gun laws in the USA mean that a much larger percentage of people own guns and want to put them to acceptable use and hunting is accepted by the general populace.

In the UK there are gun clubs and hunters but there are also very strong animal protection groups, and of course no right to bear arms, so the numbers are minimal even if vociferous and active. Probably countries that have large areas of wilderness (of which there isn't any in the UK !) and relatively low populations as a proportion, such as the USA, Australia, Russia and maybe parts of Scandinavia have much higher numbers of hunters - just part of their heritage.

Better to shoot them time & time again than once and never more - and to hear you are now one of the former
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 11:55 AM   #9
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Paul, these are wonderful shots. The Owl and the Killdeer are my favorites.

A favorite bird if mine is the Red winged Black bird. I love their looks and vocalization. That was a flock the likes of which I have never seen. Lucky you and another nice capture.

I have had Owls on my wish list of birds I want to photograph in the wild, but to date no luck. Several weeks ago I was coming home at about 9PM and was amazed to see a Great Horned Owl sitting on my lawn. We have no street lights in our neighborhood and I had my K100D in the car with the 50-200mm on it but the Owl took off when I started to lower the car window. I don't think I would have gotten much of anything anyway because all I had for flash was the built in.

Lou
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Old Dec 15, 2010, 6:09 AM   #10
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that is a great killdeer photo, and the owl too (rather serendipitous )
on one of my visits to the USA i got to see bald eagles, but from a distance, my shots were just pin pricks in a blue sky, but at least i saw them
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