Thursday, May 31, 2012

A fox and her kits

Bill and Loris have a nice momma fox who frequents their yard and is now caring for her two kits. I went down this morning and joined another photographer friend to try and grab their pictures. They were mostly cooperative, but mom was definitely concerned with our presence.
The sad part is that yesterday there were three kits.  No telling what happened to the third.  Could have just been weak or it might have been one of the numerous predators we have here.
How cute are they!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Echo and Rockport Reservoirs

Jasper and I got up at 5:30 this morning to go visit some new photography areas.  The first, Echo Reservoir, was a complete bust.  It's pretty, but there was nothing to be seen, much less photographed.

As I left Echo to go back on I-80, I wandered behind a campground where I know there is a big eagle's nest.  No eagle, but I found a momma Killdeer with three little ones.  Where are the three?  Just watch this one.
He runs around to the front and then just climbs under mom.  This little guy must have had to do some pushing because I had already watched the first two climb under, one under each wing.  Aren't mom's great?
I also found this little Potgut, gnawing on some grass and weeds, but keeping a sharp eye on me.
At the Rockport Reservoir, there were quite a few Canadian Geese and many of the pairs had little goslings.  Since it's "goose", shouldn't it be "gooslings"?
 I have never seen such an organized species when it comes to child care.  Everywhere they went, it was one adult, followed by all the kids, followed by the other adult.  Everyone seemed to understand the rule and it was rarely violated.
 The funniest thing was when a hawk flew overhead. Someone in the back must have yelled "HAWK!!" because within a half second, the entire line was under water.
 This group of goslings seemed to be a few weeks older than most of the groups.
My favorite photos from the day were of this osprey.  I saw him posing in the early light as I went into the park.
Then I found him later with a half-eaten fish.  They aren't quite eagles, but they are magnificent just the same.
 I think this was the best shot.
And a teaser for what I hope I get soon. A Sandhill Crane, sitting on a nest. I am hoping she waits for me to return from Oregon before hatching her colts.
If I haven't mentioned it lately, I love, love, love my new 500mm lens!

Leaving the snow for DC

Julie and I decided that we weren't going to hang around for another snowy Memorial Day in Park City.  We headed to the burbs of Washington DC to visit our friends Jim and Kathy. They live in Old Town Alexandria, which is a great place to eat, drink and be merry.
Our biggest outing was on Sunday.  We walked across into DC and watched the Rolling Thunder parade.

Rolling Thunder’s mission is to educate, facilitate, and never forget by means of a demonstration for service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War. Rolling Thunder has also evolved into a display of patriotism and respect for all who defend our country.

Like so many events, this one starts with the police leading the way.
Then came the real bikes.  Most were Harley Davidsons, but you could see almost anything.
...including lots of trikes. 
... and chicks on Hawgs in pink tutus.
They started at the Pentagon, crossed into DC at the Lincoln Memorial, ran up to the Capital, and then back to the river to park.
They started riding promptly at 12:00, and they kept streaming. 
When we eventually left at 3:00, they were still coming.  I never heard a count of the motorcycles that participated, but it was at least tens of thousands.  Even after three hours of non-stop bikes, they were coming so frequently that after about 10 or 15 minutes, we decided we would never find a gap to cross the street.

Our only job was to wave to the bikers. Of course, if you waved to them all, your hand would fall off.
When they got the to the end they parked in a big grassy field.  If you like motorcycles, this might be the most interesting field you will ever be in.
The go on, and on, and on and thousands more were still rolling in.
Neither Julie or I had done any D.C. sightseeing in recent years, so we have missed a lot of the new museums and memorials. 
Every statue, including this one for nurses that served in Vietnam, were covered with flowers, photos, and little memorials.
The World War II memorial is very impressive.  When we saw the park rangers chasing people out of the water, it was always adults, not the kids. 
Our last stop was the Martin Luther King memorial.  It is a gorgeous facility in a great location.  I took this photo of his likeness, but what really made it interesting for me was a long wall of his quotes.  This man was incredibly articulate and inspiring. 
We also got to do dinners with some of Jim and Kathy's friends that we have met out in Park City. A wonderful visit with great friends, and sure enough, it snowed in Park City.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spring at Antelope Island

No matter what month you go visit Antelope Island, you can always find something to photograph. This trip I was pretty certain I was going to find wading shore birds along the causeway and then baby Great Horned Owls at the ranch at the end of the island.

Off to a good start with some American Avocets. 
All the little dots in the photo are brine flies.  There are billions of them flying around the Great Salt Lake.  Fortunately they don't bite, sting, or show any interest in humans.

The bad news is that my quick start ground to a halt.  Perhaps the water levels are still too high or the birds just aren't ready, but the abundance of birds were way out in the water and almost nothing was close to shore.  It was going to be a very short day.
Then I saw a coyote, which is my favorite mammal on the island.  They always seem to be wandering along the shore looking for dead animals and bird eggs.
Then this guy (a Whimbrel?) came strutting across the road.  I can't look at this pose without thinking of the Beetle's Abbey Road album cover.
This female Pronghorn covertly crept behind the SUV.  There was no way she was going to get by my assistant photographer and spotter, Jasper.  He let me know she was there, but was quiet enough that she didn't spook.
In all my trips to Antelope Island, I have never seen the White Pelicans.  They can't feed there because the biggest living animal in the Great Salt Lake is a tiny Brine Shrimp.  Not much for pelican food.
However as I kept watching above me, I kept seeing more of them.  It was a mystery (solved later in the day).
This was my weirdest sight of the day.  I keep trying to photograph the numerous hawks that soar over the island, but I haven't had a lot of luck.  I watched this one for a while, but it was behaving differently.  Less soaring, more flapping, and more diving.  Finally I realized that I was looking at an owl, not a hawk. I think it is a Barred Owl. Isn't he supposed to be sleeping?
This bird was quite patient with me taking his photo, but I haven't figured out what he is yet.  Another case of bird watching by photo.
And now, back to the White Pelicans... I saw a flock of about a hundred of them circling, over and over, rising up over the mountain.  It was such an odd behavior I had to ask a park ranger.  It turns out that they use the rising air currents between the lake and the mountains to gain enough elevation to soar off to their feeding grounds.  Why pedal when you can coast?
I haven't seen Horned Larks in a while but I ran across several.
And now on to my "almost got the great one" shot.  I have wanted to get a shot of a coyote hunting and then dining on his catch.  As I was heading off the island, I saw a coyote wandering through the tall grass, hunting for voles. He was awesome at it.  Three times I saw him pounce, catch a vole or mouse, and then wolf it down.

Each time he did this, he was hidden by wave after wave of tall grass.
Once he was done hunting and dining, he came right out into the open for a clear, easy shot.
Then he was even kind enough to look our way, perhaps giving Jasper a taunt of "I get to eat all the voles I want!"
Another few trips out and I will have the picture I want.

There are quite a few Bison on Antelope Island, but they normally just sit still and chomp grass like a cow.  They are impressive, but it makes for some boring photos.

This bull was willing to put on a more entertaining show.  He kept laying down, rolling over onto his back, and then wallowing in the dust.
Then he would stand back up and give a good head-wagging shake. He did this three times before taking a break. I hope he was comfortable, clean, or bug free, whatever the actual goal was.
Meadowlarks are all over the island. Everyone of them sings at the top of their lungs.
Every time you get close to one they fly off.  I did catch this one in the act.
This antelope was off in the distance, but I wasn't in a hurry.  I figured out which way he was heading and drove way ahead of him.  Then Jasper and I just sat and waited.
We remained as still and quiet as we could, and he just kept coming closer. Pronghorn aren't that impressive, but this guy was pretty cool.  In the full resolution version of this photo, I can count his eye lashes.
As I left the island, I saw a huge flock of little shorebirds. They fly around at an incredible clip, all turning simultaneously, like they are of one mind.  It's fun to watch but a still photo just doesn't capture it.
... and we end on an odd note. This Grackle sat there posing while I shot pictures of some shorebirds.  All of the photos look like a normal bird until this one.  Here he looks just a little bit insane.
For a day that started so slowly, we had a great time.