New Resident Looks for Love

House Wren captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

One of my bigger Ranch projects this spring was to build Sharon a deer proof enclosure for her garden (might have gone a little overboard as it turned out to be 38’x14′). I wanted to make it a little more “homey” so on 30 April, I installed a brand new bird house on a east facing post. I was hoping to attract the bluebirds we’d been seeing and that next year they would use the box. Well, we were blown away when, on the very next day from installing the box, it had a resident making a home, a House Wren!

What’s really amazing to us is not that it took up residence that fast, but that we had never seen nor heard a House Wren at The Ranch, ever! We have no clue where it came from and what we’d really like to know, how’d it find us and that new house so fast! It took the little guy no time to overfill his new home with “stuff” and start advertising that he was available. And man, can that guy sing! He serenades Sharon when she’s working in the garden. He’s at the other end of the house singing outside the office window. He’s at our bedroom window at 05:40 singing at the top of his lungs until nearly sunset. And here we are mid June and still, no mate. I did watch him once copulating with a House Wren on his little perch which had me thinking he had found a mate. But I dunno … she left him as he’s still singing his heart out. In fact, he’s at my window looking at me as I type.

We love his presence and he is such a character. We wish him luck as its been fun to watch our new resident look for love!

A Great Mother

Kodiak Brown Bear with 1yr old cubs captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

Bear cubs, they are just the cutest critters to observe and spend time with. Folks don’t realize just how special this opportunity truly is on so many levels. Most simply revert to the old “don’t get between a mother and her cubs” or “mother bears mean certain death” when nothing could be further from the truth. Proof, I’m here sharing my photos of this family group! Yes, mother bears are fierce protectors of their young but like all bears all the time, they much rather avoid confrontation than ever advance it. We saw this family group leave time and time again rather than confront other bears. The world is challenging for a mother bear so for this mom to have three cubs and then a year later, still have three cubs means in the simplest terms, she’s a great mom!

Cubs are a handful! Most Brown / Grizzly Bears have one cub, then comes twins and the most infrequent are three cubs. You can kinda pigeonhole the characteristics of the three with some human traits. The first born is the most prococial, the one out front being adventurous, getting in trouble and giving mom a great amount of anxiety. The second born is the tag-along, being pulled between being with their older sibling adventures and the safety of mom. The last born is the mamma’s boy, always on mom’s flank and unsure of try anything new. It’s easy to assign these traits when you watch them though they can just as easily be totally wrong. But that’s the fun of watching the family group as they go about their day.

One thing is for sure, when there is any question about their environment, the cubs raise on their back legs to look out over the grass that is nearly as tall as them. If there is any perceived threat by the cubs, they are right next to mom in a heartbeat. Mom communicates to cubs with her facial disk her thought on the perceived threat and from that, they react. This mom is around 1150 pounds, she’s a gorgeous nine-year-old Kodiak Brown Bear. There is truly nothing in the area that at her age and health twould scare her, a confidence she communicates in her actions to the young. That confidence is why she permitted us to be part of her world for three days. I can’t wait to spend time again with her next spring and see what the cubs are up to. She’s a great mom!

Where’s a Tree When You Need It?

Kodiak Brown Bear captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

Almost as soon as they come out of their den, bears are working at getting their winter coats shed. It must be a very itchy proposition because you see bears leaning up against trees going up and down, up and down, up and down all the time! But out of the grass and mud flats, there are no trees so what’s a bear to do? Well, if you have a vast bed of exposed barnacles, you plop right down and use them of course! After an hour of consuming barnacles, that’s exactly what this four year old male did over and over and over again. It made it look sooooo good and he wiggled and wiggled. I wanted to shoot a video but he plopped down so quickly I missed the beginning. Shooting with the Z 9, not an issue, I just held down the shutter release and shot 20fps capturing a few hundred frames of curing the itch. I just have to assemble them and I will have my video. Excuse me now, after watching him lie there, I have an itch!

Such Gentle Giants!

Kodiak Brown Bear (4yr female weighing 475lbs) captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6 AFS

Yes, very gentle giants indeed! The Kodiak Brown Bear is the biggest of them all, males 1150lbs are common. I carry no sidearm, no bear spray just the deepest love and respect for this amazing critter when I go in the field. Oh yeah, a camera of course! Sharon & I are just back from ten magical days with the bears, seeing around twenty individuals over the ten days in the field. There wasn’t a day that, even if I didn’t take a photo (shot 21k image, 2061 went into the gallery) that I wasn’t watching and being fascinated and totally entertained by the bears. In a setting where all you hear is nature, no another sound echoed from the peaks rising 3000 feet above the water we used as a road to the bears. It’s as close to heaven as I imagine it to be. I came back with a total of three hours of video in the hope that it would help me tell the story of these gentle giant’s life, struggles, fun and hardships. While I like what I captured, the one thing lacking in the still and video is the 360 degrees of the great north smothering every sense we possess. I’m going to try my best over the coming weeks to share that with you. The goober who found our little gang a safe zone to sleep just thirty yards away while bigger bears grazed near by. The wonderful mom with her three cubs, classic text book behavior that unfolded around us. The crazy male that chased a female for four hours up and down the hillside and so much more. While I have all these treasured memories safe and secure on my hard drive, I can’t help but miss them bears as I gaze at the incredibly great fortune I had for ten days with such gentle giants!

Spring Brilliance

Dunlin captured by D5 / 800f5.6AFS

This flock of Dunlin is a perfect example of spring brilliance in birds. They molt into their spring brilliance, the males that are, to woo the females, and then their feathers fade away slowly to fall. When they arrive back from migration is when you want to find them. That’s now! Resident birds are a little easier since you know where they are. In either case, find them and photograph them. This flock of Dunlin is a great example of the variety in spring feathers from no color to full-on spring brilliance. It can really make your photos pop when you find that color. Now the time, go get ’em!

Then There Was The Thought …

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

Everyone knows that Grizzly hibernates during the winter. This means that seeing them in snow would be rare as they are asleep normally when there’s snow on the ground. In the winter, they also have their thick, luxurious coats. If you’re lucky, you can catch them just before they go into their winter dens or when they just come out. We were fortunate to find them just when they came out but most of the snow was long gone. Got the great coats but no white. So when this Griz came down the hillside and it started to snow, I was hoping to get at least a feel of winter. I took the long odds and slowed the shutter speed down to 1/40 to blur the falling snow. I knew you’d only see it in front of the dark side of the griz. While it was a great idea, it sure didn’t translate! If you look really really hard you will see a couple of white streaks in its face, but that’s it. At least I got the eyes sharp.

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