I find the Moon to be quite a character of note here in the highlands. Seems I’m always finding him sitting down on the job. OK, give it a short break before the climb. I’m sure he belongs to some union giving him 5 minutes ever 30 minutes for a rest. He obviously is not a rancher.
Heck, It’s a LOT of work to climb up with all that cheese to the zenith of it’s orbit. Think of the huge mass that has to be “lifted” over our heads. Yet Again, I caught it sitting down on the job, playing “king of the hill”. This is not the first time I have images of this kind of on the job sitting around. Who am I to question how the moon does his job.
I bet there is quite a view up there. This being a telephoto image of a hill top 400 feet higher than my location on and adjacent ridge. This can be mountain goat country. If there were only mountain goats that lived here. Instead I have celestial objects summiting hillocks holding prime overlook territory.
Wyotana is indeed a magical place. There are many ways to look at any scene, each angle has it’s own story.
Factoid. To determine if it is a rising or a setting moon. :
If the three small craters at 2 oclock are pointing up, it’s a rising moon. If those lined up three craters point to 3 o’clock, then the moon image is a setting moon.
Grazing as a herd left to right across the landscape of our pasture. Right at our entry cattle gate. We are not a large ranch for this area with many operations 10 times our physical size and cattle capacity. This country is primarily Black Angus Cattle Country. This summer pasture can either be a hay field or eaten down by a herd depending on the year. Ranching on a dry year as this is difficult. Add to that the uncertainty of cattle pricing and this is going to be a rough year for ranchers. We lease a majority of our ground to another who runs cattle here in the summer. Trucking them to their other property for overwinter feeding. Living on a land of many uses as this ranch has been my honor.
The ground the cattle graze on is home to the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship (2nd largest team precision rifle event in North America I have been told…. Just another use… Never took many photos here either…
Then there is: Right under their feet are Dinosaur Fossils. Those along with fossils of a portion of the rest of the fauna alive in the rivers. Sand from those rivers formed the ground here. Derived from those sediments, sand and minerals enable the grass to grow. Mountains west of the BigHorns that are no longer there supplied it. Sand in the form of a 700 foot thick blanket of river sand spread over 5 states and into Canada. Mostly these Dinosaur fossil bearing formations are underground, here it makes the soil the cattle feed over. I’ve actually found Dinosaur bones sitting in the grass up here. Vertebra a foot in diameter kind of fossil bones in the grass. Maybe the Sign in the image should say “Large Livestock”. 😜 📷
The semi-arid region of the border region between these two great states is “blessed”. All it’s share of winds falling off the high country is standard here. Yellowstone is 7000+ feet on the plateau. The BigHorn Mountains are 13000 feet. They wring the moisture out of our air often. Air flows freely off the Rocky Mountain highlands to our west with a 12 mph average windspeed on an exposed location.
When the air is moving by you at 35 mph or more, your being buffeted certainly. This fellow for what ever reason, turned at right angles to the breeze. It might be a result of picking the wrong branch lol. Normal Meadowlark behavior is to face aerodynamically face into the wind. Seldom do I see a bird fighting it this for long.
I personally find it hard enough to work a steady camera inside a vehicle on a windy day. So the truck is “lurching” too and fro with the gusty daily breeze around here. Imagine a branch moving back and forth 3 or 4 inches in various oscillatory motions. The birds seem to go through all sorts of gymnastics under the onslaught of the atmospheric tide. The weather has been “changeable” here bouts of late. Many a weather front with significant pressure difference exacerbate this high countries tendency toward a good breeze anyway.
The feathers are certainly kerfluffeled. It was a warm breeze that day. 87 degrees if I remember correctly (IIRC). 👀 T-shirt weather is a nice change up here..
I watch skies very carefully in the photographic work that I do. I start mentally tuning into an 8:40 PM sunset around 7 PM. Typically I’ll be on some last second of the day ranch chore. Perhaps more commonly, working on a photo in the digital darkroom. Several “go or no go up the hill” decisions are made. All over the course of that last hour. The “Golden Hour” daylight before the sunset. I only had about 10 minutes of late day sun for this capture. I stayed close to the house and never actually left the “infield” perimeter. Rare… So from my “Backyard” of still more of our backyard. 🤔
The remainder or the timeline was darker, this stood out of the pile. The smooth sandstone boulder was moved from the hills nearby. I like to break up my yard a bit. I might get around to planting it some day. It’s dry up there. The last ridge under the sun is 60 miles out from the camera.
Off the the right, leading from our gate “3”, (back gate) travels the county road north into Powder River County Montana. The state line is about 3/4’s of a mile from this buck rail fence I built 15 years ago. The ranch geographically is in both Montana and Wyoming.
Grazing animals I don’t want eating my personal planted landscapes generally stay on the other side of that fence. . You can’t see all the electric wires in this light. Contact with those metallic wires will put you on your butt on contact. It has about 1/2 inch spark gap lolol. Deer don’t challenge it. Plus the inverted V of the fence is too 3 dimensional for them. They can jump HIGH or LONG but not both. It took me a bit of time to build the 260 sections of this buck (ish) rail fence. All by little myself. One have to stay in shape somehow 😀
Location: Backyard of the Homestead at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
For Blue Monday: A mated pair and a perspective with the female being on a post that is a good 3 feet closer to my camera as the left post. (Thus the “Slight” out of focus way closer female). That camera was actually focused between them to get them both “close”. If I focused on one or the other, one would always be way out of focus. So focus between 😜📸 .. (all about F-stop, this was in deep shade and I had no where to go….).
The 6 inch long one ounce birds don’t make much noise in my experience but a little in the morning. Hard to describe. They are fairly small Thrushes with a round head outline and straight thin bills. Sky blue is how I describe the color but are a bit darker on the wings and tail but with a light patch under the tail and it’s stomach. The female just blue on the tail and wing tips.
These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. These guys were jumping around myself in a rare meeting with a couple of neighbors. We were too close to their nesting area…As soon as we changed position, back to business seen and zipping about and then back to this place. He was flitting around, she was watching mostly . I just by happenstance had an 1200mm camera set up with me. They hoover to catch bugs so they have mastered their environment for sure. We are actually a little low at 4000 feet in elevation for them as they are found to 11000 feet up in the hills. The do like our grasslands though. Lots of bugs out there for them to eat…. Good habitat for most insect eaters.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Taken VERY early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. Those tree branches are very close for a telephoto perspective. I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy feathery cloud color gradient already on a remote high ridge.
Getting around in the backcountry during early twilight: Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you have to gain altitude to do so. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation here. Everything else locally is lower. Having said that, we are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). I have to leave considerably before sunrise to get up to an eagles view location as this.. I extend my horizon to 50 miles to the east if I climb the right peaks. This ridge named by me as “Sunrise Ridge” but usually because I’m taking pictures of the sunrise OVER this ridge. Not FROM this ridge as this captured moment in space time presents. IT’s a way’s out from my homestead driving 2 track roads in the dark. I have excellent lights on my F-150 Raptor though.
The Dark Orange Alpenglow is caused by ice that like a gel filter on a theatrical stage, colors all behind it. This is the cause of the color reflected of those feathery wisps of a cloud deck. Photography from the remainder of this timeline was equally as good. Eventually, most twilights gradually taper to a blue morning as the suns light was higher and less filtered by the atmosphere. Blue light invades, shadows ignite with detail and dynamic range. This was early in twilight, about 20 minutes before sunrise that May morning.
I’ve seen a lot of various looks from Mule Deer before. Few this precious as from this doe. It is obvious her look was annoyance with me. I’m patient though and tend to wait out such attitude. It wasn’t long before she was back grazing with the group around her exhibiting normal deer behavior. They more or less are accepting my Black Ford Raptor as just another Big Smelly Black Angus moving across the Prairie. I seldom scare the local wildlife or push them intentionally. I have found that if you pressure wildlife, they will run from you next time you see them. So for me to get really close to the wild inhabitants of Wyotana, I have to be very respectful of personal space.
Most of the Does are VERY pregnant this time of year. The wheel of life is turning seemingly with a quickening in the late spring. The quantity of newborns born at one time assures a new generations. Deer have a few predators up here but human’s riding their machinations account for the majority of deer fatalities. In the two decades I’ve driven extensively in deer/pronghorn country, only a few over a dozen deer have been “hit” by our families cars. Less than one a year average. We have never filed an insurance claim from a deer impact.
Having discovered early on putting a custom made front bumper / crash bar/ deer bumper on any vehicle that will support it is necessary. Cars… no reason to put a 500+ pound chunk of steel on a Toyota lol. The pickups and SUV’s that we own are all graced with a significant steel front end. Hitting a deer at 60 mph or so is no fun certainly for the driver OR the deer. Bright bright bright headlights help too. Being able to see a 1300 pound Black Angus at night on a gravel road is a good thing if you are traveling. Cleaning a deer you hit at speed off your vehicle takes a while. Trust me on this. My son lost a passenger Mirror from swishing past a deer. They do hit you in the side sometimes ☺️
Holy Pregnant Pronghorn. This gal is so pregnant she looks like one of those balloon animals I’ve seen in various cartoons. Just about ready to float above the water hole 4 legs up in the air. Not the fastest land animal in North America at the moment eh?
I’ve taken a few images of pregnant does before and they don’t typically get this big. This may be one of those “does this coat make my butt look fat” moments. Damned if you tell the truth and damned if you lie. There are certain situations in life where there are no correct responses. I’m thinking that within the month there will be three as she has to have a pair of buns in that oven. They usually have twins during a “good” year. It was a long but relatively warm winter for the now miserable mother to be.
Pronghorn birth after both Whitetail and Mule deer in June. That means that by the time this posts, at least a few pronghorn fawns will be scattered around the prairie. This necessitates a great deal of “watching” out in the grass ahead of what ever I’m driving. I’ve seen them in two tracks and even on county gravel roads hiding as a small motionless lump. I’d rather not find one with my vehicle. So for the next few weeks I’ll be treading lightly watching for baby Pronghorn in the grass.
The Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Synchronized Fence Jumping competition (BDRSFJC) is well under way. Last fall we had the tri-outs for the follow up event in the spring. This spring event is much larger usually and involves more animal diversity than the late fall meet. I give the deer in the foreground a 9.5 for form. 9.2 for jumping together…
This group doesn’t quite have the synchronize part figured out yet and doubtfully will make the final cut. Boy are these guys shedding with tuffs of hair falling off each one. Shaggy to say the least. Perfectly healthy.
BDRSFJC is an all “Ungulate” (google the last term) event. I expect some Whitetail to try out but their team failed to show up YET AGAIN !!!. Some creatures just can’t keep to a schedule. This is the second time this year they Whitetails have bailed from a major try out. Now the Pronghorns don’t even like jumping over fences. I read where they can jump 14 feet high but my memory fails sometimes, that might be wrong. 👅
Back to my normal (ish) programming:
I have around 100 good images of deer jumping over fences. This MIGHT be the only triple deer in the air I have in my portfolio. I don’t recall clicking on another with 3 in the air at the same time. I do have a couple of double captures.
I’m considering putting in a synchronized swim tryout down by the lake. We’ll see if those whitetail show up for that.. 😜📸
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 Young buck is still growing his horns larger this early in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. They shed that sheath yearly. I seldom find them… They don’t shed them here, they migrate south and drop them in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers however are bone.
Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . The horn composed of a slender/flattened blade of bone grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. Retained the core is. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter. They disintegrate quickly I understand.
“Clever Girl” my black Ford F-150 Raptor is being well tolerated.. . The local wildlife doesn’t seem to see it a threat. My old Blue Jeep was noisy moving across the prairie. Not so much this new rig. I have spent some good photographic time aside some larger groups of Pronghorn already this spring where I was the one to move away. Leaving them to continue grazing. This is a good sign that these guys think my Black truck looks like a big noisy, smelly mechanical Angus Cow.
Local animal groups are becoming used to me. I already have this spring a few encounters that have given me great captures of these and other magnificent animals. I can occasionally circle even the Pronghorn groups to properly get light plus closer, closer, closer…. Captures like this will make their way into my work flow and get posted. I am currently 10 days out from taking a photo to it being posted. 📷👀
Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare.
Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.
During the Carboniferous geologic Period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.
There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly
I used to do stupid things like go up in the back yard to watch a rain/thunder storm come in at midnight. This was indeed less intelligent than my IQ would indicate my choices might be. Apparently somewhat risk adverse at the time, I was actually driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which while it has a metal roll cage, had a plastic roof. This bolt woke me right up and could have put me right to sleep lol.
Doing a LOT of lightning shots every summer, I ordered “Clever Girl” (my Ford F-150 Raptor) from the factory WITHOUT a sunroof for a reason. IT’s always good to have metal between you and the storm.
Isolated from ground currents probably in the vehicle on rubber…Better than being on foot…. Having said that… I would not like to be under or even closer to that bolt. It felt like an artillery shell being launched. That along with the benefit of being blinded at the same time. Flash bang less than 1 second…
The old “Steel Yard” on the ranch is actually Over that hill. It consists about 1/4 acre of various antique farm implement parts and pieces with a lot of metallic objects. It is roughly 1/4 mile past that ridge line. I suspect the bolt hit a sharp edge there as moist drainage is also over there. I suspect that is where the ground currents went as I noted the sudden lack of Jack Rabbits down there after that too.
That was a very hard core strike from the incoming storm. It was time to go inside which I did post hast having learned my lesson. I’m much more careful now days but working on your porch is about the same thing as the Polaris with the fiberglass window into the metal roof overhead. Inside a vehicle or inside a house with a proper grounding ring around it. Never touch metal in your vehicles during a storm….
This is a 25 second time exposure in pitch black around midnight. Long time exposures at night have unintended consequences. Red and blue colors make pink with both colors being enhanced. The silly long exposure at least with my Sony Alphas give me these hues. I can’t see the real scene of a long exposure on the screen of the Sony to argue with it. This is just a close estimate by the camera of the scene. I just saw a flash… What colors are put out by lightning? All colors…..there was some ambient light from our ranch pole lights too messing the colors up….
Why time exposure? You get multiple bolts with a 25 second or so exposure, ISO 125, f4 to start with… Work from there moving your f stop up a click each shot to adjust to the ambient light conditions as necessary. Review the images for results and pick your poison for the duration of the storm.
I was following this good looking Pronghorn Doe from below. I had a long lens on it quickly stopping in my tracks. My appearing over an adjacent ridge suddenly caused it to move. Here is the story…
Sudden appearances of scary smelly, noisy vehicles always throw a wrench into a nice day grazing in the backcountry. This is not a traditional multiple exposure. It is a digital recreation of the even placing the animal precisely on the landscape as it was recorded. The digital work alone took hours but I like the result. Thought it was worth your time as well…
SO this is ALL the SAME Pronghorn “documenting” each stop over the same patch of ground. From right to left the Pronghorn moved, stopping as the bird captured in the frame flew very close to it. The spooked doe stopped and watched it. Moved about 10 feet and watched me for a few second. From that quick glance she moved into a nervous shuffle only to stop and pee (more nervous activity). A quick circle and she was back watching me yet again. The thought settled in her mind I was a threat sitting there. Thusly she decided to head more to the left, looked over the ridge, evaluated and changed her mind. Quickly zipping back to the right where she extended and left my area.
I don’t do a lot of these….. Art, did I mention this is ART? It’s built on 9 different photographs… 😜📸 2:1 Diptych Digital Composite
The Rain Shafts over the Barn on the Historic Parks Ranch in Northern Campbell County is classic. I used a telephoto shot about a mile out for the perspective across 40 miles of landscape with a 20 miles wide river valley between ridges here. The ridge in the shadows is only about 3 miles out . Weather over the far ridge. The ridge in the pink light is 40 miles out.
This is about 4 miles from our ranch. That direction is the closest drive I have to make to get to an asphalt road. The next closest paved highway is about 12 miles from here. These guys are my closest neighbor at around 4 miles from my homestead.. It’s 70 miles to the closest traffic 3 way light from here. The trip to those hills in the distance would take you an hour. I’ve had meeting I’ve driven to Casper to many time. (4 hours or so drive). Distances are big out here to go anywhere but where you are lol.
The Historic Parks Ranch is now part of a larger cattle association. It is managed under the Trail Creek Grazing Association. Old original buildings out here. In this remote backcountry were certainly built out of locally milled wood. The rough milled wood from cut from the local old grown pines. The original of homestead there is HUGE and finished around 1920 I understand. The 1950’s marked the last updates to the main house. Still utilized for hunters with year round caretakers living on site. That barn is classic.
Location: A few miles from The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
The Great Blue Heron is also know as Ardea herodias by hobbiests and professionals alike. Here it is hanging out 50 feet up above a lake in a big CottonWood Tree. You know, the tiny branches at the tippy top. It was variously gusty / windy that morning at 5 AM.
These are BIG birds weighing in at 4.5 – 5.5 pounds, stand 5 foot tall with a 5 foot wingspan….. They are truly AMAZING circus actors. As far as I can tell they are total masters of their environment!📸 This bird was sitting about 150 yards from my lenses while I was on an adjacent slope I can actually get at nest level on (50 feet above the lake). I gain distance from the birds though by gaining elevation up to them. Leaves will shortly be getting in my way of seeing into their cloistered world.. Soon the curtain will be drawn except for the coming and going of the birds from the rookery here on the ranch.
The rookery/colony is only a 6 nest group along a remote backcountry lake. The only visitors to this place are me and who ever hays the ground around the lake that year. 99 percent of the time no one bothers this area. I have a game trail camera under their nests but I won’t get there for some time as disturbing the nests is not a good plan. I won’t get out of my truck if I’m within 300 yards of these guys.
With all the cold weather lately, this image came to mind that spring isn’t that far away. Spring 2019… Bedded Deer Bucks chewing what ever goodies they regurgitated. … yumm… The grass that time of year is a wonderful brown/green color, the deer have all new coats. Their rapidly growing antlers are covered with the capillary blood vessel rich “Velvet” covering the bone under supplying it with nutrients.
Sometime later in the year they antlers will stop growing. The velvet starts to itch and they will rub those antlers tearing the velvet to ribbons. They will rub on any bush or tree unlucky enough to be in their path. Deer rubs on trees are good signs of deer activity and you can usually tell how recent they were.
Reminder: Photographic Musings (memorize this)
Terms you need to know: (F-stop) is your aperture size. The size of the “pupil” inside your lens. Big pupils (low fstop numbers) lets in a lot of light but your depth of focus is thin and shallow. (the eye is in focus but your ears are not). With a high F-stop number, you get a very deep field of focus/depth of field. The whole face and the trees behind the face are all in focus. This is because a high f-stop number makes a very small pin hole for a “pupil” in your lens.
F-stop is one of three settings you adjust in Manual mode. It is a double edged sword, deeper focus field comes from having a small aperture “pupil” which means less light. Light is what your balancing here. The other two settings (ISO and Shutter Speed) compensate for what your doing with f -stop in this case.
Here we are at the 20th annual fence jumping try outs here at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. It has become an annual affair since I moved here. We have a good attendance at the event. Jumpers high and last minute crawlers rule the field. Being a tight new fence, most chose over as their path.
They weren’t panic’d, Taking their time, waiting patiently one, then the next. All walked away when all had cleared the obstacle. These same deer have seen my rigs all year and could care less if I was there as long as I stay in the vehicle lolol. A few minutes later the sun would have been setting behind where they were but alas the timing was not to be.
They don’t like the human form much..🤔 I’m trying to decide who “Won” the height title over the timeline of all of them jumping, I think the deer in this image wins…. The smaller deer left of the jumper likely to got a rash from the last jump. She was very hesitant to go and balked several times lolol.
Big Male Mule Deer go to 330 pounds and the females go to 200 pounds. The are actually indigenous to North America and are known by those distinctive “Mule” shaped ears. The hear extremely well with those big ears. I suspect they use their sense of smell way more though to detect danger. These guys are herbivores so they are survivors of what ever killed all the MegaFauna during the Pleistocene 11000 years ago.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch about 50 feet from the Montana/Wyoming border
It took me about 10 minutes to drive up this close once I crested the nearby hill exposing my self. . When I approach this area, I slowly encroach in steps. It’s comparable to imitating a grazing animal. The Raptor is pretty quiet. Particularly when compared to my previous clinking rattleing Jeep Grand Cherokee. This new rig is also very Black, dark and stealthy in it’s appearance. Lots of black animals walking around the hills (angus cattle). So my new rig is working very well to integrate into the scheme of things up here.
The various creatures on ranch will become accustomed to that new Ford F-150 Raptor with time. I also worked a herd of deer this same evening getting very close for this early in the season.
The return of the Great Blue Herons signifies the start of nesting season. I have only seen 8 Herons actively nesting so far. There may be some others to straggle in as they work their way back from winter haunts south. There are 7 nests in the trees across the lake from where this guy stands here. (one newly built this year) The male here did just fly up to the nest greeting it’s mate with a 3 Musketeers sword/beak swish caught here. They didn’t care about my approach and were fine in my rear view mirror when I backed up and away to change the scene. (got enough photos lolol).
Great Blue Herons are not common birds here on the high plains but they do come to roost and breed each spring. Our ranches wetlands have our share of Heron Breeding Pairs. These two are sitting in a fixed up nest that still remained from the year(s) before. Breeding/Nesting in the high branches of Cottonwoods is a common thing to see up here for Herons. 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 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.
Absent all winter having migrated to warmer climes, they returned a month ago to start nesting. . These guys were also a football field away from the vantage I had on an adjacent ridge to get this level look at the tree tops. Add a very long lens and you get “up close and personal” if you will. Early on I can see most of the nesting in this 1/8 long mile extended cottonwood tree line. Habitants last year included a great horned owl and chick in addition to the Heron Rookery… I love this place’s diversity of subject matter. Raptors fly about harassing the Great Blue Herons.
I find Meadowlarks a difficult critter to photograph. 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 Ford Raptor as it approached. I stopped literally about 20 feet away. Typically, they will fly but he stood at his “post”. At that close distance, with an 1200 mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. All meadowlarks are “flighty”.
As a group they they have been back in this country for 4 weeks as of this post in mid May. This is a bit early based on what I’ve observed the last 2 decades here.
Meadowlarks were named by Audubon 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. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry near my homestead. There is a lot of grassland up here and these guys thrive in this environment. They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots as this.
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.
This guy is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him. He was very tolerant of my Vehicle as it approached. I slowed to a stop about 20 feet away. I’m not usually so lucky…. At that distance, with an 1200mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a backcountry 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. Genernally not during Meadowlark season lolol 😜
With a pink “Belt of Venus” twilight sky behind, the Male Great Blue Heron brings the sticks to it’s mate. The female builds the next and this is a brand new nest for 2020. There are at least 6 other nests in this treeline for these 5x5x5 birds. (5 foot tall, 5 foot wingspan, and 5 pounds). They are basically dinosaurs without teeth and tail in this paleontologists opinion. Tough light to freeze a flying flapping bird…
Spring time, the trees are just leafing out thusly I can still see these birds in their “bush”. Getting to see nesting activities this late in the game is difficult and changes with the lighting direction. While I’m waiting around for “flybys” and “launches” plus lighting… I’m busy searching this tree line for the Raptor and Owl Nests as well. Earlier last season I got a few long range captures of a Great Horned owl and a “chick” just down the tree line. This is a very biologically productive spot.
I am able to see clearly all 7 nests in this “rookery” at this early date. The female builds the nest with the male providing the “sticks” and other materials used in the construction. They start way early in the spring taking a month to hatch their eggs. It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings. The leaves will obfuscate most of the nests from my long lenses (150 yards across a lake and 50 feet up this Cottonwood)
These large wading birds eat about anything they can catch/spear or otherwise grab. They hunt along the shorelines of the many lakes long the old “Texas Trail”. That trail runs from Miles City pretty much right by this spot as it continues down to Newcastle Wyoming. Most of the old cattle routes eventually head towards Oklahoma and northern Texas. I suspect millions of Montana Cattle Raised Cattle passed by this spot historically. They drank from this spring fed pond and enjoyed the large grassy pastures surrounding. It’s a nice spot to camp out for a few nights you might say 🤠 I suspect the herons were around here then as well….👀. Northern Wyoming/Southern Montana is certainly known as/located in their breeding areas.
These 5 were caught in early twilight. These deer were up watching the sun go down with me. They were ridge lined and I was able to maneuver way below them about 100 yards out and Click…. I know this this grouppretty well as they are seen almost every sunset walking between their grazing area and one of my water troughs. We keep that water available all year (for the last 20).
They are pretty used to me being around but are still quite wild. They don’t come down to greet me you might say but I can get pretty close if the conditions are right….. As long as I stay in my vehicle anyway.
There is a whole little deer melodrama playing out pretty much all year but you really have to watch and pay attention to see it happening.
Remember F-stop? It was very low light. To freeze them in space and time, you need at least 1/200th second for a walking deer. You either give up F-stop (depth of focus) or ISO (camera sensitivity) I gave up f-stop as the detail in the sky behind wasn’t critical….. Though it was sure impressively fully involved with the long wavelenths that made it through the atmosphere. Getting a longer depth of focus is what F-stop does along with either letting in more light or taking it away with higher F-stop numbers.
With perfect light, these three cooperated for a “sitting” for my telephoto. I was sitting about 50 yards out from them in my Ford Raptor and was SLOWLY working my way toward them. I take images as I approach, stop, move a little closer, take some more and so on until I get the full frame image I was looking for. Now it always doesn’t work for me with Pronghorn being as spooky as animals come. The only way I can get this close is by working up to them.
Boy are they Pregnant each and all. Last year was a very good year for precipitation. I never had to start my fire truck (second time in 20 years). So I’m thinking that 2 out of three (right two) probably have twins in the oven. It’s still a while till they birth so I will be keeping my eye open for fawns in the grass when I travel before too long. Deer will birth sooner than the Pronghorn.
It’s that time of year of renewal up in the high country. The green grass is rocket fuel for many creatures. Must be wonderful after dried salads all winter for them. I don’t feel too sorry for Pronghorn since they eat a lot of sage brush lolo.. I suspect their diet is improving rapidly with the oncoming green. The brown season is waning. Long live the green season!☯
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 100 yards maybe. It took a while to close the distance between us as I spied it. I drive like I’m a grazing animal. It looks best to my prey if I stop, start, take a minute at a spot, move 20 feet, rinse and repeat is my “process” at approaching most wild animals I encounter. Might take me 10 minutes so if they are sitting around, you’ll eventually get there I find. I take photos at each stop. Obviously after I came as close as he was tolerating, I started machine gunning the 400-1200mm lens. Click click click click ad nausium. Caught him taking off.
I’m not a hawk expert but I believe this to be a Ferruginous Hawk. 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 underwings are pretty diagnostic 😜🤔👀📷.
Meadowlarks named amazingly by Audubon himself. Noting them “neglected” by earlier birders. Lewis and Clark made note of them as well. The melodic enchanting song is a constant here in the Wyotana borderlands. A Dozen per acre would be my estimate in the deeper backcountry. A lot of grass is growing up here along with the afiliated insect population. These guys thrive in this environment.
The Species is the “State Bird” of 6 Western States!. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me. Wyoming was the 6th and last state back in 1927 to grant it that honor. Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and Wyoming are the list.
They are tricky to get close to and I always pursue an opportunity If I see it mostly with long telephoto shots. I’m often listening to their song driving along slowly around my place. I have found that if I pull up to a bird as close as I dare in my vehicle, if it didn’t fly, it probably won’t until you move your vehicle at all. If you move just a little they are outta here…. 😜 I can count on one hand the number of Meadowlarks that let me move to get a better shot once I had come to a stop. This was one.
This was a very windy day thus the sporty feather-do hair cut and the “cow lick” on his shoulder. It was a 30/20 day. 30 degrees F and 20 MPH winds that morning. He was happy anyway…… First Meadowlark I worked this year. Early bird…
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). 😜
The Great Blue Heron is also know as Ardea herodias by hobbiests and professionals alike. This gal was shore wading out 150 yards out, the sun was setting. You know, a classic wetland scene. Really not common up in this high dry ridge country….. Seeing a Heron out on the ranch is rare unless you go to where they hang out. They are not known for hanging out on the high dry ridges of the grasslands. Fortunately we have several small lakes on the ranch. This lake is a spring fed OLD man made lake dammed up around the turn of the century. Early cattle drives watered here even before the dam was built.
These are BIG birds weighing in at 4.5 – 5.5 pounds, stand 5 foot tall with a 5 foot wingspan….. They are AMAZING circus performers. Being total masters of their environment, they have superpowers!📸 I observed this one through a 1200mm 28 inch long lenses while I was on an adjacent shore across the lake. Watched it for about 20 minutes, finally it took off tired of watching me I suspect lol. The light was fading fast, I’m trying to get detailed shots of a still bird so the camera settings were not quite fast enough to totally freeze in ice the wing tips. Getting at lake level while a spooky bird watches but doesn’t fly way is a good thing :). The rules of Physics and technological limitations again demonstrate they are my masters. (along with topography if you follow my narratives 😜. )
The sun JUST set over my shoulder. The shadow of the ridge blocking the light has moved just off his face as I pulled up. Pink Alpenglow in the eastern sky behind him. Crips air moves down the runnels of the drainage off the ridge crest. You can feel the change in temperature as the warm sun disappeared behind me to the west.
Obviously this was a lucky capture/encounter . Driving deep backcountry and being a photographer is an always an interesting driving issue. Be safe at all times is my rule. You get complacent with the low traffic up here.
Having said that: It is possible at any time that I just might pull over, stop quickly or otherwise change speed. Photographers tend to be a little un-predictable on roads lolol.
I saw this guy sitting on the pine top and managed to stop several hundred feet away with my Raptor turned about 70 degrees to the road about 1/2 in the ditch… Perfect to rest a long lens out the window. I do keep track of what is around me pretty well and any traffic within a mile lolol. . I was out for over an hour that AM driving backroads and never saw another vehicle. This is typical not unusual. I’ve been out hours covering many miles before and not seen another rig pass or be passed. Only ranchers and oil trucks up here (to pick up oil from the fields). Sunset and sunrise hours are pretty low traffic. Most nights I never see another vehicle.
Please correct me if this isn’t a Ferruginous. I don’t pretend to know my hawks but I’m familiar with raptor anatomy quite well. My collecting Raptorian Dinosaur material out of the Cretaceous sands that cover my ranch is a good school.. There are even some fossil bird teeth in the ranch collections from the Cretaceous. Teeth of his old great great great great great … grand-daddies lolol. Fossil names/ID’s I’ve down but not so much the extant raptors. I even drive a Ford Raptor…… (top hat Riff thump thump) I actually didn’t have much time for this capture as I was heading out… Once I got this I was outta there. 😉
To have these random encounter guys stick around long enough to get your camera into play is a gift. I’m tickled to have had this raptor sit for my lens, I drove off with it still sitting there lolol. Knowing when to leave is a big part of working fleeting light. It was pretty over the ridge…..