Springtime is such a fun time of the year. The dark dreariness of winter is coming to an end and new life has begun again. More sunshine, more colors, and more opportunities are bound. With the excitement and opportunities that come with spring, responsibility is also important. It’s to get sucked in with everything and forget to be mindful of the fragile state some of nature is in. Nesting birds, newborn critters, fields of wildflowers, are just a few examples but it’s important that if you are going to go photograph them then you do your homework and know what is safe for the subject.
They say the view from up top is pretty good but I doubt that’s what these three were thinking when they decided to take an afternoon nap on top of this null. Elk tend to sleep in covered areas but in the afternoons they’ll bed down in between meals in plain sight. With the wind howling that day I have no doubt that where they were positioned they could’ve easily detected any predator that might be in the area.
I had the chance of meeting Brutus many years ago and I still remember that sunny January day when he came out for a photoshoot. All he wanted to do was go back to sleep, as you can see, he made a nice little hole to curl up in. Brutus has been a part of the Montana Grizzly Encounter for the last 19 years but sadly passed away last week. He was a joy to work with and be around and he will be missed by all that met him.
Yes, it is that time of the year again where the tradition of relying on a member of the rodent family predicts the weather for us. It truly is an American tradition made famous of course by Bill Murray in his classic film Groundhog’s Day. Personally, I hope the little guy sees his shadow and we get 6 more weeks of winter because it’s been one mild winter so far and I will never turn down the more water here in the valley. In case you were wondering, no this is not a Groundhog but is in the same family and same group, the Hoary Marmot.
Happy Thanksgiving! Have fun, be safe.
It goes without saying that in photography we tend to go for the most color in our photographs. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when it comes to birds that can leave a lot out of the files. Male birds tend to have a more distinct color as they try to attract mates thus making them more impressive subjects to photograph. However, the females are just as important to the equation. This female Cinnamon Teal is a great example. The males are a very distinct red, it’s hard to miss them in all honesty. The females, while pretty, don’t stand out nearly as much. Both make for great subjects and if you’re just out for the morning or afternoon then why not spend time with both.
Spring is a great time for birding as the spring migration and nesting season makes for some spectacular photo opps. I was fortunate a few years ago to be able to photograph this male Spruce Grouse up in the Arctic Circle amongst the lands Boreal Forests. For those wondering, yes it is a male as the males have a rufous tip on their tails. This one did have those markings but are not visible in this photograph. The rest of his breeding plumage hadn’t come in yet.
Spruce Grouse can be seen in the trees as well as on the ground foraging. The female chooses the site for nest usually in a depression at the base of a tree, where it has a clutch size of 4-9eggs. They brood only once a year. The males have a distinct mating behavior which is best witnessed in person or next best by video.
When working with any ground bird species you have to be very vigilant and try not to come upon an individual by surprise. Once you have found a subject be sure to be patient and slow to not scare it off or force it to move.
Spring is the time of the year for new life. Whether it’s birds, mammals, or little people, there are creatures being born into this amazing world. As we start to see the changing in the seasons with the wildflowers beginning to bloom and the trees beginning to leaf out, the new life is also starting to emerge. Each species works on its own time table which is variable upon the region. Right now we are starting to see little rabbits and ground squirrels all over the place. If you haven’t spent much time working with the little guys you’re not alone. The best way to practice is to find a local park that is next to some open area. Typically there will be something living there and being that it is a park, the critters will be a little more habituated. Now depending on which state you live in and that states current Covid-19 response you might be a more limited but you can be doing research or even practicing with a stuffed animal if all else fails. You’d be amazed at how many basics can be learned with a stuffed on the ground.
It can take a lot of work to find the right perch sometimes. It can be a branch, a stump, some barbed wire, or in this case a rock. Once you find the right perch then you have to start working on the background and seeing if it works with your perch. Then there’s the light, is it better lit up in the morning or afternoon? So many decisions and things to figure out. Least of all is getting the subject to land on your perfect spot, or at least the spot you think is perfect. Is it worth it? Well, the photograph, in the end, will tell you that. I spent a long time sitting on the bank of the Missouri River watching the Sparrows fly around me before this one individual finally went to the spot I had picked out. I thought it was a good afternoon, photo could still be better though.
The world doesn’t come to an end during winter in the Rocky Mountains. One would think that with the amount of snowfall we get and the harsh temperatures that life just stops, but no it goes on. The trick to surviving in winter is maintaining energy. Maximum caloric intake with the least amount of output. That’s the balance. On warm sunny days, you often can find various ungulate species lounging in the sunshine while employing this technique. This young Bull Elk spent the morning grazing and by the time the afternoon hit he was out for the count, except for the occasional glance at his harem. Priorities after all.