So here’s the kind of lousy pictures you get when you use a 90mm macro as your wildlife long telephoto lens.
Actually the frog picture wouldn’t have been much better with a long lens but I wanted to use it today.
I’ve been vacillating between whether I need a long lens or just lust after it. I think this embarrassing display proves I really do need one. I’m thinking of renting the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS E-Mount Lens and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens and doing a very close comparison. The Sport version of the Sigma is a really good lens too but it’s a couple of pounds heavier and I think that makes it less versatile. The Sigma is half the price of the Sony so if they’re really close in IQ I think I’ll probably let sanity prevail but we’ll see. When it comes to photography I’m not highly rational.
This week and next are the last two stay at home weeks left for me. After that I’ll be half time in the office. And since Monday is Memorial Day I’m feeling very lazy and am looking for an excuse to think about non-political subjects. So today I made a point to take a little time and be at play in the fields of the Lord. I noted that the birds of the air were quite active. In particular I noted that some swallows have appropriated the bluebird house.
This accords with the low opinion I have developed toward the bluebirds. To borrow a phrase from the President they’re low-energy losers. But we have had some indigo buntings around this week. They are even bluer than the bluebirds and I think much more heroic. I noted a number of hawks flying above the fields and saw how this disturbed some of the smaller birds. I assume they were worried about the hawks attacking their nests. A couple of rabbits were spotted frolicking outside the former goat pen. What with the circling hawks I thought this surprisingly bold. Possibly they read Watership Down and took it to heart.
I noted a goodly number of frogs and salamanders drowned in the swimming pool which we opened last Friday.
The idea of amphibians drowning in water also leads me to a low opinion of their fitness to survive in the highly competitive future that we know is over the horizon. A number of years ago we had some blue spotted salamanders around the property. They’re good sized and I’d love to see them again sometime.
A very large snapping turtle was cruising around the pond and I was wondering if the mallard family might be at risk of losing a duckling if they weren’t careful.
The painted turtles were all hanging out on a fallen tree and looking fairly useless. I wondered if maybe they were afraid of the snapping turtle too. But more certainly the bull frogs and small fish were likely on the menu for grandpa snapper. I went to inspect the remains of the beaver dam that was abandoned when that buck toothed rodent disappeared last year. Well, it’s all gone now. And the pond is at a low ebb. More like a puddle than a pond.
There were a goodly number of deer travelling through the woods in the last week or so. They were grazing on the stringy weeds that cover the shallows of the pond but none of them were around today. Neither did any of the turkeys wander by as they have been lately.
After that black bear or Lovecraftian monster or whatever it was flattened our bird feeders last week I’ve been using the game camera to see what’s going on at night. The only thing unusual was a red fox. Last year we had grey foxes but this is the first red one I’ve seen.
After finding that hatchling milk snake I moved my tin to another location in hopes of finding some snakes near the rock wall.
The garter snakes I’ve been seeing near the retaining wall have disappeared.
The warmer weather must have allowed them to disperse from their winter hibernaculum in the wall. There was a northern water snake near a vernal pool last year but he wasn’t around today. I’ll hope to find him again this year. What I’d really like to find are some larger snakes, a black racer or even a black ratsnake. But we’ll see.
Insect-wise we have plenty of bees around.
There are the usual honey bees and bumble bees but also the always annoying carpenter bees. Because of the very extensive wood work on the structures on the property I am at perpetual war with these bees. We have had our first butterflies. There have been a number of painted ladies and today we had our first tiger swallowtail.
I noted with pleasure that the three small Giant Sequoias got through the winter well. They join their older and larger cousin in the southwest corner of the property. My own personal grove. The two metasequoias have also grown tall in the last five years.
The bristlecone pine tree I planted last fall unfortunately hasn’t done as well. It looks dead and I’ll have to replace it soon.
This has been a pretty weird winter weather-wise. We have had fifty degrees and minus five so far in January. I’ve had snow, rain, sleet and hurricane force winds all on the same day. There have been torrential rains followed by bright sun. Weird. And now just to show you that I’m not the only one who’s confused our local Barred Owl has switched into a daytime critter. This bugger was in a tree branch right outside my living room window and scarfing down mice right before my eyes. Their ability to turn their heads one hundred eighty degrees is pretty bizarre. But if staying up all day means he won’t be serenading me at two a.m. then count me in on the program. These Barred Owls have one of the weirder sounding repertories among the “Children of the Night” in my neck of the woods.
I happened to have my camera there but it was equipped with the Sony 55mm f\1.8 lens. I took a bunch of shots through a double glazed window and here they are cropped and resized out of all sanity.
If you look real close you’ll see something hanging from his beak. In the rest of the shots you’ll understand the whole story
Later on in the day he showed up again and I got outside to try and take some shots with my 200mm macro. The effort was only partially successful but it will be the bulk of my photo of the day efforts for the next few days. Now what accounts for this nocturnal pest suddenly becoming a diurnal pest is beyond my weak powers of deduction. Just one more sign of the apocalypse I suppose.
A fox den was established in the woods next to me in the spring. Last time I had the 150 – 600 mm Sigma Sport lens I never got a good chance to shoot the male rooting around in our compost pile. Two weeks ago the parents and now large kits stopped showing up around the area and I assumed I’d lost my chance. I rented the 150 – 600 mm Sigma Contemporary for my vacation this week to compare it to the Sport. Today the male fox was spotted a couple of times. So I set up near the compost pile at 6:30 pm and sure enough he showed up. The lens behaved well and I took a bunch of shots. But stupidly I didn’t even notice I was shooting at 150 mm! I was shooting macro all day with the Sony 90 mm macro and I was completely used to shooting everything in the magnified setting so doing it now felt natural. Well, the crops are okay, but that’s got to be the most bone-headed and frustrating mistake I’ve made in at least an hour. But I’m sure to do something stupider soon enough and then I’ll feel better about this one.