June 2, 2018 Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton Bison
Classic Western Scene

Last of the Wildlife Shots From Grand Teton

This park is proving to be a great spot for wildlife photos in the spring. I had been visualizing a shot such as the one above since I arrived here and heading back to the campground the other day, here they were, a small group of bison heading down to the Morman Farm area and needing to cross the road just as I was passing by.

Pronghorns
Pronghorns

And farther up the road, on the same day, this group of female pronghorns, grazing amongst the Arrowleaf Balsamroot flowers. I had really hoped to finally get some shots of some pronghorn fawns but I guess I am just a little too early for that as these gals look like they are still a week or so away from having little ones.

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

I briefly ran into Bear #399 and her cubs again, though this time only for a brief moment as they crossed a meadow and quickly disappeared into the woods.

Retreating Elk with Calf
Retreating Elk with Calf

Finally I have seen a new born elk calf, though I couldn’t get a decent shot of it as mom hastily retreated when I appeared on the scene. At least I know that they are giving birth at this time, though I have seen very few elk cows out and about recently.

River Otters
River Otters

Jackson Lake Dam Outlet

I spent some time at the outlet below the dam on Jackson Lake yesterday and was surprised at the amount of activity there. I had stopped just to watch the shore fisherman and see what they were catching ( small Lake Trout and some Cut throat Trout ).

River Otter
River Otter

While watching the fisherman casting from shore I noticed a pair of River Otters diving in the rushing waters coming out of the dam. Unfortunately I missed getting the best shots as the pair would catch a fish, dash ashore and climb the bank, then rush across thirty feet of open ground to some bushes, where they would be mobbed by three young otters they were delivering the fish to. All quickly disappeared back into the brush to eat and then the adults would return to the river to fish again.

Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

Also actively fishing the churning waters were a small group of Common Mergansers, here seen resting on shore before heading out into the rapids.

Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Merganser Pair
Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

They concentrated their efforts at the edge of the rushing waters exiting the dam, most likely picking off fish that were stunned as they came through the dam.

White Pelican
White Pelican

A pair of White Pelicans were also working the same area.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
Trail Obstruction
Trail Obstruction

One morning I noticed a few large Bison Bulls as I was driving the main road in the park and pulled off and parked and headed down a trail through the willows to see if I could get a closer shot of them. As I rounded a corner of the trail, I ran into a trail obstruction, in the form of the aforementioned Bison. The three bulls stared at me as I looked around for the safest way out of this situation. Two of the bison turned and jumped over the fence you see on the right, clearing the top rail with their front legs but loudly crashing the rail as their bellies came down on the fence. The third bison simply stood his ground, so I retreated back to my parked car.

Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison
Grand Teton Bison

You just can’t appreciate just how large these animals are until you are face to face with them. Very powerful animals.

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April 27, 2018 Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

A Trip to Quivira NWR

With some very nice weather the last few days I have had to postpone my editing of images from my Prairie Chicken adventure in favor of getting out and exploring this part of Kansas. Quiver NWR is located forty plus miles to the south of where I am presently camped at Cheyenne Bottoms, so I took advantage of the nice weather and made two trips down there this week.

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Quivira has a series of salt water ponds and marshes as well as extensive grasslands and is a major stopover point for migratory birds along the Central Flyway.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Killdeer
Killdeer
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

The refuge burns off it’s grassland areas with controlled burns to keep invasive plants and brush down …

Ring-necked Pheasant Pair
Ring-necked Pheasant Pair

… as well as to promote vigorous new growth of native grasses.

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalaropes were a new bird for me …

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson's Phalaropes
Wilson’s Phalaropes

… and I got a kick out of watching their feeding behavior.  They continually walk in rapid small circles stirring up small prey from the mud below with their feet. When you see a group of 20 or 30 birds doing this non-stop in close proximity with each other, it’s a rather interesting sight.

Wilson's Phalaropes Mating
Wilson’s Phalaropes Mating

Even when feeding as described above, they are never too occupied to take care of business during mating season.

American Avocet
American Avocet
American Avocets
American Avocets

Lots of American Avocets at Quivira.

White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelicans
White Pelicans

I estimated about 250 White Pelicans gathered here, quite a distance from the auto road through the refuge.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

But it was my good fortune to have them all take flight and head right towards me …

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelican
White Pelican

… eventually flying directly overhead.

Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite
Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite

Cheyenne Bottoms

I am staying at the free primitive camping area on the west side of Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. There are five rough campsites along a gravel road that leads into the refuge. This is a rather rough camping area, level grass, actually dirt with some grassy areas, but there are picnic tables and a fire ring at each site. No water, electric, dump station, restrooms, or trash receptacles here.

I actually enjoyed my stay here since it was very quiet, there is no lighting of any sort, and only one or two other campers stayed her during my weeklong stay. Fortunately, it didn’t rain here during my stay since it looks like the place would get very muddy when it rains.

Maltese
I’ll Come when I’m Ready

Pearl is now four months old and seems to really enjoy this lifestyle. Still very independent and afraid of nothing … but the dark. When I take her out at night, she is all ears, staring warily at the tall grass and brush just across the road, and hurriedly does her business and races back to the motorhome door to be let back in. During daylight hours I have a job convincing her she needs to go back inside, since she delights in exploring and racing around, running loops around the motorhome.

Maltese
Kinda Windy here in Kansas

Still delights in tormenting poor old Sam, but Sam now does at least a couple of serious play sessions with her every day, careening around the limited confines of the motorhome, bouncing off walls and furniture, hopping up and down out of the dog bed and my recliner. They also now can be found sleeping in close physical proximity almost all the time.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Cheyenne Bottoms Birds

Since I am staying within the confines of the refuge, I do make a morning and an afternoon trip around the refuge roads every day.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds doing their thing hanging off the reeds and cattails along the roadsides, as well as a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds, of which I have not managed to get a good shot.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Cormorant with Bullhead

A bit of luck encountering this Cormorant just as it surfaced with a bullhead ( or some kind of small catfish ). The bird spent a good deal of time maneuvering the fish just so before gulping it down.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

Luckily one of the series of shots I took happened to catch the fish being tossed up to ensure that it went down head first.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

As at Quivira, lots of White Pelicans here also.

White Pelican
White Pelican

The weird, knobby growths on the bill have something to do with breeding season I believe.

American Avocet
American Avocet

All kinds of small wading birds here including Avocets, Plovers, Dowitchers, and more but it is difficult to get any decent shots because of their small size and the ability to get close enough here to get any good shots.

Also all kinds of ducks, lots of Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and Ruddy Ducks, with a few Mallards, Pintails, and others found throughout the refuge, but I haven’t bothered concentrating on these since I already have an extensive library of duck shots from other refuges where the conditions for flight shots are much better than here.

Snowy Egrets
Snowy Egrets

Late one afternoon I came across a lot of Snowy Egret activity at the outflow of a culvert under one of the refuge roads. Water was being released from an area on one side of the road to a large pond on the other side of the road. The rapidly moving water, tumbling over some large pointed rocks was apparently stunning the small fish caught up in the rushing water, and the Snowies were taking advantage of this bonanza.

Unfortunately, the only vantage point from which to shoot this scene was looking directly into the sun, resulting in just impossible lighting conditions to catch the action. I snapped a few shots anyway and then just sat there watching the action as as many as a dozen of these Snowies bounced around the stream jockeying for position. I vowed to come back in the morning and hoped the water would still be flowing and the birds would still be there ( it was and they were and I did, and wait til you see those shots! ).

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March 12, 2018 Aux Arc COE Campground, Ozark, Arkansas

Rainbow Over the Arkansas River
Rainbow Over the Arkansas River

Hail, Rainbows, and Picking Up a Passenger

Rainbow Over the Arkansas River
Rainbow Over the Arkansas River

The weather forecast for my 385 mile trip up from Texas yesterday was causing me a little bit of concern since it was calling for high winds and possible severe weather as a front was coming through. I prepped for an early start the night before and thus was on the road by 7:30 AM. I made the long drive in just under 8 hours without encountering any rain or wind, but just after unhooking the Prius and getting backed into my site, the skies opened up, thunder cracked and lightning flashed all around. After 10 minutes of heavy rain, there came a new sound on the roof …. HAIL! Soon the ground was white and I was having flashbacks to my first night in Bend, Oregon last spring when I lost all the plastic on the motorhome roof and the Prius was destroyed by golf ball sized hail. Fortunately this was just pea sized hail and it was over fairly quickly and no damage was done.

Not long after the hail stopped the double rainbow appeared and I was able to get a couple shots.

White Pelicans on the Arkansas River
White Pelicans on the Arkansas River

Couldn’t get any photos of it since the hail was so intense, but it was interesting to watch the white pelicans on the river ride out the hail storm. Floating along in the middle of the river, they grouped tightly together and all had their heads dipped under their wings to shield from the hail. Never had thought of how birds manage to cope with something like a nasty hailstorm.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

In addition to a lot of water birds on the river, cormorants, pelicans, ducks, terns and gulls, as well as a pair of common loons that I have seen through the rain, the woods behind my campsite have revealed a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers as well as a Red-headed Woodpecker and a Red-shafted Northern Flicker, plus an Eastern Bluebird. Maybe I will find something to shoot here!

Maltese
Pearl

Pearl Joins the Crew

Say Hi to Pearl, a new passenger to keep Sam and myself company as we continue on this journey.

Maltese
Sam and Pearl
Maltese
Attack!

Sam was always glued to Jenny’s side for the 10 years they were together so I have actually been looking for a pup for the year and a half since Jenny left us. She seems to like the new addition, but it is readily apparent that she is in for a little more attention from said new addition than she may be prepared for.

Pearl is ten weeks old and is not the least bit shy about letting old Sam know that she is her new plaything. It has been over a decade since I have had a puppy around and I forgot how much work is involved keeping an eye on one and cleaning up after her, while attempting to puppy proof the motorhome.

Maltese
Pearl
Maltese
Pearl

All puppies are cute and this one is no exception. A live wire with a pretty bold disposition, just a great attitude, not the least bit concerned about the abrupt change in her life, leaving her littermates and coming to live in a completely new foreign environment. Doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.

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February 14, 2018 Grand Isle, Louisiana

Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbills

Finally!

After twelve straight days and nights of rain and fog with what must be about 100% humidity, I stepped out of the motorhome around 5 AM for Sam to do her thing … and I actually saw stars above. For the first time in two weeks! And that was followed by a visible  sunrise, and what’s more, the sun continued to be seen throughout the entire day.

I really do think I made a mistake not staying in the desert this winter. I can’t say I enjoy the fogged up windows day after day and the muggy 70 degree nights for sleeping, I guess the desert’s winter climate kind of spoils you with it’s wonderfully consistent sunny days, lack of humidity, and cool starlit night skies.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Anyhow, with a return of the sun, there also was a return of some Roseate Spoonbills, a beautifully ugly wading bird that I had only caught a distant glimpse of during the last two weeks. Today I encountered a few individuals here and there and the one pair in the top image. Gorgeous pink plumage and an almost prehistoric looking head with that very unique beak.

Osprey
Osprey

The Ospreys were out in force, as usual. At times you may see one perched atop about one of every ten utility poles running along the highway, and they usually are dining on a freshly caught mullet or Speckled Trout.

Osprey with Speckled Trout
Osprey with Speckled Trout

There were a few wading fisherman below this bird who would have been glad to catch a healthy Speckled Sea Trout like this guy was dining on.

Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret

With the sunny weather, there seemed to be a few more Great Egrets out and about, prowling the shallow waters in search of breakfast.

Brown Pelican with White Pelican
Brown Pelican with White Pelican

Once again there was a single White Pelican wandering among the Brown Pelicans at their usual haunt on the south side of the highway. This morning I counted 88 pelicans gathered there with the majority of them juveniles.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

Came close, but just didn’t quite get the dramatic pelican diving-for-fish shots I was looking for. But with some decent light this morning, at least I had some opportunities.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

I get a kick out of watching the occasional chaotic action in this large gathering of Brown Pelicans. Ninety percent of the time they are patiently floating along as in the image above.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

Then someone stumbles upon a fish …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… and everyone around instantly flies or paddles in …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… to get a piece of the action.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

A lot of splashing and slashing, then after just a minute or so, calm returns, until someone else discovers another fish below the surface.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be rain free, so I will get one more chance to get some shots before I head up to New Orleans for a few days at Bayou Segnette State Park.

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