Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eating: The Carnivores

More photos of wildlife doing what they do. This time eating:
Grizzly Bears eating an Elk that didn't make it through the winter.

A Grey Wolf eating a Bison that didn't make it through the winter.

An American Marten with a squirrel that he had captured.

A Coyote with the remains of a rabbit he had captured.

And three Northern River Otters eating a pretty good size salmon they had just captured.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Capturing animals running isn't easy because you have no control over the direction the animal will take. They won't often run towards you so you can get a head on shot -- which, of course may be better for safety's sake. But, that's not always the case, as with these Caribou:
Sometimes they are running in the right direction, but there are too many, or you don't have the right lens to capture them all, as with these pronghorn:
Other times, it just seems to work out well, as in the following pronghorn, coyote, and wild burros.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Wildlife "action photos" are a little more challenging than sports photos -- not that sports photos are easy either. With wildlife -- as with sports -- the action often comes without warning and is quickly over. However with wildlife, you more often don't get a chance to position yourself for the best angle and frequently the action is away from you. I have countless photos of animal's "backsides" whose only value is to remind me of what I saw. In the three photos below, I had an idea that the animals would jump a fence. But even though I was ready with camera in hand, it was challenging to get the photo I wanted: The first, Mule Deer in Southcentral Oregon (the best of the three):
The next one, a female Moose in Northwestern Colorado (Also an example of how often a branch is in the way, either covering the animals face -- or changing the focus point. I would have also liked to have centered the moose a little better in the photo to be able to see the ground he was jumping from):
And, the last one, a female Elk in Northern Arizona (I was far away and it was very early morning so the lighting wasn't great. The result was loss of detail in the photo):
Tomorrow "running."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Types of Wildlife Photos

There are two kinds of wildlife photographers: Those that try to capture wildlife in their natural environment doing what's natural, as if the photographer wasn't there. Then there are those that try to capture wildlife looking directly at them because they are, in fact, there. I am the latter - usually. Two reasons for this. First, when someone looks at one of my photos they see a wild animal looking directly at them. It puts the viewer in the same place I was. Secondly, the first type can too easily be captured with remote control cameras which seems to lack a certain sense of authenticity, or at least a sense of actually being there. However, I won't pass up an opportunity. So, I do have a few of the first kind as well. An example is this Bobcat hunting. He either didn't know -- or didn't care that I was watching:
Or a young female Elk swimming across a river:
Or a Coyote yipping in the morning mist:
Tomorrow, the jumpers.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Most Reliable Spot

Wildlife photographers must learn where to look for certain animals or migrating birds. It has taken a while for me to find the best spot for Feral (wild) Burros. I had read about certain spots where they might be found. But, it wasn't until Imperial National Wildlife Refuge when I saw so many tracks that I realized that was the best place. Over the years Burros have created trails that are clearly visible. The next task was to discover the best time of day.  The first two times I visited INWR it was mid-morning or mid-afternoon. The third visit was early morning and I came across six Burros following each other in single file on one of the Burro trails. But late afternoon two hours before sunset has turned out most reliable. Here are several of the photos I took on this latest trip:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Searching Again for Desert Bighorns

Christine had a very early flight to Seattle, so after dropping her off at the Tucson Airport I proceeded to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. They have this wonderful 22 mile unimproved dirt/rocky road through the Ajo Mountains. There is spectacular scenery and great closeup views of the rugged mountain peaks. I got there by 7:30 AM, so thought I had a good chance of seeing some Desert Bighorn Sheep. But, no. Great drive, but no luck. So, I went on to Cabeza Prieta. I took a couple different drives looking for Feral (wild) Burros, but no luck there either. So, now on to Imperial National Wildlife Refuge on the Colorado River, just north of Yuma. As I am driving through (truly on 4x4 high clearance good tire road) I came across a couple of Army guys who were there setting up targets in the Yuma Proving Ground adjacent to the refuge. They were kind enough to show me where they had spotted several sheep. As we got to that point there was still one Ewe in sight so I took this photo:

We parted company as I continued on my search for the Desert Bighorns. Again, not much luck. So the next morning, I get up at 3:30 AM (in Yuma) so I can be exactly where I want to be (at INWR) the moment the sun comes up (5:00 AM). It's 67 degrees now, but by 8:00 AM it will be 90 degrees, and by 11:00 it will be 109 degrees. I've got the top off the Jeep so I can get a good view of the mountain slopes. While I saw a few Wild Burros, no Sheep. So, I continued on to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. They have 600-800 Bighorns in those mountains. This is a rugged rocky drive. Reminds me of James Bond, "shaken not stirred". I spent several hours at Kofa NWR but again, no luck. So, I decided to go back to Imperial. As I was just at the point where Imperial NWR becomes Yuma Proving Ground, I ran into the same Army guys. They had found where a couple of Ewes had bedded down. Here's the photo:
Normally, I would toss a photo like this, but in this case it tells the story. I am using a 400 mm super telephoto lens. You can get an idea of how difficult it can be in spotting Bighorns. (There are two Ewes in this photo). Determined to do better than this, I pressed on. Near the end of the Yuma Proving Ground, just as it becomes BLM land, I came across a Ewe at close range:
I had to be quick, because within seconds, she was up over that ridge and out of sight. I did climb the ridge and spotted her again, but by that time she was three hundred yards away up the mountain slope. A few minutes later, (it's about 6:30 PM), I finally found what I really wanted:
This Ram was lying down on the mountain slope away from the sun. That meant I was standing in the sun looking at him. I needed to find an angle where the mountain would block the sun. That was this photo. But, I realized that he wasn't the slightest bit phased by me, so I decided to do a little climbing. I continued to the point of getting this (and several other photos):
I said "thank you" to him, I hope he understood, and left him exactly where I found him. Persistence paid off. Tomorrow, some of the Wild Burro photos.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Head off again

The summer allows me to get away a bit more often. Our peak season at the B&B is December through May. So I am leaving tomorrow to explore Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; Cabeza Prieta NWR, Imperial NWR, Cibola NWR, Kofa NWR and who knows what else. Should be back by Friday. In the meantime I'll leave you with a few more Black Bear Photos:

This Black Bear was one of the first I photographed -- as a Photographer. When he saw me he literally ran up the tree. I had no idea Black Bears could climb that quickly. The photo was taken in Wells Grey, British Columbia.

This photo, also taken in British Columbia on Mount Sinclair, is a favorite. Very large male amongst the dandelions.

And, the third taken about two years ago in Yellowstone National Park. I had been watching this Cinnamon Black Bear climbing one tree after another to eat the pine nuts (it was fall). After a while, the area was packed with people taking photos. So I moved way ahead assuming he would eventually walk towards me to the next pine tree. And, he did. I took this photo from about 12 feet. (My Jeep was between me and the bear. I leaned on the hood to take this photo). But, then I backed away to give him room. But, he was really not the slightest bit interested in me. He paused, looked "sort of" towards me, then the tree and then right up the tree.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Searching for Arizona Black Bears

Christine and I went up to Flagstaff Friday for a Copper River Salmon BBQ with our daughter, her family, and the in-laws. Wonderful time!! But that's another story. I usually get up at the crack of dawn so I thought I would go looking for Black Bears early Saturday morning (before everyone else got up). I first went up Mount Elden where I had seen a Black Bear last year. But nothing. Not even Elk or Deer. So, I decided to head further up the San Francisco Peaks and into the Coconino National Forest. First I came across eight female Elk. Like most Elk in Arizona, when they see humans they run away quickly. (Arizona is a big hunting state). But I took this spur (4x4 high clearance required) deep into the forest and came across two Black Bear Cubs playing amongst the rocks:
When they saw me they turning and started running away:
I did not follow them because I could not see the mother anywhere. (I have a rule not to get close to bear cubs unless I see the mother, the mother sees me, and the mother is OKAY with my being around). So, I kept my distance looking around for the mother when the Bear Cubs came back:
As you can see from this photo the cubs aren't looking at me. They are looking for their mother, who still is out of the area. Soon the cubs began crying and whimpering. Within about a minute, the mother came (not running but walking quickly):
As soon as the cubs saw "mom" they headed straight for her:
Mom saw what was going on and turned around to walk away, glancing back to be sure her cubs were following. It was over.

Although a wonderful and memorable experience, none of my photos were great. The cubs did not look at me, they kept looking for their mom. Even when mom came it was difficult to get a good photo of her through all the trees, leaves, etc. And, as I said I don't get close to Bears unless I know that they are comfortable with me around. That did not seem the case here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Continuing East from Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains you reach Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. BANWR is 150 square miles or so butting up against the Mexican Border. I remember once being greeted by a pair of Great Horned Owlets (first photo). The sunrise passing through the tree in which it sat yielded a very colorful result. The second photo is a Swainson's Hawk. It was one of the first I had photographed, even though it has a fairly wide distribution in the West. The third photo is a Turkey Vulture who wanted to convince me that, contrary to movies and folklore,  are actually very beautiful birds. And, since they prey only on carrion, they do us a tremendous service by eliminating a source for maggots and flies. Tomorrow, the primary attraction of BANWR, the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More from Madera Canyon

Continuing with birds of Madera Canyon, we start with the Mexican Jay another bird found only in Southern Arizona and Central Mexico. The Mexican Jay is a noisy bird typically traveling in groups, always in the mountains, and often around campsites or picnic grounds. The second photo is Abert's Towhee, another found only in Arizona along mountain/canyon creeks. The third photo is a flock of Wild Turkeys resting near Madera Creek.  Those of you familiar with the Wild Turkeys of the Eastern US will notice the lack of rufous coloration on the lower back and tail. Madera Canyon also has a pair of Elf Owls that nest outside the Lodge each year. I have yet to be there when the owls are visible, though. Madera Canyon has lots of hiking trails which can take you along the canyon's creek or mountain edges.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On to Madera Canyon

Just west of the Huachuca Mountains are the Santa Rita Mountains and Madera Canyon.  The hour and fifteen minute drive (from The Azure Gate) going the back way through Box Canyon to the West Side of the Santa Rita's is worth the drive just for the views. Once into Madera Canyon, though, the terrain changes. TREES! Yes, Sycamore's, Cottonwoods, Junipers, Pinion Pine, Oak, Cypress, Manzanita, even some Firs. There is always water running through the canyon's creek which means birds and butterflies. There is a lodge there that keeps hummingbird feeders filled so it is an excellent birding spot. The first bird you see is the colorful and playful Acorn Woodpecker (first photo), found only in Arizona, California, and parts of Western Oregon. Other frequently seen birds that love our southern canyons are the Bridled Titmouse (second photo) and White Breasted Nuthatch (third photo). The Bridled Titmouse is only found in the Southern Mountains of Arizona and Central Mexico. The White Breasted Nuthatch has a much wider distribution and can be found in all the lower 48 states. Like the Painted Redstart I have shown you before, the White Breasted Nuthatch is in constant motion, moving around trees in any direction. They also seem to like picnic areas for some reason. I believe I was eating a sandwich at one of the many picnic tables when I took this photo.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gobble Gobble and Cock-A-Doodle-Do

Miller Canyon also has some ground birds that are nosey or noisy -- actually both. First, there is a fair population of Wild Turkeys gobble gobbling around the mountainside. Second, there is a small population of Helmeted Guineafowl with their raucous rhythmic sounds. And finally the cock-a-doodle-do of the Roosters (and hens) that seem to roam around freely from Beatty's Orchard. The Rooster in the third photo seemed particularly pleased with the way he looked so I obligingly took his portrait. It goes in my file of "Farm Animals" that I sometimes feel compelled to photograph.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Miller Canyon Wildflowers

Still more from Miller Canyon. It is very easy to be so focused that you don't "stop and smell the roses" when you are headed to a specific place with something very specific in mind to photograph. I knew right where to look for the hummingbirds. But, I also knew that they would be around all day. So, I couldn't pass up taking photos of some of the wildflowers, even before the hummingbirds. In the first, there is a small pond, covered with waterlilies. Although not open yet, something about the red bulb attracted me. The second photo is Indian Blanket, a sunflower looking plant but with very distinctive yellow tipped pink leaves and a dark maroon colored ball in the middle. The third photo is Blue Bonnet Lupine, which we see a lot of along the mountain slopes. There is so much beauty in this world it is easy to see a "half filled glass" as flowing over.