November 22, 2017 Overton, Nevada

Poverty Flats Campsite
Poverty Flats Campsite

Finding Warmth

After a very long day of driving farther south, I arrived at my destination of Poverty Flats, just south of the small Nevada town of Overton. Poverty Flats is  located on a high desert mesa overlooking the town of Overton commanding  views of over 30 miles to the north and east. I managed to secure a spot on the “rim” of the mesa since the majority of the snowbirds don’t show up here until after the holidays. There are probably no more than thirty other campers here right now so the spacing is very nice, but that changes later in the season.

Yesterday’s drive was more than 400 miles and a lot of it was down through the megalopolis of Salt Lake City, a 60 mile stretch of horrible concrete road with unrelenting traffic. For me this was white knuckle driving for an hour and a half with heavy truck traffic and cars flying in and out of lanes. Even after getting south of Provo the volume of traffic was still unnerving. With I-15 reduced down to 2 lanes at that point, there was a never ending stream of traffic in both lanes pretty much right to Saint George and the Arizona line.

Bridger Campground Wildlife
Bridger Campground Wildlife

Wanting to avoid the rush hour traffic in Salt Lake City, I did another tour of Antelope Island very early Tuesday morning before departing. The image above was taken around 7 AM as I was having coffee. In just how many campgrounds do you suppose you would see this scene.

What the West Once Looked Like
What the West Once Looked Like

At the south end of the island, two of the females and young herds must have joined up overnight and were grazing off in the distance. There are roughly 150 bison in this composite of 6 individual images. I imagine this must be what the west looked like at one time long ago.

Porky Browsing
Porky Browsing

I noticed a dark object that looked totally out of place in a distant tree as I drove the road this morning. Curious, I walked out a distance and got this shot of a porcupine enjoying his breakfast.

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

Returning back to the campground, I was most fortunate to finally get some shots of one of the mulie bucks I had only been seeing at great distances during my stay here. Notice the one irregular antler, kind of odd that one would be normal and the other so different.

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

 

Love is in the Air
Love is in the Air

He was escorting a doe that was browsing amongst the phragmites.

Two Mulie Bucks
Sneaking Around

My vantage point was from the side of the road and a good distance away and above them. These shots were taken with a 600mm lens and a 1.4 teleconverter in very dim grey early morning light.

A second, younger, smaller buck was attracted to the scene and I got a kick out of watching him attempt to sneak around the larger buck and maybe get a shot at the ladies ( turns out there was a second Doe hidden in the reeds ).

Mulie Suitors
Standoff

I was hoping for a dramatic dual between the bucks but the size differential made the smaller guy just keep poking around the edges, turning tail and running any time the big guy took a couple steps toward him, never daring to challenge the older buck. I probably spent half an hour or more watching this little drama, and that is what I enjoy most about traveling about as I do, being a witness to these interesting wildlife interactions.

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November 19, 2017 Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

A Couple of Cold Days on Great Salt Lake

A cold front came whipping through and night time temperatures dropped into the low 20’s here Friday. I ran into Walmart and picked up some 1″ foam to cut up and use to try and insulate my basement storage compartment that houses my water pump since my motorhome is not really set up for winter camping. Thankfully, sealing up the compartment and then leaving the basement light on all night did get me through the night without freezing up. With no hookups here at the campground, I had to leave my seldom used gas furnace running all night to help make it through the night without freezing everything solid.

No question I need to continue south, but ironically, it is still way too warm for my tastes at my next destination, the long term visitor’s BLM area outside of Yuma, AZ. Temps there are still hovering around 90 degrees.

Bison and Highrises
Bison and Highrises

This has to be one of only two places I can think of where you could get a picture like this one, a free roaming wild bison herd grazing within view of downtown high-rise office buildings in a major metropolitan area.

Unsettled Weather
Unsettled Weather

Friday and Saturday had very unsettled weather blowing through, black threatening clouds alternating with sunny blue skies.

Stormy Skies
Stormy Skies
Sun and Clouds
Sun and Clouds

 

Stormy Skies
Stormy Skies

 

Mountain Reflections
Mountain Reflections

Antelope Island Wildlife

Perfectly Camouflaged Mulie
Perfectly Camouflaged Mulie

There are several great looking mule bucks wandering around the island looking for love at this time.

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

These shots were taken before the sun had come up Saturday Morning.

Mulie Bucks
Mulie Bucks

 

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

The same buck ( notice the identifying broken antler ) encountered later in the day.

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

 

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

Another wandering buck.

Mulie Buck
Mulie Buck

And another.

Mule Deer
Mule Deer

And yet another. This shot was taken at about a quarter mile away. I have seen this guy several times but always at a great distance away. Would love to get closer to this one.

Antelope Island Coyote
Antelope Island Coyote

The island must be a paradise for it’s hoofed creatures, since I believe there are no large predators here. The coyotes may well be the only predators around, at least they are the only ones I have encountered.

Antelope Island Coyote
Antelope Island Coyote

 

Antelope Island Coyote
Antelope Island Coyote

 

Antelope Island Coyote
Antelope Island Coyote

Finally, I Find the Pronghorns

Pronghorns
Pronghorns

Friday afternoon I finally saw some of the animals the island is named after, Pronghorn Antelope. A large herd of some 30 or 40 animals slowly came grazing over a hill not far from the road down at the southern end of the island. They were no more than a few hundred feet from the road and happened to show up when some sun was shining through the clouds and so I thought I finally was going to get a great opportunity to get some nice shots.

Pronghorns on the Run
Pronghorns on the Run

With the nasty weather today there were very few other people out and about this afternoon, so I slowly pulled off to the side of the road and rolled down the window,  got my piece of foam pipe insulation out and mounted to my window glass ( transforms my window glass to a makeshift tripod for my long lenses ) and prepared to shoot.

And then, of all things, considering there was almost no vehicle traffic on the road this afternoon, what pulls up but a #$@!*! TOUR BUS ! Hits it’s brakes, stops, releases a very loud hiss, and opens it’s door for it’s passengers to get out so they could scare off the pronghorns that the bus’s noise hasn’t already spooked…. and off goes the herd and my opportunity to get some nice pronghorn shots.

Pronghorns on the Run
Pronghorns on the Run

 

Pronghorns on the Run
Pronghorns on the Run

 

Pronghorns on the Run
Pronghorns on the Run

They all crossed the road and didn’t stop running until they put a lot of distance between themselves and the bus, and, of course, me.

37 Pronghorns
37 Pronghorns

The next morning I spotted them again about a mile from the road grazing on the side of the mountain, but never got close to them again.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

 

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

 

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

 

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

You have to get this close to fully realize just how large these bulls really are. Sitting low in my Prius as one like this approaches  can be a little intimidating as he towers over the vehicle.

I tentatively plan to leave here Monday and head a little farther south, not sure exactly where yet since it still too warm for me down around Yuma.

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August 18, 2017 Bend, Oregon

My Backyard or the View From My Door
My Backyard or the View From My Door

Heading to Portland and Hospital Wildlife

Just a quick post to let you know I’m still around.

Today I make the 175 mile trip to Portland for my first visit with the myeloma specialists at the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute Center for Hematological Malignancies Clinic. That’s a mouthful. Yesterday I started my fourth round of chemo here in Bend and my oncologist figures that with the continued good results that perhaps the process can be speeded up a bit and so the referral to OHSU and the specialists to see where, and how quickly, to go from here.

Blood work now shows that my kidney function, that was dangerously close to needing dialysis in May, has now returned to completely normal function and most other indicators show me nearing remission. Of course, that is great news, but the worst part of this, mentally, is knowing that no matter how great this rapid positive response has been, in the back, make that the front, of my mind, I know that this disease always makes a return. Quality of treatment can make that wait for the return a bit longer, but this thing always comes back. Knowing that both of my parents survived into their nineties, and that I have never been sick in my adult life, I always assumed I had another 15 or 20 good years left. Hard to adjust to hoping to survive for five or hopefully a little more years, and that only made possible with continued, and very expensive treatment and drugs. This for a person that has never taken any kind of drugs or medicine , ever.

All right, enough for the kind of post I said I didn’t ever want to write.

Hospital Wildlife

Really not much happening for me here in Bend. The hot 90’s weather has continued on unabated and some days it does get a little smoky from forest fires in the region, but not too bad. And the temps do always drop to 60 or less every night plus the humidity must be very low, because the heat just doesn’t seem that unbearable. not like down south, or even back in New Hampshire when it reached the 90’s there.

Had an interesting experience here on the hospital loop road’s camping spot Tuesday morning at 5:30 AM when I opened the motorhome door and let Sam out to go. I am now in a space with no other rigs on my passenger side, just an expanse of lush mowed grass ( that’s the reason for the strange opening photo above ), and as Sam hopped down the steps, I saw a young Mulie buck lift his head from his early morning grazing and stare at this possible nearby threat. He was no more than twenty feet from where I stood in the doorway and must have figured that ten pound Sam wasn’t anything to be terribly concerned with ( since Sam never even realized he was there ) and that I also wasn’t going to be bothering him, so he simply stood his ground and resumed grazing. Adjusting my eyes to the darkness, I then noticed that he was not alone, two other young bucks were also nibbling grass or clover within 50 or 60 feet of door.

Made some coffee and sat in my recliner gazing out the window in this same direction, as I do every morning, and I noticed yet more deer grazing through the same area, including one very impressive older buck with an antler spread of two feet or more that rose at least eighteen inches or more above his head. Unfortunately too dark to photograph or count points but definitely one of the most impressive Mule Deer bucks I have encountered at such close range. In all, this in-city bachelor herd numbered seven or eight animals and lingered around for close to half an hour under the street lamps before heading across the road, not into the surrounding apartment complexes, but into the hospital’s expansive parking lots and towards the main hospital buildings. Amazing what goes on in the early morning hours, even here in the city.

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November 24, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

Yet More Cranes and Geese

Snow Goose Explosion
Snow Goose Explosion

A Snow Goose explosion, caused by a predator approaching too close, or just one nervous goose thinking something was amiss. This noisy flock takeoffs occur all throughout the day and are pretty spectacular to see, and especially to hear.

Another Kind of Flock
Another Kind of Flock

A different kind of “explosion”, the people explosion, peaked with last week’s Festival of the Cranes. Post festival, the numbers of people has moderated and it has once again become a little more enjoyable to venture out on the refuge.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose

One of the advantages of arriving here a little early is the opportunity to catch some colorful backdrops of autumn foliage colors. With a couple of hard freezes occurring lately, the leaves are all turning brown and dropping now.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Geese
Snow Geese

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

Lesser Sandhill Cranes
Lesser Sandhill Cranes

This pair of Lesser Sandhills was seen leading a procession of Greater Sandhills down one of the irrigation ditches on the North Loop Road in the refuge.

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes
Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

The above image gives you a pretty good idea of the size difference in the two types of Sandhill Cranes. This year I am seeing a far greater number of Lesser Sandhills than I have on previous visits.

Sandhill Crane Greeting
Sandhill Crane Greeting

These are very vocal birds, calling out greetings as they fly in and again after they land.

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble

Not really sure if this was a squabble or just a dance.

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge
Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge

A sad reminder that these birds are hunted once they fly off the refuge. I took this shot late one afternoon and assumed the crane would simply use one of it’s feet to pull the shotgun cartridge off it’s upper bill. But then I saw it fly in the next morning with the cartridge still attached.

Mulie Dash Through
Mulie Dash Through

This young mule buck came flying through the cornfield where the cranes were foraging and photographers were shooting. Really moving at a rapid clip as you can see from the image where all four feet are off the ground.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

A family unit foraging. The leucistic Sandhill Crane showed up with a family this year for the first time, I was told.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane Family Fly In
Sandhill Crane Family Fly In
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

I love this flight position, assumed sometimes as much as 50 feet above the landing area, as they glide into the wind and prepare to land, oftentimes calling out greetings to those gathered below.

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

I’ve been here almost a month now and with temperatures plummeting it just might be time to continue on south to slightly warmer climes and maybe find some hummingbirds to shoot, quite a change of pace from these large guys.

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