The Birds, Wildlife, & Stars of the Mesa

One of our favorite places to go not too far from our home base is the grand Mesa Wilderness.  It’s only about 1/2 hr to the exit off I-70, then about another 1/2 hr all of the way to the top.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of fun stuff from the canyon floor to the Mesa vista to see … to the contrary, there are subjects to see all along the way.  On this couple of days in late spring, I thought I would share some fun images.

I was speaking to someone today about birds that you see in one locale (i.e. state) that you don’t in another … such birds are what I call “ho hum” birds … the ones that are quite plentiful.  See, when i lived in south Florida, I loved to see white-crowned sparrows, since I didn’t see them all of the time … or hardly there at all.  Here we see them pretty much all over … and in all stages.

500_4923Then there’s the pine siskin … a never seen (usually) bird in south Florida, but another uite common bird in the western Colorado geography.  I have been having a great time photographing them.500_4733500_4749The western kingbird is a beautiful flycatcher, which is common here and known to winter in south Florida … that doesn’t mean that I’ve photographed one there … for I wasn’t known for my knowledge of “non-raptor” birds.  LOL850_4386Some birds which migrate through Florida during migration, actually spend their summers here in Colorado … such as the beautiful yellow warbler.  500_4840During the summer, they nest here and that’s when my skills as a bird ID’er really get challenged … fledglings are seemingly everywhere.500_4770I absolutely love the yellow-dumped or Audubon’s warblers.  They have the most striking combination of black, gray, and white, with a sprinkling of beautiful yellow as well (this is the male).

500_5064Speaking of beautiful … the lazuli bunting summers here as well and it’s quite a thrill for me to see it when I’m out and about.  I was fortunate even to get a few who visited my back yard feeder.500_5354Singing birds are such fun to encounter as well.500_5506Not only do we have western kingbirds, but we also have eastern kingbirds (OK, truth be told I THINK that this is an image of one … but even if it isn’t, we do have them).850_4167Of course, my favorite of all types of birds are the ones in the raptor heading.  All kinds of raptors … from hawks to owls to eagles to falcons and everything in between.  Prairie falcons are quite fascinating raptors in the falcon family.  We never had them in Florida, so I’ve learned a lot about them lately.  It nests on cliffs and can often be found there or searching for prey on the prairies.850_4268850_4319The most common raptor we have is the red-tailed hawk.  Contrary to belief not all red-tailed hawks actually have red tails, but you can be pretty sure if you see a red tail, that’s what it is.  Other clues are things like belly bands and patterns on the back of the birds when perched.850_4096Wait a minute … now that’s not a raptor or even a bird.  Actually when up on the Mesa, Tom enjoys flying his RC glider sailplanes.  LOL.  It’s always fun to hear people talking about it when they see it flying about.850_4345Of course, the Mesa is not only birds.  In fact, there are lots of wildlife species up there too.  There are smaller animals such as the squirrels and the chipmunks … which have been quite habituated.850_4352500_4055850_4356850_4370Several times we’ve also encountered some nice healthy-looking coyote.  It always amazing me how they freeze their action when spotted until they assess that you’re not a threat … at which time they go about their normal day and hunting.850_4157Then there are yellow-bellied marmot and in the late spring, there are lots of them.  Both adults and their young can be found scurrying about.  Of course, the interactions of the young are simply fabulous to observe.  Sometimes their play fighting takes on quite the realistic look.  LOL500_5587-EditLike pika, young marmot gather up grasses and run their payload into the cracks and crevices of the rock piles they live in.500_5836-EditThen there’s the nighttime skies over the Grand Mesa.  Trust me, it gets pretty dark up there and it’s fabulous to take in some astro photography up there.  If not, you can still enjoy the millions of stars and the Milky Way as it rises over the night sky.  The perfect way to end the day … or I should say night … on the Mesa.850_4473-EditNext Up:  A favorite Colorado pastime in the autumn

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

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365 Days & Counting

Well, I can’t believe it, but 5 days ago marked my 1st complete year in Colorado!  Man, time sure has flown by … guess that means I have been having fun, right?  🙂  I wanted to use this post as a reflection of my life so far in CO … what I have learned, what I miss, what is new, and pretty much what hasn’t changed much.  So let me get started.IMG_4281-2

I don’t want to frighten anyone by sharing how long it was that I lived it FL … but let’s just say that it’s been since I was 3.  Deciding to make the BIG move to Colorado was quite the adventure, as many of you can relate to.  For me, it was Tom and I, along with my mom and her husband … so the challenges were many.  Oh, and how could I forget my “live outside” cat … just getting over the plane trip was enough to fill most people’s quota of adventure.  LOL

For those of you who don’t know me personally, we decided to move to the small rural mountain biking town of Fruita, CO.  So I started out with the culture shock of moving from a large metropolis (Hollywood, (south) FL – population of ~ 150,00) to the rural community (Fruita – population of <13,000).  While we do have gas stations, grocery store, downtown shops, and even a hospital … most of our services are obtained about 15 miles away in the “big” town of Grand Junction, CO (population of ~ 62,000).  It took me 10 days before I heard a horn honk … and even then it was someone waving as they drove by to their neighbor.  LOL.  After about a week or 2 of being in Fruita, we had business to take care of in GJ and I told Tom I needed to get out of town, because it was too crowded.  Funny how quickly perspectives change.IMG_5713

Early on I learned that the year did in fact include seasons … and the colors changed and leaves were lost and snow may or may not fall.

I learned the sounds of farm animals, which I now call “neighbors”.  Changes of season were a welcome change for the better.  I learned that flights around the country often involved 4 hour drives to either Denver or Salt Lake City … both beautiful places so it could be worse.850_1084

I also learned just how precious water is … for it was something plentiful in south FL and I realized that my appreciation for it will now be forever changed.  IMG_4434-3

I learned that while I didn’t have to worry about hurricanes as much ….IMG_4808

…. I did have to pay close attention to wildfires.IMG_7896

One of the reasons why we wanted to move out west was the abundance of wildlife living there.  In Colorado, we have been treated to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, badgers, marmot, and pika as real treats … and also for birds, I was treated often to golden eagles, greater sage grouse, and Northern pygmy owls.850_6326-Edit-Edit-4DSC_8358-Edit-Edit500_1718

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Landscapes of mountains scenes are abundant and I have taken full advantage of indulging in them.

Some things never change and I find that I still get to photograph coyote, deer, fox, bald eagles, great horned owls, and screech owls (albeit western versus eastern species).

DSC_8740-2DSC_7876500_9375-Edit-Edit-4500_1291500_4553-4_DSC9055The above image showed a pair of eastern screech owls that called our neighborhood home and used our back yard to raised its young.  The image below is just one of the many western screech owls which call Grand Junction/Fruita home.  Actually, GJ/Fruita have the highest number of WESO in the country!  At least, on bird count days.  Yes, we take them quite serious here.DSC_2554-Edit

All of those subjects, whether species that are now new to me having in my home state, or those that I still have available to me, make me quite excited to be here.

I would be lying though if I said that there weren’t things that I do miss out here though.  No, it’s not really the beach, though sunrises on the ocean do pull at my heartstrings a bit._DSC1375-2

When I peruse the photographs of my friends still in Florida, I find myself myself missing things such as the grace of swallow-tailed kites …DSC_5426

… the beauty of the roseate spoonbills …20150501-DSC_9839

… even the red-shouldered hawks.  OK, I know I have red-tailed hawks galore, as well as other species, but it’s funny how your mind goes to things that you don’t have.  LOL._DSC2671-4

Such as the crested caracara ….

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Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower – Kenansville, FL

… barred owls …._DSC2711

and alligators and crocodiles._DSC7989-4

Don’t even get me going with the burrowing owls and the sandhill cranes.  OK, most of you know that Colorado does have those birds, but it’s quite a bit different.  Let me explain … CO burrowing owls are quite timid and much less animated and social than our Florida ones.  Also while they are tons of sandhill cranes that migrate through here in the winter, finding them breeding and nesting here is so much more complicated.  How I long for shots like these ….

So, as they say …. sometimes you tend to want what you don’t have.  I don’t necessarily agree with that, for there are so many things that I really appreciate about being in CO.  There are just those few things that I wish I could see again, but I guess that’s what visiting home is all about.  😉  Least I forget, I do miss tremendously the family and friends that we left behind.  If anyone heads out to CO, please be sure to let us know.  🙂IMG_5455IMG_6696

I’ll leave everyone with another benefit of CO life … dark night skies, offering up gorgeous starry night skies like this …850_4473-Edit-4

Hope that everyone enjoyed this look back at 365 days of living as a Colorado resident.  I’m proud to be here.  🙂  Lastly, I want to thank Tom, my husband, for his support in this move and for all of his hard work in making the transition as smooth as possible.  ❤IMG_6689

Next up:  Local sights and sounds

© 2017 & 2018 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

 

Exploring The Carson Valley Area

I had never visited the Carson Valley area before, well except for the hot air balloon that we took several years back over the Lake Tahoe area.  But I don’t think that really counted.  When I had the opportunity to do so in early 2018, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew that it would be an adventure.  One thing that I didn’t expect was the scant amount of snow on the ground.  I guess everything has its cycles.  However, the scenery was beautiful … so vast and open.

_DSC4553-EditWhile the landscapes were endless and varied, it was the wildlife that I primarily focused on.  Came across this beautiful buck foraging on the winter’s landscape … minus the snow and all.  😉DSC_0831Like I said, the landscapes were amazing and quite different than I expected.  Of course, our weather was quite threatening and the images projected that moodiness.  Looking across Washoe Lake was incredibly beautiful and the sounds of nature were all around us._DSC4568-Edit-Edit-2Found this Cooper’s hawk in the bare trees, right next to where I set up for that above image.  It cooperated for a bit, then had enough, and flew across the lake.DSC_0902Raptors were seemingly everywhere!  In the beginning we seemed to be scouting out the ever-present red-tailed hawks.  Their ID is generally quite obvious and they were hunting the fields.DSC_1520Then swooped in my favorite non-owl raptor … the northern harrier … not just any northern harrier, but the male, aka the “gray ghost”.  I don’t know what it is, but I find them so fascinating!DSC_1530While the adult male is gray in color, the female and juveniles are more of a brown color.  Their usually ID is that white strip on their rump, topside.DSC_1749At one point, we heard a hawk giving non-ending screams as it approached closer to where we were shooting from, which incidentally was our vehicle, on a day that had easily 40 mph wind gusts relentlessly blowing my long lens around!  DSC_1572As it flew overhead, we identified it as a ferruginous hawk.  Such a gorgeous raptor as well.  🙂DSC_1639As we were headed out to a park in the area for some owls, we did a double-take on something that we spotted out in the field.  After scoping it, we realized it was a mature golden eagle and it was feeding on what appeared to be a coyote relatively fresh kill.  Golden eagles have a wingspan of about 72-96 inches!  Now that’s one big bird!!DSC_1847We also spotted this lovely coyote working the field along the river.  It kept a keen eye on us, as I’m sure that they’re not always welcomed on the farms.  Looked quite big and healthy.DSC_1443Then out of nowhere … I saw them… wild horses.  I was quite excited and began to take REALLY far away images.  We drove out more closely to them, but still a respectable distance … after all, I wanted them to not feel threatened and act naturally.  To my surprise they came closer …DSC_0949… and closer ….DSC_0934… and closer.  I just loved it!  I also loved all of the sticks, feathers, and such in this horse’s mane.  We stared at each other for a bit … I wondered what it was thinking.DSC_1223Then a younger one came up.  By now it had begun to rain slightly and the winds picked up again.  How adorable is this young one?  So free, so natural.DSC_1289It met up with one of the mature horses and nuzzled it a bit…. Right in front of us, I might add!  A few snorts and vocalizations were overheard from this close distance, as we had the car turned off the whole time.DSC_1340These two were quite interested in us and approached our car.  By now, I was a bit unsure of how they might react and Tom had his finger on the automatic window.  They were so incredibly beautiful!DSC_1246After staring at us for a bit, they turned and retreated back to where they came from.  I would imagine that they visit the lake across the street often because when we were there, we saw evidence of such.  LOL.  DSC_1368That was pretty much an overall memory of our time out there.  It’s definitely an area that I want to re-visit one day.  Loved it.  ❤

Next Up:  Back to fun times in Colorado … and meeting a new “friend”.

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

My World That Surrounds Me

In late fall/early winter, the Grand Valley area of western Colorado plays host to a variety of migrating birds.  Of course, one of my favorites are the sandhill cranes.  It’s not unusual to see groups of 1,000 or more in the early morning or pre-dusk hours, as they roost in the farmlands.  Mostly we see adults, though sometimes you get a few teenagers.

DSC_6171-Edit-2Whenever I see sandhill cranes, I’m immediately taken back to one of my first encounters of fields of them, back at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, AK.  There’s few sights or sounds as beautiful as congregating and celebrating sandhills.  Don’t even get me going as to how fabulous they are when courting.  🙂DSC_6223-Edit-Edit-2Home in Colorado now, I’ve had my share of “new” birds.  Now this doesn’t mean that these birds are “lifers” for me, but to have them share my immediate surroundings, has been a thrill.  One of them that I take great joy in viewing is the Steller’s Jay.  Such attitude it seems to possess with that fancy crested ‘do … I always stop to grab a shot or two when I see them.DSC_6503-Edit-2DSC_6516-2Often hanging out with the jays are the Clark’s Nutcrackers … also in the jay family, they’re quite social and beautiful as well.DSC_6384-2DSC_6413-2To say that I’ve seen my fair share of the Canada Goose is an understatement.  Some days it seems as though every field or body of water is filled with them.  I’ve delighted in watching and yes, hearing them as they arrive to any given lake or such.  Calling out, organizing themselves in that V-formation that they’re known for, as well as performing acrobatic maneuvers as they approach their landing … it’s all been fascinating to be part of.DSC_7463-Edit-Edit-2Now perhaps I’ve seen snow geese before, but if I did I probably didn’t realize what they were.  The snow goose has been a thrill to observe as well, though for the most part, I’ve found them to be a bit frustrating to photograph at a close proximity.  LOL.  Oh well, I’m sure that they don’t care.DSC_8480-2One day, though, they treated me to some nice captures.  Just wished that they spread themselves out a bit. DSC_8500-Edit-Edit-2I just loved the way they swam about, walked the shoreline, preened themselves, and took floating naps on the waters surface.  So very beautiful they were._DSC3771-Edit-2Not a stranger to me was the pied-billed grebes which I see regularly in Colorado as well as I did in Florida.DSC_8671-2When the white-crowned sparrow is in the area, you cannot ignore or mistake its song, movement, or sight.  Though I’ve seen them in FL occasionally, they seem to be everyday sightings here.  DSC_8694-Edit-Edit-2The Western scrub jay, which is now referred to as the Woodhouse’s scrub jay, is another bird that I’ve taken a delight to.  This particular one was taken on a very cold day, so it was a bit fluffed up, resembling more of a mountain bluebird!  LOLDSC_8843-Edit-2Now all of these birds already shared doesn’t mean that there aren’t any 4-legged wildlife out in the area.  How about this one?  Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful (or handsome) coyotes I had ever seen.  ❤DSC_8740-2One last look back at me before it trotted off into the wilderness.  Loved it!DSC_8745-2Cousins to the bighorn sheep, only a smaller version, the desert bighorn sheep are always a fun way to spend a day.  By now, the females have most likely dropped their young, so this shot reminds me that I need to return to the scene to check things out again.DSC_9072-2Of course this area is home to many herds of mule deer.  This particular guy had one of the most fascinating, though quite odd, set of antlers.  Has anyone ever seen anything like that before?  I mean, within the mule deer?DSC_6298-2About an hour or so east of Fruita is the town of Rifle, CO, home to Rifle Falls State Park.  Rifle Falls is a triple waterfall amidst the natural stone formations found in the area.  So unique and quite a thrill to photograph when the frost forms on the accompanying rocks and vegetation._DSC3697-2_DSC3699-2So, I hope that you enjoyed a peek into the beauty that surrounds me in western Colorado.  As I now enter a 3rd season here, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  🙂

Next Up:  The San Juan Mountains

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Nothing Like Springtime In Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, is mainly situated in Wyoming, but also extends minimally into Montana and Idaho.  While I’ve visited Yellowstone many times in the winter, summer, or fall … I had never been there during the spring season.  Earlier this year, with the company of our good friends Jen and Travis, we decided to do just that.  I have always said that I feel Yellowstone is one of the most diverse of the national parks of the US.  I’ve often referred to it as the “Disneyland” of parks … with lakes, canyons, thermal grounds, hot springs, geysers, valleys, and of course, many species of wildlife.

In the spring, there are less crowds, milder temperatures, emerging grasslands, and wildlife, including the US National Mammal … the American Bison._DSC9334-2

During my winter visit to Yellowstone, I had almost no chance of finding a bear, for they were hibernating in their dens at that time.  So, being the bear fanatic that I am, they were high on my list to find and photograph.  It wasn’t long before we found them too.  However, these were mostly black bears for us on this trip.  This big one seemed to be enjoying its lunch of greens.  🙂DSC_2556Whether black bears or brown bears, the sighting and photograph is always so much more special when eye contact is made.DSC_2534Visiting in the springtime does have its unique advantages including getting to see the spring babies.  Believe it or not, but this was the first time that I had photographed the young “red dogs”.  They were just too cute!DSC_2671They would take advantage every time that they could find their mama standing still to nurse on them, all the while keeping its eye on us.  Have you ever seen a baby bison nurse?  Well, it may look all peaceful in this image, but it’s quite an ordeal.  The newbie nursing peacefully for a short time, then rams its head into its moms underside in order for the milk to come out better.  Tom would give a few sympathy pain expressions for the mom every time that the young ones punched.  LOLDSC_2618-2They call them red dogs due to the coloration they possess when they’re newborn.  Clearly not the traditional bison color._DSC9510-2It was adorable how closely they stayed to moms side most of the time.  The protection of the herd is critical for their survival._DSC9532-2Once in a while they would meet up with another young one in the herd and appear to greet each other … often followed up with some running around together and a few head wrestling moments._DSC9570-2When there are bison around, there are almost always some birds hitchhiking a ride or using their backs as a landing strip.  LOL.  Never did it seem to even phase the bison._DSC9601-2Though bison are the most abundant large mammal in the park, there are also many more species, including the pronghorn antelope.DSC_2588-2I don’t think that I need to tell you how much we squealed with delight when we spotted our first baby pronghorn of the day, which coincidentally, was our first and only.  It was a bit too early for the babies and we were so ecstatic that this momma had hers a bit earlier.  It was by far just the cutest thing ever … such a sweet adorable face, wobbly legs, and it could race around impressingly fast.DSC_2714The bighorn sheep ewes were also spotted on our first day.  OK, so they weren’t the most photogenic subjects I’ve ever shot, with their scruffy spring coat, but hey, we found them grazing on the hillside and they were posing, so why not?  DSC_2695-2OK, so back to some more black bears … this momma sow was spotted near the base of a tree, not far from us.  We wondered what was going on because she seemed so alert to her surroundings.DSC_2794Then we spotted her cub … way up at the top of a very tall tree.  I wish I took an image to show just how high up it was.  To me, it looked like one of those “witches broom” deformities in the tree, but alas, it was this adorable cub.DSC_2910The story went that there was a boar (or two) cruising around the area where the sow and her cub were grazing, so she sent her cub up.  At one point, we could see the boar in two different places, but couldn’t be sure if it was the same one.  I couldn’t believe the patience of the sow and cub and how skilled it was to remain there safely.  That’s about when it climbed up to literally the tip top….DSC_2968We readied our gear, knowing that it went up of course to come down.  Nope, that cub curled itself over the point of the tree top and remained for quite some more time.  This was all during some rainfall and windy conditions.  I was nervous for the little one, yet couldn’t look away.  After mom gave it the “all’s clear” call, it began its descent.DSC_2995It skillfully hung on to the tree circumference as it went down … slow and steady.DSC_3065Along the way, it would savor some insects for some extra nourishment, maybe even lick a few raindrops perhaps.DSC_3071Every so often a break was taken on a convenient branch.  The sow below was getting quite impatient and as it got within her “standing on her hind legs” grapse, she tugged on it and made the arrival on the ground and by her side a quicker one.  Such an adorable experience to witness.  Those bears have amazing instincts for survival.  A boar in the area would most likely try to mate with her and kill the cub in the process.  They were both safe and it was a great morning for sure.DSC_3084When we were visiting Yellowstone earlier this winter, we had so many coyote sightings (including one with them mating).  I was quite surprised that we didn’t see as many on this spring visit.  We did however have one at a very close range that was rolling around … and around … and around paying absolutely no attention to us as we photographed.
_DSC9436-2As I said, this coyote knew that we were there, but was preoccupied in what it was doing.  When it left the area, we walked over to figure out what it was rolling in and saw nothing.  Must have been simply marking its territory.  Such a cool experience._DSC9403Remember, I’m no expert birder, so when I saw this guy, I took images and asked for identification later.  We knew that it was a woodpecker by its behavior of incessant pecking, but didn’t know the species.  It turned out to be, as many of you might already know, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.  They lack the inner hind toe on each foot and breed further north than any other American woodpecker.  How fun to see._DSC9606-2While photographing the woodpecker who visited with us, we stumbled upon another visitor.  A gorgeous bull elk arrived and grazed on the hillside right next to us.  He already started growing its antlers, which were all covered in velvet.  He still was in the process of shedding his winter coat as well, so he looked a bit scruffy too._DSC9697-2_DSC9668-2Just before we exited the park on that day, we came across our first elk babies of the trip.  they were a bit higher than us on the hillside, so a great shot would have to wait for another day, but it was adorable to see them kiss nose to nose in a tender moment.  Got to love those spots too.  🙂DSC_3446

So our trip to Yellowstone NP in the spring was off to a great start.  Before I end this post, I wanted to share with everyone what I didn’t expect in May in Yellowstone … the weather that we were treated to.  We had weather that wasn’t that much different than our winter visit … rain, hail, sleet, clouds, and snow!  Hayden Valley couldn’t be accessed on several days because Dunraven Pass was closed due to snow and icy conditions.  (Note:  Please pardon these through the windshield images, but I wanted to share the wather shots)IMG_1085Of course, all we had to do was turn a corner and we had sunshine and blue skies as well.  Got to love the variety of weather conditions that we had.  🙂IMG_1086

Next up:  More from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

I Need My Photography Fix!

After spending several days skiing, while Tom, Kelli & Mitchell snowboarded, I decided that I wanted to have a break.  I dropped them off at Powder Mountain near Ogden and started my way to Antelope Island State Park.  I had been there last winter and it was so beautiful all covered in snow, with the waters frozen as well.  Of course, that wasn’t the case this year, for the winter had been such a mild one … no snow at all … limited ice … warm … I couldn’t believe it!

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Unsure as to what I was going to see, I began to tour the island and look for wildlife.  Usually, one doesn’t go far before bison, mule deer, coyote, etc are spotted.  But what in the world was this?  I had no clue, but learned about it along the way.

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It was a chukar partridge, which is in the pheasant family.  Not native to the area or anywhere in US, it was imported here as a game bird … makes sense.  Come to find out that its actually an Eurasian bird, and the national bird of both Pakistan and Iraq!  Well, I guess you learn something new everyday (at least I do – LOL).

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This guy was so beautiful with such remarkable markings in its feathers.  It would sit up on one of the large rocks on the landscape and watch … and call out … and observe some more.  I was being very careful as to not disturb it and to my surprise it just let me photograph it.  He apparently was communicating, in a sentinel fashion, with the rest of his colony, though I never saw them.

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Further up the road, I encountered several coyotes as they searched for a quick bite to eat.  It was amazing to me that in the brown past-winter landscape, how difficult it was to spot from afar.  Thank goodness I had my binocs with me.  🙂

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Being that he was very intent on hunting, thus probably very hungry, I didn’t shoot long.

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Ended up down by the ranch, where a lone pronghorn antelope was making its way.  Wonder why he was there all alone like that?  Seemed like out on the flats like that, all alone, he/she would be an easy target.  Looked for the great horned owls … found their nest, but didn’t see either of them this year.  All in all, it was a beautiful day, but a bit slow for wildlife.

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So, as I made my way back to exit the park, I bid my new Chukar friend, adieu.  He was still hanging out and playing the role of “the watchman”.  Doing a fine job at it as well too.

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This shot from the Visitor Center area gives you some perspective of the landscape both there as well as SLC area across the way.  So very beautiful!

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The next day, we had one more day of snowboarding/skiing before we had to say goodbye to Kelli & Mitchell.  Gosh, it’s so pretty out this way in the winter.

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Next up:  “Hoooo” wants to see more owls?

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Sights & Sounds of Yellowstone NP

One can’t visit Yellowstone NP and get an appreciation of what it has to offer in just one day … not even in the winter when most of the roads are inaccessible.  Even though we were a bit short on time, we spent 3 full days there.

Now wildlife abounds in Yellowstone and one of the more famous resident species is the elk.  Many sightings of elk were encountered, both the females and the males.  Of course, at this point, they had all dropped their antlers, but still had most of their nice winter coats.

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You had to be careful of them too, as they sometimes crossed the roads with very little warning.  Of course, when there’s one, there’s usually more, so the key is to proceed with caution.

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Entering the park via the Gardiner entrance, the first area of Yellowstone that you come across is the fascinating Mammoth Hot Springs area – the first of many thermal grounds within Yellowstone.

20150312-DSC_6091Viewing the thermal features of the park, it’s easy to forget it’s not all hot springs and geysers and that this was still winter.  Icicle formations hanging over the rivers were equally impressive this time of year.  Snap back into reality.

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Proving that yesterday’s bighorn sheep encounter wasn’t just a fluke, we ran into them again… over and over.  🙂

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I’m always fascinated with wildlife when I get to photograph them from their viewpoint, like in this image below.  What an amazing place that they currently call their home.  I couldn’t help but wonder what this big guy was thinking too.

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OK, you know how your pets love to bask in the sunshine?  Well, these sheep are obviously no different.  LOL

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Another first for us, though admittedly not an great shot, was not just one, but two juvenile moose – hanging out together in the vast expanse of Lamar Valley.

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One of the most difficult wildlife encounters I’ve ever dealt with was the story of a bison who had unfortunately fallen through the ice into a pond not far from the road.  We watched it struggling in a life or death fashion to try to free itself by climbing out of the partially frozen pond.  We could hear it gasping for breathe with each attempt … so did the predators out there as well.

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This curious coyote arrived on scene to check it out.  At one point it sat down, waiting for an easy meal, but soon must have sensed the time wasn’t right yet and retreated.

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I photographed that poor bison for hours, praying beyond hope that it would emerge victorious.  Tom sensed my sadness and though he was stronger, I’m sure he felt sad as well.  He didn’t want to go back the next morning (poor guy didn’t want to deal with me upset yet another day), but I had to have closure.  Again I prayed that it would be successfully freed.  Worst yet, I feared that it might be still struggling.  Sadly, it had perished during the night and a coyote was doing its best to begin to feast upon it.  Such is nature’s way and the circle of life.  It’s a tough life out there for wildlife … for that matter for all of us.  It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever witnessed and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.

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After that, I look at the bison differently … I know that sounds weird, but I do.

We encountered some younger bison learning how to jostle each other.  It’s all fun and games now, but one day it will be more about that status and superiority.

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These bison learn from a young age how to alleviate the many insect pests that congregate near their faces and in their fur.  A swift roll about on the dusty landscape is just what this bison’s doctor ordered.  LOL

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We did see wolf, but the sightings were mostly from afar.  The howling of the wolves was prevalent quite often and two of the packs intermingled at one point and were a cause for concern amongst the wolf-watchers.

Coyote sightings, a lone coyote each time, were pretty common as well and always entertaining as they scrounged around looking for a quick and easy meal.

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We were very fortunate that our days in the park, though a bit chilly, were quite sunny and beautiful.  The eastern entrance of the park, towards Cooke City was quite snowy also, so it did intermittently remind you that it was winter.

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Our last wildlife sighting while in Yellowstone was on our last evening.  To our surprise, a bull elk was grazing all by itself under the canopy of the trees.  Even more surprising was that it still had its antlers … and a fine rack at that.   Go figure.  With that sun setting and that gorgeous golden light being cast upon the landscape as it did, it was the perfect way to end our day … as well as our winter Yellowstone NP trip.

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Well, until next visit to Yellowstone we said our goodbyes.  Who knows what the next visit will bring ???  Now, off for some snowboarding and skiing!

Next up:  Antelope Island State Park

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography