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.

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Twin Cottonwoods on Tetons

 

Ozark Bill Travels West – Part One – The Badlands

The Badlands
The Badlands

Greetings.  Way back in September, well before this early winter weather came about, Sarah and OZB took a much needed vacation and traveled west.  The primary destination being Yellowstone National Park, but we stopped at a few locations along the way.  How I loved Badlands!  With nearly 250,00 acres, this place is worthy of investing two weeks of vacation on alone.  A couple of days was not enough.  Wildlife and landscape abound, so your chances of finding something of photographic interest are high.  The park is laid out to perfection as well.  A single paved road leads you through the heart of the park, with a couple of minor roads leading to loops in separate sections.

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

To get the image above, I took a “trail” down one of the earthen crests of the area.  Towards the end of the trail, the amount of scat I observed made me realize that I was on a trail made by Bighorn Sheep!  Sarah took a shot of my better side while I was on one of these trails.  Yeah, you wish you could rock the boots, socks and shorts as well as I did here.

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Hey Hey, My My

The beautiful patterns of erosion!

Badlands
Badlands National Park

The prairie dogs at places like Roberts Prairie Dog Town and other colonies throughout the park provide endless entertainment.  Such fascinating creatures.

Badlands Dogs
Badlands Dogs
America's Ongoing Obesity Crisis
America’s Ongoing Obesity Crisis
The Veggie Burger
The Veggie Burger
Watching...
Watching…

Other wildlife were to be found as well.  We spotted our first Pronghorn in Badlands NP, but this image was taken in at Custer State Park in the nearby Black Hills.

The Pronghorn
The Pronghorn

Bighorn Sheep were somewhat abundant, and this female gave me a good looking over.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

That is all for now.  I will have a couple more posts coming soon from other locations along our trip.  Until then, you can view more images from the Badlands and surrounding sites in South Dakota on my Flickr.

See you Later!
See You Later!

 

 

 

April Remembered

About three months ago Steve and I made a trip to southern Missouri in perfect time to catch the songbird migration near its peak.  Our primary areas of focus were the two largest springs in Missouri – Big Spring and Greer Spring, two areas located within Ozark Scenic National Riverways.  This National Park contains some of the best habitat in Missouri for newly arriving nesting birds as well as good stopping grounds for those birds heading to more northerly destinations.

I was very fortunate in being able to take first photos of several new species during this trip, one of which was this amazing Broad-winged Hawk – a species whose diagnostic vocalization is often heard among the treetops in densely wooded areas but is less frequently seen.

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk

Another species that I finally captured on camera was this Yellow-throated Vireo.  This species advertising song is quite similar to the Red-eyed Vireo.  The difference being that the Yellow-throated will give you a chance to answer his questions, whereas the Red-eyed won’t shut up long enough for you to respond!  😉

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Yellow-throated Vireo

Next up is a species that was just passing through, on its way to nest in northern Canada or Alaska.  The Grey-cheeked Thrush is the least studies of North American Catharus species.

Grey-cheeked Thrush
Grey-cheeked Thrush

Greer Spring is always a place of great beauty, although usually stingy with pleasing compositions.  On this visit we took the plunge into the first deep boil immediately outside the cave opening.  An unforgettable experience!

Greer Spring in Bloom
Greer Spring in Bloom

At the trail-head on the way down to the spring, Steve found this Pheobe nest with mom on eggs.  She patiently sat while I took a few photos.

A Step Back In Time
A Step Back In Time

Probably the most exciting find and photographs for us was this resident Swainson’s Warbler.  This warbler is likely the least common of Missouri’s nesting songbirds and is considered endangered in the state.  Loss of its preferred habitat of thick shrubby understory within flood plain forests has caused this species to decline across its entire breeding range.  The boat dock at Greer Spring is one of the few locations that this species can be expected to be found every spring in Missouri.

Swainson's Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler
Swainson's Song
Swainson’s Song

This last image, which may be my favorite of the trip, shows a singing Ovenbird, a species of the understory within high-quality hardwood or hardwood/conifer forests.  It’s song, often described as teacher, teacher, teacher, can be confused with the similar sounding song of the Kentucky Warbler.  We have noticed the difference of habitat preference between the two species, which may aid the novice birder.  The Ovenbird is most often observed in dry upland areas with sparse vegetation, whereas the Kentucky Warbler prefers lower, wet areas with dense undergrowth.

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The Ovenbird

In my opinion, one has not experienced anything in the Missouri Ozarks until having spent a sunrise on an April morning listening to the newly arrived nesting songbirds and those just passing through.

There could not possibly be enough Aprils in a lifetime.

An April Morning
An April Morning

A Spring Day at Victoria Glades

Following up a Saturday morning spent at the Eagle’s nest, Steve and I traveled to Victoria Glades to finish up the day during the perfect season to spend time on Missouri Ozark Glades.  We decided to focus on the MDC side of things as we explored The Nature Conservancy holding about the same time the previous year.  My primary goal of the day was to get some acceptable shots of a Prairie Warbler while performing his song.  I had no idea how relatively easy this would be.  We were able to find this male almost immediately along the trail as he patrolled his territory – focusing on trees isolated within the glade habitat.

Prairie Warbler in Song
Prairie Warbler in Song
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

Lovers of the treetops and focused more on trees that make up the forest edge border with the glade, the Yellow-breasted Chat is a bird I have wanted to get photos of for quite some time.  Not perfect, but acceptable.  Steve and I watched and listened as neighboring males carefully partitioned the area into well established boundaries that they seemed to know so well.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat

 

What’s that?  Getting bored with yellow?  Okay, let’s change things up a little and look at this Scarlet Tanager male that we found within the forest canopy.  With a song similar to the Summer Tanager, the chip-burr call note of the Scarlet Tanager is most diagnostic.  We were somewhat surprised to find a couple of Summer Tanagers singing in the open areas of the glade near sunset later this evening.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

 

And now for something downright plain.  Well, at least from the front, which is not the Field Sparrow’s best side.  This female was definitely not interested in us as we got these close looks of her trying to feed on insects and seed at the same time.  We watched her and listened to her mate advertise his rights to their home with his dropping ping-pong ball like song.

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow

Just when you thought we were done with the yellow…  Along with the Chat, these were my first photographs of a Blue-Winged Warbler as well.  After we discovered what the hell was going on, Steve and I discovered and learned the dawn song of this feisty bird.

Blue-Winged Warbler
Blue-Winged Warbler

On our travels through the glades we couldn’t help but take note of this truly magnificent Post Oak, surrounded by blooming prairie/glade forbs such as Fremont’s Leather Flower and Lance-leaved Coreopsis.  Mostly secluded on a low hill, this was the spot to wait and see if the sunset would turn into anything special.  As we watched the progression of dusk we were most fortunate in hearing a special symphony composed of Woodcock, Whippoorwill, Chuck-Will’s Widow and Barred Owl.  Twas quite the memorable day and it goes without saying, I can’t wait to get back.

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Ubatuba – The City of Birds

Ubatuba, aka Uba Chuva (Chuva meaning rain in Portuguese, in reference to the frequent rains this region receives) is one of the birdiest spots on the South American continent.  More than 550 birds have been identified within the city, more than a third of which are endemic to the south Atlantic rain forest of eastern Brazil.  Besides the rain forest and the amazing bird habitats are the numerous beaches.  A simply beautiful place.

Ubatuba
Ubatuba

 

Sao Paulo Nightscape

I was fortunate enough to stay a night in a hotel on the 21st floor overlooking a small portion of Sao Paulo.  Here is what the Wiki says about this city: “São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the largest city proper in the southern hemisphere, in the Americas, and the world’s seventh largest city by population.”

Sao Paulo Nightscape
Sao Paulo Nightscape

OZB’s Favorite Images from 2013!

Yeah, I know.  We are almost through two months of 2014, however that’s possible.  But, I really wanted to make a post like this (I still don’t have all of 2013’s images processed) .  I know it’s popular in the photo-blog community, but I think it really is a nice way to cap the year.  I had quite a time in narrowing this list to ten.  I’m not saying these are my best images of the year, but these are the ones I found to be the perfect combination of capturing something special, being meaningful for me and being at least competently captured.  Follow the links to the posts that each image was featured in.  I apologize to the images that did not make the list.  😉

Here we go…

#10) “Confluence Contradiction”

Taken on a trip to Big Spring this April, this one was something I had never seen in all of my visits to this feature.  Sarah and I were really excited to see the Current in high water and I was lucky to make this image before the water from the river had overtaken the blue colored spring effluent later on this day.

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#9) “Autumn Regality”

Taken early one cloudy autumn morning following an evening storm, the diffused light, and saturated foliage worked well with the complacent attitude of the alpha buck.

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#8) “Singing Cerulean”

Observing multiple Cerulean Warblers was one of several things that made putting up with the heat and insects worth our while.

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#7) “Greater Prairie Chickens in Flight, February 2013

Lifers for both Steve and me, spotting and photographing two of Missouri’s literal handful of Prairie Chickens was the highlight of our trip to Prairie State Park last winter.

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#6) Untitled composition taken at Lee’s Bluff on the St. Francis River

This was a recent finding for us, and one in which I hope to get back to soon and often.  This relatively easy S-curve was but one of many potential compositions that I tried to capture.

#5) Untitled composition of Short-Eared Owl

I’ll never forget the day when we were able to watch multiple SEOW up close and personal.  The highlight was taking a shot of this one perched on an MDC sign at B.K. Leach C.A.

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#4) “Coward’s Hollow”

I had been looking for this spot since I first started exploring the MO Ozarks several years ago.  This year I was able to find it, and just after an incredible amount of rain!

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#3) Untitled composition of Sandhill Crane in flight

Taken with my newest bird lens, I was in the right place at the right time to squeeze off this keeper.

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#2) Star Trails at Dunn Ranch Prairie

Among so many other unforgettable experiences from Steve’s and my trip, the chilly July night spent working on my first serious attempts at astro-photography ranks near the highest from 2013.

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#1) “Are You Sure It’s Dead?”

With my medically documented disorder for decision making, it’s an official miracle that I was able to narrow down the subject and the specific image for the top spot in my favorite images of 2013.  Finding such a nest at just the right place and time to observe these parent Scissor-tailed Flycatcher raising a healthy brood was such serendipity.  This image was taken at Tucker Prairie C.A., the first stop of this particular journey.  We were torn between watching these guys until fledging and heading on to the other great spots along our route.

Well, I hope I did my 2013 collection justice with this list.  I can’t imagine 2014 could top the experiences of last year.  If the experiences and associated photographs of 2014 even come close in comparison, I will truly be a fortunate creature.  Happy New Year.

Ozark Bill

1

Return to Stegall Mountain

A number of years ago one of the first hikes I remember into the Missouri Ozarks was a short spur trail off the OZT up to the summit of Stegall Mountain within Peck Ranch C.A.  I had my first “serious” camera that I wanted to document Nature as I found her on these journeys and I made a couple images that I was satisfied with at the time.  This past holiday break we found ourselves back at this location and enjoyed a pleasant winter’s day.  Here are a few images from this visit.

One of the highlights of Stegall Mountain Natural Area are the Oak savanna and glades.  Some of the most gloriously colored rhyolite in the state is found in this area.  The trees pictured in thes images are mostly stunted and gnarled Post Oaks.  I couldn’t get enough of them.

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