We are now at the third in the series of Yellowstone (and Custer State Park) Ungulates… and if I remember correctly this will be the last in the set (unfortunately no moose were to be found on this trip). Similar to the Wapiti in the previous post (link here), these beasts are so large they have two names. Using once again my staple for all things researchy, I headed over to Wikipedia to get some details on these once common roamers of the Great Plains. Surprising to me, the name I usually use for them, Bison, is actually a newer name than Buffalo. I would have bet all my Double Jeopardy money on the reverse. This particular Bison appears upset that I didn’t know that.
Bison actually comes from the Greek work for ox-like (originating around 1635). On the other hand, the name Buffalo comes to us from French fur traders in the 1774 timeframe. Strangely enough, they failed to give the name Native Americans used for one of their dominant food sources. What appears to be one of those tragedies from a lack of conservation principles, these animals definitely took a hit from hunting practices (skin market driven more than food source) which just about drove them to extinction – Wikipedia also indicates that this was a US Army endorsed activity in order to impact the Native Indian living conditions. The good news is conservation efforts have been bringing them back and now listed as near threatened.
Linda and I have had the privilege of photographing these creatures at three wonderful places. You can fill all your digital cards up with Bison shots at either Yellowstone National Park or Custer State Park. They are so abundant there you eventually start ignoring them about halfway into the trip. I always joke that trips there start out with “oh oh a Bison” proceed to “wow, look at that one over there”, then “eh, let’s keep driving” and finally “hey, get the hell of the road so we can get to the wolves!” Now in truth, we may progress through this transition to disinterest at a faster rate than most. We actually live about 10 minutes from Wildlife Prairie Park which has a very nice collection of Bison and other native animals to the Great Plains. You can read more about that park on a previous post (link here). (looks like I already used the two name bit on that previous post – looks like I need to get some original material.)
Here is one of the local residents of Custer State Park.
Hit the jump to see the rest of the Bison collection.
Continue reading Where the Buffalo Roam
Keeping with the theme of ungulates and that home away from home they call Yellowstone National Park, I bring you the big boys of the park – the Cervus Canadensis which is sooo big they have two names. Thanks to European settlers we have the moniker of the Elk where are native Americans (according to Wikipedia specifically the Shawnee and Cree) we have “it which has a white rump” or Wapiti. Since the first days of hearing this original name I’ve always associated it with a snapping window shade – do those even still exist? If you recall, when one of them recoiled (typically never when you want it to!) first you will involuntarily twitch as the piece of wood in the bottom goes whipping past you and then your ears are barraged with Wapi Wapi Wapi Wapi as it cycles around the cylinder. Ironically, whenever I get the opportunity to see these creatures I also twitch except in this case it is with excitement. They are fairly docile (at least in Yellowstone) and are great subjects for us wildlife photographers. Here is a younger one that was more than happy to pose for me.
If you haven’t noticed yet (which means you haven’t been looking close enough at about every animal set featured in this blog), I’m partial to the turn back across the body pose. Just my thing I guess, but it is something I set out to do on each outing. Personally I think it quickly distinguishes the prey from the predator.
If you can see the full eye, you should feel a little more at ease since you are not looking at an aggressive animal. I also find that Elk have a tendency to pose which is a self serving description of animals that tend to have an intense curiosity. Case in point.
Hit the jump to see a whole bunch more pictures of Yellowstone Wapiti
Continue reading Wapiti – Not The Sound of a Spinning Window Shade
Hold on, just give me a second or two to swat these cobwebs out of the way. It’s been awhile but truth be told I’ve been doing a lot of post processing to get ready for this month’s round of posts. Not to let the suspense down, but this month will (hopefully) be the final push to get through the remaining animals captured during our Yellowstone National Park vacation Linda and I took back in October. The weather is finally starting to cooperate with my running schedule allowing me to hit the pavement for my training runs (YES!). Last Wednesday’s 5 miles and today’s 7 miles (both in the hills) were an excellent start. In honor of that, I figured it would be fitting to start with creatures that must laugh at the running (in)ability of humans – the ungulates. For the city dwellers, that is a fancy word for mammals that have hooves (although that definition has a varied past) – charge up that Volt drive 24 miles outside of town .. charge it up again overnight and then drive another 24 miles further out (repeat until you can see stars).
Let’s start with the only decent shot of an Odocoileus hemionus I was able to get in Yellowstone. On our way back from checking out the wolves at Lamar Valley, this particular mule deer was found grazing among the evergreens. Lucky for him the wolves were preoccupied with a cow elk they had trapped in stream at the confluence.
Mule deer are slightly different from the deer we have around here. They tend to be a little more grey than our white tailed deer but the most distinguishing feature is their ears. They are significantly larger than those on the white tail which tends to make them less appealing than their brothers. I do sympathize with them having to go through their childhood with large ears probably taking abuse from all the other animals in the park (except of course the rabbits). Note, light was starting to fall when this was taken making it an ISO battle – I think it cleaned up okay, but would have liked another shot at it.
On our way back from Yellowstone, we stopped into Custer State Park to check out the wildlife opportunities there. For the longest time we were the only car to be seen providing a good opportunity to shoot Odocoileus virginianus Yes, that would be the White Tail Deer. The first group we stumbled on were pretty cautious of our arrival and preferred to stay in the safety of the forest.
Hopefully you noticed the smaller ear size than the mule deer. Living in the country in Big Buck territory of Illinois, we have the opportunity to see these animals nearly every day. At times they’ll come through 10-12 thick in search of fresh acorns and saplings (unfortunately, that includes a fondness for our landscaping which is why we have no problem with a controlled hunting program).
I have to give Linda credit for the following crop selection. I was debating back and forth and she walked in, looked at it for two seconds and then made an excellent recommendation. Kicking myself for not taking the time to move a couple steps closer to push out the close evergreen branches (blurred items at the bottom) – not sure the doe would have stood for that though having already become agitated at how close the camera was already.
Hit the jump to see the rest of the deer set.
Continue reading Frankly My Deer, I Give a Damn
My apologies, this post was suppose to go out yesterday – you know, the whole Valentine’s Day and the “Cute” theme. Unfortunately, some unplanned issues came up that required me to spend extra time on the phone discussing flight schedules from Florida. For the record, I can’t believe the price of air travel these days. So basically you get to be treated as public enemy #1 and have the pleasure of paying a premium for it. (To keep my spirits up during air travel I mentally replay Tracy Morgan’s SNL skit on profiling.) Figured it would be prudent to get this post out while there was some free time.
This set of pictures is from our Yellowstone vacation (assuming you were not surprised about that) but they were not actually taken at the park. Instead, they were shot at a stop off on our way there and another one on our way back. Need to make the most of the photo opportunities when you are heading out West. Since the VDay theme doesn’t really apply anymore, let’s start with the “Pissed”. Spearfish south Dakota is a favorite stopping point for us when we are heading to Yellowstone. Beyond the cool name, this small little town has some gorgeous waterfalls in relatively easy walking distance from parking lots. Linda’s nature photography specialty are the “silks” and she once again produced some very nice shots – guessing she will be putting these head to head with my wildlife shots during the competition season. While she is off playing with the shutter speeds, I generally entertain myself by stalking the local wildlife.
Well, to be honest the word stalking is better served by “annoying the living crap out them” in this case. Imagine the insane racket reserved for raccoons protecting it’s young packaged up in a large golden brown hamster with a long fuzzy tale. Rather than simply state displeasure and carry on with the comfy life of a forest rat, this squirrel would come running at me (in full rant of course) and take up a defiant posture in the nearest tree. 10 seconds later it would scamper off into the trees only to repeat the cycle as I continued walking along a trail. Thanks to confidence from earning 2nd degree black belts in multiple martial arts discipline I stood my ground against this upset furball.
Hit the jump to view the rest of the pictures… and commentary
Continue reading The Cute and the Pissed
I got a surprise this morning when I checked the blog. I thought I was actually ahead of the game but it turns out my post output is lagging a bit. For some reason I thought I was already at 5 which put me right where I wanted to be – knowing the topic for the final post was already determined. Not a huge problem, just means I had to dive back into the Yellowstone trip pictures, do a little post processing, upload to our Smugmug site and I’m all set. Well, except for the hard part of actually writing something.
Having uttered the word “rats” when I tallied the posts this morning, I thought it would be fitting to go with the proverbial “rat” of the prairie lands. Fortunate not to live in an area infested with these rodents, I can still relate to the feeling having to constantly battle moles. There are two major differences when it comes to Prairie Dogs, one negative and one positive. On the negative side their destructive capabilities far exceed our local moles. Now, on the positive side, they can be so darn cute! Contrast that with moles which have to be the most hideous creature ever to crawl this earth.
Case in point, look at this scared little creature. Out there all alone in the wild wondering where it’s next meal will come from. Living in a state of constant worry if some human is going to pick them off with a high powered rifle just for fun or some taloned demon was going to descend from the sky and whisk away their brothers or sisters.
It is obvious they are clever creatures (as, of course, all dogs are!). Just look at this example of how they’ve adapted to their dangerous surroundings.
The distant and vacant gaze paired with the stiff joint walk – what predator in their right mind would even come close to touching a ZOMBIE!?! Umm, that would be NONE. (It might want to roll in the remains of a wolf kill to take that disguise to the next level (although recommend, waiting until the wolves move on). I should probably mention that these shots were actually taken at Custer State Park. We took a drive through there on our way back from the Yellowstone National Park trip.
Hit the jump to read more about these playful creatures.
Continue reading Rats, I’m Down a Post
Against my best wishes, January continues to fly by. It is already the middle of the month and I am behind on a number of tasks I set out for myself for 2012. Part of that is due to finally initiating Project Aunnauld – this one is going to take awhile so don’t look for posts on that for a few months (at least). In my spare cycles I’m still trying to make it through the Yellowstone shots so guess what? Yep, another post. Unlike some of the previous ones, this set is what I consider sub-par. There are times when it is fulfilling to just be able to slap the mirror and say you captured the moment whether it is tack sharp or not… which is usually photography speak for “I blew it”. This set is more of the former based on being closer to a miracle than a failure. If you have spent time on this blog at all you should be aware we invested in a rather large glass we affectionately call The Beast thanks to it’s beefy structure. It is hard to actually demonstrate the reach this zoom glass has without first experiencing it through the viewfinder. This set might just help out in this area… let’s begin shall we?
So here is a shot of the mountainside at 80mm which is the low end of the zoom on our workhorse glass.
Are you seeing anything of interest in that shot.. maybe some large animal(s) out for a stroll? Hint #1 – remember on the previous post where I mentioned that we spent the week scanning for butts in the horizon (link here)? well, that pretty much came into play here.
Still not seeing anything of interest? Hint #2, I chose not to go with the Rule of Thirds to make it a little easier on you.
If you give up, hit the jump for a huge clue.
Continue reading A Walking Frigidaire or ???
I’ve been hoofin it lately to get the pictures of Yellowstone’s big boys post processed and uploaded to the Smugmug galleries (link here). This particular set posed a bit of a problem due to the noise that came from the high ISO they were shot at. If I remember correctly, all but the last shot here was taken the first day we were in Yellowstone and has the distinction of being the second animal we encountered out there (and reason why it was selected as the second post of the large mammal series). Giselle and David were with us that morning and they actually alerted us to the spot where we found this specimen.
They had a similar encounter on a previous outing out there. As predicted, we found this particular one taking a stroll along the rocky slopes. I was eager to try out the Beast but to be honest was still trying to get comfortable with it. As a result I overcompensated with the ISO on a few of the shots to address a dreary (and cold) morning. This left some extra post processing to get rid of the additional noise and draw out some extra clarity/sharpness. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to get some practice shots off before we entered the heart of Yellowstone. These first two are definitely my favorites of the set since you can quickly distinguish the animal from the background.
Hit the Jump to view the rest of the shots
Continue reading (Not So) Bighorn Sheep
As you are aware, there was a big push to get through the “Birds of Yellowstone” before the end of the year. The reason for that is I wanted to get to the larger mammals inhabiting that incredible national park. Rest assured, my camera wasn’t just pointed at our feathered friends (well, at least not ALLL the time). Nope, we were constantly on the lookout for those animals we do not get to see much back here in Illinois. Let’s start with those fleet of foot Pronghorns. This is somewhat in tribute to being the first animal to greet us as we passed through the Yellowstone Arch. Immediately off to the right, grazing in the fields, was a couple of Pronghorns pretty much oblivious to our presence.
The above shot is actually on of my favorites from the Yellowstone collection. It was taken in full on Beast mode (400mm) letting us reach out and virtually touch them. This is one of those poses that I affectionately call “The Predator’s View”. For those people locked in the concrete world or worse, PETA members, the eye position gives away the disposition of the animal. Forward eyes generally signify the predator (find a mirror) where the prey have eyes positioned on the sides to increase their field of vision. It may be pointing towards a companion, but it definitely knows where we were. Note, I was also pleased to get some glint in those big black eyes.
A close second in the favorites category is the shot below. Once again you get a feel for it’s field of vision yet it was content enough to continue breakfast while we were busy snapping shots. This lack of interest is probably due to being acclimated to the two legged creatures, although the fact that it can out run my ass without breaking a sweat probably gives it more confidence than your average turtle. For the record, they can run at 30mph for 15 miles with a burst of up to 70mph. According to Wikipedia, this makes it the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.
At first I thought the antler nubs above the eyes in the previous picture indicated it was a young male. Not being an expert when it comes to non-feathered animals I did a little research. Turns out that females actually have horns as well (up to 3″) where males tend to have larger ones (up to 6″ and then another 9″ during summer fall which it sheds in the winter). The other distinguishing feature of males is a small black mane. Based on that I will have to go with this being a male.
Hit the Jump to see the rest of the Pronghorn pictures
Continue reading It’s Not a Bird … Nor a Bear
I have decided to OCCUPY the MAN CAVE with my AMAZING and GINORMOUS Yellowstone photo collection reading about Beyonce’s BABY BUMP and wondering what the BLOWBACK will be on Katy Perry’s divorce. All of this has led me to believe that being a PET PARENT is going to be the NEW NORMAL even with all the SHARED SACRIFICES that comes with it. But enough of this rambling, let’s go out and WIN THE FUTURE through deception and TRICKERATION. Oh, and THANK YOU IN ADVANCE for all your comments!
Whew, my apologies for that opening. I was scanning the Internet and came across this years list of banned words from Lake Superior State University. They do this every year to save our sanity from over-hyped words. With only a few days left I wanted to make sure I used them all at least one more time. Having done this now (some for the first time ever) I can assuredly say they will not be missed. Here are a few other words I’d like banned for 2012 based on the shameful over use in the media
- Slam (and all derivatives)
Have I distracted you enough to forget this is really another bird post from our Yellowstone trip? Well, I tried. This is the last of the bird posts from Yellowstone and with a small bit of sadness, the likely last post of the year (there may be one more depending on when my year end summary gets done) – where has this year gone?! The reason I left this one to the end is thanks to our favorite orthopedic surgeon Dr. Giselle there was no need to spend a lot of time rifling through reference books to identify it. As soon as the shutter went off on this bird…
Dr. Giselle immediately identified it as a Clark’s Nutcracker. Having never seen this bird before, I was very appreciative of the assist. Per the reference books, this particular bird prefers open coniferous forests in mountains. A big checkmark on that – I left this wider shot with the evergreens as validation of that. It is a member of the jay and crow family but chooses to walk like a crow than hop like a jay on ground (do scientist actually get paid for these observations?). As is the custom here at Lifeintrigued, let’s bring that bird in for a closer look.
Hit the jump to learn more about the Clark’s Nutcracker
Continue reading This One is Hard on the Nuts
There are two types of birds that tend to drive me crazy when trying to classify them. Eventually I can get through to the waterfowl, but the family of Accipitridae and Falconidae have way to many similarly colored birds. Adding even greater difficult to identification is color changes that can occur from juvenile to adult. As a result, when it comes to classifying some of the hawks and falcons I open the reference books with a slight sense of dread. That was exactly the case when it came to finally posting this blog. While traveling out to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park to check up on the wolves, I spotted this bird hunting in the prairie fields.
Of course, spotting it was one thing, trying to actually get a decent shot of it was a struggle. The Beast was on high speed continuous mode allowing for burst of shots once the bird came into frame. It would glide for a short while towards me over a stretch of the field, but would then perform an amazing aerial maneuver to double back on itself. Once his range was extended, it would start gliding back towards me again. This was repeated until it eventually made it out of the range for the Beast. Unfortunately, there were only a few decent shots out of the whole shoot worth showing anyone. The one above is clearly the best, but here a few more that provide a decent view of the coloring to help in identification.
Hit the jump to read my attempt at classifying it
Continue reading This One is Kind of Harri