A Random Five

Hello again and happy holidays.

These five were all taken at the confluence, either at RMBS or CBCA.

Rough-legged Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk

This gorgeous juvenile light-phase Rough-legged Hawk spent nearly a week at the confluence recently.  These infrequent winter residents nest up north, far north, like arctic circle north.  One of my favorite birds, it is always a pleasure to find one of these guys.  Sarah and I very much enjoyed this bird, nearly the size of a Red-tailed Hawk, as it hover-hunted much like what is seen by the American Kestrel.

The Rosses Came to Town
The Rosses Came to Town

Steve and I were tipped off to these Ross’s Geese at Teal Pond by a kind birder.  I can’t imagine a cuter bird.  Well, maybe a few.

The Marsh Hawk
The Marsh Hawk

This has really been my year with the Harriers.  I don’t know if it is luck, patience, or what.  This one drifted by closely yo me at CBCA recently.

Harlan's Hawk
Harlan’s Hawk

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the dark-phase Red-taileds invaded the confluence area.  I do not believe I have ever seen such a dark RTHA on the eastern side of Missouri before this one.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

This handsome young Kestrel was quite cooperative in posing for me recently at RMBS.

 

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Ozark Bill Travels West – Part Four – Quivira NWR & Cheyenne Bottoms

Hello, and thanks for paying a visit.  This final post from our September 2014 trip to the west will focus on a few highlights from a couple of spots in central Kansas, Quivera NWR and Cheyenne Bottoms, or what I like to call the birding Mecca of the central plains.  I apologize for the grey shots, but during the far too few hours we spent here, we were given mostly heavy overcast skies.

Least Tern
Least Tern

These two locations and their combined 60,00+ acres are incredibly important for nearly 400 species of birds.  The vast wetlands of Cheyenne Bottoms and the salt marsh and sand prairie habitats of Quivera NWR provide habitat for breading birds such as the endangered interior populations of the Least Tern, pictured above.  Other nesting birds, which utilize these habitats, include Swainson’s Hawks, Mississippi Kites, Snowy Plover, American Avocet and White-faced Ibis.

American Avocet
American Avocet

With most of my birding experiences restricted to the southern half of the Show-me State, some of what I observed simply shocked me.  Observing hundreds of the American Avocet was something I could not have imagined previously.

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis

Also found in the hundreds, White-faced Ibis were as common as gulls!

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Referred to by someone as an inverse sunflower, I found the YHBB to be stunning, even if they were in their off-season plumage.

Franklin's Gulls
Franklin’s Gulls

Numerous Franklin’s Gulls were a nice surprise.  Oh, how a trip in every season is critical at these locations!

Coyote Bird
Coyote Bird

Just to show we were interested in more than just birds…  I am sure the coyotes make quite a living on these habitats.

Merlin
Merlin

What an unexpected treat.  My first non-winter Merlin.

Wilson's Phalerope
Wilson’s Phalerope

Wilson’s Phaleropes were found in the dozens among the big and little marshes of Quivera NWR.

Willet
Willet

As cute as any terrier that ever was, a lone Willet patiently posed for me.  And finally, a Ring-neck Pheasant hen showed me her backside during the our evening visit to Cheyenne Bottoms.  Until next time…

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Random Five…

Greetings

I have a goodly number of images backing up to share, so here are a few chosen at random, more or less.

The first image was from a month or so back, when Steve and I traveled up to Clarence Cannon NWR.  The highlight was the extraordinary number of Mallards we found.  Not too much in the way of diversity of waterfowl during this visit, but the mallards were using the refuge in the peak of the hunting season.  We tried our best to keep them in peace, as they were obviously trepidatious to anything with two legs.

Many a Mallard
Many a Mallard

The next pair showcase a couple of birds that exemplify the great winter season we have been having in this region so far.  The first is a Horned-Grebe that we were able to get quite nice views of during a very cold morning at Creve Coeur Lake in November.

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

The next photo is of a Western Grebe and is the first photo of this species I was able to acquire.  I found this guy near the Clark Bridge near RMBS, where he may still be found.

Western Grebe
Western Grebe

The final pair of images are of a couple Northern Harriers, a species I have been finally able to achieve some success with lately.  The first, taken at CBCA, was fortunately timed while the bird was back-dropped by a flock of Blackbirds.

FlashMob
FlashMob

I have provided this last photo, also a Harrier taken at CBCA, in a larger size so you can see the cockle-bur that is stuck on the underside of this poor creature.  I know these things can be a nuisance for me in this habitat, and I guess it is for the birds as well.

Cockle-bur
Cockle-bur

 

 

Ozark Bill Travels West – Part Three – Yellowstone and Grand Tetons – The Wildlife

Green greetings everyone.

I have had quite a productive vacation day (trying to burn some vacation days before the end of the year) so far: exercise, running errands, a bit of Christmas shopping/preparations, a Trader Joe’s run, as well as picking up another round of trashcans worth of leaves.  To have the time and gumption to put together another spotty blog post is another plus.  So hear we go, five of my favorite wildlife image examples from our Yellowstone trip in September 2014.

1) Hayden Valley Bison

Sarah and I feel we mostly struck out in the wildlife department during our trip.  We did see some great animals of the west, but we struck out a few times on our quest to view and photograph moose, missed being in the right place at the right time for bears, and wouldn’t even allow myself to say the word “wolf” aloud.  Watching and photographing wild, free-roaming bison, REAL Bison (notice how I didn’t say Buffalo?), was a great pleasure.  The fact that our Lake Yellowstone hotel room was set to a constant broil, forcing us to sleep with the window open in sub-freezing temperatures, afforded an unexpected pleasure during our final night.  A mature bison cow decided to spend the night right under our open window, constantly ripping and munching the turf as we dozed.  Anyway, this image was taken on the northern end of the Hayden valley.

IMG_6740
Hayden Valley Bison

2) There Are No Fences Facin’

I loved watching the pronghorn.  There are so many fascinating tidbits about their biology, such as the fact that they are the only animals with horns that shed them, or that they are considered the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere.  This one was photographed at the National Elk Refuge, as it seemed to take in the sites.

IMG_1963
There Are No Fences Facin’

3) The Gray Jay

Even though I added a number of bird species to the life list, it seemed circumstances rarely allowed the opportunity to attempt photographs.  This rare exception shows one of a number of Gray Jays that were found foraging along the road in an out of the way stretch of the north-east entrance road, just north of the Lamar Valley.

The Gray Jay
The Gray Jay

4) Bull!

We found this guy near the road on the same north-east stretch.  Such a massive, healthy animal!  Looking at him it comes as no surprise how they manage to survive a Yellowstone winter.

Bull!
Bull!

5) Huginn and Muninn

Ravens!  This was a target species for me.  Soon after finding my first Yellow-headed Blackbird of the trip (a lifer as well), we came upon this pair, who were content to let me photograph as they picked up some morning sun.  Photographing black birds is always a challenge.  I think I handled the situation as well as possible.

Hundinn and Mundinn
Huginn and Muninn

 

 

Ozark Bill Travels West – Part Two – Yellowstone and Grand Tetons – The Landscapes

Hi everyone.  Here we go with part two.  We spent three nights in YNP and two in the Grand Tetons and National Elk Refuge.  This was a sufficient amount of time to get a nice overview of these three places.  Now, we just need a month at each location to really get to know them… 😉

To keep the post size down, I have picked five landscapes to showcase and discuss a little.  I will be posting more on Flickr over time.

1) Dawn’s Progression

We’ll start with this one taken along the Yellowstone River on the final and coldest morning of our stay in Yellowstone.  Giving Sarah a morning to sleep in a little at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, I hit the road before sunrise with the aim of heading down Uncle Tom’s Trail to get that famous view of lower falls.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the cold night (~15 F in September!), brought with it very thick fog.  Even if I would have made it down the stairs that lead to the falls, I and my camera would have little to view.  While walking around the parking lot, wondering where I should head to instead for my last few hours in the park, I saw from the corner of my eye what looked like a small thermal feature.  This turned out to be hot air escaping from the side-wall of one of my tires.  Destroyed.  I knew I had about three hours before checkout, so I replaced the tire with the doughnut-spare and headed directly to the nearest service station inside the park.  Along the road, I spotted this scene developing and I had to capture the fight between the fading overcast, fog and the rising sun.  I dared not take the time to setup the tripod and consequently there is some lack of depth of field.  But, I think things are sharp enough where they need be and it turned out to be a worthy memory of my last day in Yellowstone.

Dawn's Progression
Dawn’s Progression

2) Battle of Ice and Fire

Weather in Yellowtone changes quickly and frequently.  We experienced almost every possible weather scenario during our few days in September.  The next image was taken shortly after a small snowstorm.  I enjoyed the texture of the snow-covered conifer forest and the steam coming off the thermal feature in the background, merging with low cloud cover.

Earth, Wind and Fire
Battle of Ice and Fire

3) Moulton’s Ghosts

Described as the most often photographed barn on the planet, the T.A. Moulton Barn lies along “Mormon Row” just east of the Grand Tetons.  Of course in the short time we were visiting there were no clouds for that interesting sky, but I made my best attempt at an “original” photograph.

Moulton's Ghosts
Moulton’s Ghosts

4) Star Trails at Jenny Lake

During our stay at GTNP, we received word of a prediction of excellent views of the Northern Lights as far south as the great plains states.  Combined with predictions of clear skies during the same evening, I was definitely excited.  We hadn’t done enough scouting to pick the best place for setting up for astrophotography, but I did have Jenny Lake in the GPS.  This would have to do.  The Northern Lights never did materialize where we were located, but I made a number of shots that were later stacked in the computer for this star trails image.

Star Trails at Jenny Lake
Star Trails at Jenny Lake

Before moving on to the final image in this post, I wanted to plug a great sandwich and coffee shop we found in the village of Kelly, not far from both the Tetons and the National Elk Refuge.  Kelly on the Grose Ventre makes as good a cup of coffee as anywhere I’ve had.  The owner/barista is a pleasure to talk with and he is truly concerned that you enjoy your drinks and food.  It would be a crime to miss visiting this spot if you are in the area.

5) Twin Cottonwoods on Tetons

This final photograph was taken near the golden hour inside National Elk Refuge.  The sun, about to drop below the Tetons, performed magic by creating nice shadows on the foothills and back-lighting the leafless pair of Cottonwoods.  The National Elk Refuge has some wonderful wilderness characteristics, and I would love some more time travelling the roads and trails of this dry western landscape.

IMG_1944 High Clarity B&W
Twin Cottonwoods on Tetons