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Kestrel Landing Pad

Kestrel Landing Pad
Kestrel Landing Pad

Kestrel Landing Pad

The smallest of the North American Falcons decided to stop by the other day. This is actually the second of 4 images from this timeline. I have yet to publish the other two. I work multiple quality timeline images as this into my portfolio over time with a bulk of the raw files still sitting in a “to finish” folder on my workstation. I often get 10 or more really good images of something, just a little different each one. It’s impossible for me to know which is worthy of work and what is less so. As such I often finish several.

The big storm cloud behind was even more fortuitous to me. I rarely see either Kestrel or good storm clouds. The presence of both is welcome. BTW, As I type this, we just got .6 inches+ of rain which is a saving rain so far. We are in a pretty tough drought this spring so far. I’d like to see some more storm clouds AND more Kestrels while I’m at it. lolol. I think the rain now at the end of June (as I type this) is a bit late for the grass crop. Stunted it is.

These are really beautiful little raptors. Their ability to hoover above a target is legendary. I rescued one on the highway once. I believe it lived if it survived any internal bleeds from the trauma that stunned it. I felt better anyway 🤔😀

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Kestrel Landing Pad

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Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger
Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

These big moths are active in the day sucking nectar and trying to find Leafy Spurge. They lay their eggs on the noxious weed with the larva destroying the plant as they grow. Devouring it as they develop as it were. I find these guys pretty calm when they just came out from a party night in my refrigerator. (next to a bottle of wine)….. You may discover what works for yourself if your photographing bugs. Many people pin them or Ether them which makes them pretty cooperative but dead. If you refrigerate them just above freezing, they go into suspended animation and really slow down. I usually over night them and work them in the morning light. I always let them go afterward. This typically will give me 5 minutes in the sun with almost any bug with out it flying away.

These guys were released into Canada to control the Leafy Spurge up there. Ignoring the international border, they have done reasonably well spreading around. . This meaning there is plenty of their favorite food. They are not all over the country but mostly in the pacific northwest through the upper great plains.

These are truly elegant moths in the patterning and coloration. A very patient subject too at least until the sun warmed him up. Another one of the species was flying around sipping on garden flowers coterminously with this photoshoot. Kids!

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title:Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

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Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie
Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

These two week old fawns are following their mother across a pretty good run along side of my Pickup truck. There of course was no threat from me. Pronghorn tend to run along with vehicles just to remind themselves they are the fastest land animal in North America. Typically they will do their best to speed up and run across the road in front of your vehicle. Since the local backcountry speed limit is 45 mph, typically, they can and do pass you. I’m not sure if there is an evolutionary advantage to telling your pursuers that you are faster…. Maybe next time they won’t try??? 🤔 😜 In two decades of riding these backcountry gravel roads, I’ve only hit one Pronghorn with a vehicle. We custom build bumpers just for such things on our vehicles so no damage to the truck but the Pronghorn didn’t do as well. 😔

Mom had twins because last year was a banner year for grass. Her body reacted and doubled down on the survivability this summer. So far, it is early July and the Grass is totally brown. The grasshoppers are already competing for the meager grass crop cut short by both a dry year cutting mandibles. The grasshoppers are as thick as I remember them since I’ve lived here but I assure you that they could and probably will get worse. India, Saudi Arabia and Africa are having REAL Plague of Locust Biblical stuff at the moment. Let’s not go there please ☹️ It’s going to be hard on that mother. ….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pronghorn Paradise on the Prairie

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Twins and Their Mom

Twins and Their Mom
Twins and Their Mom

Twins and Their Mom

Last year was a good environment to set up for multiple births of Pronghorn fawns this spring. Ultimately it may have been a cruel trick as while there is still grass growing, it is very dry. Worse, grasshoppers are thicker than recent memory. Malathion is a well used fumigant but it kills the good bugs too so it is a double edged sword. Some ranchers sprayed by plane over their ground. They have grasshoppers too as far as I can tell. The point is, later in the year, the Pronghorn are going to be competing with the jumpers for food I’m afraid. We are even taking precautions around our greenhouses to properly seal them from the invasion.

Each Pronghorn mother during estrus releases 6 eggs (I have been told). All of which fertilize, the mother sloughs off an appropriate number based on the environmental conditions. Twins and even triplets on the good year like last year. IT was green until august. This year, it’s only early July and it’s brown already. I know of one set of triplets and have seen several twins with various moms. These guys were typical fawns galavanting around like they own the place. Mother was typically ignoring them but keeping her eye on the surrounding threat matrix. Getting terribly close to Pronghorn babies is not going to happen regularly. I only have a few Does that tolerate my trucks presence. Others not so much lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Twins and Their Mom

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Hog Nose Snake on Lichen

Hog Nose Snake on Lichen
Hog Nose Snake on Lichen

Hog Nose Snake on Lichen

I remember this lovely little fellow crawling about a beautifully lichen covered patch of sandstone to warm up. This was a 90 mm macro lens which at about 3 inches away was placed VERY carefully next to him with me attached to the other side. The term slow motion applied to my technique to get to this little pencil thick 6 inch long fellow in range. Then I had to get him focused. It was very bright giving this a pretty deep focus. The sun was warming the rock / snake early in the morning. Probably I looked like a big creature with one really big eye to this baby snake. I managed to catch a few good images of it.

I understand these guys make a good pet (for a snake). Eagerly taking most small prey, insects, mice, small eggs, anything they can fit in their mouth. Even wild ones handle well in my experience though they put on a good imitation dangerous snake act. They can also defecate on you when scared. They tame down significantly with handling. Generally they are not biters in my experience. Evolution blessed them with some slightly enlarged teeth that can indeed inject a week venom. This perhaps causing itching and irritation at the site. I suppose some could be allergic to it badly. Bitten by one I have not been and I’ve handled many. They get up to 3 feet long. Good Snakes I consider the species.

On a side note, I had an encounter shortly before I typed this with the 4 foot long bull snake that lives under our decks. He looks pretty healthy with lots to choose from around here this spring. No other local creature bothers him even the dogs. The cats are WAY interested but would loose that fight lol. He’s a big boy. Curiously the chickens that live in this yard haven’t killed him as they often do to rattle snakes. This summer I bet even the snakes are eating grasshoppers till they bust. I didn’t have a camera for that big boy as the lighting was non-existent under the start of a storm at the time. 😔 Both Species are wonderful snakes to have around.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyotana).

Title: Hog Nose Snake on Lichen

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Pronghorn Perspective from Above

Pronghorn Perspective from Above
Pronghorn Perspective from Above

Pronghorn Perspective from Above

I work images from the past years into my work flow daily as there is some back up to complete. This capture is from last fall. The Pronghorn Doe was quite a ways out and I like to have a tight field of focus with a “bokeh’d” fore AND background. THe depth of the landscape being accented by the perception of distance.

Those bushes around Jane (Doe) are “Spanish Daggers” (Yucca) plants have long pointy leaves. The flower / seed pods feed many ungulates in this country. Making them fat for the winter in fact. Each and every leaf, a sharp spear able to penetrate most tight blue jeans enough to draw blood. They are also a danger to take the foot off a person silly enough to ride a motorcycle through this kind of landscape.

By far the fastest way to get across this ranch via land is to be a pronghorn. The next fastest is a house cat trying to look like he meant to fall off that TV. Then comes a motorcycle. I have to admit that I haven’t opened up the F-150 raptor yet. With have a couple of long lenses strapped in the back seat. I might have to remove those to keep them from seeing zero – G. Tie a few things down lol.

Pronghorn…These guys are skiddish, quick to react by escaping. Always aware of their surroundings. SLOWWW and stealthy is the best way to approach. Stop, take some photos, move a little closer, take some photos etc. I know they are aware considering potential threats versus running away all the time. There isn’t much they don’t see. I’m at least 300 yards out for this deep telephoto perspective.

The view from up here on the high ridges can be spectacular. I usually see lone Pronghorn venture on the upper ridges. Rare small herds will be wandering this high above the grassy flats.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pronghorn Perspective from Above

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WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet
WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

This is a Whitetail buck that was going to our water tanks along with the rest of his herd of 6 other bucks. A boys club as it were. By the time I got position on them (light), they were in deep brush with this one being the only one cooperatively posing for me. He wasn’t too worried as he kept on chewing the tasty morsel he had in his mouth. That’s pretty good for this jumpy species. Spring here is a land of plenty with a lot of lush green vegetation. The cellulose equivalent of jet fuel. 😜

Velvet refers to the skin covering the growing stubs of antler bone growth. That covering is rich in blood vessels supplying nutrients to the dividing cells. I believe this a 2 year old based on his body size so he may start looking better by late August. He is still growing.

I haven’t seen that many Mule Deer around the Homestead this spring. It’s starting to make me wonder where they are. There are been a lot of Pronghorn about. I’ve heard when the Whitetail move in, the Mule Deer Pack up and leave. I point out Mule deer are much better hunting / bigger / less skiddish etc. Whitetails running are one of the most beautiful images to witness live. This guy was just hanging out when I wandered by. Even they will get used to me if they keep a schedule by the water tanks.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: WhiteTail Buck Spring Velvet

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Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet
Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

We have several Pink Lilacs as well as the standard purple. Swallowtails are a little flightly and are hard to get this close on without them heading for the next stop. Typically they fly out of reach. There were dozens of them swarming this bush along with a host of other species of insects.

Finding one tolerant of you is a matter of ‘Becoming the Bush” and don’t move too much. You have to be able to tolerate bees and other bugs flying around you though. Other than that, it’s not hard to so. Don’t wear perfumes as if you smell like a flower. Being stung in a bush is something that hasn’t happened yet. But merging into Lilac bushes and Hollyhock gardens has it’s risks.

Photographic Musings:

Macro lens photography is usually a matter of getting close. But here I’m using a standard 400mm telephoto at about 15 feet. Long telephotos make pretty good macros for subjects you really can approach too much. Handheld. Not a tripod.

Trivia: The first known picture drawn by John White in 1587 of a north American butterfly was a swallowtail. This during Sir Walter Raleigh’s third Expedition to Virginia. That work is named Mamankanois that is believed to be a native word for butterfly in the day/area. I’m sure that it was shown to Queen Elizabeth who was the sponsor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s adventures in the America’s.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

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Pronghorn Doe with Triplets

Pronghorn Doe with Triplets
Pronghorn Doe with Triplets

Pronghorn Doe with Triplets

These are real triplets not a Pronghorn Nursery. Nursery duty is common among Pronghorns. A little over a month ago I noticed a VERY VERY pregnant Pronghorn Doe that was hanging close to water and food. I drove through that area a lot and got to recognize her and her me. Getting use to me in my Black Ford F-150 Raptor which to her must appear like a noisy grazing Black Angus cow. I drive toward them like a cow would graze. It takes a while but as you can see, not spooking the mother and getting the three stooges in the photo too was a lot of fun. Pretty hard to do as any of the three was off getting into mischief at any one time.

Like any baby animals, Pronghorn Fawns jump and react in unexpected ways to the little things they run into. These three were interacting with each other to a large degree over the time I spent with them. Circling a Mother Pronghorn and her babies is something I personally have never done until this encounter. I was amazed they didn’t spook off. I believe the Doe knew I was no threat. The kids apparently picked up on the attitude. Mother was certainly aware of them but tried really hard to focus on eating. I suspect she will have to gorge herself to keep up with the calorie demand from those three.

I drove off with them not even moving from the area they were grazing in when I arrived. The fawns even laid down in the grass together when I was there watching them one by one. They all laid down within a circle of just a few feet. I have a photo elsewhere of their ears in the grass lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Pronghorn Doe with Triplets

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Glover Moth on Columbine

Glover Moth on Columbine
Glover Moth on Columbine

Glover Moth on Columbine

When I had this Glover moth over for a stay in my refrigerator for a night (I caught him by a porch light, zip locked eventually cooled him down to 34 degrees). The next day was sunny, bright/blue, warm with scents of various blooms in the air. I definitely put him on these flowers in one of the homesteads many naturalized gardens. . He was happy to hang on though. Being torpid/cool and slow from that stay in my fridge, he was enjoying the heck out of the warming sun. Giving me precious time….

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently. Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. They are interested in reproduction not ingestion lol.

This one was hanging out on this flower one summer morning. Being chilled from the refrigerator, the Glover Moth had no interest in flying away at first. (He did in about 15 minutes. Forever in my world for a photographic subject actually sits for me. Better, lets me move them from place to place to find the right frame. Here is a thick bundle of columbine in our gardens against a blue sky of my choosing.

That Moth’s antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜 I see several of these guys each spring. Running into them around the ranch headquarters compound I find them near the lights in the cool nights here. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS. My “Catch and Release” approach with an over night in a fridge simply slows them down for the night and lets me have a much longer “encounter” with any buy you can catch. Just don’t take them below freezing overnight.🤔📸 Way nicer than Ether and a pin. Lots of photography done that way 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Glover Moth on Columbine

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A Steep Hill to Climb

A Steep Hill to Climb
A Steep Hill to Climb

A Steep Hill to Climb

This is a Game Trail Camera capture from one of my favorite locations. Several game trails all lead to this choke point. Everybody has to climb the hill to get out of the wash / deep gully system here. The trail is well marked and well beaten for a backcountry path.

A young Whitetail deer Buck stopped to investigate a morsel just below him when he triggered the camera. He could have stepped about another two feet higher up on the slope though lol. His coat is shedding seriously with the suble lighter tan thick winter coat falling away. The leaves the more reddish tan undercoat. White tail have NO black on their tail. This is the easiest way to tell the from Mule Deer. They are entirely different animals. I know the difference well and occasionally mis-identify a species.

The knobs he is sprouting on his forehead will develop into full fledged antlers within the summer. The skin coating is termed “Velvet”. This supplies the growing bone of the antler a rich supply of blood to nourish such rapid growth. This was taken in Early May. I often go months without revisiting camera remote to anywhere lol. I occasionally find one I forgot about too but fortunately I usually think the same way twice about location. After all the only real control you have over your game trail automatic camera is WHERE you put it.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: A Steep Hill to Climb

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Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring
Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

These Tres Amigos are obviously conspiring to pull a prank on their mom just out of frame. They jump around bouncing and playing as you might expect to see from Mini Loki’s. These are legitimate triplets as I know the mother. She was enormous compared to the other pregnant Pronghorn Does in the area. I have watched them for hours now. Mom is relatively skinny having given birth to these three. Plop, Plop, Plop with no Fizz, Fizz I’m thinking.

“They are tight as three knots on a rope they are” 👀 . Yes they play most of the time when mom’s well used spigot(s) or sleep isn’t on the menu. I hope for the mothers sake that the grasshoppers this year aren’t going to be competing for this dry years vegetation. The grass crop is going to be hurt by this insect attack I’m afraid in this area anyway. More good timing. Waiting for the asteroid impact in 4 ,3 ,2 ,1 …..

I was lucky enough to completely circle this group with a box o’ cameras. If I am very careful and drive like a cow grazes, getting close is just a matter of time. I have to drive slowly through high grass these days as there are indeed fawns both Deer and Pronghorn potentially laying there unseen. (I only drive off trail on ground that I own).

One of my advantages taking photos is I’m very agile getting around to get the light and my subject properly oriented to each other. Owning the land, not having nearby boundaries to prevent me from moving into position. I could never approach these weeks old Fawns on foot. The Pronghorn mother wouldn’t allow it so zip gone…. My truck is my portable blind. In the Black F-150 Raptor, I must seem like a noisy grazing Black Angus to them. I need a horn that makes a moo sound on it. Think that might void the warrantee?? 😜 📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Three Pronghorn Fawns Conspiring

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Coyote Stare Down

Coyote Stare Down
Coyote Stare Down

Coyote Stare Down

This might be the worst quality game trail camera photo I’ve published in quite a while. The original was taken through a badly dew covered lens. Everything was WAY grey and overly light. Similar to the tree on the upper left of the image with the blue tint. I had to resort to several seldom used digital darkroom tricks in order to bring it back to reality, more or less. It’s a bit dark but the image was in deep shadow to start with. I thought the situation was worth sharing though 😀 📸 .

There is SOOOO many things to talk about here. First of all, the May 1 date is late here posted in mid June as I haven’t checked this camera for several months. This is not unusual. At 7 AM on that morning, the sun hasn’t reached this spot yet to melt the frost off the lens. If you note, it was a HARD FREEZE May 1 at 20 degrees. The apple crop is toast this year of all years. A frost that hard that late will and has hurt many things. I’ve noticed the damage for the last month around. Tough dry weather this spring too. (FYI, the barometric pressure is uncorrected for our 4000 foot elevation relative to sea level. ).

So this is literally a silent camera, no Infra-red flash here as it was in daylight mode already. Obviously “Wiley” stopped to “Check it out” just incase the Road Runner set up Elmer Fudds Gun on a trip wire. I understand Elmer lost his gun and is now using dynamite. The camera is actually pretty well hidden too being obscured in a fence line with branches all around. I hadn’t touched it for over a month so no scent. I’m not sure that he just picked up the non-natural appearance but I’ve never seen a coyote studying a pretty stealthy game trail camera so intently. 👀 👀 📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Coyote Stare Down

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Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

Spurge Hawk Moth Macro
Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

I had never seen one of these guys before. Wonderful species as they lay eggs on the nasty weed “Leafy Spurge”. The larva eat the pesty plant. The Adults are pretty big at 3 inches across. First introduced in Canada to control the weed, we are in it’s known range.

99 percent of my work is resultant of random encounters. Finding this 3 inch wide moth was certainly random. Ran to get a camera. Instantly out my back pocket came a plastic bag and into the refrigerator it went. You always carry a baggie with you when doing photography right? 😜 I have found that by cooling any captured bug down to just above freezing, I get to actually photograph them. Going torpid in the cold, they just slow way down. It takes them at least 5 minutes to warm up in direct sun before they usually fly away. So you’ve got a moth that while slow WILL hang on to things. 5 minutes is FOREVER in my world of manual mode spinning dials and manual focus. Catch and Release…

The color scheme is the direct result of a single shaft of light moving through a huge tree. That tree positioned between the sun and my chilled subject sitting on a geranium. So it was really darkly shaded around me. Surrounded in a pretty big garden spot here at the homestead. This geranium was potted. Therefore I could move the pot coincident with the inexorably moving shaft of sunlight. About every 20 seconds I had to react or loose the light. It was a 3 D puzzle for sure. Worse the puzzle changes shape as you go lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

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Pretty Pregnant Pronghorn Popped

Pretty Pregnant Pronghorn Popped
Pretty Pregnant Pronghorn Popped

Pretty Pregnant Pronghorn Popped

I can’t tell you how many have inquired how the “REALLY” fat pregnant Pronghorn Doe is doing. Well here she is with her brood. I understand that female Pronghorn release 6 eggs which all fertilize. She sheds the ones her body determines she can’t take care of based on the environment. Last year was a very green year. This year is a grasshopper year. Cutting grass early this year is the game before the grasshoppers eat it all up.

At any rate, I’m able to approach this female closely as you know if you are following me. That feeling transmitted quickly to the young ones. At first they were a little wary of this big black Ford F-150 raptor around them. Before long I had circled around them to get them fully in the sun. What was really hard was catching them all 4 together. Watching the group for about 1/2 hour, I only caught this one image of them all bunched up. Typically the fawns were being kids exploring and jumping around like all juvenile animals on the plains.

I have MANY image from this timeline. It’s not often I’m tolerated so well by a Pronghorn group. I hope this relationship continues all summer unaltered. We are about to cut the hay in this field so they will move. I’ll have to figure out where they moved to though. That may take a while as this is a big place. I know where they water though which is a good place to start. 🤔 👀 📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Pretty Pregnant Pronghorn Popped

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Whitetail in the Herd

Whitetail in the Herd
Whitetail in the Herd

Whitetail in the Herd

Taken closely within the group as it passed next to a well planted quality Game Trail Camera. I hadn’t checked this particular camera for a few months. Having said that, this capture is fairly recent in early June. The Whitetail here all have fat cheeks full of things to chew on in this timeline. There are other captures of course but this one best suited me. I like images looking over the shoulder of a close animal to others in the group. It’s very tricky to do with a telephoto but this Game trail camera did a great job of it for me lol. I love this shot

Whitetail are not easy to approach in my experience. I’ve never been able to penetrate a Whitetail herd with my rig. (work right in the middle of a deer herd surrounded by animals) I have been surrounded by a herd of Mule Deer Several times working them from all angles up close and personal with telephotos at 20 feet. So I’m happy to get inside this herd if only with an automatic camera. This is as close to a Whitetail deers Point of View (POV) as you can get I’m fairly sure.

This deep forested wash we find ourselves in here drains about 300 acres. It can get flashy floods rarely. Generally I would term this gully LUSH based on local standards. The soil is rich in the bottoms here. Mineral grains of sand from the Cretaceous River Deposits eroded down from the hills plus a bit of wind blown glacial Loess (Google word for the day).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Whitetail in the Herd

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Backcountry Livestock At Large

Backcountry Livestock At Large
Backcountry Livestock At Large

Backcountry Livestock At Large

Grazing as a herd left to right across the landscape of our pasture. Right at our entry cattle gate. We are not a large ranch for this area with many operations 10 times our physical size and cattle capacity. This country is primarily Black Angus Cattle Country. This summer pasture can either be a hay field or eaten down by a herd depending on the year. Ranching on a dry year as this is difficult. Add to that the uncertainty of cattle pricing and this is going to be a rough year for ranchers. We lease a majority of our ground to another who runs cattle here in the summer. Trucking them to their other property for overwinter feeding. Living on a land of many uses as this ranch has been my honor.

The ground the cattle graze on is home to the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship (2nd largest team precision rifle event in North America I have been told…. Just another use… Never took many photos here either…

Then there is: Right under their feet are Dinosaur Fossils. Those along with fossils of a portion of the rest of the fauna alive in the rivers. Sand from those rivers formed the ground here. Derived from those sediments, sand and minerals enable the grass to grow. Mountains west of the BigHorns that are no longer there supplied it. Sand in the form of a 700 foot thick blanket of river sand spread over 5 states and into Canada. Mostly these Dinosaur fossil bearing formations are underground, here it makes the soil the cattle feed over. I’ve actually found Dinosaur bones sitting in the grass up here. Vertebra a foot in diameter kind of fossil bones in the grass. Maybe the Sign in the image should say “Large Livestock”. 😜 📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Backcountry Livestock At Large

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WhiteTail Buck Velvet Antlers

WhiteTail Buck Velvet Antlers
WhiteTail Buck Velvet Antlers

WhiteTail Buck Velvet Antlers

The Beautiful White Tail Buck was walking down a steep trail 10 feet from where I planted a quality 30 megapixel Game Camera. For some reason this camera take wonderful images in this forested gully time and time again. I wouldn’t move it for anything lol. It has given me more fine images than any other game trail camera in my arsenal. I looked through over 9000 images to find the several dozen good images in the timeline. Several thousand were of grass and trees blowing in the winds up here. Even in a sheltered treed gully, 30 mph sustained winds for hours can rack up several shots a minute lolol. Moving vegetation will trigger the game camera.

This location has seen Foxes, Coyotes, Mule Deer, Whitetail as here, skunks, porcupine, raccoons and Bobcats captured on the automatically triggered cameras. I currently am running a network of 29 cameras which I maintain and check periodically. “Periodically” being the key word as it might take me up to 6 months to get back to a camera at times. This one was out there for two months without checking it. The grass grew during the time I planted the camera and the time this image was taken lol. This trail cam has been the best performer of the group. Location, Location, Location is the key in Game Trail Cameras. It’s one of the few things you have any control of with the automatic system.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (Wyoming).

Title: WhiteTail Buck Velvet Antlers

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Meadowlark Might Be Windy

Meadowlark Might Be Windy
Meadowlark Might Be Windy

Meadowlark Might Be Windy

The semi-arid region of the border region between these two great states is “blessed”. All it’s share of winds falling off the high country is standard here. Yellowstone is 7000+ feet on the plateau. The BigHorn Mountains are 13000 feet. They wring the moisture out of our air often. Air flows freely off the Rocky Mountain highlands to our west with a 12 mph average windspeed on an exposed location.

When the air is moving by you at 35 mph or more, your being buffeted certainly. This fellow for what ever reason, turned at right angles to the breeze. It might be a result of picking the wrong branch lol. Normal Meadowlark behavior is to face aerodynamically face into the wind. Seldom do I see a bird fighting it this for long.

I personally find it hard enough to work a steady camera inside a vehicle on a windy day. So the truck is “lurching” too and fro with the gusty daily breeze around here. Imagine a branch moving back and forth 3 or 4 inches in various oscillatory motions. The birds seem to go through all sorts of gymnastics under the onslaught of the atmospheric tide. The weather has been “changeable” here bouts of late. Many a weather front with significant pressure difference exacerbate this high countries tendency toward a good breeze anyway.

The feathers are certainly kerfluffeled. It was a warm breeze that day. 87 degrees if I remember correctly (IIRC). 👀 T-shirt weather is a nice change up here..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Meadowlark Might Be Windy

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Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

Sun Windmill Tree Clouds
Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

This is the second image from this timeline I am publishing. Each has it’s own merits. I worked this wonderful scene moving around for the different compositions that are hiding from us. Our perspective is “where we are”. The goal of photography is to see past where we are actively moving to the “optimal” perspective possible for the scene at hand. There are an infinite number of options available here only limited by the topography I’m positioned on. There have been so many times I wish for a ladder of just a few feet to change the angle ever so slightly. This is of course why I drive along parallel ridges to work terminator crossings. I can move up and down the opposite ridge as it is my metaphorical ladder.

Terminator: This is the dividing line between night and day as seen from outer space. It’s a good way for me to describe EITHER sunrise or sunset to you if you understand what it is. That visible shadow/light line moves around a globe that is 24000 miles around in circumference one time a day. That is, the shadow of night moves in at 1000 miles per hour over us as the sun rises or sets. Likewise sunrise moves over the earth at 1000 miles per hour likewise. Terminator is an interesting google search… You see it on the moon all the time….

I hadn’t been to this particular location for a while, it’s SORT of off the beaten two track. Anyone notice the photobomber? There are no cattle in this pasture yet so lazy me tends to stay out of pastures I have to open and close gates to enter. I’m getting lazy in my old age… 😜 📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sun Windmill Tree Clouds

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Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake
Meanwhile Down By the Lake

Meanwhile Down By the Lake

The Black Angus Cattle herd out on “open range” were “Watering up” late in the afternoon. This natural spring fed lake watered several hundred cattle at about 30 gallons or more a day per adult. They usually fill their tank then get up the hill to better grass. All here are cows and calves. I doubt there are any bulls in the mix just yet but it won’t be long before it’s that time again. 

This is about as green as it has gotten this year. Part of it is this particular area is drier than others but over all it is indeed going to drought. The water is good sweet water with a tad of the cow next to you flavor I suspect as cattle have a pretty tough stomach. If you drink that water though there might be some intestinal ramifications lol. 

I drink NO natural waters without ultra fine filtration. THe cheapest way to filter your water is one of the many “straw filters out there). They are inexpensive protection, just don’t let them freeze after their first use. Honestly I haven’t had to resort to using even a stock tank for the 20 years I lived here. I always bring adequate supply in the form of frozen water bottles in an ice chest. I stuff water bottles in every spare crevice of my ATV and truck. This is dry country, almost a desert at 14 inches of rain a year. Carry enough water for 3 days minimum with you is my advice. Being without water is a bad thing…

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Meanwhile Down By the Lake

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Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlark Touching Down
Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlark Touching Down

Meadowlarks were named by Audubon noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though. They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. This is the second image I’ve published from this timeline.

They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots which this is. I’ve discovered that, you can slow down and stop with a meadowlark usually not moving (your in a car), but if you move any after you stop, they will fly away. You get one chance set up lolol.

Photographic Musings:

Getting any bird landing is not easy but getting small birds like Meadowlarks at the moment of touchdown is a matter of luck in my opinion. Even if you know where they are landing, it’s a crap shoot to point a long lens at any particular part of a branch. Rapid fire Machine gun shutters yes but you have to react quickly to trigger the “shutter”. (Mirrorless cameras have an “E-shutter). I shot this whole timeline with a 1/1000th second exposure. Longer is a bad blur risk in contrast, faster takes a LOT of light. It’s a trade off under the conditions I was shooting in. IF you want to freeze those wings, small birds and bumble bees….1/4000. Then you suffer from having to turn up your ISO to compensate (camera sensitivity.).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Touching Down

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Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown
Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

Catching a Meadowlark at all is an accomplishment as I’ve never seen them lining up outside my studio for portraits, yet… With the right negotiation skills I’m sure “Sneaky Pete” the windmill could make it happen by promising to make them famous. As far as I know, that deal has not been cut yet. (years long narrative if you don’t understand). At any rate I’m always tickled when one of these singers performs for me. The estimate is about 20 percent of the Meadowlarks I see, let me get within good photo distance from them. All of my encounters are random as I travel about our ranch here in Wyotana.

So I’m coming back from a high ridge. I placed a cut branch a few years ago on a ridge with a view. It is conveniently located within excellent telephoto range from a trail I travel often. Usually I go out to photograph when the light looks interesting to me. If that changes I’ll return back for the trip to the homestead. Several miles of two track roads later I approach this. Stopping, turning off the Raptor, and wait. From the surrounding acreage, Meadowlarks came and went over the next hour. I was happy to facilitate their becoming “famous” 😜

What was really nifty about this was the wind was blowing at least 30 mph. It made for some interesting postures. The photographs of which will slowly work their way into my published work flow.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Meadowlark Launching for Parts Unknown

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Killdeer Over Acting Again

Killdeer Over Acting Again
Killdeer Over Acting Again

Killdeer Over Acting Again

I think this is one of very few acting photos I have of Killdeer. Performed so much I’ve ignored it photographically lol. They are pretty spooky of humans. Literally living in my yard, nest nearby or on the prairie..

Of course the same injured bird ritual rinses and repeats. I don’t often get one of these performances showing me his red under feathers to get my attention. This is a fun image of the “skit” it is putting on for my benefit. . Getting within a hundred feet of a nest without a big scene occurring is unlikely. I knew where their nest was having run across this Killdeer and mate earlier that week. (early summer).

There is a lot to be said for working out of cars/vehicles. Much better than a regular blinds because vehicles have radios news and tunes. 🤠 The birds don’t care as much for as long. Back to normal behavior shortly if your in a vehicle and park near the nest. We live integrated with all these animals up here. Everyone has their place. These guys seem to be happy where they are whether in my yard or on the prairie. I watch them set up nest (I’ve got egg photos on rocks). They have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks). I follow them all summer through that August gathering season. I might see 30 or 40 of them in a flock at that time. About the time I see them again, I will know that it’s just about spring.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Killdeer Over Acting Again

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Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough
Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

I’ve taken many photos of Meadowlarks over the years. Not so many flying up close like this. They are very fast fliers. Seems to me I always under estimate how much shutter speed is necessary to freeze their wings. Small birds and Bumblebees from now on will be 1/4000th of a second. (This was 1/1000th. (ISO 500, F8, 1200mm) I have images of dozens of birds launching/ taking off. I have maybe 5 or 6 of birds landing over my photographic career. Each of those I saw the birds incoming and was able to track it machine gunning the camera as fast as it will go. All my bird encounters are random out in the backcountry. I don’t feed birds except my barnyard flock.

In most photographic endeavors, more light is your friend…. Preferably bright sunlight. I had previously focused in this pine bough so I was just waiting for the bird to show up. Watching this same bird for 1/2 an hour come and go from this branch. I finally was able to bring one in. It’s like throwing darts in the dark through a really long lens which is required to get this kind of up close and personal shot.

Meadowlarks are abundant this year and I suspect all will be fat with grasshoppers. Unfortunately this is a grasshopper year too. There are enough grasshoppers to WAY over feed every bird in the area. We keep about 60 yard birds (ducks and chickens) in our barnyard. I’m feeding less so small herds of ducks are ranging around our yard to eat anything in site. The Meadowlarks will have a good year with easy pickings for their clutches.

What is a disadvantage to us (grasshopper) is a buffet to another species. Kind of like this business climate. I hope they eat themselves good an chubby. We are currently getting golden yolk free range chicken eggs that MIGHT taste a bit this year like grasshopper guts…… Could be wrong…. 😜

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Meadowlark Landing on Pine Bough

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2X2 Pronghorn Parade Triptych

2X2 Pronghorn Parade Triptych
2X2 Pronghorn Parade Triptych

2X2 Pronghorn Parade Triptych

Yes here you are looking at the Pronghorn Team for the Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, All ungulate Triathalon Team Competition. I’ve already seen the Mule Deer working on their marching for the entrance to the venue as well. The Whitetail Deer, while ungulates too, tend to not show up on time as their clock is set differently. But the Pronghorn and the Mule deer will probably go head to head.

Now the Pronghorn can certainly Out run the deer on the overland part of the Triathalon. But they are less adept at swimming where Mule Deer Clearly have the edge based on past events. So it’s about even going into the Bicycle Phase. That’s usually where the event falls on it’s face, or sides, or head or ass….. We have never had a completed/finished triathalon here.

We have high expectations one of the guys will figure out the breaks. No opposing thumb was the grumble I heard. That is just a rumor though and you shouldn’t place much emphasis on it. Pronghorn are always rumor starters.

“Getting your Ducks in a row” is pretty tough I have heard. I have found getting Pronghorn in a row is somewhat less common. I have seen deer walking side by side much more. We will see how big the event is this year.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

6 x 2 aspect. (A Triptych is a single image split into three separate images.)

TItle: 2X2 Pronghorn Parade Triptych

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Pronghorn Eating Sweet Clover

Pronghorn Eating Sweet Clover
Pronghorn Eating Sweet Clover

Pronghorn Eating Sweet Clover

I was watching this long eyelashed gal from afar. I wanted to see what she was getting into. It was a choice between photographing her or a heavily clouded sunset. That sunset held little appeal to me. I drive a Black F-150 Raptor in the backcountry. It has been accepted by many of the local inhabitants. This gal was totally unbothered by my presence. She even let me move around a bit.

Living on a small ranch surrounded by REALLY big ranches pretty much is living in the wilderness. No mistake, this is a wild animal. She has just accepted me as no threat. This animal has been hanging around the easy water holes about my homestead. We have kept 4 stock tanks open for any comers for 20 years now. The wildlings like easy clean water. I go out onto the ranch land several times most days. I’m seen a lot by the local denizens. If I behave properly, the animals accept me now.

Sweet Clover is a biennial plant. The Sweet Clover is abundant so mule deer and antelope use it for forage throughout the year. It gets way less palatable later in the year getting “stemmy” and coarse. It makes a lot of noise under your truck then too. Burns hot too….. Wildfire concern every other year (this year). The pollen is problematic to some (me too) but the bees take full advantage of it. We have a California Honey company show up every few years here. They put out hives and give up several big cases of honey each time. It’s payment enough for me lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Pronghorn Eating Sweet Clover

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Proof Pronghorn Levitate

Proof Pronghorn Levitate
Proof Pronghorn Levitate

Proof Pronghorn Levitate

Proof Pronghorn Levitate

This young female Pronghorn caught in the act clearly levitating above the county road. No wonder they are the fastest land animal in North America. They have been “clocked” at 61 miles per hour I’ve heard. I’ve seen them run next to me around 50 mph over uneven ground. Running smoother over than that my rig on the maintained county gravel road. Here I managed to catch her actually crossing that road in front of my rig.

Anticipating well known animal behavior is not rocket science. Pronghorn have often been seen having the option to run away from your truck back into the “fields” but run in front of your vehicle instead. Here I “banked” on that activity (clearly today “banked” doesn’t have the value it used to but I digress). Sure enough, I stop to aim the camera, spin the dials while the trucks suspension dampens down….4,3,2,1 click.

Photographic Musings: Photography is all about balancing the amount of light coming into your camera.

Close to the camera, High Speed Animals Running laterally to you are necessary to follow/ track. So you must be free handed typically. That is a learned skill. Keeping the critter in your eyepiece with a 2 foot long lens is like looking through a 2 foot long pipe. I can’t teach you that, but I can tell you that if you don’t have a lot of shutter speed, your going to get a blur as a 50mph thing blows past. I would hope you have 1/2000ths of a second or shorter exposures to freeze it in space and time.. That’s one of three settings in manual mode to get this kind of image.

Second setting is F-stop, It’s always better to have lots of light with high speed work. Lower F-stop # =more light but it thins your “depth of focus field” (google that) You note the only thing in focus in the Pronghorn. A low F-stop number gives me more light to account/balance the light I lost

ISO, camera sensitivity… Final adjustment that you use to balance to actually get the right amount of light to get the exposure you desire. More ISO means more visual noise and grain on the image. Lower numbers like 100 give you the best grain but take away light from your camera. Higher numbers make it so the camera digitally enhances the light that does make it through the aperture (F-stop) and the short exposure time. A three way teeter totter of light.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Proof Pronghorn Levitate

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Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette
Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

A neighbors ranch gate to their main entry nicely ornate with a plasma cut piece of soft steel. Rusted to a nice tan patina during the day. The gateway having stood for around 20 years to my recollection. Ranches take great pride in their entrances.

The Meadowlark on this 2:1 image aspect capture was VERY cooperative. I kept thinking he would fly away as I did adjust my position a few times. Movement after you stop is not well tolerated by Meadowlarks. They take flight (usually) as you try to adjust your position for a proper composition. This time it was not so flighty. I figure it was watching the sunset with the rest of us. I’m thinking he was unaware of the stampede occurring right under his nose.

This image meant as a diptych work of course. The timing for sunset at this particular point in space and time was a matter of just being there with a camera capable of working in this high light environment. It’s hard to understand but this light envelope was a bright sun behind a thick cloud veil. All taking place at sunset. It was an amazing occurrence to have a meadowlark sit for me to light up a composition like this lol. I’m sure it’s something “Sneaky Pete” arranges but I may never know….😜🤘

Location: Entrance to the ranch “next door” of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Meadowlark on Ranch Gate Silhouette

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Eye and Ear on You

Eye and Ear on You
Eye and Ear on You

Eye and Ear on You

As I get eyebrow close to a lot of wild animals these days. My truck is accepted by many local inhabitants as just another Black Creature grazing on the prairie. It’s a wonderfully appointed mobile blind for me to work the creatures that haunt these prairie highlands and ridge country. Most of the local critters let me move around without changing their natural behavior resultant of my presence.

Animals don’t see much traffic out here. But they are usually aware of your presense. I caught this doe (those are ears not horns) looking back at me while looking the other way at the same time. Not to mention the left ear is strategically pointed my way to listen to the tunes one a Sirius XM channel I’m pretty sure. Good tunes are hard to ignore in the backcountry. But to be able to see behind your head would certainly be an evolutionary advantage. They have a 320 degree width of vision. This is super creature wide vision. Fish eye lens times two lolol.

This one is shedding as you can see a roll on it’s neck and the scruffy look along it’s back. Still early in the summer for this shot. These Pronghorn are quite the dressers when they get in top shape by the end of summer. The Fall outfits are smooth and properly covering for the cold months to come. Now it’s spreading to the wind lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Eye and Ear on You