This Northern Mockingbird, the state bird of Texas where I took this shot, doesn’t look much like a Mockingbird. It had just finished bathing in the intense heat of late spring in South Texas and it had flown to a branch to fluff its feathers and dry off a bit. It is more like a caricature than a bird. Its feathers look more like a fur cape with a stand-up collar than feathers. It is looking at me disdainfully. It is almost a mockery of a mockingbird.
Capturing a different look of an iconic view can be a challenge. This is Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park. To get this look, I closed down the lens and set the camera to its lowest ISO to get a slow shutter speed. I used a long lens, the Nikkor 80-400mm lens so I could focus just on the water and exclude any of the shore. The resulting streakiness of the flowing water reminds me of a horse’s mane.
The Spanish word for Gannet is Alcatraz. Although there are no Gannets on the west coast of the United States, an island in San Francisco Bay was named Alcatraces (plural of Alcatraz) by Spanish Explorer Juan Manual de Ayala in 1775 probably because he mistook Pelicans on the island for Gannets. Years after its misnomer, the now shuttered infamous federal prison known as Alcatraz, once home to the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, was established on the island. Thousands of miles away from Alcatraz Island, on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Cape St. Mary’s, New Foundland Northern Gannets flourish in their nesting communities. Tens of thousands of the large birds congregate during the few months of the nesting season before returning to their life at sea. The birds have to look closely to figure out where their nest site and mate are on the crowded rock.
Bison in Yellowstone National Park are massive creatures. Their thick hides and dense fur help them withstand cold temperatures. I thought it was rather charming to see some of the young bison snuggling up to their mothers, seemingly to keep warm.
Warblers are small birds and the woodsy backdrop at Magee Marsh can make it hard to see them let alone get a clean shot of them. There are often twigs and leaves and branches that obscure the birds. This shot of a Yellow Warbler was unusal for me last year because there are no twigs or leaves in the way and the tiny bird appers even smaller with nothing to gauge its size.
Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone National Park is a surreal place. It is usually windy, icy, and slippery. On our visit this year, though, the relentless wind was gone. This visit, I wasn’t worried that a gust of wind would push me off the narrow walkway into the primordial ooze. I was able to appreciate and admire the stunning vistas it offers.
Great Blue Herons were everywhere in the Skagit River Valley last week. We didn’t stop to photograph most of them because they were not our target specie. But, a couple of times, a GBH presented itself in the right setting so I did get a few photographs of one of them.
Visiting the Skagit River Valley in Washington this past week was a challenging photography experience for me. I have been spoiled by my good fortune over the past several years to spend time photographing wildlife and landscapes with Moose Peterson. Moose always seems to find the best places so that those who shoot with him have the best opportunity for the best photographs. However, on this trip with Moose the weather dictated our photography experience. But, in the end, despite the adverse conditions, Moose’s experience and intuition helped us all achieve our main goal for the trip: To see and photograph owls, in particular Short-eared Owls, in their native habitat.
The weather was the guiding factor for our photography. The rain was non-stop, the light was flat, and the skies were gray, three factors that made our bird photography quite a challenge. The rain tends to keep birds in place so they are more difficult to find and therefore, more difficult to photograph. With flat light, the range of light is very limited and there are no shadows and little contrast. The gray skies are not appealing backgrounds for birds, either in flight or even on the water as the water tends to reflect the same gray skies and subjects are usually backlit.
Due to the conditions, we each took only a handful of photographs the first couple of days and saw our first owl on day 2. On our final day, with the skies still dreary and the rain unrelenting, we returned to the place we saw a Short-eared Owl the day before. During several hours, much of it spent standing in the rain or under the rear canopy of our SUV, we watched at least five and possibly six, Short-eared Owls hunting, sitting on the ground watching and waiting for prey, and fending off opportunist Bald Eagles. In addition to my goal of photographing these owls in their native habitat, the one photograph I wanted to capture was an owl in flight. And with guidance from Moose and a lot of patience, I did just that. The experience reminded me that all it takes is one photograph, something I have known but I needed a reminder.
The Skagit River Valley in Washington is a damp and rainy place. It has been raining non-stop since we arrived on Monday and some of the roads we’ve traveled have been flooded at low spots. The rain has kept most birds from venturing far from shelter and we saw one large tree with at least 37 Bald Eagles perched in it for most of the day. But we were at Skagit River to photograph owls, specifically Short-eared Owls, not Bald Eagles and on our second day we finally spotted a couple of them. We returned to the same area on our last day and we had some luck photographing some Short-eared Owls. They were drenched from the relentless rain.
Bison were everywhere in Yellowstone National Park last week. We came across this bull standing in a stream. He finally emerged onto the shore, dripping water which quickly froze on the hairs on his chin.