Warbler and Turtles Sunning . (I have a big backyard)
First of all this is a game trail camera capture from last summer.. I have several 360 degree cameras that sense all around them for heat movement. I set this up on a landing under a tree to take pictures about 90 degrees to this. The heat of the Golden Warbler’s body triggered the camera and caught in freeze frame the turtle race ongoing on the log behind the grass curtain. The Male Warbler with Chestnut colored patches on his chest is not a particularly common bird up here. I caught this one several times with this camera though. I run a network of 29 game trail cameras spring through the early winter months. I have quite a few to gather after the winter isolation. Most will be out of batteries for various reasons. I do get interesting images from them. 🤔👀📸
That is a bunch of Western Painted Turtles sunning. This year I’m walking through there with a machete before I plant that camera. The grass is obfuscating to the turtles but I will get them next time lolol.
I saw the first Pronghorn on ranch for the spring this evening on the way to this pond. I took images of an early arrival Great Blue Heron this evening that will take a week to publish on line. A week is my minimum turn around generally these days. The time of same day “take the image” and “post the images’ has long since passed lololol.
The sun JUST set over my shoulder. The shadow of the ridge blocking the light has moved just off his face as I pulled up. Pink Alpenglow in the eastern sky behind him. Crips air moves down the runnels of the drainage off the ridge crest. You can feel the change in temperature as the warm sun disappeared behind me to the west.
Obviously this was a lucky capture/encounter . Driving deep backcountry and being a photographer is an always an interesting driving issue. Be safe at all times is my rule. You get complacent with the low traffic up here.
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 the pine top and managed to stop several hundred feet away with my Raptor turned about 70 degrees to the road about 1/2 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). Sunset and sunrise hours are pretty low traffic. Most nights I never see another vehicle.
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 even drive a Ford Raptor…… (top hat Riff thump thump) I actually didn’t have much time for this capture as I was heading out… Once I got this I was outta there. 😉
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, I drove off with it still sitting there lolol. Knowing when to leave is a big part of working fleeting light. It was pretty over the ridge…..
Random encounters being what they are, worked out pretty well for this meeting in the backcountry. I will drive around two track trails, don’t make a lot of noise unless I’m driving through 4 foot high sage. The Ford Raptor is pretty quiet if you keep your foot out of the turbo’s. So not being a threat in a slow moving black truck, was sufficient to get this wild raptor on a post. Apparently it didn’t feel threatened by another Raptor…. 🤔😜
I don’t get this close too often as I’m thinking 30 feet maybe. It took a while and I’m really surprised it didn’t fly away. I drive like I’m a grazing animal. It looks best to the animal to stop, start, take a minute at a spot, move 20 feet, rinse and repeat is my “process” at approaching most wild animals in. Might take me 10 minutes so if they are sitting around, you’ll eventually get there. I take photos at each stop. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 22 feet deep and the background is totally bokeh’d out . Obviously after I came as close as he was tolerating, I started machine gunning the 400-1200mm lens. Click click click click ad nausium lol.
I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure. The different phases are an obfuscation but I think those orange nares are pretty diagnostic 😜🤔👀📷.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
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. These guys are our largest shore bird in North America. (National Audubon).
They are fussy birds if you come into their domain. Male displays over their nesting territory are impressive with loud ringing callsThey will circle about making lots of fuss trying to lead you away from the nest. I 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.
This was a late spring snow storm from the spring of 2019. It caught everybody by surprise. Robins, Meadowlarks and Curlews were wading knee deep in the white stuff. Much to their collective dismay I’m sure. 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. 😔
A Month from now they return… Spring time 2019, the trees were 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 was busy searching this tree line for the missing Great Horned Owl Nest as well. These are big 5 pound 5 foot tall birds if you’ve never seen them before.
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 along 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….👀.
Community Backcountry Meeting . (a very green Spring day 2019)
I came upon an obviously clandestine meeting in the backcountry. I saw them all simultaneously stop their discussion and look up at me. They were busy all before I showed up past some invisible line in the sand. Once I crossed that, the chatting stopped and all looked at me. I probably tripped some remote sensor. I understand that these guys are all about information sharing. Momma Pronghorn and her yearling were catching up on all the news from “up north” The Geese may have been raised around here or just in transit. They didn’t mention the specifics of their travel to me. I’m sure they got back to the gossip right after my passing. 😜
The Canada Geese get around thousands of miles while the Pronghorn Migrate 30 miles south to winter. The Thunderbasin National Grasslands are their winter range. Come Spring they head out in all directions. I suspect they head back to where they were born but I may be wrong. The Geese sure return to their birth place after migration. It’s all about networking I suspect…..
On a Personal Note:…..
I personally think they were talking about how empty the roads/airways were with all the humans bugging in. 👀
We hope you are all isolating yourselves for at least a full two weeks. Let’s slow the peak case load and spread that peak over a longer period. The trenches of this are at the hospitals. It’s up to us to keep healthy long enough so the case load doesn’t totally collapse the system. If the rest of the country is going through the motions of trying to save ourselves and the medical systems from total collapse, we’re going to have to go along. Please young people, isolate yourself, use bandwidth and play video games. Keep social isolation rules. Keep this stuff from spreading.
There are several families living in our compound here at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. We all keep separate from each other for probably the next month and two weeks MORE IF anyone has to go to town. I’m going to miss fresh milk but powdered will just have to do. We contact UPS or Fed Ex with gloves on. Lysol things we have to look at fast, the rest of the mail can sit for a week or so. Let any bad bugs die in the dry UV rich desert we have here. Too windy to spread it out in the sun…… Wash your hands out there in the world folks.
The Chinese Ring Neck Pheasant a shy forest bird imported from Asia. It is still well adapted to open prairie. Initially introduced as a game bird in many places across the globe, it has been widely cultivated here in the United States.
I hunted these on hedge rows of Central Illinois as a young child with a .410 shot gun with my dad/uncle who always used 12 guage. I always thought my dad had better shooting skills. Now I realize that the 12 guage has WAY more shot and generally more punch than a .410. Now I know I had a handicap at the time. Kid’s get no respect lolol. Most people don’t want to compete against me now with something like a Ruger Red Label shooting skeet lol. I’m not nearly as proficient as I was in my 40’s and 50’s. Just a little creakier and slower responses these days.
I don’t see them very often up here as I believe this isn’t a wet enough environment for them. They are noted by me around 300 feet lower than my place down at some local lakes. I can count the number of pheasants I’ve seen on my ranch on one hand. I see them once a week down at lower elevations. My place seems to be mostly habituated by Sharp Tailed Grouse and not the imported bird. Too rough for them up here apparently.
Location: a few miles from and 300 feet lower than: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Golden Warbler Foraging. Part of the joy of my job is I get to see odd things occur now and then (OK, every day). I sometimes consider the other places I’ve lived during my travels. Then I compare them to the 20 years I’ve spent on this wondrous place. Not even close . Magical things often appear in the wetlands in front of me. I am just a stenographer taking notes about the big stage productions in front of me. Click click of the keys of the steno machine or the camera. No difference in effect. The details are in the dark here for this fantasy image. Imagine the mood of that moment in time and space. You could hear thunder rumbling 24 miles out. I can not record all that I see with my cameras. They possess superhuman sight much better than mine but their ability to see dynamic range is limited. It is for instance VERY hard and essentially impossible to take a stars photos behind the full unveiled moon. You could see it with your eye easily. Not so much cameras. Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch,Wyoming/Montana borderlands. Title : Golden Warbler Foraging.
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.
T-posts generally set right posts a “ROD” apart make a barbed wire fence to “spec”. A Rod consists of 16.5 feet from end to end. The right at 50 feet of fence line here is in a perspective that makes it look a LOT shorter. That is literally 50 feet of fence 👀👀📸
As I pointed the long telescopic lens at the fence line, it lineup. I noticed the Meadowlark was still there. I had stopped to take him, reached down to grab the 3 foot lens used here. . Clicking away Icaught this. I think the Meadowlark was as surprised as I was.
Meadowlarks are very active this early in the red light. The sun had been up for about 5 minutes while I was moving between locations. I was headed back as the sun was climbing into the blue sky over my shoulder. Click on machine gun setting which works will that time of morning with all that bright light. (This was a well side illuminated fortunately. 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. They are the state bird for several states in this region.
I have very carefully keyed/ID’d this bird out with Audubon’s guide. It is a straight necked (characteristic of the species) Whistling Swan. They are seldom seen mid-continent away from the great lakes. They breed in the Arctic then winter all along the east coast, but not in the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. I have never ever seen a swan in the deep backcountry. A random encounter of a rare species in these “here parts”. I could have said to it, “You ain’t from around here are ya?”.
This was last summer early to mid warm season. It was a wet summer too so the lakes were full. . I can’t tell you how difficult it is to sneak up on a wild swan on a small lake but trust me on this. It’s not easy even with a long lens. This was a long lens by the way coming in at 2400mm. This guy had something white on his beak. This is not your basic tame swan on a city lake lol.
Now I also have this guy on game trail camera captures over the next few weeks. He/She was probably nesting in some of the remote lakes up here in the borderlands. Most of this country doesn’t get much human activity. Human activity would certainly spook this wild bird. They tend to scoot off if your spotted. Getting this surprised me. I guess a little stealth paid off here. If it was nesting as I suggest, it was a few thousand miles south of it’s ancestral breeding grounds. It is a rare sighting according to the books..
The chill of the upcoming winter was in the air. I captured an old soldier of a wildlife tree. Heavily used by Wood Peckers and Flickers to hunt in for grubs. It oversees/overllows all on it’s high backcountry ridge redoubt. A safe nest for a dozen creatures. Within is a rest from the relentless high ground wind. A rest here for this Great Horned Owl while the rising moon lights up the scene. While dark to our eyes, the extraordinary night vision of the hunting raptor (and my Sony Alpha 7RIV) pierce the darkness. 😜 📸
Did I mention the above is art. The moon just by itself is a 16 image composite. I own the owl silhouette and the snag/twilight photo. Took me a bit to do this well. 🤔👀 (Landscape up to 3×2 feet)
Now the Science:
The owls perception of the night world and need to detect the smallest movement a trait of the species. This would be a real world nocturnal and uncommon encounter. I’m ignoring the limitations of physics and gear to get an image like this require it’s construction in the digital dark room. This scene has happened millions of times however. They would be REALLY hard to catch in the real world. It’d take a heck of a lens to do this at maybe 500 yards out. Having said that, if this ever unveiled in front me in the real world, I could certainly capture the image. That is, if I were given about 5 minutes to get into position/set up lolol.
While active during the day at times, they habituate the darkness and are totally apex predators in this environment. Just to stress the point, none of this would be happening without the moon. (Morning citizen scientist assignment, please google “moon formation”).
The moon is our planets protector. It’s mass around the earth keeps the earths rotation stable. Research reveals that less than 10 percent of terrestrial planets may have a satellite large enough to provide the stability life needs to develop. (This is a big deal and where some genuine magic occurs)
The Mass and resultant gravity is necessary for stabilizing the Tilt of our planet like a huge slow motion gyroscope. Scientists say Earth’s “obliquity”, as this tilt is known, is important to remain stable. Changes in Obliquity have huge repercussions from the resultant environmental reactions. Should Earth’s obliquity wander over hundreds of thousands of years, it would cause environmental chaos by creating a climate too variable for complex life to develop in relative peace. Imagine obliquity such that the South Pole is all daylight 100 percent of the time and the North Pole in 100 percent night sky. Our lunar neighbor has literally made it possible for you to read this as a sequence of events set up in the flow of Space and Time. 🤔📸
I often have to leave very early in the morning to get into position to work a sunrise photographically. The etherial glow I see sometimes in Civil Twilight is a difficult to capture relative to any other object. Thusly all things silhouette. This simple Meadowlark Singing so early might at the onset seem easy to do. Meadowlarks are flighty. Encounters I have with them are all random. If you drive up on one and manage to stop your vehicle without him flying, luck be with you.
My advice is. If you manage to get stopped/ point a telephoto at a Meadowlark. Don’t move your vehicle. If you do, it will fly with a 99.6 percent reliability. (Remember that 83.8326 % of all statistics are made up at the moment)😜👀 Fairly tolerant Meadowlarks are, seeing you, watching you slow down and come to a stop. So WHERE you stop is fairly important. If you go too close they will of course fly.
Musings on difficult photographic environments:
Photographing a silhouette require there to be a subject AND actual light behind that subject. This Twilight wispy sky was not being generous with it’s photons of yet. My cameras (Sony Alpha 7 R series) are low light monsters but there are limitations in the technology. Taking a photo in a dark environment of things that move like a singing bird is usually silly to try. I got lucky with this guy un-blurred as he was moving while singing a lot lol. Razor edge settings. I hate High ISO (camera sensitivity) so I used a very fast f4- 600mm telephoto wide open at 50 yards or there about.
Yet another capture from the network of 28 game trail cameras I maintain up here in the borderlands. Captured at the moment of the hawk strike. I’m thinking this was a bit hard on the “other bird”. (unidentified unlucky bird) while it was sitting on the post. Imagine just minding your own business. Suddenly, it was hit from behind/above. This is the definition of a bad day I’m thinking🤔👀📸
I’m not a hawk expert. The distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I’m betting this is a red tail’ed hawk I suspect somebody knows the answer that will be reading this. Feel free to correct my ID as I’m only about 80 percent sure.
Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). Catching an image like this with a regular camera is highly unlikely . I have never witnessed a hawk attack on another bird anywhere any time in my travels. I’m out in the backcountry all the time. I suspect my presence or the activity of the vehicle I’m in precludes any raptors taking game around me.
Game Trail Cameras captures are all problematic from a photo finishing aspect. I did my best to “fix” the inadequate technology. When they make a really good quality game trail camera, I’ll buy them. Until then, I’ll have to live with these photon traps as they are. I also have an image of him flying away with this hapless meal.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
The hundred year old Parks Ranch I’m presenting here is certainly a historic place. This old red barn in and of itself is a pretty nifty place to see where generations of real cowboys handled their stock. Cribbing horses having chewed on the wood of the pens withing the large structure. Groups of geese flying about the area.
The old house on this property was built from locally sourced wood in the early 1900s. Still habitable of course and a local family lives on the property in an adjacent home. The original homestead a HUGE homestead. Built for 2 families it appears. I’d say 10,000 square feet in the old house.
The property has old Ranch buildings galore with all sorts of thing about you would expect from such a cowboy center of activity. You just have to love a 100 year old cattle ranches.
Stock Trailers, head catches, pens, fences, branding ovens, tack, horses, cattle. Artesian lakes surround this wondrous place. . A few worn horse shoes scattered about mix with discarded or just disused tack from the past. There must be tales about tales swirling about in the history of this old Ranch. Men and Women toiling over the three day wagon ride round trip from Gillette Wyoming and back to home. The flow of time slowly submerges events away from our collective knowledge. What is so important at the time, perhaps a new dress for a ranch child growing up, seems lost in the past.
Location: Historic Parks Ranch Campbell County Wyoming. 4 miles south of Montana but there is Montana sky and mountains in the distance. A few miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.
Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather (only 4 months till flowers up here in the borderlands) When Simple is elegant…
I call these wildflowers Rock Daisies but they are growing on an eastern exposure of a long sandy ridge. Please correct me if I’m wrong on the ID. The soils on ranch are mostly sandy and well drained with exceptions of some hillocks of bentonitic clay soils (gumbo). A Sunny well drained sandy hillside is a prime environment for these. These daisies spread in clumps around the landscape. I’m driving by this remote spot on a two track I might travel on every couple weeks randomly.
Mid-winter I can still smell the summer scents of nearby sage patches pungent upwind of my position. Pollen circulates from dozens of flowering species including many tree species. This is the time of year my eyes start reacting. Something rare here called humidity was in the air at this capture. Taken on a rare mid-day photo outing.
I don’t know which raptor owned this big feather because it might be a small feather from a very big bird. I don’t have a clue how to key a bird on an individual feather. If you do, pitch in your knowledge below please. As to the identity of this feathers owner, your guess is as good as mine.
I saw the occurrence as a good one and thought it worthy of catching it’s photons in my photon capture boxes.
One must leave the feather where it lay as owning/possessing/selling/putting on the shelf in the living room is illegal under federal law. No raptor parts pieces may be owned without tribal affiliation or federal permit. Some old Raptor parts (feathers/bird mounts, claws etc) are grandfathered as antiquities. I came across a great horned owls body a few miles into the bush over a decade ago. I left it lay. It had wonderful claws all mummified by the dryness and sun out here.. Long since they all have been destroyed by the weather. Some laws are a shame but preventing the trade in these birds is the end game of the regulations and it get’s a pass as such (barely with a frown). Letting things decay seems silly but hey, what do I know. It’s a complex issue I’m sure. . The disreputable among us ruin it for the rest of us.
Reference (50 CRF 21.31 of federal Regulations.) Takes a federal permit to hold, move transport any of these. Don’t pick them up. There are serious penalties. I’ve left hundreds of random feathers up here on the prairie over the decades.😔
As Canada Geese migrate, they make nightly stops here on open water which was getting rarer as the season went along. Migration consists of these big birds moving from where there were born, to warmer areas, then back to their birth place.
These geese are amazing birds with up to a 75 inch wingspan weighing between 5 and 15 pounds. Now a 15 pound bird is a LOT of bird. Big Males are nothing to mess with if they are being territorial and habituated to humans in city parks etc. They never stick around up here to give me a hard time so far. They will violently attack any creature that is a perceived threat to their goslings including humans.
The Canada Goose is literally the largest goose in the world. Having said that, there is a subspecies of canada goose that is the smallest goose species in the world as well. The oldest captive goose lived 40 year with 30 years being common in captivity. 10-25 in the wild is typical. They mate for life but if one mate is lost, they will take another.
True Story here on ranch…
I have some experience with geese chasing me. Never fought one. I did however have a confrontation with (captured them by hand) a wild 30 pound bird or 2 before (turkey) that was in our log house under construction at the time with no windows in the building yet. A flock of 1/2 dozen turkeys were inside. Not wanting to clean up the mess, it was my job to get them out…. I went in with safety glasses, a light jacket and gloves. I have determined that turkeys while flying through missing windows do well. Not so much flying out the same windows blanks in a log wall. (to the light). I had to catch each one of the birds Stuck on running around the room from me rather than trying to leave via the window. Dinosaurs all. Just no tail and teeth.
Magpies are cool birds. Lewis and Clark reported that they came into their tents to steel food. At that early time I suspect they didn’t really know about humans. Known to follow hunters to clean up the “leavings” from hunts. They are mostly a western bird with our place being centered in their distribution.
For birds, they are as smart as birds come and I suspect more than one has become a pet. As corvids (the same family as crows), they have runny droppings plus they are big bird. You might say they leave a big footprint… So with that pleasant thought in mind…. They eat about anything from carrion to simple grains, grasshoppers and dung beetles. I’ve photographed these guys on top of deer actively picking ticks off of the deer. The ungulates tolerate them as they get those irritating ticks off of places they can’t reach. I watched and photographed 2 magpies setting up a deer cleaning station one foggy misty morning up in the highlands. Those photos and discussion are elsewhere in my developing manuscript.
Musings on my musings:
If you follow me closely, you may notice I’m writing quite a bit on each narrative consistently over 250 words and more.. With some simple editing out of the redundant from post to post, I’m building a book right here in front of you. Enjoy the process. I’m writing about 1800 words every day average at the moment into these narratives. I now have over 1000 pages with images and associated narratives. . I’m not in a hurry but I am doing 5 images every day with narratives. Coffee table book or 2 some day………
Meadowlark All Ruffled Up ( a bit out of season but surely welcome. I’m tired of the ice/mud this year ).
Taken under EARLY morning yellow sunlight adding a colorcast to the entire image. I was just digging the Orange Lichen on the post. It takes a long time (decades) for that much to grow. The old cedar post could be 114 years old as it’s fairly close to the homestead. There are a lot of very old posts in the backcountry. We have 30 miles of fence that I have done some repairs on a time or two. 😜
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.
Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire (6 months out of season, remember these guys?)
These 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. These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. This guy was jumping around this Yucca Flower frond as seen and zipping about and then back to this place.
He was putting on a considerably good show for me in my portable blind (my jeep at the time) while I had just crested a hilltop in the backcountry. He was flitting around this Yucca like it was a toddler on a sugar high. I just by happenstance had an 800mm camera set up with me that I grabbed off the seat for the fairly close encounter. Several other Males were in the area pretty much just watching the aerobatic display I think as I was … amazed at it’s abilities. 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.
Misty Morning Geothermal Ponds (A MUST for Full Screen)
Ducks were EVERYWHERE taking off that morning for parts unknown but likely south of here. The Cattle Hang here because the rancher feeds them nearby AND there is liquid water. The fog while freezing is still warmer than the air surrounding this microclimate.
This was taken down at the geothermal lakes about 20 miles to my south. There is a deep oilfield (5000 feet) that a lot of HOT water comes up with the petroleum. The geothermal water separated from the oil is treated before it is released into the environment of course. The ponds that are resultant from the field seldom freeze even in the coldest weather. I’ve never seen those lakes freeze over and I’ve worked them for weeks of -20 F degrees weather. The water exits the processing plant at 140 degrees. Even miles downstream, the ponds fed by that run off aren’t freezing yet.
The fog that develops here rivals the geothermal steams that Yellowstone has but here in Cattle Country. This geothermal lake area is adjacent to the ThunderBasin National Grassland in Campbell/Crook County. The water is fine for stock and game to drink according to the EPA controlling the site. Each lake is a liquid water oasis in the middle of a frozen desert for the animals living there. Each lake is also an enormous producer of that fog with warm water under -20 air. The wildfowl that gather here most nights would amaze you. I’ve caught many wonderful images in this area.
Great Horned Owl Hunting …. Familiar here in the borderlands.
OK, you might ask how do I know this owl was hunting?. Well he is sitting 40 feet in the air above my barnyard well after dusk. 43…. err soon 42 domestic ducks hang out there. This is on top of the big light pole that lights the barnyard. I heard him and got on my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which has two very bright LED light bars that are adjustable. So I slowly moved up to a comfortable distance (for me) and started working the scene. He was rather happy with his roost. I eventually walked all the way around him clicking all the time. It’s all handheld and it was very dark but most of the images are wonderful.
A Great Horned Owl is a big bird with plenty of presence. They can live 15 years in the wild and have up to a 5 foot wingspan. The predators body can be up to 25 inches long and they weigh as much as a blue heron at 5 pounds. They are all about claws and beaks though they have some of the best disruptive Camo colors/pattern I’ve ever seen. These guys are easy to recognize due to their “plumicorns” which are feather tuffs resembling horns. . They are not ears. I understand they are the most common own in the Americas. They range from the Arctic to South America.
Interestingly, the male Great Horned Owl is Smaller than the Female but has a much lower pitched call than his mate. “Hoo, H’ Hoos”!
This is not something I see everyday lol. Owls bolt quickly if approached or I don’t see them at all. They also blend in rather well. Magic in the backcountry.
I was quietly driving down low in a wash/gully in my Polaris Ranger Crew. Owls as a whole, stay tree perched. This one was eating a tid-bit of something, perched stationary on the side of a hill/ground. Never got a look at what. He was VERY well camo’d and I just caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. His feathers are a disruptive camo to your eye. Makes you dizzy.😄 The path taken here is the proverbial “Low” road . This ground is a wonderfully dissected steep topography. Low ground between the fingers of the drainage reaching to the higher hills nearby . This forest has the spirits of dinosaur walking about as fossils do roll out of the golden Cretaceous River Sands from the famous “Hell Creek/Lance Formations. here.
It seems to me that all the Dinosaurs didn’t die at the end of the Cretaceous with the meteor/bolide that “killed the dinos”. That Extinction Level Event (ELE) killed 80 percent of Life on the planet . Took place a mere 66 million years back if you believe a geologist/paleontologist. MOST dinosaurs did indeed die but the ones that did’nt had feathers, a tail and teeth. Their modern descendants are flying around us now. There are two types of Paleontologists. (BAND and BAD). Birds Are Not Dinosaurs and Birds are Dinosaurs. Most are the Latter.
I have a few dozen good captures from this encounter but I have bigger “fish” to fry at the moment lol. . This G. H. Owl.
I don’t see a lot of American Eagles up in this high/dry ridge line country. They tend to hang out around rivers where they are both predators and scavengers. The do overfly and eat road kill. (Good work if you can get it as a raptor). I do see them along the road side now and then eating a fresh road kill. Not many species but man hunts the American Eagle but they hunt a lot of species.
There is an urban legend that Benjamin Franklin lobbied Congress to make the Turkey our national symbol bird. There is of course no evidence of this occurring but his daughter did write a letter (1784) labeling the Bald Eagle as “a bird of bad moral character). The real story was the eagles link to history and how it came to be our national symbol.
Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of independance.Congress formed a small committee of three. Those characters Ben Franklin, John Adams with Thomas Jefferson were the committee. Given the job of designing an official seal would be their task. Those three failed to get a design to pass congress. Bunch of slackers those three probably eh? 😜
Another two committees tried to get a seal for the nation. They failed as the first one did in order. Finally the job/work from the three committees were handed to Charles Thomson. He was serving as the Secretary of the congress. The final result was an artistic attenuation to the best elements of the various submitted designs. By 1782 Congress adopted the design using the American Bald Eagle over other “entries” into this historic contest.
This was a capture from 30 feet away with a LONG 1200mm fast lens. The Prairie Sharp Tailed Grouse was about 16 feet up. . . It was about 3 degrees F at the time. .…I’ve never seen them eat those seeds before so I’m trying to figure out when perch where he did. There are better trees still with fruit on them in the yard. 😵
I was in my Jeep working out the drivers window. This guy and a flock of at least 10 others were hanging out nearby. There is a much larger flock hanging around this year. He was with a smaller division of that group. All the good images I will get of grouse 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 ….
I think this is the only acting photo I have of Killdeer. Performed so much I’ve ignored it photographically lol. They are pretty spooky. They literally live in my yard, nest nearby or on the prairie.. Of course the same injured bird ritual rinses and repeats. Shooting through grass has it’s issues but this is a fun image none the less. Getting within a hundred feet of a nest without a big scene occurring is unlikely. I got lucky with this one.
I knew where the nest was having run across this Killdeer and mate earlier that week. (early summer). I even have photos of the eggs sitting on gravel/grass. Nothing fancy for sure. 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.
Oh Crap a Camera Lens If you had a “Crappy Old Year, this image is important. It’s going to get better after 😉
I’ve raised many parrots (I owned a pet shop in the 80’s). Working very closely with dozens of big birds before. I’ve been pooped on by the best. Big Birds Shoulder birds can really mess up a shirt … This meadowlark is not much different than those big birds but for it’s size. With this I’ve pretty much have all different obvious Meadowlark activities. Eating, sleeping, pooping and singing lolol. Most birds will do this move if they must right before they fly…
I’ve learned that all birds lift their tail and squat just a bit right before…. Note: If you have a parrot or other arm tamed bird on your arm, if the tail lifts, push it down with the other hand. They don’t/can’t “go” with the tail down. . So my timing only looks lucky. While this might be a bad example lol … anticipating a shot can save a lot of machine gunning with the camera. Storing photos is expensive if you do say 50 thousand 100 meg images some months.
Computer Tech Musings: So how do I keep track of and store that many 100 plus meg files? (How does a serious photographer deal with safe backups).
Finished photos are one thing (not as many of them). There are only a few thousand of those at 220 meg each lolol.. It’s The raw files streaming out of the 7 or 8 cameras I routinely use are huge files. There are also many. I like to keep the timeline so I have all the raw files for the last several years on demand. Older than a few years I have to connect external drives to the system.
I currently manage 50 TB of storage devices. Most storage drives I keep off line. All turned off to prevent any intrusion or loss. . I keep a monthly backup off site in a pile of 8 (currently) 4 TB SSD hard drives I keep adding finished work to. As they fill up, I add a new one to the pile and always have a pristine backup of the raw files and the they are kept in a fire safe.
Every image I finish is saved in three separate external hard drives as a last step. I’ve maintained professional graphic stations for 30 years. I’ve still got most of my graphics files available to me. Even those created decades ago available to me fairly quickly. Most of my old images, belonged to clients back in the day. Lots of them around. Can’t use them. But I’ve got a few of my own to work with
Catching one coming in is harder than catching on leaving. Trust me on this 🤔📷
Duck when you hear a flock of about 100 of these guys (Sharpies) flying 10 feet over your head. There is a Large group around our compound that mob us about daily now days. These Sharp Tail Grouse are mooches off my barnyard and there i a pretty big flock that hangs out and about the place. My ducks finish feeding time leaving little behind. Amazingly, there always seems to be a flock of these guys sitting watching for an opening to come in for easy pickings. They are indeed flighty if they see human movement.
It was -10 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.
I’ve worked these guys in 30 below windchill and they just hunker down. As a species they seem to weather the storm quite well. Ranging up to Alaska , (The borderlands or Alaska….. humm, close call with Alaska being a bit harsher environment lol. . As far as I can tell, they care not about snow.
They are heavy birds and fall into powder drifts readily lol. They are fairly plump birds which I consider flying boats. One hitting you would ruin your day. They have come close to me before ..
A famous myth like the Phoenix, a magnificent creature of paradise, a land beyond the sun. . Fatigued from building it’s nest before the sun rise, you notice it’s obvious tiredness. The sun god began to carry the sun up from the horizon to it’s zenith, the Phoenix bends it’s neck back like a crane. It begins to sing a haunting cry that stops the sun in it’s tracks. So beautiful was the song, the sun god stopped to listen to his notes. Upon his resuming his journey, a spark falls from the sky igniting a fire that consumes the nest and the bird. But please avoid worry, it rose again from the ashes reborn young and renewed. 😜
Those crazy ancient greeks thought the Phoenix lived across the straights in Arabia. Living next to a well (paradise in Arabia apparently ), it bathed there every morning. (bird tea I’m thinking). That song stopped Apollo and his chariot in the sky (with the sun), the rest is history 🤔
We’ve seen destructions, creation, life, death along with learning that life in Paradise isn’t all it was meant to be lolol. The Phoenix lived a thousand years each rebirth cycle. Never destined to stay destroyed but to be reborn again. A lesson of time works into the story as well. There are several versions of the story, one where the bird self-immolates lol.
This is from a good Game Trail Camera sitting mostly on the ground. Catching a flock of what I think are cowbirds coming in to a water hole to drink. The only control you have over a Game Trail Camera is where you place it. Love the lens flares …..
These two are the best of friends. These two are thick as thieves they are. About 5 minutes earlier, they were sparring with antlers locked. This image was taken about 2 months before the rut. The time is nearing here. They really were working on building up their necks. Those necks will swell considerably the close to the rut they get.
Biologists say that a Bucks neck will swell up much bigger than this capture. They will swell up to 50 percent larger of a circumference adding more muscle mass. This is all related of course to the Rut which is the annual fight to breed. They live in a world of scents and hormones floating in the air from the does in the group.
I have followed these two around for several years. These 3.5 year olds have known me since the beginning seeing me out on the ranch land taking photos of their childhood and parents. Now they are starting to really accept me as a another grazing animal. I slowly over time carefully approach deer. They are aware of my vehicles and how I approach. I drive like I’m grazing stopping and stopping. No hurry. Might take me 1/2 an hour to get up this close. I’ve actually worked inside of deer herd boundaries before. I didn’t get a chance to do that this year for what ever reason. Everything has to line up just so for a good day of grazing with the Mule Deer. I will see what they do to my new truck that is supposed to be here two weeks before this posts. Running late.