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Kip's books are now available!

"The Wild Side of Iowa - A Collection of Images and Essays"

"Moment's With Iowa's Wildlife - A Collection of Images and Essays"

"Moments With Iowa's Wildlife - Images of Tiny Species"

"Moments With Iowa's Wildlife - Images of Iowa Wildflowers"

 

Kip's Comments (June 2009)


An update to this website...

I'm working on a project to categorize my wildlife images.  The project has begun with bird and snake images.  My intent is to categorize all of my wildlife photos.  Please be patient; I have many images to work through.  Thank you!   

 Click here to view the first few classifications: Iowa Wildlife Images.


I want to share with readers information about the 2009 Iowa DNR Non-Game Certificate.  Each year the Iowa DNR sells the numbered certificates for $5.00.  The 2009 Non-Game Certificate features one of my images - Three Bonaparte's Gulls.  Revenue generated from the sales of the certificates benefits non-game species.  If you appreciate those species that aren't hunted, please consider purchasing a certificate.  Details are at this link:

2009 Iowa DNR Non-game Certificate Details


2009 Mendocino Service Trip Journal Entry

Farewell to Abby


2009 Tick Count: 2

An Eerie Silence (6/30/09)

Well, I have no photos to share tonight - the fox did not make an appearance.  At least one other time I thought the family had moved on, but was proven wrong.  I'm hesitant to assume the same thing tonight, but suspect that may have happened.  I found no new carcasses, no new "roughed up" vegetation areas, and a few petrified droppings - nothing fresh.  I'll keep you posted...

 

New at Our House (6/28/09)

Today was a special day at our home.  Nearly two months have passed since we lost our dear friend Abby.  Today a new puppy joined our household.  Her name is Lexi and she is a very cute Shitzu.  We've only had her with us for a few hours, but so far...so good!

Lexi -  Kip Ladage

Lexi -  Kip Ladage

 

On the drive home from Ankeny today, I noticed a large June beetle roaming the inside of our car.  Kristy suggested it be removed from the vehicle.  I opted to confine it temporarily so I could shoot a few photos.

June Beetle -  Kip Ladage

June Beetle -  Kip Ladage

June Beetle -  Kip Ladage

June Beetle -  Kip Ladage

 

 

I Learned From Nature Again Today and Tonight (6/27/09)

Each day is special and each day I try to do two things - make the best of the day and learn something new.  Often when I try to make the best of the day, I end up packing too much into the day and hit the bed late and exhausted.  That is one of my greatest challenges.  As far as learning something new...sometimes what I learn is work-related, sometimes nature related, and sometimes it is just useless information that I might need sometime if I am on Jeopardy!  Today I learned three nature-related details.

Detail #1 I Learned Today - We have Imperial moths in my neighborhood.  This morning my neighbor girls Bethany and Zoey brought me a moth in a jar.  They had captured the moth on their house and thought I might be interested in seeing it.  Yes I was and I hoped to make more photographs, but it flew off.

Imperial Moth -  Kip Ladage

 

Detail #2 I Learned Today - After several years of growing leafy vegetation, my yucca plants are blooming from top to bottom.  They are beautiful with large, yet delicate blossoms.  I'm not sure if the wet weather has brought out the best in them or if it simply took time for the plant to become established.

Blooming yucca plant -  Kip Ladage

Yucca Blossoms -  Kip Ladage

Yucca Blossom -  Kip Ladage

 

Detail #3 I Learned Today - Fox don't always come from a mother fox in a den.  No, sometimes fox fall from trees.  Two of the young red fox I've been watching really enjoy eating berries right off the tree.  While at the fox den tonight I could hear the young animals messing around, but couldn't find them.  Suddenly, a fox dropped from a tree growing near the wood pile.  A few seconds later another young fox dropped from the tree.  Both animals would stretch as far as they could to grab a berry, and sometimes they would climb up into the tree.  If they dropped a berry, the berry didn't go to waste - the fox would find where it dropped and eat it.  

They were climbing further out in the tree, but it was impossible to capture an acceptable photo when they were hidden high and behind the leaves.

Red Fox in Tree Eating Berries -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox Eating Berries in Tree -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox Eating Berries in Tree -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox in Wood Pile -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Before leaving the fox den, I photographed what I believe is spotted knapweed:

Spotted Knapweed -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Drama on the High Seas - Sort Of...(6/26/09)

I spent some time on Sweet Marsh this morning, originally in search of the elusive trophy largemouth bass.  Four of the trophy fish's relatives made it to my boat (released again), but the trophy remained elusive.  While on the water, I watched numerous attacks by dragonflies on other insects or even on different species of dragonflies.  Some of the attacks were brutal, but that is the nature of nature.  If my identity of this is correct, I've photographed a widow skimmer - one of several aggressive dragonflies.

Widow Skimmer Dragonfly -  Kip Ladage

 

This butterfly, believed to be a Question Mark butterfly, was on the dock.

Question Mark Butterfly -  Kip Ladage

 

Finally, things have really changed for the blackbirds now that nesting is nearly done.  The males continue to claim areas but are now much less vocal.

Red-winged Blackbird -  Kip Ladage

 

 

No Storms Tonight, So Time Was Spent With The Fox (6/24/09)

The past few evenings have been spent either watching storms or recovering from storms, or attending a meeting.  Tonight was different - no storms and no meetings so I went out to see if the young fox were still hanging around the den.  Sure enough, all four young animals were still there.  Interestingly, all four fox came out at the same time only once.  Fox four is very shy and easily spooked.  Fox Two and Three seem to come and go and spend much time wandering around.  Fox One has claimed the wood pile as his own and spends much time defending the pile.  Trespassing siblings are quickly put in their place with teeth and snarling.  Several times tonight I heard long-duration whimpering after a turf-battle.  Following are a few images from this evening's session with the red fox.

Demonstrating this one is still a juvenile animal (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

The lighter-colored fox approaching cautiously (Fox Three):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Is there a dentist in the house? (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Keeping track of the activity of the litter mates (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

An animal sidelined by its dominant sibling (Fox Four):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Backlit and watching me (Fox Two):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Claiming the woodpile (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Another backlit pose (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Checking out the berries (Fox One):

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Images from This Weekend (6/21/09)

As I type this, Tornado sirens are sounding all around the area.  After last summer's events, I actually feel tightness in my chest when so many warnings are going off at the same time.  There are already reports of damage to farms, but no reports of injuries.  Let's hope and pray that everyone wakes up safe and sound tomorrow with the same roof over their head that was there when they went to bed.

Today was Father's Day, so I extend a "Happy Father's Day" to all deserving dads.

This weekend's photography work was a mix of fungi, flowers, and fox.  I'll begin with a few fungi images from our backyard.

Fungi in Wood Chips -  Kip Ladage

 

This fungi may be the same as the previous image, only in a different stage of development.

Light-colored Fungi -  Kip Ladage

 

I think of these as "Pancake" fungi.  They appear to need a dab of butter and some maple syrup.  Don't try eating these...I'm not sure you'd survive.

Fungi on Stump -  Kip Ladage

 

I do not spray our yard, so instead of being a monoculture of grass, we have grass, flowers, and some plants most people consider weeds.  This is the heal-all plant:

Heal-all  -  Kip Ladage

 

Over the past couple of years we've had bittersweet nightshade blooming too:

Bittersweet Nightshade -  Kip Ladage

 

This evening I spent a couple of hours with the fox.  Apparently incoming weather fronts are a concern to the animals.  They began our time together very relaxed and the closer the storms got, the more skittish the animals became.  Finally they disappeared into the den and did not return.  I noticed when I returned home that our dog was acting uptight too.

Relaxing before the storms:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

The front animal is clearly the more bold of the two animals.  The fox to the rear was extremely cautious tonight.  That animal is also the more pale of the three or four animals.

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Sometimes the little ones just peek around and watch me:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

A split-second when the wind wasn't blowing fear into the animals:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Possibly my new favorite from the many fox images created this year:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Nearly every time the wind would gust, the fox would go to attentive mode:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Honors in the Morning, Answers in the Evening (6/19/09)

This morning I was honored to represent the Citizens of Bremer County when I accepted a Governor's Volunteer Award in Marion.  Our nomination was submitted by the Bremer County Recovery Coalition in appreciation for the countless hours of volunteer efforts provided during the tornado response and flood fight  of 2008 and the recovery effort that continues to this day.  

Kip Ladage receiving Governor's Volunteer Award for Citizens of Bremer County -  Kristina Ladage

Several other Bremer County residents also received awards at this presentation for their volunteer efforts - from disaster response to volunteering in schools and with the aging, to CPR instructors who have trained hundreds of folks across the area.  Thanks all for a job well done!

 

This evening I had a question answered that I had almost forgotten...where did the back half of the cats go that the young fox were "playing" with a few weeks ago?  Tonight I found out when three of the four little ones were gnawing and pulling on what little remains of one of the cats.  I've spent hours in this spot and the skeleton has not been visible.  Apparently they have been moving it around as they hone their predatory skills.

Red Fox at Den Chewing on Cat Bones -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den With Cat Bones -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den Chewing on Cat Skeleton -  Kip Ladage

 

As I've mentioned in previous postings, a very clear pecking order has been determined by the young fox.  In the following photo, the upper fox had been chewing on the skeleton and the lower fox approached with its ears laid back.  The upper fox quickly gave up the bones to the other animal.  Its body language/facial expression show its disappointment to lose the bones to the other fox.

Red Fox at Den Chewing on Cat Bones -  Kip Ladage

 

In addition to crunching on the cat bones, the fox also did their normal exploration of the area near their den.

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

This fox seemed very restless.  Even though the skeleton was available for chomping (background), this young pup spent quite a bit of time chewing on  the weathered wood.  Notice the teeth on this young animal.  

As you scroll through the images, you will see a difference in coloration and size.  With each day the subtle differences in animals becomes more apparent.  The most submissive animal is clearly a smaller animal.

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

After spending untold hours at the den over the past 5-6 weeks, I sometimes  wonder if the effort continues to be worth the time invested.  Just when I think I've had enough, the animals do something different - they bring out a long-lost skeleton, or pose in a great posture, maybe show dominance struggles, or any of a number of other activities.  For now, I will continue to document the animals as long as the effort is productive.  After all, it's not often that such a great opportunity for wildlife study presents itself like this has.

 

 

No Storms Here, So I Went Out on the Water (6/18/09)

This morning, before the rain, I spent some time enjoying our backyard flowers.  Kristy and I are discussing exactly which type of lily these are - day lily, tiger lily, or some other lily.  It doesn't really matter, I like them.  The first image is a typical composition of a flower blossom.

Lily -  Kip Ladage

 

This image was composed from a different angle and provides an unusual point of view of the blossom.

Lily -  Kip Ladage

 

All afternoon we heard that storms would likely develop in our area.  Fortunately that did not happen, so I went paddling tonight.  Since I was in my kayak, I was able to approach relatively close to a pied-billed grebe.  The bullfrogs were croaking  and croaking - until I floated close.  Then they just puffed up and sat very still.

Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

 

Finally, after what has seemed to be a long time, the northern water snakes are out and about in numbers.  This one allowed me to close the distance between us to a couple of feet.

Northern Water Snake -  Kip Ladage

 

 

From Delicate Flowers to Dangerous Thunderstorms (6/17/09)

Of all of the flowers commonly enjoyed around homes, the peony has to be my least favorite plant.  I don't know why, but I just don't enjoy the peony much.  However, today that mindset may have begun to change.  I found this interesting peony blossom and couldn't help but marvel at its beauty.

Peony -  Kip Ladage

 

A bit further away were these subtle blossoms of the smooth Solomon's seal:

Smooth Solomon's Seal -  Kip Ladage

 

Tonight we had a very vivid lightning storm.  Although the sky was lighting up and rumbling, I'm not aware of any damage from the storm.  For those who have not marveled at an Iowa summertime thunderstorm, the sky is moving and flashing and the sound is nearly non-stop.  Of course with a storm of this nature comes the risk of tornadoes.  

Storm Clouds and Lightning -  Kip Ladage

Storm Clouds and Lightning -  Kip Ladage

Storm Clouds and Lightning -  Kip Ladage

Storm Clouds and Lightning -  Kip Ladage

Storm Clouds and Lightning -  Kip Ladage

 

An Almost Emotional Sunrise and a Great Evening (6/14/09)

I began this splendid Sunday with a kayak paddling trip at dawn on Sweet Marsh.  For those who weren't up at that time, a heavy fog muted all colors and sound, creating an ethereal setting for paddling and the beginning of a new day.

 Kayak in Fog -  Kip Ladage

My paddling effort had been minimal as I marveled at the subtle beauty of the marsh, the cattails, the water...my surroundings.  As I approached a post in the water, I noticed this red-winged blackbird that seemed to be sleeping.  It noticed me and called out.  

Male Red-winged Blackbird -  Kip Ladage

Ironic as this may sound, the sun breaking through the foggy scenery and the blackbird calling to me made me think of the Cat Stevens song "Morning Has Broken."  The first verse seemed appropriate for my experience on this fine day:

Morning has broken, like the first morning,

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird,

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,

Praise for the springing fresh from the word....

After the perfect sunrise outing, I went to church and then enjoyed an afternoon motorcycle ride with Kristy and Hannah.  

The day ended with a few evening hours spent watching the sunset over the fox den.  Following are a few images from tonight's session: 

Peeking out of the den area:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

The next two images are my new favorites of the young fox:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

This was not playing.  The upper fox was put in its place by the lower fox.  Whimpering could be heard following this brief skirmish.  Notice how their ears are laid back:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Studying my activity:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Watching the world go by:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Flood Commemoration and Sweet Marsh Outing (6/13/09)

Today was a special day in Bremer County.  Governor Chet Culver, along with other legislators and dignitaries were in the City of Waverly to participate in the Flood Commemoration event.  It's great to see how much progress has been made since the flood of 2008.  We recognize that not every household has completely recovered, but the effort is there and help is available.

Governor Chet Culver at Waverly Flood Commemoration Event -  Kip Ladage

 

This evening I was out at Sweet Marsh.  I noticed this muskrat working much harder than I as it moved cattail vegetation to its mound project.

Muskrat with Vegetation -  Kip Ladage

 

The sunset wasn't bad either.

Sweet Marsh Sunset -  Kip Ladage

 

 

More Bass Fishing (6/12/09)

During this short-term photography transition period...a time when spring subjects have either left the area or are in hiding raising young and summer subjects aren't yet available...I've been working to increase my fishing success rate.  I invested some time working on bass again today and was rewarded for my efforts.  None were huge, but each was fun to catch.

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

 

A friend of mine was out fishing and he too was successful.  This one measured 22-inches long.

22-inch Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

22-inch Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

 

While I on the water I noticed the water lilies are beginning to bloom.  That meant it was time to put down the rod and reel and pick up my camera.

Fragrant Water Lily -  Kip Ladage

Fragrant Water Lily -  Kip Ladage

Fragrant Water Lily -  Kip Ladage

Fragrant Water Lily -  Kip Ladage

 

 

This is What It's All About - Bass Fishing (6/11/09)

Today was one of those days when my patience was long-lived, I had the desire to spend the day on the water, and the conditions were ideal for hours of largemouth bass fishing.  I was on the water by 7:20 and fished until 3:00, except for a short break when my 6-horse Evinrude towed in a disabled bass boat with a 120-horse motor that wouldn't start.  Today's count: 14 bass made it in the boat, 8 escaped, and 0 went home with me.  I figured out how to stop the fishing from throwing the hook and my success rate increased dramatically.

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

Largemouth Bass -  Kip Ladage

 

As I was returning to the dock this afternoon, I noticed this turtle that had somehow climbed several inches up this post.  Seeing this generated two questions for me.  Question 1 - How does a turtle climb a post like that?  Question 2 - Why would a turtle climb a post like that?

Painted Turtle on Post -  Kip Ladage

 

 

This Year's Wrens (6/10/09)

Today was a day filled with activity - a little photography, a little bit of large-mouth bass size census sampling, a lot of lawn mowing, and a lot of work.  Results of the bass sampling are - 5 hooked, 4 of the 5 hooked temporarily, 1 hooked and brought into the kayak, 0 kept.  Results of the photography are:

One house wren looking to see if the nest box is empty:

House Wren at Nest Box -  Kip Ladage

 

One house wren preparing to enter the nest box:

House Wren at Nest Box -  Kip Ladage

 

 

They're Still There (6/9/09)

After not being able to check on fox den activity since last Thursday, I didn't know what to expect today.  An abandoned den wouldn't have surprised me, but neither did the presence of at least one young fox.  I watched for a couple of hours and never saw more than a single fox out at a time.  I'm going to assume the others are still there, but weren't as curious as this one.  The fox that I did see didn't even allow me to set up my blind before it approached.  In fact, I quickly zipped the door shut so the little one didn't join me inside the confines of my blind.  Later I moved around to see what else the fox are doing during a typical day.

Ready to join me in the blind:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Scanning the area from an elevated position:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Nature's Art in My Backyard (6/7/09)

Planned activities with my family meant my time exploring outdoors was limited to backyard work.  Such a situation is not a bad thing since my backyard is filled with many interesting subjects.  Finding them depends only on me slowing down and looking around.  My first subject required that I look up.  When I did, I noticed three cedar waxwings flitting around in the maple tree.

Cedar Waxwing -  Kip Ladage

 

Closer to the ground, I enjoyed the various colors of lupines my wife planted several years ago.

Lupine -  Kip Ladage

Lupine -  Kip Ladage

 

For a more native plant, I studied the spiderworts blooming in several locations.  I'm not sure why, but the color variation is quite extreme - between pink and blue.  I like them both!

Spiderwort -  Kip Ladage

Spiderwort -  Kip Ladage

Spiderwort -  Kip Ladage

 

 

Beauty on the Edges (6/5/09)

This morning I went out in my boat for a short while.  I intended to fish a little, shoot a few photos, and mess with my depth finder.  Like most trips, I was quickly distracted by wildflowers blooming along the shore.  These are blue flags:

Blue Flag -  Kip Ladage

 

Then on the drive home, I was distracted again by more wildflowers, this time flowers blooming along the edge of the road.

Wild Rose:

Wild Rose -  Kip Ladage

 

Birdsfoot Trefoil (actually planted when road was rebuilt):

Birdsfoot Trefoil -  Kip Ladage

I advocate only responsible and attentive driving - boats or cars/trucks.  However, I also encourage you to be aware of your surroundings.  We miss many splendid views by ignoring the simple beauty as we speed by at 60 miles per hour.

 

 

If You Ever Think You Had A Bad Day - Remember This Drama (6/4/09)

I was sitting along the Wapsie this morning, watching a few birds as the sun climbed higher in the sky.  Suddenly I heard a splash and noticed a bobbing motion of something in the river, along the shore.  I quietly approached and saw the beginning of a two and a half hour stand-off between a northern water snake and a bullfrog.  The snake measured between three and four feet long and the bullfrog appeared to be several years old - it was a good, solid frog.  The snake had caught the bullfrog by its left rear foot.  Maybe the foot looked like the tail of a fish swimming, or perhaps the snake thought it could handle any size of frog the Wapsie might hold.  I'll never know why the snake attacked the frog, other than for a meal.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

Obviously for the snake to consume the frog, the snake would need to gain complete control of the frog - either through gradual swallowing from the back end or by killing the frog and swallowing it head first.  The snake seemed to take a twisting and holding underwater approach to gain control of the frog.  In this image, the frog was arching its back in an attempt to escape and access air as the snake was trying to pull it under water. 

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

During the early parts of the show down, the frog was usually able to upright and get its head out of the water.  The twisting required of the frog looked very unnatural and uncomfortable.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

In a relatively short amount of time, the snake had swallowed the entire left leg of the frog, and then its challenge began.  How was a snake this size possibly going to swallow a full grown bullfrog backwards?

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

Over and over, the snake would twist and turn and flip the frog.  At the same time, the frog repeatedly tried to kick its way to freedom, without success.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

I lost track of the number of times the snake repositioned its bite on the back of the frog.  It looked very painful.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

Just when the frog probably thought things couldn't get any worse, another water snake appeared.  What the frog couldn't have known was the second snake would work in the frog's favor, at least for a while.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

If you are inclined to wish bad luck on the snake and cheer for the underdog frog, now is your chance.  During this ordeal, the second snake - a smaller male - mated with the larger snake five different times.  Each time she would thrash, twist, and roll and each time she successfully threw her suitor off.  There's no doubt the added complication of unwanted mating created problems for the snake, in addition to tiring it even more.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

The drama never stayed in one place for too long.  The snake would push the frog around and the frog would continue to kick with its free leg.  At the same time, the smaller male snake would follow them around and wrap around the female snake.  Notice how the frog puffed itself up.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

No matter what the snake did, it couldn't open its mouth far enough to swallow even a small portion of the back of the frog as long as the right leg was free and kicking.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

The struggle for life continued in periods of no movement - both animals were probably exhausted - followed by sudden attempts by the frog to free itself from the powerful grip of the northern water snake.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

By this time, the frog had very little energy left and didn't seem to resist the actions of the snake.  The snake continued to twist and throw the frog, even though the frog exhibited virtually no fight.

Northern Water Snake Eating Bullfrog -  Kip Ladage

Suddenly, when the end appeared near for the frog, it made a powerful kick as the snake was going for another bite.  The frog is the object in the top of this image (with a trail of bubbles) and the snake is the dark spot at the bottom of the frame.  Yes, the frog had kicked itself free!

Bullfrog Escaping from Northern Water Snake -  Kip Ladage

Two and a half hours later, the frog swam back to the same spot where its life-threatening battle began.  The left leg was not nearly as effective as the right, but it still worked.

Bullfrog Swimming Free from Northern Water Snake -  Kip Ladage

Instead of heading for safer areas, the frog rested in the rocks where it was first attacked.

Bullfrog after Escaping Northern Water Snake -  Kip Ladage

After a while the frog left the water to sun itself.  This image shows the external damage the frog suffered.  It is possible there were internal injuries as well that may ultimately kill the frog.  However, I watched the frog off and on through out the day and it seemed just fine, other than the bite wound.

Bullfrog with Snake Bite Injury -  Kip Ladage

Some might wonder why I didn't intervene to save the frog.  I was tempted, but didn't think it was the right thing to do.  This scenario plays out untold times every day, it's the predator/prey relationship.  Just as I haven't stepped in when a hawk was catching a snake, I didn't feel I should become involved when a snake catches its prey.  

Whether you accept snakes or despise them, they do play an important role in the overall ecosystem.  For me to have freed the frog would have been an improper action.  I am there to observe and photograph nature - not to change its course...even if it would have meant the death of the bullfrog.  

 

The Three Stooges + One (6/3/09)

Before I explain the title of today's entry, I'll update you on the merganser situation I've been following.  I need to correct my earlier posts...there are three mergansers, not just one.  And yes, they are going in and out of the same nest box that the wood duck is going in and out of.  I can't explain it - I just watch it.  I'll consider any suggestions for what might be happening.

For nearly five weeks I have been watching a fox den.  At first there were five young fox.  Since shortly after I began watching them, I had thought the count was down to three young animals.  I guess I've been proven wrong again.  Tonight, after watching the female leave the den, four young fox appeared.  Perhaps I should expound on the comment "appeared."  The young fox today were like the Three Stooges plus One.  Kristy joined me in the blind and we watched the fox tear around as if their world contained no threats.  At one point three of the four pups just ran around panting with their pink tongues hanging out.  Their comedic display was something I had not observed before...just like puppies cutting up.  After seeing their devilish behavior tonight, I can't help but wonder if Momma fox didn't just run away, not leaving to hunt, just running away.  I'm going to post many images from tonight.  The lighting was challenging at best, but I was able to capture quite a number of fox-pup action shots, so I'll post them.

Four Devil Dog Fox Pups Playing Aggressively:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

As I've explained in earlier postings, the fox are very accepting of my presence.  They really do seem to want to come into the blind and look around.  Realize that the top half of the side facing the animals is open.  They see and hear everything I do in the blind.  It is now to the point that my ringer and phone conversations don't bother them.  In fact, Kristy and I were out walking around and the fox continued to come out to snoop around the den!

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

This one decided to take a nap a few feet away from the blind.  I use the blind so I can sit comfortably and read the paper when the action gets slow.  I may go without the blind on my next outing:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

More of the "nuzzling" behavior I've observed often over the past few days.  I'm also seeing frequent aggressive displays - either teeth showing and snarling, or kicks with the rear legs.  Notice how both sets of ears are laid back:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

We thought this one was digging for something special.  The fox just pulled up and played with a vegetation root ball:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Walking toward the blind:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

This one looked back at us as it was expanding its travel range from the den:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Over the past few days they've developed a curiosity for my truck.  Shortly after I arrive, the young fox will explore the truck.  Usually they do this one or two at a time - so far never all together:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

I was eating a cheese stick and I think it could smell it.  No, I didn't share:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Giving me the evil eye... maybe for visiting too often?

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

I think this one was trying to read which model of Nikon lens I was using:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

This wasn't a posed shot...they were watching something to the right of the blind.  We couldn't figure out what had captured their attention:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

One of the best looking of the litter with a dignified pose:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

They have really gotten used to me being around.  This one was tired and yawning before stretching out for a short nap:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Stretched out like Abby (our Bichon) used to do:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Resting on its side like a cat.  After spending countless hours near this den, the animals no longer fear me.  That wasn't my intent, but a by-product of being around to photograph their maturing.  I've had a similar situation with river otters.  Fortunately, the "wild" in them will take over as soon as they leave the den.  

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Momma fox leaving the den.  She won't come out and play with her energetic offspring:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Checking me out before running to the limits of its area:

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

Another example of accepting animals...I walked into the bean field with them and sat down.  Instead of running away, these two laid down on the ground to watch me.

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

It's tempting to add human emotion to the activity in this image.  I don't know what they were doing.  There are two fox that seem to be together most of the time and I believe it was these two.  I find it almost painful to think they are so attached to each other and in a short amount of time will be separated - possibly forever.  This activity occurred while I was sitting a few yards away watching them.

Red Fox - Young at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

I can't help but wonder how many more hours I'll have with these animals.  After tonight's efforts, I won't be surprised if they are gone.  I almost wonder if tonight wasn't similar to the last display in a fireworks show...a super performance and then it is done.  I'll know tomorrow...

 

The Merganser is Still Around (6/2/09)

Since there was no rain falling when I woke up this morning, I visited the area where I've been observing a merganser.  Once again, she stopped by.  With today's images and poses, I've been able to determine she is a common merganser.  

Common Merganser - Female -  Kip Ladage

 

This afternoon I created a few image files of flowers or other things I found interesting.

Oxeye Daisy:

Oxeye Daisy -  Kip Ladage

 

Evening Lychnis:

Evening Lychnis -  Kip Ladage

Evening Lychnis -  Kip Ladage

 

Black Worm:

Black Worm -  Kip Ladage

 

Spittle Bug Juice:

Spittle Bug Juice -  Kip Ladage

 

 

A Very Productive Day (6/1/09)

Today's efforts began with a startling jump out of bed to act on a thought from the night before.  For whatever reason, I had a hunch when I went to bed that I should be in place early this morning to check out a possibly rather unusual occurrence.  From a brief sighting earlier yesterday I was almost certain I had seen a merganser in the area.  Normally mergansers aren't around this time of year, at least I don't normally see them beyond the first push of spring birds.  Anyway, I woke up just after 6 with one of those frightful awakenings.  I hopped out of bed, cleaned up a little, and headed to where I thought I might see the merganser - if it really existed and if it returned again today.  Sure enough, within 10-minutes or so the merganser flew in and swam around in front of my blind.  The lighting wasn't ideal, but I did manage to take a few pictures.

Female Merganser -  Kip Ladage

Merganser -  Kip Ladage

Female Merganser -  Kip Ladage

 

What was interesting was that the merganser was hanging around with this pair of wood ducks.  I watched both the female woodie and the merganser go into the nest box (separately).  I can't explain what is going on, but I sure find it interesting.  For the record, I'm not certain which species of merganser I am watching and have asked a bird expert for his opinion.

Hen and Drake Wood Duck -  Kip Ladage

Hen Wood Duck at Nest Box -  Kip Ladage

 

This is the male "talking" to his mate inside the nest box:

Drake Wood Duck -  Kip Ladage

 

Female after leaving the nest box with a feather on her bill:

Wood Duck - Hen -  Kip Ladage

 

Tonight I spent a few more hours with the fox.  I mentioned yesterday that I was going to change my technique due to the young fox becoming too comfortable with my presence.  I moved my blind back and completely opened the top half of the side facing the den.  The animals could see all activity inside the blind, including me moving around.  I was also talking to them and on the phone.  It didn't matter.  They are still very curious about me and approaching to the point that I need to "shoo" them away.  I noticed they are also strolling over to check out my truck too.  Following are a few images from tonight's efforts.

All three out at once in the same area.  This doesn't happen very often or for very long:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

I refer to this behavior as "nuzzling."  I'm not sure what they are doing, but when they do this, both animals fold their ears back.  In this case, the top fox had been out exploring and had just returned.  The lower animal tends to be more shy and doesn't venture as far away.  I suspect the upper animal may be more dominate and nuzzling reinforces the pecking order of the young animals. 

Red Fox nuzzling -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

The shy fox peeking around a post:

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

Red Fox at Den -  Kip Ladage

 

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