2023—So Cute

They are irresistibly cute, those Pine Martens. The Pine Martens were a huge attraction at Yellowstone National Park last week, especially for photographers. On our last morning there, we were determined to be the first at the area behind the service station so we drove directly there, about an hour and a half drive. This time, we used our longest lenses and our tripods and we were rewarded with a couple of hours of shooting with the Pine Martens. We saw at least four and there might have been more there. Other photographers came and went but we stayed put and watched them as they watched us as well. This adorable little one peeked out from behind the foot of snow on top of the dumpster as the snow fell around it.

2023—The Pine in Pine Marten

It seems like every Yellowstone photography adventure I go on has a different star. On this winter trip, the star, or maybe I should say stars, were the Weasels. We photographed River Otters (members of the Weasel family) on a couple of days and we photographed the Pine Martens (also members of the Weasel family) on two days although we visited their location on the other three days but they didn’t come out to play with us then. What fun to have both of these Weasel species in our view finders, in their natural environments. The Pine Marten in this shot is dusted with a bit of snow after scurrying across it and into a pine tree. Here, it is climbing down the trunk of a pine tree from which it gets its common name.

2023—On the Prowl

On our second day in Yellowstone, we encountered an old friend, a lone Coyote prowling across the snow. It stopped to sniff at the scent markings left by the River Otters we’d photographed in the same area earlier, then continued on its way. My friends Richard and Bob also posted photographs of this coyote with the “On the Prowl” title to their blogs so not to be left out, I’m adding an extra post to catch up with the competition. Click here to see Bob’s post and click here to see Richard’s post.

2023—Frosting on the Trees

Silex Spring, a turquoise colored pool near the start of the trail at Fountain Paint Pots in Yellowstone National Park has an average temperature of 174.7°F according to the National Park Service. It emits a constant cloud of steam and in the extreme cold of winter, the steam settles on the surrounding trees and freezes into a thick frosting like coating. Although this images appears to be black and white, it is actually a color image.

2023—Pop Goes the Weasel

There’s no cobbler’s bench but the weasel popped up in the snow in Yellowstone yesterday to look at the gaggle of photographers drawn to an area behind the service station just outside Canyon Village to photograph it. Several Pine Martens, members of the weasel family, frequent the area partly because of the large trash bin there. They have become quite a winter attraction for the snow coaches with groups of the park’s winter visitors including fellow photographers. These feisty critters are drawn to the trash bin that provides protection and who knows what else (it is topped with almost two feet of snow now so it hasn’t been emptied for some time) but they also scurry up and down the surrounding pine trees and peer out devising their strategy to get from the tree to the trash bin while under intense observation. While we were there, three different groups of photographers, at least 18 including us, were lined up along the snowy trail that passes the trash bin and the park employee residence behind it. Fortunately, all of the photographers on this day were mostly quiet and respectful, unlike the day before when one woman pounded on the trash bin in a misguided and appalling effort to get the Pine Martens inside to emerge. While they appear cute and adorable, Pine Martens are actually quite vicious and their primary diet is squirrels and voles.

2023—Snowy Bison

Our third morning in Yellowstone National Park dawned colder than our first couple of days here. We were hoping to find Bison with snow crusted on their coats and we came across a few bulls plowing through the snow to find something to munch on. They were so intent on finding sustenance that they didn’t lift up their heads often and I was lucky to get a few shots before he plunged back into the snow, tossing his head from side to side clearing away the snow from what was left of the grasses beneath it.

2023—Utterly Enamored with Otters

For the second day in a row in Yellowstone National Park along the Yellowstone River, we encountered a family of River Otters, watching as they played in the water, submerged and reappeared on the opposite side of the bridge, and popped up out of the water to see what was going on around them. Popping head up out of the water is a movement I have learned is called periscoping as this pair is demonstrating. They seem to frolic in and under the water and in the snow with pure joy. I am utterly enamored with otters.

2023—My Little Chickadee

Whenever I see a chickadee I think of W.C. Fields. He used the line, “my little chickadee” in several films and one film he did with Mae West was even named My Little Chickadee. When I was in college, some thirty-odd years after his films were originally released, I discovered them and found them quite hilarious. Here, my little Black-capped Chickadee is posing in the woods at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota as the snow blows behind it. I took this on the last day of our visit a couple of weeks ago. With the blowing snow in the background, it reminds me of my favorite W.C. Fields quote, from a movie short called The Fatal Glass of Beer, “It ain’t a fit night out for man nor beast.” And that evening, the storm came in.

2023—A Little Downy

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in North America. This is a male Downy. Males have a red patch on the back of their heads and it is just barely visible in this image. I took this shot on my first day visiting Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota about ten days ago, in a woodsy area. Yesterday on my morning walk here in Northern California, I saw a Downy Woodpecker in a tree next to the sidewalk but I didn’t have my Nikon with me and my phone did not do the little woodpecker justice. Downy Woodpeckers live year round throughout most of the United States.

2023—The Opposite of Drab

The Evening Grosbeak is the opposite of drab. It’s hard to miss one when it’s surrounded by a drab gray woodsy area, like the woods in Sax-Zim Bog known as Loretta’s Feeders. The leaves were gone from the deciduous trees and the pines were a ways away so there was almost no other color to compete with the bright colors on this bird.

2023—The Mope

The Pine Grosbeak is a striking bird, also known as the Boreal Finch because of the biome in which it lives. According to the American Bird Conservancy, in Newfoundland, it has the nickname the “Mope” because of its slow-moving, almost sluggish ways. Because this American Robin sized bird lives where there are not many people, it does not seem to fear humans and will approach. We noticed at Sax-Zim Bog that when flocks of these birds were nibbling seed thrown onto the snow, they would approach us standing there. Of course they were then too close for photographs but I found it very interesting that they would walk to within a few feet of me, look up, turn back and slowly make their way back to the pile of seed. They often perched on the branches without moving for long periods, unlike the fluttery Black-capped Chickadees that spent fractions of a second before flitting away.

2023—Shy Boreal Forest Denizen

The Boreal Chickadee has a reputation of being excessively elusive and shy. Seeing one for the first time, at Sax-Zim Bog, was a delight and even though we saw it only briefly, I was able to get a couple of shots of it. It came in from the pines deep in the forest and Moose spotted it at one of the suet feeders. Suddenly, it emerged on a tree branch righin front of us and remained briefly as it seemed to assess the situation. Then it flew off and disappeared into the pines. The next day, it teased us again for an even briefer visit, then disappeared. We were lucky to have had the short opportunity to see this shy denizen of the Boreal Forest.

2023—Black-capped Chickadee

The range of the tiny Black-capped Chickadee extends across the entire northern part of the United States but their range includes only a tiny part of the northernmost part of California so I am always thrilled to see them when I get the chance. They are feisty little birds that don’t migrate and manage to weather extremely cold temperatures so Sax-Zim Bog is a place where they are plentiful. At many of the shooting locations we visited, they were out and about even when other birds were not visible.

2023—Snowflake

It was snowing on our last day at Sax-Zim Bog. The temperature had dropped ten degrees from the day before and the wind picked up so it felt much colder than the 18° the thermometer registered. The Canada Jays were the first birds we noticed at the feeder in the woods on the side of the road on that day. The Canada Jays are much larger than the Chickadees and other small birds we saw regularly at the Bog and they have many of the characteristics of the California Scrub Jays with which I am familiar: gregarious, raucous, pushy. But Jays are among my favorite birds from well before my bird photography days started so I am drawn to the Canada Jays at the Bog. One of the things my photographer friends razz me about is my tendency to focus on what they call “Carolisms.” Usually Carolisms are subjects that I make a point of photographing, and they are usually oddities or humorous things that I notice and no one else notices. In this case, my Carolism was serendipitous not deliberate. It is a barely noticeable snowflake on the nape of the Canada Jay’s neck. I thought it was pretty cool that the snowflake retained its shape after landing on the Jay. Of course the cold temperatures kept it from melting.