Colorado Wildlife: June 28-July 7, 2016

For over a week now, I’ve wished I was back in Colorado. We had a wonderful family vacation to the Rockies to visit relatives and see the mountains (a first for my boys, aged 6 & 7). I did manage a bit of photography and will be posting 3 or 4 blogs about the trip. We concentrate on the wildlife unique to the Rockies in this blog post
Moose Calf Rocky Mountain National Park CO IMG_2987
MOOSE CALF in ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. Got a very close up look at a cow and calf Moose on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The kids even looked up from their activity books!


IMG_3670

iPhone panorama of Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
We started each day with a different hike in the park.

IMG_3154IMG_3145Dusky (Blue) Grouse chick at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

IMG_3148Dusky (Blue) Grouse hen at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
We spotted this western species of grouse along the park drive. While photographing her in the roadside flowers, I saw something small scurry towards her…It was a tiny chick, not more than a few days old. The chick was busy picking insects off the flower stems.

IMG_3776Mule Deer munching

IMG_4042Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris bailey) in Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado.

IMG_4069Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris bailey) in Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado.

IMG_4044Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris bailey) in Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado.

IMG_3974Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris bailey) in Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado.

IMG_4009My LIFER Collared Lizard(s) (Crotaphytus collaris baileyi) …Western subspecies. Found 2 of these most stunning reptiles at Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado. These 8-14 inch long lizards actually run on their hind legs like mini T-Rexs in pursuit of smaller lizards (including Horned Lizards) and insects to eat. They scamper on all fours until they have the speed to run on 2 legs. They resemble iguanas because they are actually closely related to iguanas. The pale one above, with orange markings may be a gravid female. All are beautiful!

IMG_3638Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) near Bayfield, Colorado

IMG_3253 (1)Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) near Bayfield, Colorado
Though these small rodents appear similar to chipmunks (small size, back stripes), they are actually ground squirrels. Note the lack of facial stripes that chipmunks almost always show. Found from lower elevations all the way to above treelike. They hibernate in winter. I think they are among the most beautiful of all ground squirrels.

IMG_3606Abert’s Squirrel (Sciurus aberti) near Bayfield, Colorado.
This funny looking tree squirrel is also known as the “tassel-eared” squirrel, though this one is lacking the ear tufts. Note the white underbelly and rusty patch on the back. Named for 19th century American naturalist John James Abert, it is native to cool Ponderosa Pine forests of the southern Rocky Mountains, especially the Grand Canyon area of Arizona, New Mexico and SW Colorado (where this one was photographed).

IMG_3313Not really sure what this species is but I’m guessing Western Fence Lizard (near Bayfield, Colorado). Any herp experts out there are welcome to correct and educate me!

IMG_2905Western Tanager near Estes Park, Colorado.
A real specialty of the American West, the Western Tanager is one of the birds I look forward to seeing on every summer trip out west.

IMG_2895Mule Deer buck in velvet near Estes Park, Colorado.

IMG_2723Western Yellow-rumped Warbler; Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Like the Northern Flicker shown below, this species also used to be split into two separate species; the eastern was called “Myrtle Warbler” and the western species called “Audubon’s Warbler.” Note the yellow throat that distinguishes the western “Audubon’s” from our eastern “Myrtle” which has a white throat.

IMG_2554Mountain Bluebird along Alpine Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

IMG_2494Elk bull above treelike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

IMG_3569Trout at the fish hatchery in Durango Colorado.
I used a very slow shutter speed to create this artsy view of a captive trout.

IMG_3596Preening female “Red-shafted” Flicker near Bayfield, Colorado.

IMG_3280Northern Flicker near Bayfield, Colorado.
When I started birding as a kid in the 1970s, this western woodpecker was known as the “Red-shafted Flicker.” In Minnesota (and the rest of eastern North America) we had the “Yellow-shafted” Flicker. But ornithologists soon discovered that these two “species” freely interbreed in their zone of overlap in South Dakota, North Dakota, Alberta, British Columbia, meaning that they are actually the same species, and hence, we now just have one species, the Northern Flicker. Note in the photo above that the male “Red-shafted” has a red “mustache” while the Yellow-shafted has a black “mustache.” In the top photo of the preening female you can see the red shafts of the wing feathers that gives the western subspecies its old “red-shafted” name.

IMG_2958Bull Elk high up in Rocky Mountain National Park. This big boy already has enormous antlers for this early in the season. He will be thrashing shrubs and brush in August and September to remove the velvet and burnish the antlers.

[PHOTO NOTES: All images taken with Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; handheld (I did not bring a tripod to Colorado due to packing light for airline travel)]

Mornings with Bighorns—Yellowstone April 2016

MORNINGS ON THE “AMERICAN SERENGETI”
For three consecutive mornings, after waking before dawn, cooking up some oatmeal and toasted bagels, and warming our fingers over the car defroster, Ryan and I hiked a half mile (3/4 mile?) in to a valley that was teeming with wildlife. Hundreds of Elk, dozens of Bison, Pronghorn, and Mule Deer grazed the nearly nonexistent grass, moving slowly but surely across the floor of the valley. Despite “bear activity” signs, we felt very safe as we could see for miles in almost all directions.
Here (thanks to a tip from a wildlife photographer friend) we found a “bachelor herd” of Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis).
In our many previous trips, we’d mainly seen bands of Bighorn ewes and lambs scrambling on the very vertical hillsides along the road from Gardiner, MT to Mammoth in the park. A few times we’d seen smaller rams come down to the river to drink, but never a big bachelor herd. But in this Valley of the American Serengeti (our name) we found a couple dozen “big boys” and another dozen young rams. You see Bighorn males and females only intermingle during the late November rut and mating season. After that, they go their own ways. Young males will join the bachelor herd after a year with mom.
Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5951 (1)The Patriarch
Though Bighorns don’t have a single band leader, they do seem to jostle a bit for social status, at least it seemed like that to us. This scarred full-curl ram seemed to be the oldest and the ram with the largest horns. His short muzzle had what appeared to be a scar all the way across the bridge. You can age a ram by its horns due to “growth rings” but I’m not experienced enough to attempt it. Their horns can weigh up to 30 pounds! Rams can live 9-12 years.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f6.3 at 1/1000 second; ISO 200; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5287 (1)Still Life with Bachelors
“Bachelors” is perhaps a misnomer as many of the older healthier rams may mate in the fall, but the all-male bands are called “bachelor herds.” I love the painterly feel to this image…Lots going on in this single frame. Note the young ram leaping over a laying ram. I muted the colors in Aperture.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/1250 second; ISO 400; +0.33ev;  tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5989 (1)Two become One
Just a “haccident” (happy accident) when the two rams lined up to form “one head.” Blur your eyes a bit and …Bizarre.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f7.1 at 1/1000 second; ISO 320; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5310 (1)Resting Rams
Bighorns chew their cud. Note the patriarch in the upper right hand corner.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f10 at 1/250 second; ISO 400; +0.33ev; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5211 (1)

[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f8 at 1/200 second; ISO 400; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5981 (1)

[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f7.1 at 1/500 second; ISO 200; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5835 (1)

Blue Bighorn Silhouette
A so-so shot that gets a bit of creative life by reducing the exposure by a few stops and altering the white balance.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 100mm; f8 at 1/125 second; ISO 100; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5194 (1)

Monarch of the Mountains
Head on portrait of a full-curl ram. These boys not only tolerated us (can’t get closer than 25 yards due to Yellowstone’s rules (and common sense) but seemed to go about their business as if we weren’t even there. This is one of the real treats of Yellowstone; you get to witness the everyday lives of animals.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f9 at 1/160 second; ISO 400; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5191 (1)

[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 330mm; f9 at 1/200 second; ISO 400; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5135 (1)

[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 148mm; f5 at 1/640 second; ISO 400; +0.33ev; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4312 (1)

Peek on the Peak
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/2000 second; ISO 160; -0.67ev; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5226 (1)

Not sure if I like this image as a black and white or color version yet.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 148mm; f5 at 1/640 second; ISO 400; +0.33ev; tripod]

Bighorn Gardiner River Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4299 (1)

Still plenty of snow in the high country of Yellowstone in mid April. These Bighorns are extremely sure-footed and are at home in steep country. One of their main predators is the Mountain Lion, which is also at home in rugged terrain.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/2500 second; ISO 160; -0.67ev; tripod]

Early Spring in Yellowstone 1—April 16-19, 2016

rental car hit deer ND IMG_3698 (1)
Ryan Marshik and I decided to make a break for Yellowstone…We’ve been there many times…in May, September, October…but never April. We timed it so we’d arrive the day after some of the roads opened up for spring traffic. During winter, only the road from Gardiner, MT through Mammoth, to Cooke City is open. Now, on April 15, the roads to West Yellowstone, Old Faithful, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Artist’s Point, Lower and Upper Falls) would be open. Granted, one of our favorite routes up the Hayden Valley remained closed, but we could live with that.
So we packed up and left Duluth at 3pm sharp (actually 2:50pm) because we knew we’d arrive 16 hours later at the North Entrance at Gardiner, MT at dawn, ready to shoot. No daylight wasted! Of course, we’d be exhausted, but our modus operandi is to shoot until noon, find a campsite, set up our tents, and take a 2 hour nap, then shoot until dark.
Unfortunately, a kamikaze Mule Deer nearly ruined our perfect plan. Sometime after midnight in western North Dakota a Muley ran out on to I-94, paused and then bolted again, having a fatal encounter with a mid-sized SUV going about 60mph (we’d been doing 80, but slowed a bit before hitting her). Lots of front quarter panel damage, broken headlight covers, high beams taken out, but it was drivable. Thankfully Minnesota law states that all residents renting a vehicle are covered with their own insurance, avoiding the need to purchase rental car agency pricey insurance.

So, we made it just fine, Ryan was even able to bend the bottom of the door a bit so it wouldn’t make a horrible grating sound every time we opened it (and thereby scaring any nearby wildlife). Though a bit cold and windy, it turned out to be a fantastic wildlife-laden trip. I will have 4 blog posts about this trip..Yellowstone 2, Bighorns, Teddy Roosevelt (our usual overnight stop on the way home to Duluth). Enjoy!

Coyote Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4652 (1)Leaping for Lunch
While there was no snow in the Mammoth area (including our campground), as soon as you got above a certain elevation, there was plenty. Several cars were pulled over along the road to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and we soon saw why…A very oblivious Coyote, going about its search for voles under the snow. I didn’t have time to get my tripod out, but managed to snap a series of shots handheld. He leaped high but was unable to break through the crust of this wind-packed snow. We watched him (her?) for another hour or so and he caught at least 3 voles.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 227mm; f7.1 at 1/4000 second; ISO 200; handheld (no time to get my tripod out!)]

Yellowstone landscape IMG_5834 (1)Mountain Vista Yellowstone
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 100mm; f8 at 1/200 second; ISO 100; tripod]

Sparky Yellowstone IMG_5387 (1)Sparky scanning for….Anything!

Red Fox Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5554 (1)Red Fox Hunting
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f7.1 at 1/1000 second; ISO 100; -0.33ev; handheld]

Red Fox Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5536 (1)Red Fox with Vole
We got to watch this “famous” Red Fox hunt near the Yellowstone Picnic Area for over an hour. She’s been a regular here for a couple years. I guess she even lost some of last year’s pups (or kits or cubs…all equally correct names for baby fox) to a marauding Badger. She was sleeping when we got to the picnic area (only alerted to her presence by local photographer Steve Hinch…Thanks Steve!). Eventually she hopped up and started hunting,paying no mind to the growing long-lens laden crowd. Here she is about to end the brief life of an oh-so-cute Meadow Vole, the staple food of many North American predators.

Red Fox and Bison Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5509 (2)Buddies? Not Really
My 5-year old son, Bjorn, had me print this photo so he could take it to school and show his music teacher. Perplexed, I asked, “Why?” He told me that they were learning a song about “unlikely animal buddies.” How cute is that!

Mountain Bluebird female Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5440 (1)Lady Mountain Bluebird
This was just a “grab and go” shot out the window of the car, but when I got home and saw it on the screen, I liked it! Not as gaudy as the males, the females still have their own beauty.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/1250 second; ISO 320; -0.67ev; handheld, braced on car door window frame]

Mountain Bluebird Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4466 (1)Bluebird tipped Sage
Whoever came up with the saying that the bluebird “carries the sky on its back” must have been talking about the Mountain Bluebird, as our Eastern Bluebird back home in Minnesota, is a much darker blue. I think the Mountain Bluebirds had just returned to the Yellowstone area and insects at this time of year are a bit scarce.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f6.3 at 1/2000 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Mountain Bluebird Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4505 (1)Blue Sky Bluebird
I stalked this foraging Mountain Bluebird along the Old Yellowstone Road. He was busy moving from perch to perch, nabbing insects on the ground. After about 10 minutes, he landed on this rock and I laid down on the prickly and dung-covered ground (mostly dried elk dung) so I could shoot up and get the blue sky as the background. It would have been a bit better shot if he was facing away and looking over his shoulder at me, but I’ll take it.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f6.3 at 1/2500 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Coyote Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5708 (1)Coyote on the Run
It’s funny…every Coyote we see in Yellowstone seems to have its own personality. Some head for the hills when they see a human; some are methodical and slow listen-and-leap hunters; and some, like this little girl (who knows?) are speed hunters! She hunted while moving at a veritable sprint…more of a fast trot. But the technique worked, and we saw her catch 3 voles in the three miles or so that we followed her. And she often hunted right along the main park road. I panned at 1/40 of a second and picked this image as the best of the series…the eye is very sharp! But the composition is a bit tight on the bottom.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f14 at 1/40 second; ISO 100; panning handheld (a bit slow and therefore riskier panning shot…better might have been 1/60 second)]

Coyote Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5688 (1)Yellow-line Coyote
Same “Speedy Gonzalez” Coyote as I talked about in the photo above. I laid down in the middle of the road to get this “below-eye-level” shot. A unique perspective but not a great shot.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f6.3 at 1/500 second; ISO 160; handheld while laying on ground]

Mule Deer rim light IMG_4266 (1)The Rock has Ears!
Mule Deer backlit on the “American Serengeti” of Yellowstone National Park.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 300mm; f5 at 1/640 second; ISO 160; -1ev; tripod]

 

….More to come! Three more blog posts about this trip coming (Yellowstone 2, Bighorns, Teddy Roosevelt)

Early Spring in Yellowstone 2—April 16-19, 2016

Red-tailed Hawk and moon Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4074 (1)Still Life with Redtail and Moon 1
How could I pass this up? Wish I could have set up a tripod and shot at f22 or smaller to get more depth of field and the moon more in focus, but redtails don’t pose for that long.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f20 at 1/200 second; ISO 400; -0.33ev; handheld]

Grizzly Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5794 (1)Silver Griz
This fella was our only Grizzly of the trip. Mid April is a bit early for many bears to be out of hibernation…and the high country roads are not yet open where there could very well be more bears. On our mid May trip a couple years ago, we saw quite a few Griz. But this guy was sure a beauty! We stopped, as we almost always do, when we saw a couple cars pulled over (and here’s the real key) and some long lenses on tripods. “What do ya got?” Is the standard photographer-to-photographer exchange in situations like this. They’d seen a Grizzly on the slope on the opposite side of the river, but it had moved off into some forest cover. So we pulled over, got out and helped them relocate the bear. Well nature called to Ryan, and while he was watering the early spring grass, he spotted the bear. He came back to the road and told us. I got a few handheld shots but Ryan had to go back to our car to get his camera. When Ryan got back, I went back to the car to get my tripod. But soon after I left something really spooked the Grizzly and it ran off. The only thing we know of that can spook the apex predator of the park…is another Grizzly. But while we waited another 45 minutes or so, nothing showed.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/1000 second; ISO 400; handheld]

Black Bear Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4898 (1)Sole of the Bear
This Black Bear recently out of hibernation had the most unusual nearly white, soles of its feet. I’ve seen many many Black Bears and have never noticed this trait before. My gut feeling is that this bear just had abnormally pale foot pads.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f7.1 at 1/640 second; ISO 500; -1ev; tripod]

Red-tailed Hawk Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4790 (1)Rockin’ Redtail
The Red-tailed Hawks were certainly migrating through and returning to Yellowstone this week. We saw many, and this one posed on a picture-perfect perch long enough to get a shot.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f7.1 at 1/2000 second; ISO 320; +1ev; tripod]

Red-tailed Hawk and moon Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_3979 (1)Lunar Buteo
Red-tailed Hawks are a type of buteo…a raptor with big broad wings and short tails. They are built for soaring, scanning open country for prey. “Forest hawks” who hunt in dense woods need shorter rounded wings and long tails (to act as an “air rudder”) so they can maneuver in close quarters in flight. I love “bird and moon” shots…especially when the bird is relatively small in the frame. Of course, these images are best viewed large.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/2500 second; ISO 320; handheld]

Pronghorn Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_3793 (1)Pronghorn in the Sage
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/800 second; ISO 250; handheld, braced on outside of car]

Ryan Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_6048 (1)Ryan Marshik

Bison in campsite Mammoth Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_2864Campsite Buddies!
Each night, a small herd of Bison grazed right through our campsite, noisily munching the new green grass. It’s funny, you would never dare to get this close to them out in the park (in fact it’s illegal to get closer than 25 yards) but here they are so preoccupied, and used to people, that you can sit at your picnic table 5 yards away and enjoy the slow parade.

Sandhill Crane Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4094 (1)Sandhill Crane in its Finest
Love the “bustle” of this Sandhill Crane. It was one of a pair that had returned to nest in the park’s marshes and wet meadows.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f10 at 1/500 second; ISO 400; -0.33ev; handheld, braced on car window frame]

Dipper Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4432 (1)Dipper thinking about taking a Dip
Dippers feed on underwater aquatic critters in fast moving streams and rivers of the western U.S. They are one of Bridget’s favorite birds and so I always try and get a few shots.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f6.3 at 1/250 second; ISO 640; handheld]

falls Yellowstone River Grand Canyon Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4626 (1)Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 255mm; f11 at 1/2000 second; ISO 100; -2.33ev; tripod]

falls Yellowstone River Grand Canyon Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4622 (1)Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 255mm; f11 at 1/320 second; ISO 100; tripod]

falls Yellowstone River Grand Canyon Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4599 (1)Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f11 at 1/800 second; ISO 100; -2ev; tripod]
All three of the above shots of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River were taken from Artist’s Point. The falls, at 308 vertical feet, is the tallest in the park. The light (quality and direction) was not good for broad scenic vistas, so I used the telephoto to zoom in on one part of the scene. The lone silhouetted tree really made this shot for me. Here are three variations…Which do you like?

Elk young bull shedding Old Yellowstone Road WY IMG_4529 (1)Goofy Bull
Early spring is NOT a good time to photograph Elk in the West; all the Elk at this time of year look pretty ratty. They are shedding their winter coats, and not gracefully. The older bulls are just sprouting their new antlers, growth being nourished by the blood-rich “velvet” coating them (see photo below), but the first year bulls sometimes hold their little antlers all winter instead of dropping them in late fall/early winter like the older guys.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 300mm; f5 at 1/1600 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Elk bull in velvet in traffic Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_4926 (1)Big and Velvety
These were some really big boys holding up traffic along the road. Note their height compared to the car in the foreground. Wish I could see these guys again in the fall when their massive antlers will be in their prime.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 214mm; f7.1 at 1/400 second; ISO 500; tripod]

Elk herd Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_5111 (1)American Serengeti
Easily the biggest herd of Elk I’ve ever seen in Yellowstone…over 200 animals. I didn’t even include all the herd in this shot. Nearby were herds of Bison, Mule Deer and Pronghorn. Impressive!
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 263mm; f6.3 at 1/60 second; ISO 320; tripod (accidentally at this shutter speed because I had just switched over from taking some video)]

Early Spring Wildlife of Teddy Roosevelt National Park

IMG_6173 (1)

On the way home from Yellowstone, Ryan and I usually camp for a night at North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It breaks up the 16 hour drive home and allows us to get in some more shooting, and with a chance at several species which are not found at Yellowstone, specifically Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and Wild Horses (feral horses, more accurately). The campground at Cottonwood is usually fairly deserted in early spring and late fall, and we only had to compete with a big bull Bison who was vigorously scratching his belly on a big rock in the campsite that we wanted. He eventually moved on and we could set up our tents.
We drive the 36-mile loop once in the late afternoon, and then again in the morning before we have to hit I-94 East for home…and the loop rarely disappoints. [April 19-20, 2016]

Bison Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6336 (1) Bison Eclipse of the Sun
Last October we had some fantastic dawn shooting when a herd of Bison were silhouetted by the orange foggy sunrise. We hoped for the same conditions on this trip, but the fog was more of a mist that hung in the valleys; you could actually see the water droplets floating in air. This led to a crazy “fogbow”, the first I’d ever seen.
I positioned myself low in the valley in order to get the Bison between me and the rising sun…and this is the result…perfect rim light. I only wish there had been a bit more color in the morning sky. (“warmed” the shot by upping the white balance to 7500k)
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 158mm; f22 at 1/2000 second; ISO 200; tripod]

Fogbow Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_2904“Fogbow” over the prairie
I’d never witnessed a “fogbow” before. The morning fog was dense and you could actually see the suspended water droplets when backlit by the sun. My iPhone photo (above) actually turned out better than photos with my DSLR camera, probably due to the HDR feature on the iPhone.

Bison Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6248 (1)

Steaming Bison

[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 300mm; f7.1 at 1/3200 second; ISO 640; tripod]

Mule Deer Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6229 (1)Mule Deer Dawn
No antlers this time of year (barely nubbins with velvet on the males), but the huge ears of Mule Deer make a distinctive silhouette.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 135mm; f5.6 at 1/5000 second; ISO 640; tripod]

Sharp-tailed Grouse eating buds Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6429 (1)Sharp-tailed Grouse eating buds
We had four species of gallinaceous birds during our brief visit—Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant, Gray Partridge (rare and unexpected), and many of these normally elusive birds, the Sharp-tailed Grouse. This guy was feeding on flower buds of a Box Elder tree (correct me if I’m wrong). We spent about 10 minutes watching his acrobatic and agile moves among the outer branches as he tried to access the outermost buds. Teddy Roosevelt may be one of the best places to see this sought-after species outside of the lekking season (when they dance at dawn on known leks).
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/4000 second; ISO 250; handheld, braced on car]

Wild Horse Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6107 (1)Wild Horse (feral horse) with foal
We probably saw about 40 different Wild Horses (yes, I know, feral horses) in our two loops of the Wildlife Drive. They were just dropping their foals, and we saw one little black guy that was so new that he still wobbled a bit.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 300mm; f5 at 1/400 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Wild Horse Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6094 (1)Wild Horse (feral horse) with foal
Darn cute!
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 300mm; f5 at 1/400 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Wild Horse Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6076 (1)Band of Wild Horses (feral horses)
The color variations of these horses never ceases to amaze me.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 100mm; f4.5 at 1/2000 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6491 (1)Relaxin’ Prairie Dog (or sunbathing? or hiding?)
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/3200 second; ISO 250; handheld]

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6473 (1)

Family Time (Black-tailed Prairie Dogs)
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/1600 second; ISO 250; handheld]

Black-tailed Prairie Dog Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6140 (1)

Cuddly Companions (Black-tailed Prairie Dogs)
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f8 at 1/250 second; ISO 200; handheld]

Mountain Bluebird Teddy Roosevelt National Park Medora ND IMG_6449 (1)The Perfect Perch
…Just wish I had a better angle …and was a bit closer…and had better light. Oh well. Mountain Bluebird.
[Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens at 400mm; f5.6 at 1/6400 second; ISO 250; handheld]

Ten Years Ago this Week—Grandma Trudy’s Rio Grande Oasis

While down at the Harlingen Bird Festival in November 2004, I ran across an organization that was buying up land in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to preserve a bit of the natural environment that was rapidly disappearing. But in a state where 97% of all land is in private hands, the effort needed to go beyond purchasing small tracts. Enter the Valley Land Fund and their “World’s Richest Wildlife Photography Contest.” The concept is genius…pair a photographer with a ranch that has set aside some of their land in a natural state. The resulting contest and publication of a glossy hardcover photo book shines a blazing light on the incredible biodiversity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley ecosystem. The movement encouraged ranches to preserve habitat and even market their ranch to photographers and birders. It was a win-win-win deal.

So in December of 2005 I decided to enter. I knew I was going to be at a major disadvantage since I could only shoot for a week during the 3 month long contest. Locals would have a much better chance of accumulating a winning portfolio. But it just sounded like fun! And there were categories for every living thing…from beetles to bobcats…spiders to spoonbills…alligators to ants. Over $100,000 in prize money.

I entered the “Small Tract” Division and was paired with Krenmueller Farms…a several thousand acre ranch that surrounded Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. “Grandma Trudy” and her husband had set aside some wild land including a resaca, an old oxbow of the Rio Grande that was now cutoff from the river. They had a small guest house/cabin near the resaca but she wouldn’t let me stay there for fear of my safety. You see, this spot is right on the US-Mexico border and they have had several break ins from illegals crossing on to their land (drug smugglers, she said). I was fine not staying there.

It was a fantastic experience, and I ended up in 4th place…just a hair out of third. Not bad for one week of shooting! Some of these photos are still some of my favorites. In fact, I just used the Bobcat image in one of the new books my company published, Mammals of the North Woods (you crop the photo tight enough and you can’t even tell that that is a palm tree trunk behind the cat:)

Two years later (the contest was only run every two years) I entered again, but this time, my photo-buddy Ryan Marshik was able to come down and shoot with me. I’ll highlight that trip in a future blog post. Sadly the economic down turn in the latter part of last decade spelled the end of the contest. I really hope they bring it back in the future.

Dragofly larva on water lily lotus Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 639_3913Dragonfly larva silhouetted on lotus flower

Altamira Oriole feeding Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 640_4030Altamira Oriole nectaring on Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
South Texas has a wealth of orioles…including “our” Baltimore Oriole, which migrates through in April. This is an Altamira Oriole.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens]

Bobcat sitting in sun Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 644_4460Bobcat in spot of sunlight
This was one of my most memorable wildlife encounters. I was wearily heading back towards my car after a hot morning of shooting when a movement caught the corner of my eye. Now first I must say that is was a VERY windy day…and when the wind blows in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the rustling dead palm fronds make quite a racket. So it was on this morning and this is why the Bobcat did not hear me nor did it smell me as I was downwind. When I spotted her I smoothly stepped off the trail, slowly slipped the tripod and massive 500mm lens off my shoulder and onto firm ground, and focused. She never once looked in my direction. I fired off a few shots of her walking, then amazingly she sat down in the one spot of sunlight on the grass. That is when I got this shot. After a brief pause to soak up the sun, she continued down the path towards me, and got closer…and closer…and closer. I wasn’t sure what to do now as my leg was only a few inches off the trail. She would nearly brush up against me, and if I accidentally startled her, I could get mauled. Just as this last thought entered my mind, I flinched and the cat noticed my quick movement and bolted for the cover of the jungle. She had been less than 10 feet from me when I flinched. An exhilarating experience to be sure, and one I will never forget.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens, tripod]

Wasp in flower Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 640_4069Paper Wasp in Red Yucca flower (Hesperaloe parviflora)
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm lens with Canon 500D close up lens attached; hand-held]

Lizard at eye level Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 641_4128Lizard at eye level
Sometimes you have to crawl on the gravel to get an interesting shot.

Olive Sparrow singing Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 646_4644Olive Sparrow singing
The Olive Sparrow is closely related to the towhees. It is a furtive little bugger and not often seen above ankle height and rarely leaves the cover of dense brush…but love makes us all do crazy things. He jumped up atop this brush pile to sing his little heart out in hopes of attracting a mate.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens, tripod]

caterpillar and color blobs Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 652_5237Caterpillar and blobs of color
Out of focus wildflowers make a nice background for this caterpillar

Least Bittern Krenmueller Farms LRGV TX 662_6251Least Bittern

Least Bittern caught fish Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 662_6260Least Bittern 2: Caught!
Grandma Trudy let me use the family rowboat to actually get out on the resaca for some waterbird photography. And this was the most exciting thing I found…a Least Bittern hunting the edge of the cattails. Now it isn’t easy to move quietly in an aluminum rowboat with wooden oars, but I tried, and this guy didn’t pay me too much mind. I fired off a few shots then tried to remain still and quiet as I could see the little guy was on to something. Then suddenly, with lightning fast reflexes, the bittern nabbed a fish from the water. I was ready and this was the first shot I managed (my reflexes aren’t as fast as his!)
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; braced on gunwale of rowboat]

Great-tailed Grackle resaca cattails Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 665_6561Great-tailed Grackle
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens]

Black-bellied Whistling Duck sunrise silhouette Krenmueller Farms TX 664_6403Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Sunrise
I envisioned this image in my mind. So at predawn I got in position…west of some trees that would make a nice silhouette as the sky reddened. Now all I needed was a bird to silhouette. Two Whistling Ducks obliged nicely. This photo looks over saturated but I didn’t touch either the Vibrancy nor Saturation sliders in Photoshop/Aperture.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens]

Brown Longtail Urbanus procne Krenmueller Farms LRGV TX 3AH_673_7326Brown Longtail butterfly (Urbanus procne)
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm lens with Canon 500D close up lens attached; hand-held]

Bluet damselfly Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 3CH_638_3868Bluet damselfly
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm lens with Canon 500D close up lens attached; hand-held]

Snail on Texas Bluebonnet leaves Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 3EV_651_5185Snail on Texas Bluebonnet leaves
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm lens with Canon 500D close up lens attached; hand-held]

Tricolored Heron Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 666_6621Tricolored Heron
Sometimes all it takes is a stick. Remember those words! If the water you’re shooting at (marsh, pond, resaca, lake, stream, river) doesn’t have many perches, make one! Fishing birds need perches…herons, egrets, kingfishers…all like to hunt from a solid perch. I stuck this stick into the mucky bottom about 30 feet from the dock. I knew that I had to be able to get all of the bird into the frame with the big 500mm lens, and I had to plan for the biggest bird possible so I didn’t clip any limbs. Also, I wanted a soft green “bokeh”, that is the out of focus color behind the bird. I positioned the perch so that the distant cattails would blur to a pleasing background at f5.6.
Just minutes after I put up the perch and got in my blind positioned on the dock, I had customers! They were practically fighting over the stick. The light was incredibly soft this morning too, and this image to this day is still one of my all-time favorites. Incidentally, this photo made it to National Audubon’s TOP 100 photos in their bird photography contest a few years ago.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens

Tricolored Heron Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 666_6632Tricolored Heron
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; tripod; blind]

Black-crowned Night Heron Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 664_6470Black-crowned Night Heron
Yup…using the same perch that the Tricolored Heron used. Like I said, they were fighting over it. Here’s one case where “red eye” isn’t a bad thing!
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; tripod; blind]

Ambush bug on Mexican Hat flower Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 669_6903Ambush Bug on Mexican Hat flower (Ratibida columnifera)
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm lens with Canon 500D close up lens attached; hand-held]

Clay-colored Thrush Robin Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 669_6954Clay-colored Thrush and worm
When I took this photo in 2006, this bird was extremely rare in the U.S. and it was called Clay-colored Robin. This Mexican species has since become a more common resident of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. On this morning I set up my blind on the grass near the guest house specifically to get this shot. I lay on the ground inside the blind and stuck the 500mm lens out below the bottom edge of the blind. I really like this shot, but the green canopy cast a greenish light that is hard to remove in Photoshop. I couldn’t use a flash (which would have solved the color cast problem) because my camera was inside the blind and I did not have a remote cord.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; braced on ground from inside blind]

Rio Grande Leopard Frog Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 670_7073Rio Grande Leopard Frog
I actually got into the water to get this eye-level shot. I had brought my chest waders along specifically to crawl about in the muck (This was in the days before $25 checked luggage fees!). This is a southern cousin to our Northern Leopard Frog.
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; hand-held]

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 672_7242Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Red Yucca flower
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; tripod]

Blue-winged Teal pair Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 671_7191Blue-winged Teal pair on the resaca
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens; braced on gunwale of rowboat]

butterfly on flower Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 3AH_660_6082

Sparky 2006 Valley Land Fund contest Krenmueller Farms Lower Rio Grande Valley TX 642_4212Sparky on a HOT afternoon (note all dark beard…not all dark anymore:) )

Best Wildlife Photos of 2015 (non-bird)

I’m finally getting around to posting my favorite non-bird wildlife photos of 2015. This is as much an exercise in editing (and learning) for me, as it is sharing photos with you all. It’s always great fun to review the year’s adventures and try to whittle down the images. I give a far higher priority to photos that are a bit creative vs. a standard portrait in front light. I also tend to favor images that show some kind of animal behavior, such as the cooperative hunting between the Badger and Coyote. Enjoy!
Ermine Weasel Peary Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_7542 Ermine of the Bog

My parents and sister and family came up north to see the newly-completed Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center where I am Executive Director. We had a nice visit on a cold February day and headed out on a tour of our lands. At the Friends’ Yellow-bellied Bog I saw something dash across the snow-covered road and I immediately recognized it as a winter-pelaged Short-tailed Weasel that we call Ermine. I quickly rolled the window down and started squeaking on my knuckle to attract its attention. This inquisitive guy made three lightning fast circles around our car, pausing only to look for the squeaking prey. He moved so fast that I only got a couple in focus, including this shot.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/4,000 second; ISO 250; handheld]
[Ermine (Short-tailed Weasel); Sax-Zim Bog, northern Minnesota]

Badger and Coyote hunting Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5687Huntin’ Buddies
I chose this image more for its rarity. Cooperative hunting between Badgers and Coyotes is a rarely seen behavior, limited to areas where their ranges overlap and where Coyotes are not persecuted by man, in this case, Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. In this large Black-tailed Prairie Dog village, the Badger would go head first down a hole and try to dig the Prairie Dog out, the Coyote stood attentively nearby, hoping for the ‘dog’ to pop out another of its escape holes. Mammalogists have proven that the Coyote benefits from this partnership by catching more Prairie Dogs than if it was hunting solo. It is assumed that the Badger benefits too, as possibly the Coyote may chase an “escapee” back down its hole and into the jaws of the Badger.
[Coyote and Badger; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bison backlit sunrise Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5996 Backlit Bison

There is one easy thing that can really help your wildlife photography (that doesn’t involve expensive equipment!) and that is to GET IN THE FIELD EARLY! Dawn is the time when crepuscular critters may still be active and diurnal animals are also moving around. In summer, the mornings are cool and wildlife is more energized, much more so than during the heat of midday.

We found a heard of Bison backlit by the sun which was giving us gorgeous rim lighting on the coats of the Bison. Underexposing by several stops highlighted their breath on this chilly morning.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/8000 second; ISO 100; -3 ev; hand-held]
[Bison; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bison Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7032Horn of the Beast
I LOVE Bison! Can’t get enough of them. Every time I see a herd (in Yellowstone, Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park, Custer State Park in South Dakota, or here, in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park) it reminds me how close we (selfish and wasteful) humans came to wiping their millions off the face of the Earth. Plus, they are just MASSIVE beasts…beasts that let you get quite close. I love the texture of their hair/fur and the shape of the horn.
[Bison; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN Bobcat IMG_3390

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN IMG_3373

Bobcat Lynx rufus Carlton Co MN IMG_3429 Pretty Kitty

Rarely do you get a chance to see, let alone photograph, a Bobcat in the daytime. But at a friends cabin in Carlton County, Minnesota last winter, I had that chance. After about 45 minutes of sitting quietly, it was an unbelievable thrill when Gene whispered, “Here she comes.” (We’ll call her “she” as her size seems small and features delicate…Plus, what a pretty face!). She cautiously slipped between the hazel brush, slinking her way towards the road-killed deer that Gene had provided. Sensing her surroundings with acute hearing and smell and vision, she crept closer, occasionally stopping to sit and relax, making sure the coast was clear. In the nearly 3 hours we sat there, she came in about four times, but retreating after a few minutes. I included three images of this rarely seen predator.

[Shot under low light with heavy overcast skies at dawn; Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/250 second at ISO 1000. Firmly locked on tripod!]
[Bobcat; Blackhoof River Valley, Carlton County, Minnesota]

Coyote Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7224 Sliver Hunt
I’ve been trying to do more “Animal-in-the-Landscape” images in the last few years…mainly using my Canon 70-200mm f4 lens. Ryan spotted this distant hunting Coyote and we could see that it was working its way to the sliver of light illuminating the ridge top. What I liked about this scene was the spotlight like light, and the Coyote stepped right into it.
[Coyote; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

IMG_5509 Fat and Happy
I included this mediocre photo because it just makes me smile. This Black-tailed Prairie Dog appears well fed and ready to hibernate!

Like many mammals that become more sedentary in winter, the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs try to put on a little fat for winter. This guys really accomplished his goal! These burrowing rodents are a blast to watch…And their “alarm” behavior is awesome; they stand upright and suddenly throw their paws straight up in the air and give a sharp “Yaah” call.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/1000 second; -1/3ev; ISO 200; handheld braced on car window]
[Black-tailed Prairie Dog; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

IMG_5818
Pronghorn herd
Late in the day we headed overland and came upon yet another massive Prairie Dog town, but on the fringes was a cautious herd of Pronghorns. They were in deep shade but I kind of like the subtle colors that the lighting conditions brought out. Pronghorns are very hard to photograph on sunny days…The whites of their fur blow out.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/160 second; -2/3ev; ISO 400; tripod]
[Pronghorns; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Antheraea polyphemus Polyphemus Moth Skogstjarna Carlton Co MN IMG_9367Polyphemus
One of our Giant Silkworm Moths, the Polyphemus lives up to its name with a wingspan as wide as your outstretched hand…up to six inches across! This one was attracted to my garage lights and I carefully moved it in the morning to a more attractive background.
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4; f8 at 1/250; ISO 1000; flash at -2 2/3 ev]
[Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus); Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota]

Mule Deer Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_7551

Frosty Muley
It really helps to know how your camera sees versus how your eye sees. This pre-sunrise shot looked quite blah to my eye, but I knew the camera sees dawn shade as quite blue. I really like how the warm brown of the Muley contrasts with the cool blue frosty plants.
[Mule Deer; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

Pine Marten Echo Trail Ely MN IMG_7940 Grandpa Marten
I was able to keep up with this American Marten (Pine Marten) as it hunted a logged area north of Ely, Minnesota. He/she loped along quite slowly and, that, combined with the very gray muzzle, led me to surmise that this was one old weasel!
[American (Pine) Marten; Echo Trail; Superior National Forest, Minnesota]

Porcupine silhouette Stone Lake Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_7560 Porkie in Purple
April in to early May is the best time to see Porcupines in the North Woods. The Porkies seem giddy to get at the newly-sprouted catkins of willow and aspen. They relish these spring edibles and will crawl out on the most bendy branches to get at them. Sloth-like, they’ll reach out with their paws to pull inaccessible branches closer.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/250; ISO 800; tripod]
[Porcupine; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota]

Prairie Dog Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6053 Late for Dinner
A fun shot of a prairie dog doing what prairie dogs do all day long…going in and out of their underground tunnels. I strongly underexposed this image to highlight the rim lighting of this prairie dog against the setting sun. I didn’t plan that I’d get an image of one going down its hole, but I just kept shooting and this was actually my favorite.
[Black-tailed Prairie Dog; Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota]

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