Enduring a Polar Vortex

From a wildlife photography standpoint, I look forward to cold clear mornings. When temperatures dip well below 0° Fahrenheit, and there is a breeze out of the northwest, it is easy to predict where wildlife will be holed up. They can be found on the southeast side of a sheltered place, basking in the sun and protected from the wind. It is all about survival. There is no heated vehicle or building in which to take shelter. They can’t add an extra layer of clothes or open a heat pack. Their survival depends on preserving body heat and foraging for food to provide the essential energy.

I tend to find small birds a little higher up the slope where the morning sun rays strike early, yet the terrain and trees break the wind.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker is tucked up against a tree trunk where the sun warmed the bird and the surrounding bark. Canon 1D Mark II N + 500mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter at 700mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/640. ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, 2008, Swan Lake State Park, IA.

White-tailed Deer feed from late afternoon into the early morning hours. They then move to a nice sunny sheltered area during the day. One place frequented by deer at my local park is on the southeast and lower side of a stand of Red Cedar. The hill behind them rises to the northwest, blocking the cold winds.

A White-tailed Deer seeks protection from the elements yet has plenty of escape cover if threatened. Canon 1D Mark II N + 500mm lens & 2x teleconverter at 1000mm, ISO 400, f/11, 1/800. ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, 2008, Swan Lake State Park, IA.

Fox Squirrels love to crawl inside a hollowed-out tree for protection. But on a cold clear day, they can be found basking in the warmth of the sun. Their dark-colored fur absorbs the heat. They don’t move to a different area of the park to seek protection. They just use the tree trunk itself to block the wind.

The Fox Squirrel appears to be praying for warmer weather. Canon 1D Mark II N + 500mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter at 700mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640. ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, 2009, Swan Lake State Park, IA.

Red Fox also find shelter in the sun and out of the wind. However, they tend to be a little pickier in their choice of location. Typically, they find a spot a more hidden from view or further from a road. The Red Fox in the image below was napping in a small sliver of sunlight breaking through the tree trunks. I stood on the lake ice for about ½ hour watching it. The fox would look up, readjust its position, and go back to sleep. It knew I was there and did not feel threatened by my presence.

A Red Fox takes a late afternoon nap where it is very well protected, there is escape cover, and the sun can penetrate through the trees. Canon 1DX + 600mm lens at 600mm, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/250. ©Stanley Buman. All Rights Reserved, 2018, Swan Lake State Park, IA.

All of the images above were taken when temperatures were -5° F or colder. Please use caution to avoid disturbing the animals during extreme cold periods. I use a long camera lens, allowing me to maintain a respectable distance from the wildlife.

2 thoughts on “Enduring a Polar Vortex”

    1. Thank you Carol. While I love getting outside during very cold weather to see how the wildlife is adapting, I know that I can return to a warm home and have a comfortable night.

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