A few days ago I got word of a once in a life time opportunity to see and photograph a Red Fox and her kits. I have only once in my life seen Red Fox puppies so I jumped at the chance even though it wasn't in the most ideal location. Don't get me wrong I came away with nice images but like most Wildlife Photographers I would have preferred to have photographed them in some deep forest or remote tundra...but hey nature is a beautiful thing and we should be grateful for what she allows us to witness.
Now before I get into this whole story I want to take a moment to remind people to please respect the mother and her kits. Her den is in a high traffic area as it is and the more people that head out there the more stress you will put them under. If you keep your distance and give her space you will have plenty of time and chances to see her with the kits plus interactions between them. Poking your head under the walk way is NOT going to get the kits to come out.
So, on a last minute decision I found myself on the road with only 3 hours of sleep heading to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. By far this is one of my favorite please to visit but boy do I hate the drive down there. It takes roughing 2 hours and since I want to be there before sunrise it always means driving in the dark. Heading down Salmonier Line is like playing Russian roulette but with Moose. I saw 6 on this particular driving all along the side of the road...lets just say you better have strong coffee for these drives as you have to be alert and I wont even get started on the conditions of the roads with car size pot holes.
As I pulled into the parking lot my heart began to race with anticipation of spotting the fox..and it didn't take long, as I shut off the engine there was mother heading to the back of the Interpretation Center with breakfast. I packed up my gear and headed over.
I slowly made my way around the back of the building as I did not want to stress her or the kits with my presence. The sun had not yet risen and there in front of me was mom feeding her young. Obscured by some man made objects I was unable to capture any images of the feeding but once mom was finished she walked up to a small ridge and posed as the hues of blue hour filled the skies behind her.
Moments later she headed towards the front of the building and the kits quickly took cover under the board walk. Curious as to where mom might be heading I went around to the front. There she was curled up and resting. The sun was about to peek over the horizon so I got myself into position just as the first rays of the morning sun bathed her in beautiful light.
Much of the early part of the morning was quite between the family and before long the sun intensified(because of the clear skies) make capturing pleasing images difficult. Here I positioned myself with the light shining in on the mother as see watched over her kits playing below
The mother was very busy around mid morning feed her little ones(all 7 of them) and rarely took a break from hunting. Here she was returning with a mouth full of mouse.
It was during this feeding that she allowed the kits to come out further from the den for me to get a better look at them in decent light.
Here are a few tender moments to melt your heart
With a card full of images and mom proudly looking out over her young I felt it was time for me to move on to the Gannets.
No trip out to Cape St.Mary's would be complete without spending sometime photographing the Gannets and I really wanted to give the auto focusing system of my new D850 a test run. I was also curious about the Group Area mode which I didn't have on the D610. Since I am not a tech nerd when it comes to cameras nor do I plan to give a full on review here, I do want to leave you with a few thoughts. Typically on an outing with the Gannets I would come home with about a 60-70% success rate on tack sharp images. Well from this trip I was between 90-95% which is mind blowing to me and needless to say it made me smile from ear to ear. I was also impressed with how the Group Area mode would grab on to fast moving subjects like the Common Murres (which you will see below) when I would have other wise missed focus. Since this mode uses 4 focus points instead of the one center point it certain aids for those subjects that quickly move through your frame. All in all I am very happy and look forward to further tests with this camera.
Northern Gannets are by far one of my favorite subjects to photograph during in flight and landing sequences. The array of different poses you can come away with makes it so much fun. Below are some of the images I liked from this session.
I would also like to remind anyone if they would like to learn more about photographing at Cape St. Mary's and to learn my favorite shooting locations in the reserve to capture images like the ones you see here then check out my eBook at http://www.bradjameswildlifephotography.com/ebook/ebook
Here is the image of the Common Murre which if you have ever tried to photograph them during flight you will know they are fast. This one I thought had slipped through the view finder but with Group Area focus mode set the D850 grabbed on and I was able to come away with this image.
All in all it was a great outing and by noon I was back on the road heading home.