The Pine Siskins in Montana were constantly moving and flitting about. It was a surprise to see this one hunkered down on the end of a perch, maybe waiting for things to calm down in the water below or the frenzy at the nearby feeders to stop. Maybe he’d just had his fill of sunflower seeds and bathing and wanted a moment to relax.

2020—Another Nuthatch

Despite the many Pine Siskins crowding the water feature at The Ranch in Montana, whenever a single Red-breasted Nuthatch lurked around the edges, the white stripes on its head drew our attention. It was a real challenge to capture this tiny, quick-moving bird. Most of the time, when one of us spotted and called out the location, in the second or two it took to swing the camera around, the nuthatch had disappeared. It was always rewarding to actually photograph it.

2020—Simple Background

One of the challenges of photographing Pine Siskins at the water feature at The Ranch in Montana was getting multiple birds in focus at the same time. The birds are small and they crowded the perches just fractions of an inch apart so it seemed like it was doable. Finally, on our last day, I managed to photograph two in the same focal plane so both their visible eyes were in focus. Although I’d hoped to get several crowded onto a single perch, and all on the same focal plane so all their eyes would be in focus, for me, it didn’t happen. I was using a Nikkor 500mm PF lens with the Nikon TC14eIII teleconverter, with the lens at its largest aperture, f/8. At that aperture, the depth of focus was very shallow and that difference softened the focus on one of the birds. If I’d reduced the aperture to increase the depth of focus to try to mitigate the slight distance differences, I risked losing the simple background. I chose the simple background and fewer birds.

2020—California Comes to Montana

The smoke from California’s and other western wildfires hundreds of miles away, has covered Montana with ash, filled the skies with smoke, and degraded the air quality to levels found in my neighborhood in California, well into the unhealthy range. Early Monday morning we drove into the Sapphire Mountains to the Skalkaho Waterfall, a spectacular falls at about a mile above sea level where Lewis and Clark once made their way and documented in their journals. As the sun rose above the treetops, it glowed a fiery red from the particulate in the air. It was quite a spectacular sight, despite the grave implications of the scene. It looks almost as if the trees are burning but those without needles probably were dead either from a previous fire or die off from beetle infestations. I took this photograph at about 8:30 AM at an elevation of about 7200 feet.


Garnet, Montana, now a ghost town, was established in the late 1890’s in the Garnet Range when new technology made the extraction of gold from ore easier. The small town became a boom town for a short time before the veins of gold all but disappeared by World War I. There were a couple of hotels and saloons in the town as well as a local general store that sold mining tools along with other goods. Saws, once new, hang on the wall of what was once a flourishing mercantile in the town.

2020—Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatches hatched at The Ranch earlier this year. While the Pine Siskins were the overwhelming species of bird that populated the very attractive water feature at The Ranch in Montana, on my first day back here, the Nuthatches, while significantly fewer in number, held their own with the Pine Siskins whose numbers seemingly diminished in the few weeks since I last visited. Although the classic Nuthatch pose eluded me on my first day back at The Ranch, I had quite a few opportunities for photographs as a couple of them returned to the water several times throughout the day.