Birds of Quivira – The Egrets

Great Egret
Great Egret

This Great Egret is in full breeding plumage and has acquired the green mask that are indicative of adult birds.  This one has also sustained an injury to its bill, perhaps from an aggressive encounter with another male?

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

What is more striking than a Snowy Egret?

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

Finally, I realized I haven’t included too much in terms of habitat shots of Quivira.  Here is a pano of one of the more productive sections of the reserve.  It’s a pity to think of how much of this habitat has been lost on this continent.  How many care or even know?

Heaven Lost?
Heaven Lost?

OZB…

OZB’s Favorite Images from 2014!

Hello again.  Although I promised myself I would get this post out on time this year, here we are on Valentine’s Day.  Of course, I still have not processed everything I intend to from 2014, but I think I’ve finished the major images by now.  Like last year, this is not necessarily my “best” images of the year, but a list comprised of images that captured something special to me, while being at least a competent photograph.  Once again, I was nearly frozen by the list of images to choose from.  I had one fewer landscape and one more wildlife image this year compared to last, for whatever that is worth.  Follow the links to the posts that each image was featured in.

#10) “Acadian Flycatchers – Feeding Time”

Although it lacked a happy ending (see original post), Steve and I were absolutely thrilled in getting an opportunity to view and photograph a sought after nesting species.  The nest location was poorly lit, being well concealed in the foliage at Hawn S.P.  However, with a tripod and shutter release cable, it is something to see how slow you can take the shutter speed in these situations.

Acadian Flycatchers - Feeding Time
Acadian Flycatchers – Feeding Time

#9) “Wild Horizons”

This one was from our last stay in the cabins at Big Spring S.P. for a number of years (due to closing during renovation work).  It turned out to be a pretty interesting sunset, with just a couple minutes of fire.

Wild Horizons
Wild Horizons

#8) “Male Pine Warbler, Big Spring State Park, April 2014”

From our vernal Big Spring trip.  I was quite happy with this image, although I was hoping the white dogwood blossoms behind the bird would be a little more distinct.  Oh well, always room for improvement.

Male Pine Warbler, Big Spring State Park, April 2014
Male Pine Warbler, Big Spring State Park, April 2014

#7) “Bald Cypress”

From our literally unforgettable day in the canoe in the waters of Mingo.  This image was taken later in the day and showcases what a sun-star pattern from a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm can look like.  Kudos to Canon for putting this feature in all of their new f4 zoom “L” lenses in the past several years.

Bald Cypress
Bald Cypress

#6) “Rufous-tailed Jacamar”

I had to place at least one image from my time in Brazil from this year.  I was able to make images of quite a few species, but this patient Jacamar might be the most memorable.  We came across this guy in Serra do Mar State Park in Brazil’s Atlantic Rain-forest while on a birding/nature hike.  It sat while we got great views and some photographs.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Rufous-tailed Jacamar

#5) “Timber Rattlesnake”

Although I questioned why I would want to bring up the memory of not having an appropriate lens to shoot snakes on “Snake Road”, I still love this image and the memories it contains of shooting this Timer Rattlesnake with a 500mm “bird lens”.  Shoot, I bet most of you are thinking I did have the most appropriate lens for the job.  😉

Timber Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake

#4) “Twin Cottonwoods on Tetons”

Taken on Sarah and My trip out west this past September.  This image was taken inside the National Elk Refuge.  In the waning light, Sarah and I came across these two cottonwood with nicely shadowed foothills lying before the Tetons.

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Twin Cottonwoods on Tetons

#3) “Swainson’s Song”

It’s a usable photograph of one of the rarest nesting birds in Missouri.  What else is there to say?  What a memory.  My only regret is always forgetting that my dSLR cameras are capable of taking great video.  Video of this guys singing would have been the icing on the cake.

Swainson's Song
Swainson’s Song

#2) “Otter Family”

Steve and I had two great experiences with River Otters in 2014.  This one was taken on the Eleven Point this autumn and shows mom and all four of the kids in one tight shot.

Otter Family
Otter Family

#1) Bald Eagle Nest Week Three – Mom Brings a Fish

I could have picked a dozen from the weeks spent at the nest to put into my top ten.  I’m not sure why I chose this one, other than it is among my favorites of hundreds of keepers from the nest.  Although mom never stayed to feed the young while we were watching, she did often bring prey to the nest as is seen in this image.

Bald Eagle Nest Week Three - Mom Brings a Fish
Bald Eagle Nest Week Three – Mom Brings a Fish

Well, that summarizes a good bit of what I was fortunate enough to capture in 2014.  Thanks so much to Sarah and Steve and everyone who was part of these experiences.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2015!

Ozark Bill Duncan – February 14th, 2015

 

 

 

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

 

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

The Gulf

Pulled from Beveridge’s gift early after my discovery of the book, “The Gulf” of Wayne County has been on my list of desired destinations for a while now.  Recently Steve and I made this our target in a winter’s outing, which is an appropriate time for nice viewing of many of the Missouri Ozarks geological features due to lack of green vegetation that blocks views and light.  The Gulf is a narrow sinkhole that is approximately 100 feet long and 20 feet wide.  This sinkhole is actually an opening to an underground lake that is more than 200 feet deep at its maximum depth.

Here Steve posses for a bit of reference.  In periods of lower water, the entrance of the “cave” portion of the underground lake would be seen at the opposite end of the sinkhole from where Steve stands.  A small boat and/or scuba equipment would provide for excellent opportunities for exploring.

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Just as the Tyndall Effect explains why the sky is blue, it is also the reason that the deep bodies of water found in the Ozarks often appear blue.  These carving waters carry the dissolved limestone with them.  This ultra-fine suspension scatters the shorter blue wavelengths more than the other colors of natural light, giving the blue appearance in the waters, even though there are no blue pigments to be found. In fact, this blue appearance is somewhat dictated be the angle of light and the viewer’s position to the reflecting light.  With a slight turn of the head, the water will often change color.

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A potential practice picture for spring, here you can see some old wild hydrangea growing on the edge of the sinkhole.  Can you find Steve in this image?

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Entrenched Meanderment

Entrenched meanderment?  What in the world is OZB going on about now?  Beveridge gives a wonderful explanation of the meandering nature of virtually all Missouri Ozark streams in “Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri”.  Within, he provides a few fascinating geological hypothesis as to the hows and whys of streams forming in such a manner with some of the hardest rock on the planet as their bed.  Think about it.  How and why would streams form in rock like this, with very little floodplain, steep cliffs/bluffs and not be straight?  Pick up Beveridge’s book to read of these hypothesis as well as learn about narrows, cutoffs and lost hills – the geologic features that are formed by these entrenched, meandering streams.

Two streams with an entrenched meandering environment on public land I have known and loved for a while.  These are the Meramec River at Vilander Bluffs N.A. and Jam Up Cave/Bluff on the upper Jacks Fork.  These are always worth a visit.  While flipping through Bryan Haynes’ book recently, I came across a panoramic painting of his that I have admired.  I saw the title: “Lee’s Bluff”.  Having never heard of this feature and the fact that his image was such a dramatic scene, I assumed that this must be found in some western wilderness, far from being a day trip destination.  I went ahead and searched the web, and to my surprise discovered this was in Missouri, along the St. Francis River and smack in the middle of those lovely St. Francois Mountains.  With Steve wearing his best navigator’s hat, we found the location pretty easily on a blustery, winter’s day.

Here’s an overview image taken with a 15mm lens.  You can see the features typical of a meandering entrenched stream, the steep bluffs formed on the outside of the bend and gentle sloping floodplains on the inside.  In the direct center you can see the “incipient lost hill” as described by Beveridge.  One day the “narrows” on the far side of that hill will succumb and a “cutoff” will form, straightening the river.

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   The sky was a constant change on this day.  Here Steve poses while the sun breaks through an opening.

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Climbing around on the steep, sharp rocks of the bluff we came across an ancient skeleton of an eastern red cedar.  The relative youngster below looks ready to take its place in another couple of centuries.

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Professional schlepper, navigator, and photo model.  I’m sure glad Steve works for free!  😉  Here he stands next to the old tree to give the image some perspective.

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The image below is probably my favorite from this day.  One of the visual beauties of these types of entrenched stream environments is that there are two S-curves in each one.  You just have to figure out where to place your camera to take advantage of it.  Under the right light and weather conditions, this place holds a lot of photographic potential, not to mention the potential for reflection and wonderment.

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