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- 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
- About Me
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.
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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]
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.
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Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.