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Grackles Watering Up

Grackles Watering Up
Grackles Watering Up

Grackles Watering Up

I’d say these guys were traveling the neighborhood and found an oasis in this high near desert environment. I usually keep a game camera pointing at active (full) stock tanks. Some day I’m going to photograph a big raptor on this tank but not yet lolol. Mostly I get blurry animals at night but SOME (1 in maybe 100) day time image are pretty good.

Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is watching the commotion as he effectively photobombs this wildlife image. I have no control over his actions.

We keep four stock tanks running all year with a small by high pressure water jet into the tank. This circulates the water in a circle and tends to keep it open in the winter. I’ve not had one freeze up yet. About a gallon in 4 minutes… Pumping water for lifestock and wildlife consumption has been expensive over the decades I suspect. I haven’t crunched the numbers and really don’t want to know… With all the cattle our water pumping amounts to around 100 bucks a month worth of electricity. Fortunately that is right around what we get back from the utility company we feed with 18 big solar panels each month. More water use in the summer of course, less in the winter.

I figure without liquid water in the winter, most of the deer that winter here would move to lower (wetter) locations. The grackles are migratory so are grouping this time of year. They raid my barnyard when they get the urge as well. This tank is a busy winter tank. Lots of deer come to water here.

Title: Grackles Watering Up

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Last Thing a Rabbit Sees

Last Thing a Rabbit Sees
Last Thing a Rabbit Sees

Last Thing a Rabbit Sees

So I’m collecting game trail camera chips, replacing batteries on 29 planted cameras out on the ranchlands. I have a habit of placing a good camera on fence braces which stick up above the wire being the highest things around. Then I take into account the amount of bird poop on the post. I have my own scale for such things as I have many more fence braces than cameras lol. Most big birds flare out to burn off speed just before they land so aim lower than the top of the post. I split the difference and give myself a “halfie where the image is 1/2 horizon, 1/2 grass. (shaking head side to side).

This has to be the single best game trail camera photo I’ve collected in years of images from my network. The Prairie Falcon volunteered for this one. An event like this is strictly random on the birds part. Setting the camera up just right is about the only control I have over the daytime operation of these things. I had 780 images on this particular chip. I pulled a few Pronghorn images, I was just about done with the batch, this popped up. My eye’s popped out and I started laughing. In the scheme of things, I will be hard pressed to get luckier than this. The Raptor was captured landing August 28th at 4 pm by the automatic Game Trail Camera.

Now if you say this looks pretty good for a game trail camera. It took me an hour in the digital dark room to clean up most of the problems affiliated with such cameras. They make a very messy, noisy, artifact covered image to my standards. Now this is an 18×18 inch file after I finished with it. :).

The word is “Tickled” ….

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

Title: Last Thing a Rabbit Sees

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Prancing Prairie Falcon and Post

Prancing Prairie Falcon and Post
Prancing Prairie Falcon and Post

Prancing Prairie Falcon and Post

I was tickled when I got this. I’ve been planting Game Trail Cameras on certain Posts up high topographically. I figured that sooner or later I’d get a raptor of somekind dropping by for a visit. Bingo lolol.

This Prairie Falcon is about crow sized. That constitutes a largish bird for the Falcons. They do have about a 3 foot wing span if that gives you any indication of their power. Falco mexicanus is it’s scientific name and weighs not quite 2 pound. That’s a pile of guided missile with beaks and claws. Love the cheek patches. I’m not sure what he was dancing to but I’ve heard the fence wire make music before.

The trick here is to place the camera to catch the bird in focus. The lighting and his timing were totally random of course. Once I place a camera, it is autonomous in it’s actions for the next 1/2 year or so. Most game cameras don’t focus well up close and personal. Nor am I typically forunately enough to capture the bird totally in frame AND in focus. There was only one frame of this animal.

ALL of the game trail camera image I’ve dealt with have major problems for me to deal with. Most issue are related to the way they process files and the fact that they are less than a 200 dollar automatic camera. For some reason they don’t produce the image quality of a five thousand dollar camera rig. This one came out amazing to me. Got REALLY lucky with the lighting.

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

Title: Prancing Prairie Falcon and Post

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Meadowlarks and Red Wing Blackbirds

Meadowlarks and Red Wing Blackbirds
Meadowlarks and Red Wing Blackbirds

Meadowlarks and Red Wing Blackbirds

Ranch Life is full of spur of the moment photo opportunities. Meanwhile down in the barnyard, after the chickens and ducks have had their fill of the grain I reluctantly give them. It was early smokey morning red light that day. The sun was fairly high just emerging from the smoke pall that morning..

I hate to feed yard birds too much so they will hunt bugs (their job). This image of course are the wildling beggars that come in from all over every morning to clean up the mess left behind by the domestics.

I have never caught 5 Meadowlarks all flying in the same frame. (I’ve tried). The “one” on the left is actually two. There are some Juvenile Red Wing Blackbirds about with one dead center flying. All mixed with adult Red Wings… It was a feast for the wild birds short on grain in this drought year plus water is 50 feet away. I understand why they show up here. My domestic birds have been fed here for 15 years every day. I suppose that sets up a series of expectation by local wildlife. Particularly that which can fly over our deer resistant fences.

The barnyard is fenced in well. We mostly keep predators out with low electric wires. Our cats go through it but they have lived here for years. They know the best places.

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

Title: Meadowlarks and Red Wing Blackbirds

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Morning Singer with Audience

Morning Singer with Audience
Morning Singer with Audience

Morning Singer with Audience

For a Black and White Game Trail Camera Night Shot, this came out pretty well lolol. 📷 Grainy as would be expected of an Infra-red camera.

Each game trail camera shot has issues. I spent some time working on in the digital darkroom this to fix them. The result was good enough to get published second today on my timeline. I love photos that tell stories. This has a wonderful obvious one.

A Mule Deer Buck Listening to a Meadowlark Sing it’s melody in the Twilight.

The bird on the post in silhouette is a Meadowlark. I know them very well, trust me it’s a Meadowlark. It’s singing it’s heart out to the Spring Velvet buck (you can only see one growing horn at this angle) . He was in antler growth mode in early June when this was taken. I have no question that buck is listening and watching that Meadowlark. Being the State Bird of 6 Western States, the Meadowlark’s are sort of hard to ignore even at 4:55 AM. What a way to start your morning 📸 . Actual sunrise that morning was around 20 minutes later. You have to look but there is a grazing buddy of the buck over on right frame.

Game trail cameras lag months behind as I only pick them up when I pass them. That might be 1/2 a year depending on the season.

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

Title: Morning Singer with Audience

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Right Turn Clyde Meadowlark

Right Turn Clyde Meadowlark
Right Turn Clyde Meadowlark

Right Turn Clyde Meadowlark

(This is one of a dozen image I consider a “Right Turn Clyde” series.) If you remember the 1978-80 movie by Clint Eastwood “Any Which Way But Loose” and his Orangutan “Clyde”. Upon being told “Right Turn Clyde”. The great ape would throw his massive arm to the right. This action usually punching someone in the jaw that needed such a thing. (deserved). Filmed in Wyoming on location in Jackson Hole back in the day. Those were the days back in Jackson Hole. I started experiencing JH a few years after that. Lived there for a decade. I digress…

So the Meadowlark singing has no concept of the sign he graces with his presence. Even so his presence is often left on the sign. If you get my drift 😜 Golden Hour Lighting….

Meadowlark Encounters are all to a one a random event. I wander from project to project up in this remote country. In this grass sea we inhabit the shore of, anything above the ground level is a perch for a bird here. It’s the high rise of the prairie and premium real estate. I swear I’m going to dedicate an afternoon photographing/ staking out a particular Right turn sign I’m aware of. You could mine Bird Guano around that sign and use the soil there as fertilizer. IT must be a very busy place on the planet but I only get short glimpses of it drying by. Observe and Investigate. (Rule 211 of Photography)

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

Title: Right Turn Clyde Meadowlark

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CatBird Doing CatBird Things

CatBird Doing CatBird Things
CatBird Doing CatBird Things

CatBird Doing CatBird Things

When a CatBird Decides your too close to it’s nesting area, it will fuss at you. Bold as can be, it came just outside this 1200mm telephoto which in this case is acting as a macro at about 15 feet. Most telephotos have a pretty good macro use at their closest focal distance. If you haven’t tried the absolute minimum focal distance each lens has, I suggest it’s a good thing to know. These guys have very long eyelashes but it’s impossible to see in this shot.

They really take offense to cats even if they are sleeping and generally abusively bug them. I suspect the cats will figure out it’s easier to sleep elsewhere with this brusk ‘mew” call the mimic thrush generates. Often too, maybe every 3 or 4 seconds. Constant and it will move around obviously not afraid of the cats. It is essentially harassing the expert bird hunters trying to sleep. I wouldn’t want one of these grumpy ranch cats coming at me lolol.

I don’t know how long it will be nesting here ( the sexes are impossible to tell by shape or plumage). I’ll keep working the little 8 inch tall fellow right around my front deck/main entrance to my homestead. Usually when I’m coming back from working photographically the sunrise. Parked only to find it there, trying to annoy me to leave I’m thinking.

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

Title: CatBird Doing CatBird Things

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Weightless Off the Post

Weightless Off the Post
Weightless Off the Post

Weightless Off the Post

As I work photographically the good population of Meadowlarks this year, opportunities to set up are rare. Chances to actually get your camera adjusted from slow moving landscapes to freeze very fast moving birds are rarer. Timing a take off and having the bird actually in the zoomed frame you established earlier. About a 1/2 dozen adjustments from where the camera was to where it is now. All my encounters are random in our “back yard”. (We have a big back yard).

Meadowlarks are not the best fliers from my observations. They are a little “stubby” perhaps for their body shape. What they lack in aerobatic prowess, they more than suffice as singers and lookers. In a perfect world it would have had it’s wings up showing off it’s yellow breast to the camera.

Photographic Musings:

I consider this kind of bird capture very difficult 4.5 out of a possible 5 on the hard scale. It takes very fast reflexes and a degree of anticipation to time this. Obviously a fast shutter speed, medium f-stop and adjust ISO for your lighting. If you have a LOT of sun then kick that f-stop up to 22, 1/1000th at least then ISO last to bring in the exposure you need. Machine gunning the camera taking 5 or more images a second won’t help much. This takes place in the first 1/4 of a second. It’s very hard for me to do at least lol.

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

Title: Weightless Off the Post

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Catbird Up Close and Personal

Catbird Up Close and Personal
Catbird Up Close and Personal

Catbird Up Close and Personal

“Grey Catbird” is the common name. Scientists call it Dumetella carolinensis. What a brazen little fellow this one was. Thrashers tend to be a bit forward with their behavior being a bit cocky so to speak. Medium robin sized birds with an attitude.. They possess a very harsh “mew” creaky call. Usually they deliver their complaints from thick bushes. This one was fairly forward. His presence to be well known was his goal. They are mimics picking up other species calls too. It is unique in North America with it’s uniform dark gray color with the black cap.

I have never seen a bird be so little afraid of our cats. To the point of landing near a group of sleeping cats on cushions and raising the dead with complaints. The ranches barn cats are very adept with birds. This seemingly suicidal all grey entry in our world just didn’t care. It’s been around for weeks now and still bothers the cats who I think try their best to ignore them. He obviously wasn’t scared of the big one eyed photographer. All the while advancing. Pointing a 28 inch long lens at him.

Talk about eyelashes. You can not see them on it’s right eye but it’s left eye’s lashes through the open beak says it all lolol. This fellow has made me laugh more times than I can count. He is predictable and consistent in his behavior toward anything in his domain. We just are staying here by his permission I’m pretty sure.

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

Title: Catbird Up Close and Personal

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Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting
Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

All of my wildlife encounters are random. I’m usually going somewhere on the ranch. As such I always travel backcountry with a box of cameras. I normally only have two cameras when I travel light. I have found that having instant options is a good thing. But then you have to know WHICH camera to grab for a particular scene… 🤔 Rule number one of photography is: “Have a camera with you. “

Killdeers nest on dry ground but you can sure find them wading around like they own the swamp. This Killdeer is hunting for goodies to eat certainly in the marsh. It paused looked, picked a target and beak to the water went for his intended target. Spearing or grabbing a worm along with some mud mixed with cow poop. My camera machine gunning images as it successfully “hunts”. Sucks to be the worm. 😜

The vast majority of Killdeer that live up here don’t get to enjoy water sports very much or so it seems. This is only about a 5 acre lake and adjacent wetland area. Considered a shorebird, this Ringed Plover is actually living up to their reputation. Most of them around “these parts” nest/hunt out on the open grassland / ranch land. Seeds and getting water from isolated stock tanks seems to work just fine for them. They are going to have an easy year with all the grasshoppers eating vegetation up. This has truly been a year to “take a Mulligan”.

Nesting up here they get a lot of elbow room in the grasslands. Technically the Killdeer is a shorebird of which I have many water’s edge photos of adults like this. But they are unusual in that they many times will nest far from shore. The chicks hatching from their relatively large eggs are born with their boots on. The babies are out of the nest as soon as their partially developed feathers dry. Soon they are out of the nest running around. The babies are well worth pursuing with a long lens. What a hoot they are. 😀

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

Title: Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

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Catbird on a Montana Agate

Catbird on a Montana Agate
Catbird on a Montana Agate

Catbird on a Montana Agate

I’ve been observing this 10 inch version of the “mimmic thush” . Slate grey exactly this color, it is easily recognized by it’s “mew” sounds. Supposedly that is how it got it’s name.

As far as I can tell this one is totally fearless of the ranches barn cats. It goes over to make a big racket at the sleeping cats who now want nothing to do with it. I think the “Catbird” has found a way to deactivate the prey drive in a cat. He is in and out of the thicket, is VERY quick. I suspect the cats don’t have a chance, they know it and are just ignoring the non-dinner.

This particular bird is just slightly interested in complaining about my presence. Now and again I’ll be unloading cameras in the morning, over it comes to fuss at me. Well It was fussing while I was using a 1200 mm lens handheld at 18 feet. He is VERY bold and forward in his need to be present. A force to be reckoned with in his own mind I’m sure.

This is NOT a crop but a full frame image. Normally the background would be green in this image based on it’s location. At the moment it’s remarkably brown after the hail storm three weeks ago denuded the area behind. All brown now ….

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

Title: Catbird on a Montana Agate

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Meadowlark On Sage

Meadowlark On Sage
Meadowlark On Sage

Meadowlark On Sage

This is the season of the songbird of the Prairie. Western Meadowlarks are a had act to follow if you’ve ever heard their melodic voice. The sage smell, the pollens of uniquely Wyoming/Montana plants along with the various bouquet unique to cattle grazing land. 

I’ve noticed in my wanderings around the ranch that the Meadowlarks have been gathering somewhat more lately. I noticed a big group of them scatter in all directions when I crested a hill. Short of ascribing motives more suitable to a Hitchcock classic, I suggest there are simpler reasons. I’m pretty sure they are done with their mating, nesting and general main business done earlier this spring. So now they just put on weight and socialize as it were. Then the big trip south to warmer climates where they spend the winter. They are heavy grasshopper eaters….Wish I had more….. It’s hard to think about the animals already through the first 1/2 of the allotted time this year to put on weight. The green/ warm seasons are short up here. 

When I normally travel backcountry I spook a meadowlark from hiding near the trail every 20 seconds or so. They are pretty equally distributed during the first 1/2 of the year. I would say there were 30 birds in 1/2 an acre area that flew on my arrival. I haven’t seen that for a while. The circle keeps on turning. 

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

Title: Meadowlark On Sage

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Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff
Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

So your down in deep grass hiding from the Photographer in the scary big black truck. But that truck is very patient so it might be time to get outta Dodge. A quick squat to load those leg muscles and a push off for the launch. That is one clue. Figuring out where creatures are going to be, the direction they are using to ‘escape’, is the other half of the game here. As many times as I’ve tried it’s pretty hit or miss (mostly miss) following a fast bird with a 28 inch long lens. Literally an anticipatory click with a little reaction time built in based on that last second squat. Using the machine gun setting on these modern cameras take 10 images a second (or more), there is at least a chance to get a take off.

Meadowlarks are known for the melodious tendencies. Being Bright, Yellow and gorgeous probably has something to do with the following factoid. The western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming, Only the Northern Cardinal has more states under it’s “belt” at seven. Not bad for a singing relative of an avian dinosaur. You know dinosaurs didn’t all go extinct at the end of the Cretaceous right? There are many flying around among us but they lost their tail and teeth along the way. Other than that, they are very close anatomically to various dinosaurian lineages.

It takes 1/2000th second or faster to freeze these guys wings in ice. I like working them at 1/1000th of a second to get a little motion blur on the wings. Both ways are OK but you need a lot of light to freeze small bird wings on take off.

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

Title: Meadowlark Grassy Takeoff

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Top of His Lungs Meadowlark

From the DIaphram Meadowlark
From the DIaphram Meadowlark

Top of His Lungs Meadowlark

 I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item. This is only “sort of” close up lolol.

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 a few birds out of hundreds ignore. This is a wild Meadowlark out on a branch sitting on a snag near a path I drive often. This guy was very tolerant of my Black Ford F150 Raptor as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 1200mm 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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Top of His Lungs Meadowlark

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Two Blackbirds on a Pole

Two Blackbirds on a Pole
Two Blackbirds on a Pole

Two Blackbirds on a Pole

It doesn’t show there but it was very windy at the moment. Both Black birds were hanging on to their perch. The lower bird more so than the bird on the stable top lol. The pole was swaying a little with the moving atmospheric river they were in 35 feet up. I’d estimate 25-30mph winds. They were inches away from high voltage but as long as they are not a path to ground survival is assured.

Attempting to catch detail on a black bird in shadow is not an intelligent thing for a photographer to go after but electrons are cheap these days. It’s the hard drive storage that is expensive lol. The situation just seemed rife for a portrait orientation capture. That insulator is an amazing piece of work. The “Juicers” do amazing things high up in the air in the worst weather. A hearty thank you to those that fight the wires.

The BlackBirds are around here to mooch off my barn yard feed. I had one hoovering over me a few yards as I was a little too close to it’s nest just this morning. They seem to like chicken and duck feed. They are even getting used to my presence boldly staying on the ground as I walk through the group of yard birds to feed them. There always seems to be black birds around to pick up any loose pieces. Better them than mice lol. I’d rather them eat grasshoppers along with all the ducks/chickens. I’ve reduced feeding the flock by 1/2 during this infestation and have seen mobs of ducks roving around the homesteads yards and gardens. IT will be a good year for most birds here I’m thinking.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Two Blackbirds on a Pole

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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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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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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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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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Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby
Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

Driving toward the Montana / Wyoming border to work a high spot for a veiled sunset. Rapidly developing, light conditions change by the second. I’m trying to get somewhere to photograph the “sunsets” timeline when I saw this developing. From inside my truck on a remote county road at sunset, a meadowlark was enjoying the sunset. Famous for their vocalizations, they are a challenge to just get a photo of in my experience. Lining one up with a veiled sun is a bucket list item. Now if I can only get an American Eagle to do this….. 🤔 😀 📸

In small bird photography, there is a goal of eyebrow close, feather detail photos. Then there is having celestial objects cooperate AND cloud cover just so to let the shape without all the glare into the frame. Being hard to get close to is the game, getting sol to cooperate is just amazingly cool in my world. But then I like to point cameras into the sun. (Disclaimer: Professional Mirrorless Cameras that can take it. No DSLR’s please….

It is very hard to get finished images without a rim around the silhouette of some other color. It’s a diffraction artifact from a high f-stop setting. . This amazing capture has no trace of a color rim. Sharp as heck. I’m still trying to figure that one out. If I do I’ll share it with you. Color rims around objects against bright light is a problem I’ve been trying to solve for years. I have a clue… perhaps… 👀 🤔

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

Title: Meadowlark Singing Sunset Lullaby

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Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset
Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

Twilight is a time to look around. There is no better spot for this Breeding / Nesting Upland Sandpiper to watch the sunset. Hanging out on a fence brace with a view was a good choice I’m thinking. Topography was such I couldn’t get the larger twilight show behind the grass. I still liked the composition. I’m going to have to get a taller truck though lol.. Time for that 2 inch lift kit perhaps.

I liked the symmetry of the brace with the asymmetry of the angles by the wire versus clouds all interacting. The Peachy Creme Soda color is one of my favorite hues for an Alpenglow pallet choice by mother nature. I never know what she is going to pick but I do know that Alpenglow is one of my favorite sky phenomena. (Google it if you know know what it is).

This was taken in early July with the sky color attributed to ice reflecting the predominate color surviving the sunlights trip through the low atmosphere. Such low angle light is always tweeked by the shorter wavelengths being absorbed during the journey. No or few blues/ greens and indigos make it reflected back to my lens.

Photographic Musing:

Close far perspectives are a challenge in low light. If your trying to do images like this, you need high F-stop setting. That will close off light which makes the other two settings important. Long exposures are your friend. High ISO will get you the photo but it will be grainy. . Manual mode is all about balance.

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

Title: Upland Sandpiper Surveying Sunset

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Electric Meadowlark Singing a Song

Electric Meadowlark Singing a Song
Electric Meadowlark Singing a Song

Electric Meadowlark Singing a Song

Power poles are rare in this country but Meadowlarks not so much. This is the last leg of the last line in the state. I’m thinking the next closest power line is 3 miles away from here. That one is for an oil well. Meadowlarks feel a little more “cocky” up 35 feet in the air. They must have quite a view from up there. I’m thinking he chose it for a perch to sing his song to the world. It is effectively what he did anyway lol.

These singers of the prairie are state birds for 6 different western US states. Their melody fills the slow window open drives I take on the high ridges. All my bird encounters are random with me coming up on them typically. Rarely I’ll be watching some other scene or animal with them flying in to photobomb my images. Never trying to miss an opportunity, I capture them when I see them with my photon traps. Close up Meadowlark encounters are not really very common. They are fairly flighty.

Photographic Musings:

I’m always amazed at the details the long lenses pick up so far away. I was focusing on the bird. The bolts are this side of the thin depth of focal field are JUST out of focus. That is just seriuosly splitting hairs with the focus lol. Working low F-stop has it’s benefits and costs but it lets you gain light on the 3 way lighting teeter totter that a manual camera is. Late very Red Golden Hour lighting. Minutes from sunset.

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

Title: Electric Meadowlark Singing a Song

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Meadowlark Right Turn Clyde

Meadowlark Right Turn Clyde
Meadowlark Right Turn Clyde

Meadowlark Right Turn Clyde

If you remember the Clint Eastwood films like “Any Which Way You can”, the upon the command “Right Turn Clyde”, the Orangutan would “signal” a right turn. Usually punching someone in the face (who deserves it of course). Well this capture is one of a continuing series of my snaps involving right turn signs. This was just too fun not to publish.

I actually pay attention if there is or isn’t little piles of bird poop on top of signs. I make mental notes which posts and sign poles are well used. As I drive around, I watch well ahead at the next high point perch. Just looking around to see who is (or is not) there. Sometimes I can drive right up on birds enjoying the high king of the local “hill” vantage point. In a grassy field of a square mile area, a single sign post can be quite an attractant to the local avian cadre.

I saw this Meadowlark WELL ahead. Carefully approached to stop as close as I dare (in my Ford F150 Raptor). I have to turn about 45 degrees minimum in the roadway for a photo. All to be able to point a long lens at something. More times than not I just pull into the ditch off the road. Almost every image I take from the road has a “Right Turn Clyde” component involved. Usually it’s necessary for me to line up the shot.

There will be more Right Turn Clyde images in the series. They happen more than you might think lolol.

Title: Meadowlark Right Turn Clyde

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Posting a Meadowlark Singing

Posting a Meadowlark Singing
Posting a Meadowlark Singing

Posting a Meadowlark Singing

As I travel across our ranch, the song these guys sing fill the air during the warmer months. I do miss them during the cold months. There is too much snow for them to cope with now. Most of the grass would be covered by the white blanket. The composition was an obvious and not unwelcome deviation from my normal eyebrow close images of the wonderful little bird.

This seems to be a popular well aged cedar post with all the white decorations sitting on the top. When ever you have many acres of birds with one taller post, it is going to be used as “THE” perch. This one is well used or so it appears lol.

These little guys are hit or miss approaching them. All of my Meadowlark Captures are random encounters as I drive around my ranch. I’m not putting out traditional bird feeders around my homestead as my 6 barn cats would make short work of that. I do feed any comers certainly but chickens/ducks intentionally out in our barnyard when I feed our flocks. About 5 gallons of feed a day goes to my barnyard flock donating about 1/2 a gallon of it to who ever else comes by lolol. There are a lot of freeloaders eating off that feed trough. I can’t blame them.

The Meadowlarks are mostly insect eaters and tend to head south with the weather. Seeing these guys is a sure sign of spring but I seldom see them in the barn yard. It’s going to be a grasshopper year, I am afraid so they should be well fed. 🤘📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana

Title: Posting a Meadowlark Singing

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Blue Bird Mated Pair

Blue Bird Mated Pair
Blue Bird Mated Pair

Blue Bird Mated Pair

For Blue Monday: A mated pair and a perspective with the female being on a post that is a good 3 feet closer to my camera as the left post. (Thus the “Slight” out of focus way closer female). That camera was actually focused between them to get them both “close”. If I focused on one or the other, one would always be way out of focus. So focus between 😜📸 .. (all about F-stop, this was in deep shade and I had no where to go….).

The 6 inch long one ounce birds don’t make much noise in my experience but a little in the morning. Hard to describe. They are fairly small Thrushes with a round head outline and straight thin bills. Sky blue is how I describe the color but are a bit darker on the wings and tail but with a light patch under the tail and it’s stomach. The female just blue on the tail and wing tips.

These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. These guys were jumping around myself in a rare meeting with a couple of neighbors. We were too close to their nesting area…As soon as we changed position, back to business seen and zipping about and then back to this place. He was flitting around, she was watching mostly . I just by happenstance had an 1200mm camera set up with me. They hoover to catch bugs so they have mastered their environment for sure. We are actually a little low at 4000 feet in elevation for them as they are found to 11000 feet up in the hills. The do like our grasslands though. Lots of bugs out there for them to eat…. Good habitat for most insect eaters.

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

Title: Blue Bird Mated Pair

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Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands
Curlew in the Grass Lands

Curlew in the Grass Lands

These guys are sandpipers with obscenely long bills. Since the male and female Curlews look pretty much alike with minor differences in the bill I’m not qualified to call. What I like about these guys is that they are grasshopper eating machines in the summer. They over winters in wetland marshes and other shore line estuaries. It couldn’t get much further away from the ocean as we are only a few hundred miles away from the geographic center of North America. They like this highland grassy ridge to breed and set their nests in.

They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing calls. They will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. Entertaining if your a photographer as catching them in not easy tracking with a long lens. Challenging is what I call it. I often find them driving along the two track trails as I’m on the flats below the higher ridges. Mostly a flat field grassy nesting bird rather than preferring a hillside with a view as I’ve seen them.

I understand that across their range, the numbers of this amusing bird are dropping with the reduction in natural grass land turned to mono-crop agricultural uses. They of course use wild non – tilled prairie to nest and feed during the summer months. A classic case of reduce the habitat and reduce the numbers. 😔

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

Title: Curlew in the Grass Lands