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Monthly Archives: September 2011

I drove up to Crex Meadows earlier this week for some early fall bird photography. Trees were turning along the way but I think they are much further along around Menomonie than they are in the Grantsburg area.

Sandhill Cranes Feeding

On the drive into Grantsburg I had hoped to see Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields and flying around. I didn’t see a one. Part of the problem was probably because the crops were still on the fields. It’s hard to see a crane in a cornfield. Once the crops have been harvested they should be a little more visible. This was a shot from last year when hundreds were feeding in the fields south of town.

Winding Road

I arrived in the early afternoon and drove around Crex to see what was going on. I was really surprised how few birds I saw. There were Trumpeter Swans on most of the flowages but they were too far away to photographs. There were a few ducks and I didn’t see a single goose. I could hear the Sandhill Cranes but only saw a few and didn’t get any photos. I spent most of the afternoon photographing fall color. The color was ok but a ways from its peak. The grasses in the prairie had turned and almost all of the scrub oak was brown. The birch trees were turning but they did not have the bright yellow color that I expected. Just as I started back to town for and early dinner a large flock of Sandhill Cranes Flew in to the marsh. I hoped this would bode well for the evening flights.

Bald Eagles

After Dinner I returned to Crex. I saw some hawks, a number of eagles with an adult pair perched on two different nesting poles. I managed a shot of a mud hen that paddled directly in front of me while I was taking a photo of the eagles. These eagles were at shot at a long distance with my 750mm lens.

Sandhill Cranes Sunset

As sunset approached I started seeing large numbers of Sandhill Cranes flying into the marsh to nest for the night. Flights ranged in size from just a few to over twenty. As I was trying to find a good location to photograph the evening flight I came across this family of Trumpeter Swans that were right near the road. All of the young and adults had bands so I assume they were captured earlier in the summer and banded. I managed a few shots or cranes flying in but the light level was low. The best place to photograph the evening flight and morning flight is along Main Dyke Road between East and West Refuge roads. Do stop in at the excellent visitors center. They can give you great advice on where the birds are.

Crex Meadows Sunset

I drove on down the road to see if I could get a few sunset photos. I managed a few before the sunset disappeared.

Crex Meadows Sunrise

I wasn’t optimistic that I would be able to get a sunrise shot. The clouds were coming in as I was leaving for the night. In the morning I could see lots of clouds but there appeared to be a clear line just above the eastern horizon. I managed a few sunrise shots before heading out to photograph the morning flight of the Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Cranes Sunrise

I drove back to the same location I has used the evening before. There were large numbers of Sandhill Cranes leaving for the fields to feed. I was very surprised to find large numbers of them near the road and visible for photography. I like to photograph from the car and use it as a blind but the grass along the road was higher than the car so I had to exit the car every time I wanted to take a photograph. I caught this flight of cranes in the early morning light.

Crex Meadows

The weather was changing quickly. There were clear skys in the south with heavy black clouds in the north. This makes for some great photographic opportunities with the light on the cranes and the fall colors with the black sky in the background. Unfortunately this lasted just a short while. A cold front brought the clouds in and strong winds.

Wind advisories were posted for Wisconsin, Minnesota and the U.P. This can’t be good for us leaf peepers. I had seen a couple of good leaf shots on my way up to Crex and decided to photograph them on the way home. Big mistake. The leaves were gone by the time I came back through.



I was going to call this blog slim pickings because most of the summer birds are gone, there are only a few stray butterflies around  and most of the fall flowers are done blooming. I’ve been out in the woods this past week cutting firewood and as I looked around it appeared that there was not much worth photographing. This past weekend I finally decided to break out the camera and see if I could find anything to photograph. Turns out I wasn’t looking close enough when I was cutting wood. Once I had the camera out I started finding quite a few things to photograph.


Milkweed Beetles

The milkweed bugs are out in full force this time of year. I’m a little surprised to still find some baby milkweed bugs around with the adults. In some places the milkweed is all dried up but around the house it is still green and it is the green plants where I’m finding the bugs.


Woolly Bear

The woolly bear Caterpillar are also out in large numbers. I started to do some mowing in the prairie areas but decided to hold off because there are so many woolly bears around. I’ve tried to photograph them early in the morning but it is hard because they are usually spending the night under a leaf or a flower.


Wild Mint

I found a patch of what I think is Wild Mint. It has gone to seed but the seed head is interesting and I have been trying to get a photo of it covered with a heavy dew or frost.


The grasshoppers are out in large numbers but they don’t seem to be willing to  pose for photos most of the time. I have managed to photograph a few of them..


Honey Bee

There are still bees around. I like to try and find them early in the morning when they are on a flower and not moving. Unfortunately they are usually hanging under the flower so it is sometimes difficult to photograph them.



I have been see quite a few large dragonflies flitting about the prairie area but they don’t seem to be landing. I think they are migrating through. I happen to find this small one on some grass just before dusk one night.


As noted in an earlier post the Sumac is in full color now. Sumac is the first to turn and a sure sign of fall.


Oberg Mountain

With fall approaching I was reminded of some of the games we used to play on our fall hikes. It was usually difficult to keep the kids attention and interest in a long hike so we had a couple of games we played on the hike. One was the tripping game. We counted how many times a person tripped or stubbed their toe on the hike. The looser had to buy the ice cream at the end of the day. Of course there were always to arguments as to whether it was a trip or not. Just another way to keep everyone engaged.

Grand Portal Point Trail

My favorite was to try and catch as many falling leaves as possible as we walked along the trail. You could use your hands but mostly we all had caps that we used to try and catch the leaves. It’s harder than it seems. Again the looser had to buy the ice cream at the end of the hike. It was a great way to keep the kids occupied on the hike.

Needless to say the kids never had to pony up for the ice cream at the end of the day.

The first sign of fall every year is when the Sumac start to turn red. This past weekend I walked around the farm and took a few photos of the Sumac. I was actually a little late in getting it done because it is almost past its prime.




Wild Cucumber Vine

In the last few years I’ve become more aware of the Wild Cucumber. It seems to be growing almost everywhere along trails and roads.  The Wild Cucumber starts out as a white flower on a vine that likes to climb fences and trees.

Wild Cucumber

By early fall the cucumber has formed and you can find it hanging on the vines. Given the large numbers of them found it would be great if they were edible but unfortunately they are not.

Wild Cucumber

In the fall and winter the cucumbers will dry out leaving only a shell of its former self. I found this cucumber early in the spring and photographed it.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunset

The Photographer’s Ephemeris  (TPE) is one of those programs that every landscape photographer should have. I have been aware of this software for some time but never got around to downloading and using it until a recent incident. I was photographing in Crex Meadows in May. I had gone up to photograph the sunset and moonrise. I picked out a new location for a sunset photo only to discover that the sun was setting in the wrong location. By that time I also discovered that I was in the wrong place to photograph the moonrise. That was the last straw. When I came back home I immediately downloaded Photographer’s Ephemeris and started using it to plan a trip to the Superior, Wisconsin area where I wanted to photograph the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse with the sun behind it. I was also looking for a location in the area to photograph the sunset. Photographer’s Ephemeris  provided me with the information to accomplish both goals.

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse Sunrise

Now before I travel into an area where I will likely be photographing the sunrise or sunset I check Photographer’s Ephemeris before I make the trip.  On a recent trip to the U.P. of Michigan I used it to plan photographic locations in Escanaba, Seney National Wildlife Refuge and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore outside of Munising, Michigan. The one thing the program does not do is tell you whether or not you will have a great sunrise/moonset or sunset/moonrise but it can put you in the right place for a successful shot.

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse Sunset

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is available free for Mac/Windows and Linux computers and is available for a small fee for iOS from ITunes. There is now a version available for the Android phone. TPE also requires you acquire a copy of Adobe “AIR” which is also free. The creator does ask for a donation to help the continued development of the desktop version of The Photographer’s Ephemeris.

Grain Elevators Superior Wisconsin Sunrise

When the Android version came out I quickly purchased it. I still use my computer for trip planning. Once on location I use the Android version to identify the exact location I want to be at sunset/moonrise or sunrise/moonset. The Photographer’s Ephemeris was a very simple install on my desktop and laptop. As I noted you need to install Adobe”AIR” on your computer then download The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Once I was finished with the download and install I found the software was intuitive enough to start using without reading or viewing the tutorials.

Sand Point Lighthouse Moonrise

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a software package that allows you to plan where the sun and moon will be in relation to a specific location at a specific time. In the example I mentioned above I wanted to photograph the sun rising behind the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse. I knew from a previous trip that this would likely take place around the summer solstice but I didn’t know just when. Viewing the location using The Photographer’s Ephemeris I could see the times that I would most likely be able to get this shot.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunrise

The Photographer’s Ephemeris uses Google Maps as its basis. When the program opens you have  a search bar at the bottom of the screen. Simply type in the location and Ephemeris takes you directly to the location. A red marker will appear on the map indicting the location. Lines will appear on the screen indicating the direction of sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset. You have a choice of street maps, satellite imagery, imagery with street names or street maps with terrain. The program allows you to drag the marker around the map or use key commands to move it. You can move the red marker to the exact location you will be photographing from.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Miners Beach Sunset

After using it a couple of times I found there were a several of things I though the program should be able to do including moving the red marker into the area you are looking at. Sure enough the program allows you to do that. All I had to do was go though the great tutorials.

I strongly recommend this program for any landscape photographer.

Monarch Butterfly

This has been a very strange year for Monarch Butterflies. I had more butterflies around early in the summer than ever before. This included a large number of Monarchs. I was able to get some great photographs.




Monarch Caterpillars

In July I usually find the Monarch Caterpillars on my Milkweed plants. This year I didn’t find a single Caterpillar. Then in the last week of August I started to find them in large numbers. This seemed to be a bit late in the season since the Goldenrod was already blooming and they seem to feed on the goldenrod as they are migrating through. The caterpillars all disappeared within in a couple of weeks but I couldn’t find a single chrysalis.


Monarch Butterfly

Normally during the first week of September I have quite a few Monarchs migrating through and feeding on my large crop of goldenrod. In spite of having large numbers of caterpillars there were almost no Monarch butterflies around during the first week of September. We had several frosts the second week of September. I have only  seen an occasional Monarch since then.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

About a month ago I was mixing over a gallon of sugar water every day to feed the Ruby-throated Humming Birds that frequent the farm. I hadn’t taken any photos of hummingbirds all summer so toward the end of August I went out and to get a few photos before they left.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

It was a good thing I did because a few weeks later most of them left. Even though we have had several frosts I still see a humming bird at the feeder every once in a while. Most likely they are birds migrating through.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The question always comes up should I take my feeders down after Labor Day? This is the time in our region when most of the hummingbirds start to migrate. By leaving your feeders up you will not encourage humming birds to stay around. They know when it is time to leave. Generally it is a good idea to leave a feeder up at least a week after you see the last hummingbird. This way you can be assured any hungry hummingbird that stops by will be able to find some food. This is particularly important if all of the flowers have died.

It’s also the time to clean the Hummingbird feeders. I like to clean them using a combination of water and bleach in a five gallon pail. The more bleach the faster it cleans them. Generally I use about 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. After they set in the mixture for a while I just wash them off and they are ready for next year.

Last weekend m wife and I took a  four day road trip to the U.P. I’m trying to remember now why we took the trip but I think it had something to do with trying to see large numbers of Monarch Butterflies at Peninsula Point Lighthouse.

Sand Point Lighthouse

On Friday we drove over to Escanaba, Michigan. We had planned to go out to the Peninsula Point Lighthouse  and look for butterflies but it was a little late in the day so we rested a bit and then drove downtown and stopped at the Swedish Pantry to try the meatballs. They were ok but don’t compare with those from The  IKEA Cafeteria. We spent the evening walking around Ludington Park. This is a photo of the moon rising above the Sand Point Lighthouse.

Peninsula Point Lighthouse

The next morning we drove over to Peninsula Point Lighthouse  park to check on the butterflies. Unfortunately we only saw a few butterflies around. Apparently they rest in the Cedar forest and it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find them since they blend in so well. It would also be difficult to photograph them in the deep forest. It was a good idea but I think I’ll stick to looking for Monarchs in meadows.


We then started driving up the coast. I was reading the Moon Handbook as we drove along and found an article on Fayette Historic State Park. It is a reconstructed 1880 smelting town with many of the buildings still standing. We decided to drive over and have a look. All along the way we had been discussing how dry it looked. When  we arrived at the park we asked the ranger about it. Apparently they had record low rainfall for July and August and it sure showed. The grass in the park was all brown. The park was very interesting and was well worth the detour.

Suel Choix Point Lighthouse

The next stop was the Suel Choix Point Lighthouse. A nice lighthouse with a great gift store if you are interested in that sort of thing. I was just about ready to leave and my wife mentioned that standing in the shadow of the lighthouse and shooting up into the sun would make an interesting shot.. She was right.

We then headed north to Newberry and on to Tahquamenom Falls. We stopped briefly at the upper falls. I didn’t bring the camera on the walk to the falls so no falls shots. The water levels were very low. You could see the rocks below the water at the top of the falls as well as the rock face in back of the falls.

Coast Guard Station

Whitefish Point Lighthouse was our next stop. We had been there with our son when he was about eight years old. About all I remember from the visit was that he broke into tears when he heard about the Edmund Fitzgerald . I was very disappointed with the visit because when we arrived we found that they were working on the lighthouse and the lower portion was covered in scaffolding. Unfortunately the website failed to mention the revocation. If you are planning a photographic trip you might want to call first to check on conditions.


Our final destination of the day was Seney. The plan was to photograph the sunset at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately we had doddled a bit too much along the way and were really pressed to make it for the sunset. Fortunately I had checked the Refuge out on Photographer’s Ephemeris before we arrived so I knew where I wanted to be for sunset. Ephermeris indicated that Marshland Drive would make a great spot to photograph the sunset. Things started off with a bang when we saw a wolf just as we drove into the Refuge. We were late in arriving and I was just able to setup the camera in time for sunset. It was one of the more spectacular sunsets I’ve seen. It was even more amazing because there had not been a cloud in the sky all day. As we drove through the Refuge we also saw over fifteen beaver and muskrat. In the evening light they weren’t at all shy. Unfortunately the light levels were low and they were difficult to photograph.


The next morning the goal was to go back into the Refuge for some sunrise photography. The Marshland Drive does not offer any good options for sunrise photography but as we drove though the park the previous evening we noticed that the fisherman’s Drive was open. Photographer’s Ephemeris indicated that this road would provide the best opportunity for sunrise photographs. The opportunities were not as good as they were the night before but I managed to get a few good shots. The morning shooting was somewhat of a disaster because as we drove toward the refuge all of the interior windows in the car fogged up. I’ve had the windshields fog up occasionally but in this case every window in the car fogged up.

Trumpeter Swans

It was so bad we had to stop and wipe the interior of the windows with paper towels. When I got out to photograph the sunrise my camera viewfinder and lens quickly fogged up. I’ve never encountered conditions like this before. In spite of the problems I did get a few sunrise shots. As we drove through the Refuge saw over fifty Trumpeter Swans in s single pond. We also saw over a dozen Belted Kingfishers. It was very frustrating because I have never gotten a good shot of this bird and only managed a distant shot on this morning.


If you are looking for a great place to photograph sunsets and wildlife this is it. I’ve added it to my don’t miss list of places to visit when I travel to the U.P. The one fact that you should be aware of is the Fox River Inn is the only motel in town. You could stay in one of the nearby towns but they are all at least a 30 mile drive to the Refuge. It is also important to note there is only one place to eat in town and no place for breakfast so you should plan accordingly.

Later in the morning we drove over to Grand Marais. This was one of the locations where we saw the most fall color although less than 5 percent of the trees had turned. We stopped for brunch at the Sportsman’s Restaurant.  When we emerged the air was heavy with smoke and you could see a haze over the area.  When we drove into Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore the ranger thought it was an air inversion and they didn’t know where the smoke was coming from. Later we discovered that it was likely from fires in the Boundary Waters.


We stopped at the Hurricane River Campground and then hiked along the beach to the Au Sable Light Station. This is one of our favorite hikes in the park. Unfortunately the nice white fluffy clouds that were around early in the morning disappeared and we had clear blue skies except for the haze from the smoke. There are several shipwrecks along the walk and they were the most exposed I have ever seen them. A good time to photograph them if you are in the area.

Miners Beach Sunset

Miners Beach

We drove over to Munising. My favorite place for sunset and waterfall photography in the park is Miners Beach. On this night it was very depressing. As we walked down to the beach we found it littered with dead trees and brush. The debris stretched all the way to Elliot Falls. It is almost impossible to get a good photo of the falls under the current conditions. There was only about three beers of worth of water flowing over the falls. That problem can be easily solved with a little rain but getting rid of the debris is a much larger problem. The sunsets are still beautiful but I sure miss the falls.

The next day we drove home through Ironwood, Michigan and Hayward, Wisconsin. It was a bright sunny day and we only made one stop. That was at Canyon Falls. I was a little doubtful about getting any photos in the bright sun but when we reached the falls itself was still in the shadows. This is a location where I tend to spend more time photographing the water patterns in the Sturgeon River and gorge and less time photographing the falls. On this day things were reversed. The river was so low that you could walk across it. On the other hand the falls was exposed and provided a great opportunity to photograph the rarely seen rocks behind the falls. My attempt to photograph the falls also provided a harrowing experience. The river was so low that you could climb down to river level below the falls. I managed to slip on a rock and only prevented myself and camera from a serious fall and a dip in the river through some great ballet moves. The fall color was the most advanced in this area although it was probably less than 5 percent.

Wausau Whitewater Park

A couple of weeks ago may wife and I drove over to Wausau to check out the Midwest Freestyle Kayak Championships. We had been to Wausau about 10 years ago to watch a Kayaking event and enjoyed it. Wausau has a fantastic facility for both the participants and the viewer. The Wausau Whitewater Park is located in downtown Wausau and offers a beautiful venue for watching events. Canoe and Kayak events are held throughout the year at the park.

Up and Over

In the freestyle events the Kayakers take turns performing tricks at a single waterfall. The falls are divided by level of difficulty so the beginners perform at one waterfall and the experts at another waterfall.

Where am I

If you have the opportunity I would definitely recommend attending one of the events throughout the year. If you are interested in getting involved in whitewater kayaking you can also take lessons at the Whitewater Park.

Kayak Rescue Team

Between events we walked though the beautiful downtown area. The streets are covered with cobblestones and are pedestrian friendlily. We had lunch at a local eatery. It was a difficult choice between Greek and Mongolian but we chose the Greek place. From the lines it was clear the Mongolian was a popular local choice.

More photos from the event can be found on my website.