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I had the opportunity to visit some Sandhill Cranes at a roosting site on the Wisconsin River last month. This was one of the last possible opportunities to photograph them before they migrated south for the winter.

Winter means early sunset and the cranes didn’t arrive till the light was failing. Nevertheless, the vast numbers of cranes arriving together gave me an opportunity to try some long exposures. I particularly like how the cranes in flight look like wraiths in the air.

Long exposure of Sandhill Cranes arriving for the night

Another long exposure of Sandhill Cranes flying in

I also tried some artistic blurs with the cranes when they finally landed close by when it was almost completely dark out.

But blur or not, the sounds of these vast numbers made for a memorable night.

I did manage to get back to this site in a couple of weeks as the river was starting to freeze over. The light was still poor, but I spent some time with them in a virtual blizzard as the snow came down while they came in for the night.

Arrival

Departure

Click below for a number of other images of these cranes in the snow.

Until next year cranes!

Cranes departing the icy roost

Sandhill Crane in blizzard

Many thanks to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for making these visits possible.

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I’m thrilled to have an image selected in the Highly Honored section of the BIRDS category in the very prestigious Nature’s Best 2016 Windland Smith Rice International Awards Competition. This image of an Indigo Bunting on a freshly opening sunflower was photographed not far from my home at the Pope Farm Conservancy in Wisconsin. It made a short list with some other very talented photographers from over 20,000 images submitted from 51 countries.

Indigo Bunting on Sunflower

Indigo Bunting on Sunflower

Available for purchase here: Indigo Bunting on Sunflower – Nature’s Best 2016

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  • Krishna - Congratulations. I love the simplicity of composition and Clean background..ReplyCancel

  • Mark Jeffries - Beautiful photographs.ReplyCancel

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I had the very cool opportunity to spend part of August this year in Zambia with my family. Naturally, I packed my gear along and there were excellent photography opportunities throughout. Since I photographed prolifically, I’m breaking this into three posts with one each to cover the Mfuwe and Nsefu sectors in South Luangwa National Park as well as the Lower Zambezi areas.

In the Mfuwe sector of South Luangwa, we stayed at the lovely Flatdogs Camp right outside the park gate. This sector of the park is known for its unusual abundance of large game including leopards. I naturally had some arrangements made for spending time with the local birdlife as well.

We reached the lodge in the afternoon and set right out for an evening game drive into the park. Here are some images from while it was still light out.

Yellow Baboon - Mother and child

Yellow Baboon – Mother and child

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  • Gaby Aitman - We have been to Flatdogs more than once and I have taken many photos but none like these. CongratulationsReplyCancel

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While I was in Eastern Europe to photograph birds, I made a slight detour to neighboring Ukraine to visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. I recall reading about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in what was then the USSR while in school. I decided to take a few additional days off to fly out to Kiev and visit the zone for two of those days. This is a photo-essay of what I saw.

In the early hours of April 26, 1986 a botched test of the power systems in Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant resulted in the single largest nuclear disaster in human history. By some estimates, over 985,000 deaths are attributed to the accident including immedate casualties and as a result of cancer related to radiation exposure among those exposed in the days, weeks and even years that followed. The disaster was so wide spread that scores of villages in a zone ~ 30km from the accident site were evacuated forming the Exclusion Zone. None of these villages were ever resettled – even though there were a few residents who did return against official advice.

Several parts of the zone – especially parts in the 10km Zone of Absolute Resettlement remain highly radioactive and access is strictly controlled. Parts of the zone are estimated unsafe for human resettlement for at least another 20,000 years. I needed permits from the Ukrainian government to get access to the Exclusion Zone – but there are people who arrange that, so with a few weeks notice I was all signed up.

No photography is allowed near the checkpoints that have to be cleared to get into the Zone, and officially no entry is allowed into any remaining structures within it. But .. here goes anyway.

Random village in the woods. Hardly visible through the trees. There were scores of these along the roads.

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I finally caught up with a nemesis Ivory Gull in Duluth, MN. It was a 650 mile roundtrip from my home but boy was it worth it. Especially taken in the context of a similar long chase in the other direction to Quincy, IL undertaken about a year ago for the Ivory Gull reported from there which unfortunately resulted in a close miss.

When the Duluth bird was first reported on new years day, I knew that because of various commitments I probably wouldn’t be able to make it up there till the following Saturday – which means the gull would have to stick around for at least 9 days in order for me to have a shot. I kept a watch on various social media posts about it on a daily basis till it was reported as having been found dead midweek. Tragedy!

Fortunately – and in a bizarre turn of events, it turned out that the gull being seen at Canal Park in Duluth was a different individual. Which means that there were two Ivory Gulls in Duluth at the same time!

I finally left at 3am on January 9th – getting to Duluth about 8am with the gull in the distance. After a couple of hours of frozen fingers, it graced us with much closer views. I mean – MUCH CLOSER. I’m still suffering from early stages of frostbite, but am totally thrilled with what I experienced.

Unfortunately, the gull hasn’t been seen since that day – which for the sake of others, I hope just means an anomalous day.

While my travel plans probably mean other lifers this year outside of the ABA area, I have no doubt that this will be near impossible to overshadow in 2016.

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