Thursday, 31 March 2011

Too cold

The weather forecast was correct, it was well below freezing at night and a sunny morning followed. Nea and I headed off in the middle of the night and skied to the hide. Along the way we stopped a couple of times to look at the stars. Being away from city lights, we could see just how many stars there are in the sky.

We got to the hide nice and early, there was only the slightest hint of light on the horizon. We unpacked our gear and crawled into the hide. Once inside, we put on plenty of warm clothing and started setting up our cameras in anticipation of the morning and hopefully arriving grouses. That is when things took bad turn on us. Eventhough Nea had enough clothing on to cause the average eskimo to die of heat exhaustion, the cold of the night got thru. We tried to tough it out for awhile and tried to come up with some way of keeping Nea warm, but it was hopeless. In the end we had no choice, but to pack our gear and head back to the car and the warmth of home.

Skiing back to the car warmed Nea up enough that she felt good enough to stop and take a few pictures along the way:
These few quick snapshots saved the whole trip, the sadness of not being able to take pictures of grouses was forgotten. As we skied along, we did hear grouse calls in the distance, but did not ponder on them for long, we decided to talk about the tracks on the snow, the beautiful colors of the sunrise and what we would be photographing when the weather becomes warmer. Nea did ask me if the birds would flee if we skied to where the sounds were coming from.

At the end of our outing, Nea and I agreed that we could go skiing and taking pictures, but sitting in the hide with freezing temperatures is a bit too rough for Nea at the moment. Now we are just waiting for spring to really arrive and the snow to melt so that we could go for a walk-about to see what we can find for us to see and photograph.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tracks on the snow

It was such a lovely day outside, that I decided to go skiing and have a look if there were any tracks in the snow that had fallen over the last couple of days. I found several:
The weather really was perfect for being outside, temperature just below freezing, sun shining, hardly any wind at all and an inch or so of new powdery snow on top of a icy snow crust that carried my skis well:
My hide had taken a real beating from the wind and snow:
The snow had packed against one wall and pressed the whole thing lobsided. I hadn't thought of bringing a shovel with me, so digging the hide up took quite some time but I managed to get the whole thing back on top of the snow. Then I decided to move the hide to a slightly better position in preparation for upcoming photo-outings:
I tightened the tent up and used "dead men" to anchor the whole thing in place. (In case you are wondering, "dead men" are large objects, in this case branches, buried under the surface of the snow or ground. They work better than simple pegs that tend to slip from ice.) There were plenty of grouse tracks on the snow right next to the spot were I set the hide up:
The weather is supposed to be good on thursday, with a cold night and sunny morning, so I think I'll have to take my daughter Nea for another round of black grouse photography..

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Morning grouses

We headed out later than I had planned. Somehow I just could not get out of bed. Luckily I woke up early enough that we got to head out in darkness. On the way to the swamp, I was sure that I had managed to ruin the whole trip, and silently swore the whole drive over. My foul mood eased over a bit when we parked the car at the end of the dirtroad. It was still pitch dark. Nea was a little scared as we started skiing in the darkness using our headlamps to get a little help to keep us on the right track. As our journey progressed, she relaxed more and more and quite enjoyed herself after awhile. The eastern horizon was getting lighter by the minute when we arrived at the edge of the swamp but lucky for us, the skiing got easier on the swamp, and we managed to exceed our planned speed of advance. We gained a few minutes on our last leg to the hide, arriving approximately half an hour later than I had planned. We put on warmer clothing and set up our photography equipment. While we were waiting for something to happen, we had some sandwiches and tea.

My companion was just about ready to call the trip a washout and head for home, when I noticed that a flock of about twenty grouses had appeared close to our hide:
Nea was having a great time taking pictures, as the grouses were putting on their show:
After the grouses left, I started packing our gear and Nea skiid to take a look at the tracks left on the snow by the birds. When I had managed to get everything packed, Nea came back and told me to go and take pictures of the tracks:
On the way back to the car, I took a some quick snapshots, mainly as a memento of my girls first grouseouting:
Nea took these pictures:
All in all, the trip was a success. On the way home, Nea asked me if we could go and see and photograph grouses again sometime. I promised her we surely would.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Waiting and worries

I was looking at my blogposts from last year and noticed that my first observations of black grouses was from the april 2nd posting. That one was only tracks on the surface of the snow. April 7th I got to see the birds, eventhough they were too far from the hide for good pictures. The reason why I was going thru the dates is that I am planning to head out on sunday to take pictures of black grouses. I am heading out a week earlier than last year. I'm quite worried if the grouses have started mating season or not and will there be anything to photograph on sunday.

Normally I wouldn't be worried at all. It would not be the first or the last time that I head out and come back without any pictures worth mentioning. This time however, the pressure is on in force. A seven-year-old naturephotography enthusiast is coming along with me, and she can hardly wait to see grouses and take pictures of them. I am also trying to figure out how much clothing to bring along for her. Sitting still in the hide with temperatures well below freezing requires quite a bit of clothing to keep things comfy. Skiing to the hide in the middle of the night has me worried also. I hope the trip will not be too tough. It is also hard to estimate what our speed of advance will be for the skiing. If things go as planned, we should arrive at the hide in darkness, but at such a time that we don't have to wait for hours on end for the sun to rise and enough light for photography.

Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes as planned, this is an important trip.

New version of the hide, continued

This is what the coloring of the hide turned out to look like once it was done:
I took the picture after I had set the hide up in preparation for the black grouse mating season that will be starting any day now. Obviously a greenish camo coloring does not blend in well with the white of the snow, but things look much better with some white camonetting:
From a distance, the hide blends in with the landscape rather well.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention that obviously the rainflaps need something to hold them up in the open position when the hide is in use. I sewed thin strips on both sides of the top of the rainflaps. The strips can be tied to hold the rolled rainflap up:

Saturday, 19 March 2011

New version of the hide

My previous hide has been in use for two years and it is slowly starting to come apart. The few design flaws in it have also been nagging at my mind, especially with the spring season getting closer and closer every day. I decided to make a new top for my tested and well functioning base.

I started the project again by putting up the tent. This time in our livingroom, since my workshop is so full of stuff that there is simply no room to do anything there.
Next I checked the placements for the viewing- and photographyslits. To make sure I had the placements right, I placed a tripod and a lens in the tent:
I used a marker to draw vertical and horizontal lines around the lens so that I'd know where to cut the slits. I also placed the mesh that would come on the viewingslits in place. I attached the mesh loosely by its corners with pins:
By using a small spotlight affixed to the tripod, I could see the outline of the mesh from the outside of the tent:
I used a ruler as a guide and using a sharp knife, cut the crossedslits for the lens and a rectangle shaped hole for viewing:
I then took the tent down and turned it inside out to fasten the mesh in smoothly and tightly in place with pins:
Next it was time to abuse my wifes sewingmachine. The biggest challenge was keeping all the extra material from getting tangled and sewn by accident:
After all the viewingholes had their mesh sewn into place, I measured the size of the rainflaps that I would need for each. I cut the pieces from tarp that was left over from making my previous hide. I sewed the rainflaps in place from their top, well above the openings in the tent:
I also sewed elasticbands to the bottom corners of the rainflaps. These will be used to tighten the flaps to the bottom of the tent:
The better naturephotographer of our family took a quick check of the viewholes and gave her approval to my design:
I used spraypaint to give the hide a camoflagecoloring. At the moment the hide is still waiting for the paint to dry, so I'll post a picture of the final product at a later time.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Without my camera, again.

Today was one of those days that I really wish I'd had my camera with me at work. It would have been nice to have been able to take a couple of pics, but could not be helped. I really have enough gear to carry around as it is, without adding hobby related stuff to the pile. I think it's better to keep work and hobbies separate anyways.

The reason I missed having the camera with me, was that we saved an Eagle Owl (bubo bubo) today. The tough winter must have caused the bird to be so exhausted and hungry that it had ended up at the backyard of a house and was took weak to fly off. After a short run, I caught the bird in a net and then we transferred the owl into a cardboard box. Then we put the box in the back of the car and drove it to a birdhouse that takes care of injured wild birds and releases them into the wild when they are well again.