exploring in spring

Spring gives me the itch to go looking for waterfowl. To see what I can see. Photography + Birds + Water = Reflections. All things that bring me joy. 

I didn't go birding at all last year, because of my circumstances. I was going to head out alone on Saturday. I decided to ask Brad if he had any interest. He agreed to come with, so I switched birding locations. YAY!! I stick pretty close to my truck when I am solo on a photography outing. Not nearly as much fun as experiencing and sharing sights. Exploring nature area's with my guy, makes me very very happy!!  

We went back to a SNA (State Natural Area) where we found gobs of swans in 2022. I wasn't expecting to find many floaters this time. After all it is early season, or so I thought. The gobs of swans were spotted March 15th, 6 days later than this year's hike. 

Interesting to see the difference. This year the waterscape is completely thawed.

Bakkens Pond

We explored a completely different area of the SNA and discovered we could walk out on a looong dike. It weaves between one of the pond areas and marsh wetland. It was too cool for school! Except for dodging Goose poop and the surprise dead carp. One, two, BLECH a whole pile of dead bodies!!! Thank goodness the massacre was only in one short span. I screamed like a girl when I almost stepped on a carp. I was trying to avoid looking at the pile of dead fish. Lets just say Brad had a good laugh. 

we walked on flattened marshy grass

The majority of the walk was like heaven. Cool breeze, warm sun and lots & lots of sparkling water. Ahhh. My favorite kind of hiking weather! We more or less had the SNA to ourselves. There were a couple vehicles coming/going in the parking lots, but we didn't run into anyone while hiking. Unless you count a pair of Canadian Geese.

gate keepers of the dikes let us pass and floated away
(Canadian Goose)

We spotted a few birds in the distance, like this gull:

Pairs of swans were incoming at a distance:

After walking deep into the SNA, we found two smaller flocks of swans. Canadian Geese were scattered just about everywhere. Always.

Tundra Swan

my favorite swan photo of the day


Don't fall off your chair, but I decided not to shoot with my beloved 70-200mm lens. I figured it was bright enough outside and the birds would be further out. I was right. I used my 100-400mm "wildlife" lens, with no extenders. The quotation marks are because a true wildlife lens starts at 400mm. I just don't think the off brand wildlife lens are sharp enough. Yes, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to sharpness. The good Canon wildlife lenses are stupid expensive. So, I continue learning to shoot with what I have.

All I can say is 'eh. This lens is not as sharp IMO. Although all these photos are shot handheld.  A monopod would have helped with this heavier lens. Whoops! I am rambling camera speak. Back to the bird outing:

 note to self: remember to change focal points

stretching always feels good

We were far enough away that the swans were aware of us, but did not seem bothered.

One flock

reflections make me trigger happy

We got to the end of the dike and found a small but powerful sparkly waterfall.

bubbly view from the top

Of course, we took twosies ~ or tried ~ before turning around and heading back. I was hoping we could walk all the way around, but that would require waders.

See what I have to put up with?!!

Brad's twosies are better than mine

There are a few houses with a view that border part of the SNA.

I would never get anything done if this was outside my windows!

How many swans do you see in this second flock?

We drove to another parking area and took a much shorter second hike. It was pretty and a bit less windy, but there wasn't much to see floating. The area below is where all the swans were in 2022. I photographed them from a walking path in the tree line below (left). The only open water that year was closer to that shore. 

view from another dike

across the pond from where we hiked in 2022)

We discovered several other new paths/areas to explore this expansive SNA further in the future. It has so much to offer, a unique gem!


Jameson & Tank were waiting at home to go on their daily walk. I had no desire to haul my camera again. I sure wish I had. A big bird with a large wing span flew off a branch, not far above my head. No clue how I didn't spot it! All I could do was watch as the bird flew in a low-ish arc, up and away. It had white-ish under wing feathers. It landed across the neighbors field. Boo hoo! Because of the flight pattern, I think it may have possibly been an owl. 

Call me crazy, after finishing the dog walk I headed back out to that area without them. This time I hauled my camera & binoculars. Just incase. No big bird was spotted, but it was worth it. Mr. Bluebird hopped every two fence posts allll the way down to the path with me. Lol! It was really funny. I really think he is a returning resident of our nesting box 2.

Eastern Bluebird (male)



Val Ewing said...

I spotted a swan in the tall grasses on that one shot!

I'm jealous! I have not seen swans at all, but then again, I've only gone out to one place.
Your photos are amazing and beautiful. And I agree about wildlife lenses, they are crazy expensive and a lot of weight to lug around.

Seems like you have a magical spot to look for birds and reflections.

Super happy that you had Brad to share this adventure with. Having a partner along is always fun.

The dead carp out to bring an eagle or vulture to that area....!

TeresaA said...

The photos are lovely. Everything is thawed here too. I’ve heard and seen lots of Canada Geese flying overhead

aurora said...

Val, If I was shooting Wildlife as a profession I wouldn't hesitate to pay the big bucks for one of those huge lenses. No doubt they are worth every penny. I am not traveling to Safari's etc to shoot. With that said, I am the first one to have lens envy when I come across someone shooting with one of those bad boys. I have seen a lot of folks that own one, mostly men.

No idea why there were dead carp. Brad thought raccoons, or maybe fish kill that washed up. There was one with just it's head chewed off, common raccoon behavior. The rest were just laying there. Honestly, I didn't look that close. To me it looked like a result of human sport. As you likely know, carp fishing just for fun is a thing. Done with a bow and arrow of sorts.

You will find swans at KVR soon! I think it's just a different year, and a bit early. I haven't seen a single pelican, and I've heard some overwinter.


Thanks Teresa :)

Marie Smith said...

I love to go birding with my husband too. Such a great way to enjoy nature together. The area you visited is a gem for sure and the new trails will be great to explore together.

Great post!

Linda said...

It’s good to see you both out birding together. Retirement agrees with Brad, and you will be able to do so much more as a pair. All of the photos are beautiful, but the bluebird you captured at the end is just so symbolic of spring. And that he is a returning resident makes it even more special. That extra walk paid off.

Shirley said...

Ummm- seven swans a-swimming?
What a great day to get out and go birding! Especially having Brad go with you. The bluebird shots and the story of him hopping along with you made me smile.

aurora said...

I agree Marie, great way to spend time as a couple!


Linda, Retirement does agree with Brad. He is happier and less stressed out. Still super busy, but with the labor of love that comes from being caretakers of land and horses.

Nesting box two is at the bottom of our pastures. Along a walking path that I take most days. The Blue birds I've seen are usually very shy. This male bluebird hangs around the box and can be seen much more than the female. I think he has gotten semi-used to me :)


Yes, seven Shirley! I didn't even think of Seven Swans-a-Swimming lol, and I have a figurine. I only saw 6 swans until I looked a little harder and realized most swans do not have two heads ;)

The blue bird make me laugh out loud. He wouldn't jump one post, only two-by-two. All the way down, near-ish the nesting box.

I am hoping a second pair of Blue Birds can raise their young successfully in box one this year. Brad make another front protective cage and added a block with smaller entrance. We tested it on box two last season, it was a game changer.

Val Ewing said...

I sure hope you get the bluebirds to nest there!

We see them but they usually pick a tree nearby with a hole in it.


Far Side of Fifty said...

Bluebirds and Swans all in one day that is just perfect! I don’t have one of those stupid expensive lenses either.