Photographer Captures Incredible Camouflage: Masterful Blending with the Tree – Amazing Nature

Even against a backdrop of winter white, some animals are tough to spot in the wild.

The critters that inhabit our fields, forests, and wetlands employ various methods to avoid being eaten by predators.

Some rely on fleetness of foot or wing and escape predators by running or flying for cover. Others depend on camouflage. They use their remarkable cryptic coloration to blend with their environment to evade the next marauder looking for fast food.

The snowshoe hare, for instance, is brown during summer and blends well with its shadowy surroundings. But when Old Man Winter paints his slate white, snowshoe hares shed their summer coats and grow dense white hair. Their winter fur affords them near perfect concealment against frozen surroundings. Snowshoe hares also sprout a profusion of hair on their outsized hind feet, an adaptation that allows them to dash about atop the surface of the snow.

Another animal with dark fur in summer that transforms to white in winter is the weasel. The tips of their tails remain black during all seasons. Weasels use their camouflage not just to conceal themselves from larger predators but to hide from prey. The lanky and swift-moving little carnivores often dart in a flash from hideout to hideout. At times I wonder if I really saw anything at all. The weasel will often pop from the snow several yards from the last sighting as if to verify its existence to me.

Females of most bird species are dull in color to aid them in hiding from predators during nesting and while raising their young. Male birds are usually dressed in gaudy plumage, an adaptation that helps them attract the opposite sex.

But not all male birds are brightly plumed.

The king of the uplands, the ruffed grouse, is a game bird popular with hunters. Both male and female ruffed grouse wear drab-colored feathers. They blend extremely well with their forest habitat and are seldom seen until they move, perfectly hidden by plumes dappled with hues of brown, rust, tan and black.

Last week, just after sunset, I watched three ruffed grouse flutter about on the branches of a crab apple tree as they busily filled their crops with frozen fruit before roosting for the night. One grouse was skylined and easy to spot. The other two plump birds were gathering their supper from lower branches against a backdrop of various foliage. When those grouse paused they virtually evaporated.

Another upland bird that sports remarkable camouflage is the woodcock. Known best for its dramatic springtime aerial courtship display, woodcock are otherwise seldom seen. I have, on several occasions, spotted the fist-sized birds before flight as they crouched on the forest floor, their locations revealed by a steady pointing dog. When I looked away for a brief moment, the birds seemed to vanish.

We all know that most species of owls hunt for prey at night. But where do they go during the day? Some species hide in hollow trees, but others, such as the great gray owl, spend the daytime snuggled up to a tree trunk for a long snooze. The owls’ spotted and barred plumage extraordinarily resembles the bark of the tree against which they are napping, making them very difficult to spot. Only owls know for sure if they choose such locations on purpose.

During your next adventure out-of-doors, remember that hidden eyes might be watching you. Challenge yourself to see what’s disguised before your eyes.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors photographer and columnist, lives near Brainerd.

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