Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mountain Bluebird II

So there I was driving on a back road south of Williams, Arizona looking for Pronghorn. As I was passing a ranch there was this Mountain Bluebird sitting on a post; never moved. I stopped, rolled down the passenger side window, and took this photo. Not bad, huh? I love the muted background that makes the Bluebird stand out.

Mountain Bluebird

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From Moose to Mountain Bluebirds

From Moose to Mountain Bluebirds. Continuing with my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos we leave Moose and come to Mountain Bluebirds. I found this little guy in the Galiuro Mountains in Southern Arizona. 

Mountain Bluebird

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moose from Jackson County, Colorado

The last of my "5" Star Moose photos also comes from Jackson County, Colorado. It was my first Moose photo from Colorado -- taken many years ago. I had been searching for quite a while without luck when I got to the very end of a dirt road. I got out of my Jeep, to just stretch my legs when I saw this female peeking around a tree. I had not seen it among all the trees so she caught me by surprise.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Jackson County Moose

There are six different species of Moose found around the world. The Alaskan subspecies is the largest with the males averaging 1500 pounds. It is the second largest land animal in North America (2nd to the Bison). The Shiras Moose of the Rocky Mountains (and Cascades) is the smallest of the Moose (a paltry 1250 pounds), yet when you see an adult Shiras Bull Moose up close you can appreciate the fact that they all are quite large. The Eastern Species is found in Northeast US and Canada. The Western Moose is found in parts of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. The European species is found in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. 

One year I was in Colorado State Forest after an October snowfall when I saw a lone Bull Moose among some willows. There was no immediate place to park, so I had to drive ahead a quarter of a mile or so and walk back. But, the Moose was patient. He waited for me. And, he let me take many photos. 

At one point, when I was about 30 feet  away some movement caught my eye behind me. I turned and it was an American Marten bouncing through the snow about 100 yards away. So, a couple okay photos of the Marten were added to my day's work.

Then it was back to watching this Bull Moose. I think I could do that all day.

Bull Moose

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Grand Teton Moose

Continuing the Moose. There is a back road through Grand Teton National Park that I always take as I head up to Yellowstone. It's a low area at the foot of the Grand Tetons that follows Cottonwood Creek up to Jenny and Jackson Lakes. But it is the area along the creek that you can often find Moose. It's always fascinating to watch Moose eat submerged vegetation. Here's a female who has just lifting her head up to check on me. In this case I like the green background of the plants and how the water is dripping from her mouth.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Moose from Maligne Lake, Alberta

I have to admit a fondness for finding and photographing Moose. I realize there are places where Moose are a nuisance -- in Alaska for example, where they come into towns and knock over mailboxes etc. But for me, this awkward looking animals is actually quite beautiful. 

Moose with Calf

Friday, October 25, 2013

Maligne Lake Moose

Continuing with my alphabetical series of my "5" Star Photos in general and Moose in particular we come to a favorite photo and story.

On a winter trip to Jasper National Park I drove up to Maligne Lake passing an open field about the size of a football field. There were trees lining the road so it was not easily to see this odd brown "spot" in the middle of an otherwise white field of snow. I pulled off to the side of the road so I could get a better view. Yes! It was a female Moose at "mid-field." So, I walked down into the field and out to the middle until I was about 30 feet away from the Moose.

I was a bit surprised that she didn't get up and walk away. But, I was walking very slowly, very carefully, and very quietly. I then sat down in the snow and started taking photos. After a few photos I just sat admiring her. (It helped that I had on long-johns and was adequately protected from the cold). It was so peaceful and serene. She never moved; occasionally put her nose in the snow; but, we both seemed content and happy surrounded by mother nature's beauty. Moose may be gangly looking, but their coats are truly a beautiful dark chocolate brown as gorgeous as mink.

This may not have been the most exciting wildlife experience I have had, but it certainly was one of the most peaceful and in a way spiritual.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Red Tailed Hawk at Santa Cruz Flats

Yesterday I journeyed up to Santa Cruz Flats in hope of finding Crested Caracaras and Prairie Falcons. Just as I was getting there I so two Crested Caracaras flying overhead going in the opposite direction. They were out of sight before I could stop the car, grab my camera, get out, point, shoot. Never saw one again. No luck on the Prairie Falcon either. There were hundreds of Ravens and hundreds of Killdeer, especially along Baumgardener near Wheeler.

And, there were lots of Raptors including this one:

Red Tailed Hawk

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Every once in a while you get lucky. A bird or animal will stay still and allow you to get close for a photograph. Yesterday, our guests were sitting outside by the pool when a Sharp Shinned Hawk fly down and sat on one of our walls. Evidently he was there for quite a lot time. I happened by, saw him, then went back to get my camera. I took several photos from different angles. Then I went inside to start making breakfast. He was still there, perched on the wall. Here's the photo I like best. It's my new desktop photo.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bull Moose at Rocky Mountain National Park

Continuing with my "5" Star Moose photos.

One year, I had finished my morning at Cameron Pass in Northwest Colorado, and went on to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was about 10:30 when I arrived near the West Entrance to the park. The road was already crowded (20+ cars) so I stopped to see what the attraction was. There were two very large Bull Moose lying down about ten feet apart and partially concealed by brush. They were 150 feet or more away, though. I started talking to a photographer from Silver Spring, Maryland. Since I grew up in Silver Spring we had a few things to talk about about while we waited. 

Seeing this before, I knew that at some point the Moose were going to get up and start eating again. In the meantime people (families with children) came and went, either not knowing or not caring that they could be in for  a very nice treat if they stayed.

It took an hour and a half, but I called it right. The Moose not only got up but they came much closer to eat the oak brush. My patience was rewarded with some wonderful photos. Here is one of them:

Bull Moose

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bull Moose in Flowers

Moose love to eat oak brush. So, if you are in Moose Country, anywhere there is oak brush there is potential. 

Here's an example of patience paying off. This Bull Moose was a good 100 yards away when I found him. It was not reasonably possible to get closer because the oak brush was so thick. As it turns out, there was no need to get closer. That's because he came to me --- just as I had hoped. It took a little over an hour, but there he was, no more than 25 feet away, chowing down on that oak brush.

The purple sage helped make this a very special "5" Star Photo:

Bull Moose

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lots to see at Whitewater Draw

Yesterday I checked out Whitewater Draw in Southeast Arizona. Whitewater Draw is most famous for its wintering Sandhill Cranes. About 1,000 have already arrived. By January, there should be 30,000 to 40,000. But, as for yesterday, they were really too far away for a good photo. But, all was not lost. Lots of other photos:

White Faced Ibis

Cattle Egret and Long Billed Curlews

Great Egret

Belted Kingfisher

Least Sandpiper

Great Blue Heron

Eared Grebe

Clark's Grebe

Loggerhead Shrike

Ferruginous Hawk

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bull Moose Bust

Here's a "5" Star Photo that was a surprise. 

When you are photographing wildlife, you not only try to get the lighting, background, composition you want, you try to get the best angle for your "subject" and hope it is looking the direction you want. So there are many thing you are considering. 

In today's case, however, I was not trying to get a "bust-only" photograph. But, that's what I got nonetheless. It looks like something hanging on the wall in some guy's office or den.

Bull Moose Bust

Monday, October 14, 2013

Baby Moose

Continuing with my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos in general and Moose in particular we come to a baby Moose among wildflowers. I've been to Colorado State Forest in search of Moose several times -- and, always come home with wonderful photos. 

And, I have had such good luck at Cameron Pass I decided to try it again the last time. I stayed in the little town of Walden about 25 miles away. I got up early enough to get to Cameron Pass 15 minutes before dawn. 

When I arrived I could barely see -- but, what I could see was a Bull and and Cow. So, I waited until light. And, what a surprise. There was also a very young calf. Couldn't have been more than a couple weeks old. 

Lots of photos, several "5" Star, this one just of the baby:

Baby Moose

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Waiting for the Bull Moose

I am often asked about having the patience to photograph wildlife. As a general rule I don't wait in a spot in hopes that an animal I want to photograph happens by -- even if it is an ideal spot and there are animal tracks and scat around. You could wait for days.

But, there is a kind of patience that pays off -- sometimes. I was on the westside of  Rocky Mountain National Park along the North Fork of the Colorado River.  Off in the distance I saw a Bull Moose, along with a Cow and a Yearling. They were lying down in a meadow about 300 yards away. It was "marshy" and so I wasn't going to be able to move closer. 

It was about 6:15 am when I arrived. I thought, why leave to look for a Moose that might be only 20 yards away? I have found three Moose right here. So, I decided it was worth the wait. By 7:00 they were up and moving around -- a bit closer. By 8:00 they were lying down again. By 9:00 they were up and still closer, yet still too far for a good photo. 

Again the question was should I wait in hopes that the Moose will come still closer. My answer was again "yes." It was't until 11:45, 5 1/2 hours after start that I was able to take this photo. I was happy. It was probably the largest Bull Moose I have seen in the wild. And, I was in awe!

Bull Moose

Friday, October 11, 2013

Moose Croaking

First, my apologies for the absence of posts the past couple of days. I have been working on a new book: "Tales of a Wildlife Photographer." And, once you start writing it becomes an obsession (as all writers know).

But back to my series on my "5" Star Photos, as we come to the MOOSE.

I was along the North Fork of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park when I came across nice size Bull Moose.   I watched for a couple hours until he wandered of. Interestingly, it was the first time I saw a Bull Moose "croaking." And, I was thrilled to capture it in a photo. 

Like Elk, "croaking" or "bugling" in case of the Elk, only happens in the fall. It is to "announce" the Bull's availability for mating. However, the sound is nothing like that of an Elk. It is a softer, quieter sound, and I heard it only once during the time I spent with him. Also, interestingly, there was a Bull Elk 800 - 900 yards away that I could hear bugling as I was photographing the Moose. 

Moose Croaking

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monument Valley "5" Star Photo

Every once in a while, I see something other than wildlife that is begging me for a photo. I never think of myself as a good landscape photographer. Landscapes to me are so vast and 3 dimensional, I usually think they are unphotographable. Yet, todays "5" Star Photo is a landscape taken at dawn in Monument Valley; one of my very few landscapes that I would call "5" Star.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Montezuma Quail

Unlike Gambel's Quail which are abundant here at The Azure Gate, the Montezuma Quail are secretive birds, typically only found in family groups, and only in the mountains of Southeast Arizona, Southwest New Mexico, and extreme Southwest Texas. It is always a delight coming across one while hiking:

Montezuma Quail

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monarch Butterfly

Today's "5" Star Photo is a Monarch Butterfly. Nice wing spread -- and in perfect condition. Nice slightly off-center composition. Nice contrasting and muted background. Very pleasing to look at:

Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mexican Jay or Grey Breasted Jay

Back to my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos.

The Mexican Jay, which used to be called the Grey Breasted Jay, ranges from Central Mexico to Southeastern Arizona, Southwestern New Mexico, and extreme Southwestern Texas. It is similar in size to a Stellar Jay, but is the heaviest of all the Jays. They usually fly together in groups and are quite noisy. Like the Western Scrub Jay it usually finds higher elevation picnic sites looking for scraps to eat. It is a very beautiful and because it likes those picnic areas can be photographed relatively easy. 

Mexican Jay

Friday, October 4, 2013

Muleshoe Ranch, Jackson's Cabin, and the Galiuro Mountains

Yesterday was an "off-day" so I got up early and drove to Muleshoe Ranch in the Galiuro Mountains of Southern Arizona. I continued past the Visitor's Center on the 4x4 only road which extends 14 miles into the Galiuro Mountains ending up at Jackson's Cabin. The road is truly 4x4 only -- and requires a trail rated, high clearance vehicle with good off-road tires -- nerves of steel and a strong stomach. 

This is an area rich with history. In 1884, the first owner of Muleshoe Ranch, Dr. Glendy King, was killed in a land dispute by his neighbors. One of those neighbors, Ed Drew, was a champion rodeo rider for many years who was elected sheriff of Graham County. However, he was killed in a saloon gunfight in 1911. Ed's sister, Cora, was an exceptional horsewoman who was offered a job in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Cora's mother, however, did not allow her 16 year daughter to accept.  The Ranch Foreman was  Johnny Boyett who in 1900 gunned down the 45 year old Warren Earp, (the youngest brother of Wyatt Earp).

The closest town is Willcox about 30 miles from the Visitor's Center at Muleshoe Ranch. The 14 mile "road" out to Jackson's Cabin from the Visitor's Center takes about 2 hours to drive. Back in the late 1800's it took two days on horseback to go from Jackson's Cabin to Willcox. 

In terms of Wildlife, the area has Mountain Lions, Black Bears, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Coatimundi, and three different Skunks.  However, yesterday I didn't come across any of them. I saw several Mule Deer and White Tailed Deer, and a variety of birds including Summer Tanager, Black Headed Grosbeak, Black Phoebe, and the omnipresent Gilded Flicker. And, as typical, a great many raptors were seen as well.

But, for my daily photo, I leave you with Jackson's Cabin:

Jackson's Cabin

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mexican Hat: A Geological Wonder

From Mexican Hat Coneflowers to Mexican Hat, Utah. While Southern Utah isn't exactly a Wildlife Photographers Heaven, it certainly is for the Landscape Photographer. There is Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef National Parks;  Natural Bridges National Monument; Gooseneck and Valley of the Gods State Parks; and Monument Valley. Just to the north of Monument Valley (which straddles Arizona and Utah) is Mexican Hat, a small town with another geological marvel. I've passed through the area many times, photographing Mexican Hat on several occasions. But on this one particular occasion, the lighting was perfect allowing the structure to stand out. 

Mexican Hat

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mexican Hat Coneflowers and Other Wildflowers

While I focus mainly on animals and birds, I look forward to "Wildflower Season." There's always so much color  -- plus the possibility of butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds. Here a field of wildflowers that includes one of my favorites, the Mexican Hat Coneflower:

Mexican Hat Coneflowers and other Wildflowers