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Migrating Geese in Twilight Alpenglow

Migrating Geese in Twilight Alpenglow
Migrating Geese in Twilight Alpenglow

Migrating Geese in Twilight Alpenglow

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.

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

Title: Migrating Geese in Twilight Alpenglow

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Snow Melt Flooding

Snow Melt Flooding
Snow Melt Flooding

Snow Melt Flooding

I live up on the high ridges of the Borderlands. About 300 feet lower from my place, this goes one. We’re all in trouble for floods to reach my door. Our homestead sits at 3700 feet. This flooded spot on the Montana border is 3419 feet above mean sea level. The Lowest spot in Wyoming is 3099 feet above mean sea level on the Belle Fourche River. My communication tower is 4013 feet or about 300 feet above my house. . A lot of water runs past this point in the right season.

This from last year showing the result of a quick warm up in March. The snow pack last year was greater at the same time than this year I observe. Drainage funneling down to choke points of course is a recipe for high water. Upstream here covers an area 50 miles long and 40 miles wide in some places. It’s several thousand square miles in the drainage of the “Little Powder River”. That’s a lot of ground with a couple of feet of snow melted down to 6 inches of well packed firn (granular snow) .

The local term is, “the river is coming down”. Now as a geologist, I think of the river coming down as referring to the water level declining. But this colloquial use means the water level is going up. All that water up stream is “Coming down”. I had never heard before I moved up here. Anyone else use this as a term for rising flood waters?

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

Title: Snow Melt Flooding

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Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands
Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands
Iridescent Clouds Over We

Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

This capture was a scene that we as humans could not have looked into. Our eyes have MUCH more dynamic range than the best cameras. It was so bright it would blind you in short order. The camera however has the ability to shut off light significantly. By properly adjusting your 3 setting options in Manual Mode you can see images like this much more than I used to think.

Years ago I used to think this color in clouds was a rare phenomena. Now I know that I just never saw it because I never looked into the brightness. I believe that iridescent clouds as a phenomena is not that uncommon. We just can’t normally see it for all the glare plus our defensive glance away.

This was indeed a very bright scene. Again I emphasize if I don’t have color and detail in the shadows, the camera couldn’t see it. This is because of the cameras inability to see a great dynamic range as our eyes do. I’ll give the camera credit for the ability to look into the furnace like this. This was a perfect sky for this kind of light sculpting.

The wetlands here are holding this ice in reserve. As it warms in the spring, the water trapped with in will start working it’s way down the Mississippi River. The catfish and what ever else that is living under the foot thick ice here waits for the melt. Everything is on hold till green season.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Iridescent Clouds Over Wetlands

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Wetlands Under Crimson Twilight

Wetlands Under Crimson Twilight
Wetlands Under Crimson Twilight

Wetlands Under Crimson Twilight

Living up on a high ridge allows for local streams / drainage incise (cut down) and make deep gullies. This dam was built some time in the last 100 years. I have heard no oral history of it’s timeline. This is on State Land adjacent to my ranch. A pretty good sized lake sits just above this first ridge. The lake pictured here is a wet area below that lake. Soaking water through the sands leaking onto this ground. The water level in the ground is high here. Traveling through this backcountry is a challenge to say the least ….

Mitten Butte, the pyramidal shaped butte sitting right frame . It is not a volcano though we have some volcanic necks in this country (Devil’s tower and Missouri Buttes). Formed because of a resistant to erosion cap rock protects all the rocks under it. There is about 400 feet between this drainage low area to the tip of that hill. 40 stories of topographic relief here. Following this deep gully up stream is indeed an interesting 4 wheel drive as that country is BIG back there. Lots of ups and downs and few straight paths. You have to drive the “topo lines” a lot of the time and go way around things. It’s 10 miles to the nearest ranch in that direction. This is very much hard to travel across this scar in the hillside.

I often drive up into remote topographic cul-de-sacs. I’ll start out, go into an area to travel through, but the ground is such that “you can’t get there from here”. lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Wetlands Under Crimson Twilight

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Reflections over Farm Pond

Reflections over Farm Pond
Reflections over Farm Pond

Reflections over Farm Pond

6 months ago, In a backcountry far far away… (scrolling text talking about Jedi)

Backcountry…. I use the term all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…

This little mirrored pond is 3 miles of bumpy two track paths from the closest county road. The county road is gravel, it is 14 miles then to the closest paved road. It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away.

I find that you “are where you are” when the sun goes down. I tend to levitate to reflective scenes but this I live on a “dryland” ranch. We don’t have any running water except during a big rain. Then we have flash floods lolol. Limited to the gullies fortunately. We did have a 4 inch rain in about an hour during which shin high water was running around the back of my house. So we do get some water dumps now and then.

This lake I have seen run dry before but not this year. We were way above average moisture accumulation. It remains full through totally iced over at the moment lol. (January) . Living in the backcountry tends to boil down life to the essentials. I find that photography, simple is usually better. Wood, Water, Grass and Sun combine for this composition.

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

Title: Reflections over Farm Pond

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Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover
Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

The wonderful scene is another one of my game trail camera amazing captures as the Dragonflies Hunt Mosquitos overhead. This fawn down in the wetlands was in the high grass on the muddy lake edge.. The automatic camera captured it dead center of the frame. Game Trail Cameras us Infra-red motion detection to trigger the shutter and like any automatic camera, will snap what is in front of them. Depending on the lighting, Game Trail Cameras can even take a good photo now and then. This is an amazing shot from one of the cantankerous things.

As I’ve said a few times before, each and every one has problems but this one is a pretty good capture. It took virtually no work to fix the built in image issues of the Game Trail camera. I get captures like this because 1: I run a lot of cameras with 29 currently in the network. 2: I place them in unusual places with viewpoints that are not just on a post at animal neck level. I often put cameras very low looking up or in places like this where it’s obvious by the trails that game frequents the area. Setting a camera up too high would resultsin the capture getting the tip of it’s ears. Properly setting it low in the spring just about promised me it would catch a fawn.

One of the few things you have control of with Game Trail Cameras is where you put them. I could write a chapter on placing game trail cameras.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

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Blue Heron Fledgelings Stretching

Blue Heron Fledgelings Stretching
Blue Heron Fledgelings Stretching

Blue Heron Fledgelings Stretching

It had just rained and the sky had cleared. These three Great Blue Heron fledgelings were about 6 weeks old.

These largest of the North American Herons have a small rookery of 6 nests/pairs out in the Cottonwoods. Nests built high over one of our wetlands lakes. These young birds are less than 10 weeks old and probably more than 7 weeks. They are nearly fully feathered but weren’t flying at that point. They were waiting “patiently” for both parents to come back and feed them. Almost ready to leave the rookery, these juveniles were stretching, flapping and otherwise exercising their wings.

Great Blue Herons always nest within a few miles of their hunting grounds. This colony is around a string of small ponds. I’ve seen them hunt the shores for years but have yet to catch one spearing a fish with that sharp beak. Adults are masters of the air. I’ve seen them landing on branches 50 feet up that don’t look like they could hold the 5 pound bird. These are very BIG birds with standing 5 feet tall. They sport a 5 foot wingspan. Coming in at just a few mph using the wind to literally float down for a landing. Graceful to say the least. These guys will be lucky if they don’t get wet the first time they fly starting over a lake lolol.

As a species they have been flying a while. Their Dinosaurian ancestry is obviously clear in these close up images. Just add some teeth and a tail and you’d have an Avian Dinosaur. They all didn’t die at the end of the Cretaceous.

Square Aspect Ratio. 18x18in

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (the Heron rookery in the wetlands)

Title: Blue Heron Fledgelings Stretching

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Wetland Sunset in the Snow

Wetland Sunset in the Snow
Wetland Sunset in the Snow

Wetland Sunset in the Snow

This location is about a mile below a good sized oil field pumping 140 degree water out, treating it, holding it in ponds until it eventually freezes. With it having been below zero several times already, having an open body of water in the backcountry is an oasis. Particularly this time of year. (Imaged last week) A lot of wild birds stop by and over night here. Liquid water is always interesting to animals of all kinds in deep northern Wyoming / southern Montana winters. Numerous Geothermal ponds exist from deep oil wells in the areas surrounding my ranch but none directly on my place unfortunately.

I love geothermal pond areas for photographic trips in sub-zero weather as the steam generates huge hoar frost needles on virtually everything. The mists in the mornings can be amazing to watch the sunrise through. This is the kind of things I see driving backroads in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana.

As I noticed this, it stopped me from 45 mph and I backed up a ways to set up for it. The speed limit up here is 45 on the county back roads. It only took a few seconds to get back to the proper position for this frame. . I rarely pass another vehicle when I drive around the backcountry. Maybe one car every three or four days of work. Mostly that would be a local rancher either going to town or tending cattle.

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

Title: Wetland Sunset in the Snow

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Blue Heron Shift Change

Blue Heron Shift Change
Blue Heron Shift Change

Blue Heron Shift Change

Here I caught mother leaving the nest. She sat there for hours while dad (right) is considering how to turn the eggs or rearrange some sticks. These nests are amazing to try to do yourself. The male will bring the female sticks and she will build the nest. We have 6 heron nests in our rookery.

The Great Blue Heron is also know as Ardea herodias by hobbiests and professionals alike. Here they are hanging out 50 feet up above a lake in a big CottonWood Tree. You know, the tiny branches at the top. These are BIG birds weighing in at 4.5 – 5.5 pounds, stand 5 foot tall with a 5 foot wingspan….. They are AMAZING circus actors. They are total masters of their environment!📸

This bird was sitting about 200 yards from my lenses while I was on an adjacent slope I can actually get at nest level on (50 feet above the lake). I gain distance from the birds though by doing so….further away. . . They are pretty used to my Jeep driving around and it is a wonderful portable blind. Pairs will change egg sitting shifts at irregular times so sitting and watcing for moving birds can take hours with a small 6 mating pair rookery.

This rookery is a wonderful photo location for long lenses and the trick is not to pressure the birds which I try really hard not to do… I get lots of natural behavior shots so that is the best indicator to me. 😊 Using my Jeep for a blind, Ive been able to observe these guys for hours at a time. 800mm and 1200mm lenses are the order of the day. Long things to hang out your car window. I use a v shaped bean bag on my window for general work but I can tripod too if I have to on that same window.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Blue Heron Shift Change

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Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise
Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

It was cold breezy morning, a walk down by a small remote lake. Stepping over and around various obstacles being the key to staying up right. I spend some time circling the lake and stop here. This HIGHLY weather enhanced piece of driftwood was laying there. It was all beautiful in it’s weathered finest.

This is one of my Close/Far perspectives from the viewpoint of a mouse. I have to think small to see this kind of rule of thirds image develop at ground level. I imagine what the effect is then I employ the proper lens to capture the scene. Looking into a sun while capturing detail in the shadows is one of my favorite things to succeed at. Still inadequate equipment prevents detail to easily be found in the shadows These details in the “dark” came out as the sun was veiled just enough

This lake I have seen run dry before but not this year. We were way above average moisture accumulation. It remains full through the current. Wood lasts a long time up here. It’s pretty dry , as a result, beached driftwood lasts decades. I don’t know how low it took to furrow this log but it was a long time. Living in the backcountry tends to boil down life to the essentials. I find that photography, simple is usually better. Wood, Water, Grass and Sun combine for this composition.

Landscape 2×3 aspect up to 3 feet wide.

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

Title: Perspective Drift Wood Sunrise

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Sunrise Through the Knothole

Sunrise Through the Knothole
Sunrise Through the Knothole

Sunrise Through the Knothole. IT was a crisp cold morning, I was out collecting chips from Game Trail Cameras. I was also working the sunrise as opportunities presented themselves. i went for a walk along the shore or this small lake. The sun was just emerging as the horizon dropped away exposing the nuclear furnace. (Remember, the sun doesn’t move, the earth’s horizon drops away exposing the sun.).

Driftwood can be knot holed and this piece was big enough to stick my camera accompanied with a a wide lens attached. I’m honestly not sure which side of the border this is on as it’s pretty much on the border lol. I didn’t have my GPS with me. I usually reserve that device for fossil hunts where landownership and exact location is a bit.

Photographic Musings:

Thinking like a mouse looking through a window, I take images of natural portholes/windows as I see them. It’s the close/far focus thing that is hard to do photographically. On manual mode, if deep focus is your Priority with your image, think immediately of turning UP your F-stop number. High f-stop numbers set your aperture (the pupil size of your camera) very pinpoint. As small a hole in the lens as possible. This give you the deepest focus (thickness of the zone of focus). Low f-stop numbers give you shallow focus. Maybe a nose is in focus but not your ears. It lets in LOTS of light going big pupil (low f-stop) but you have fuzzy backgrounds. If full image (close/far) focus is what your after, then high f-stop numbers are your playground.

Once you learn F-stop is a double edge sword either taking or giving light, it also effects focal depth. The other two settings are adjusted after f-stop to compensate and balance your light equation. If you learn nothing else from this, learn f-stop means focus depth.

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

Title: Sunrise Through the Knothole

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Western Painted Turtles Sunning

Western Painted Turtles Sunning
Western Painted Turtles Sunning

Sneaking up on Western Painted Turtles Sunning is a matter of patience and position. If they see you, they will dive. I don’t care how far away you are. They consider humans dangerous. So, a proper lens (800mm), a nice warm summer day when I had a few spare minutes and a couple of sleepy turtles. 

The really funny thing about the fly on the turtles shell, it that there are actually 2 flies there. They need to go rent a room. I think there are a few by the hour down in Gillette. 😂😂 

Taken from 15 feet away, I was blending into the background motion of a pretty windy day. Tree Branches moving, lots of tall grass swaying in the wind. . I’m peaking my well camo’d head over a bank VERY slowly. They didn’t sense my presence for some time. I worked them for at least 5 minutes pretty much circling them on one side. You really have to move slowly though. First time you sneeze, your done lolol. I attribute my stealth to the moving limbs and trees all behind me masking my motion. Admittedly, I was moving very slowly. 

These guys make lifelong pets with some living 50 years in captivity. Pet shops sell Western Painted turtle domestically raised babies. I’m sure many thousands have been released back into the wild. Soon after the novelty wore off, many have landed in the woods or a local pond lolol. 

Location; Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Western Painted Turtles Sunning

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Sunset with Aroma Added

Sunset with Aroma Added
Sunset with Aroma Added

Sunset with Aroma Added (Hybrid photo/art perspective)

I have always said, “If you can make a pile of SH** look good with a camera, you could be a photographer”. It’s all about the light/composition not about the subject. (I have posted this before and it’s now up to my “current standards” lololol).

In full disclosure, I added the old bearded mans face in mask profile using Highlights on the right edge of the “pile”. Sort of digital sculpting without any of the biohazard issues 😜 Channeling Bev Doolittle a bit perhaps (no insult intended to her)…… Other than that little area, everything else is un-affected by my machinations/mutation of an otherwise plain edge.

Anyhow, back to the composition. This Perspective is a close/far focus pretty much at water level of a small wetland area. The cattle of course tend to flavor the water. Drinking out of a natural body of water…..not so much of a good idea. Just my 2 cents. For that fact, most lakes…… never mind.

This sort of “encounter” is a common occurrence here in Cattle Country. Many a boot has met a hose as a result of this meeting. I consider this hazardous duty for my camera as the focus distance here is about a foot. Anywhere close to water is scary to me even though I have never dropped a camera from my hands ever. My luck, I’d drop it in the pile and bounce it into the water lol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset with Aroma Added

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Jabba the Owl

Jabba the Owl
Jabba the Owl

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Jabba the Owl

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Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections
Red Wing Reflections

Red Wing Reflections 2:1 Aspect

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

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Red Wing Reflections

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Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset
Canada Goose Nest Sunset

Canada Goose Nest Sunset is a capture

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Canada Goose Nest Sunset