IT was very late Golden Hour Lighting and the sun was settling into a cloud deck. (thus the red colorcast… natural). I had been watching this 5x5x5 bird (5 pound, 5 foot tall bird with a 5 foot wingspan) for 15 minutes. Sitting across a pond literally on the Montana / Wyoming border, he is 50 feet up a mature CottonWood Tree. The Pond is artesian and never dries up. The birds commonly seen in marshlands in the south, are rare sightings in this backcountry setting. There is a Heron rookery on ranch so I see them more than most. This photosession was just 9 days ago as this posts.
The cottonwoods are leafing out. I could only see 1 nest in the tree line where 6 were visible a week ago. I’m worried about the huge wind storm that blew through a few days before this. I’m guessing 80 mph gusts took a few nests out. Hopefully others are just obscured by the leaves of the trees. I looked very carefully to sky other nests but could only make out one. There was a Red Tail Hawk Nest not far down the tree line that I also could not locate in the 15 minutes I was watching this timeline unfold.
Catching a bird of any size at take off is a matter of reading it’s body language. Birds OFTEN poop just before they go errrr launch (no pun intended). Then there is that Squat 200 microseconds before the feet leave the perch. Timing and anticipatory focus. I’m thinking the focal field is 2 feet deep here… maybe 3… Focus a few feet in front of where he is standing…
I left after this fellow flew the coop as the sun was going down and I was a way out in the backcountry. A few miles to go over grass fields in the dark is tricky sometimes…. .
This is not something I see everyday lol. Owls bolt quickly if approached or I don’t see them at all. They blend in rather well. I was “quietly” driving down low in a wash/gully in my UTV. 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. 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. I have NO idea how I saw him… 😄
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 owl 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”!
My 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 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.
These three Great Blue Herons are a mated pair and a third. The pair is busy building a nest, the third is waiting for it’s mate that is off fishing. Perched in their nest for the next few months there. Soon the yet to leaf Cottonwood Tree supporting them will conceal them. Soon hidden behind the canopy of this 50 foot tall tree. They have an amazing view up there until then. Sitting above a lake high in the Montana / Wyoming borderlands.
The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread 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. 😂 Actually there are a lot of frogs and fish in the waters up here and I don’t see them skinny lol. They usually raise 5 or 6 chicks and head out.
The rookery is adjacent to a tall grassy hill such that I can get an angle at the tree top level. This from about 150 -300 yards away depending on the angle. I have some serious good images of Blue Herons taken over the years both sunrise and sunset. This wetlands is one of a few on our remote highland ranch. The lake is a spring fed ponded behind an early 1900’s dam. Water from the Fox Hill Sandstone 200 feet below seeping through a crack to the surface. I’ve never seen that lake dry.
The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of their nesting season on Ranch. I have only seen 4 Herons so far but it’s early. We expect 5+ inchesnow/single digits over the weekend (a week ago as this posts). The Ranch has “left the light on” for others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 6 nests in the trees across the lake from my camera where this mated pair is building a nest. The third is probably waiting for a mate that is out hunting.
The group obviously weren’t worried about my truck as the three were mostly motionless for 20 minutes all through my maneuvering. Left them still standing like this as I backed up to leave. I drove away as the sun disappeared. It seems they just don’t care about my Black Ford Raptor. I have not been much of a concern to these birds. Many local wildlife are already familiar/tolerant to my 3 month old rig. Many see it at least 2 times a day on average.
Natural behavior occurs while I’m in this rig. I just drive around like I’m a grazing animal. Stop, Start, turn, sit a minute. The truck is all black and only a little smelly/noisy. Just like a Black Angus cow :). Going really Slow in a factory “Baja truck”…. only in America.. 😜🤘📸
I approach groups of animals living here on the huge grasslands with respect. If I scare them, I don’t get to photograph them. Of course most wild animals sense your approach early. At my crossing some pre-determined line in the sand, most bolt. Learning where that line in the sand is becomes pertinent towards the pursuit of the image.
I find stopping well back, take a few photos, figure out the light, get your settings up for a quick exit shot, then move. I usually readjust my settings for quality, get the composition set and click. Then go back to settings for speed (faster shutter, more ISO and or bigger aperture/fstop.). Move closer….rinse and repeat until you get the shot. (you might think this is “tough” light to work…. You would be right).
Most of the time with really long fixed (non-zoomable) lenses, I fill the frame, get the shot and leave without causing the animals to move. (Pronghorn excepted since they move regardless). 😜
There are two bird silhouettes in this image. I watched this little melodrama unfold through my camera lens from about 100 yards out. The Raptor on the left.. (I’m thinking a Red Tailed Hawk. Interested in staying overnight there it was. It’s a big comfy Heron nest . 50 feet up the fully mature Cottonwoods with a wonderful sunset going on below this frame off on the horizon. This was happening real time though. Here’s how it went.
The Raptor had spied this nest. He obviously had designs on the roomy spread. I don’t know how long Great Blue Herons have nested in this spot. So things got really sporty between these two with the Raptor heading out for the clouds beyond. I’m pretty sure that nest has been there a LONG time. Wood really decays slowly out here. I would not be surprised if it were 30 years old. It has been there since I moved onto this ranch in 2000. There have been birds nesting in it every year I’ve been here along with the other 5 nests. They have the best position on the tree line.. I’ve seen hawks nest down this line of trees. Smaller Raptor nests are pretty hard to find camo’d in the trees.
I would indicate that that Herons beak could pierce the raptor to the heart. If I were a hake, I would not want to fight a Great Blue Heron. Roughly 5 pounds at 5 feet tall and very capable of eating about anything silly enough to stay in front of it. These guys are basically dinosaurs in the mind of this Paleontologist. They just lack a tail and teeth. Everything else is pretty much there. All the Dinosaurs didn’t die off at the end of the Cretaceous. Some of them, the Avian Dinosaurs lived on. Flying around us today they are. 🤔👀⚒📸
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.
I think this is the only acting photo I have of Killdeer. Performed so much I’ve ignored it photographically lol. They are pretty spooky. They literally live in my yard, nest nearby or on the prairie.. Of course the same injured bird ritual rinses and repeats. Shooting through grass has it’s issues but this is a fun image none the less. Getting within a hundred feet of a nest without a big scene occurring is unlikely. I got lucky with this one.
I knew where the nest was having run across this Killdeer and mate earlier that week. (early summer). I even have photos of the eggs sitting on gravel/grass. Nothing fancy for sure. There is a lot to be said for working out of cars/vehicles. Much better than a regular blinds because vehicles have radios news and tunes. 🤠 The birds don’t care as much for as long. Back to normal behavior shortly if your in a vehicle and park near the nest.
We live 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). They have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks). I follow them all summer through that August gathering season. I might see 30 or 40 of them in a flock at that time. About the time I see them again, I will know that it’s just about spring.
Down in the wetlands, this Killdeer is hunting for goodies to eat certainly. It paused and shook itself and with every feather puffed out. Fortunately he held the pose long enough for me to capture him. 😜
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” live out on the open grassland / ranch land. Seeds and getting water from isolated stock tanks seems to work just fine for them. I keep 4 stock tanks open all year for wildlife up here on our high ridge. They guys have left here by winter having migrated after their fall “gathering”. I’ve seen small flocks of them gather near stock tanks fueling up and watering before their departure for warmer climes. About the time I see them again, I will know that it’s just about spring.
We live 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). They have chicks, (photos of lots of chicks). I follow them all summer through that August gathering season.
Killdeer eggs are a very hard thing to find. If you think you know “about” where a nest is, you’ll have trouble finding it. I am very detail oriented seeing patterns and shapes far better than most do. I’m a fossil hunter of decades of training finding things others walk by. This is such a good camo job that if you look away just for a bit, it will take you a while to “re-find” the eggs. In years of keeping my eyes open, I’ve found more T-rex dinosaur teeth than I’ve seen killdeer nests lol.
This species has an unusual way of egg laying. They actually prefer gravel as a base. They lay all the eggs as they come but don’t sit on them until ALL have been laid. The embryos in the first eggs will not start to develop until the parents start to sit on the eggs. The warmth of the body starts off all the eggs at the same time that way. All 4 embryo’s will develop at the same time as a result. It only takes 24-28 days for the incubation of the chicks. The Killdeer egg is twice the size of a robins egg. There needs to be enough yoke/nutrition to feed the embryo a long time.
Technically the Killdeer is a shorebird of which I have many water’s edge photos of adults. But they are unusual in that they many times will next far from shore. The chicks hatching from these 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 next running around. They are very precocious unlike many birds that are helpless out of the egg. These babies will run around from the start. But birds born ready to go spend twice as long in the eggs. They don’t however, just lie in the nest to be “waited on. The babies are already out sampling food and hiding in the grass or even flattening themselves against the rock using their own camo.
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.
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..
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..