The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Always Expect the Unexpected

Yellowstone NP in the winter is a fabulous place … so vast, so snowy, so quiet.  The freshly fallen snow makes wildlife spotting easier and tracks in the snow provides clues as to what might be where.  Bring in the sun, patchy white clouds, and blue sky, and it all seems so perfect.IMG_0571 2As we leave the wintery roads of Lamar Valley, the scenery beckons me and makes it hard to drive away.  We are off to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone NP, which is closed to most traffic during the winter, except for the organized snowmobile and snow coach tours.  Numerous years ago, Tom & I engaged in one of the snowmobile tours, but quickly realized that they are not the preferred route for photographers.  Two years ago, I experienced a Yellowstone in Winter photography tour, with Daniel Cox of Natural Exposures.  It was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone that might be interested.IMG_0572 2This year however, I had arranged a small snow coach to take Tom and I, as well as some friends into the park … in search of the notorious bobcat(s) that had been spotted regularly for about a month, but not for the last week or two before we got there.IMG_0604 2Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views._DSC4063_DSC4055Before long, a lone coyote was spotted along one of the rivers.  We jumped out and began to photograph it as it made its way quickly, stopping to check us out along the way._DSC6287At one point it stopped at something that was somewhat buried in the snow.  After closer observation, we noticed that it was an elk carcass, specifically the head and antlers.  It was a very strange sighting, especially with what appeared to be wires wrapped in its tines.  To this day I wonder what the story was behind that sighting, though it did seem a bit eerie._DSC6382On the lighter side of our sightings, the trumpeter swans were out in force … some in mated pairs, some with juveniles still with them, and some were solo.  All were beautiful.  🙂_DSC6170As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along._DSC4086We had some bald eagle sightings as well, including this one towards the end of our day.  It was finishing off a meal of fresh fish as we caught up with it.  We watched patiently as it devoured it … one piece at a time._DSC6397Suddenly it lifted up and flew off, but not too far.  It was then that I noticed that this bald eagle had been banded.  I researched the internet and found that many years ago, researchers had banded bald eagles in that area, and perhaps this was one of them.  If anyone out there knows more on this, please reach out and/or comment, so that I can learn more.  Thanks!_DSC6405It finally landed in the river, but in a location which was even better for us to photograph it.  I thought that was pretty nice of it to do that for us, don’t you?_DSC6434Well, in case you’re wondering, we never did find that bobcat, though there was reportedly a possible sighting that day.  Of course when we heard the call, off we went to the exact location where it was spotted.  Nada!  Perhaps it was an erroneous report … or it wandered off.  Dang!

What we encountered though was quite remarkable and could never have been expected … never have I seen this before.  We came across an area where we had earlier seen a coyote (one of many sightings that day).  So we slowed down just a bit to check out if we could find it again.

Well, all of a sudden we see not one, but two coyotes together … and close.  It was odd in that they just stood there and didn’t try to run.  That’s when Jen realized and called out “they’re mating … they’re tied”.  Of course, now it made sense … they couldn’t run.  Poor things just stood there, taking turns on who was going to have to look our way.  Once and awhile, they both looked our way.  Such indignant looks too.  LOL.  I know that it doesn’t look like anything, but these two lovebirds were in fact … tied._DSC6495After several minutes and hundreds of collective clicks of the camera later, they “untied” and parted.  The female walked away, followed by the male who sniffed her for a bit, then they had an affectionate moment of nose to nose action and a bit of rubbing.  It was after all, Valentine’s Day.  No joke!_DSC6526Being that we didn’t have any moose sightings, I had to find one on my own.  OK, maybe this was just a moose carving in town.IMG_0606 2When we left West Yellowstone … on our way towards Grand Teton NP … we came across more bighorn sheep rams.  Not before we got our AWD car stuck in an unplowed pull-off (yes, I just had to have that landscape shot … which ironically I never got since we were stuck and all)._DSC6486No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images._DSC6490Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho._DSC6761So all in all, I learned that when in Yellowstone during the winter … Always EXPECT the UNEXPECTED!

Thanks Jen, Travis, Debby, and Jessica for sharing in our snow coach day in Yellowstone.  We had a blast and were quite entertained.  😉  Good times.

Next Up:  Back to some springtime action in Florida … Sandhill crane-style.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Silence & Beauty of A Yellowstone Winter

As I mentioned in the last blog post, sometimes the heat comes early to south Florida, and I have to get away to cool down.  Tom always goes out west with his buddies on an annual snowboard trip in January, so what better time to meet up with him on a side trip to Yellowstone NP.

From the first time, 2 years ago, when I visited Yellowstone NP in the dead of winter, I knew how incredibly special it was … the silence, the cold, the lack of visitors, the winter wildlife … all make for an experience that you won’t soon forget.  There’s something so beautiful about encountering the wildlife in the snow, such as this healthy coyote, with its thick winter coat._DSC6085Some areas of the park in early February were already starting to have sporadic snow cover, which allowed the bighorn sheep to be able to dig in the sparse snow cover and find lichens and new shoots of grasses to feed upon._DSC5227_DSC5304The rams seemed to be out in force too this year._DSC5719I’ve always been fascinated by bighorn sheep, especially their eyes, which are so hypnotic to me.  They are often locked on us, while they graze or simply chew on the hillside._DSC5324When photographing wildlife out in the wilderness, sometimes patience is required.  For this particular image, I remained in place and tried to stay calm and relaxed, hoping for him to climb higher to the crest of the hill, so that I could get that amazing blue sky as the backdrop to show him off.  Yes, patience can sometimes be rewarded.  🙂_DSC5154Bighorn sheep have horns, which I like to refer to as curls, which they keep lifelong.  Consequently, those horns carry the story of the life that the sheep has lived, including all of its battles.  I often stare at them and wish that I could be privy to the animals life history._DSC5344This year, we found a lot of fox roaming around.  Most were hunting near the roads or off on the trails, mousing in the deep snow, or resting along a log.  However, this red fox was spotted in the crack of high rocky landscape … an unusual sighting for us for sure.  _DSC5454Reportedly it was hanging out in the area for a bit, then disappeared for a few days after a coyote was found hunting nearby.  We were sure happy to see that it returned just in time for us to observe and photograph it._DSC5473It would give us so many expressions and poses, but one thing is for sure … it sure was quite comfy way up there._DSC5495The eyes of the red fox are also quite beautiful and I get so excited when our eyes meet as they travel past us.    _DSC5569On one of our days, we were having a wonderful sunny early morning … until it turned cloudy, windy, and cold … until it turned into blizzard-like conditions.  It was like someone would open and close the “wind tunnel door”.  It made me appreciate what these animals have to endure during the winter months and how difficult their survival was._DSC5721Massive in size, but slow in movement (unless perturbed) is the bison.  They were seemingly everywhere along the valley road and would often be spotted walking the road … otherwise known as the “path of least resistance”.  Otherwise, they could be spotted off in the distance in search of food and running water._DSC6152An image that I really wanted to capture this winter was that of the bison, with its face covered in the snow, so incredibly iconic of Yellowstone in the midst of winter.  I was amazed at how the snow would cake up on their fur … though it was caked up on the photographers who were braving the snow and blowing wind as well._DSC6188Bison are actually quite smart in that in their search for food, they swing their heads from side to side as they made their way through the snow, making a clearing for them to try to find some food to eat._DSC6208When they would lift their heads, that iced-over face image is the result.  I think that I accomplished my goal of the snowy faced bison.  🙂_DSC6231-2As we were leaving, a coyote appeared and seemed to be inquisitive as to why we were leaving so soon.  Don’t worry there Mr. Coyote … we’ll be back for several more days._DSC5391In the winter, the sunset comes early … and spectacularly.  The perfect ending to a perfect few days so far in the north end of Yellowstone NP in the winter … I think my favorite season.  With all of the “eye candy” I saw today, I know that I’ll have sweet dreams tonight._DSC4030Next Up:  More images and stories from Yellowstone NP … but from the West Yellowstone entrance.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Friends In High Places

Photography offers so much … from beautiful scenery to wonderful wildlife interaction to travel opportunities to understanding and appreciating one’s surroundings.  The sharing of those images offers those who can’t be there to experience just a slice of the adventure at hand.  It may also provide the viewer an opportunity to “check a place out” to visit or plan for a future visit.  However, there’s a huge opportunity that many seize, though still some overlook … that is, the friendships that are made along the photo-sharing path.

Enter Grand Junction, CO….

Of course, this was Tom’s cycling road trip and I was along for the ride, trying to experience it fully for myself through the photographic sights along the way.  Another mecca for both mountain and road cycling is the Grand Junction & Fruita area, so I knew that it would be on our agenda.  Of course, now when I think of Grand Junction, I think also of the amazing photography work of Amy Hudechek and her mom Bev Zuerlein, friends I have made over the years while sharing images on Flickr.

Amy & I made plans to meet up and she graciously agreed to show me some of what Grand Junction had to offer.  So off we went to Grand Mesa for some prime time lighting landscape shots.
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Situated at 10,000 ft elevation, when you arrive at the “end of the road”, it’s an amazing view – both for landscapes and the various critters and birds milling around.  Seeming like they wanted their photo taken, I was only too happy to oblige.  🙂20150713-DSC_4692 20150713-DSC_4703 Several large ravens were nearby, as well as this beautiful Clark’s Nutcracker.20150713-DSC_4646 As we were making our way back down, we came  across some wonderful columbines, one of my favorite flowers.20150713-DSC_4715 Making a quick stop at Island Lake, which was so very beautiful as well.20150713-DSC_5153

Amy suggested that we stop and have lunch at the True Grit Cafe in Ridgeway, CO.  What a great place, though it was a bit crowded on our visit, due to an event in nearby Telluride. However, you absolutely couldn’t beat the views of the San Juan Mountains from the outside deck.  So very charming.20150713-IMG_2762Just about when we finished eating, I got a text from Tom saying how he wished he was touring the area with us.  So while walking back to the car, I spotted this Fire Dept building and captured this iPhone image and sent it to him.  Yes, see, I was thinking about him.  🙂
20150713-IMG_2763 Amy took me to so many fabulous places along the way.  A favorite of mine was this old IH (International Harvester) truck.  Set in the middle of a field of yellow bloom, it was perfect with its rusty surface.  Love it!20150713-DSC_5173 Amy knew of a horse corral with amazing backdrop views as well and we spent some time there as well.  Though the corral was empty when we were there, how could any horse mind calling that place home!20150713-DSC_5184 While we didn’t see the horses, we did see some cattle, who were hanging out close by to where Amy parked the car for our visit.  Loved the way this one gave us the total stink eye as we loaded up in the car again.  LOL20150713-DSC_5197 Yes, the area surrounding Grand Junction has everything and then some for the outdoor nature photographer.  I was very happy to have been able to get out and see some of it.  Thanks Amy!20150713-DSC_5195 When I got back to our rental condo, I told Tom that I wanted to try to photograph the sunset from the nearby Colorado National Monument.  It was my first visit there, though Tom had been cycling up there earlier, and I think that the bighorn sheep “got the memo” and came to check me out as well.  🙂20150713-DSC_4748Looking west from the monument, the sunset proved to be quite beautiful, as expected.
20150713-DSC_5210-HDR It never ceases to amaze me how the light changes so quickly and the colors get so varied, even when the sun had set.20150713-DSC_5244-HDRIt was the perfect ending, to the perfect day.  But there’s more …

Next up:  After the sunset, there’s always another sunrise the next day.  Stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Our Last Teton Hurrah!

We stayed 3 days in Grand Teton NP, but of course, each day is substantially different that the one before … or the next for that matter.  Coming in from Jackson Hole, we immediately pass by the Elk Refuge, which was no longer covered in snow and the elk were largely leaving already.  However, there was a juvenile bald eagle hanging out in the area.

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We observed him for quite some time.  The light was far from optimal for capturing its beauty, but we sure got some fun poses and behaviors from it.  How fascinating those talons are!

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When we first arrived to GTNP, the Antelope Flats was fully closed, but by day 3, it was partially open.  I wanted to photograph the famous Moulton Barn in the snow cover, so we went as far as we could on the road, then hiked in the rest of the way.  I was a bit surprised to see the the snow cover was missing in some areas … still it was so beautiful and particularly fun, especially since you could “hear” the silence … yes, we had it to ourselves.

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Along the way, we came across numerous ice patches in the gravel road.  I was fascinated by their beauty.

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Their geometric shapes were so interesting and each one was unique.

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Some of the frozen ice patches were frosted and opaque, while others were clear and full of bubbles.

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At one point, I noticed something fly by … it was quite beautiful … and to my shock, it was a mountain bluebird … already in mid-March!  Yes, it had been a mild winter and we later learned that this was the beginning of their sightings.  I felt so privileged to be able to partake in their beauty.

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Of course, that wasn’t the only bird that we sighted, as many species of duck and other water birds were present as well.

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This Canadian Goose had its own version of ice fishing … which we found quite entertaining and quite comical.  🙂

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We made a special trip to see the bighorn sheep again.  This time it was the ewes and the lambs and juveniles that we encountered first.  The herds were already up on the mountainside.

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Mama was teaching the young ones an important lesson in their survival skills … how to navigate those rocky cliffs and ledges … to evade their predators.

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I was thrilled to be able to witness them as they tested their skill, though I have to admit, I was probably more nervous than both of them put together!

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Stunned … that’s how I felt as they descended in almost a complete vertical fashion, down  the ledges and rocky landscape.  I know that they’re hooves are specifically equipped for such travel, but it’s still heart-stopping to observe.

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When they decide to “haul butt” too, they can sure get up and go!

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I know that I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again … nature is so amazing!

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Of course, there’s so much more beauty in the landscape of the Tetons to explore as well.

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I didn’t want to leave, but we had to get back to Bozeman for an early morning flight the next day.  I noticed that a storm seemed to be coming, as the mountain range soon became shrouded by the clouds.  As we left the park and Jackson Hole, we started out towards the Teton Pass.  Wouldn’t you know it … it began to snow … a fairly heavy snowfall too.  I call it “divine intervention” … you know, making it OK to leave, for photography would become difficult for a bit.  Except for, that amazing beauty of the area in mid-snowfall … yes, that’s its own beauty.

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Until next year, when we will most surely return, goodbye Tetons!

Next up:  More birding in Florida

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

A Grand Teton Homecoming

Always a much anticipated visit is Grand Teton National Park and the community of Jackson Hole.  It has so much to offer … from landscapes to wildlife, it never disappoints.

This year we met up with an amazing photographer, Jen Hall, whom I met originally on Flickr.  It’s always such a pleasure to shoot with locals, so we met up in the early pre-sunrise hour and headed off to get some morning first light.  It was absolutely perfect!

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Unlike Yellowstone NP, the Tetons still had a fair share of snow covering the ground, which is always exciting for us.

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Having already photographed bison, moose, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, pronghorn, as well as a few other animals, I still felt the void of the red fox, as I didn’t get to photograph one in Yellowstone.  I REALLY wanted to have a fox encounter, so it was high on my list for the day.

We passed by other wildlife, in search of the sly fox, who was doing a good job in avoiding us.  I’ve always found that when you try so desperately to find a particular subject, it can sometimes elude you.  After hours of looking for a fox, we pretty much took a break, myself figuring that it wasn’t in the cards for that day.  There’s something to be said for staying put and allowing wildlife to come to you.

All of a sudden “eagle eyes” Tom became alert and noticed something emerging from the trees in the snow.  Sure enough, there it was … a magnificent-looking fox.

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After the scurry of reaching for the cameras, I don’t think anyone said one word, fearing it would alter its path, as it was headed right in our direction.  I personally don’t believe that I was even breathing as I clicked away.

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Gosh, it sure was stunning to see and it was quite cooperative with us, as it eventually sat down not far from us (as we were sat still inside our vehicle).  It didn’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere … in fact, seemed quite sleepy and bored.  LOL  At one point, it gave us quite a yawn … couldn’t believe all of those teeth, which by the way, were quite clean-looking.  🙂

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At first,we thought it was a female (mama), but soon realized it was a male, as it seemed to mark anything and everything it could as it traveled in it path.

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At one point, it became quite interested in something … as it hunted … and ultimately came up with a tasty morsel, which it quickly consumed.

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Must have been good too, as it quickly licked its chops!  LOL

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Last year I photographed a red fox for a bit, as it moused in the snow.  It was quite fun, but also quite far.  This guy was a bit more “chill”, but he made up for it with his closeness to us and his cooperation as well.  Clearly someone had taught this guy a thing or two about camera angles.  🙂

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Once that red fox was checked off my list of wildlife to photograph, we were open for business for the other wildlife, such as the bighorn sheep.  We encountered a large herd of rams as they were slowly, but surely, making their way across the landscape.  Some young ones were in the group too … this one guy clearly had a bit too much energy too … as he jumped almost incessantly, head-butting his buddies.

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As they navigated to the mountainside, I was so impressed with the speed they possessed.  Yes, it was a great encounter as well.  Such magnificent creatures!

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So whether it’s wildlife or landscapes, it’s all beautiful and rewarding for the visitor taking it all in.

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More images and stories from Grand Teton NP will be featured in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Bighorn Ram Encounter @ Yellowstone NP

Seems like every year I get the urge … or should I say, feel the necessity … to travel out to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP.  2015 was no different and so we planned a trip out there, which we coupled with some family time snowboarding/skiing in the nearby vicinity.  Being that it was still winter out there, or so we thought, I originally had plans to rent out a small snow coach for the day.  The very mild winter of 2014-2015 changed those plans as snow coach touring and snowmobiling season ended up closing very early.  Quick … we need to execute Plan B.  So we made reservations in Gardiner, just outside of the parks iconic entrance arch in Yellowstone NP.  That road stays open year-round, as residents use it for travel to and from Cooke City.  It wasn’t long before we spotted our first wildlife – a beautiful pronghorn antelope.

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We expected to see them, along with lots of bison, elk, and mule deer.  What we didn’t expect to see as readily was the bighorn sheep.  As a matter of fact, I had never (believe it or not) seen bighorn sheep within the park boundaries!  So I was a bit thrilled.  I usually associate these fabulous rams when I make my way into Rocky Mountain NP.

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It wasn’t just a fluke sighting either … we found a gathering of several dozen rams.

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Though not many tourists come to Yellowstone during the winter months, even a mild one, we still didn’t want to start a “ram jam”, so we parked down the road and hiked in to where they were … paying particular attention to not encroach on their territory or break any distance regulations.

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Everything was going great until that moment … when the “big guy” came around a corner unexpectantly.  I backed up a bit and turned to assess the situation … snow and ice covered landscape and a rocky ledge behind me.  I managed to back out and put distance back between us.

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While the other rams of various ages and hierarchy continued to feed, this guy almost seemed to serve as the sentinel … you know, the lookout for trouble in the area.

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As they grazed in the grasses, they would occasionally look up and give me that “Vogue” look.  🙂

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I was impressed with their majestic look as they stood proudly, making their way within the group.  It was amazing to see the differences in their horns … or their curls.  You can see the signs of wear & tear on the senior guys and I couldn’t help but wonder about their story … what events they had been through for those “scars”.

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Being that it was late winter, they still had such nice coats and they were quite amicable with each other.  That will change as the year progresses towards the eventual rut season, when they will fight for hierarchy and that important status within the harem of females.

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It was so beautiful as they laid down on the landscape and stared off into the distance … with the bushes near then and trees, mountains, and snow off in the distance.

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Yes, it was fascinating to watch and yes, I felt truly honored to be in their presence and thrilled with the naturalness in their behavior as I clicked away.  🙂

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Wish I could click my heels and be back there right now.  Rest assured though, we’ll be back and ready for more.

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Of course, there’s more to Yellowstone NP that the pronghorn and bighorn sheep, so stay tuned for the next post with more wildlife, sights, and stories.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Wildlife & Landscapes of Banff NP

Another adventure in Banff National Park started out early in the morning with a sighting of a collared grizzly bear (hence no photo taken) and her two spring cubs.  They were busy sticking close to mom while she was grazing on the grasses.

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Not sure if they totally understood what they were doing or why, but they were certainly giving “grass grazing” a fair shake of their own.  They were so incredibly adorable!

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On our adventure drive, we came across a herd of bighorn sheep ewes and several lamb as well.  One of the momma ewes stopped and gave me a discerning glance, as if to determine if I was friend or foe.  The others went about their activities, but she remained perfectly still and steadfast in her heavy stare.

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I hadn’t noticed but she had a lamb right beside her laying down in the grasses.  All of a sudden, it stood up.

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Then they began to run and I thought to myself … what did I do to frighten them?  But I knew it was sudden and purposeful … and they were running towards me for most of the run, then continued on past me.

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It simply warmed my heart to see this little one prancing right along side of its mama.  Love how it would get airborne with all 4 feet off the ground at once.  🙂

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As I was trying to figure it all out, I turned around and this is what I saw ….

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So, they weren’t running from me, but from this beautiful red fox off in the distance nestled in the woods.  That was incredible to me that they knew it was there.  I hadn’t heard it or seen it, but somehow they knew.  That’s one good mama!

We left the area when they ran, but then returned about 30 minutes later and tried to find them again.  Sure enough, we did.  But this time they were down the embankment a bit and on a cliff edge, so I didn’t pursue them any further.  Mama checked us out, then the lamb peeked its head up.  My heart melted  <3.

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I knew that the lighting was very harsh from this angle, but it didn’t matter to me.  I mean, how cute is this little lamb?  In a weird way, I could sense that they were comfortable with us being there.  In the wild, sometimes animals with young ones feel comfortable enough with “proven humans” that they feel more protected in their presence.  I had a feeling that it might be the case right now.

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Not too much further we found this ram laying down somewhat near the edge of the road.  It seemed to tolerate us quite well too, as I hung outside my window snapping images of him and his amazing curl.

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After some time, it got quite interested in us and approached us – slowly, but surely.  Before long, a few other cars saw it, stopped and pursued it, and I had to bite my tongue to not say anything.  Though the one guy who was out of his car and remained there as it approached him probably needed a change of his drawers when the ram brushed up against him, as he pinned against his car.  I believe I heard him mumble “don’t gore me” at that precise moment.  LOL.  I couldn’t help but think that he at least learned his lesson, as the ram passed him safely.

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We arrived at Two Jack picnic area much later than we anticipated due to the wildlife sightings, but that was well worth it.  Luckily, the wind was still at a standstill and I was so impressed by the view!

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I couldn’t decide if I liked the first one better (closer up) or the second one (further away) with that amazing reflection as well, but with the added clarity of the rocks through the clear water.  I think probably the second … how about you?

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The wildflowers everywhere were an added bonus of delight and beauty.

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We then ventured into the town of Banff and as we did, for some strange reason, I thought I saw a moose!  I jumped out and totally abandoned Tom in the traffic.  LOL.  Of course, it wasn’t a moose, but a really nice looking bull elk … nice rack, eh?  This is the view of him as these two hikers turned a corner without seeing him and were probably 4-5 feet from him.  They were quite pleased that I warned them and may have needed a “fresh pair” as well when they saw what was directly behind them.  LOL

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Any wildlife photographer knows all too well my next statement … you never have the right lens with you when you need it … yes, I was trying to shoot this bull elk, from close range, with my 300mm prime lens.  So, I quickly had to change my plans and shoot its antlers only.

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Banff, the day after Canada Day, was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long.  Just wanted to capture this shot of Bow River.

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The Vermilion Lakes Drive had been closed due to aggressive bears in the area, but had just re-opened on this day.  It’s always a special spot to spend some time.  There were numerous kayakers out that day and I remember telling Tom that we had to bring ours next time.

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Mount Rundle looming in the background, with the complimentary wispy clouds … so beautiful!

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It was quite a warm afternoon that day, so we took off our hiking shoes and dipped out feet and legs into the cool water of the lake.  We laid down on the dock for a bit, soaking up the sunshine, the sights and sounds of the area, and the fresh air.  Yes, this is the life and I could easily get used to it.  🙂

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Who wants to venture off now to Waterton Lakes National Park???  I do, I did, and so will you on the next blog post!  Stay tuned ….

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© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com