This time of year is typically like Grand Central Station around here. Wildlife is plentiful and everyday life is at a very high peak of physicality.

This time of year is typically like Grand Central Station around here. Wildlife is plentiful and everyday life is at a very high peak of physicality. Life is a race against time, both of which are very limited in the kingdom of wildlife. But this year has been different. That hectic life has been slowed to a snail’s pace. Spring arrivals have been delayed with deliveries at a later date.  


I hit the backroads in hopes of finding some snow geese to photograph. Finding a big noisy flock is still a big thrill. Sure, I could drive down to Emiquon for some good views but that gets to be a drive if you go there often. I want that romantic feel of a close encounter, the one so close that they crap on you. That’s what I want. And I can do that close to home.


My typical locations are not producing on this morning. There are plenty of birds in the air (snow geese), thousands of them in fact, but they seem to be on a mission and stay high. I pull over and set up by a lake in hopes that the geese might come in. There are a few Canada Geese on the lake, even a few White-Fronted Geese but that is all. After several minutes I hear the familiar call of a Trumpeter Swan and watch as six of them fly overhead.  Thinking they might turn and land into the southerly wind I prepare myself. But they don’t, they too seem to be on a mission and keep heading north.


I begin to tire and decide to work the ditches to see if any Snipe have arrived. The ditches are empty; I see nothing. Are they late in their arrival? Yes and no would be the appropriate answer. Compared to the last few years, they are indeed late, but in reality, there is nothing to get excited about. They will be here anytime now. I write this mid-week and there is a good chance that I will have seen my first of the year Snipe by the time you read this.


I head to my favorite Woodcock location. Again, the outcome is much like the Snipe. This time last year…. But when looking for Woodcock in the heavy brush of the lakes shoreline I also look for something else…antlers. Bucks like to travel through this heavy cover and often times I will find an antler or two. But I come up empty on the antlers — time to switch course again.


There is a small lane that travels between a large body of water and a small one. It’s a travel corridor for many species of wildlife and it is my favorite location for spotting mink. Typically this time of year, when families are on the mind, you can spot mink just about any time of the day. But instead of walking the lane I park along the road and stay in the comfort of the rig and use my binoculars to scan the lane for any kind of movement. I have a full and complete view of the lane. Watching for at least an hour, there is no mink movement. A Great-Horned Owl being the only creature that comes into the lane.


Way beyond the lane, at least one hundred yards from my rig, I see a deer trotting across an open field. I expect to see more deer, but none show. And then just as I was getting ready to pull out a lone coyote comes into view, in just about the same location that the deer had come through. Now motionless, it scans its surrounding environment. I am far enough away that it takes little interest in my parked truck. It is pretty late in the morning for a coyote to be running around so its mission must be in getting back to home-base to sleep the day away. The coyote does eventually move on.


The day has now turned into early evening and I am still out. My attention goes back to geese again, but this time it is Canada Geese and the race against the setting sun. Sitting along the edge of a lake I wait for that perfect combination of light and subject. I do see a pheasant some 40 years away but lose interest quickly when two geese take off form the lake.


The golden light is now being chased away ever so quickly. But in those last remaining rays of the setting sun, the pheasant pops out of the shoreline brush, no more than 15 yards away. The pheasant is briefly stunned by my appearance and offers up a few shots while still frozen in disbelief. The light on the pheasant is amazing, a perfect ending to the day. Time to go home.


I took the sunrise shot you see here the very next morning. Everything is wrong about the shot: light, exposure, etc.  but I thought it turned out kind of wild. The rising sun had only this small opening in the building clouds and burst through at the last minute.