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Northern Flicker Enjoying the Weather

Northern Flicker Enjoying the Weather
Northern Flicker Enjoying the Weather

Northern Flicker Enjoying the Weather

Springtime rainy weather would be amazing at the moment. Leaves are sprouting with bugs about. This grey/brown spotted woodpecker is a rare fixture up here. This is the Red Shafted Flicker Version. This variety lives here in the west. A different version lives to the east and north I understand. Omnivorous by nature, they are notorious ant eaters. He was digging into old wood. Sticking it’s beak into old wet rotten logs was it’s goal. It was looking for grubs, and found them. Fruits, nuts, betties, even seeds in the winter omnivores they are.

I have never found a nest before and am always on the lookout. I know most of the “wildlife” trees and keep my eye on the comings and goings of things. I’ve never seen one of these dive into a hole in a tree before…. I’m counting the day however..📷

I find them difficult to approach with long telephoto shots being the rule not the exception. I’ve actually captured a few with game trail cameras in the past. Some of those images are wall worthy when ever I get around to finishing them to current standards. I see them often but have found that when they see me, they don’t stick around too much. We really don’t see them much out in the backcountry but I do see them around the homestead in the side gardens. I consider them to hanging around the variety of vegetation around my homestead. The ecosystem here in the ranch main compound is vastly more diverse than is the regular backcountry grassland. There are also more cats…..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Northern Flicker Enjoying the Weather

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Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet
Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

Not many Western Meadowlarks were singing the morning I got this capture. We are in their breeding area

It was not funny to the Meadowlarks as it was to me. This particular snow made it hard to find a place to alight. IT stuck to everything. Other birds occupied ALL perches in all directions. Worse: No one wanted to walk in the several inch thick sloppy wet snow. It was sticking to everything including the poor birds feet. A favorite perch were the electric wires around my compound.. There are other photos of that as well lol. There were many good captures this day.

Meadowlarks are insect and seed eaters. They are very well adapted to life up here in this remote grasslands up here on the high ridges. I’m sure they time their arrival or departure based on insect availability I suspect. They watch the weather pretty closely lol. The whole prairie was full of Meadowlarks this day and no shelter in this storm. The snow stuck to his feet made me feel better because I wasn’t the only one dealing with it lolol. There is companionship often formed in misery……..

Meadowlarks left this year around early October when winter started and heavier snows moved through. We’ve had a constant barrage of storms with just a bit of warmer relief since. 40 degrees and still is T-shirt weather in this country. We’ve already been below zero this year.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Getting Cold Feet

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Killdeer Chick Up Close

Killdeer Chick UP Close
Killdeer Chick UP Close

Killdeer Chick Up Close

I’m thinking that to get any closer to a 20 day or so old Killdeer chick, a trap would be involved. This is a wild bird out in the summer grass . Parents are all about doing their bad acting of a wounded bird to pull me away. I’m not so sure the little one thought he was in much trouble. The adults sure put on a side show that is certain.

The only way I could get this close was from inside a vehicle. Cars/trucks are mobile blinds and most animals are not afraid of them. This baby of course wasn’t familiar with a vehicle being not that old. These guys are tiny when young. They fly pretty quickly but this guy didn’t take off. He just scampered around the grass.

Killdeer as a group are bug eaters but will eat seeds. The young feed themselves very soon with the parents supplementing their diet early on. They are quick starters you might say. This group was within 100 feet of one of the ranches water holes. I see them in my game trail cameras regularly there. I understand they have been known to wet their chest feathers to cool the eggs in a hot environment. I’ve never seen them raise two broods a year as some do. I watched this guys parents for several months. They didn’t start a second nest at least in that same spot.

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

Title: Killdeer Chick Up Close

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Cowbird Flock Clandestine Meeting

Cowbird Flock Clandestine Meeting
Cowbird Flock Clandestine Meeting

Cowbird Flock Clandestine Meeting

Cowbirds use an interesting approach to egg laying. No time is watered to build a nest. They expend all their energy laying eggs. But only in the nests of others. The bigger chick usually wins the battle against smaller fledgelings from the parents actual offspring. They are all raised by adopted parents often at the expense of their own breed. The most common “Brood Parasite”

The network of 29 (currently) Game Trail Cameras that I run occasionally come up with some pretty candid captures. I don’t recommend any brand of Game Trail Camera as all of them have their share of unique problems.

This capture was from mid summer 2019. We just at a Blizzard (a week ago as I post this) There are Game Trail Cameras that I won’t be able to get to before spring already. I had pretty good batteries and typically they can go 6 months unless something is overstimulating the shutter. Moving branches or grass can set your Game Trail Camera off eliminating your battery or SD card’s capacity. Which ever comes first will be the end of that camera.

I do have to remember where I have put cameras. This is a very big place and I’m sure there are a few out there than I don’t remember but I eventually will run into them. This is a very big place at 5.5 square miles. But it’s a small ranch compared to others around hre. It’s a matter of scale which is very hard to convey. Folks that have visited here fully understand.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Cowbird Flock Clandestine Meeting

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Windmill Duck Sun and Sail

Windmill Duck Sun and Sail
Windmill Duck Sun and Sail

Windmill Duck Sun and Sail

So I see the wonderful veiled sky. I’m several miles in, well past an easy walk into the backcountry. (I drove my Jeep because this gear is heavy! ) This is “Re Pete” the 1930’s Aermotor Windmill. He is “Sneaky Petes” (the windmill) older/bigger Brother here on the ranch. Usually they are the photobombers working their way into my landscapes and sunsets. Here the ducks photobombed the famous photobomber him self. I have no control over any of this narrative OR the windmills for that fact. It takes on a life of it’s own😜😂

An interesting path that leads to this particular moment of space and time here forever frozen . That ridge line parallels a higher line to the east. This is VERY hilly country with big gullies separating flatter divides. Two track trails cross deep animal trails from a century of cattle walking. You don’t want to hit one of those at 20 with your jeep lol. As I say, my jeep is a short timer here now.

Incoming is a new Ford F-150 that should improve my ride quality (which is beating me up as I put 3500 miles last year on my ATV alone driving two track (bumpy) backcountry roads. I feel like I’ve worked in a mine all my life driving heavy equipment. I actually wore out a set of front brakes in 2 years on my Polaris Ranger. There are a LOT of slow downhill descents (anybody can fall downhill) on that Polaris. This business is not for sissies here in the backcountry.

Memories:

I’ve only dumped ONE camera and long lens out of a moving vehicle to date. It cost 1000 dollars to fix that camera back. I feel that was cheap. Particularly compared to buying a replacement camera. The lens undamaged. I was traveling about 15 mph at the time. Then watched the unit tumble end to end. It was very close to this spot lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Windmill Duck Sun and Sail

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Happy Face and the Meadowlark

Happy Face and the Meadowlark
Happy Face and the Meadowlark

Happy Face and the Meadowlark

My target was the smiley face in the sunrise As I pointed the long telescopic lens at the fence brace to line it up I noticed the Meadowlark. I started snapping and caught this. I think the Meadowlark was as surprised as I was. Both of us saw the anthropomorphic image unfolding. Only we saw it and he didn’t have a camera.

Meadowlarks are very active this early. The sun had been up for about 1/2 and hour. I had been photographing the sunrise. I was headed back as the sun was climbing into a dark thick cloudbank. Looking back, I saw this lol. Backing up a little, I got in position. Click on machine gun setting which works will that time of morning with all that bright light. (This was a VERY bright scene. ). This accounts for the dark tones as the difference in dynamic range makes silhouettes out of things the human eye resolved. The best cameras can’t resolve this much difference in illumination between objects.

Meadowlarks are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I ca see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . 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. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. This Image is a 2×3 aspect to 36 inches.

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

Title: Happy Face and the Meadowlark

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Killdeer Nest on the Rocks

Killdeer Nest on the Rocks
Killdeer Nest on the Rocks

Killdeer Nest on the Rocks 2:1 Aspect.

This is the second Killdeer sitting on eggs that I have in my portofolio. It is silly hard to get close enough to a Killdeer to take an “eyebrow” photo. To get a Killdeer sitting on a nest without triggering it’s wounded bird display is a slow motion process. Their instinct is to play injured bird to draw you away from their bare nest. They carry on for a hour if that is what it takes to get you distracted from where their next is. It is job one for the little guys. They are actually a member of the Plover family if you keep track of such things.

This parent was sitting on 5 small eggs surrounded by rocks. Nothing soft at all. From humble beginnings….. This patch of stones are a Killdeer’s idea of good camo for little eggs that look like stones. They are dutiful parents.

I have many photos of day old chicks running around with their parents playing their part to draw me away. Of course I ignored them and took images of their chicks. Once I know where something is….matter of time Killdeer are a hoot to watch. They are a challenge to watch out of “character” and doing natural behavior. That is besides their bad acting career lol.

This pair is up on a high ridge but there is a stock water tank a few hundred yards down hill from them. I have several game trail camera photos of Killdeer drinking there. (not worth publishing). This isn’t a Game Trail Camera photo lolol . The full sized file is 40 inches x 20 inchs at 300DPI. 2:1 aspect.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Killdeer Nest on the Rocks

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Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal
Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item.

The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.

This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark Up Close and Personal

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Jabba the Owl

Jabba the Owl
Jabba the Owl

Jabba the Owl is a Great Horned Owl AND a fledgeling laying down under a wing.

This Capture is WAAAAAY far out there for the optical technology I had at that time. At least 300 yards across a lake at 3200mm. Taken last spring before the leaves sprouted on the host Cottonwood Tree. I only got a few opportunities on this nest as the spring COttonwood leaves totally hid it from me time and time again. . I just couldn’t see him for about a month after this shot. When I finally got lucky with a certain angle and a beam of light. At these distances a quarter mile line of cottonwoods all looks alike from different angles lol. These owls have some of the best disruptive camo I’ve ever seen. It was amazing I found him this time. I do have some other images with him and a fledge standing too.

There was no other way to approach this next as just finding it against the visual noise of the treeline that ALL looks like this lolol. That is a very small area of a big row of trees looking through a long tube with no landmarks lolol. One time I had a green frog at 15 feet in algae to find while looking through a 18 inch long lens. Under High Magnifications, this is nearly an impossible task. To point a camera that precisely with consistency time and time again….nope This capture is taken off a sandbag on a Jeep Window.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Jabba the Owl

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Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections
Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections 2:1 Aspect

This male looks nothings like the female (sexually dimorphic). The female looks like a long billed sparrow. This male was down on the waters edge hoping along this piece of driftwood. Eye for insects and small critters. They are Polygynous with the male floating among several females and the females have been known to “roam” as well. The Males are aggressive toward any intruders to their nest. Every male I’ve ever seen was the dictionary definition of brash.

They are WIDELY distributed with around 20 subspecies. Their primary diet is bugs and berries. In my barnyard pond, they seem to be mostly waiting for pickings left over by the ducks and chickens. Known to go right through normal chainlink. This to get access to the inside of my chicken coup. Another section of finer chicken wire took control of that invasion route. Nuking them from orbit might be the only option. They seem to really want to get into the grain in the chicken roost for some reason.

These guys are in the same family (Icteridae) which includes the Baltimore Oriole and the Eastern Meadowlark. Our birds have no doubt migrated to southern climates. October 1st was the first day of winter (early) . I did not notice large flocks this year but I saw some last years. Random distribution I suspect.

)rotected under the Mgratratory Bird Treaty Act, Red Wings are in trouble . Populations of Red Wings are currently in decline. Standard stuff..habitat distruction, miccro plastics normal climate variations or what ever is causeing the decline.

Just so long as we all know the bird needs to be helped not destroyed.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Wing Reflections

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Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset
Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset is a capture

I was driving to check some game trail cameras at a nearby wildlife funnel. I saw the parents bolt for my presence. We surprised each other as I only check cameras when I’m in an area which might be several weeks. This image is a regular camera issue . I think it took me about 2 minutes to have a 360 degree game trail camera on the location. I have some excellent images of the the parents tending their eggs. The Game Trail Cameras worked without me bothering them. I have a few finished images of that apparently that I have yet to revisit but I’ll get there lolol.

There was NO hatch of this nest. . The parents were obviously disturbed by something. They left the eggs. (not by me as the trail camera watched them for a month tending eggs. ). Suddenly, they were gone. The eggs scattered. I don’t know what happened to them. I do have a pretty good series of very close images from them with the eggs. Several other animals apparently took advantage of the nest after that. I have blurry photos. The night a raccoon found them was the last. It’s hard to know why the clutch didn’t hatch and the parents departed. 😔

These wetlands are on ranch. They are spring fed, as such in 20 years I’ve never seen this pond dry up. Built by a dam on the old local section of the “Montana to Texas Cattle Trail”. A LOT of cattle have drunk water from this pond. The trains started hauling cattle..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Canada Goose Nest Sunset

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Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun
Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun

A vastly under appreciated species, the Common Grackle, isn’t that common up here. THey appear black from a distance but an up close image will show a glossy purple heads over a bronze iridescent body. What an amazing plumage.

We are on the western edge of their distribution and they are migratory here and elsewhere. This means they are protected as are all migrating birds except for game birds in season by federal law. Don’t shoot black birds boys :(. Actually there are some of this genus (3 species) that are not that common.

They certainly are iridescent however. Here taken in direct bright morning sun. It was down in the grass “borrowing” some of my chickens/ducks feed here in the barnyard. Nothing like being on the wing and finding a free meal out in the middle of nowhere. I get a lot of freeloaders here in my barnyard. I think I’m feeding most of a flock of Sharp Tailed Grouse this winter by their proximity in the trees to my feeding area lolol.

This male Grackle would dominate a seed bird feeder (which I don’t do besides my barn fowls as I have barn/ranch cats). I don’t see them in large flocks but once or twice a year. Usually it’s individuals like this fellow. They are raucous in their chattering. Bullies and thieves mostly but I suspect they play a big part in our food web. There are a lot of blackbirds therefore they have an impact in the scheme of things or so it would seem. 🤔📷.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Grackle in the Sun

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Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect
Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

Taking a Great Blue Herons profile from the same elevation is a pretty low probability encounter. I use my Jeep as a portable blind. Adjacent to the 50 foot tall Cottonwood Trees, exists a steep grassy hill that reaches over 50 feet above the trees. The higher you go, the further you are away from the Heron Rookery. This required a long lens to reach out and touch this guy.

Sort of the “drone” point of view but I don’t fly the things lol. I’ve never captured an image before where you could see the top AND the bottom of a heron’s wings at flight. (I take a lot of Blue Hero). I find photographers shoot what’s in front of them…..Kinda like some hunters… I would really have liked to have this shot from the other side. The longer I work this site, the more likely this will happen again. Good photography is a function of being there and paying your dues. There are of course, some technical considerations for a long range shot. 📷 I used an 800mm telephoto lens for this image.

Photographed in the late spring. (spring was on a Friday in 2019) Swing seasons between white and brown are usually one day long in this high ridge line prairie country. Spring weather would be welcome with a storm due as I type this narrative.

The ranch wetlands these birds nest on are wonderful places for biologic productivity. The Cottonwood trees they roost in grow on a many decade old dam across a spring fed pond. That pond is also runoff catchment for several square miles but the runoff is all grassy, broad and not gully like. It’s wonderful hay country there. The pond is a nice several acre puddle. There are a series of water sources in the area so the birds to fly away to hunt as well.

Great Blue Herons are big up to 5 pound birds. That is a 5 foot wingspan across this 40×20 inch image.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Heron Flying Away 2:1 Aspect

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Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies
Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies

Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies with golden Alpenglow behind these two species cooperating so closely. There are several images in this timeline still to be finished.

The Bird Is a Magpie, a fairly common bird here in the borderlands of Montana and Wyoming. We live on the high ridges with a mix of wildlife, deer, pronghorn, some lions and coyotes with the occasional wolf and bear. I seldom see such a big bird interact with deer but have seen this before.

The lighting was bright from behind and there was a lot of fog/moisture in the air. All the brightness was amplified by the Projector Screen the fog became. The Golden Alpenglow and mist behind him made it necessary to silhouette him. The camera couldn’t do any better. There is no way to accurately bring out the detail in the deer or birds body. So I left them as the camera saw them.

A symbiotic relationship between magpies and deer doesn’t seem logical but here they are. Somehow the deer, jumpy as heck, knows to allow these raucous birds to land and pick away. I’m pretty sure the ticks are torn away and not gently pried out like they should be. It has to be taught from parent to fawn somehow. I had never witnessed this before this timeline and I have several more similar captures, one with a deer and several birds on her. Crazy stuff you see only once or twice in a lifetime.

Magpies are cool birds. Lewis and Clark reported that they came into their tents to steel food. They used to follow hunters to clean up the “leavings” from hunts. They are mostly a western bird with our place being centered in their distribution.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Deer Tick Cleaning Magpies 2-1 Aspect Ratio

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Great Blue Heron Launching

Great Blue Heron Launching
Great Blue Heron Launching

Great Blue Heron Launching is a capture from early in 2019.

Spring time, the trees are just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I’m busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well. Earlier that season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot.

Earlier that season before leaves were in the way, I was able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction. They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings.

These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes long the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀. Northern Wyoming/Southern Montana is certainly known as/located in their breeding areas.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title Great Blue Heron Launching

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Heron Catching Some Wind

Heron Catching Some Wind
Heron Catching Some Wind
A Great

A Great Blue Heron Catching Some Wind was this bird way of starting to take off. Spreading it’s wings you could see the branch lift as the weight is lessened on it. These birds are masters of their domain. This is 50 feet up at the top branches of a Cottonwood Tree.

For a shoreline wading bird, these guys handle the high tree life roost without a miss. They make their living eating frogs, small mammals, fish and anything else they can catch around their realm. These guys are widespread in our Hemisphere from the Galapagos to most of North America. They breed up here though. They like places where there isn’t much human activity. Where they set up their rookery is quite a ways off an already remote county road. Isolated they are from humans up here.

Not many people ever notice the rust colored feathers on their wings leading edges. Also of note are their chest feathers. The birds actively shread them to make a powder that soaks up all the fish and oils from the wetlands.

I’ve spent many hours sitting and watching these birds. After the nest is built, mostly they hunt/sit on eggs. The male will bring the female the sticks and the female does the engineering. Both parents feed the young and share the 4 weeks of egg sitting. I’ve had a pretty good window on several of the nests all breeding season in 2019. I have quite a few images to finish from these encounters still. Job security I suppose😀

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Heron Catching Some Wind

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Spring Time Heron Rookery

Spring Time Heron Rookery
Spring Time Heron Rookery

Spring Time Heron Rookery is a capture from Late Spring (May) of this year. I know it’s a little out of season but I think a little green is good now and then.

There are 6 Great Blue Heron Nests are 50 feet high up those Cottonwood Trees. (Can you find them?). There were sitting birds in all the nests this eventing this was the only parent returning in light I could catch him in. Later was too dark to catch any action. This was a sunset looking north. Early in the year the sun is still way to the left and has just set. There is NO blue shadow under the pink that would represent the earth’s horizon’s shadow. If the sun had been down for 15 minutes, there would be a large wedge shaped blue shadow low over the distant hills. The pink band moves above as the red light is reflected by the ice in the atmosphere becomes blocked by the horizon.

As I said, any darker and the bird would have blurred. This is right on the edge of catchable in the camera. I would love to see green grass sooner than May. That isn’t happening up here lol. These 6 nests have been productive this year. The species as a whole haven’t been seen here for months now. They move south as the lakes they feed on freeze over.

This is a spring (and runoff of course) fed lake from an aquifer 500 feet below by a crack in the ground. (a fault). This crack allows water to seep up to the surface because the “hydraulic head” is higher than 500 feet at this place. The sandstone that provides this lakes source is literally a water tank full 500 feet higher than the sandstone is at this location..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title Spring Time Heron Rookery

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Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha
Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

Happy Thanksgiving from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. “Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha”

These two missed attending dinner today as I had a camera not a shotgun (in my hand anyway 🙂 ) This capture show 2 wild turkeys coming in for a landing in a hoar frosted environment. I’ve raised small flocks of turkeys and even the “tame” males have attitude to deal with. These guys are a force to be reckoned with if you ever get cornered by one with an agenda. 😜

Short Narrative for Thanksgiving lolol. Enjoy your time with family and friends. God Bless

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Turkey Evasion Pattern Alpha

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Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner
Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

I obviously let the word out that there was feed in my barnyard from which I feed my flock of ducks, chickens from. The turkeys somehow found out about it through their channels. So these freeloaders come by now and again to supplement their diet. They fly over the electric fence. I’m still trying to figure out how they learned that. This is our side yard about 50 feet from my west side door.

I wonder if they know they significance of having ten (10) genuine Native Americans over for dinner. Here in America for a LONG time before humans. After all they almost becoming the national bird. Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter where he stated that the turkey was “more respectable” than the eagle, which he thought was “of bad moral character.” He argued vociferously for it. The turkey would have been on coinage/buildings/seals from the beginning. That instead every artistic portrayal of a regal eagle has been done since. The Eagle won, instead of the majestic soaring turkey (oh wait), well at least they are brave. Boy that snood is quite a protuberance as well lolol. . The males are plain annoying at times. I see dinosaurs in them.

Surviving the major extinction of the Megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene, the turkeys had a humble beginning in the Early Miocene. Their ancestors went back to avian dinosaurian history though. The Miocene was a time of high CO2, high biological productivity, and rapid growth of new species development from 22-9 mya.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

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Sharpie Trailing Smoke

Sharpie Trailing Smoke
Sharpie Trailing Smoke

This is a Game Trail Camera capture. (Satire) It appears that’s a Sharpie Trailing Smoke. Anti-Sharp Tailed Grouse Shotgun fire is pretty rare around here. I doubt that could be the cause. It must be that the “Pete” Brothers (the local windmill pair) have been skimping on their scheduled repair. That is NO way to run an airport. I expect too much as they are just Windmills.

Back to my normal programming.

Holy Crap!. These game trail cameras never fail to amuse and amaze me. Catching 7 flying Sharp Tailed Grouse automatically shows you how many are up here currently. There MUST be more lolol. I’m thinking I have a flock of about 100 birds based on what I’ve seen to date. I watched a HUGE flock fly an escape and evasion routine. I intruded into their area by accident and it was quite a commotion.

The trick of Game Trail Camera Photogray is WHERE

The other day I was in a grove of thorn trees that Wildlife use for cover regularly. I was planing game trail cameras down there for the winter. A large flock of perhaps 20 of these birds landed just over my head maybe 10 feet up. I had not conventional camera, just a hand full of game trail cameras. Marked up as a missed opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer. I slowly walked around doing my “planting” of several cameras. A few flew, then a few more each time I moved.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sharpie Trailing Smoke

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Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail
Sharp Tail Grouse's Tail

Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail was a capture from 30 feet away with a LONG 1200mm fast lens. Sitting on a copper plate that protects the top of our main gate posts (18 inches in diameter) and 16 feet high. . It was about -2 at the time. . Frost on the copper… I would think the copper would be cold to stand on but what do I know? 😵

I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 50 others were hanging out nearby. There is a very large flock hanging around this year. All the good images I will get this year will be from inside of my vehicle. If Sharp Tailed Grouse see a human, they take off for a good distance. I understand they can fly for several miles at a time. From up here on the ridges, they could glide for 20 miles lololol. These guys are plump prairie Chickens.

The native Americans called them Fire Chickens because they would take advantage of burnt out areas moving in very quickly to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. They are plump birds for sure lolol. At least it doesn’t make their tail look fat ……. cue top hat rif…

They really don’t occur in the east or much bast Wisconsin OR west of the continental divide. They are quite a large grouse with the characteristic pointy tail. The purple cheek bags the males puff out in breeding season is spectacular. I will get to that one too ….

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sharp Tail Grouse’s Tail

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Sharpie Over the Shoulder

Sharpie Over the Shoulder
Sharpie Over the Shoulder

Sharpie Over the Shoulder was one of those looks of interest but of little concern. These Sharp Tail Grouse are mooches off my barnyard and there is a pretty big flock that hangs out and about the place.. It’s slim pickings when my ducks get done with feeding time but there always seems to be a flock of these guys sitting watching for an opening to come in for easy pickings.

It was -2 degrees F when I took this image a few weeks ago as this posts. A fairly good sized flock was hanging out in the side yard. A few were nice enough to post for me in bright sunlight when I happened to have a 1200 mm lens with me. Up close and personal is of course the best way to see this wonderful feather patterns. Good camo too … The wind was blowing directly at his rear so he is slightly fluffed up for this capture.

I’ve worked these guys in 30 below windchill and they just hunker down. They seem to weather the storm quite well. They range up to Alaska and they mostly get as cold as we do there. As far as I can tell, they care not about snow. But they are heavy birds and fall into powder drifts readily lol. They are fairly plump birds which I consider flying boats. I sure wouldn’t want to get hit by one flying. They have come close to me before ..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sharpie Over the Shoulder

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Sharpie on an Icy Wire

Sharpie on an Icy Wire
Sharpie on an Icy Wire

Sharpie on an Icy Wire was a capture from 35 feet below and 50 feet off to the side. The wire was moving back and forth in the breeze. The bird was constantly shifting it’s significant weight to compensate. The ice wasn’t falling off so it was pretty well attached.

I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 50 others were hanging out nearby. There is a very large flock hanging around this year. All the good images I will get this year will be from inside of my vehicle. If Sharp Tailed Grouse see a human, they take off for a good distance. I understand they can fly for several miles at a time. From up here on the ridges, they could glide for 20 miles lololol. These guys are plump prairie Chickens.

The native Americans called them Fire Chickens because they would take advantage of burnt out areas moving in very quickly to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. They are plump birds for sure lolol. At least it doesn’t make their tail look fat ……. cue top hat rif…

They really don’t occur in the east or much bast Wisconsin OR west of the continental divide. They are quite a large grouse with the characteristic pointy tail. The purple cheek bags the males puff out in breeding season is spectacular. I will get to that one too ….

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sharpie on an Icy Wire

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Robin Red Breast Beast

Robin Red Breast Beast
Robin Red Breast Beast

The hardest part of this capture Robin Red Breast Beast, is that the guy was really trying to get me….

This was a classic “Rinse and Repeat” shot opportunity. The bird didn’t want me there. He would go to the same spot in the nearby tree and fly at me and my 200 pound mastiff. Over and over and over again. The dog was not concerned. I was sipping a cool drink in the shade naturally. Comfortable in my chair fortunately. I happened to have an 800mm telephoto. A Sony Alpha 7RII camera attached nearby. Rinse and Repeat as I said. Give me enough chances and I’ll get the shot lolol.

I literally had dozens of chances at these shots and got quite a few as these cameras rapid fire very well. It’s always nice when the bird is predictable. You can aim for the focus and the lighting spot you want him in.

The trick is to time the click to the bird traversing the zone of focus. Light is rare under a tree . There is no direct light under the canopy.. You have to compensate for the lower light level somehow and ISO comes to mind. You need your speed and your f-stop to freeze the action and to give one deep focus. The ISO has to be the compensator. Turn it up ….make it grainy as a price….

There are a few more of these that will be trickling into my work flow. They all come from the same timeline over about an hour in my yard. The pair of birds this guy was part of raised their fledgeling just fine. Photos of it elsewhere too. You must have to watch.

This is a full framed image. It is not much of a crop. 3×2 feet

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Robin Red Breast Beast

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Deer Tick Cleaning Station

Deer Tick Cleaning Station
Deer Tick Cleaning Station

Deer Tick Cleaning Station with golden Alpenglow behind these two species cooperating so closely.

The Bird Is a Magpie, a fairly common bird here in the borderlands of Montana and Wyoming. We live on the high ridges with a mix of wildlife, deer, pronghorn, some lions and coyotes with the occasional wolf and bear. I seldom see such a big bird interact with deer but have seen this before.

The lighting was bright from behind and there was a lot of fog/moisture in the air. All the brightness was amplified by the Projector Screen the fog became. The Golden Alpenglow and mist behind him made it necessary to silhouette him. The camera couldn’t do any better. There is no way to accurately bring out the detail in the deer or birds body. So I left them as the camera saw them.

A symbiotic relationship between magpies and deer doesn’t seem logical but here they are. Somehow the deer, jumpy as heck, knows to allow these raucous birds to land and pick away. I’m pretty sure the ticks are torn away and not gently pried out like they should be. It has to be taught from parent to fawn somehow. I had never witnessed this before this timeline and I have several more similar captures, one with a deer and several birds on her. Crazy stuff you see only once or twice in a lifetime.

Magpies are cool birds. Lewis and Clark reported that they came into their tents to steel food. They used to follow hunters to clean up the “leavings” from hunts. They are mostly a western bird with our place being centered in their distribution.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Deer Tick Cleaning Station

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Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse

Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse
Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse

Deep Deep Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse don’t go along too well. They tend to say out of the powder as they sink in and have short legs lolol. They usually have to fly out of the hole they make for themselves by landing in a controlled crash. In this image, there is only a few inches of snow next to our backyard fence. We see them in our compound all winter as they mooch grain off our ducks and Buff Orphington Chickens.

These Birds are known as the “fire grouse or fire bird” by native Americans. This is because they are reliant on natural brush fires to keep their habitat open. Their common name around here is “SHarpies” or certainly Sharp Tail. These birds are found only on the North American continent. . Geologically it is the last species of the Genus Tympanuchus. (Linnaeus named them AGAIN, boy was he busy) Apparently there are 7 subspecies one of which is extinct, the other 6 are extant. (extant versus extinct…. good to google if you don’t know).

Being one of the larger grouse, they are hard to sex visually. The males have yellow eye combs that are not conspicuous. During the spring they males puff up a pale violet air sacs on their neck. UP to 18 inches long (plump birds) In the early fall, Females Ring-necked Pheasants easily are mistaken for a female Sharpie. Watch for the length of the tail which the pheasant wins with the longer tail.

The They really don’t exist south of Wyoming/northern Nebraska ranging WAY north into Alaska through out central and northwestern Canada. I’m thinking they like the snow but I might be wrong[ They are year round residents of the Wyotana borderlands but I understand the continental divide is a boundary too them and they really don’t live west of there in the the US. Western most Montana doesn’t have them apparently.

Location; Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Snow and Sharp Tail Grouse.

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Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes
Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes is literally a photobomb in real life.

I was of course amazed at the lighting coming from that mornings veiled Sky. Shooting the veiled sun strong enough for silhouettes to form fools the observer to thinking this wasn’t a very bright sky. I’m shutting down the camera to light (high fstop, low ISO, and fast shutter). By Looking at the furnace in the sky, we need a fast shutter. Convenient if a couple of really fast hawks come flying by. 🤔

So I’ve got that camera/long lens set up pointed from about 300 yards back from the Windmill. The trees are Full sized old grown Pines at 30 to 40 feet high but they are 500 yards distant up a slight ridge. Telephoto lenses crush perspective distance. This is a long focal depth of field because of the higher f-stop setting I chose. High fstop takes away excess light AND gives you deep focal fields. (from the windmill to infinity here).

Looking through the eyepiece at the time with fingers on the setting options (3 only in manual mode to learn about). . I had it all focused and as the birds moved through the focus field they lit up on the video screen. The camera highlights things that have high contrast with their backgrounds. This shows focus areas. An advantage of quality mirrorless cameras is that they can tell you things. What you see is what you get with them.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

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SharpTail Grouse Icy Perch

SharpTail Grouse Icy Perch
SharpTail Grouse Icy Perch

“Sharpies” AKA … SharpTail Grouse Icy Perch was taken at -2 degrees about a week ago as this posts. There is an eighth inch of ice on everything. I find this is one of the best times of year to photograph them. They puff up and show off their colors keeping warm 50 feet up a cottonwood. Of course the spring when they are mating and the males have bright purple cheek patches is fun.

These guys foraged both in the trees and on the ground. They are eaters of berries, flowers, buds, grains and insects. Opportunists and omnivores just like domestic chickens. They are grouped as a prairie-chicken generally. They like to hang out up high though and aren’t hard to spot since they are plump little birds.

In the winter a pretty big group of them (50 or more) are hanging out generally around my barnyard/homestead They mooch grain the ranches domestic fowl “miss” (because the Sharpies at it first lol). The electric wire doesn’t detour them as they just fly over it. They pretty much make themselves at home. They really don’t like the human form (I don’t know why since I’ve never chased them) but cars/vehicles don’t bother them much as long as you move slowly and keep the tunes to a minimum. ).

I have a few more of these just finished that will be working their way into my posting timeline. I currently have 54 finished images to write about a 300 word each for each. 6 per day…. . Job security lolol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

SharpTail Grouse Icy Perch

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Ferruginous Hawk Launching

Ferruginous Hawk Launching
Ferruginous Hawk Launching

Ferruginous Hawk Launching was a lucky capture. Driving country gravel backroads and being a photographer is an interesting driving issue. Be safe at all times is my rule.

Having said that: It is possible at any time that I just might pull over, stop quickly or otherwise change speed. Photographers tend to be a little un-predictable on roads lolol. I saw this guy sitting on this sign and managed to stop several hundred feet away with my car turned about 70 degrees to the road (and not in the ditch). Perfect to rest a long lens out the window. I do keep track of what is around me pretty well and any traffic within a mile lolol. . I was out for over an hour that AM driving backroads and never saw another vehicle. This is typical not unusual. I’ve been out hours covering many miles before and not seen another rig pass or be passed. Only ranchers and oil trucks up here (to pick up oil from the fields).

Please correct me if this isn’t a Ferruginous. I don’t pretend to know my hawks but I’m familiar with raptor anatomy quite well. My collecting raptorian dinosaur material out of the Cretaceous sands that cover my ranch is a good school.. There are even some fossil bird teeth in the ranch collections from the Cretaceous. Teeth of his old great great great great great … grand-daddies lolol. Fossil names/ID’s I’ve down but not so much the extant raptors. I actually didn’t have much time for this capture. I tried to track him but I only got a few clicks and I’m thinking they were too out of focus to use. 😉

To have these random encounter guys stick around long enough to get your camera into play is a gift. I’m tickled to have had this raptor sit for my lens if only for a second.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Ferruginous Hawk Launching

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Fledgeling Great Blue Herons

Fledgeling Great Blue Herons
Fledgeling Great Blue Herons

Having a Photobomber sneak into “Fledgeling Great Blue Herons” was a plus. I was focusing on the two above and in comes the head on the lower left frame. Curiosity got him in the photo lol. I appreciate him extending his neck as the tree was in his way. They can lift their necks up so high after all. Remember these little guys stand up to 5 feet tall and weigh 4-5 pounds. Masters of their domain they are 😎

This was tough light but I’m pleased with the opportunity to catch these guys before they migrated away from the rookery following their parents south. This image was captured early summer and the cottonwoods were fully leafed. I often loose track of the nests as the trees fill in with leaves . Thusly the cover over the nests keeps the privacy curtain up rather well. Not much assistance to me but I’m sure the birds like it.

These guys were up getting some sun. Mostly they had their feathers here but they were still waiting for their first flight. Parents were due to feed them shortly. Breeding/Nesting in the high branches of Cottonwoods is a common thing to see up here. The Cottonwoods line water ways and courses in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana. Tall and safe from any climbing creatures, they set up a home perched way up there. There were 6 nests inhabited this year in our rookery.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Fledgeling Great Blue Herons