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- Yellowstone In Winter
- 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
- Yellowstone/Tetons Landscapes 2011
- Yellowstone Textures
- Custer State Park, SD
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Utah National Parks
- About Me
On an evening drive through Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (Iowa) we of course, saw Bison and Elk, but I was really thrilled to see several Ring-necked Pheasants in the fading light. (Photos from the car.)
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We have Bald Eagles in north Iowa, but they are scattered, generally around one of the rivers or creeks, but not in large numbers in any one location. In the Winter they tend to bunch up along the larger rivers, the Mississippi, Des Moines and Iowa rivers and as the rivers start to freeze over more Eagles can be found around the dams. I shared Eagle photos from the Coralville Dam area a few weeks ago. This week there were very few Eagles there so I went a little farther down river in to Coralville at the dam adjacent to the Iowa River Power Restaurant. There is a walkway along and over the river and it is a great place to take photos either above or below the dam of Eagles as they are perched in the trees and soaring down to the river to grab a fish. On occasion there are great aerial displays as two or more Eagles will fight over a fish in mid-flight. I never get tired of the challenge of getting a good photo of an Eagle in flight.
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Dale Mills and I started out the new year with a bit of paddling on the Winnebago River down river from the discharge area of the water treatment plant. We made it 1.8 miles before we got to ice-over, but it was at a convenient take-out place to get a ride back the vehicle (Judy's shuttle service). It was a beautiful day, overcast but with no wind and mid 20's temperature. It was a quiet float except for hundreds of noisy Canada Geese and ducks. We saw wild turkeys in trees and along the river bank, five Bald Eagles, a Kingfisher that flew from tree to tree just ahead of us down the river and 13 Trumpeter Swans that got up off the river and flew noisily right over our heads. A great way to start the new year!
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"Yeah, we know we're cute". Red Fox kits on private property in Kossuth County, IA. I watched and photographed these kits for about 5 hours today. I saw one for a brief time and then he popped back in to the den. Later two came out and then back in again. They were gone for quite awhile, probably sleeping. Eventually three came out and then a fourth. It didn't take much to spook them, a bird chirping, a sound or movement in the distance or even the wind blowing and they would all dive back in to the den. I got a few good photos. It was fun watching them. Photos taken from the car with telephoto lenses.
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Here is a short video of wildlife, waterfalls, geysers and thermal features taken during our five-day trip to Yellowstone National Park in mid-January 2020 with the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) photo tour. (At the end of this, YouTube will probably take you to a page with a whole bunch of videos that aren't mine. Sorry. Just reload the page or click the back-button to get back here.) See also the Yellowstone in Winter photo gallery linked from the previous blog post.
We've been to Yellowstone National Park several times in the Summer and Fall, but being there in the Winter is a different experience. Just getting there can be a challenge. You could fly to Bozeman, MT and rent a car and then drive an hour and a half to Gardiner or West Yellowstone, MT, but we choose to drive from Iowa, and yes, we ran in to snowy roads both directions.
We stayed in Gardiner, MT, at the North entrance to the park for two nights. The first day in the park we drove the only road open to public traffic which is in the North part of the park from Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs through the Lamar Valley to Silver Gate and Cook City. Sometimes called the 'Serengeti of Yellowstone' the Lamar Valley is a great place to see wildlife year-round. We did see elk, bison, Bighorn Sheep, and three moose, but missed the coyote that several others reported and no wolves this time.
Then we drove to West Yellowstone, MT, where I participated in a three-day Winter photography tour sponsored by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). There were twenty one photographers and three guides in three snow coaches. The snow roads in the park are not plowed, but rather packed down by a groomer and used by specially designed snow coaches - a small bus with giant balloon tires or treads like a snowmobile. The snow roads are only open to guided tours or guided snowmobile groups, but the wildlife use the roads also. Orange and yellow stakes along the side mark the edge of the road. The snow coach drivers were great at helping to spot wildlife and finding a place to park to safely get out and take photos.
We had three great guides with many years experience of photography in the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons area - Michael Francis, Jeff Vanuga and Trent Sizemore. We went with a different guide each day and got a different photo experience with each. Cold, snowy and windy, we ventured out each day to the geyser basins, rivers and waterfalls, for scenic photos, and all along the way watching and stopping for any wildlife which was mostly Bison, Trumpeter Swans and ducks. We saw fresh tracks of a bobcat, but couldn't locate the cat, and watched a long-tail weasel running across the top of the deep snow about sixty miles per hour, but didn't get any photos. The highlight was a stampede of several hundred Bison right down the middle of the snow road past our snow coaches, and the many thermal features steaming in the fresh-fallen snow. It is a beautiful place in the Winter without the crowds of the rest of the year.
Our last day in the park Suzanne and I took another snow coach ride on a sunny day with a group that for the most part was on a sight-seeing, but not photography tour. It was a beautiful sunny day. We saw more of the thermal pools and geysers and got to see Old Faithful erupt (it happens about once every 90 minutes). In addition to more bison we saw three Coyotes that day. (but still no wolves, bobcats or foxes). Despite the misses it was a good trip and I'm anxious to go back again.
Cerro Cordo County Conservation is draining out all of the water from Zirble Slough to allow aquatic plants to get re-established for a better environment for birds and wildlife. Then they will allow it to naturally fill again. As the water is very low for awhile it has been full of shorebirds pecking in the mud for insects and whatever else they eat. There was a lot of wildlife there the morning that I visited.
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The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr, MN, is an area where 'wild' Black Bears come in from the surrounding north woods to eat a specially designed nutritious feed that is being put out for them in the woods. For a fee, visitors can watch and take photos from an elevated enclosed area. This started in the 1970's at a logging camp to keep the bears out of the camp and was later taken on by the non-profit American Bear Association. You can read more about the history here - History of the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. It is an interesting place to see bears but even though they a wild in the woods they have been habituated to humans and some have never known life without this guaranteed food source. [Click the images to see larger]
A fat, wet Racoon wandering in the cat-tails along the side of the road , mama Canada Goose taking the goslings out for a stroll (the other adult and a few more goslings were just out of view of this photo), a busy Lark Sparrow with a beak full of nesting material, and a Killdeer. The Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground, often among rocks or gravel. When confronted they will walk away from the nest area displaying their tail feathers to try to distract and draw the visitor away from the nest.. Just a few of the critters and birds that I saw while driving through the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, Polk County Conservation. Photos taken from the car - my mobile photo blind.
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I spent the morning with four sleepy fox kits. They pretty much slept the whole time that I was watching them. It was a bright nearly full moon last night so they were probably out playing or feeding in the moonlight and worn out from their night time adventures. (Photos from the car at about 50 yards. I did not get out of the car.) Click images to see larger.
There are a lot of different birds and wildlife to be found in the Sax-Zim Bog area in Northern Minnesota, you just need to spend some time driving around to find them. All photos were taken with the long telephoto lens from the car, except for the Northern Hawk Owl. I had to hike back in the the woods to get that one this time to get better lighting. But it was very high at the top of a very tall spruce tree looking and listening for voles under the snow. The Great Gray Owl and Pileated Woodpecker were both quick grab shots out the window and then they flew away. There are so many more birds and wildlife that I didn't get, but because of heavy snow I decided to head home early.
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Driving home from the Lime Creek Nature Center and Conservation Area after an unsuccessful hike to look for a Saw-whet Owl I spotted a couple of deer along the pond by the road. Not an unusual sight, but I noticed a reflection on the frozen pond and it looked like they were trying to drink from the pond. I stopped, grabbed the camera and telephoto lens and quietly crept up through the tall grass and weeds to get to a point where I could take a photo. The deer were licking the ice, trying to get a drink. I'm not sure if they actually broke through to the water, but I did get a few photos before they wandered off in to the prairie grass. I liked the reflection on the ice.