Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ringneck Pheasant – My Passion

 

Pheasant - Photo taken near Boyer's Chute

Pheasant – Photo taken near Boyer’s Chute

In my opinion the ringneck pheasant is one of the most beautiful birds in North American. I’ve always been fascinated by this species. They can be tricky to photograph since photographing them from a blind is usually not an option. The bird in the photo above was photographed from a car with a 100-400mm lens and a canon 50d. The birds paid little attention to you as long as you stayed in the car. You can estimate the age of a pheasant based on their spur length. I estimate this bird to be 1 1/2 years old.

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Pheasant photos taken after heavy snow

Pheasant photos taken after heavy snow

The best time to see pheasants in the open is after a snow storm when they need to forage for food. These photos were taken in February near Boyers Chute which is north of the Mormon Bridge in Omaha. This area is closed to pheasant hunting and there is lots of grass habitat for the birds.

In order tostay warm pheasant will fluff out their feathers

In order to stay warm pheasant will fluff out their feathers

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The pheasant is a hardy bird and can handle cold weather pretty well. Spring snowstorms with heavy wet snow and strong winds can be deadly to pheasants since this kind of weather often plugs their nostrils with snow and ice and they suffocate. They cannot breathe through their mouths.

Pheasant photos taken after heavy snow

Pheasant photos taken after heavy snow

Pheasants rarely die of starvation unless they lack adequate winter cover adjacent to feeding areas. This pheasant is scratching around in the snow looking for corn.

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The ringneck originates from between the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan. This photo is taken in South Dakota, the pheasant capital of North America. Grassland habitat adjacent to sloughs and cornfields along with shelter belts are ideal habitat for the birds. Intense farming is removing much of this habitat and pheasant populations have fallen significantly in many states. Pheasants Forever  is an organization that works together with State game and park agencies and private landowners to improve habitat conditions. The organization also lobbies state and federal governments for habitat improvement. Destruction of habitat that affects pheasants has also decimated song birds and even honey bee.

flying pheasant in South Dakota

flying pheasant in South Dakota

Photographing pheasants can be quite a challenge. Pheasants are flighty and seldom stay still long. You need a long lens. I prefer a 100-400 zoom with a camera that has an APS size sensor such as the 50, 60 or 70d. The newer cameras have better auto focus which is very important especially when photographing flying pheasants. Many of the pictures I have were taken in South Dakota where bird abundance is enough to assure you a chance for some photographs,

South Dakota’s hunting day starts at 10:00 AM after the first two weeks. This gives a hunter the chance to drive around early morning and take pictures. Birds are most active the first hour of daylight and the last several hours. Camera sensors that can offer higher ISO’s are important if you which to work at this time of the day. To stop blur on flying birds shutter speeds of 1/1000 or even higher may be necessary.

When I have a chance I like to take my dogs out and let them chase up some birds. I often carry a camera instead of a gun. Video of pheasants is tricky because they can be unpredictable when they flush. Here is a video I did in October

 

Dedication to a longtime friend


I am dedicating this post to a longtime friend of 48 years who passed away Feb 1, 2016.

Long time friend

Long time friend

I first met my friend Sonny when he was 19. He is 62 in the left side of the picture and around 23 on the right one. Sonny lived several states away . In the last several years his health was not good and I would call him 4 or 5 times a week.

In late October of 2015 I was driving to a hunting spot and I called him on my cell phone. I asked him how things were going and he said last night was terrible. He said his chest hurt and jaw hurt and he broke out into a sweat. I told him he had a heart attack and that he needed to see a doctor. It was Saturday and he said he would check with one on Monday. I couldn’t get him to change his mind.

Later that evening around 7:00 PM I called him back and asked how he was doing. His response was curt, “I’m not feeling good I’m going to bed” and then he hung up. I hesitated for about 30 seconds and called the Brown County Sheriff and told them to go out to his place (he lived out in the country) because he needed help.

They went to his place and called an ambulance. He ended up getting life-flighted to a Minneapolis hospital. He was in the hospital for almost 3 weeks after they put in some stents.

He came home in November and I had one last chance to visit him the second week of November. He started to recover a little and I talked to him on the phone every day. By late January he was having trouble with shortness of breath. I called him the morning of Feb 1 but he didn’t want to stay on the phone very long saying he couldn’t catch his breath. I knew the end was near for him. The next morning I got a call from his son that he had passed away the evening before.

 

 

Photo taken with Rolliflex

Photo taken with Rolliflex

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Sonny was around 23 in the photos above.

I met Sonny in 1968 when I was a sophomore in college. He and I spent a lot of time driving around the summer of 1968. We took a trip up to Mil Lac’s lake and visited a friend of his who was working at a lodge on the lake. I remember his friend taking us out on the lake at night with a 16 foot fishing boat with 4 foot waves. It scared both of us.

We used to hang around the bowling alley a lot and one evening we saw two girls in front of the bowling alley and we asked them if they wanted to go for a ride. They accepted. Eventually I would marry one of them and Sonny married the other 7 years later. Both of us ended up getting divorced in the 80’s.

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Both of us liked to fish and Sonny caught a 40 lb carp one summer when fishing for walleye. He got pretty excited about his catch. We had to go to shore with our pontoon in order to land the fish.

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We used to fish on lake Stella and catch quite a few Northerns.

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Sonny had a band called the “All Beef” which was more of a fantasy than anything. He could play the drums. This the only photo of the two of us together. It seems I was always behind the camera and never got in the photos.

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Sonny visited my studio in 2009 and I got some photos of him them.

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Sonny marched to his own drummer. If I said something was black he’d argue it was white. He wasn’t very motivated and he didn’t accomplish much. We knew each other for 48 years and I considered him my closest friend.  He was a friend because I liked him.

During the last 10 years he suffered with a bad hip and had trouble walking. He put on a lot of weight and really couldn’t do much. I’m dedicating this page to him because he never had a funeral, not even an obituary.

…..and I miss him!