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Kestrel Landing Pad

Kestrel Landing Pad
Kestrel Landing Pad

Kestrel Landing Pad

The smallest of the North American Falcons decided to stop by the other day. This is actually the second of 4 images from this timeline. I have yet to publish the other two. I work multiple quality timeline images as this into my portfolio over time with a bulk of the raw files still sitting in a “to finish” folder on my workstation. I often get 10 or more really good images of something, just a little different each one. It’s impossible for me to know which is worthy of work and what is less so. As such I often finish several.

The big storm cloud behind was even more fortuitous to me. I rarely see either Kestrel or good storm clouds. The presence of both is welcome. BTW, As I type this, we just got .6 inches+ of rain which is a saving rain so far. We are in a pretty tough drought this spring so far. I’d like to see some more storm clouds AND more Kestrels while I’m at it. lolol. I think the rain now at the end of June (as I type this) is a bit late for the grass crop. Stunted it is.

These are really beautiful little raptors. Their ability to hoover above a target is legendary. I rescued one on the highway once. I believe it lived if it survived any internal bleeds from the trauma that stunned it. I felt better anyway 🤔😀

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Kestrel Landing Pad

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Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying
Kestrel Falcon Flying

Kestrel Falcon Flying

The smallest of the North American Falcons, the Kestrel is elusive to photograph in my world. I might see one singularly in a years work. Usually at a distance and seldom at rest. They have an uncanny ability to hoover with their head motionless. All the while scanning the ground below for any prey movement.

They are not very large at only a foot tall. Somewhere between a robin and a crow in size. They are the most common falcon in North America as well as the smallest . They are aerial acrobats though with the ability to hoover with their head motionless. None the less they are so small buffeting in the high winds here on the high ridges is visible. The vertical slashes on the face are shared by the sexes but the blue/slate wings and brown “cap” head markings are distinguishing in the males.

Kestrel eat a broad range of grasshopper sized bugs up to mice, bats, songbirds and even smaller snakes or frogs. Opportunistic hunters they are. I have seen them hunt before but are elusive to photograph being quite small. I was very fortunate to come up over a ridge top to find this guy sitting on a snowy branch. He spent about a minute and a half after we surprised each other observing me. I immediately stopped on seeing him. It was windy so he might not have heard me as he was up wind. It only took me a few seconds to bring this long lens to the task. I clicked a few images carefully checking focus each time and off he flew off after game. I lost him after that.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Kestrel Falcon Flying

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Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider
Heron Hang Glider

Heron Hang Glider

The Great Blue Heron is a wide spread species. It ranges 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…. We are precisely 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole, or in the Galapagos….hummm Choices. 😂

This image was captured early this summer and the cottonwoods were leafing. I can only see one nest currently. As I often loose track of them as the trees fill in with leaves . Thusly the cover over the nests keeps the privacy curtain up rather well. Not much assistance to me but I’m sure the birds like it.

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. I can’t really see them after mid may when the Cottonwood 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 do.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Heron Hang Glider

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Kestrel Eating a Mouse

Kestrel Eating a Mouse
Kestrel Eating a Mouse

Kestrel Eating a Mouse

About 10 percent of the time I drive by this remote road sign there is someone on it. This time the Kestrel, known as a “Falcon” is eating the head off a mouse. I was driving about 30 when I noted the as yet unknown bird on the post. Middle of nowhere, I had turned sideways driver window toward this guy and had but a few seconds to get the camera settings adjusted as appropriate. I keep all my cameras on Manual Mode. In fact I’ve never used them in any other mode so I do take a bit longer. If I’m driving I’m preset the camera but it still takes a few seconds….

The lighting was horrible to get this with the bright sun down behind the road sigh/post. This side of the very small raptor was in deep shadow. I dig details out of shadows as a matter of course in my photography but this one was a tough one. This is the best of 6 images he was patient enough to let me get prior to his departure. He didn’t even leave me a snack from his tasty morsel. IF I were on the other side of this bird with the light there, holy smokes would that have been a bucket list item. These are really beautiful little birds. The ability to hoover above a target is legendary. I rescued one on the highway once. I believe it lived if it survived any internal bleeds from the trauma that stunned it. I felt better anyway 🤔😀

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Kestrel Eating a Mouse

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Great Blue Heron Wingspan

Great Blue Heron Wingspan
Great Blue Heron Wingspan

Great Blue Heron Wingspan

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 missing Great Horned Owl Nest 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. Earlier this season before leaves are in the way, I am able to see clearly all 6 nests in this “rookery”. 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. They are sitting on eggs currently It’s just about when the leaves start budding out on the Cottonwoods when I start seeing fledgelings.

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.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Great Blue Heron Wingspan

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Kestrel Sizing Up Photographer

Kestrel Sizing Up Photographer
Kestrel Sizing Up Photographer

Kestrel Sizing Up Photographer

I have not photographed many American Kestrels in my travels. They are not very large at only a foot tall. Somewhere between a robin and a crow in size. They are the most common falcon in North America as well as the smallest . They are aerial acrobats though with the ability to hoover with their head motionless. None the less they are so small buffeting in the high winds here on the high ridges is visible. The vertical slashes on the face are shared by the sexes but the blue/slate wings and brown “cap” head markings are distinguishing in the males. (Update: This has been identified by a much better raptor ID’er than I as a Swainson’s Hawk. )

Kestrel eat a broad range of grasshopper sized bugs up to mice, bats, songbirds and even smaller snakes or frogs. Opportunistic hunters they are. I have seen them hunt before but are elusive to photograph being quite small. I was very fortunate to come up over a ridge top to find this guy sitting on a snowy branch. He spent about a minute and a half after we surprised each other observing me. I immediately stopped on seeing him. It was windy so he might not have heard me as he was up wind. It only took me a few seconds to bring this long lens to the task. I clicked a few images carefully checking focus each time and off he flew with speed. Apparently not happy with the surprise and this big Black vehicle. That’s 1….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Kestrel Sizing Up Photographer

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Ferruginous Hawk Taking Off

Ferruginous Hawk Taking Off
Ferruginous Hawk Taking Off

Ferruginous Hawk Taking Off

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 😜🤔👀📷.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title : Ferruginous Hawk Taking Off

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April Pink Moon Setting

April Pink Moon Setting
April Pink Moon Setting

April Pink Moon Setting

This Timeline was the first of 2 essentially Full MoonSets over sunlit ground. I also worked a single full moon rise while the horizon was lit by the sun in the opposite sky. Here just the peaks are lit up. . Having clear windows for 3 of these in a month is a very rare occurrence. I consider myself lucky to get one peek a month. 📷📷

Following the moon down… The as the horizon climbs, the moon will slide down and right into the notch between those two hills. I have already published that image of just a little of the top of the moon remaining above that notch centered. I followed it all the way down until it was gone. Knowing where to be and when is a somewhat important part of my planning for an evening like this. I wanted the moon setting in that notch.

I had to find a high place with a view that lined up with the setting moons expected compass direction on the horizon. The Compass corrected of course for polar wandering.. The current resultant Magnetic declination is 8 degrees 44 minutes East current at my location. 👀🤔🤘 You can google the actual magnetic declination for your location. Many good compasses have an adjustment. Those that don’t, you have to add this mentally. Other wise your going to be 8.5 degrees off your nav’s.

What a beautiful supermoon.

Because the orbit of the moon around the earth is not perpendicular with the ground, the moon appears to be sliding to the right and down ward. It is indeed moving, revolving around the earth. We are rotating but it’s orbit is inclined. Don’t forget it’s the western horizon that is mostly doing the rising here lol. Two relative motions on going at the same time. Sort of hard to get a handle on it.

The Far Ridge is the “Red Hills” which has the Montana / Wyoming border sliding through right just off to the right of those peaks.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: April Pink Moon Setting

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Ford Raptor April Moon

Ford Raptor April Moon
Ford Raptor April Moon

Ford Raptor April Moon

I will take a photo of anything in Perspective with the moon. The Far Ridge is 40 miles out. My truck/office/photostudio is about 200 yards from the camera. I just love how telephoto lenses CRUSH perspective. This is the “Pink” moon in it’s true shade lol. I guess it was less embarrassed that it has been in past years and just went orange just for this sitting.

From here on down I worked this moon extensively. This April 2020’s Pink moon had a window to it’s rise and set every time near full illumination this month. I seldom get one chance a month let alone 3 terminator crossings in a row while full close to the horizon. This was a rare weather window. I’m about a week behind with most posts. I bring some images forward ahead of the line to finish the same day but not very many.

From my homestead, it’s about a 3 mile two track trip to get to this high point on a remote ridge in Wyotana. This was still 20 minutes before sunrise which would occur over my shoulder. You get a glimpse of that sunrise in the Ford Raptors aluminum wheel. So far this is an exemplary expedition vehicle for me. New in December I have 1200 miles on it with 800 of that being in the backcountry. It is literally a ranch truck that I’ve been known to take into town. I used to go into town about once a month. These days, I have gone into town more than that as I was delivering product from my day job. I work in an “essential” occupation according to Homeland Security… . Nuff Said on that.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Ford Raptor April Moon

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Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Raptor Dive Bombing Heron
Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

Photobombing Hawk. This image is so deep it almost looks almost fake to me but I swear I did NOTHING to this other than some shadow work to bring out some hidden details under the birds wings. The edge detail on those birds is just SPOT on focus as fine as I have ever seen at this 150 – 200 yard distance. The trees behind were blurred (bokeh) as I relented F-stop/depth of focus for gaining shutter speed here. I gained sharpness doing so in the zone that is in focus. The lighting was early morning hard right over my shoulder. I’m thinking the “field of focus’ is maybe 4 feet deep at this distance. The 3-D appearance of this stunned me in it’s depth. Closing speed has got to be 100 MPH. Both birds were cruising with the hawk veering away the last second!

Calling this unlikely would be an understatement lol. I was tracking the Heron with a partner of his across the tree line. 50 feet high Cottonwoods house their nests. A 1200 mm lens, 28 inches long resting on my trucks glass. (lens is padded) I saw them incoming a ways off . Fortunately I had a few seconds to “spin the dials” in anticipation of a 1/2000th sec shutter speed. (see above for some more camera on manual mode hints) So I got lucky on the light. I was “machine gunning” the camera rapid fire. I also caught this raptors partner diving in as well but it is well out of focus in that capture. A total of 3 hawks dove at this Heron Pair that had already claimed a nesting spot on the trees. They are all building nests at the moment down at the ranches wetlands.

Raptor War: This week I found a Red Tailed Hawks body at the base of the tree the Heron’s nest in. Photo of such on my web gallery. It lays there still as it’s illegal to collect any piece part or even a feather of a Raptor or most other migratory non game birds. (Fed Laws) I’ve seen Herons there every year for 20 years.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Raptor Dive Bombing Heron

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Blue Herons 1 RedTail Hawks 0

Blue Herons 1 RedTail Hawks 0
Blue Herons 1 RedTail Hawks 0

Blue Herons 1 RedTail Hawks 0

I’ve been watching the Great Blue Herons slowly trickling in from warmer climes. All to set up house up in our wetlands. We really don’t see many of them. We don’t have a lot of lakes up here on the high ridges of the MT/WY borderlands. I was photographing the tree line populated with 6 Heron Nests last year, 3 of them remain. The Herons zipped off from their nest with 3 Red Tails Harassing them. I quickly took advantage of the absence. Drove my portable blind (Ford F150 Raptor all black) under the trees so I could get close and change the “chip” in a trail camera I had planted behind where the birds nested.

Busy with these guys, I photographed an aggressive encounter between a Red Tail Hawk and a full sized Herons about 2 weeks ago. I believe this dead bird is the result. Of course nature is cruel. Red Tails are spunky little raptors and I sure wouldn’t want one harassing me. A big war is ongoing in the Wetlands… I was photographing a Heron flying over the nests. Just then, a Raptor flew into frame right as I rapid fired the camera. Raptor and Heron in the Same frame flying opposite direction. Posts next week it will📸..

I would point out that a Great Blue Heron is 5 feet tall with a 5 foot wingspan weighing in at 5 pound. A 5x5x5 bird is nothing to mess with. I compare Herons with the Dinosaur Coelophysus without the tail and teeth. They are bad a** with those pin pointy beaks. It would be like me at 6 foot 200 pounds taking on Andre the Giant in the ring. Not even fair.

This is the result I believe of a real estate dispute. I actually have a photo of a raptor and a heron in silhouette facing off over who is getting the nest above this body for the night. I think the Herons won this one. Just saying 📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Blue Herons 1 RedTail Hawks 0

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Who Owns the Nest

Who Owns the Nest
Who Owns the Nest

Who Owns the Nest

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. 🤔👀⚒📸

Location :Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Who Owns the Nest

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Ferruginous Hawk Soft Recliner

Ferruginous Hawk Soft Recliner
Ferruginous Hawk Soft Recliner

Ferruginous Hawk Soft Recliner

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…..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Ferruginous Hawk Soft Recliner

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Raptor Clever Girl

Raptor Clever Girl
Raptor Clever Girl

Raptor Clever Girl

(You might be my friend if you know the classical reference😜)

I had totally the wrong camera/lens in my hand at this moment. Generally I walk around the ridge line with two cameras but not the right one for this lol. I was working the light looking over my shoulder using a long distance, long lens. The other was a 10mm for wide perspectives. Thus…… 600 mm Telephoto from about 200 feet away. 28 inches long ….Both wrong lolol….
So now you know what I drive now into the back country. My office as it were, a pretty good photo studio in an of itself. . The first new pickup I’ve owned since 1999 and that had 6K miles on it when I got it “new”. I kept that truck still using the 3/4 ton Ford Superduty for heavy hauling. Raptors are not known for their towing capacity…. They are climbers ……

Some people have bad knees, or hips, I deal with a screwed up neck. It’s quite troublesome at times unfortunately. I’m sure many of you understand. It got way worse last summer. I suspect from 3500 miles last year and more before, of backcountry driving in vehicles that threw me around doing photography.

This might be the best riding commercially riding truck available. Bought this 2020 Ford Raptor Dec 31 at the local dealership. Special ordered took 3 months. I am approaching 900 miles on it since then. I have only driven 210 of that back and forth to Gillette. 700 miles all driven within 5 or so miles of my house. A few 20 miles trips to the Pass at Rocky point. The rest is on two track roads and hillsides to drive to the crest.
I only do this on my private deeded land. I would never leave a two track on ground not mine as your not necessarily going to get back home that do doing so. The two track roads generally go over safe ground here in sandstone country. Well set up for getting me unstuck this truck is.

The Reason it rides so well is the 14 inches of suspension travel on each wheel having very high end long arms under with computer controlled shocks. Basically it is Qualified to run the Baja 500 race stock (they put roll bars in it for that). I WON’T be jumping it but it can lol.


So what you have here is a dedicated backcountry expedition vehicle that actually seldom gets taken out of 4 wheel drive. My old vehicle, a jeep Grand Cherokee spent 90 percent of it’s time off road as well. The Raptor will too.

It was time to get a better ride :). This IS a better ride 🙂

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Raptor Clever Girl

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Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase
Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

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 30 feet maybe. It took a while and I’m really surprised it didn’t fly away. I drive like I’m a grazing animal. It looks best to the animal to stop, start, take a minute at a spot, move 20 feet, rinse and repeat is my “process” at approaching most wild animals in. Might take me 10 minutes so if they are sitting around, you’ll eventually get there. I take photos at each stop. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 22 feet deep and the background is totally bokeh’d out . Obviously after I came as close as he was tolerating, I started machine gunning the 400-1200mm lens. Click click click click ad nausium lol.

I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. 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 orange nares are pretty diagnostic 😜🤔👀📷.

Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Ferruginous Hawk Light Phase

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Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Red Tailed Hawk Attack
Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Red Tailed Hawk Attack

Yet another capture from the network of 28 game trail cameras I maintain up here in the borderlands. Captured at the moment of the hawk strike. I’m thinking this was a bit hard on the “other bird”. (unidentified unlucky bird) while it was sitting on the post. Imagine just minding your own business. Suddenly, it was hit from behind/above. This is the definition of a bad day I’m thinking🤔👀📸

I’m not a hawk expert. The distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. I’m betting this is a red tail’ed 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.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). Catching an image like this with a regular camera is highly unlikely . I have never witnessed a hawk attack on another bird anywhere any time in my travels. I’m out in the backcountry all the time. I suspect my presence or the activity of the vehicle I’m in precludes any raptors taking game around me.

Game Trail Cameras captures are all problematic from a photo finishing aspect. I did my best to “fix” the inadequate technology. When they make a really good quality game trail camera, I’ll buy them. Until then, I’ll have to live with these photon traps as they are. I also have an image of him flying away with this hapless meal.

Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Red Tailed Hawk Attack

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Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather

Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather
Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather

Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather (only 4 months till flowers up here in the borderlands) When Simple is elegant…

I call these wildflowers Rock Daisies but they are growing on an eastern exposure of a long sandy ridge. Please correct me if I’m wrong on the ID. The soils on ranch are mostly sandy and well drained with exceptions of some hillocks of bentonitic clay soils (gumbo). A Sunny well drained sandy hillside is a prime environment for these. These daisies spread in clumps around the landscape. I’m driving by this remote spot on a two track I might travel on every couple weeks randomly.

Mid-winter I can still smell the summer scents of nearby sage patches pungent upwind of my position. Pollen circulates from dozens of flowering species including many tree species. This is the time of year my eyes start reacting. Something rare here called humidity was in the air at this capture. Taken on a rare mid-day photo outing.

I don’t know which raptor owned this big feather because it might be a small feather from a very big bird. I don’t have a clue how to key a bird on an individual feather. If you do, pitch in your knowledge below please. As to the identity of this feathers owner, your guess is as good as mine.

I saw the occurrence as a good one and thought it worthy of catching it’s photons in my photon capture boxes.

One must leave the feather where it lay as owning/possessing/selling/putting on the shelf in the living room is illegal under federal law. No raptor parts pieces may be owned without tribal affiliation or federal permit. Some old Raptor parts (feathers/bird mounts, claws etc) are grandfathered as antiquities. I came across a great horned owls body a few miles into the bush over a decade ago. I left it lay. It had wonderful claws all mummified by the dryness and sun out here.. Long since they all have been destroyed by the weather. Some laws are a shame but preventing the trade in these birds is the end game of the regulations and it get’s a pass as such (barely with a frown). Letting things decay seems silly but hey, what do I know. It’s a complex issue I’m sure. . The disreputable among us ruin it for the rest of us.

Reference (50 CRF 21.31 of federal Regulations.) Takes a federal permit to hold, move transport any of these. Don’t pick them up. There are serious penalties. I’ve left hundreds of random feathers up here on the prairie over the decades.😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Wild Flowers and a Raptor Feather

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Ford Raptor Backcountry Sunset

Ford Raptor Backcountry Sunset
Ford Raptor Backcountry Sunset

Ford Raptor Backcountry Sunset

I introduce: my new backcountry photo studio “Trail Worthy” workhorse. You locals will see me in this from now on. Please don’t shoot me…..All Black Ford with a camera or two sticking out the window…..Hopefully the animals will accept it….

I have been telling you all that I traded my 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. That jeep earned it’s “Trail Rated” badge. I’ve been driving it around the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch and surrounding backcountry for 15 years with it. It is now out of my hands. I will miss the old truck. I will not miss the ride quality of a Jeep though. This thing rides like a dream. 35 inch studded Goodrich snow tires for the winter up here. Lots of ice around.

Having said that, that bumpy ride of my youth has mutated to this purpose built specialty truck. This is a 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor. My old jeep had a 320 Horse Power Hemi motor in it and was “quick/agile. This new truck is heavier but has over 450 Horse Power so the power to weight is familiar to me. It is WAY more agile than that jeep however. It might have some potential high center issues due to it’s length but it has full length skid plate underneath. This reduces the possibility of catching grass on fire on the catalytic converter which hangs out over 1000 degrees. Lots of fires under trucks. I’m thinking not so much here. So many crawling features, so little space here.

The only thing the new rig can’t do is squeeze between one gate on my place that the old jeep cleared by inches on either side. This truck is 8 inches wider than a standard F-150. This makes it much harder to tip over. The 360 degree camera system is novel to me. Backing up is MUCH easier. Computer controlled 14 inch travel suspension….Versus maybe 8 inch with the jeep. WOW.

The biggest upgrade here besides the amazing technology incorporated into the system, is the ability for me to actually carry a passenger. I could never do this in my Jeep as it was always full of gear. Not so much as with the securable dry storage is huge with how I configured the bed. “decked”.

I’ve been peripherally involved with 4 wheel drive. I live off road and drive trails daily. I still own 3 Jeeps after selling off my 2005 Grand Cherokee so I wont be without a smaller ride….. The local 4 wheel Drive Club makes the drive up here every few years lol. If you wish, youtube up the 2008 Peterson’s 4 Wheel Drive and Off Road “Ultimate Adventure” video. (an annual video production with 17 professional/semi-pro rig touring one day and 4 wheeling the next for a week). We were stop number 3 I believe with still images from the event here making several Front covers of that magazine’s/media company’s main publication.

Stock Vehicles usually don’t impress me. I am impressed officially to date. It is my new best friend. I have many good memories with my old friend. The king is dead long live the new king! I hope this one lasts as well as the jeep did.

Location: Remote NorthEastern Wyoming/South Eastern Montana borderlands. near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.

Ford Raptor Backcountry Sunset

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T-rex Tooth in the Rough

T-rex Tooth in the Rough
T-rex Tooth in the Rough

T-rex Tooth in the Rough

Yup, a Tyrannosaurus tooth sitting in the matrix. Wrapping it up for the trip back to the ranch headquarters is the next order of business. There it will be cleaned at my leisure when I get a pile of such things to clean so it’s worth setting up the micro-air-abrasive fossil cleaning cabinet. The black enamel of the tooth is etch by tiny rootlets that covered the surface. The chemical reactions at the rootlets deeply marked the enamel of the tooth.

Fossil Teeth: Selective preservation…

Teeth were “plentiful with many per dinosaur. They often broke off, the new ones erupting from below. Shed teeth were called spitters.They were literally spit out or lost eating. Some teeth passed through the digestive system. Quaintly named (sh**ers) by collectors. I’ve been told by older and more experienced paleontologists the way you tell the difference is their taste…… 😜

Here pictured next to the 6 inch wood awl that I used to dig it out of the Hell Creek/Lance Formation quarry wall. I have a 50 foot long by 4 feet thick in the center, river channel filled with mixed debris. This debris was dropped by the river for a reason. The current velocity dropped enough to leave what it carried here, behind. The bigger/heavier things came out first so we find a lot of big bones. The little things concentrated somewhere else with a lower current velocity.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: T-rex Tooth in the Rough

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Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out
Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

Yet another capture driving along remote backcountry roads up here in the borderlands. I saw these two Raptors talking 30 feet apart on a fence. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 20 feet deep and these birds a 20 feet apart lol. The left one is closer to me than the right (rear) one. They took off just after I came to a stop and started machine gunning the 1200mm lens.

I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. 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 sizes are an obfuscation.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). I see them….driving along a gravel road, stopping. Then getting out standing between the door and the car with a 2 foot long lens is a chore best accomplished with some haste. Doing so and not have the birds fly off is a whole different encounter. The chances that both birds would hold their ground on a vehicle incoming at 45 mph is small. 45 is the speed limit on most gravel backroads around here. Then have enough time during all that get a camera up and set properly in manual mode. . Elapsed time less than 20 seconds I would imagine.

Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

These Hawks look to be both the same sex… Might be wrong..

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Ferruginous Hawks Heading Out

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Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting
Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

A clandestine meeting down Yonder by the fence line was occurring when I interrupted it. I suspect it was a lively discussion of one meeting with two different opinions resultant from it. Just like humans do. There may be some territorial statement ongoing during this capture. That’s good hunting ground behind them. There is about a 100,000 mice and other small voles/prairie dogs/ rodents out there for the taking. Who looks where takes on a big meaning lol.

Yet another capture driving along remote backcountry roads up here in the borderlands. I saw these two Raptors talking 30 feet apart. At this lower f-stop setting, the focal field was about 20 feet deep and these birds are 30 feet apart lol. I’m not a hawk expert and the distinction between Red Tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks seems blurred to me. On bird is definitely bigger than the other. 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 sizes are an obfuscation.

Random encounters result in opportunistic captures for my photon traps. (cameras). I see them….driving along a gravel road, stopping. Then getting out standing between the door and the car with a 2 foot long lens is a chore best accomplished with some haste. Doing so and not have the birds fly off is a whole different encounter. The chances that both birds would hold their ground on a vehicle incoming at 45 mph is small. 45 is the speed limit on most gravel backroads around here. Then have enough time during all that get a camera up and set properly in manual mode. . Elapsed time less than 20 seconds I would imagine.

Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Ferruginous Hawks Fence Meeting

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Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations
Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

This is a view of a nice tooth on it’s inside concave edge showing clearly the serrations on the edge of the raptor tooth. The serrations weren’t used so much to cut meat but to hold onto meat bitten into. Thusly “ripping” muscle with the neck muscles and the teeth holding on. Rough way to catch fast food. This 66 million year old or so chomper in the mouth of a 8 foot high dinosaur that resembled a bird with teeth and a tail. Most of the rest of the bone structure are very similar to modern birds. The lighter lines on the darker enamel is where capillary roots have chemically etched the tooth’s enamel. This was found close enough to the surface for root action to effect the surface. Another possible explanation is stomach acid has etched the surface of the tooth.

I really enjoy finding nice dinosaur teeth here in the Cretaceous Hell Creek Sands that blanket this ranch. OF the 5 square miles of land we own, MAYBE one acre has fossils on it and there are 25 places that add up to that acre. We do have one bone bed for larger material but this came out of a sandy pit I dug by hand. I find “microsites” sticking in the exposed hillsides that are indeed fossilferous.

Anything that was alive with “hard parts” at the time in the dinosaurs environment is also possible to find. The rivers current sorted fossils by shape weight and size. Thusly concentrating fossils in one spot where the river dropped them. Microsites usually mean small teeth but this honker is an inch and a half long. The glass is 3/16 plate (blue line). That is a glass shelf in my lit display case.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

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Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes
Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes is literally a photobomb in real life.

I was of course amazed at the lighting coming from that mornings veiled Sky. Shooting the veiled sun strong enough for silhouettes to form fools the observer to thinking this wasn’t a very bright sky. I’m shutting down the camera to light (high fstop, low ISO, and fast shutter). By Looking at the furnace in the sky, we need a fast shutter. Convenient if a couple of really fast hawks come flying by. 🤔

So I’ve got that camera/long lens set up pointed from about 300 yards back from the Windmill. The trees are Full sized old grown Pines at 30 to 40 feet high but they are 500 yards distant up a slight ridge. Telephoto lenses crush perspective distance. This is a long focal depth of field because of the higher f-stop setting I chose. High fstop takes away excess light AND gives you deep focal fields. (from the windmill to infinity here).

Looking through the eyepiece at the time with fingers on the setting options (3 only in manual mode to learn about). . I had it all focused and as the birds moved through the focus field they lit up on the video screen. The camera highlights things that have high contrast with their backgrounds. This shows focus areas. An advantage of quality mirrorless cameras is that they can tell you things. What you see is what you get with them.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Hawks Photobombing My Landcapes

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Ferruginous Hawk Launching

Ferruginous Hawk Launching
Ferruginous Hawk Launching

Ferruginous Hawk Launching was a lucky capture. Driving country gravel backroads and being a photographer is an interesting driving issue. Be safe at all times is my rule.

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 this sign and managed to stop several hundred feet away with my car turned about 70 degrees to the road (and not 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).

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 actually didn’t have much time for this capture. I tried to track him but I only got a few clicks and I’m thinking they were too out of focus to use. 😉

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 if only for a second.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Ferruginous Hawk Launching

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Hawk on an Electric Pole

Hawk on an Electric Pole
Hawk on an Electric Pole

This Hawk on an Electric Pole was a fortuitous capture. He watched my approach which was slow and jerky (stop and go). 5 minutes later I had his photo. My jeep is indeed a portable blind. He wasn’t concerned about my car but If I got out of my vehicle, I know he would have flown prior to the first good click ….

This is a dark phase one as I’ve seen these guys range from dark to much lighter brown. In all fairness to my ID (I’m not a birder”, his tail isn’t as red as I’m used to in the Red Tail Hawks clan. For all I know he’s some other bird but I’m betting on the Red Tailed Hawk ID for now lolol. I’m a way better photographer than I am an ornithologist (which I am definitely not ).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana.

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Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch

Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch
Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch

This 3 inch killing claw from a good sized Raptorian Dinosaur found here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch by me back in 2005. I was digging in an outcrop of Hell Creek Formation here on ranch (private deeded land) and his fell out into my grubby sandblasted hands. These don’t drop out of the rock every day I point out. Only one found in 18 years of working the rocks…I’m still looking for the 10 inch one.

We are covered in Hell Creek Sands. I’m a retired guy/geologist with a paleontologic graduate degree who eventually bought a ranch that only I knew had dinosaur fossil on it. I didn’t know where they were but I knew they were here. …..As soon as the water well people told me that Fox Hill sandstone (the aquifer ) was 500 feet below the surface, I knew as a paleo interested geolgist that the 700 foot thick sequence of the dinosaur fossil bearing Hell Creek Formation would be at the surface. The USGS geologic maps of the area disagreed with me. They were wrong lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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A Ghost in the Night

A Ghost in the Night
A Ghost in the Night

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 …..

Have a safe night.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana