- Animals/Birds of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks 2016
- National Parks Landscapes 2016
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2014
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2014
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2012
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2012
- Animals of Yellowstone 2011
- Birds of Yellowstone 2011
- Yellowstone/Tetons Landscapes 2011
- Yellowstone Textures
- Custer State Park, SD
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Utah National Parks
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Last weekend, in an impromptu moment, I decided to go to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Crane migration. It was awesome! Every year, for perhaps thousands of years, hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes stop for a few weeks during their spring migration along a stretch of the Platte River around Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska. They roost on the sand bars of the river at night, fly out to the corn fields to feed during the day and return to the river in the evening. It is quite a spectacle at sunrise and sunset to see and hear the thousands of birds. There were several places along the river to stop and watch the birds, but the better viewing and photography opportunities were in the group blinds that were reserved through the Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center near Alda, NE; or the Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, NE. There are probably other viewing blinds as well. I was taking pictures on a public platform near the Rowe Sanctuary Friday evening, but the birds coming in to land made a sharp turn away as soon as they saw people. There were still tens of thousands within viewing distance, but not real close.
In the morning I was in a group blind with about 12 other photographers. We went out before sunrise and took pictures as the sun came up and the birds gradually flew off in small groups to go out and feed. It was here that we also saw one Whooping Crane, way across the river. They stand over five feet tall and have a seven foot wingspan (see the photo below). I have heard that there are less than 500 wild birds in North America. During the day I drove the backroads looking for the cranes in the fields but they stayed a healthy distance from the road making it difficult to take pictures. Since the Sandhill Cranes are hunted in nearly every state but Nebraska they know to stay away from people. Saturday night I was in another group blind with an opportunity to take sunset photos as the birds flew in to roost by the tens of thousands. The weather was beautiful and it was a great photo weekend. I'm anxious to go back again. [More Sandhill Crane Photos here...]
I spent a few days earlier this week at the North Shore of Lake Superior near Tofte, Minnesota. I got up early three mornings to take sunrise pictures of the lake and lake shore. It is mid-March and I had expected lots of snow and ice along the lake, but with the mild Winter and warm weather there was very little. I did still get some nice sunrise and early morning photos. Long time exposures of three to ten seconds helped to blur the moving moving water giving it a very soft effect.
[See more Lake Superior photos here...]
It is a special treat to see a Great Blue Heron in the shallows of the water. A silent hunter, slowly stalking a fish, standing motionless for many minutes until it abruptly strikes and grabs the fish (or other aquatic animal) under water with it's long pointed beak. It is even more rare to see a Heron rookery - a colony of heron nests high in the tops of the trees. The tall, gangley birds look odd atop a nest of sticks that looks like it will blow down in the next big wind (and some do). They cause quite a ruckus when they all start squawking at once. Today was one of the first Spring days that the herons returned to their nests from previous years. I wonder if they were surprised to learn that a pair of Eagles had moved in to a nearby tree that previously had Heron nests. As I watched, the Eagles seemed to tolerate the Great Blue Herons, but they did all scatter at once, squawking loudly, when one Eagle left the nest and flew through the rookery.
[See more Heron photos here...]
I had another visit to my Eastern Screech Owl friend who lives in a Wood Duck house. I got much better photos this time. I did cheat a bit by playing a recording of a Screech Owl to get him to open his eyes. It worked. He was all eyes and ears trying to figure out where the other sound came from. He even called back to me, very quietly. [More Owl photos...]
Yes, I like Snowy Owls, and Screech Owls, and Barred Owls and, well, I just like Owls. This weekend was the International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minnesota. One of the festival events was a photo shoot on Sunday morning. An opportunity for a select group of photographers to get 10 minutes with each of four owls to take close-up pictures in a controlled environment with natural backgrounds. The owls were provided by the Illinois Raptor Center. This year there was a Snowy Owl, Eastern Screech Owl (Gray Morph), Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl. I've been searching locally for Snowy Owls all winter, and I did get a chance to photograph one on a power pole near Ames, IA. When I heard that there would be an opportunity to photograph a Snowy Owl at the Owl Festival I signed up as soon as the registration opened. Below are a couple of the owl pictures from the day. I'm sure that you will see similar poses of the same birds on many places in the Web as there were 35 other photographers taking pictures. There are more photos on the Owl page.
Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.