This subdued sunset brought to you by the soot in the air contributed by hundreds of western wildfires. Hopefully you’ve been off grid and out of the way of these plumes. Such a Pall changes not only the air quality but the amount of solar radiation that makes it to the surface.
This image is my best try to get the scene exactly as I remembered it. The wedge of smoke from various Montana fires were moving this way. The cloud front was forming in advance of the smoke pall with the smoke moving with the front. I have seen this develop before and got the heck up the hill well over an hour before sunset. I figures that as the sun dove behind that jagged bottomed cloud, that shadow would get projected in the smoke below. The result is a fan of crepuscular rays radiating outward away from the sun well above the cloud deck. This is a fairly expansive display. Taken through a very wide lens at 24mm .
This is the second nice crepuscular display I have seen from this years smoke/brown season. They are somewhat predicatable to me but to get the ducks to actually line up is an entirely different matter lol. This would be a nice candidate for a mirror/mirror ART treatment I’m thinking… I’ll have to make a note to reflect this back on itself. I bet a nice face will appear magically.
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 Cotton Wood Trees are freshly leafing. Still some cold days to come and the Cottonwoods flowers were out a week ago. About to test the thinest branches at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree. These birds are roughly 5 pound, 5 foot tall fully grown Great Blue Herons. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing. You can see the wind due to the flowers all blowing from right to left. A 15 – 20 mph gusty wind was blowing. The branches were moving left to right. Sometimes dramatically from the wind that afternoon.
This female had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery. In this pretty high gusty winds, she had to land on a moving target. She nailed the landing as she was essentially levitating not moving and just dropping inches a second. These Avian Dinosaurian descendants are AMAZING masters of the sky. This a shift change with a neighbor watching..
I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building a nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. Identification is usually because the male carries sticks to the nest and I’ve never seen a female do so. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together.
I’ve seen them land and take off in all wind situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down as delicately as spider silk in the breeze. It’s amazing to watch a fine motor skill control stall speed in the single mph digits.
Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
These two could have cared less I was slowly moving in their general direction. They are just starting to build their next with the male bringing sticks to the female. She is the construction engineer of the two. He’s the classic hunter / gatherer. I believe these two killed a Red Tail Hawk I found under their nesting area a few weeks old carcass. Both flew off this AM from the harrassment. So I went to tend to a game trail camera along that tree line. Thusly I drove under the trees in my Black pickup. Screeches above… I watched from a terrible vantage an acrobatic chase routine of Herons getting bombed by 3 Red Tailed Hawks located in this treeline. I’ve seen all sorts of aggressive behavior and posturing between the two different species fighting for the good nesting spots. Raptor/Heron Wars!
I believe these guys more or less consider my truck just a noisy/smelly Black Angus Cow playing Sirus XM 56 most of the time. What’s good about my Ford Raptor is that when I’m moving it runs normally. When I stop, it shuts off to save gas. It is by far the coolest thing they could have built into the truck for photographers.. The vibration from running engines has ruined more than a few images of mine over the years. The Auto-off feature is WONDERFUL. If you take your foot off the brake, it starts before you can hit the gas. It’s all effectively way more quiet by far than my old Trail Friend a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Early in the Spring of 2019, the Cotton Wood Trees were not even leafing. The trees flowers were out. The thinest branches at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree are about to get tested. This bird is a 5 pound 5 foot tall fully grown Great Blue Heron. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing.
You can see the wind due to the flowers all blowing from right to left. A 15 – 20 mph gusty wind was blowing. The branches were moving left to right sometimes dramatically. 10 feet below this frame is this birds mate and nest with several eggs. This bird had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery. In this pretty high gusty winds, he had to land on a moving target. He nailed the landing as he was essentially levitating no moving and just dropping inches a second. These guys are AMAZING masters of the sky.
I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building your nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together. I’ve seen them land and take off in all situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down like a single feather.
Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
The Great Blue Heron Landing Head On here lives in a wide range. The species ranging to exotic places like the Caribbean, the Galapago’s Islands and the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch lolol. Now why several mating pairs (6) hang out up here about 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂
These are Big backyard birds (yes I have a big backyard AND they are big birds lolol). They are 4.5 -5.5 pounds fully grown and can stand 5 feet tall with a 5 foot wingspan. I had one take some really nice KOI fish I had in a 500 gallon tank built into my deck. I had kept these Koi about 10 years outside all year. (I’m sort of an advanced aquarium hobbiest)….
That tank is heated with a trough heater in the winter. I have a LARGE choke cherry bush mostly over the deck tank. I thought it impervious to attack or being seen from above but one of these intrepid hunters saw the water under the bush. It ate about 1000 bucks worth of ornamental big KOI with each one being over a foot long. About a dozen of the (beautiful fish) disappeared I assume over a few days. I never noticed until I saw him by our barnyard pond looking for frogs the ducks might have missed about the same time I noticed he was hunting my backyard (literally). Now our back yard is sort of large at 5.5 square miles here at the ranch but we still have wading “backyard” birds hang out here.
Note: I since have regrown a dozen now 6 year old KOI in that tank currently. Waiting for the next “visit” from a Great Blue lolol. The choke cherry bush is massive overhead of the tank….better design perhaps 🙏
Heron Rookery on Ranch
Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up in the borderlands of Wyotana where these guys nest. I don’t see these birds walking around skinny lol. As a grou of 6 pairs, I’ve seen them raise usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and then head out for places unknown. .
I can’t really see them after mid May when the Cotton Wood trees they nest in leaf out. Their nests are 50 feet up the big mature trees over a lake here on the ranch. The rookery is adjacent to a tall hill such that I can get at the tree top level about 200 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the portfolio with this image. I have many more to finish. This whole winter is going to be finishing images 🙂
As this Bee Approaching the Dinner Table (Hollyhock), I had to anticipate where it was going to Bee.
Photographers notes: Everything is mostly out of focus but the bee. The focal depth at 9 inches (closest focus for this Sony 90mm Macro) from the bee with this lens is perhaps 1/2 inch deep even with a lot of light and high f numbers. Anything in that 1/2 thick plain is sharp, anything else is blurred. Somethings are ultra sharp and others not so much. That is part of the Macro game is figuring out where that zone is and waiting around at very high shutter speeds 9 inches from the “approach” angle to this flower. I was 90 degrees and focused on the center of the flower ….Hang out and wait (remember when it was warm? ) for a bee to come by at a busy landing strip…. Hold that photo-yoga position number 15 for as long as it takes.😄
This is harder than catching flies between two Chopsticks with all due respect for Mr. Miyagi.
A few more bee photos will straggle onto my posting schedules still left over from summer and some reposts over the winter to remember those warm days.
This incoming Great Blue Heron has a photobomber in his approach. The landing pad is 50 feet up a mature cottonwood tree down in one of the ranches wetland areas. Herons are not a common bird up here but they do breed here year after year since I’ve lived here. (20 years). I’m sure I photographed these birds as fledglings years back.
This Flying Ghost in the night was no doubt aware of my ducks sleeping about 200 yards over my Game Trail Cameras shoulder.
Based on What I know about that foot diameter electric pole (at least) behind him…..He’s a BIG BIRD…. 1:49AM as I left the time stamps on this one. Just a few days back. Light of a 3/4 moon…
I really enjoy having the game cameras to give me this perspective on some nocturnal habits. I think this is a large raptor but I suppose it could be the same great horned owl I’ve photographed under better conditions with a “real” camera…
Last post of the day, it’s actually Sunday night as I type this. It will post at 9 on the 25th …..