“Come with long lense”

Great Horned Owl captured by D6 / 800f5.6

Sharon was out with Maggie when I received the text, “Come with long lense.” When Sharon has a typo, it’s big! Not the first time I’ve received such a text on The Ranch. When Sharon who knows her birds, knows the lens I would select texts me with something like this, I go running. Me being me, I’d not set the D6 / 800mm up on the tripod that I normally leave up since our last Adventure so it took me a couple of moments to get out. When I went out, I found Sharon & Maggie, and seeing Sharon, I knew exactly where to look. We’d heard the Great Horned Owl since day one on The Ranch but this is the first time we clearly saw her. That’s what the text was all about. I slowly walked up to Sharon and then slowly, over time approached the owl.

We had over thirty minutes with her as she seemed to be just moving through (though I was hoping it would be her morning roost). She permitted me to get within 40-50′ of her. At that point, a squirrel or something caught her attention and she moved to another perch and then went on the hunt. It was a great encounter and just goes to show, venturing past your door, there are photographs to be made! This evening during our thunderstorm, she was back just off from our OP staring over the “Back Nine” looking for sure a bite to eat. I hope she’s here for a long time to come!

Whoooooo Knew?

No Pygmy Owl fledgling captured by D6 / 180-400VR

Sharon and I first went to Madera Canyon back in 1982 to see the amazing hummingbirds that come to this summer Shangri-la. All the regular North American species make an appearance along with some of the finest from south of the border. It is a birder’s paradise that many don’t know even exists. There are many other unique, special, and rare species of birds that come to the canyon in the summer as well like the Elegant Trogan. And as long as I have been journeying there, the smallest owl in North America, the Elf Owl has nested in a telephone pole at Santa Rita Lodge. Over the years we’ve also had Whiskered, Western Screech, Spotted, and Flammulated Owl in the canon. At night, you hear them seemingly everywhere. But this year, there was a first for us, a Northern Pygmy Owl!

No Pygmy Owl fledgling captured by D6 / 180-400VR

One of my friends shooting there ran into another photographer who was watching and photographing the Pygmy Owl (owl is smaller than a dollar bill) nest. He was doing everything right which was so nice to see. Anyways, our friend Pat come back and reported what he learned. It was cool to hear about but since the other photographer was there first and had been working the nest for weeks, I just put it in the back of my mind. Days later, Sharon & I went for a walk birding and ended up down in the area where the photographer had been shooting. We had no idea where the nest was located so kept on birding. After a short time, I saw a small puffball trying to fly and land on a large branch. I knew instantly who it was (we use to rehab owls and had a Pygmy for months). Baby owls are first hatchlings then nestlings then branchlings and finally fledglings. We later learned that two of the three chicks became fledglings that morning. For the next five hours, we watched and photographed the two as they mostly slept on various branches and did silly baby owl stuff. Shortly before dark the parents came in with a freakin large lizard and fed the two chicks. It was a great afternoon and I was pleased to not only learn something new about the owls of Madera Canyon, but photograph them too. Whoooo knew?

Moose Peterson's

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I'm bringing to you all I have learned romancing the skies with those gorgeous flying machines. We're talking hours of live presentations with images, charts, gear, and live demonstrations that you can take to the airfield and use to bring back those great images. To learn more and to get your Boarding Pass, simply click on this banner and then put up your trays and fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off!

Watch and rewatch it for 6 months afterwards!

Masters of the Skies!

Bald Eagle captured Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 w/Z1.4x

I think of Bald Eagles in two ways, that comes from all my experiences with them. Back in the day in Homer on a -10 February morning, or up on the Haines River in early winter, you see the Bald Eagle in what we affectionately called, “snow pigeon” mode. This is when despite there being tons of food about, they only want the food that’s in the talons of their neighbors and go to great lengths to take it from their clutches. The other mode and the one I enjoy so much, is when they are masters of the skies!

Bald Eagle captured Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 w/Z1.4x

I had the rare opportunity a few weeks back to spend an hour or so with some that were actively fishing. This pair put on one helluva a show as they would come in, bank and do a 180 so they could use the wind to stall their flight providing for flap maneuverability and then at the last moment, lower them talons and grab the fish (or attempt to) to then tuck it up under their tail and go. To say they smoked me more than once as I was panning is an understatement. I would lose them because they had done an about-face in midflight, me panning one direction and them flying off in another. There were a couple of times though that the wind, light, and flight direction lined up and I could follow them down the water’s surface and watch the intensity in their glorious flight. And it seemed as quickly as we started shooting them, they were gone and the action was over. It was just a thrill though if for only a moment to be amongst them and watch them at their best being master of the sky!

Just A Few Heart Beats Later

Rocky Mountain Bighorn lamb captured by D6 / 180-400VR

There always seems to be some sort of magic in nature just before the sun comes up. The magic can be incredibly grand and expected or a total surprise. But some of the best are the small things, the moments in nature that reaches out and touches your soul. That was our experience a week back in the Badlands of South Dakota.

We had seen the normal groups of Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep along the rim, not a surprise for the time of year. I had told my friends to look for lambs as they drop them at this time (drop as in give birth). We stopped a couple of times to watch the ewes but no lambs insight. The Badlands is a great place for the Sheep as they can in a flash escape into its many ledges, canyons, and crevices. We kept on wiggling down the road photographing the spectacular landscape and critters but no lambs. But it was still early.

We were rounding the bend near the south end of the road. It was a locale I had photographed sheep before so I took my eyes off the road and looked over my shoulder. There were two ewes lying on the ridge. Knowing a little about their biology, I pulled over on the other side of the road and slowly walked back to see what was up. That’s when the magic of morning kissed our day!

Lying tightly up against their moms and not visible from the road were two newborn lambs. One still had its umbilical cord attached (though dry) so it was just heartbeats away from first wandering this planet. Well, we slowly, quietly set up to watch life unfold. For the next hour, I watched in amazement through the D6 / 180-400VR the lambs start to explore their new world.

The “oldest” of the two was full of wonder and one of the first things to greet it this morning was a group of Grackles on the ridge. It was not sure about them at all! It kept looking back at the ewe as to get some sort of reassurance that it was OK. Every time the birds moved, the lamb stopped dead in its tracks until finally, they flew off and its attention went elsewhere. When we last saw the two lambs, they had just finished running back up the sheer slope they had just run down, disappearing with the ewes over the top. Not before jumping and playing on that sheer slope that appeared near vertical to us. But to them, just a big playground to express their new found energies and footing. I’m grateful the once again Mother Nature had magic this morning to share with us, newborn lambs just a few heartbeats later.

Moose Peterson's

Aviation Seminar

Presented Live in the Classroom or Your Computer Simultaneously!

I'm bringing to you all I have learned romancing the skies with those gorgeous flying machines. We're talking hours of live presentations with images, charts, gear, and live demonstrations that you can take to the airfield and use to bring back those great images. To learn more and to get your Boarding Pass, simply click on this banner and then put up your trays and fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off!

Watch and rewatch it for 6 months afterwards!

Time with The Browns

Kodiak Brown captured by D6 / 180-400VR w/TC-14eIII

Where the Uganik River empties into the bay are vast coastal sedge grass flats. When you fly over or cruise the coast in a boat, the vast green comes crashing down the mountains emptying into the bay except where the river empties. Centuries of times have brought down the sediment creating a fertile landscape supporting a vast garden of Eden of grasses that grows as tall as your head. It’s in this forest the giants come to forage like cattle, fattening in early spring on this lush garden. They bring their young, they find new mates and they start their summer amongst the flats. This is where we spent a week amongst the Kodiak Browns.

Kodiak Browns are recognized as different from those you might find on Alaska’s mainland or Yellowstone. The one thing that makes them different is, they are the giants! A large mainland Griz would be the smallest Kodiak Brown. This size thing is what makes them the scariest of all the bears to folks. This fear comes from misinformation and myth and not the reality of being with them. Yes, you surprise a Kodiak Brown just like any Griz, they will run you over, and then after you are there flattened, badly hurt, do they turn around to see what they just ran over. So DON’T surprise a bear. Simple. That’s how we spent the week amongst them!

The vast beauty of Kodiak Island is the stunning backdrop for our Brown experience! We boated up from the rustic Bear Camp (no electricity, no running water, no internet :-) ) in shallow bottom craft permitting us to access up the river at high tide. We traveled into the sedge flats by boat about a mile passing Browns, some with cubs, as they fed, slept, doing that bear thing. We would put in and wearing hip boots, get out and then wait, watch, and revel in it all! I shot the whole time with the D6 / 180-400VR w/TC-14eIII. I used the length not because we needed to keep our distance from the Browns but because the water world of the sedge flat didn’t permit us to travel just anywhere we wanted.

It’s really pretty simple, you plant yourself and let the Browns do their thing. When done correctly, they “accept” you as part of the landscape so they eventually come to you. That’s what they did over and over again. We had at least twenty-two individual bears surrounding and amongst us during the week. One, the 700lbs 6 year old female you see here in these images was by far our favorite. She invited us into her world over and over again as she ate, shit, slept, and played about the grasses as only a Brown of that size can.

The grasses were only about 2-3 feet tall at the time of our Adventure so it was safe to be out in them. Once they got taller, being on the sedge flats is very dangerous. Remember, DON’T surprise a bear! This female would eat to its heart content and then as all bears do, fall asleep in the sun. They are the perfect couch potato with really only one thing on their mind, get fat and go to sleep in the winter.

As you go through the images you will see one image where just the very top of her head is visible and the next, you can see all 700lbs of her. One aspect of the Browns that amazes folks is how this large animal can disappear in literally no cover. This fact alone is why you DON’T chase after bears but let them approach on their own account. It means you need to be where they like to hang and then hang yourself. You might spend hours upon hours standing in the sun or rain or wind waiting, watching. You might not take any photos or a couple thousand in a matter of minutes. It means you have to love simply being in their world, amongst them knowing that at some point, they will be right with you.

You will see some images with LOTS of Brown in the frame. That’s from those moments, which were many, that they came right up to use. No, I carry no spray, no gun, just decades of experiences being amongst them keeping me safe. This female came as close as fifty feet a number of times while she fed. There was not once a tinig of fear only admiration and awe. I know of or have experienced nothing in this world like time with the Browns!

There are 16 images here, click on arrow to view them all. You can see a larger collection of images from our Adventure on my Portfolio Pages.

Spring Kids are Great!

Bison Cow & Calf captured by Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 / Z1.4x

One critter that knows how to celebrate spring are Bison. Heck … the kids are bright burnt red when they are born! Or, are they orange? Whatever color, they are a ball of energy bouncing across the grasslands amongst their big parents with springs in their legs. They run through the herd, bounce off other adults, bounce off each other and then as fast as they run, they stop, lay down and catch their breath, just to bounce back up and start it all over again. They start this celebration of life not too long after birth and keep it up for a month or so and then they settle down into rhythm of the herd that slowly moves across the landscape.

I’ve returned to one of my all time favorite places, South Dakota Blackhills to spend time amongst its brilliant spring green hills with all its critters. The Bison have just dropped their calves and being amongst them during the spring is simply brilliant! Photographing them actually is as simple and relaxing of any critter photography. I’ve rented a small SUV so I am as low to the ground I can be. I find Bison that are on a slope so the combination makes it appear in the photograph I’m laying on the ground with them though I’m in the safety of my vehicle. I’m up with the sun catching the herd as they wake and start feeding. I prefer them with backlit and use the reflection of the vehicle acting as a big fill. That’s what I’ve got going here. Shooting with the Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 / Z1.4x, the Animal Eye-detection I don’t even get out of the truck, I just look for the cuteness close by and go click. I’ve shot this pose a few times in the past and love it cause of the size comparison of kid and mom. All I can say is, spring kids are great!

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