Love is In The Air!

Great Egrets captured by Z 9 / 800AFS

It’s been way too long so it felt so good to be back at Venice Rookery. Can’t see it in this image, by this pair had a little two day old in the nest. They seemed to huddle together to keep it warm against the chill of the morning air. The perfect way to start Valentines Day!

30 Million?!

American Bison captured by Z 9 / 180-400VR

We could see the white out heading our way from the west, the increasing wind told us a change was fast approaching. Hayden Valley, Yellowstone Nat’l Park is no place to be in winter during a white out because even gravity won’t help you find your way. And amidst this coming weather chaos three Bison bulls plod along looking for last falls grass they can browse on buried under the three feet of snow. There are about six thousand Bison in the park today but finding them can be a challenge in winter so the three bulls we’re focused on are a treat. I stand out in the minus temps, the wind that’s starting to howl not dampening my imagining what the scene would have been when in the 1700s with thirty million Bison roaming the west. After being blown away by the sight, I probably would have moaned it was impossible to get just one lone animal in the frame. Now I moan about just finding the one animal to fill the frame. As I shoot, I think about this paradox as the one Bison I see appears and disappears in the blowing snow. It’s about then the bulls in the distance completely disappear as the snow increases, Mother Natures signaling its time to get out of Dodge. As we roll to the north to get out Hayden, my mind comes back to that thought, thirty million?!

Time Rewards All

Pine Marten captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

If your time machine took you back forty-two years to the Central Coast of California, you would have found Sharon & I with the trunk of the Camero open, chairs out watching and photographing the Southern Sea Otter. A very endangered critter, it was the first member of the weasel family that grabbed my imagination. A few years later I was at a Black-tailed Prairie Dog town in SD where a Black-footed Ferret popped up from a burrow right next to me to give me, “that stare.” It instantly went back down and a minute later popped back up from another burrow and then disappeared. I was hooked but the weasel family is not one to easily find, study nor photograph.

There was one part of their biology I really wanted to capture, their “periscope.” Water or land based, all members of the weasel family get their head, neck and back up above the landscape to spy on what’s around them. In that process, the look on their already cute faces becomes even cuter. Last week in Yellowstone, I saw my opportunity so I went and set up to capture just that one photo. Didn’t care about any other, I just wanted that one! Because, it just takes one photo to tell the story. It was gently snowing, the light saturated from the overcast, the conditions were, picture perfect. To show off the falling snow, I needed a dark background and I wanted the Pine Martin front lit. Those two requirements dictated where I was going to stand. I was going for just that one photo. I’ve seen it in Sea Otters and River Otters, Ermine and Fishers but this I figured was going to be my best chance in forty-two years to captured it. It just required two more hours and I finally had the photo I wanted. The one Sharon said, “that’s exactly what I want for the wall.” Time rewards all.

“It was here that the romance of my life began.”

Bison captured by Z 9 / 180-400VR

The winds were picking up, the snow just starting to fall and the ground fog forming. It’s winter in Yellowstone and I know of no more beautiful place to spend with our wild heritage! We had four old, bull Bison out grazing in Hayden Valley. The windswept landscape and light brought to mind an old Teddy Roosevelt quote from No Dakota. Your fingers might be tingling from the zero temp. The blowing snow filling up your ears. Your nose running because …. and yet there we stood out in the elements with these amazing creatures. It’s all summed up … “It was here that the romance of my life began.”

The Quest Continues – Thankfully!

Great Gray Owl captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

Sax-Zim Bog never disappoints and this year was no exception! The Bog is a magical place, the home to some really cool bird species and unique shooting opportunities. One species in particular draws me back every year and that’s the Great Gray Owl. The biologist for The Bog believes there as many as twelve resident pairs. Finding just one of those possible twenty-four Great Grays isn’t easy. The ice covered dirt roads take you through their forest home where every single tree could be a roosting Great Gray watching you pass right on by. We’re talkin three hundred square miles of habitat! Despite that normally one is found and this year we had one on three different days. But just because you see one though doesn’t mean there is a photograph to be had. Normally you find them in the afternoon not too long before sunset on the hunt. Spending quality time though is the biggest challenge as I’m not the only one wanting to enjoy this unique member of our wild heritage. But the encounters with the Great Gray Owl of Sax-Zim lit a fire in me so now that I’m back home, we found one just a few miles up the road we can enjoy and study. I’ll be going back to The Bog again next year even so no matter what though. The quest continues, thankfully!

Great Gray Owl captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

Feederwatch Time

Black-capped Chickadee captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

Bird feeders are a great way to enjoy our wild heritage simply from our homes. In some regions supplemental feeding from feeders is critical. Feederwatch is a winter bird count at all of our feeders for science to find out more about all of this. I love bird feeders, I have quite a few at The Ranch and right now I’m at Sax-Zim bog and spent a few hours at some feeders yesterday doing exactly what Feederwatch is all about. When it comes to photography, you don’t want to photograph the birds on the feeder but on perches they use in their comings and goings. That’s what’s happening here. Check out the Feederwatch website, grab your lens and get involved!

Pine Grosbeak captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

error: Content is protected !!