Pronghorn are the Fasted Land Animal in North America. Nothing else even comes close. They developed these skills/anatomy as a result of learning to avoid predation. It seems there used to be some pretty fast Lions, tigers and other cats living in these hills. Those predators were obviously prolific during the last Ice Ace and before here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands. The most most recent continental Ice sheet (5 glaciations in the last 500,000 years) stopped it’s advance about 20 miles up into Montana from my perspective here on the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. There were LOTS of critters hanging out below the glaciers.
This was captured back in late August when there was some tussling within the local herd. (see how green in August !)
Currently in Mid-winter, Pronghorn have all migrated 20 miles to the south. The Thunderbasin National Grasslands consists of a huge area of unpopulated ground. Thousands of Pronghorn head there in the winter. I drove through there about a week before this posts. I do have some good Pronghorn BIG herd photos from in the grasslands to finish. . My turn around time from taking a photo, then getting it posted is slightly over a week. That is unless I push one into the “line” ahead of others. It’s all telephoto work down in the grasslands. Nothing is close usually and there is only one road through the area that I’ve ever traveled. Vehicular traffic is limited to the main road. Forbidden on the grasslands, big fines for going off road. . The national reserve has hundreds of square miles incorporated.
Pretty much the only large creatures to winter over up here on the remote borderland ridges, are cattle and mule deer. The WhiteTail move down to more reliable water even though we supply it. They tend to be in the valleys for the season not up here.
These younger bucks got caught working out for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Fall Pronghorn Rut. It’s a single elimination tournament with winner take all. These bucks get along most of the year. They may even hang out “down on the corner” together. But this is as close to a full blown organized
So on an overcast Monday afternoon “Down Yonder by the fence line” was a small dojo formed for the purpose of working out and getting “tuned” for the battles to come. These guys were not not yet playing for keeps. The bigger bucks usually take it easy on the smaller males training/ramping up to the rut .It can really be violent when Pronghorn Bucks go at it. This appears more casual for the camera I suspect. This of course is a game trail camera capture from late in the fall (Fall was on a Tuesday this year). From this location in the past, dozens of various wonderful candid captures of both deer and Pronghorn occurred.
All the Pronghorn are off ranch at the moment. They all migrated about 30 miles south to the THunderbasin National Grassland. Pronghorn herds numbering in the hundreds. I had a Old Pronghorn Buck I named “Grunt” that stayed over winter several years but he’s not here this year. He either migrated with the others or in in much higher and greener pastures by his passing. I miss him as I could get very close to him as he was tolerant of me as an antelope can be tolerant.
Not many Western Meadowlarks were singing the morning I got this capture. We are in their breeding area
It was not funny to the Meadowlarks as it was to me. This particular snow made it hard to find a place to alight. IT stuck to everything. Other birds occupied ALL perches in all directions. Worse: No one wanted to walk in the several inch thick sloppy wet snow. It was sticking to everything including the poor birds feet. A favorite perch were the electric wires around my compound.. There are other photos of that as well lol. There were many good captures this day.
Meadowlarks are insect and seed eaters. They are very well adapted to life up here in this remote grasslands up here on the high ridges. I’m sure they time their arrival or departure based on insect availability I suspect. They watch the weather pretty closely lol. The whole prairie was full of Meadowlarks this day and no shelter in this storm. The snow stuck to his feet made me feel better because I wasn’t the only one dealing with it lolol. There is companionship often formed in misery……..
Meadowlarks left this year around early October when winter started and heavier snows moved through. We’ve had a constant barrage of storms with just a bit of warmer relief since. 40 degrees and still is T-shirt weather in this country. We’ve already been below zero this year.
I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item.
The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.
This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.
Raccoon Caught Prowling Infra-red. This was of course a Game Trail Camera capture.
The secret behind captures like this is placement of the camera. Pure dark midnight captures are a process of putting the “wildlife funnel” at the right focal distance from your game camera. Note that the tree in the foreground is slightly out of focus. It got the raccoons face is right on.
By the nature of the type of light used here (Infra-Red), everything is a bit grainy. This is a result of a highly sensitive chip piking up only reflected IR light from the flash. He was caught by surprise by the sound of this particular 360 degree camera spinning toward his position. It usually freezes the animal such that the slow shutter speed is often enough to catch him. No blur is rare in these kind of shots. A moving animal would be a non-usable photo from the motion. A little noise will get their attention. You don’t want them running the other way lolol.
This location was picked because of many animals that travel here. It had worn away the vegetation on a landing down by a lake. I’ll leave it down there for a few weeks and there will be a host of interesting beasties walking down to this spot. I think I have 5 cameras game cameras placed here. This includes the 360 degree camera. Placed here. I went three weeks between checking the cameras. I’m about to pick them all up as this spot floods in the spring. It goes completely underwater by several feet. Water is scarce once the lake freezes over. The closest place is one of my stock tanks a good 1/3 mile up drainage. Conveniently there are 4 game trail cameras on that stock tank lolo. I’ll get this guy over there this winter I hope.
Meadowlarks On Barbed Wire: They were qctually named by Audubon himself noting that they had been neglected by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them though. They are abundant up here in the Wyotana borderlands/high plains . Beautiful Song and obvious Yellow breast lending itself to be the state bird for several states out here in the west. Abundant in their preferred habitat, they thrive here on our ranch as far as I cam see in this environment. They gorged on Grasshoppers all summer. They are welcome here anytime . A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They have a beautiful song and are a little difficult of a subject. Meadowlarks on Barbed Wire is a 2×3 aspect image/
These birds dont mind you coming to a stop when you see them. DON’t move once you stop because they will if you do . There are actually 3 birds here. One is flying off in the distance not counting the other one over the fence post on the far left distance lolol.
They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots. This image is a game trail camera shot. (I use very good Game Trail Cameras that are slowly migrating to the best places over time as I discover the locations that work best at different times of the year..Ninty percent of my encounters with Meadowlarks are at distance. Rarely one will let me into it’s “Personal Space” with my Jeep as a portable blind. This game Trail Camera got this from about 3 feet away with a wide lens. It’s a whole different perspective on these little guys than through a long telephoto lens.
There were a lot of these guys around until the End of October when It got cold enough all the insects were knocked down by the freeze. No bug, no food, and they fly south to better climates.
“Pronghorn Bucks Rutting in the Backcountry” is a wonderful capture from a quality Game Trail Camera. I maintain a network of 26 cameras over about 5.5 square miles of both Montana and Wyoming backcountry as our ranch spans the border.
The Pronghorn were rutting in early October and this is just after the Oct 1 snow melted. Freezing nights already many times. Apparently the Pronghorn like it cool :).
Getting this close to fighting pronghorn would be difficult to do even with long telephotos. This particular game trail camera has performed well but each photo has it’s issues and takes me maybe 1/2 an hour every time I finish one just to get rid of the cheap camera problems in the digital darkroom.
This Doe is bathed in bright Golden Light while it was moving through high grass in front of one of my better game trail cameras. The sun was seriously in the frame and gave me a monster lens flare. Very stylish these days I hear. I see a lot of them in movies now as a (nice touch) in the film). This was a tough light environment for this camera and it did pretty well lol. Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.