- 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
The sand hills of North central Nebraska have some of the darkest skies in the country. There are almost no lights for miles and miles. On a moonless night and no light pollution the Milky Way was radiant in the night sky. This photo was taken last week from Valentine National Wildlife Refuge about 5:00 AM. The light on the horizon in the lower right corner was from North Platte, about 90+ miles away.
December 31, New Year's Eve day, the last day of 2020. After half a day of Eagle and geese photography I headed over to the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area near Oxford, IA to take photos of Short-eared Owls. While not a guarantee, they have recently been flying over the grasslands in the couple of hours before sunset searching for mice. I was fortunate to see seven or eight and got photos of two, one flying and one perched on a small tree branch right at eye level near the road. I was able to take photos of the second one quietly from the car in the dim light just before sunset. It was a great way to end the last few daylight hours of the year.
[Click images to see larger]
Click images to see larger.
Sandhill Cranes at Sweet Marsh, Bremer County, IA. I'm missing out on a trip to central Nebraska this year, so I won't get to see the huge crane migration, But it is nice to see Sandhill Cranes in Iowa. We saw and heard several pairs while paddling the marsh last week. (This photo is heavily cropped - they were way out over the marsh when I took this photo)
A few of the paddlers on our Sweet Marsh float organized by Crawdaddy Outdoors. The first of several Tuesday evening floats this year.
While out in the Sioux City area this weekend I took a few hours to visit the Snyder Bend Wildlife Management area south of Sioux City, IA, a horseshoe bend part of the Missouri River. There were lots of birds moving around. Several Bald Eagles, Wood Ducks zooming around like fighter jets, many other ducks and plenty of Canada Geese. It was a nice day for a walk with the camera to snap a few photos.
(Click images to see larger)
The photos that I took of the Snow Geese at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (see previous post) only show half of the story. I produced a short video to help show what it is like. But you really need to experience it in person because it is a wide-screen surround-sound event. Here is the video below:
(After the video YouTube will probably take you to a bunch of videos that aren't mine. Click the back button or reload the page to get back.)
About a million or more Snow Geese and Ross's Geese at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (formerly Squaw Creek NWR) in northwest Missouri near Mound City, (about 45 minutes south of Council Bluffs, IA) February 20-21, 2020.
It is hard to describe this spectacle of birds stopping off at the national wildlife refuge for a short time before they continue their migration north. Large rafts of tens of thousands of birds packed in tightly in the water, and hundreds of thousands in the sky stretching for miles. Their chattering never stopping but only intensifying when suddenly tens of thousands all get up and fly off at once, only to return to the water a short time later. There is a loop road around the wetlands and very easy to see the birds including many ducks, Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, Bald Eagles, hawks, and more. Check the periodic waterfowl reports at the wildlife refuge for more information. But be aware that they are migrating and at any moment they can take off and leave. I went several years ago with an estimate of half a million on Monday. By Friday when I arrived there were about 10 or 12 thousand. In just a few days nearly half a million birds got up and left.
Just a sample of the photos from the two-days below. Click to see more. (See the Video also at the bottom of the photos page.)
This has been a multi-year project, with several trips to the Platte River area in central Nebraska to photograph Sandhill Cranes. My trips have primarily been for still photography, but I would usually try to shoot some video as well, when I remembered. Many of the videos were from blinds at the Crane Trust Nature Center near Alda, NE, and the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, NE. Others from the roads in the area. It is a wonderful experience in the late Winter and early Spring to see hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, and if you are lucky maybe an endangered Whooping Crane.
Here is a short video compilation of several trips.
It was a quiet morning in the Ventura Marsh as I slid my kayak in to the water for an early morning paddle. Let me rephrase that. It was a calm morning, but anything but quiet. The air was alive with the sounds of hundreds of birds, frogs, toads and the hum of cars and motor boats in the distance. As I quietly paddled to try to get some photos the Great Blue Herons kept a watchful eye on me and noisily squawked their displeasure as they flew away long before I got close to them. When I paddled in close to the cattails I was thrilled to see several little Marsh Wrens. I really get a kick out of seeing them cling to two different cattails or blades of grass as they surveyed the area for bugs. The little Swamp Sparrows were seen in the same area. A couple of new birds for me were a 'Sora' ( I saw three) and a 'Virginia Rail'. They foraged in the shallow water at the base of the cattails and quickly disappeared in to the heavy cover as I approached. There were many Wood Ducks, but they saw me long before I saw them and all I really saw was their tail feathers as they made a quick getaway. As I paddled in and around the backwaters and channels of the floating cattail bogs there were dozens of birds that I could hear but didn't see including several Trumpeter Swans. A lone Osprey flew lazy circles overhead causing the ducks and Cormorants to scatter. A couple of years ago the DNR drained down the marsh to kill out the carp, but guess what, they're back. Several times a large carp would boil up next to the kayak and scared the whoop out of me. Fortunately I have a very stable hybrid kayak or I might have tipped as I jumped in my seat. All in all it was a beautiful morning to be out enjoying nature.
[Click images to see larger]
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]
Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph Greater Prairie Chickens at the Dunn Ranch Prairie in Northern Missouri with fellow photographers Harsha J. and Larry Williams (and five other guests). We entered the blind in the dark about 5:30 AM and waited quietly for the Prairie Chickens to arrive. We heard them before we could see them or had enough light for photos. Apparently they have been coming to this same 'Lek' or 'booming grounds' every Spring for many many years to do their annual mating ritual. They prefer native prairie and do their booming in areas with short grass. As the sky got lighter (we were treated to a nice sunrise) we could watch the males flip up feathers on the back of their heads to look like big ears and and puff out orange sacks on the sides of their necks in an attempt to impress the females and defend their territory against other males. They rapidly stomp their feet with their head down while making low moaning sounds or loud cackles. It is common for males to square off against each other jumping in the air and coming down on the other bird with their feet extended in a show of aggression.
(Please click to see more photos.)
The Dunn Ranch, managed by the Nature Conservancy, is over 3,000 acres of native (or restored) prairie, with about 1,000 acres that has never been plowed. It is a part of the 70,000 acre Grand River Grasslands which spans southern Iowa and Northern Missouri. In addition to the Greater Prairie Chickens there is a herd of about 100 Bison and many wild birds and animals. Recent sightings on the booming grounds include Ring-necked Pheasants, Meadowlarks, a Great Horned Owl, Coyotes and more.
When I am out photographing birds, wildlife and landscapes I occasionally shoot some video at the same time. Here is a little video sampler of some of our photo adventures over the past few years. The still photos can be found throughout this web site.
I gave in. I finally decided to post some pictures on Facebook also. Go to my Facebook page then click the Like or Follow button and you can stay updated on some of my photo adventures. Of course you will need to log in to Facebook to see them. -
Over a million Snow Geese. That's what I read on the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge website on March 10 and March 17. A week later on Monday the count was down to 286,000. Still a lot of birds in one place. I waited until the weekend, March 30, and drove to northwest Missouri to see the sight. Boy was I disappointed. The numbers of Snow Geese were about 1/20th what they had been less than a week earlier, estimated at slightly over 11,000. Okay, that is still a lot of birds in one place, but not the several hundred thousand that I had hoped for.
The Geese pause for a short while during their Spring migration and gather in large numbers at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, MO. It is quite a site to see hundreds of thousands of birds all lift off from the water at one time and the sound is incredible. In under two weeks over a million birds got up and flew north to their summer breeding grounds. Timing is everything and I missed it. I still got some nice photos though. Not a wasted trip.
[Click the images to see a larger picture]