Morning on the Bayou is still, peaceful, and serene. The Bald Cypress forest is thick surrounding Caddo Lake in Texas. The Spanish moss fills in most of the cracks and spaces between tree trunks, keeping light off the forest floor. At eye level, floating by in a pontoon boat, it’s almost impossible to discern what might be lurking in the darkness. The morning sun strikes the Cypress branches on the edges of the thicket and reflects off the draping moss.
Yellowstone National Park rules say that 25 yards is the minimum safe distance for viewing Bison. Sometimes maintaining that distance is not possible. A couple of weeks ago in Yellowstone, we stopped our van to watch a small herd of mostly cows and calves cross the road in front of us and continue up the snowy slope on the other side. This cow was determined to walk right past the open van door and couldn’t resist peeking inside as she passed by. Well, hello, there!
The little Red Fox Vixen that we photographed on three of our days in Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago was clearly used to people. She hunted in the same meadow every day and photographers swarmed to the area. We respected her space so we were not a threat to her like many of the other photographers who moved erratically and raced to get closer to her. She avoided the photographers who chased her down and harassed her as she moused in the large meadow by the road. They would follow her as she moved throughout her territory, sometimes moving off the road the into the snow with their tripods and video equipment so they could theoretically get closer photographs. Sadly, for them, all that did was cause her to move further away. After a while, many of them lost interest and left. In the meantime, we stayed by our vehicle parked away from the other vehicles and did not move to the edge of the road. She clearly sensed that we were not a threat. On more than one occasion, she walked between us to cross the road to cache her quarry and then crossed the road again nearby to continue mousing. When the few remaining photographers saw that she had moved closer to us, they moved quickly en masse, stepping in front of us and encroaching on the fox’s space. When she had had enough, she disappeared in the distance. Before that happened, as she moved closer to us to avoid the harassment, we were able to photograph her, her ears are perked up, not laid back indicating she was alert but not threatened by us. She even stopped to check us out.
A pair of young wolves frolick in the snow as the mists from the nearby hot springs drift by them in Yellowstone National Park in January 2018. As a photographer, in particular as a wildlife photographer, I have been exceedingly lucky to be in the right place at the right time to document some incredible moments. These moments are forever seared in my memory and I am privileged to share some of the images from those moments. Without a doubt, one of my most memorable photographic experiences, as well as one of my top life experiences, took place almost three years ago in January 2018 in Yellowstone National Park when we watched the 8-Mile Wolf Pack as they played, slept, and fed on a Bison they had killed earlier in the day. I have been thinking about that experience a lot lately after learning that, as improbable as it sounds to me, the Gray Wolf was de-listed as an endangered species. And, I was disheartened to learn that a visitor to Grand Teton National Park shot and killed a Gray Wolf in late October. But I had good news Friday morning, talking with a friend who lives in Colorado. I learned that Colorado voters approved a proposition to reintroduce wolves there. And, although on my recent visit to Yellowstone National Park in early November, I didn’t photograph any wolves, on our last day there, we heard the Wapiti Pack singing and then watched them through binoculars as they rested on a slope far in the distance. Seeing and hearing wolves! Always a memorable experience.
Great Egrets seem to have infinite patience as they wait and watch for something to eat in the shallow waters of Caddo Lake in Eastern Texas on the Louisiana border. We drifted closely by a number of Great Egrets in our pontoon boat one morning. They paid no attention to us drifting nearby, instead focusing on their next meal.
Happy Thanksgiving! This big Tom is strutting his stuff, happy that he’s not stuffed for Thanksgiving. Photographed at Custer State Park in South Dakota, Nikon D5, Nikkor 300mmPF, Nikon TC 14EIII.
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.
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.
The water was like glass on Caddo Lake at sunrise. The moss shrouded Bald Cypress and the cottony clouds reflected as if in a mirror, without a ripple. What a magical place.
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.