Today’s photos were made at Cardinal Marsh, a wetland with several ponds, about 12 miles west of Decorah, Iowa. Joan and I have been there last summer for a short exploration and I wanted to come back this spring, hoping to see some migrating birds there. Well, the birds didn’t fulfill my expectations this time. I saw lots of Canada Geese, Mallards, and some Ring-necked Ducks, but since I can find them here at the Mississippi River as well, it wasn’t necessarily worth a two hour drive… ;-) Finally, when I entered the car to drive home, I heard the call of the Sandhill Cranes. During our first visit last year we got a wonderful dance performance by the cranes. Click HERE if you are interested and like to see what I’m talking about

All images: Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM, tripod, gimbal head

What got me absolutely excited this time was the discovery of a Tiger Salamander, walking just towards me on the grassy trail that surrounds the marsh land. Last year we found a dead one, so we knew that a salamander species calls these ponds home. The month of March is breeding time for the salamanders and seeing a Tiger Salamander is a great treat for me, not just because salamanders spent most of their time underground.

Let’s talk a little bit photography. Although the critter doesn’t move that fast, the Tiger Salamander didn’t give me too much time to make the shot before it disappeared in the grass. I was prepared for birds and had the camera with the long lens attached on tripod over my shoulder. I made a mistake and didn’t change lenses. The SIGMA 150 mm, f/2.8 would have been the best choice, but I played it safe, went just on the ground, and used the 50-500. The sun was bright and almost harsh, and so it felt a little bit like being on safari in South Africa during mid-day, without the hot temperatures… ;-)  I like the first photo and would have never shown you the second one, if it would have been a critter that we can photograph here every other day. The Tiger Salamander was a “first one” for me… :-)