Searching, Looking, Hunting… for anything! -Yellowstone Day 3

October 7-8, 2019

Day 3 (really our second full day of shooting) started as usual…Crawling out of the tent in the pre-dawn darkness, and boiling water and frying bagels on our Coleman stove. So after our breakfast of grits, oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, we stuffed the “bear locker” with our cooking stuff and headed out to find….anything!

Ryan and I seem to remember more elk bugling near our Madison Campground in previous years, but we hadn’t been to the park in fall for seven years so maybe things had changed. We also did not see many elk, period. We realize the wolf packs have brought the Elk numbers down and more in balance with the park’s holding capacity, but we surely thought we’d see herds scattered about. But it was slim pickings.

A classic Yellowstone “animal in the landscape” shot. Steam from geothermal vents frame a lone bull Elk. After glassing the bull, Ryan said he noticed that he only had one antler! Must have lost it in a fight.

Bull Elk watching his harem near Mammoth, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/640 second at f7.1; ISO 3200; hand-held]

Just a nice portrait of a bull Elk near Mammoth

Bull Elk, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Cow Elk, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 200mm; 1/640 second at f4; ISO 100; hand-held]
Firehole Spring at dusk along Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f1.2 lens; 1/30 second at f18; ISO 320; hand-held]
Bison herd in golden light along Fountain Flat Drive, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 200mm; 1/500 second at f9; ISO 800; tripod]
Bison herd in golden light along Fountain Flat Drive, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/500 second at f9; ISO 800; tripod]
Bison herd in golden light along Fountain Flat Drive, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/500 second at f9; ISO 800; tripod]

As the sun set over Fountain Flat Drive it illuminated this herd of Bison with neat golden backlight/rimlight. I love the peaceful painterly quality of these photos. They look even better if you view them full-screen.

Lenticular clouds along Fountain Flat Drive, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Bison herd and Cottonwoods (and Ryan) near Lamar Valley
[iPhone 7 Plus panorama]
Fisherman and fall colors, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Abstracts of water shimmers on Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Abstracts of water shimmers on Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Abstracts of water shimmers on Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Abstracts of water shimmers on Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Cottonwoods along Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Ryan photographing the “Zen Cottonwood” in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The “Zen Cottonwood” along Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The “Zen Cottonwood” along Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We named this well-balanced tree along Soda Butte Creek, the “Zen Cottonwood.” Ryan first spotted it and it is a stately tree.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

If you can’t find wildlife, you can always find scenery in Yellowstone National Park! Some details of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 70mm; 1.6 seconds at f5.6; ISO 1600

We spent quite a while with this good looking bull Bison. My idea was to take a long exposure so the grass would blur but the Bison and background would be sharp. I took about 100 photos ranging from 1.6 seconds to 3.2 seconds and this is one of the few that turned out. BUT I don’t think my idea really came to fruition as there is not enough blur to the grass, and the sage doesn’t really blow in the wind. Oh well…You gotta try and experiment!

Sunset in the Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sunset in the Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sunset in the Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Coming soon….”Kicked out of Yellowstone”…due to snow, not our behavior!

A Grizzly Welcome -Yellowstone Day 1

***Just a note to my subscribers that I have now ponied up for the “Premium” plan so you won’t have to wade through those annoying ads placed into my posts.

October 6-7, 2019

Since we were coming from the South Dakota Badlands, Ryan Marshik and I headed towards the Yellowstone East Entrance. The country between Cody, Wyoming and the park is stellar, and as we got closer, we started thinking, “Hey, we might even have some shooting light by the time we get into Yellowstone!”

But even before we got to the park, we had our first bear sighting. It was a Grizzly crossing the Northfork Shoshone River. We managed a few snaps but it was soon into the brush…but on our side of the river. So we decided to pull over in a locked entrance to a campground. And we didn’t have to wait long! The Grizzly was working its way towards us…and completely ignoring the two Minnesota guys laying on the ground pointing big barrel-shaped things toward it. Within a minute the bear was too close for comfort and we retreated to the vehicle.

But then a large patch of Wild Rose hips caught her attention. And she began delicately plucking the ripe fruit only 20 yards from us. It was dusk and we kept cranking our ISO up. I ended up at my max for my old Canon 7D…ISO 6400. Some noise in the photos, but I’d MUCH rather have a sharp and grainy/noisy photos of a Grizzly than a blurry noise-free shot!

These images took quite a bit of working in Lightroom to get to the images below.

Grizzly Bear eating Wild Rose hips near Northfork Shoshone River, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/250 second at f5.6; ISO 6400; hand-held]
Grizzly Bear at dusk near Northfork Shoshone River
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/160 second at f5.6; ISO 5000; hand-held]
Grizzly Bear eating Wild Rose hips near Northfork Shoshone River, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/250 second at f5.6; ISO 6400; hand-held]
Grizzly Bear eat dusk near Northfork Shoshone River, Wyoming
Black and white image
Grizzly Bear eat dusk near Northfork Shoshone River, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens at 55mm; 1/160 second at f5.6; ISO 5000; hand-held]
Grizzly Bear eating Wild Rose hips near Northfork Shoshone River, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/200 second at f5.6; ISO 6400; hand-held]

Eventually she sauntered within 2 feet of our SUV. A really neat encounter. Made better by the fact that we didn’t have to share it with the typical Yellowstone “shooting gallery.”

Red-tailed Hawk silhouette in old burn; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/100 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held]

Due to our wonderful “bear delay,” we didn’t get inside the park until sunset. But Ryan spotted this perched Red-tailed Hawk which made for a neat silhouette.

Burned pines and Yellowstone Lake sunset; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Red-tailed Hawk silhouette in old burn; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4L USM lens; 1/100 second at f5.6; ISO 800; hand-held]
Ryan shooting the sunset and burned pines scene

We camped in the Madison Campground, and headed out in the early morning, excited to see the Hayden Valley again. The last seven years had been spring trips, and almost every time the road through the valley had still not been opened up by the time we arrived.

And we found this cooperative Raven. In all likelihood, it is probably the same begging Common Raven that I photographed here years ago. It is such a treat to be able to get close to these birds since in Minnesota they are so spooky that you can’t even touch the brake pedal and they are gone.

Video of the Raven’s backlit breath while calling was my goal, but I also tried some stills. Like Ryan said, it would have been better if the slight breeze hadn’t been blowing their breath behind them. Interestingly, the biggest puff of breath didn’t come until their beak was already half closed again…and not when it was fully open.

Common Raven backlit breath, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens and Metabones adapter to Canon mount; 1/320 second at unknown f-stop; ISO 200; hand-held]

I intentionally darkened this image, and increased contrast, in Lightroom to make it a more dramatic photo.

Common Raven backlit breath, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens and Metabones adapter to Canon mount; 1/400 second at unknown f-stop; ISO 200; hand-held]
Common Raven backlit breath, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Note nictating membrane over eye (in middle of “blinking”)
[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens and Metabones adapter to Canon mount; 1/400 second at unknown f-stop; ISO 200; hand-held]
Can you find the Grizzly?

We were photographing the Coyote below when Ryan spotted this distant Grizzly. We knew we were somewhere near a carcass by the small Raven congregation and 3 Coyotes milling around. We had walked out into this meadow near Canyon to check it out. We later learned that it was a carcass that had been picked over, and this Grizz was probably checking on it…Just in case.

Grizzly in morning light near Canyon; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Note the distinctive shoulder hump of the Grizzly (Black Bears lack this). Its shape is highlighted by rim light of the rising sun.
[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/640 second at f6.3; ISO 500; tripod]
Coyote licking his chops near old carcass; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/800 second at f6.3; ISO 100; -0.66ev; tripod]
Coyote leaping for voles in frosty meadow near Canyon; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/1000 second at f5.6; ISO 100; -0.66ev; tripod]
Ryan shooting our Raven friend in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Lunch on Yellowstone Lake (colder than it looks!), Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Lunch on Yellowstone Lake (colder than it looks!), Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sparky on Mount Washburn pass, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Evening stars at our campsite in Madison Campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm lens; 20 seconds at f18; ISO 320; tripod (and flashlight to illuminate my face)

Day 2-3 in Yellowstone coming soon

Prairie Dog Group Back Rub and Peek-a-Boo Burrowing Owls in the South Dakota Badlands: October 5-6

South Dakota’s Badlands National Park

Ryan Marshik and I moved our annual Yellowstone trip to fall this year. We hadn’t “done fall” since 2012. Only late April-early May spring trips from 2013-18. And this time we were NOT going to go through the relative torture of driving 17 hours straight to Yellowstone. No siree. This time we decided to make our first stop South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.

We had high expectations for beautiful landscapes and Bighorn rams, and a slight hope for a Burrowing Owl. Ryan had a report from a friend of a location from this summer where a Burrowing Owl had set up camp in a Prairie Dog town.

GROUP BACK RUB! Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; f5.6 at 1/640 second; ISO 100; -0.33 ev; tripod)

Well, we found the Prairie Dogs! Ryan doesn’t care for these rodents at all. But this is where the Burrowing Owl had been reported, so he tolerated them.

I love these “Group Backrub” photos. This is a family group of young ones and an adult.

GROUP BACK RUB! Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; f5.6 at 1/640 second; ISO 100; -0.33 ev; tripod)
Bighorn ewe
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 70mm; 1/200 second at f10; ISO 3200; -hand-held)
Bison and Badlands
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 135mm; 1/100 second at f8; ISO 3200; hand-held)
Bison scratching his belly on wood post (processed as black and white in Lightroom)
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2 lens; 1/60 second at unknown f-stop; ISO 800; hand-held)
Bison sunset
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
Badlands sunset
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2 lens; 1/60 second at unknown f-stop; ISO 640; hand-held)
Burrowing Owl at sunrise
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/500 second at f5.6; ISO 200; -0.33 ev; hand-held)

Ryan’s “owl intel” paid off! The next morning we drove by the spot where his friend Sandra had seen one in the summer. I saw a very round blob and yelled, “Stop!” Sure enough, a Burrowing Owl was soaking up the first rays of sun on a cool morning. But as we stopped the car and fired off a few shots, it retreated to the safety of its abandoned Prairie Dog hole.

A few minutes later, we found a second Burrowing Owl about 100 yards away. This one was in perfect light, but crouched down when we stopped the car, and hid in the burrow when we got out.

We set up our tripods across the road from the owl and laid down to shoot at eye level. But this guy wasn’t having it. He’d only peek above the rim of his safe hidey-hole, and even after an hour and a half didn’t show any more of himself than the top of his head and two eyes. But a very neat experience none the less.

Burrowing Owl at sunrise
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens with Canon 2x-extender; 1/800 second at f11; ISO 400; -0.33 ev; tripod)
Burrowing Owl at sunrise
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; f11 at 1/1250 second; ISO 100; -0.33 ev; tripod)
Burrowing Owl at sunrise
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/500 second at f5.6; ISO 200; -0.33 ev; hand-held)
Burrowing Owl at sunrise
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/800 second at f5.6; ISO 100; -0.33 ev; tripod)
Black-tailed Prairie Dog family
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
Horned Lark
[Badlands National Park, South Dakota]
(Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens with Canon 2x-extender; 1/640 second at f11; ISO 400; -0.33 ev; tripod)

The 3 photos above are results of me playing around with Lightroom controls and experiencing a “haccident”… a happy accident. By sliding the Luminance slider to 100 and the Detail slider to 0 under the Noise Reduction panel, you reduce the detail in the image and it creates a painterly quality to the photo. No Photoshop filters here!

Crazy Cacti: Saguaros & Sonoran Desert—Southeast Arizona June 2019 Part 6

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus blossoms
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Who doesn’t love Saguaro Cactus? Saguaros (“suh-WHAR-oh”) look amazingly like their cartoon counterparts. They are tall and very impressive. And how about those showy white flowers that are several inches across? And to top it off, when their fruits ripen, they attract a host of bird species that feed on the red flesh.

Saguaro cactus forest
[Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus forest
[Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Gila Woodpecker at nest hole in Saguaro Cactus
[Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona]

Gila Woodpecker at nest hole in Saguaro Cactus. It is very common for this woodpecker (and several others including Gilded Flicker) to nest in these cacti.
[Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

House Finch on Ocatillo stalk
[Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona]

House Finch on Ocatillo stalk
[Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona]

White-winged Dove feeding on Saguaro cactus fruits.
[Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

White-winged Dove feeding on Saguaro cactus fruits.
[Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]
Cholla and Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Barrel Cactus and Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Cholla and Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]
Brilliant Jumper (jumping spider) (Phidippus clarus) on Saguaro cactus
[Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Brilliant Jumper (jumping spider) (Phidippus clarus) on Saguaro cactus

Brilliant Jumper (jumping spider) (Phidippus clarus) on Saguaro cactus
[Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Brilliant Jumper (jumping spider) (Phidippus clarus) on Saguaro cactus

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus offering me a bouquet!
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus fruit [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus fruit has red flesh.
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Dancing Saguaro cactus
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus blossoms
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus blossoms
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus blossoms
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Saguaro cactus blossoms [Tucson Mountain Park near Tucson, Arizona]

Saguaro cactus blossoms
[Sony A6500 with Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens; hand-held]

Lizards, Tortoises & Snakes—Southeast Arizona June 2019 Part 7

Here are the seven species of herps I saw in southeast Arizona. Most were lifers for me. I get about as excited about new species of reptiles and amphibians as I do about new birds!

Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Clark’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Note the blue-tinted body and black bars on forelegs that help identify this Clark’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii) and separate it from the Desert Spiny Lizard below.
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

This male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) was very cooperative. He was displaying (and even doing a little “dance”). Maybe it was all for the benefit of the less-colorful female (pictured below).
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Female (?) Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Female Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Female Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister)
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Clark’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii) female or juvenile?
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Clark’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii) female or juvenile?
[Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona]

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis sonorae)
[Beatty’s Miller Canyon Apiary and Orchard near Sierra Vista, Arizona]
Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

I was thrilled to find this Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum) on Foothills Road after dark near Portal, Arizona. I joined him on the road and got some decent photos considering it was quite dark out. I had to move slow or he would bolt. This was my third species of horned lizard for my life list.
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

What great camouflage!

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum)
[Foothills Road Chihuahuan Desert Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona]

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

This old guy was sauntering along a dirt road near Patagonia, Arizona…and I couldn’t resist making friends with him. What a magnificent creature!

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Selfie with Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Eye-level view of Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai). Sometimes you just have to lay in the dirt to get the shot!
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]
Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]
Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]
Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

See ya buddy! Live long and prosper.

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)
[Along road west of Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near Patagonia, Arizona]

Sonoran Whipsnake (Masticophis bilineatus)
[Hunter Canyon near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

I saw this very long and thin snake curled up on a dirt road in the mountains near Sierra Vista, Arizona on my way to Hunter Canyon. But by the time I got the car stopped, it was already up a nearby tree. I was really hoping to get a very up close look at this guy, especially since it was a lifer.

I determined that it is a Sonoran Whipsnake (Masticophis bilineatus)
[Hunter Canyon near Sierra Vista, Arizona]

Sand-loving Tigers of Wisconsin — Sauk Prairie Recreation Area

July 15, 2019

Gravel/sand area at Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin

These sand-loving “tigers” are of the beetle variety. Tiger beetles are voracious predators of other insects. They have great vision and massive jaws. They ambush and pursue their victims on foot…and they are very fast.

And they are a colorful lot as well. My publishing company recently put out a field guide to all 21 species of tiger beetles in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is my goal to photograph all 21….and the Ghost Tiger Beetle would be number 14.

Ghost Tiger Beetle (Ellipsoptera lepida) [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

On this mid July trip to Madison, Wisconsin to bring my kids to “Nana Camp,” I decided to stop at the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area on the advise of Wisconsin tiger beetle guru Mike Reese (Mike is also the photographer for our Tiger Beetles of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan guide).

My goal was to see and photograph this beautiful creature…the aptly-named Ghost Tiger Beetle (Ellipsoptera lepida).

Ghost Tiger Beetle (Ellipsoptera lepida) [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

I knew that they seem to prefer fine-grained sand, so I searched an area at the base of the gravel flats where the finer sand had washed out from rain and erosion…and I got lucky! After about 45 minutes of searching, I saw movement on the fine sand. But as soon as the tiger beetle quit running it seemed to disappear into the background. Their pale elytra (wing coverings) are the perfect camouflage for their light-colored sandy habitats.

This guy went down into this burrow several times. I caught him dropping down in this shot.

You can see the lighter-colored sorted fine sand where the Ghost Tiger Beetles occurred.

Rain has washed and sorted the finer-grained sand to the base of the gravel flats. This is where the Ghost Tiger Beetles were found.

Ghost Tiger Beetle (Ellipsoptera lepida) [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

Can you spot the “Ghost”? They are aptly-named species. You can spot them when the run, but as soon as they stop and remain motionless, they disappear. Ghost indeed!

Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela punctulata) [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

This tiny tiger is the Punctured Tiger Beetle, which is named for the minute pits on its elytra (wing coverings).

Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa) [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

On the other end of the size spectrum is the Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa). It is BIG and it loves sand…Well named!

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris subspecies Lecontei)
[Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

A colorful (and variable) tiger beetle is the wonderfully named Festive Tiger Beetle. It can be mostly green (as above) or mostly red (as in photo below).

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris subspecies Lecontei)
[Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

Here is a red and green Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris subspecies Lecontei). One of our most beautiful species.

Velvet Ant [Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

Tiger beetles aren’t the only sand-lovers found here. I saw a couple Velvet Ants (family Mutillidae), a group of insects that parasitize ground-dwelling wasps and bees that are found in sparsely-vegetated sandy areas.

Grasshopper laying eggs in the sand.

Three-banded Robber Fly (Stichopogon trifasciatus)
[Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, Wisconsin]

Robber flies are about as ruthless a predator as tiger beetles! As one naturalist stated, “We’re lucky they aren’t the size of golden retrievers!”

This is the Three-banded Robber Fly (Stichopogon trifasciatus), a common and small robber fly, but note that it has captured an even smaller fly.


Sparky’s Top 10 Insect Photos 2018

Nothing too artsy fartsy here…Just some nice photos of some very cool insects (and a couple spiders). As you will be able to tell, the post is pretty heavy on moths. I have been beefing up my collection of moth photos, especially trying to capture them in a more natural setting. I attract them to our land (“Skogstjarna” in northern Minnesota) by leaving an outdoor light on at night. Then early in the morning I go out when the moths are still sluggish and gently move them to a more natural perch. It doesn’t always work so well on tiny moths since they can warm up more rapidly and fly off when I disturb their sleep.
I’ve also included some cool camouflage photos.

blue Karner Melissa Blue butterfly Lycaeides melissa samuelis Necedah National Wildlife Refuge Necedah WIIMG_2273

Karner Melissa Blue butterfly, Lycaeides Melissa samuelis, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Necedah, Wisconsin, July 19, 2018

I unintentionally planned my trip to Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge perfectly. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised to find that the nickel-sized Karner Blue butterfly was abundant, and easily the most common butterfly species out and about. Its caterpillar food plant is the native Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) which was just done blooming, but that doesn’t phase the adults which nectar on many flower species including the abundant roadside flower Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

This butterfly is a federally Endangered subspecies of the Melissa Blue.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 118mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f13; ISO 250; -0.33 ev; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Skogstjarna Carlton Co MNIMG_1887

Lytrosis unitaria Common Lytrosis, 6720, Family Geometridae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota

Talk about well camouflaged! The Common Lytrosis moth is perfectly adapted to daytime perching on rough-barked trees (or stacked firewood in this case!)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 70mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/60 second at f8; ISO 1600; hand-held]

Nerice bidentata Double-toothed Prominent moth 93-0018 7929 Family Notodontidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MNIMG_0291

Nerice bidentata Double-toothed Prominent, moth, 93-0018, 7929, Family Notodontidae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota, June 13, 2018

The “double toothed” pattern of this moth breaks up its shape and makes it look as if it is just another spiky branch. Brilliant camouflage!

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 109mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f9; ISO 100; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MNIMG_1493

Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia, male, butterfly, Felton WMA, Clay County, Minnesota, August 17, 2018

One of my main goals in going to northwest Minnesota in late summer was to find and photograph the rare Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia); a truly regal creature of tallgrass prairies. I had seen them at southwest Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park, and got some not-so-great photos at Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois, but now I wanted some publication-quality images.

I had no luck on my first day, even though I scanned about a thousand Blazing Star flowers (a preferred nectar source). Then on day two I decided to hike out into the Felton WMA. Within about 20 yards I kicked up my first Regal, followed by half a dozen more in the next 15 minutes. But getting close to them is another story.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 200mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/1250 second at f4; ISO 250; hand-held]

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MNIMG_1630

Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia, male, butterfly, and Bombus bumble bee, Felton WMA, Clay County, Minnesota, August 17, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 200mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/400 second at f4; ISO 100; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Bellura obliqua Cattail Borer 93-2517 9525 Family Noctuidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_0719

Bellura obliqua Cattail Borer 93-2517 9525 Family Noctuidae Skogstjarna Carlton County, Minnesota, June 23, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 91mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f13; ISO 250; -1.66 ev; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Biston betularia Pepper-and-Salt Geometer Peppered Moth 6640 Family Geometridae Skogstjarna Carlton County MNIMG_0911

Biston betularia Pepper-and-Salt Geometer or Peppered Moth, 6640, Family Geometridae, Skogstjarna Carlton County, Minnesota, June 8, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 135mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/60 second at f11; ISO 1600; hand-held]

Habrosyne scripta Lettered Habrosyne 6235 Family Depranidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MNIMG_0925

Habrosyne scripta Lettered Habrosyne, moth, 6235, Family Depranidae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota, June 8, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 135mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f11; ISO 320; +1 ev; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Harrisimemna trisignata Harris's Three-Spot moth 93-1498 9286 Family Noctuidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MNIMG_0337

Harrisimemna trisignata Harris’s Three-Spot moth, 93-1498, 9286, Family Noctuidae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota, June 13, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 113mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f16; ISO 200; +0.33 ev; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Hyalophora cecropia Cecropia Moth far back on Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_7400

Hyalophora cecropia Cecropia moth far back on Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk at the Warren Nelson Memorial Bog, Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

[iPhone 7+]

Phyllodesma americana American Lappet Moth 7687 Family Lasiocampidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_0750

Phyllodesma americana American Lappet Moth, 7687, Family Lasiocampidae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota, June 23, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 70mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/60 second at f9; ISO 640; hand-held]

Smerinthus cerisyi One-eyed Sphinx 7822 Family Sphingidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_0676

Smerinthus cerisyi One-eyed Sphinx, moth, 7822, Family Sphingidae, Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota, June 23, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 140mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 640; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Amorpha juglandis Walnut Sphinx 7827 Family Sphingidae Skogstjarna Carlton County MNIMG_0801

Amorpha juglandis Walnut Sphinx 7827 Family Sphingidae Skogstjarna Carlton County, Minnesota, June 8, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 98mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/160 second at f10; ISO 800; -0.66 ev; hand-held]

Anastoechus barbatus bee fly Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County MNIMG_1945

Anastoechus barbatus bee fly Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County, Minnesota, August 17, 2018

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 135mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f11; ISO 400; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MNIMG_1232

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County, Minnesota

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 118mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 200; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]

Uloborus glomosus Feather-legged Orbweaver in web with multiple egg sacs Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk at Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_1590

Uloborus glomosus Feather-legged Orbweaver in web with multiple egg sacs, spider, Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk at Warren Nelson Memorial Bog, Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 188mm with Canon 500D front-mounted close-up lens; 1/250 second at f22; ISO 800; pop-up fill flash; hand-held]