Thursday, January 18, 2018
But it isn't everyday one gets a "life mammal", at least someone like me, who has made an effort to see mammals for a long time. So, if I post nothing else about this northern foray, I will at least share this new mammal, an extraordinary beast by any accounting.
Photographing such a sky was irresistible so out we went into the cold. This image is a composite of 16 exposures, each made at ISO 800, 30 seconds, and f/2.8. I used my Canon 5D IV, and Canon's sensational 24mm f/1.4 lens. This lens is amazing for astrophotography, despite what more than a few "experts" on various photography Internet sites claim. The trick is to stop it down to at least f/2, and f/2.8 works better. Then, it is scarily sharp.
We had stopped at a picnic area with a complement of various trash and recycling bins to look for birds, when a rapid scurrying movement caught our eye. We had caught a marten unawares, and it rapidly dashed into the paper recycling bin!
I knew he/she would be back out sooner than later - they are curious beasts - so we retreated to distant cover and waited. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the triangular-faced weasel popped from his box to scan the surroundings.
Martens are about the same size as a mink, but look more robust to me. An adult like this measures about two feet in length, with males being somewhat larger. The bushy tail adds another half-foot. A big one weighs around three pounds. Their tri-toned coloration is striking: whitish face and bib, black legs and tail, and yellowish-brown body.
PHOTO TIP: When shooting wary subjects - as was this marten, movements or sounds sent him scurrying back into his lair - use "silent" drive mode on your camera. It isn't truly silent, but probably cuts the sound of the shutter by half. Shooting off high-speed continuous bursts without muffling the sound will often send shy subjects fleeing, if you're close. The downside to silent drive mode is you lose several frames a second in burst mode, but that's often not a big deal, at least with slower-moving subjects.
American marten (formerly pine marten) once occurred in Ohio. There are at least two specimen records from Ashtabula County, and one from Ross County. It's likely that they disappeared by 1850. By then, Ohio would have been at the southern periphery of their distribution, and it may be that most remaining animals were trapped out for their fur. Now, the southern border of the marten's range is considerably farther north and it'll be interesting to see if the range keeps contracting northward in future years.
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