These two Red Fox were obviously on the hunt during the daylight out on the open grasslands. Intent on some movement ignoring me entirely. With hundreds of thousands of acres only separated by porous Barbed Wire, they wander large areas. The Unlimited hunting opportunities for them makes a pair like this grow fast. There is a lot of mice this year eating grass that was beat up by hail. These two are likely siblings.
Foxes get a bad reputation for attacking chicken houses. I’ve had 30 or more chickens for several decades now. Never had a fox get them. Currently we are protected by an electric fence barrier to anything bigger than a house cat. Of course the chickens get put away at night inside of the cages enclosure. The ducks are on their own. They sleep under the stars. Have to feed the Owls somehow lolol.
I’m pretty sure based on my observations, foxes are not pests to be shot at but a critical part of the ecosystem up here. Being omnivore, they certainly eat small mammals like squirrels, rabbits and mice. Bird are certainly on their menu list though. Mostly small birds I point out lol. A large part of the red fox’s diet is made up bugs and other invertebrates. Even crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and crayfish. Most don’t know they eat berries and grass for their fruit/ grains on the food pyramid. Tough world up here as there isn’t a convenience store on the corner to get a drum stick and a bag of chips after all.
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. 😀
I’ve pretty fast with a long lens but keeping ahead of these canids is a job best left to the Road Runners. Occasionally I catch them with great lenses/cameras, other times I catch them with a game trail camera. The best game trail cameras I use are in the 200 dollar range. The best Sony Mirrorless with a 28 inch long 1200 mm lens is in the 6000 dollar range. Both cameras take images of what is in front of them if the operator knows how to set them up, quickly I point out, and get the shot. One might get this either way. Humm, I wonder which system took this image? Under the right conditions, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.
Quality of game trail cameras is not the subject of this post as much as this hunting coyote is. I know he is hunting because he is awake. Generally they wake up with a “Coyote Breakfast”. Such menu is widely understood as a Coyote relieving himself next to a tree. No actual food for breakfast involved usually for such a creature. They are always chasing road runners fictionally but it real life, it’s all about the next meal. They do chase the original fast food….. Mostly mice and small mammals but they do get into trouble with ranchers and growers of any livestock. Baby livestock is a favorite snack for a pack of these guys.
I run a network of 29 game trail cameras. About 8 of them were inaccessible to me from December 2019 until mid-April 2020. In other words I have thousands of images to go through. This is one such image of a thickly Winter Coated Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes is the scientific genus and species to this largest of the true foxes. The species is not unique to Wyotana occurring across the entire Northern Hemisphere. It is not endangered with a stable population. Looks about 30 pounds to me at 18 inches tall. Beautiful Animal that I’ve only seen a few times in the wild. They tend to be elusive and wary of humans.
Foxes are known for their intelligence with a smattering of cunning in their reputation. Loners and solitary hunters all feeing on small game. They are omnivorous however not being above fruit and vegi’s with a side of fish, and an earth worm garnish.
I place Game Trail Cameras in locations where I believe the wildlings wander and congregate. The only control of these cameras I have besides some general settings are where I put them. This particular spot is more or less of a natural wildlife funnel. I’ve seen this foxes prey walk on this same trail too. Raccoons and probably skunks are on the dinner list though the latter is questionable I suppose lolol. Porcupines are a tough sell but I’m sure the mouse population is a target. Pickings are slim in the last half of the winter up here in the high country of the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. Competition is fierce and unrelenting.
Coyote Hunting the Shoreline .(Game Trail Camera Capture)
There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans. This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀.
I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.
I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks. 2×3 aspect up to 36 inches wide.
Great Horned Owl Hunting …. Familiar here in the borderlands.
OK, you might ask how do I know this owl was hunting?. Well he is sitting 40 feet in the air above my barnyard well after dusk. 43…. err soon 42 domestic ducks hang out there. This is on top of the big light pole that lights the barnyard. I heard him and got on my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which has two very bright LED light bars that are adjustable. So I slowly moved up to a comfortable distance (for me) and started working the scene. He was rather happy with his roost. I eventually walked all the way around him clicking all the time. It’s all handheld and it was very dark but most of the images are wonderful.
A Great Horned Owl is a big bird with plenty of presence. They can live 15 years in the wild and have up to a 5 foot wingspan. The predators body can be up to 25 inches long and they weigh as much as a blue heron at 5 pounds. They are all about claws and beaks though they have some of the best disruptive Camo colors/pattern I’ve ever seen. These guys are easy to recognize due to their “plumicorns” which are feather tuffs resembling horns. . They are not ears. I understand they are the most common own in the Americas. They range from the Arctic to South America.
Interestingly, the male Great Horned Owl is Smaller than the Female but has a much lower pitched call than his mate. “Hoo, H’ Hoos”!
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.
Pursuing Ladybugs with a quality macro lens has it’s rewards. This 18 inch square image with a smooth green bokeh is a favorite summer pursuit. They are usually fast movers, difficult to catch sitting still enough to compose a frame. This one was an exception. It was sipping on the drops of “nectar” from the flowers petal.
The Ladybug didn’t eat the daisy. There were many grasshoppers around, obviously someone seconds before munched the petals. I wouldn’t want to accuse the grasshoppers without any proof ……(apparently outdated morality these days but I digress😟) Anyway, ladybug saw an opportunity to rehydrate and get some sugar. Nature is all about one creature making it either easy or hard on another. This little one is making good from damage. It will go on and eat aphids, scale insects and mites.
Red in nature is usually a warning. It’s a big flag that says they might not be a good choice to eat. Ladybugs blood (yellow) has a foul odor I understand from reading but I’ve never noticed it. I have ordered thousands of Ladybugs for my aquaponic greenhouse. Handled them by the hand full before but never crushed one let alone tasted lol.
I think they are little turtles having photographed them up close and personal for a while. When threatened they “turtle up” and release a little yellow blood from their legs (stinky as discussed above). The red / stinky strategy apparently works as they are abundant up here in the borderlands.
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.
Coyote Prowling on Thin Ice is an unexpected Game Trail Camera Capture. I have 4 good shots of this guy walking by here on 4 different days. (so far).
There are 8 species in the Genus Canis. The Canis we know best is Canus familiaris (common house dog). This Coyote is Canis latrans.
This is a female by the looks of it on other photos.. It’s about 4/5ths the size of a full size male. Males can weigh up to 45 pounds. From what I’ve seen, they can bite you about 30 times per second per second.😀. I’ve known a human raised Coyote and they are a force to be reckoned with if they focus on you.
I’ve always thought that Coyotes were “Wiley”. Hunting on thin Ice isn’t the brightest things I’ve ever seen.. This particular lake isn’t frozen at all at the moment as I type this…. That ice was 1/2 inch thick at most. If she keeps this up, it’s going to mean a cold bath if not me finding a floating clump of fur in the spring thaw.
I tend to 29 Game Trail Cameras currently and plan to expand that network considerably over time. They take very little work but a lot of AA batteries over the network lol. I endorse no particular Game camera as they ALL have issues with photo quality. The way they save .jpgs drive me nuts as I have to fix each and every one I publish. The only thing you can really adjust besides 3 levels of exposure/flash/distance, is placement. Set them on a post or tree and wait. I will have cameras working all winter concentrated where wildlings actually go. Natural funnels and water holes are the easy picks.
Ladybug, ladybug! Fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children all gone. All except one, and that’s little Ann, for she has crept under the frying pan. (tickle child under arm)
Memories of Bugs Now Frozen
Heard that rhyme as a child more than a few times and repeated it to my boy a time or two. It instantly came to my mind when I saw this little one hunting on top of this huge (relatively) Yellow Yarrow head. I have several dozen good bug photos still to finish going into winter. None still outside after all the freezes we’ve had this fall already. It’s going to be…. errrr. is an early winter this year. As I type this it is a sub-zero Windchill outside. Twitter thinks the north pole is over Wyoming/Montana.
These guys are little tanks moving about and are happy as a clam if they have their head buried in a crack with their butt exposed to the world for all to see. The armor must work though. Boy they eat aphids like they are a delicacy. This is a wild one but I bring in thousands for my aquaponic green house to control unwanted pests. I understand that some plants produce food/odors that attract Lady Bugs as they do eat nectar and pollens when their normal prey of noxious bugs aren’t about and available.
I have been known to buy thousands of lady bug for my Aquaponic Walipini Greenhouse that has been up and running now for 5 years in December. Same tomato plant and same fish after 5 years lolol. Handfulls at a time arrive to control insect pests down in that underground greenhouse. This Lady bug is a wild one though.
This is an Adult Coccinella septempunctata Linnaeus, the sevenspotted lady beetle
“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 is another image from that Mantis that I saved from a for sure drowning. I randomly walked past a stock water tank and saw this guy floundering stuck in a carpet of floating algae strings. It took a few minutes to detangle him preferably without ripping his limbs off. he spent the next 10 minutes inside my palm warming up and once released into the jungle like humidity and temp of our underground greenhouse (Walipihni), he started chewing off the algae still wrapping his claws.
This was taken a week after that when he was happily crawling along the tops of some of the orchids I grow down in the Walipini looking for Lady bugs no doubt lol. The lady bugs hunt everything else…
This Killdeer bird (a Plover) is hunting insects at the waters edge on one of the ranches wetlands.. They are fairly ubiquitous up here in the high borderlands of Wyoming/Montana. We live with integrated with all these animals up here. Everyone has their place. These guys seem to be happy where they are whether in my yard or on the prairie. I watch them set up nest (I’ve got egg photos on rocks), have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks), and I follow them all summer through their August gathering season then they are just not here (migrated).. I see these cycles every year.