Hollow Words and Gutless Actions

Look into the eyes of another political victim.

I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog that we have a true treasure near our house.  That treasure is the The Wildlife Prairie Park which is located in Edwards, IL.  Linda and I have been to many parks and zoos around the country and when it comes to the smaller budget outfits WPP stands heads and shoulders above the others.  Their environment is well maintained, their animals are placed in natural habitats and when it comes to wolves in particular, there is not a more lively and accessible pack.  They have plenty of area filled with trees and prairie and tend to stay visible most of the time, always providing great opportunities to snap a few pictures for your pleasure or portfolio.

It is actually very enjoyable to sit and watch the pack interaction from an overlook built off the side of their habitat.  Give it enough time and you will be able to distinguish the alpha from the subordinates and although it is difficult at first to tell all the wolves apart, you can actually start ordering them by their rank in the pack by who bothers who, who has first dibs at the food and which ones are willing to intrude on another’s kill.  Eventually Linda will drag me away from their area to go check out the other occupants of the park, but I always try and stop by before I leave to say goodbye.  Up to now, that has been acknowledgment of a temporary parting with an expectation that I’ll be back soon to check on their progress and take some pictures for the walls.

But now things have changed thanks to our wonderful Illinois politics which has managed to not only become a disgrace compared to the rest of the states but put us on the brink of financial ruin.  I will not go into the history of illegal activity by our past governors and you have probably seen stories on the recent one that was impeached and now awaiting a jury decision on ethics violations.  Instead, I would like to highlight the recent actions of the individual who took over for the impeached governor with promises to right the titanic.  Before the impeached governor decided to make a public mockery of himself on wiretaps, he cut funding to a large number of parks which included our very own Wildlife Prairie Park as well as Jubilee Park that I do most of my training runs in.  It was downstate so what the hell did he care and besides his wife thought all the roads to the hick cities were ugly and wanted wildflowers planted to keep her eyes from having to look at the filth (note to politicians and their spouses, I never forget).  However, when our temporary governor was sworn in, he promised to restore the funding gaining the trust and appreciation for all of downstate hicks.  Finally, a governor with more in the skull than a hair mop.  As of this week , this promise has become as hollow as the rest of the governors’ statements.

Continue reading Hollow Words and Gutless Actions

I’m Feeling a Little Smug Today!

I can’t believe it is August already.  Things have been a little hectic around here lately with July being consumed with the Bix7 race and probably more disrupting is I accepted a new job opportunity within my company.  So now I have the stress of getting up to speed on my new job while spending every available minute organizing and documenting for a hand off of my previous duties.  But with all that going on, I did find some time to look into something that has been circling around the noggin for awhile.  Let’s start with a quick experiment.  Take a look at this picture from the previous post on bobcats at Wildlife Prairie Park.

Okay, now take a gander at this image:

So, what were the main differences that you noticed?  If you said the first one was larger then you are both correct and possess a passion for the obvious.  If you also noticed the crop was slightly different then again correct and your analysis skills are starting to rev up.  Lastly, if you noticed the second one has a slightly different black tone and the vibrancy was reduced slightly then you have started developing your keen photography eye… oh, and correct again.  However, none of these things were part of the experiment.  The answer is actually much more “smug” than that and can be found after the jump.

Continue reading I’m Feeling a Little Smug Today!

You Can Never Be Too Careful

It’s time to close this month out and I cannot think of a better way than displaying some wildlife pictures.  A few weeks ago, Linda and I headed out for a day of shooting at the Wildlife Prairie Park.  We happen to be members at this park which is located just outside of Peoria in the small town of Edwards (about 15 minutes from our house).  This park puts the residents in their natural settings with plenty of room to move and live out a fairly normal animal life in spite of the numerous visitors that come to admire their beauty.  It caters to the typical wildlife found on the Midwest prairies (this includes the historical perspective).  They have a nice heard of bison, a few cougars, looks like down to one bear, a few foxes, otters (although I can’t remember the last time they were actually out in view), a badger and two coyotes to name a few.  But most impressive of all, they have one of the best wolf packs I’ve found outside of the International Wolf Center in Ely Minneapolis.  Linda and I have traveled to many states to check out their captive wolves and always end up being disappointed because they never compare to what we have in our own backyard.  I’ll be rolling pictures of the wolves out soon enough, but today’s post focuses on another inhabitant of the park.

For the uniformed city dwellers out there, this is your classic bobcat.  Half kitty cat, half cougar and 100% kill you when you least expect it.  Basically look at it as a house cat skin covering of pure muscle that enjoys nothing more than to gnaw the flesh off of crunchy bones.  We happened to catch this particular beast at feeding time.  I really liked the contrast of the dead tree with the living animal and the brightness of the coat against the dreary setting.  It was very apparent this cat was nervous about someone messing with his catch and spent the entire time we were was watching him checking back and forth for any suspicious activity.  The interesting thing about this set of shots is the opportunity it gives to experiment with different cropping options.  Cropping is an art unto itself and one of those activities you can spend a day on just exploring the different configurations and the effect it has on the viewer.  In this set, I tried to let the cat drive the crop orientation.  In the shot above, the cat was clearing the upper left of suspicion so the crop was skewed in that direction. In this shot, the cat is checking if anything was lurking on the other side of the stumps.

To compensate for this new direction, the crop was brought down from the top and extended in the direction of the area being scanned.  At first I had the cat pushed closer to the right side to hit the rule of thirds, but it just felt like the cat was too confined in the scene.   I actually really like this shot since you can see more of the facial features and the concerned expression seemed to fit the situation perfectly.  Lastly, the subject gave a final inspection down the hill.

As before, the crop was adjusted to compensate for this new scan direction.  After debating for awhile and trying a few options, it was decided to sacrifice some of the stump in favor of the extra shift it provided to the left.  The stumps provided a nice anchor to the left side of the shot, but unfortunately it did put the focus of the photo too much in the center for my liking.  It would have also helped if the living tree wasn’t shooting right out of his head but I had to take what nature provided.  Although this one really shows off the strength of the muscles these animals have,  my favorite is still the middle one and likely the one I’m going to send out for production print.

I hope you enjoyed my little crop experiment.  If you get the chance, be sure and visit the park.  You will not be disappointed!  Just be sure and bring your longer glass and a full bottle of Off.

Night Dwellers – The Wolf Spider Revisted

What is becoming the norm with this blog, I am pushing to meet my post quota for the month.  I’ve been pretty busy as of late and my extra hours as of late has been spent in therapy and late night workouts.  Luckily, I have line of site to the rest of this month so no dangers on the content front.  This particular post is going to revisit a post I had made some time back.  Once again, I was out on the porch one night and came across another opportunity to drag out the camera.  Any chance you remember the previous post on the Wolf Spider?  Well, those were taken with a 70-200mm zoom glass.  Earlier this year, we purchased a macro glass (105mm) that provides a ton of fun.  I am still feeling my way around this type of photography and still have a lot to learn.

Once again, our dog Rizzi once again found the specimen.  He loves to check out all the creatures on the porch, but tends to get waaaay to close for my comfort.  When he found this spider, I ended up picking him up and moving him away as soon as I saw his nose going for it.

As mentioned before, spiders are safe around me unless they cross the Loon coin size.  This one was definitely beyond that limit by almost 2x.  I didn’t have a scale indicator and decided against sticking my finder down by it, so you will just need to trust me on that.  Again, still working on getting these shots down.  I needed to open the Fstop up to get the entire body in focus, but for the most part it came out okay.  It definitely has a different feel that the spider shots did with the zoom.  This image came out a little better.

Pretty creepy eh?  While prepping the pictures for the blog, something kept nagging me about these two shots.  Eventually it came to me what was odd.  Anything you know about spiders seem contrary to these two images?  Hint, it is in the numbers.  I ended up verifying my arachnid knowledge just to validate my initial thought.  Spiders do indeed have 8 legs, but it looks like this specimen only has 6.  Turns out, what I thought were leg shadows, were actually doubled up legs.  Not sure why it was doing this but it may have been a defensive posture in order to propel it out of the way faster if Rizzi’s nose got a little too close.

Since the macro was on, it was time to move in for the cool shots.  It became very obvious I needed to get some stabilization under the camera to get some quality shots… but it was late and I was feeling the pull of the pillow.  I did get one fairly decent shot… extremely creepy I might add.

I can’t image the fear an insect must face having this ball of ugliness bearing down on it.  I should mention that I am not an expert spider cataloger so if I happen to get these identified wrong, please let me know.  Typically, the wolf spider is a little more furry than this one, but everything else (coloring, size etc.) seemed to match.  Oh, and if you are wondering how this turned out for the subject, you may be happy (or not depending on your fear) to know that I let it live.  Of course, now it will probably mate with an equally sized spider resulting in 10 billion offspring the size of a CD.  My only hope is Rizzi finds them before they launch their plans to take back their woods.

Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

My typing fingers are worked to the bone, my eyes struggle to remain open and my body has become one with the office chair.  Yet, I am pleased since this post brings me to the end of the wildlife shots from the Yellowstone vacation last year.  It is slightly embarrassing to have taken this long to get this done, but we literally have thousands (yes plural) of shots from that trip.  Needless to say I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great shots Linda took – especially the water fall silks.

This last set is an interesting one in the sense your guess is as good as mine as to what these birds are.  I probably went through the field guides about 30 times trying to pin these birds down with very little success.  As with the unknown ducks, these may be shots of females that are not sufficiently described in the guides or possibly migrated out of their standard regions and thus are not usually seen there.  If I am lucky, one of my millions of readers (you believing that?) will recognize one and drop me a comment.

Fasten your seatbelts, the mystery tour is starting.  Basically all I have to go on is the silhouette of this particular bird which is very little help when trying to identify a bird.  Based on comparing the head outline and the wider fantail, my guess is an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Admittedly, the tail is a little wider than the guide specimen, but other than that it appears pretty close.  It also says they sit on the highest twigs.. well, that appears to match.

I spotted this particular bird out in the middle of a large field (and pretty far out).  I was unable to get a good clean shot of the bird mainly due to the impressive air acrobats that were being executed at the time.  Twisting, turning, diving, loops, it was was quite impressive.  It may have been attacking prey but it never came up with anything.  It was probably just showing off to a potential mate.  It really didn’t match exactly like any of the hawks in the various books beyond the tail striping.  There is a lot of white on the underwings which doesn’t fit with my decision to identify it as a Red-tailed Hawk.

You know, I am still not sure about this one.  The red-tailed doesn’t really have the striping this one has and in this shot, the profile looks a lot leaner.  None of the other specimens really have the whiteness shown under the wings.  There is a chance it is an Osprey, but it would be much darker on top.  Just a second, this is bugging me, let me check another reference…..  sigh, I just can’t tell.  I am less confident it is a red-tailed hawk now and now considering a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk or possibly an American Kestrel.    Note I asked Linda for her opinion and she decided it was a never before seen bird and to name it after me.  This is the kind of help I’m dealing with people 8^(

The next one is probably a Tree Swallow.  It’s a crappy shot, but decided to include it because it was clearly an inspiration for something.  Any guesses?  If you said our stealth wing planes you’re tracking with me.  It would be interesting to know if this is where they got the idea from … or maybe not interesting to know if they’d have to kill me after telling me.

If the hawk above was hard to decide, this one is downright impossible.  As with the hawk, I’ve scoured my resources looking for some clue that would lead me to the proper identification.  There were a number of these birds flying around the rising steam pools around Yellowstone.  This particular one would fly around for awhile and then land in the rocks for a brief rest.  I almost with with a White-throated Swift, but the guides says it never perches.  Never is such a definite word but my pictures never show one clinging to the rocks.

The Violet-green Swallow does nest in colonies on cliffs which checks with my visuals.  Clearly there is room for debate on this one.  Well, not such much debate as I’d probably cave in to any viable alternative (that matches that region).

Strangely enough, this bird exactly matched none of the blue colored birds in the books.  It clearly has blue wings, but the head and body are sporting a pretty solid grey.  It is this grey that makes me throw out the Mountain Bluebird (which is all blue) .  It also lacks any orange which rules out the Western Bluebird, the Eastern Bluebird, the Blue Grossbeak and the Lazuli Bunting.

I also know the Blue Jay and the Steller’s Jay so that left me with the Western Scrub-Jay.  In contrast, it is suppose to have a bluer head the picture being compared to shows fatter in the body.  It did say it likes to hang around campsites and picnic areas which coincides with where these pictures were taken.

Here are two pretty poor shots of a interesting bird.  It is actually the first bird other than the finch I’ve seen sporting the bright yellow markings.  It refused to sit still for a microsecond in order to get the lens focused, but for the most part you can see the yellow on the rump and the second one shows some yellow on the head.  Based on those weak observations, I have officially called this a Yellow-rump Warbler.

Apparently the female is a little duller in the head (coloring fools 8^)  so the above one is likely a female.  The fuzzy shot below is likely of a male because it is smarter.. I mean sharper colored.

Okay, it’s audience participation time.  Hit the jump to see more!

Continue reading Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

As promised previously, I’m cranking through the remaining photo shots from last year’s vacation.  This year’s vacation is closing fast and since we are headed to a state I’ve never been, the assumption is the shutters will be snapping non-stop.  I have already picked up that region’s field guide and perusing it from time to time in order to set my wildlife checklist.  Last year almost all the animals on the list were checked off, with the exception of the Wolf and Mountain Goat.  Time is short today so I better get to this set of birds.  The first image is of a Chickadee that is fairly common both around my house and apparently out there.

I mainly added this picture because I liked how the little one was tucked inside the evergreen branches.  The field guide actually claims this is a Mountain Chickadee, but to be honest it looks exactly like the ones outside my window as I type this blog.  It does say the habitat is coniferous forests.  Based on this photo, they nailed it.  Wow, as I looked out the window to verify with a chickadee on my feeder, I spotted a raccoon holding onto a branch above my feeder and paw over paw pulling up my bird feeder over the squirrel baffle.  Please hold while I deal with this evil spawn.  …….  the problem is solved.  Geesh, it’s 5:44pm in the afternoon, they are definitely getting bolder.

The next set of photos is from a small pond we stopped at because it had a ton of creatures flying out and diving under a bridge next to the road.  They were flying so fast I couldn’t really tell what they were, so I decided to get out and try to figure it out.  The first consideration of bats were thrown out pretty quick due to the coloring, which led to some type of swallow.  Although I clipped this one, it did show the coloring pattern that led to the identification.  Nothing like trying to look through the viewer and try to get one of these bullets in your field of shot.

I was in the process of putting the lens cap back on the camera and closing up shop when all of a sudden one of the swallows fell completely out of the sky and landed on the water.  Finding this odd, I ended up taking the cap back off in order to use the zoom to get a better view of the scene.  There the bird remained motionless just floating on the water for what must have been at least 3 minutes.

The assumption was it was dead for what reason remained a mystery.  Eventually the little guy stirred a bit and began to come to life.  Slowly it started to beat the wings to build up momentum to escape the water.

Likely due to the extra weight from the wet wings, it was quite a struggle before it was able to gain flight again.  This shot is actually one of my favorites as it was taken just a split second after reaching freedom.

I am hoping it is just a shadow, but the shot actually looks like it might have left some blood where it landed.  Based on the amount of birds flying around at break neck speeds, the odds are it collided with another swallow and lost consciousness for a little bit.  It looked fine as it gained altitude, but eventually I lost it in the swirling mass so best wishes.

Please hit the jump to see the rest of the set.

Continue reading Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

What the Duck Is It?

I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer.  This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed.  Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used.  Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.

I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures.  This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides.  This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version.  It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds.  Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description.  After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.

But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live.  We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife.  I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination.  One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position.  He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up.  5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position.  It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret).  This went on for the entire time we were at the lake.  Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.

The dude was just showing off for the ladies.  This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way).  A quick funny story.  On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path.  Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake).  She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces.  Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined.  Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.

Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump.  Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.

Continue reading What the Duck Is It?

Hoofing It

I just noticed my WordPress dashboard is indicating I passed a milestone of such.  Apparently a couple of posts ago I hit my 200th blog post.  Seems like yesterday when I started this whole blog thingy, but in reality it’s the middle of the third year.  Yeah, it has been work at times, but it gives me a change to show off some of my photos along with things that happen to catch my attention.  I definitely appreciate you taking the time to peruse my ramblings and offer up comments from time to time.

Apparently, Linda and I have been poisoned by the Par-A-Dice deli tonight.  My money is on the cheese fries, but the jury is still out – well, the stomach jury has definitely provided a verdict.  While waiting for this to pass, I figured a bonus post was in order.  This one will close out the large mammals from the Yellowstone trip last June.  Still trying get caught up in preparation for the upcoming vacation, this should leave me with some bird shots and a collection of water themed snaps that stood out while reviewing the vacation portfolio.  Ironically, Linda and went out on a shoot yesterday and now we have about 10 more blog topics… guess there is really no such thing as catching up.

This is a miscellaneous set and not all tack sharp by any means.  Let’s start with an Elk.

These animals are simply majestic to look at.  Although not the largest rack of the ones spotted on this trip, it was definitely up there based on size and weight.  Not being an expert on antlers, it is hard to tell how mature this one was.  The antlers were still covered with velvet and for all I know still growing.  According to the guide, they can grow 5′ long.  Oh, and they can run 35mph.  They are also called Wapiti which is Shawnee for Pale Deer.  Come for the pictures, leave a little smarter 8^).  Amazingly, these beasts were not bothered by us and generally just focused on grazing.  This buck happened to look over resulting in a perfect pose.

If you caught the previous Bison post, you know there are plenty of them out there.  Another plentiful animal is the Pronghorn.  By the time we got to South Dakota you couldn’t go 5 miles without seeing them off the side of the road.

Not one of my better pictures, but for some reason I didn’t take any other photos of them.  This is a buck per the short black mane.  Contrasting that with the elk, the male pronghorn antlers only reach about 6″ (with a extra 9″ sheath that is shed in the winter).  Although slightly slower than the elk, these guys can run 30mph for 15 miles with bursts up to 70mph making them a tough prey.  Another interesting piece of information is, thanks to conservation, they are more abundant than they were in the 1900s.  By the way, they are part of the antelope family if you were wondering.

Go ahead and hit the jump, there are two other specimens for your viewing pleasure

Continue reading Hoofing It

Well, It’s a Critter and It’s Furry (Pt 2 of 2)

As promised, this is the second part of my two part post on furry critters.  If I was guessing on some of the categorization of the critters in the last blog, then I’m pulling them out of certain somewhere with this set.  It is hard enough to classify birds, but these animals are about impossible to distinguish one from another especially when they have essentially the same fur coloring.  So, I have taken some liberties.  Due to limited references and numerous inconsistencies on the web, there is a high probability that the animals are not properly named.  Take for instance this creature.

Based on the Rocky Mountain Guide from Audubon (region where this photo was taken), the closest I can tell is that it is a Rock Squirrel.  Am I sure about this… NO.  However, if looks like a Rock Squirrel, walks like a Rock Squirrel and unable to squeak English to correct me, we’ll be going with Rock Squirrel.  On the size scale, this was the largest off all of them I was able to snap a shot of.  Based on the glint in his eye, he seems ready to rip me to shreds.  And then there was this squirrel.

Now there were two options for this fur monster.  It has a distinguished grey color and a distinctive white outline of the eye.  After spending hours scouring the Internet and reading the paltry paragraphs in the field guide, the options are either an Abert’s Squirrel or a Red Squirrel.  The Abert’ Squirrel is suppose to be grey (check), has a white underbelly (check), tufts of hair coming off the ears (uhh, hmm) and white highlights on the end of the tail (crap).  In contrast, the Red Squirrel has a rounded ear (check), white underbelly (check), pale reddish grey coloring (uhh, hmm).  Playing the odds, the money is on Red Squirrel.

Wait a minute, now we have the pale reddish gray we were expecting in the last picture, but the tufts are there now which were more indicative of the other squirrel.  So do we have two different squirrels here or is one in some kind of disguise to hide his super squirrel ninja skilz.  One minute innocent cute and cuddly creature, the next chopping nuts with a pair of squirrel chucks.  Okay, probably not a likely scenario so sticking with the Red Squirrel option.  Oh, and based on about 40 minutes of searching the net, there appears to be a lot of images labeled similarly showing a creature with the same dark grey coloring as in the previous photo.  Maybe the fur coloring changes with maturity or seasons.  This was not confirmed with the weak descriptions in the field guide.  Although this may be the missing link.

This appears to be the transition specimen.  The fur coloring blends in between the deeper grey and the reddish hue.  It also has a similar posture (and eyeliner) along with the tufts from the first picture but still showing the rounder ear structure mentioned in the guide.  For the record, I do like this particular shot since it has both foreground and background depth (nicely blurred) and hint of symmetry with the rock.  After about 5 different cropping experiments, the center crop won out since that allowed for keeping the foreground indicator and still showing the round of the rock.  To critique myself, next time I’ll move about 15 degrees to keep the background limb from impaling the subject.  For snicks, here’s another shot of what appears to be the perfect specimen for a Rock Squirrel based on the Audubon guide.

Makes you want to reach out and pet it doesn’t it?  Wait, two words… Squirrel Fu.

Hit the jump to see a couple of other squirrel like creatures captured in the Yellowstone region.

Continue reading Well, It’s a Critter and It’s Furry (Pt 2 of 2)

Two for the Furry Critters (Pt 1 of 2)

If you read my last post, this one should not be a surprise at this content. I was just relaxing a bit before my race in Chicago tomorrow. This will be the first race since experiencing an injury on the right (inner) side of the left knee back in July (during the Bix7 race). It has been a pretty long journey back to this point with an MRI, x-rays, two-a-week therapy sessions and a regiment of 1.5 hours a night of stretching and strengthening. I will not be pushing the pace, but still hoping everything makes it through alright. The flexibility has definitely improved, but unfortunately, the cardio has taken a hit being only able to crank out 2-3 miles every couple of days. As a lesson to all the kiddies out there, don’t be taken by the latest BS articles against stretching.

As you can tell by the title, this is a two part series focused on the rather cute looking squirrel/chipmunk families. We came across a number of these critters during our vacation and they always seemed like they were living the Carpe Diem. There didn’t appear to be intimidated by my constant picture taking and in some cases it seemed like they were actually posing for the camera. Of course, they are probably all cute and cuddly on the outside while plotting world domination at night in their dens. First step: act cute, second step ehhhhh, third step, world domination.

In all honesty, I had a difficult time actually distinguishing the various types of squirrels and chipmunks so ended up making some educated guesses on what was what.  This particular post will focus on the dominant grouping call Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels.  There appears to be some similarities with other species, but the stripes all appeared similar on this set and the similar critter (White -Tailed Antelope Squirrel) had white underneath the tail.

Essentially, if they had the dual colored stripes on the side and the white outlines of the eye they were labeled golden-mantled.  If you see any images that are incorrectly identified, please make a comment so that can be corrected.  Of all the pictures we took during the trip, a shot of the Raven and the following shot are my two favorites.  We also had these images blown up for entries into photography contests and are now proudly displayed in our house.  You know the drill, the image here isn’t nearly as nice as the non-reduced version, but hopefully you will appreciate the coloring and the cute pose.  This is also one of the few pictures that I didn’t follow the thirds cropping rules.

Well, to be honest, I did follow thirds since the floral in the lower left and the texture and coloring in the log in the upper right were the features that really make the image appealing to me.  The living, the dead and the cute all rolled together in a nice package.  Just to give you a better feel for why I like this particular photo so much, I cropped another version for you.  This one is closer to real size of the photo.

A smile crosses my face every time I pass by this picture.  With that said, the critics apparently hated it probably due to their overly rigid rules about only good pictures are taken in the morning or night and the thirds violation yada yada yada.  Rather than get myself lathered up on that topic, I’ll just let it go and let you decide for yourself.  I love opinions on any of my photos so feel free to let me know what you think – don’t worry, I’m a big boy and can take the bad.  While we are there, let’s toss out a similar picture.

This picture has essentially the same subject, the same background and foreground setting with on exception.  The foliage was cropped out in the zoom.  As a result, it is still pretty cute, but just doesn’t seem as appealing as the full shot above.  You will be happy to know I did follow the thirds for that crop and it does honestly help in this particular picture.   I probably should have reduced the light some on the little one’s head to pop it a tad more, but overall I have taken a lot worse… and yes, I know it was not taken in the morning or the late afternoon.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the shots featuring this furry critter.

Continue reading Two for the Furry Critters (Pt 1 of 2)