Porcupine up a tree

A few days ago, my friend Ron Dudley wrote a post (click) about his encounter with a porcupine.  It reminded me of my own encounter with one a few years ago.  I really can’t remember if I had written about it at the time, but today is as good as any to mention it to you.

Ann and I were on our way to the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  As we turned down the little lane leading to the place, Ann glanced to the right and exclaimed about an indistinctive blob in the fork of a tree.  I stopped the car and we gazed at it wondering what the heck it was.  It was only about 20 feet away.  I put the binoculars on it and lo and behold, I saw a face.  I told Ann, I think that it’s a porcupine.  I had never seen one close up before.

I put my 24-105 lens on the camera and got out of the car to approach it.  The fork of the tree was only about 5-6 feet from the ground.  That put the animal right at eye-level.  I took several shots of it then.  It was asleep or maybe just drowsing.  Anyway, it didn’t move but I felt that it was staring at me.  I put my hand out to “pet” it, then decided that I didn’t really want to disturb it.  An aside note, if you do pet a porcupine, don’t move your hand against the grain. 🙂

Here are a couple of images from that encounter.  My only disappointment was that the porcupine was back-lit as you can see, so I had trouble getting detail in the face.

Porcupine in tree

Porcupine Portrait

A year or so later, I came across this porcupine crossing the road.

Porcupine crossing road.

A Prickly Experience

Yesterday, Wednesday, Ann and I decided to make a return trip to Spring Creek and Middle Concho parks.  The weather was nice, turned out to have a high of 71.  We called Jodie Wolslager, our birding and photographic friend and asked her to join us.  She just recently received her Canon 500mm f4 lens and was anxious to get some inaugaurative photos.  And guess what, with her first shot with it, she nailed a shot of a Great Blue Heron in flight.

It was a real fun day.  The birds were active.  Lots of surprises.  But the biggest surprise was as we were making a cruise through Spring Creek park, a Porcupine mozied out of the woods.  It was the first time I ever saw a porcupine live (not roadkill), in the open and walking around.  Jodie and I both got out of the car and keeping far out of the way so not to panic it, we followed until it returned to a tree at the edge of the woods.  It promptly climbed it, found a fork about 10 feet above the ground, then got comfortable.  Here are a couple of my images.


Porcupine in tree

Later, I was also able to get these images of a juvenile Belted Kingfisher.  It was pretty far away, so I used my 2X tele-converter on my 500mm lens, hand-held.  I am not completely happy using that set-up because of the manual focus.  I was able to save the photos with editing, but I may be better off just using the 1.4 tele-converter, where I have auto-focus, and then just cropping closer.  It’s fun to experiment with different methods, though.

Belted Kingfisher - juvenile

Belted Kingfisher - juvenile

For the birders out there who might be interested, our total count for about three hours was 28.  A lot of that time was spent doing photography, though.

  • 1.   Vermilion Flycatcher
  • 2.   Great Blue Heron
  • 3.   Double-crested Cormorant
  • 4.   Northern Shoveler
  • 5.   American Coot
  • 6.   Eastern Bluebird
  • 7.   American White Pelicans
  • 8.   Northern Harrier
  • 9.   Cooper’s Hawk
  • 10. Western Meadowlark
  • 11.  Pied-billed Grebe
  • 12.  White-winged Dove
  • 13.  Common Grackles
  • 14.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • 15.  Red-winged Blackbird
  • 16.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • 17.  Cedar Waxwing
  • 18.  Savannah Sparrow
  • 19.  Lesser Goldfinch
  • 20.  House Finch
  • 21.  Northern Mockingbird
  • 22.  Ring-billed Gull
  • 23.  Mute Swan
  • 24.  Black Vulture
  • 25.  Wild Turkey
  • 26.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • 27.  Cinnamon Teal
  • 28.  Osprey

But a fun day was had by all, and that’s good, because it looks like the weather is not going to be very favorable for the next week or so.  One more thing has happened since I started writing this post this morning.  Ann happened to look outside, and she saw what we decided was a Cooper’s Hawk, grab a White-winged Dove and fly into the trees with it.  I ran out, but all I saw as the hawk flew off, was a shower of feathers.

Click on any of the images for enlargements.  Talk at ya agin’ soon. 🙂

Tale of The Take – Porcupine

Getting this photo was one of my most amazing experiences.  Ann and I had driven to San Angelo State Park to check on the bird blind, back on January 19, 2009.  We usually put seed out so the birds will be attracted to the area.  This is for the benefit of birders and photographers who come to observe.

Porcupine in tree

We had just turned off the main road on to the little lane that leads to the blind when we spotted this round, bushy looking blob in the fork of a tree, about 25 feet from the side of the road.  Not realizing at first what it was, we put our binoculars on it and discovered that it was a Porcupine.

I had my camera on my lap, as usual, and took a couple of quick shots out the window of our mini-van, to make sure I had something in case the animal made a quick exit.  I then got out and started walking through the weeds and brush, much to the chagrin of my wife, Ann, who started to yell at me to watch out for rattle-snakes.  I called back, and told her to worry about whether I was going to get the shot.  After all, there things that are more important than others. 🙂

I was able to get close enough to the porcupine that I could have reached out and touched it as he/she was only about 5 feet off the ground.  I found that if you are going to pet a porcupine, don’t move your hand against the “grain”.  Those quills are very sharp.

A face any mother would love

I was able to shoot pictures to my heart’s content.  The porcupine probably had just awakened as it was about 8:30 AM.  He just sat there and stared at me for the whole time I was there.  Of course, I was in awe.  Most porcupines I ever see are usually slabs of road-kill on the highway.  This was by far, the closest I had ever been to one, especially a live one.

Photo information.  Canon 40D camera.  Tamron 28-300mm lens.  1/250 sec. @ f9.  ISO 400.  Zoom lens set at 105mm.