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Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase
Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

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)

Title: Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

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Great Horned Take Off

Great Horned Take Off
Great Horned Take Off

Great Horned Take Off

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.

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

Title: Great Horned Take Off

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Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out
Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Yet another capture driving along remote backcountry roads up here in the borderlands. I saw these two Raptors talking 30 feet apart on a fence. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 20 feet deep and these birds a 20 feet apart lol. The left one is closer to me than the right (rear) one. They took off just after I came to a stop and started machine gunning the 1200mm lens.

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 sizes are an obfuscation.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). I see them….driving along a gravel road, stopping. Then getting out standing between the door and the car with a 2 foot long lens is a chore best accomplished with some haste. Doing so and not have the birds fly off is a whole different encounter. The chances that both birds would hold their ground on a vehicle incoming at 45 mph is small. 45 is the speed limit on most gravel backroads around here. Then have enough time during all that get a camera up and set properly in manual mode. . Elapsed time less than 20 seconds I would imagine.

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

These Hawks look to be both the same sex… Might be wrong..

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

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Hawk Flight Path Composite

Hawk Flight Path Composite
Hawk Flight Path Composite

Hawk Flight Path Composite 30″x10″ triplet (3:1 aspect)

Certainly I am not an expert on extant raptors. I know a bit about Avian Dinosaurs, this is the Bliss DInosaur Ranch after all…. That being said, I “believe” that this is a “Ferruginous Hawk. A single bird along it’s flight path. In other words, this is the same bird against the very background it was flying past. (A composite/multiple exposure of sorts) . (Red Tail versus Ferruginous is a tough one. ). I’m sure someone reading this will know instantly.

The bird is actually below me topographically. It was actively flapping to keep or gain altitude and was on an hunt. Mouth open giving a screech. Camera on rapid fire of 10 shots a second. I was high on a ridge several hundred feet above the surrounding ground. This hawk was actually making enough noise for several birds lol. He was calling so much, I’m sure he was telegraphing his presence to the prey.

This guy actually circled twice which gave me enough time to tweek the camera and catch him on the second pass. I don’t see hawks from above too often. Passing by me twice was a gift from him to me. He must have seen something down there and wanted to check it out twice. He didn’t give me a third opportunity. Hunting appeared better else where. It was soon flying off. Not a bit worried about whether I took his photo.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Hawk Flight Path Composite

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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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Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun
Grackle in the Sun

Grackle in the Sun

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Grackle in the Sun

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Spring Time Heron Rookery

Spring Time Heron Rookery
Spring Time Heron Rookery

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

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

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

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

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title Spring Time Heron Rookery

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Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner
Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Guests for Thanksgiving Picnic Dinner

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Fledgeling Great Blue Herons

Fledgeling Great Blue Herons
Fledgeling Great Blue Herons

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

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

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

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Fledgeling Great Blue Herons

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Robin Fledgeling Personally Close

Robin Fledgeling Personally Close
Robin Fledgeling Personally Close

I took a few images of this Robin Fledgeling Personally Close. He was young and foolish, I had a long lens. The two of us got along fine together. I was trying NOT to attract my resident ranch cat population up into the windbreak where this guy was trying to grow up. Flight was clumsey due to it’s flight feathers partial development.

As I say it was ignorant of this big lumbering smelly noisy human walking around might be a threat. It had drawn a line in the sand as to how close I could get to him or he would flutter off. So I went back into the house and got an 800mm lens that focuses as close as 15 feet. These captures are the result. Macro work with a 2 foot long lens is always challenging. My returning to the area, he was approximately where I left him a mere 5 minutes earlier. I’m not one to complain about negotiations with a wild creature that last longer than a few seconds…maybe a minute. In all honesty, it did take me a minute to find him again back in the pretty thick windbreak.

It looks like “Birdie Sanders” to me. Just perhaps a true characterization maybe not but there is something about the down feathers….🤔😜 It will loose those down feathers pretty quickly. It flew south with all the other Robin Red Breasts (many). There is a good population of them. They compete with Meadowlarks for bugs but the Meadowlarks VASTY outnumber them. I seem to remember that Robins are European imports but memory fades and fails. Anyone know?

I have another images of this birds wonderful face, head and eye floating around posted a few days ago.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana (In the Windbreak west of our homestead.

Title: Robin Fledgeling Personally Close

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Great Heron Needs a Tums

Great Heron Needs a Tums
Great Heron Needs a Tums

This Great Blue Heron Needs a Tums…

I caught tinder loving parent at a moment where he was “gaking” and within a minute was regurgitating some obviously troubling juices. (of course I have that picture but there is enough green in the photo from the Cottonwood. Birds generally feed their fledgelings that way of course.

Researchers say birds have maybe 20 taste buds over the same area that we have 10,000 so I’m not sure if it bothers him much. There are birds that don’t taste very well…( wait for it)…..but there are others that taste very well..😜🐣🦆🐓

Dinosaur Ranch right….. always considering..

These living dinosaurs (without a tail and teeth) pretty much do dinosaur behavior. Which means they hunt about anything they can catch. My view point as a paleontologist….. Frogs, fish, rodents (mammals) just like smaller dinosaurs hunted. The little mammals certainly were on the dinner plate for the distant relatives back in the Cretaceous here on ranch.

I find small mammal fossils on ranch mixed in with the dinosaur fossils. (rare and mostly isolated very small tooth fossils) Teeth of course are selectively preserved because they are hard and survived the fossilization process better than small softer mammal bones. A disproportionate number made it through fossilization, termed “survival-ship bias” (Phrase for the day)

But that tongue…….. Each bird species have tongues that are specialized to their lifestyle and environment/diet. Because the opportunistic Great Blue Herons also eats a pile of fish…. but its diet also includes frogs and other amphibians, reptiles, insects, and even small mammals if they are in striking distance. While it’s pointy dagger like beak has developed for catching prey, an unusual tongue also helps.

No teeth in that mouth though their avian dinosaurian ancestors certainly had teeth lining that mouth cavity. The hunting behavior was handed down generation after generation though and these guys are exemplar walking metaphors to dinosaurs. Some did survive the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous after all… The avian dinosaurs 🤔

Their Whole anatomy is all about fishing though. They even have specially adapted neck vertebra/muscles that enable them strike like a rattler at prey but they don’t usually catch and release lolol. I note that catch and release is a human invention not seen in nature unless you consider cat’s playing games with their prey……

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: “Great Blue Heron Needs a Tums”

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Birdie Sanders

Birdie Sanders
Birdie Sanders

Birdie Sanders was a European Robin Fledgling that was in my back yard Wind Break Woods last summer

Being a baby, his flight or fight reflex was not well developed. He could mostly fly to low branches and get away. Because it’s a baby, slow deliberate movements and this 800mm at about 15 feet was the equipment to have. Any closer would have flown.

This is a full sized image in a 2:1 Aspect up to 40×20 inch at high resolution. He was actually pretty curious about me but I didn’t want to attract my cats to the area so I didn’t linger. I managed to get a “few” images for the portfolio lol. I love the green grass summer bokeh from those ware lazy days of summer. This guy has migrated south already if he survived the summer and the one day of fall. (It was on a tuesday this year).

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Birdie Sanders

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Robin Head On Close

Robin Head On Close
Robin Head On Close

Robin Head On Close is just that. Territorial Robins are in the spring.

Of course I’m mixing and matching seasons as I post these days. This was this year (2019) however. This guy was dive bombing me sitting back in my side yard sipping on an umbrella drink and a telephoto that goes macro at 15 feet. He always went back to the same perch. Telegraphing his intentions is a weakness in his approach. He would stoop just before he leaped giving me enough reflect time to click the shutter. Of course I use a camera giving me 10 frames a second (then) and I just wait for him to fly into my focal plane.

He really didn’t bother me much, finished my sippy drink plus took a few dozen good frames. I got the best part of the deal. My dog was more shook up by the constant busy nature of the bird. His prey drive was wanting to kick in but I discourage that unless it’s a person as I trust his judgement. Good King Corso, 220 pounds…Robin didn’t care and was all Kamakazi in it’s actions. 20 minutes was enough shooting. Half of photography is knowing when to leave the first shooting location and look for another.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Robin Head On Close

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Great Blue Heron Family

Great Blue Heron Family
Great Blue Heron Family

Great Blue Heron Family 50 feet up a CottonWood Tree

This family portrait was taken from about 100 yards out from an adjacent ridge. I’m in my portable blind at the time (Jeep Grand Cherokee). I find that vehicles make very good blinds. Most birds aren’t threatened by slow moving cars but these guys are aware when I move into their ‘territory’. Once I’m there and stationary, they go back to normal behavior soon. Maybe a few minutes of nervous and then they are all back to normal business.

Mostly watching Herons in the rookery is about shift changes. Sometimes it’s hours between comings and going even with several breeding pairs. There is no schedules to it as far as I can tell. Incoming parents switching out with their better half who has been sitting on eggs for hours. The male brought back a belly full for the young this time. It will be the turn of the female next turn around. They don’t spend too much time all three on the nest. Usually it’s just 2 or just the fledgeling after it gets old enough.

Great Herons do best when they are away and free from human disturbance and have areas nearby to forage. This rookery is several miles from any ranch building or human activity. That is except me in my car every few days during breeding season.

Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb these feathers into a “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes. They use the down powder like a towel to remove fish slime, organics and other oils from their feathers as they preen. By applying this powder they protect their feathers against the water slime and oils of lakes and swamps.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Great Blue Heron Family