A Day That I Will Never Forget

OK, a few posts ago, I shared with you some images and stories about the wildlife opportunities that we encountered this winter in the Tetons.  I now want to re-visit those memories and add one more MAJOR chapter to that book.

_DSC4866-EditSo as many times as I’ve visited the Tetons, or other similar wilderness places for that matter, there’s always been a few things that I had never had the opportunity to photograph.  No, I’m not talking about the bears (which I obviously wouldn’t easily find in the midst of winter) … or even the wolves (which I have seen from afar, but I’ve photographed other places) … or even a bobcat/lynx (which I’ve also photographed in other fabulous parks).  What would be considered to be the “holy grail” to a wildlife photographer?  OK, perhaps the wolverine … but I didn’t see that!  Next to that, I’ve always wanted to see a mountain lion, right?

Well, on this trip, my dream came true … for we witnessed a MOUNTAIN LION sighting!  It was not a close one, by any stretch, but it was nonetheless a sighting!  Though it was about 600 yards away, we could actually see it through the 500mm lens + cropped sensor + major cropping on the image.  This huge male had been sighted on an elk kill and had seemingly taken up residence under the tree where it was cached.

500_6023-EditWe planted ourselves in a position to be able to observe the cat as it maneuvered itself in different locations, but never far from the guarded carcass.  It was definitely one of the coolest things that I had ever witnessed in nature.  To think that this sighting was so far away and yet so viewable blew my mind!  It was not known whether the lion had actually taken down the elk or simply stumbled across it, but this was so incredible that to me, it didn’t even matter.  I really didn’t even think that it could get any better than this, right?  I mean, the onlookers included wildlife biologists that were clearly moved by what they were even witnessing.500_5778-EditOn our second day of observing the cat, we noticed that it appeared to be walking away from the kill.  We all thought that perhaps the “fun” was over … at least for a bit.  As it was retreating into the landscape, Tom noticed that it was back on the kill.  What?  How could that be?500_6091-EditThe cat appeared to be aggressively tearing apart the carcass as if it hadn’t been exposed to it previously.  That’s when onlookers started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  It was actually a 2nd MOUNTAIN LION … a female this time.500_6067-EditIt wasn’t until I got home and reviewed my TONS of images (no joke … but who could blame me?) that I found a series of frames showing the female arriving to the scene and the male relinquishing the kill to her!500_6054She was quite beautiful too and she would pause momentarily during consuming the carcass and would look around her.  By now, I was pinching myself to be sure that this was really happening and that I wasn’t just having a fantastic dream.  It hurt, so I wasn’t dreaming and I was thrilled beyond belief.  By now, I might add, almost everyone in attendance was either crying (inside or out) or on the verge of crying … it was just way too special.  In the words of some of the biologists on hand, it was something that they had only read about or seen on film … never witnessed firsthand.500_6153-EditIn careful observation, through going frame by frame through my images, I noticed also the precise moment that the male actually returned to the scene.  It was apparent that the lioness had noticed him as well.  If you’re having a hard time seeing them in the image … let me help.  She’s actually under the tree at the carcass and he placed himself in the trees in the upper right hand corner.  Hope that helps.500_6351-EditOne last fine tooth comb look through the frames and I spotted this … both of them retreating into the wilderness separately, yet obviously together.  Again, look towards the bottom third of the frame … her about 1/3 from the left side (harder to see) and him towards the right of the frame.  Do you see it?500_6383-EditYes, it was an UNREAL day for this wildlife photographer!  A once in a million (or even more) opportunity.  Though I’m quite aware that these images are far from “wall hangers”, they hold the most prominent space in my heart and in my mind.  Sometimes, it’s not just about the image gained on paper … but rather the one etched in your soul.  Remember:  It’s a journey in the experience … not just a one-time image.  Yep, it was one of those experiences that no one can take away.  Not just seeing a mountain lion, but 2 … not just seeing it walk about, but witnessing it on a kill, sharing the kill with a female … and then leaving the scene together.  I do believe that we were witnessing some MOUNTAIN LION romance as well.  I truly do.  I went home feeling so unbelievably blessed to have been so fortunate.  ❤

Thanks so much to Tom, and our good friends Jen and Travis, for sharing this encounter with us … and of course to all of the others who were present as well and shared your scopes and behavioral knowledge with us.  We are truly bonded forever by this mind-blowing experience.  🙂IMG_6676

Before I forget, I wanted to share one lesson that I learned by this encounter … ALWAYS keep shooting … for I would have missed so much of the sequence of events, which aided in telling the story … or at least confirming it.  🙂

Next Up:  Can you say “Baaa”?

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com            www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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Teton Birds In Winter

Grand Teton National Park … one of the many fabulous U.S. parks set aside for the public to enjoy … and that we did.  It was towards the end of winter and it had snowed heavily the week before we got there, so it was gorgeous to say the least.

_DSC4860The last blog post featured many of the animals that call the Tetons home.  This blog will now focus on the birds that reside here through the winter season … starting out with a beautiful juvenile bald eagle.500_4492Having moved out west, I’ve been much more exposed to a variety of raptors.  One of my favorites is the rough-legged hawk.  There’s something so beautiful about their markings within their feather pattern.500_2841Of course, their grace and agility in flight are worth noting as well.500_2840Rough-legged hawks are one of the only hawks (the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle being the others) that have feathered legs down to the toes … making their identification easier.  I just love they way that they appear in flight.500_2885-EditOn the ground, we often see bald eagles are they feed on carrion.  This mature bald eagle worked hard on this carcass in the brush.500_3011500_3162-EditAt one point, we came across another mature bald eagle, sitting so still on a post that I was pretty sure it was a fake sighting … for I’ve been fooled by those before (though usually by owl ones – LOL).  It’s feet were full of what appeared to be nesting material.  The sighting was so perfect that even though I saw it blink, I still questioned my eyesight.500_3460-Edit-EditAs we approached closer, it barely even made any signs of flight or concern.  It was breathtaking!500_3647-Edit-Edit500_3625When it finally looked like it was going to fly away, it did its “business”, re-positioned, and after quite some time, finally flew off.500_3904Of course, it wasn’t all raptor sightings … in fact we saw many water birds, such as the ring-necked duck.  It was so beautiful as it swam around in the water and the sunlight showed off its colors.500_4247We also saw many Barrow’s goldeneye, like this male, but also had female sightings as well.500_4230We found swans in numbers as well.500_4255Then we kept running into the rough-legged hawks again, which I was thrilled with,  Not sure that everyone in the car shared my enthusiasm … but hey, at least it wasn’t another male northern harrier (a definite favorite of mine).  LOL500_4326500_4340The bald eagle sightings were numerous though … sometimes multiples in a given tree.  This one looks like it might have found itself perhaps a muskrat to dine on. 500_4073-EditIt’s so fascinating to observe them as they tear it up in the process of devouring it.500_4086-EditYes, the Tetons are beautiful in any season, but there’s something about the “silence” that the winter season allows that makes it one of my favorites.  🙂_DSC4660-Edit-EditThanks Jen for taking this image of Tom and I enjoying the moment during this fabulous trip to the Tetons!IMG_6673Next Up:  More burrowing owls from 2017 … believe it or not.  Can’t get enough of those special friends of mine.  🙂

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                  www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Winter Wildlife In The Tetons

A favorite location to visit in the winter, spring, and autumn is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Late this winter, we did just that … made the now 7 hr drive into Jackson, WY, which is one of the gateways into the park.  The week before it received several feet of snowfall, so we knew that we would be treated to perfect winter landscapes.  🙂IMG_6598We spent a total of 4 days there and were treated to an incredible sampling of wildlife (including birds) sightings and photo opportunities, as well as amazing sunny skies for landscapes.

On this trip, we met up with our good friends, Jen & Travis, and it wasn’t long before the first wildlife was spotted … a “winterized” lone coyote.  By “winterized” I mean that it possessed very thick fur and it was quite healthy looking as well.  As the coyote tried to make his way through the deep snow, a raven came along to harass it a bit.500_2797The bighorn sheep were seemingly everywhere along the cliffs and mountainside.  As per usual, the rams seemed to be grouped together and relaxing in the sun.500_4165-Edit-EditThe ewes were more active … in full swing of grazing … and made great portrait images a pleasure as they paused every now and then.850_0736In addition to the usual mule deer, we were also treated to some of the white-tailed deer as well.  Sporting much smaller ears and white under their tails, they possessed such sweet faces and expressions.500_4281Moose were plentiful as well.  Seemed like all of the wildlife was quite happy with the sunshine … especially after the winter storm from the week earlier.  500_4370A moose cow and its calf made their way across the road and into the wilderness right in front of us.500_3341-EditA photographer’s dream happened when we spotted a gathering of moose near the Teton Range landscape.  As we waited it out, they eventually positioned themselves perfectly in the foreground and away we snapped images.  We were thrilled!_DSC4788-Edit-Edit-EditWhile Jen and I got images similar to those above, Tom & Travis waited patiently in the vehicle.  This bull, sporting simply winter nubs, decided to approach the truck and pay them a visit.  They took this image from inside looking out with their cell phone.IMG_1832Ever have a mid-day moment when the action begins to slow down?  Well we did, so we decided to grab a quite bite.  As we prepared our sandwiches we wished for something cool to come along.  As I brought my sandwich to my mouth, I see this handsome ram making its way towards us through the deep snow.500_4722Sandwiches down, we grabbed our gear and took images as he politely obliged us by giving us some pauses and poses.  What a thrill for us, as he never altered his path much and gave us some close views.  🙂500_4770Later we ventured outside of the Tetons and went to search for mountain goats nearby.  Of course, one must stop for scenery captures along the way.  It was such a picture perfect day!_DSC4742-Edit-EditYep, there they were … though being in the sun for the better part of the day, the snow had melted off, making the scene a bit less than ideal.  Such gorgeous thick creamy white coats they possessed.500_6886As they skillfully navigated the boulders and cliffs, this one took the time to take care of an itch that was clearly getting to it.  LOL500_5159Of course my favorite images are when they reach an outcropping when they have little else to do but pose for the lens.  500_5065-EditOne day we found the moose down by the water which always makes for fun shots.500_6684500_6698.jpgSo it was quite the successful trip of wildlife viewing … moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, coyote … to name a few (quite sure that I’m missing something).  However, nothing could have prepared us for what we witnessed on our 2nd and 3rd day.  Stay tuned …. and check back in a a few blog posts.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  :-O  Until then, I’ll leave you with another landscape from the picturesque Tetons!_DSC4864

Next Up:  The birds of the Tetons

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com              www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

 

Can You Ever Tire Of The Tetons?

One of the many reasons why we wanted to move out west, was to be closer to the wilderness areas of the west that we love so much.  After we got a bit “settled in” (which incidentally is still a work in progresss), we decided it was time to head out west and north a bit.  We made the 7 hr drive to Jackson … and Grand Teton National Park in WY.

Of course, the ride out when you’re traveling out somewhere is always part of the journey.  Since we had never driven from Fruita to Jackson, it was all fresh and new to us.  One of the most interesting and quite beautiful places that we traveled through was Flaming Gorge Reservoir and recreation areas.  It connects to the Flaming Gorge Dam and is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.  Even on this very overcast day in the early fall, it was spectacular.

_DSC2985-Edit_DSC2997-EditEn route to Pinedale, WY, which was our stopping point for the night, we encountered lots of wildlife nearby.  A herd of pronghorn antelope ladies were spotted just off in the distance … and as you can see they spotted us too.DSC_2732Of course, their male counterpart was nearby and overseeing his harem, which I’m sure he worked hard to gather.  To me, pronghorn are such interesting looking creatures, with their fancy horns and all … like crowns on their heads.  LOLDSC_2760Of course, deer were numerous and looking to establish harems of ladies of their own.DSC_2831To my surprise, we also encountered wild horses.  We only spotted two in the near vicinity, but they sure were majestic looking.  Is it just me, or is there something super special about them?DSC_2884The next morning we ventured into Grand Teton NP, met up my good friend Jen, and first made our way to the Jenny Lake area, including some of the outlying places as well.  It was such a fabulous, sunny day, and the perfect temperature as well._DSC9884About that time, we met up with some friends, Phil & Rodney, who were unexpectedly in Yellowstone NP and bummed that they didn’t get good views of the Tetons when they were there just a few days earlier.  Nothing that a quick phone call couldn’t fix … and soon we were meeting up with them at the iconic Oxbow Bend.  I mean, views like this were well worth the drive back, don’t you think?  _DSC0013-Edit-Edit_DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditAfter spending some time there, drooling about the views, we all decided to go try to find  some bears.  After all, I had been in a bit of a “bear drought” lately and eager to find some.  We encountered a grizzly boar grazing in the brush and had him to ourselves for a few minutes before others spotted the action.  While it was exciting to find and photograph him … as it kept grazing with its head DOWN, not UP.  LOLDSC_3385Then it was time to find some other gems on this gorgeous autumn day.  Before long, the clouds started forming low and the results were amazing._DSC0042-EditThe next day, we came across lots of wildlife … including the distant but quite beautiful view of a bull elk walking away from us.  It was OK with me because, I mean, how beautiful was this view, with the fog and moody sky in the distance?  I was thrilled.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, a highlight for us, was finding this feisty red fox … pretty much almost to ourselves!  This fox worked the sage brush so hard, digging away at it roots, as it hunted for little squirrels and such.  It never stopped even … like the Everyready Bunny it was.  So entertaining.  I did have one problem … too much lens!  Good problem, I know!DSC_3500-Edit-2Oh, they say the eyes have it and that was never so true as this guy (or gal).  They had me in a trance!  LOLDSC_3502-Edit-EditWell, whatever it found and munched just before this shot, must have been good, as it licked its chops.DSC_3574Bison are always a welcomed sighting when in the Tetons.  I think we caught this group during Siesta Time.  LOL_DSC3184-Edit At one point though, we found ourselves in our car quite close to a few that were quite ready to engage in some fighting.  I was amazed at how powerful they were and amused at how when two dominant bison were sparring, there was usually another (the “ref”?) nearby observing them._DSC3156Of course, no bison photo op is never complete without the shot of the tongue sticking out … whether up its nose or not.  DSC_3668Lots of pronghorn antelope were present and gathered up in harems, which the male protected at all costs.DSC_3706We watched as several times the male chased away other males trying to get a few recruits within his harem.  This guy would have none of that!DSC_3730The mule deer bucks were gathered up together in the wet field, as the weather changed quite a bit between day one and two.DSC_4712DSC_4050DSC_4415More bull elk were coming out, but it was weird because we heard very little bugling, which I was a bit disappointed about.  Still, to witness these big guys roaming in the wilderness was exciting.DSC_3456On the third day, it began to snow a little, then quite a lot … those big giant snowflakes … and it gave the area a whole new look.  Gorgeous!_DSC0143-EditWhile I was quite thrilled with the unexpected snowfall, I don’t think this belted kingfisher was as pleased.  Poor thing was spotted on a ramp to the water and looked quite cold.DSC_5296Snow falling adds so much to an image in the Tetons, I think.  We encountered several bull moose and a female with a juvenile with her, as they made some fast time crossing the landscape and off into the mass of autumn-kissed trees they went.DSC_5408-EditWell, until next time when we return in early spring, I’ll leave everyone with that last look that I got from the active red fox … so cute … I can never resist an image of an animal walking away.  DSC_3619Hope that you enjoyed sharing our autumn trip to the Tetons with us.  It should be noted that in 2017, the fall colors never really arrived, and most of it was unseasonably late.  You just never know.  🙂  Thanks so much to Jen, Phil, and Rodney for sharing our fun with us.  It’s always better with friends!

Next up:  The Colorado Verson of Autumn

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Reflecting 2017

Oh no … say it isn’t so … how in the world can it be 2018 already?DSC_59992017 was a year that just flew by in my opinion.  It was a year of life-changing events, full of excitement and uncertainty … but being the adventurous souls that we are, both Tom & I were up for the challenge.  Allow me to take a few moments to look back at some of our memories of 2017.IMG_3589The birds in Florida start the new year off already “in the mood” … with lots of nest building, courtship, and mating going on early on.  There’s something so very beautiful and endearing about the great blue herons at this time._DSC8566Before long, no matter the species, the new years hatchlings begin to emerge.  Nothing to me is cuter that the sandhill crane colts when only days old, especially when they climb aboard the backs of their parents for the ultimate featherbed slumber.  🙂_DSC9356-EditBlack-necked stilt babies are amost equally adorable and ready to forage on their own within hours of hatching.  That doesn’t mean that the parents can rest … far from it … their job is endless in keeping predators away from these little cuties as the begin to roam within the sandy shores and reeds of the wetlands.DSC_1923However, for me, the real stars for months of entertainment pleasure are the burrowing owls, especially when they first emerge from their burrows … all bright eyed, innocent, and exceptionally curious … they just don’t come any cuter.DSC_6282Though I tend to photograph them almost daily, they still grow up quite quickly and begin to fly about to nearby trees.DSC_0449Of course, no burrowing owl season is complete without captures of the “head tilt” that they are famous for.  LOL.DSC_6413During our time in Florida, we were fortunate to have our daughter and son-in-law, as well as our two granddoggies come visit us.  IMG_4224During 2016 and early 2017, Tom and I traveled out west to Colorado often looking for a home … perhaps a second home or not … where we could relocate to.  While south Florida is a fabulous place to be and affords much like the beaches and warm weather, Tom and I have always enjoyed the mountains, colder weather, and we were looking for less crowds and a sense of community._DSC2044-EditSo, at the end of July, Tom and several of his friends (thanks guys) loaded up the truck and off they went … go west, young man, as they say … all of the way to Colorado.IMG_4281On July 31st, my mom, her husband, my cat Buffy, and I all boarded our flight to Grand Junction airport and let’s just say that I was a ton nervous.  Safely arriving in GJT, we were picked up by Tom and driven to our new home in Fruita, CO.  IMG_4863In between unpacking what seemed like endless boxes (and truth be told they’re not all unloaded yet – yikes), I found the time to photograph different bird species in my own backyard.DSC_9576DSC_9590My mom was totally infatuated with the hummingbirds … OK, so was I … as they provided endless hours of entertainment as they flew in, and fought occasionally, at our feeders.DSC_9846Tom and I would also spend hours up on the Colorado National Monument looking for birds and wildlife, but also enjoying the spectacular views.  Being that the Monument is only 4 miles from our home, we still venture over there regularly._DSC2201-EditNow, I had always wanted to visit Mt. Evans for the mountain goats and in 2017, I finally got to realize my dream to visit there, actually get up to the top, and see them frolicking around.  See, on two previous trips, I was unable to even try due to road closures.  They are simply amazing to photograph there … in that thin, cold air too I might add._DSC2541In late September/early October, we met up with some friends and visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  This year, the leaves didn’t follow the calendar precisely, but when the views are this spectacular … who cares!  The Tetons are one of those places that you could just sit and get lost in your senses, sights, thoughts, you name it.  _DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, the Tetons are also synonymous with wildlife sightings … sometimes your sightings capture the essence of the environment and habitat as well.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditThe fall colors did finally arrive in mid-October, so off we went to one of my favorite places so far, the San Juan Mountains.  The colors and views, as seen from Owl Creek Ridge, were simply breathtaking.  _DSC0217-Edit-EditNearby to Fruita is Highline Lake State Park, which also cooperated nicely with the fall transitional colors._DSC3321-EditHighline Lake SP also offers mountain biking trails, so when my daughter and her hubby came out to see us, they were shown the ropes on the trails by Tom, who totally enjoys the cycling (mountain and road) out here.IMG_5167Kelli has quite the adventurous spirit, so she took off on random dirt trails and enjoyed the view with her dog, Ridley, looking down upon the Colorado River.IMG_5371They came back and spent Thanksgiving holidays with us and knew exactly where they wanted to visit.  Yep, you guessed it, the San Juan Mountains and the town of Ouray.  We took the 4-wheel drive trails and found vast wilderness areas where the dogs could run free and play in snow patches._DSC3358It really is so beautiful out in these mountains.IMG_6689During late November through February or so, the nearby town of Delta hosts thousands of sandhill cranes.  It reminded me our days in Fairbanks watching them in huge flocks by Creamers Field.  When they fly in, overhead, or when they take off, there’s no mistaking the calls of the sandhill cranes.  It’s an instantaneous smile generator for me.  🙂DSC_7074Of course, that’s not all that congregates in the masses near Delta.  Snow geese also arrive, as well as more Canadian geese than you can imagine!DSC_8500-Edit-EditDriving around in the backcountry, you can also find many species of wildlife, such as the mule deer, elk, moose, desert bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and if you’re really lucky, the elusive mountain lion.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in 2018.DSC_7979In December, we met up with our good friend and headed to Moab, UT, which is just less than 90 minutes away.  He showed us phenomenal landscapes, accessed by high clearance 4WD vehicles.  The beauty of this area just simply can’t be ignored … and the view go on and on.  I know that we will be seeing a lot of Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and the La Sal Mountains.  🙂_DSC3385-Edit_DSC3445-EditGo about 75 miles in the other direction and you land in Rifle, CO, which is where this triple waterfall can be found.
_DSC3732-EditThen one day, it finally happened, we got SNOW.  OK, so it wasn’t the 3-6 inches that we were expecting, but it was SNOW.  Later we found out that just a mile or so to the west of us, they got much more than we did.  Hopefully, we’ll get it next time.  Remember, I’m a Florida girl that loves the snow and cold.  I know, let’s see what I think next year.  LOLIMG_5837The winter views at Highline Lake SP were simply breathtaking to me._DSC3934-Edit-EditFinally Christmas arrived … and I was a bit sad … for it was my first Christmas ever without spending it with my daughter.  She was tied up being short staffed at work and couldn’t break away.  That’s OK, we’re planning on a Tahoe break with her and her hubby in January.IMG_5716On a side note, I was quite thrilled when one of my images won 2nd Place in the Defenders of Wildlife Photo Contest (Wild Lands Division) …IMG_4239… and I found out that one of my other images was honored with being the cover image for the 2017-2018 16-month calendar for Defenders of Wildlife also.  They do some amazing work, so I was quite pleased.IMG_4241Well, that pretty much does it for 2017.  That being said, I bid adieu to 2017.  It was a rollercoaster year for sure, but one that blazes the trail for an exciting ride ahead.  Remember, with each new year, is a new chapter to be written by you … make it a good one!  From all of us to you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!IMG_5455Next Up:  Close to home

© 2018  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Everglades NP Fun

Often in south Florida, you have to dodge raindrops … or should I say weather system storms.  See, we were scheduled to attend a sunset photography workshop, involving boats and I was so looking forward to attending and learning.  Unfortunately a tropical weather storm was scheduled to “attend” that day as well and therefore our afternoon of fun was cancelled with a days notice.  Torrential rain, high winds, and rough seas were forecast over most of south Florida.  However, it didn’t look too bad in Everglades NP, so my friend Claudia and I decided to give it a try.  In the early morning rain, I picked her up and off we went.

Sunrise photography at the lake, which has been popularized by Claudia, appeared at first to not be very cooperative to us.  Already there, and packing much hope with us, we waited … and waited …_dsc1884 … eventually the clouds and colors cooperated for us.  It was weird too because there were fast moving clouds on the low horizon, which made the captures even more challenging._dsc1941-hdr Once the colors began to wane, we decided to leave the area, only to find these magnificent clouds all around us.  It was the type of sighting where you didn’t know where to photograph first or even how to get it all in.  I chose to grab this one … looking a bit up to the clouds, but including that crow on top of the pine tree near the right … as the sun began to peek through._dsc1983 Not long ago, the white-crowned pigeons were listed on the threatened list of birds within Florida, so I was quite excited when we came across these beauties.  In the past, my images of them were rare sightings, canopied by tree branches, with them looking down at me in the relative low light.  On this day, they were out in the beautiful sunlight and out in the open.  So very beautiful was this mature one taking a peek at me as well.dsc_3785 I’m certainly no expert on these birds, but this one might have been more of a juvenile, as its crown was still mottled and nowhere near as brightly colored.  However, it exhibited those beautiful iridescent colors around its neck.  dsc_3699 Nearby were a group of red-bellied woodpeckers who also cooperated quite nicely.dsc_1905 I was lucky enough to time this one to the second before it flew off from its perch.dsc_3744 Again, always present hawks and other predator birds circle overhead.dsc_2639 Of course, when I photograph any birds or wildlife, I tend to get distracted by birds flying in and out of my line of sight.  I usually don’t photograph them because … 1. I have difficulty chasing them in and out of the tree branches and  2. I don’t usually even know what I’m photographing!  LOL.  After consultation with bird ID and photographer extraordinaire, Michael Libbe, my gut ID was correct … Savannah sparrow.  Thanks Michael!dsc_2562 It’s always a treat to encounter a bald eagle in the area, as I saw this one fly by and then perch itself on a bare snag.dsc_4199 Imagine my surprise when the one eagle turned out to be two bald eagles that eventually mated in the very far distance!  dsc_3010 After they tried to assure the next generation of eagles, they settled down and looked out over their landscape.  It was a fascinating experience that I had never witnessed before.dsc_3081 Iconic landscape shots abound in the Everglades, and the famous “Z Tree” is one of them.  Had to capture one more image of it.  The Everglades NP is a place near and dear to me and I worry about its preservation.  I encourage everyone to activate themselves, in whatever way possible, to assure all of our national parks, monuments, and recreational lands are protected for all to enjoy.  🙂_dsc2014Next Up:  Life In The Rookery

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

My Local Everglades National Park

There’s been a lot of talk about #mypark … indicating what national park is your favorite.  Sometimes people choose the park that they find most beautiful … or perhaps the one that they can relate to the most … or even the one geographically closest to them.  It’s a very individual perception and designation.  For me, I would have to say that Katmai NP is “my park”, though I certainly don’t live anywhere near it, though I do absolutely adore the wildlife and landscape of Katmai.  For me, another NP, which is actually closest to me, is Everglades NP.  It’s a place of diverse beauty and landscape … and depending on the season and other environmental factors, its presentation is very different.  Like all of the national parks though, its a fragile habitat and environment, and we need to protect them and the wildlife living in them.  In the case of the Everglades, it’s also critical to our water supply in Florida.  Enough said ….

Usually in the summer, our visits to the Everglades are fairly sparse.  It’s hot, humid, and buggy during the summer.  Sometimes those conditions extend into the other seasons as well.  We did make a few visits in the beginning of winter and found it pleasant … well except for those mosquitoes.

One can find white pelicans there, as this duo shown feeding on the surface of the water near Flamingo.  Brown pelicans can also be found year-round, but these white pelicans are more winter residents.dsc_2003 American avocets are a favorite of mine, especially when they’re in their winter plumage, as this adult female is.  Love their grace as they swim or walk around the shallow water foraging for food.dsc_2760 You can almost always count on the American kettle to make an appearance when visiting, though sometimes they’re more cooperative than others.dsc_3535 Such graceful beauty in flight as they patrol the area for a meal.dsc_2580 Another common resident year-round is the red-shouldered hawk.  They’re quite smart predators too, as we watched this one tagging alongside the riding lawnmower man, taking advantage of the grasses being stirred up, making insects much more accessible.dsc_3324 A variety of hawks, as well as turkey and black vultures, are a sure thing, especially when warm and windy, as they seek out thermals to circle in flight.  dsc_2841 In the Flamingo area of Everglades NP, there are always many osprey found and in the winter, they are generally pairing up through courtship behaviors and nest building.  The adults are always easily identifiable due to their yellow eyes, versus the orange eyes of juveniles.  The female adult also generally adorns a “necklace” across their upper chest.dsc_4173 It’s a blast to watch and photograph them as they fly around … leaving and returning to the nest … as they bring in food and nesting material, as well as defend their nest.  We watched one day as a vulture tried to land in the nest.  Well, that didn’t go over too well, as the occupant of the nest and its mate (from a destination in the distance unknown) went into aggressive modes to defend their nest.dsc_2091 It’s fun to watch as the female gets excited when she sees the male coming in with some dinner.  (Note: the dark mottled “necklace” feathers indicates this one is a female).dsc_2213 What this female didn’t count on was her mate being very defensive with the fresh fish he brought in.  It reminded me of a dog being teased with a toy, as he jumped around and around, keeping an easy pick of the fish away from its mate.  Eventually, it flew off with the fish, which he devoured a bit, then returned with it … finally surrendering it to its mate.dsc_2306 I don’t think that she liked that initial “hoarding” of the food and she screamed at him when he left with it.  LOL
dsc_2120 After she got her share of the meal, I guess that he was forgiven, since they worked on the next generation of osprey.  😉dsc_2481On this particular day, we encountered a bit of a rain shower.  I just loved the way that this male osprey perched itself near the nest, dropped its wing and bowed its head, in an attempt to speed off drying its wings.
dsc_3206 An appropriate end of the day … and the blog … is the appearance of a rainbow, as seen right over the nest of the osprey couple.  I think rainbows are a lucky sign of what’s to come.  Wishing them the best in their nesting endeavors.  🙂_dsc1881Next Up:  More from Everglades NP

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Lemonade Never Tasted So Good

In October, we really don’t as a rule worry too much about tropical storms or hurricanes in Florida.  Sure, it’s still technically hurricane season until the end of November, but our peak is usually July, August, and September … at least according to this “almost native Floridian”‘s recollection.  So, when we realized that a potential Cat.4-5 hurricane by the name of Matthew was lurking around Florida a few days earlier, we became concerned.  We were thankful that south Florida was pretty much spared from the wrath of the storm, so when our flight allowed us to check in, we thought we were in the clear.  WRONG … by the time we checked in online to the time we checked into our hotel, a few short hours from Denver, we received the text message … FLIGHT CANCELLED.  Yep, lemons thrown our way.

I felt especially terrible because my daughter and her husband had just left for backpacking in Europe and we were charged with taking care of our grandchildren … doggy ones.  🙂  Luckily, we were in the midst also of sights like these …dsc_7985dsc_7997So with those lemons, we decided to make the proverbial “lemonade”.  We altered our plans (after all, a friend of theirs was battening down the hatches until we got home and all flights into Florida were cancelled) and chose to not sweat it out and swing by Rocky Mountain NP with our newly gained freedom.  OK, truth be told, it probably did involve some “sweating it out”, but you get the gist, right?

I hadn’t been to Estes Park in probably 2 years and this was pretty crowded for me.img_2151After we left the hustle and bustle of town and got into the park itself, it was much better.  Right off the bat, we came across a gang of wild turkey.  I believe that there were mature and juveniles within the group.dsc_8005Of course, everyone knows that October in RMNP is synonymous with the elk rut, so my hopes were high.  Can you imagine how excited I was when I came across this handsome bull down by the lakeside … keeping a keen eye on his harem.dsc_8218It was really cool to get images of him standing almost chest deep in the water.  Of course, when he bugled from there as well, it was well over the top for me.  NOTHING compares to the sound of a bull elk’s bugle!dsc_8342He really was quite the handsome lad and quite cooperative with his poses.  I have a feeling that he’s used to the camera lens.  🙂dsc_8404Of course, during the rut, the bull elk have more on their minds than eating, but that didn’t stop the ladies from getting their fill on the nearby vegetation.dsc_8432A very tender moment to me was when he went nose to nose with one of his gals.  I wondered if she was his favorite … only just kidding.  LOLdsc_8556Instead of eating the vegetation, he would use the bushes to scratch himself.dsc_8593The girls in his harem were about 15, which I thought was a pretty good size.  While most of the rut was over, the mating had yet to begin.dsc_8715Yep, this bull sure knew how to work the camera.  Never have I gotten them in the water during rut like that.  I was thrilled.dsc_8795Sunsets are always a thrill and this place didn’t disappoint.  I just loved how the colors were so mixed, yet oh so beautiful._dsc1775Out at dinner one night, I happened to notice this sign … it warmed my heart to know that some people and places do everything in their ability to protect the bears from being labelled as a “problem bear” secondary to actually “problem people” who don’t exercise common sense.  (I’ll now exit my soapbox)img_2159This time of the year, the mule deer were also out in force and sporting nice racks too.  Such sweet, sweet faces.dsc_9030dsc_9331These guys were out for a little bit of jostling around as well.dsc_9191Now this bull elk, shown from afar so that you can actually see how many gals he had in his harem … 24 in all!!!  Crazy to imagine how busy he was going to be in the near future.  LOL.  We even saw one of them actually try to mate him!  Guess she was getting close to being ready.  😉_dsc1818So in the end, we got home a night later, got to go the Rocky Mountain NP, arrived to Jacksonville to pick up the grand doggies, and safely drove home.  Yep, lemonade never tasted so good!_dsc1813Next Up:  How about some birding?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Proud As A Peacock

Photography is, by itself, an adventure.  It’s all about learning … sharing … educating … at least for me it is.  It’s an expressive art form, where the beauty of the image is held within and varies from observer to observer.  For me, it’s hard to separate the emotion out of certain images or to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears that went into an image.  It’s an art form where one has to have tough skin … in processing, in observing, and often in critiquing.  It’s the ultimate journey.  In 2016, I planned for some potential bumps in the road along the way by putting some of my stuff “out there”.  Everything is a learning experience … and it’s all good.

Early in 2016, I was approached by the California Science Center Foundation in Los Angeles, CA about incorporating 2 of our images into the Ecosystems Exhibit in the Children’s Museum.  I was quite honored by the request knowing that I could indirectly contribute to the education of our youth on the concept of adaptation and conservation.  Below are the two images that I granted them access to:

Polar bear adult, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska ©2015
_DSC6749                      Arctic ground squirrel, Denali National Park, Alaska ©2015_DSC3578I can’t wait to one day see it for myself in person.

April 30th, the Juried Best In Nature 2016 Exhibit opened at the Ordover Museum of the San Diego Natural History Museum @ Balboa Park, San Diego, California.  Approximately 70 images were juried in to hang as part of the exhibit through August 2016.  One of those images was mine.  It was quite an honor to be amongst some of the best nature images featured.

“The Awakening”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
_DSC9817Defenders of Wildlife, an amazing advocate group for the protection and preservation of           wildlife, as well as advancing the cause of many wildlife issues, selected one of my images as the Grand Prize Winner for 2016.  I was humbled beyond words and so proud that this image helps in their work, as well as “speaks” to the public in a way that words can’t.  I     believe that photography can be a powerful tool in enlisting the support and understanding of many viewers.  I hope that it motivates others, like me, to join the cause.

“When I Grow Up”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015_dsc2247-2That image was also honored by NANPA as a Top 250 image.  The Audubon Society of Greater Denver’s Share the View Competition also honored it among the Top 250 images, as well as the image below.

“Chasing the Adrenaline”;  Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska  © 2014DSC_8370To say that I was stunned is an understatement, when one of my images was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Competition.  That was an honor awarded to approximately 300 of the 20,000 images received for review.

“The Polar Bear Pledge”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
debbietubridy_polarbearpledge_polarpassion-1-of-1-2Lastly, 4 of my images were used by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, an advocacy group based out of Lander, Wyoming for their 50th Anniversary 2017 Calendar, celebrating 50 years of conservation.

“Skills Test”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150322-DSC_1653                       “Lazy Day Fox”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150321-DSC_0885                  “Struggle for Survival”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  ©2016_DSC6231                          “Passing the Day Away”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  © 2016_DSC9668-2While photography endeavor successes make me feel quite proud, it pales by comparison to the pride I felt when my daughter, Kelli, walked in her Hooding Ceremony in advance of her then upcoming graduation from her Physician Assistant Program.img_1508Shortly thereafter, she formally graduated with Highest Honors from Nova Southeastern University.img_1722It was a long 27-month haul for her, but it was done finally!  She then successfully passed her credential examination and is now a proud owner of some new initials … PA-C … which she adds to her BS and MS in Exercise Physiology from the University of Florida.  She celebrated with a few shorter US trips for fun, then backpacked through Europe with one of her classmates (and part-time with her hubby).  Yep, that’s my Unicorn!  (don’t ask … it’s a long story).  🙂img_1734Finally, another accomplishment that I’m quite proud of is the progress that my stepfather has made in his recovery.  As many of you know, our Alaska trip for 2016 was cancelled at the last minute due to his hospitalization.  While it was sad at the moment, it was necessary, and to see him finally leave the hospital walking with the assitance of his walker … was nothing short of a miracle.  He’s never looked back either and is walker free.  Physical therapy and rehabilitative services ROCK and I can’t say enough good things about the care he received at Memorial South Rehab Hospital!  img_1812What does the future hold in 2017?  Who knows, but I can promise you that Alaska is back on the table!  I have many goals, or should I say learning directions, for me to pursue … and of course, places to go.  🙂

This blog has been an important part of that growth & sharing and an expression that I find particularly rewarding.  Please let me know what you think.  I can say that as of the end of 2016, the blog has reached 87 countries … making it feel like quite a bit smaller of a world, which of course, we all share.  I have a personal goal to add another 11 countries in 2017, bringing the blog’s reach to 1/2 of the world’s countries!

My wish for photography to bring us all closer, educate us to important issues that surround us, and most importantly, to bring joy to all those who view the images.  There’s no greater compliment to me than when friends/contacts appreciate what they see or tell me that somehow the images or stories moved them.  Happy 2017 everyone … it’s ours to write … let’s make it a great one!!_DSC0298-2Next Up:  Who wants to go to Colorado?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2016 Review… The “Far”

As with most years, many photographic opportunities presented themselves, not just in my home state of Florida, but the west was well represented in 2016.  Like the previous year end review post, I will focus primarily on the “new”.

Of course, there are a few images that never grow old, such as the frosty face of a bison fighting for survival in the harsh winters of the west.

_DSC6231-2Though I tend to forget sometimes the landscapes that lay before me, I tried to focus on them a bit in 2016._DSC4055There’s something magical about the iconic image of a beautiful red fox making its way across the snowy landscape …_DSC5569… though unique fox sightings such as this are quite beautiful and intriguing as well.  Never have I seen a setting like this one before._DSC5495It’s always fun to find a couple of coyotes in the snow as well, but it’s not everyday that you see this.  I know that to the casual viewer this looks like 2 coyotes standing there looking at us, which I suppose it was, but what makes this one so special is that they weren’t standing there being cooperative subjects by chance … they were tied after mating.  Once again, I’ve never seen anything like that before … and believe it or not, it was captured on Valentine’s Day.  🙂_DSC6495Another lifer for me was the elusive saw whet owl.  It had long been a dream of mine and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of joy when I got this one._DSC6977Sporting some nice red earrings and a necklace (i.e. tag and collar), my first mountain goats in the snow images were thrilling and a great bar to capture more natural ones in the future, though I do love the fluffy snow in this one._DSC7104This snowy day made photography a bit difficult, but I like most, still tried.  This group of elk in winter were getting tight as a group of either coyote or wolves were moving in on them. _dsc4122Speaking of wolves, I haven’t gotten a great shot of any wolves, outside of Denali NP in Alaska, before and still haven’t, but this is my first of that black wolf that calls Yellowstone home._DSC9812While I have lots of bison shots, this was the first year that I got out in the spring to capture those “red dogs”, who couldn’t be any cuter._DSC0192_DSC9570-2Predators can come in different forms and species, but the instinct to seek refuge is all the same.  Here I photographed a black bear cub who obediently climbed high (really high) to the top of a tree, while mom spotted a boar in the area.DSC_2910Speaking of things that I’ve NEVER experienced before was this aggressive protective behavior exhibited by this dusky grouse.  Though it played coy allowing images, it clearly felt threatened by some (especially women) and it ended with an entertaining, yet scary, encounter with Mr. Flashy Eyebrows, which incidentally change colors too.  LOL_DSC9981Usual sightings of beavers for me have been swimming around in the ponds, usually in the dusk hours, affording little opportunity for me to capture a great shot.  That changed in 2016 when this cooperative beaver exited the pond and sat, in the midst of flowers, on the bank and groomed itself for quite some time.  I was thrilled.DSC_4173-2Who wouldn’t want to have a lunch date with an incredible golden eagle? … Well, except the one being served as dinner.  I sat in awe as it devoured its dinner on the banks of the river, not far from where I was sitting.DSC_4697-2A first for me too was this ADORABLE little pronghorn antelope, that had to be less than one day old.  Nature is an amazing thing because this baby was so skilled at running and kept up with mom right from the get-go.DSC_2714In Florida, we have red-winged blackbirds, but out west they have these beautiful yellow-headed blackbirds.  Though a different species, their song is equally as distinct and lovely.
DSC_1400A definite goal of mine for 2016 was to get that iconic shot of the red-necked grebes swimming with their babies on their backs.  While I didn’t get that, I did manage to get not only the Western grebes, but an image of them offering the fish as part of their courtship behavior.DSC_1726Cuteness alert!  2015 I may have gotten my very first long-eared owls, but how about this?  It’s a long-eared baby owlet!  My heart melted the instant that our eyes met.DSC_21972016 was spent also on some landscape shooting … here from Steptoe Butte in the iconic Palouse …_DSC0513-HDR… and also from the Colorado National Monument, which overlooks the town of Grand Junction, CO._dsc1370-hdrIn what had to be one of the craziest shoots of 2016, was that very, very early morning at Maroon Bells in Colorado.  It was freezing when we started shooting some astro images in the wee hours, but continued to get colder as the sun began to rise.  That was my first time there … crazy, crazy, crazy the number of photographers congregating there!_dsc1135Fall in Colorado is a special treat.  The clouds, the mountains, the leaves … all jaw-dropping._dsc1577-hdrOf course, the golden leaf dropping aspens are always a favorite of mine, both on the ground …_dsc1160… as well as looking up towards the heavens._dsc7922Courtesy of Hurricane Matthew, which re-routed us from our return home, this bull elk chest deep in the lake was a new one for me too.dsc_8342The mule deer, also sporting their racks, were organizing as well.dsc_8998Yes, our time spent out west in 2016 was fascinating and full of firsts and new behavioral images.  Noticeably absent, in both this blog and in my heart, was Alaska.  It would have been our 10th consecutive year, but it wasn’t to be in 2016.  That only means that something super special must be in store for us there in 2017.  Can’t wait to find out!dsc_1673Thanks so much for our friends who participated in the fun during the year, including Jen & Travis, Amy & Scott, Rebecca, Jay, Phil, and Rick … we really appreciated sharing the good times with you guys.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip down 2016 memory lane.  There’s one more segment to 2016 left though … hmm, what could it be?

Next Up:  Proud as a peacock moments

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com