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Mantis on the Last Flower

Mantis on the Last Flower
Mantis on the Last Flower

Mantis on the Last Flower

This flower somehow survived the very early frost we had last week (as this posts). It was on the highest point of the highest remaining flower (not too many left). Between the hail storm in July beating up every flowing plant with a view straight up got destroyed. At a minimum it bruised or at least broke most of the plant up. Just like I have 5 apples on a tree that normally would yield several bushels, I have a few flowers about. The suspicion is that this is high value real estate. All sorts of creatures were around this small bed in a sheltered area getting their fill with the pollen. Bees, Flies, Wasps bugs of all kinds were visiting this island in the middle of a hailed upon desert. The Mantis was staking it’s claim.

I’m sorry to say the cold probably got this one I’m pretty sure. It was a good summer for insects. Particularly grasshoppers. There should be lots of Mantis Egg sacs about. IF I see any I’ll photograph them of course. I have found one in the ranches Walipini Greenhouse already. It’s our 6th generation of them down there.

I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 I was on my knees praying for this shot. However I was all in for good focus as well as a slower subject lol.

Mantis are part of a huge order of some 2400 species under that umbrella worldwide. This is a native Wyoming/Montana species. Though almost all the flowers it hunting have all been imported from elsewhere. Thrilled he was to see my lens coming at him lolol. I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. They might see themselves in a mirror. Patient predator if you ask me 🙂 The are constantly moving back and forth a lot to imitate plants swaying in the breeze. They usually don’t stick around in any one place very long on their rounds.

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

Title: Mantis on the Last Flower

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Just a Smokey Sun

Just a Smokey Sun
Just a Smokey Sun

Just a Smokey Sun

Getting the opportunity to image skies like we have been experiencing of late is once in a lifetime (I hope). I’ve lived in Wyoming for 30 years (10 in Jackson Hole and 20 here in eastern Wyotana. ). I’ve seen wildfire skies from smoke palls before. Never even close to the severity put on display for so many. If you have been living under a rock (not a bad idea these days) of late and haven’t experienced these… don’t. You won’t like it.

There is a very odd feeling associated with living under the plume from major fires up wind for weeks at a time. Having experienced the 2017 total solar eclipse, I have a basis by which to compare. The feeling of the sun dimming is perceptable under both phenomena. As a friend said, “it is like the sun is broken”. Nothing is getting the energy it prefers so even the few plants that are actively growing aren’t storing the sugars they need for the winter. All of the west is under this pall variously through out the last month. Weeks at a time.

The closer you get to the west coast, the worse it gets. There is so much smoke, you can see it from space easily as it whiffs around the globe with the prevailing winds. In a few weeks it will come back around at us from the west again. This will effectively block sunlight and lower the amount of solar radiation we will receive. There are complex relationships involved with local temperatures. I believe the Pall will lower regional temperatures than they would have been without the smoke (duh). Anytime you reflect energy away from the surface, you loose temperature as the sun is the furnace here. Might just be a very cool winter as a result of all this soot in the air. The west coast just put a bit of particulates and CO2 into the air. Forest Management is a good investment.

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

Title: Just a Smokey Sun

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Awkward Fawn Late Spring

Awkward Fawn Late Spring
Awkward Fawn Late Spring

Awkward Fawn Late Spring

Languishing in my “to do folder” unnoticed from last spring was this little chubby gal fawn. She obviously has a lot of attitude. She was all business with her twin just off frame moments before. Now shes prancing about sticking her tongue out. You will notice the rounded belly of a baby that obviously has spent some time on the spigot. Moms lunch counter the two share. They mix that with tasty morsels from the buffet around them. I’m sure there are many good looking plants that tasted terrible though. Learning quickly is a trait of the species but this one is a mere baby when this was taken.

The deer live on what they forage . They are tougher than cattle with regards to eating certain plants. For instance, deer can eat pine needles and not abort their fetus.The turpentine in the pine needles can and will cause cattle to spontaneously abort.. So certain pastures with pine trees are not good winter pasture for cattle. Deer have a very tolerant system to deal with such things.

This fawn I have followed over the summer. This is miss “Perfect Ears” I’ve spoken of in other posts. She is always lagging behind the other two. More curious of things I believe. She is more than cooperative and tolerant of “Clever Girl” driving around, stopping and sitting with a big eye sticking out the drivers window…. I hope we have a mild wet winter… I miss the spring already….

Have a great night all from my workstation here on ranch 🙂

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

Title: Awkward Fawn Late Spring

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Buck Heard the Click

Buck Heard the Click
Buck Heard the Click

Buck Heard the Click

It took me almost 5 months to collect this image from one of the 29 game trail cameras I keep running in the Wyotana backcountry. They usually take relatively crappy images, blurred, too dark or too light, or just off frame. Each and every image I get off a 150 dollar Game Trail Camera has a host of issues that a 3 thousand dollar camera doesn’t. Of course, I don’t have to leave a 3K dollar camera out in the elements either lololol. I have to fix each game camera image I post within the digital dark room. I literally have to look at 1000 or more images to get one that even has a prospect of making it into my portfolio. This is one such photos. This is very close to the camera for it to be in focus in this moderate light.

I’m thinking he heard the “Click/whir/sound of the camera. This particular camera has a 360 degree circle sensor. If it senses movement anywhere around it, the camera literally swings around inside of the gadget to take a photo in that direction. So it makes a little whirly noise and a click when it goes. I like them because they cover a HUGE area from all angles. I can put one 360 degree game camera out versus 3 or 4 regular game cameras. Humm, tough choice…

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

Title: Buck Heard the Click

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Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

Furrow Orb Weaver Underside
Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

So I’m walking around the homestead. It was the last of the reasonable summer evenings. A bit cool. By “happenstance” I was carrying a specialized 2 foot long macro lens. It has a ring of LED lights around it’s periphery. This requires I carry an external battery back to run it in my pocket. You can NEVER have enough light to capture bugs with a Macro camera. More light = Deeper field of focus possible. Hand held capture.

Starting out, I was thinking to myself…what’s out tonight? I used the LED at the end of the lens like a flashlight (which is basically is). Looking for “Close and Personal” creatures out in the dark. Fortunately for me, this fully mature Arachnid appeared floating in mid air near an outdoor light. An old friend….. Catching bugs is a good profession. I’m glad this fellow has a job. It’s ventral view of course with it’s spinerette and the “Alien” (ET) pattern on it’s Abdomen lol.

In this Ultra Close up, I’m using a 2x macro and I’m about an inch from it to get this Macro shot. I suspect it was chilling down at the time and a little slow with summer hot nights behind us now. Well fed it looks. I’ve seen the many webs it’s been building all summer. You either love or hate these guys. Enjoy those hairy legs either way.

Taxonomy: (I believe the ID is correct).

Larinioides patagiatus, sometimes referred to as “furrow orb weavers”
Family: Araneidae / Genus: Larinioides

Larinioides patagiatus (Clerck, 1757)

These guys get around. Found in: North America, Europe, Turkey, Russia (Europe to Far East), Central Asia.

These are ubiquitous throughout Wyoming

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

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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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Purple Petunia in the Dark

Purple Petunia in the Dark
Purple Petunia in the Dark

Purple Petunia in the Dark

Everyone needs some purple in their life at least once a week. Here’s my contribution to that fix…..

This summer, the flowers about had a rough time here at the homestead. Normally I have thousands to choose from. The hot dry weather is not a favorite of anything trying to grow. We do water flowering plants around the place fortunately. Unfortunately the early July hail storm mostly broke plants. Even big planted pots were beat to chunks of plastic leaving a mound of dirt with stripped stalks on them. All but a few of hard fought for flower pots were generally destroyed in the swath of that storm.

Add to that fun, the grasshoppers this year have been horrible. Worse, I recently photographed a Mormon Cricket (theirrrrr back!) A few of our planting have survived the summer to fight another day. This is a shot of a recovered survivor of the night after the hail storm. This flower was just about the “last man standing” here on the ranch. After 1/2 an hour of hail, most plants were shreds of leaves in a pile of ice laying on the ground. This one was in the shade of a tree trunk at it’s base.

Taken at night in very dark conditions with an LED ring around the lens. 100 mm macro.

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

Title: Purple Petunia in the Dark

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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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Mule Deer Family Portrait

Mule Deer Family Portrait
Mule Deer Family Portrait

Mule Deer Family Portrait

Overall it’s a fairly excellent photo from a game trail camera (GTC). Each and every one that I finish takes a lot of attention to detail to fix the issues inherent with GTC images. Finishing them this well takes a LOT of luck. This is Jane Doe and Twins in the early summer.

I’ve been watching them all year and they are currently starting to loose their spots. Probably should name them as they are going to be future stars of my photography. You can’t see it here but one of them has a chunk out of it’s ear which makes it easily identifiable. The other one will present a problem to differentiate from another random doe. No Notches on her. Jane’s left ear is slit nicely which makes her easy to discern in the crowd. I ran across these guys the night before I typed this narrative.

Of late I’ve been collecting most of the “Chips” (SD cards) from my network of Game Trail Cameras (29 currently I think)…I only see some of them once a year or so depending on where I planted it. Collecting them spread out over s 6 square mile area is a chore. So I can’t visit every location in one day. Usually I do this over a week in the later summer. Then I look at THOUSANDS of random automatic camera images (99 percent crap) over several days. Just occasionally I get a good one. This particular 360 degree sensing camera is planted nearby a path to a stock tank that this particular family unit waters. It literally will detect and take a photo anywhere in the full circle (not a panorama). Normally it takes 3 or 4 cameras to properly cover a likely spot.

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

Title: Mule Deer Family Portrait

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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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Jane Doe Just Amazed

Jane Doe Just Amazed
Jane Doe Just Amazed

Jane Doe Just Amazed

Or “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin”.

I am pretty sure there are 100 narratives that could apply to this face. Priceless. I find deer are quite expressive in their looks. Eyes open wider with interest. Ears are like radar to the deer. They can hear you hick-up from 100 yards out. This taken out in one of our corrals which has been un-grazed this year but for the deer. I was standing in my “front” yard within our “deer resistant” fence line. That corral has a water tank that we keep open 24/7/365 for anybody that needs a sip. Nearby gullies provide cover and the huge fields of grass a source of food.

The Mom has already had her fawns (in the corral with her). She just looks pregnant being well fed around the house. She just filled up with water too. They are not stressed up here. They scamper off pretty quickly if so. We have a hoop greenhouse not 50 feet away full of goodies but the 7 foot high electric fence tends to keep most creatures out. Only the creatures that know how to operate the gate, can fly over and grasshoppers get in there. :(. IT’s been a tough grasshopper year on top of all the rest…. 😔

While this is a telephoto image on a high end camera, I do keep game trail cameras by that water tank in this “enclosure” however… I’m about to check them after 3 months so stay tuned for several deer families with fawns. Most mornings very early I see small groups of deer come and go from that water tank. There should be hundreds of good captures.

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

Title: Jane Doe Just Amazed

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Wyotana Hail Stones

Wyotana Hail Stones
Wyotana Hail Stones

Wyotana Hail Stones

These balls of ice (I have big hands) fell in all sizes for over 1/2 an hour in early July. I’ve been juggling replacing vehicles and settling insurance claims. It’s hard to keep up with all the paperwork and the immediate damage repair even a month later. Life on the great plains …🤘

Our ranch had a stripe of hail damage about a mile wide move right over the homestead. Though we had a hail event in 2008 that resulted in a low 6 figure dollar claim, this one is much worse. . It took over a year to repair all the damage in 08. I’d estimate this storm twice the damage with inflation and current costs.

My M813 Military Truck only had damage to the cheap accessory mirrors. All the military glass survived uncracked. No dents in that truck yet lol. I had two antique jeeps under roof but every other vehicle suffered damage including a very nice 1994 Jeep ZJ. Dented for sure. . It caught us off guard. I was up the hill taking photos and had just returned. There was no indication to me anything but a rain shaft was incoming until it was too late to act. Take cover and enjoy the show.

We have found no dead animals from this event here. Several surrounding ranches were also pelted with these balls and equally as damaged in this area. I’m aware of 3 homesteads effected it might be a bit more. That’s unusual for a low population density area. It’ was a big Mesocyclone. It just chose to send the big stuff at us. I’ve seen bigger but not many for as long a hail assault. MILLIONS of ball peen hammers hit the 47,000 square feed of metal roof we have over our buildings. I filmed these guys crashing through the porch roof. (skylights of fiberglass panels between metal sheets. ). Needless to say, it’s a long story lol. We are all fine and thank you for your best wishes in advance.

We will recover. Been here done this. YES the Raptor took roof dents. I didn’t buy a sunroof for a reason. Just a broken mirror, a cowling and about 200 top/rear dents. New vehicle this year…. Liberating, I don’t have to worry about dents now 👅. It will be repaired.

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

Title: Wyotana Hail Stones

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Case of Mistaken Identity

Case of Mistaken Identity
Case of Mistaken Identity

Case of Mistaken Identity

Bee Flies are Harmless to humans as they do not bite. I have only seen this species a few times and they are “Flighty”/hard to approach. I’m thinking I cheated and used a sex lure. I didn’t intend to of course. I had just mounted a fire fighting mattock tool with a yellow fiberglass handle to the racks on the Raptor. The Yellow Bee Fly must have just fallen in love instantly. I had brought my cameras out to the truck a few minutes before planning to head out shortly. Looking over I froze in my tracks. I got my camera and he was still there…..

Holy Crap I thought. I took 3 progressively closer images until he wasn’t in the view screen anymore. This was from 10 inches away or there about. Natural Sunlight just cooking down. This actually makes the capture harder since bug are very active when fully warm. Hair Triggers so to speak.

Those are HUGE eyes for such a small Bee Fly. This accounts for their tendency to fly quickly. These are good bugs too. The adults just sip nectar but the larva eat some bad bugs in your garden. I like to see these guys. They are just not very common in my area. Pretty small is the word…. It might be 1/4 inch eyes to butt. I’ve seen them more early in the spring on Dandelions though.

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

Title: Case of Mistaken Identity

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Branch in Fawns Mouth

Branch in Fawns Mouth
Branch in Fawns Mouth

Branch in Fawns Mouth

I had the high ground AND the sun at my back. I was almost invisible to the actors in this play. One was off frame left. Simultaneously to this capture, a Red Fox was walking through the grass maybe 50 feet away from this Deer fawn. I’m thinking the branch it had in it’s mouth was a peace offering. Perhaps it was a little extra camo to stay hidden. The Fawn was WAY more interested in the Fox than the Fox was of him. Having said that, I’ve never seen a deer fawn standing rock still with a branch in it’s jaws for a few minutes. He was carrying it around like a trophy. He never dropped it as long as I watched him.

I had just a very small window through vegetation to capture this. I watched this little guy for maybe a few minutes before his twin popped out for a second. Then both disappeared into the thicket to the right. The fox was no where to be seen by then. I was working back and forth between them photographing each but have no frame with both. I was working a long lens not a wide lens at the time and this happened very quickly.

So a bucket list item has been recorded. A Red Fox Kit nosing a spotted fawn deer in this light. Now that would be a photo eh? 📷

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

Title: Branch in Fawns Mouth

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Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass
Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

This is an unusual capture of this Pronghorn Buck was relaxed so much. He bedded down as I was machine gunning his movements with a very fast camera. Rapid fire pictures are something I do from time to time. Picking and choosing shots is tricky and you do miss things now and then lol. I’d way prefer to “nuke em’ from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”. (Classic Reference”). Rapid fire cameras that can take 50 high resolution photos in just a few seconds are miracles of technology. They do use up some disc space though lol.

Nice Horns ! This Young buck is still growing his horns larger even this late in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. All others don’t lol. They shed that sheath yearly. I seldom find them… They don’t shed them here, they migrate south and drop them in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.

While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers are made of bone. Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . The horn composed of a slender/flattened blade of bone grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. Retained the core is. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter.

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

Title: Pronghorn Buck Bedded in Grass

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Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonfly Holding On
Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare. Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic Period, about 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous other insects for them to feed on of course.

Currently consisting of around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They not only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.

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

Title: Dragonfly Holding On

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Deer Twins Golden Hour

Deer Twins Golden Hour
Deer Twins Golden Hour

Deer Twins Golden Hour

These Twins I’ve been watching for a while. I surprised both of us popping over a ridge top but they stood their ground. The Raptor instantly stopped it’s motor and was not a threat anymore. They immediately settled down. With a perfect Late Day golden colorcast light in their face, it looked they were enjoying the sunset. That was ongoing behind me at the time but you have to make priorities. It was a clear sky sunset….yawwwwn…..I don’t usually get lovely twin fawns bathed perfectly in the last light of the day. The spots will disappear by fall. I’m not sure of the evolutionary advantage/survival benefit of the spots but it seems to work for them. Usually traits don’t propagate in species if they don’t work / do something.

SO I worked the family unit as Mom is just outside of frame here. These two were following her toward the sunset slowly, in no particular hurry. I drove away leaving them where they started. Being there I was trying to make the Raptor look like a grazing cow. I probably took 600 images of this encounter. There will be 1/2 a dozen finished. Many are similar to the ones before, many are rapid fire next image in the sequence so it’s picking good apples from the barrel in this kind of thing. I don’t have a clue what that sunset was doing lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands

Title: Deer Twins Golden Hour

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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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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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Best Ears Ever Fawn

Best Ears Ever Fawn
Best Ears Ever Fawn

Best Ears Ever Fawn 😀

I often run into wild animal encounters in my truck. It is a black vehicle that these guys have seen a few times now. Usually a white tail mother randomly encountered will run away with it’s fawns. The mother and twin this fawn was with were just down hill from me having passed in front of me on the two track trail. They they stopped and settled down as I did the same thing. Patience and slow movement. Mostly stopping/ shutting off your motor will go a LONG way to calm down the mom. This family unit has seen me a few times thus the patience with my presence. 🌲

This was taken after sunset in very flat twilight illumination so it’s a little odd (at least to me). But Odd can be good and in this case, I suggest a full screen examination of those ears. I have never seen whitetail ears so well defined / patterned inside as this little fellow. I not the most astute observer of deer and maybe they all have this.It was cool anyway. It may be a trick of the low light that I took this under.

You will not the coarse “Sweet Clover” stalks it stands in. They have been decimated several times over by the hails storm that went through here a few weeks ago. I just saw my first sunflower the next morning from when I captured this. There are more to this time line that will be forthcoming. These Whitetail Fawns survived the up to 3 inch hail for 1/2 an hour that did this.

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

Title: Best Ears Ever Fawn

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Baby Peter Cotton Tail

Baby Peter Cotton Tail
Baby Peter Cotton Tail

Baby Peter Cotton Tail

Hey Big Brown Eyes…. 👀 He is well camo’d this year….

So I check my posts every morning. This particular morning the computer that is dedicated to such tasks started looping and became useless. Crashing my FB account requiring a new password. I will post around 6 AM every day if I have my choice. I was out photographing sunrise and didn’t know until 7. That morning. So I spend the next hour fixing all the digital avalanche that disrupts schedules until I fix them. Part of that chore is to drive up to the ranches communication tower.

While waiting around for the computer up there to update (lengthy), I had some time to walk that ridge which yielded this very young Cotton Tail Bunny. It took some stalking and patience to get this close even with a long lens. Now I know there is a hunting season for them in Wyoming and Montana. I’ve never hunted cottontails outside of the Illinois cornfields of my youth. They have been controlled around our homestead by our 6 Barn cats. This one is over a mile away and perhaps outside their range. I still have my original 6 cats that are 7 years old each. They have survived dispite the Bobcats and Coyotes that love your average domestic house cats up here on the high prairie.

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

Title: Baby Peter Cotton Tail

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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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Macro June Beetle Frontal

Macro June Beetle Frontal
Macro June Beetle Frontal

Macro June Beetle Frontal

10 line June Beetles larva eat roots of all sort of good plants so they are a shoot on sight critter. I tend to shoot them with cameras but they don’t necessarily get a catch and release program assignment. Only because they are a marvelous bug from a looks perspective did he survive this long. An inch and a half in length, maybe a 1/4 inch high. I have other captures of this hissy fit fellow.

The species puts on quite a show when you get a little too close or try to handle it. On a general basis I categorically consider them a grump. It’s not much happy here about my big “eye” lens in it’s face. Those 4 hooks on it’s front appendages are to be respected according to him. Waving them like they were big sticks, the still had other legs on the rock. He was standing up telling me in no uncertain terms to “leave him alone”.

This image doesn’t show it but those yellow antenna are made up of layers of antennas. I have another image showing it. This composition was his idea not mine. Bugs are like photographing young children. They do what they want but you can USUALLY get their attention. This one didn’t fly away and pretty much stood his ground if he could. I would look pretty big incoming with a big macro lens plus he would see himself in the lens mirror ….. aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!..

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

Title: Macro June Beetle Frontal

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Dewey Daddy Long Legs

Dewey Daddy Long Legs
Dewey Daddy Long Legs

Dewey Daddy Long Legs

A Daddy Long Legs spider surrounded by it’s 3 dimensional home/web decorated with hundreds of condensed dew drops was a lucky find. Talk about a harmless spider. (I know, some of you REALLY don’t like spiders). Others buy them as pets. I always thought they were too fragile personally as the big spiders crack like an egg. Some of you may not know my wife and myself ran the only pet shop for 6 years in a big college town. Sold that in 1986…. (one of my 9 professional careers). I have sold a LOT of Tarantulas to Frat Houses before. They seemed to like scorpions too. Needless to say I’ve been bitten, stuck, stung, and otherwise generally chewed on for 6 years by all the exotic stuff that went through our pet store.😜 I was much younger then.

Setting the stage:

We are in the middle of a 6 month long drought. That morning was HEAVILY pea soup fogged. The sun was deeply veiled to the point of the fog filter being quite effective at making this possible. Pointing the camera into the sun to capture darker detail is the challenge. Don’t try this with a DSLR camera. Mirrorless cameras won’t blind you in the process. That is a very bright sun at the top. Looking into the furnace as it were.

So when the relative humidity hits 99.9 percent, dew condenses on any cool object. Droplets in the moving air collide with larger drops nucleating around intersections or rough points in the webbing. Anywhere there is a SLIGHT disruption of otherwise smooth air flow, frost or dew will deposit there. That depends on the temperature. For a good google this afternoon, search “triple point of water” in google and see what comes up.

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

Title: Dewey Daddy Long Legs

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Fawns Ready for Feeding

Fawns Ready for Feeding
Fawns Ready for Feeding

Fawns Ready for Feeding

Here are the two Whitetail Fawns that belong to the doe I posted earlier today on my timeline. She was the deer on the curve, very pregnant. Here is the result of that baking project.. two buns popped out of the oven. The trickster on the left in anticipation of a drink at the spigot is obvious. They are oblivious to me as I was in my black ford f-150 (portable blind) 100 yards away and I’d been watching them for a few minutes. Mother had seen me earlier so her approach was more circuitous. She circled around behind a row of trees having started out to their far left. She approached them from their right. It took a few minutes.

Of course the rest of the story is feeding fawns in this deep wash more or less (in their minds) perfectly safe in their world. After all, Mom is there to feed and keep them safe. Actually a doe can kick a humans butt pretty well based on what I’ve seen over the years. Besides internet videos showing deer kicking human butt… I’ve seen deer on deer competitions that would rival anything the MMA can offer. Mom is no push over protecting her kids. Pretty much the only predators they fear are humans and lions. There are Eagles that have taken small deer and these are very small deer. Having a third eye on the sky is good advice if your that small.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands.

Title: Fawns Ready for Feeding

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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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Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker
Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

From my perspective there were about 300 simultaneous activities that were necessary to catch this image. It’s sort of a long list but if you start considering what is involved just in the camera. You know, stand on one foot, rub your belly and pat your head….. Oh wait, that’s a sobriety test….

90mm Micros in bright sunlight, F-22 (maximum), set camera at closest focus, bring critter who conveniently perched on one’s finger into sharp focus by adjusting your finger not the camera. The physics of the moment, while a long discussion in an of itself, was complex. The consideration of which was indeed one of those “simultaneous activities” I spoke of above. How close will the lens focus, how deep is the depth of field. How still can I hold my camera with one hand. . (I could have used a tripod but timing is what timing is). List continues ad-nausium to complete the chore lol. Panic Sets in…..how fast is he warming up but to fly fly away. So much stress……😜

Simultaneously add finding the right colors for the background before the click. I considered a Blue Sky, but thought the green bokeh of vegetation would be best. Of course I was navigating the 3-D world around me with tunnel vision through a 10 inch tube one handed spinning dials with every available finger. Except the finger that was the eventual launching pad for the repatriation of this fellow into his environment. He spent a night in my refrigerator after all. So many things to trip over in this process 🤔 📸 .

This moth is beautiful underneath on it’s wings. Brown on top and pink below. They eat nothing but sap/nectar after they hatch while looking for a mate. They they find a Leafy Spurge Plant to lay their larva on. They eat the noxious weed as a larva. Good for biologic control. Canada brought them in and they flew across the border to the Pacific Northwest to here.

We don’t know what other effects they are going to have on the biome here until those show up in the data. Unintended consequences are the big problem with foreign species introduction into naive populations. Just as in genuine exotic novel species introduced into a naive population causing problems, This is true of genetically modified species (of ANY kind) as well as similar ones from say….. “China”..

This is the 5th in a series of 9 of this fellow.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

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Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Pronghorn Mother With Twins
Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Pronghorn Mother With Twins

Boy this was tough lighting. When the late “Golden Hour” afternoon long traveled photons arrive, there is a tendency for them to be skewed significantly toward the reddish side of the spectrum. The fur colors of Pronghorn I’ve looked at very carefully over the years considering what different colorcast light does to it. This image runs the gamut literally.

Pronghorn fawns seem to be darker than their mother in every situation I’ve ever seen. This is about as red/tan as they EVER are. Even under this red light. Granted I’m just looking at my local population so it’s not a controlled observation. Pronghorn are generally very lightly colored tan. Darker animals are usually made that way by the photo editor boosting the color of the rest of the image. This brings along the coat to the color of a deer. I’ve seen some lighting turn them darker. Shade versus sunlight is another factor. In this image, it was the color of the sunlight that made it hard for me (the photo finisher) to get the animals to look the right color. If I let the raw image through un-edited they would have been VERY red.

All these Pronghorn are females. Males have dark cheek patches. There is still a lot of grass out on the prairie but there are a LOT of grasshoppers happily consuming already dry, headed out stunted grass.

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

Title: Pronghorn Mother With Twins