2020—Expected Big—Went Small

Bighorn Sheep were the target of our visit to Flaming Gorge last month. However, for the first couple of days we did not see any Bighorn Sheep. There was a sighting close to our lodging so we followed the trails in search of them only to come up short. At one point, we waited on a fallen log hoping that the sheep we knew were nearby might return. While I sat, this Nodding Thistle caught my attention. Using the Nikon D6 and the Nikkor 500mmPF, I was able to isolate them and the telephoto lens created a creamy, smooth background with no distractions. I was expecting a big subject. Instead, I found a small one.

2020—The Elegant Egret

What a beautiful sight to see Great Egrets perched in the moss-draped Bald Cypress trees on Caddo Lake far above the shallow water where they wade and search for fish to eat. The massive trees and the pendulous Spanish moss dwarfed these large birds with 5 their foot wingspans. One hundred years ago, these magnificent birds with their elegant plumes were threatened with extinction primarily because of the fashion of the day. Women’s hats were decorated with plumes from Great Egrets and other birds — sometimes even entire birds would decorate a hat. Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets had the most valuable feathers and plume hunters went to great lengths to supply the millinery trade with feathers killing thousands of birds in the process. The Audubon Society and other conservation groups fought the trend for nearly 50 years as they saw entire species of birds hunted to the brink of extinction merely for women’s fashion. When the governments of the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty that protected birds from people in 1916, the fashion trend, with its demands for the slaughter of countless birds, ended. In 1918, the United States codified the treaty into the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Now, one hundred years later, we can appreciate the beauty and elegance of these gorgeous birds alive and in full feather. Sadly, many species were not so lucky.

2020—Young Buck

Lewis and Clark were the first to scientifically identify the American Pronghorn. On September 17, 1804, Merriweather Lewis wrote that Pronghorn movements were “…more like the flight of birds than the movement of an earthly being” with “a speed equal to that of the most distinguished race-horse.” Pronghorn are small and graceful. We watched a herd disappear as they fled from predators. Their movements were similar to a flock of birds and they were gone in an instant. This young buck was alert but not threatened so he watched us without concern. The small buds on his head have yet to grow into the heart-shaped set of antlers that are so distinctive of Pronghorn bucks.

2020—Ram Tough

Bighorn Sheep are among my favorite critters to photograph. I’ve had lots of opportunities to see and photograph them this year. What’s fascinating to me about them is that if you “play their game” and respect their space, they actually recognize you and the vehicle you’re in and go about their business knowing you are not a threat to them. Just outside Yellowstone National Park last week we had the opportunity to photograph a herd of Bighorn Sheep. We counted 9 mature rams in the herd as well as several young rams. The mature rams mostly banded together in groups or three or four but I caught this one while he was alone and gazing across the road. Shot with my Nikon D6 and Nikkor 500mmPF lens.