Cake
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    • Please post your best Creatures photos of the day: animals, birds, insects, etc. Tell us the story behind a photo or tell us about the creature in it. What camera and settings did you use?

      After a 4 mile out and back hike on a Zinfandel Trail in Cupertino we sat down to rest at a picnic table. The picnic area on the grounds of Picchetti Ranch and Winery there we saw a pair of gorgeous peacocks strolling around. They are used to having people bother them, so I got very close a got a shot with a 35mm lens.

      Camera: Sony A7s

      Lens: FE 35 f1.4

      Settings: f1.4, 1/2000, ISO 100

    • This image, initially, looks pretty wierd to people.

      On first impression many people think the owl is flying upside down, but then they see the mouse in its talons below.

      The owl is flying in level flight with its head rotated 180º looking upwards towards the sky - Not a typical flight posture as most avian predators rarely have to be concerned with attack from above themselves by another predator - falcons notwithstanding

      But wait, what is that shadow on its face?

      It is a northern harrier's shadow, flying above, which is strongly contesting ownership of the mouse.

      Like with canines, you really don't own food until you have swallowed it.

      This frame was one of many, shot in a sequence of High Frame Rate images, as the owl and the harrier went at mortal combat in aerial flight -

      The owl eventually dropped the mouse, and both the owl and the harrier went hungry for a bit longer. I think the owl was at a disadvantage with one set of talons holding a mouse and hence unable to be used to defend against the harrier.

      The talons of an owl, or a harrier, would pass right through the palm of your hand and stick out the top, like passing through hot butter. I have seen many mice and voles impaled on the talons of owls - it is no contest.

      Canon 1DX Mk II Tamron 150-600mm lens at 600mm central Indiana

      f8 1/1250th at ISO 2000

    • I have over a hundred frames of the harrier swooping down, attacking the owl with the mouse on the ground, then the owl and the harrier go airborne, and tumble through the sky fighting each other, ultimately the owl abandons the mouse, the better to defend itself I think.

      I have not posted most of those images as they did not meet my criteria in terms of image quality - they are extreme crops - maybe 10% or less of a sensor size at 600mm focal lenth, many are not critically focused due to the fast moving action - both birds were literally flying into each other, sometimes inverted, and just keeping them in the viewfinder was very challenging. But they do demonstrate a very engaging story about the competition between avian predators. I am sure most Hoosiers have never really noticed the harrowing life struggles going on in the skies around them.

      Here is another frame of the owl before it drops the mouse, which displays the mouse very clearly, and then there is a frame of the two birds fighting in mid air - the quality of the image I find lacking, but the story is still pretty clear that both birds are seriously engaged in combat

      The bottom image is an extreme crop that I usually would delete, but I couldn't discard it, the story was too compelling - many other images were even more impaired due to the birds speed and the limitation of the AF in my 1Dx Mk II.

    • There is a Seal colony that basks on the rocks and foreshore of New Zealand's Kaikoura Coast.

      It's located on the Upper East corner of the South Island and they laze about right beside State Highway 1. This was shot while still sitting on a motorcycle.

      Nikon D90 with a 200mm Zoom.

    • I immediately recognized where that peacock picture was taken! I love the Picchetti Winery and hiking around those trails (usually after doing a wine tasting!). Saw a beautiful bobcat on that trail last year. If you can get away from all the picnickers and wine soaked revelers, even just a few hundred meters down the trail towards the pond (which is dry much of the year), and if you stay really quiet, you can usually see deer close to the trail... and the Zinfandel Trail goes right by some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. I like that place so much that when WWF wanted to film a promotional "Partners in Conservation" video of me about 2 years ago, we decided to do it on the Zinfandel Trail (after stopping for a quick wine tasting of course).

    • I give you a broken heart because I am so freaking jealous!! GREAT photo, Chris! I have seen a few sloths in the wild in Costa Rica, but they were ALL sleeping and never got to see any of their faces. I was still happy as heck to see them, but man, I am so jealous of this photo of yours. Especially since I KNOW you are working as much as you are enjoying the nature down there. Good Karma, dude!

    • When our friend from outside of Silicon Valley come visiting and want to hike, Zinfandel Trail is our number 1 recommendation. It has some of the best parts of local fauna condensed in an easy and enjoyable hike.

      We like to start our Zinfandel hikes at the very bottom by the picnic areas and then go to the top. Sometimes we treat ourselves with a glass of wine and hike back down

      Here is a group hike we did there a few months ago:

    • One time, when hiking Zinfandel trail, we saw a snake that slowly crossed the path. We didn’t want to disturb it, but I couldn’t help but wanted to take a picture of it. Here it is:

    • This photo and the next one go together. Not taken today, or even this year... but I think they qualify as "creature" photos. This is a Sidewinding Adder (poisonous) in the desert of Namibia. Look carefully at the sand around the snake in the first photo... notice all the boot and shoe prints.

    • Part two of the Sidewinding Adder: In this 2nd picture, after everyone left it alone for a second or two, it "disappeared" back under the sand, leaving only its nostrils exposed. You can still make out the shape of the snake, but within a few minutes the breeze would blow the sand around and completely hide the snake from sight to anyone who doesn't know exactly what they are looking for... meaning quite possibly you might step on it if you are not careful. Fortunately, we had a guide with us who knew what he was looking for and was able to find it and coax it out of the sand for a minute so we could get these (uncomfortabley) up close photos.