A New Year For The Burrowing Owls

Most everybody who knows me, is keenly aware that bears of all species are my favorite thing to photograph and spend time with.  Bears though, while not impossible to find in Florida, are not everyday subjects.  Lucky for me, owls are my next favorite subject and in Florida we’re fortunate to have several different species including the eastern screech,  great horned, barred, barn, and one of my personal favorites … the burrowing owl.  As in years past, I have been spending a lot of time with them, so if you like them like I do, get ready for several blog posts featuring these entertaining, expressive creatures.  🙂DSC_5965-EditIn Florida, the mating season begins sometime around February.  While full time residents of Florida, the fun with them usually begins at that time … and when their owlets first emerge from the safety of the burrow at about 2 weeks of age.  For the purpose of this first blog, these images are all adult owls, mostly just prior to mating for the season.  DSC_6332The burrowing owl is one of the smallest owls in Florida, standing about 9 inches tall with a wingspan of about 21 inches.  They lack ear tufts that some owls possess and as their name suggests, they live in established burrows in the ground.  Those burrows can be quite intricate too … with burrow tunnels reaching lengths of several feet.  They normally have bright yellow eyes, though in Florida it’s not unusual to have dark brown, light brown, or even olive green eyes.  As you can see in the image below, this couple illustrates the varied eye color.DSC_5858Their scientific name, Athene cunicularia, translates to mean “little digger” and it’s easy to see why … they are effective diggers and are often seen digging out the sand in the burrows.  Often the owls become unknown recipients of all of that sand and dirt.  LOLDSC_6184Burrowing owls in Florida are listed as a State Threatened species by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, thus are under much protection.  Therefore “taking, possessing, or selling burrowing owls, their nests (i.e., burrows), or eggs is prohibited without a permit (68A-27 F.A.C.)”.  Burrowing owls, eggs, and young are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Usually in the winter, they begin to pair up at various burrows.  Sometimes I know that it’s the same owls at the same burrow … sometimes a new partner will show up … sometimes it’s an entirely new couple.DSC_2858Either way, the behavior is the same.  Burrowing owls keep keen eyes on the skies above for potential predators or threats.  It’s amazing to me how they can perceive things long before I ever get the tiniest glimpse.DSC_2845The couples are actually quite affectionate together and offer food to one another …DSC_2884… and often nuzzle together as they pass the time together. DSC_2897Solitary and mutual grooming is part of the ritual too.  🙂DSC_2895Then there’s more of what seems to be an endless chore of housekeeping, and all of that flying dirt.  LOLDSC_2939I hope that you enjoyed the blog and will be back soon when the blog carries on with images and stories of the real stars … the new installment of this years baby owlets … with their downy fur, “hair plugs”, and clumsy ways.  They are the perfect way for me to pass the day … and they’re never short on expressions, attitudes, and fun!DSC_2955

Next Up:  My next favorite subject …. hmmm … what could it be?  Check in to find out!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Mountains, Wildlife, & Wilderness … Who Could Ask For More?

Back in February, after our visit at Yellowstone NP in its most beautiful season for visitors, we eventually made our way to Grand Teton NP.  We stayed in Jackson Hole, WY, which in the winter is primarily filled with snow skiers and snowboarders, but for us, we were armed with camera gear and snowshoes.  Travel within the Tetons is a bit more accessible than Yellowstone in the winter.  When we first arrived, it was quite beautiful, with no place offering a nicer view of the mountain range than from Oxbow Bend._DSC7187The roads were still being plowed from a recent snowfall, which was expected.IMG_0612What we didn’t expect was the strong winds blowing the snow all over the place, making driving interesting and photography quite a challenge.IMG_0605Before long, we spotted a lone coyote making its way across the deep snow drifts.  It was fun to photograph it, and its shadow, as it ran.  It paid us no attention._DSC7234Warnings were out in force to “Slow Down!  Wildlife on Road”.  Loved that sign, which actually reminded me of a previous trip when we would see “share the road” signs, with images of vehicles, bicycles, snowmobiles, and animals.  Yes, we’re no longer in the metropolis known as South Florida.  🙂IMG_0614Along side of the river, Tom spotted this huge moose, by lower 48 standards anyways._DSC4187We did a quick turnaround and found that there were actually 3 moose present foraging near the rivers edge … a male across the river, along with a cow and her young._DSC7313We watched them for quite some time and for the most part, they totally ignored us.  They never seemed to interact with the male, however, they always stayed in the same general area.  _DSC7338Oops, looks like we’ve been spotted.  Mama’s not so sure, but junior doesn’t seem to mind.  In no time, they settled in._DSC7377_DSC7394_DSC7408What a fun encounter that was with the moose family and they really made it even nicer being along that river.

Before too long we came across some footprints in the snow … which we followed through our binoculars until we came across the culprit … this adorable sleeping red fox.  I must admit that Tom is a pretty good spotter with those binoculars.  🙂_DSC4310Towards the later afternoon, we thought that we would try our luck again with the mountain goats that were hanging out not too far away.  We also met up with some friends that were going to be in the Tetons pretty much the same time as us.  Sure enough, the goats, this time without all of the “jewelry” were out and about.  _DSC4517This time they were cooperating nicely too … climbing up on the rocky outcroppings and posing for some nice photographs._DSC4477Look at this amazing close up!  I was so excited when it reached the top of the mountain and positioned itself against the blue of the sky above.  What a beautiful creature.  Can’t believe that after I was skunked out of seeing them on Mt. Evans (the road was closed when we visited last summer), I finally got to see them!_DSC4357The King of the Mountain shot … after which many photographers left.  This was the moment they were waiting for, for hours!  Glad that our wait time was much shorter.  As they say … timing is everything!_DSC7773No trip to the Tetons is every complete without a red fox sighting.  This winter’s visit didn’t disappoint._DSC7942There’s something so striking about finding a beautiful red fox in the midst of a snow covered landscape.  So isolated … so open … so focused on the task at hand.  That is, until they spot the camera.  Usually the interruption is brief and they carry on with the hunt momentarily.  _DSC8081Same is true of the coyotes, which are relatively easy to spot as they roam the vast wilderness of white._DSC7927As if the wildlife opportunities aren’t enough, how about some stunning landscapes featuring those iconic mountains?  When I think of mountain ranges, my mind definitely thinks of the Tetons.  Such a magnificent place any time of year and the winter season is no exception._DSC7199 Yes, it’s safe to say that we could get used to life in this neck of the woods.  Sunshine, blue sky, wilderness, wildlife opportunities, mountains, and just about everything else that you could ask for.  Yep, I’ll take it.  🙂IMG_0625

Next Up:  More from the Tetons …

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Winter Road Much Traveled

When visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter, most of the roads are closed to vehicular traffic.  Therefore, to transition between Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP, we drove a familiar route through portions of Idaho.  It’s always full of adventure and photographic opportunities.

Trumpeter swans seemed to be just about everywhere.  Always appearing so elegant as they foraged in the waters, sometimes as a couple … sometimes solo._DSC6719In the midst of the silence of the winter, a Barrow’s Goldeneye flies by overhead._DSC6642Some of the wildlife subjects were happy to cooperate with my photo shoots, but not all, as evidenced by this young mule deer.  LOL_DSC6816Driving along the highway at about 75 mph (OK, I hope that we weren’t speeding), I happened to spot this great horned owl in a leafless tree along the road.  I had Tom double back and to my surprise, it was still there and cooperated for an image or two._DSC6819As fun as it was to see the great horned owl, we have those in Florida.  It had always been my dream to get a saw whet owl, so we went off in search of one, with the help of a great friend.  We searched for quite some time and I thought it wasn’t going to happen.  All of a sudden, I got word that she had found it.  There it was … just the cutest thing ever … well, it would have been without that darn branch in front of it.  No worries, it was my first and I’ll take it._DSC6945Look at those adorable eyes … so mesmerizing and captivating.  I could have stayed in its presence forever, but alas, we had to get on our way.  As I said, it was my first, but I certainly hope not my last._DSC6977-2The next morning, we tried to venture out to have more bird encounters, but Mother Nature had other ideas.  When we arrived to the wildlife refuge, we could see signs of wildlife being present ….IMG_0561… but in reality, we really couldn’t see ANYTHING around us.  I’m talking total whiteout situation, wind blowing and all.  Oh well, I guess it wasn’t mean to be.  Before Tom would risk driving off the dirt road berms, I thought it best to save the drive for another time.IMG_0559Now, for those of you who read the blog from Mt. Evans last summer, you might remember how bummed I was when we arrived and found the summit road to Mt. Evans closed for repairs.  Tom heroically rode his mountain bike up to the top and got some shots of the mountain goats for me … but I wanted MY OWN!!!

Well, my turn came when we spotted some on the mountainside, in the snow, a bit outside of the Tetons.  I was thrilled to see them, though they were adorned with collars and tags (i.e. ear jewelry).  Again, I was simply excited to see and photograph them, so I just blocked out those annoying features on them._DSC7105_DSC7170The young ones of course didn’t have the tagging on them, so they were fun to catch images of, as they made their way in the snow while following their moms._DSC7159_DSC6986Though they were a bit shaggy, they were still fabulous.  I hoped at this time that we would see them again on our way back out over the pass.  Fingers crossed anyways.  🙂_DSC7063Yes, we had a great time, not only photographing the wildlife of the area.  We also found a great new sushi restaurant … YUM!!!
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Next Up:  Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

© 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

I Didn’t Forget About Denali NP (Who Could?)

How do you know when you’re going to have a great time in Denali National Park?  Of course … when your first image goes something like this … how can you miss!  Denali is always an amazing place, but when you combine the beauty of the Denali wildlife & wilderness with the arrival of the fall colors and add a dash of sensing the beginning of the moose rut, this is what you get.

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Of course, on our first day in Denali NP, we were also greeted by the feeling of the arrival of winter as well!

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Now some visitors might have been quite bummed to have this greeting waiting for them, but when you reside in the heat and humidity, you tend to be quite excited!  SNOW! … and lots of it!  (Thanks to Rebecca Tifft for snapping this image of Tom & I for us)

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Denali NP is unique in that one can only explore the first 15 miles in their own vehicle.  After reaching Savage River, one can only travel to the interior of the park on a bus … whether it be an interpretive one or simply a shuttle bus.  But that doesn’t mean that awesome views and wildlife can’t be found in those first 15 miles.  The clouds in the skies provided for amazing landscapes.

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Shortly after Savage River, one starts to look for caribou, amongst other wildlife.  In the late summer/early fall, the bulls may still have their velvet covered antlers or the velvet may have already been shed, leaving their antlers to be quite bloody looking.

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Bears are also quite often seen right outside your shuttle window.  This particular one was walking along the braided river and eventually entered the river to cross it.  Funny … if you look closely, it seems as those this one has white nails.  Apparently, they can have a variety of claw colors, though I found this one quite unusual.  LOL

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Sometimes, they are quite far away.  However, the sight of observing this sow and her 2 cubs, as they travelled across the snow covered landscape was pleasing to me.  Gives the viewer a sense of the vastness of the land … as well as the harshness of the winter-like conditions that they and the other wildlife endure.

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It wasn’t our first snowfall experienced in Denali, in fact once we had snowfall in July!  You just can’t predict the weather in Alaska … especially in Denali.  What you can predict is that you’ll be treated to some of the best wildlife viewing in the US.  When you get to see the animals in the midst of the snow-covered landscape, you’ll also know that you hit the jackpot!

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The landscape itself looks so dramatically different in the snow too, whether dusted with a thin cover of snow or dumped upon, it’s all quite breathtaking.

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The iconic view from Stony Hill Overlook is quite different in the snow, but still remarkable.  Now that I think about though … it’s always different no matter what time you visit.  Sometimes you get full mountain (Mt McKinley, aka Denali), which we did on several days while we were there, sometimes you get no view at all, and sometimes you get this partial view.

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And the viewing of Denali constantly changes throughout the day, so you can never give up on trying your luck (except of course when it’s dumping snow relentlessly, as it was on our first evening in the park).  🙂

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Unique images of the wildlife, desperate to continue to get their fill of nutrition before this unanticipated snow storm becomes an expected daily event, make for amazing photo opportunities.

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Photo ops … it’s not just for the bears … as this adorable red fox entertains us with its own “vogue” looks as well.

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In the early evening, the snow cover from the night before had already began to melt, thanks to the clear skies which usually follow the snow’s nasty skies.  More bull caribou are encountered dining on the autumn-kissed tundra.  Below is actually a great example of how the bulls might have their velvet (on left), or may have previously shed their velvet already (on right).  Like most things in nature, everything progresses at its own pace.  The females which are pregnant later in the season will keep her antlers, while the other females as well as the bulls, will eventually shed them after the mating season.

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The moose rut usually takes place later in September or early October, so lots of bull moose begin to arrive near the front of the park (i.e. those first 15 miles) about this time and begin to jockey for superiority and the sweetest females.  🙂

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Often at this time the females will hang out with other females.  Sometimes they are followed closely by a bull that might be in pursuit.  The bulls are quite patient and wait until the time is right.

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Of course, the sunsets of Denali NP are also a sought after image, though I find myself torn between pursuing wildlife images OR the landscapes … Decisions, Decisions, Decisions … and a nice “problem” to have.  Wouldn’t you agree?

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Stay tuned:  More to come from Denali NP and its grandeur.  I promise, I won’t make anyone wait that long either.  🙂

© 2014  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Third Time’s A Charm – Yellowstone NP

NOTE:  This blog was written in conjunction with my winter Yellowstone NP trip.  It was Part 3 of 4 total blog posts.  Recently, I happened to notice that it never was actually published.  Since I’m currently in the middle of an important work week, I thought it would be a good time to share it.  Hope that you enjoy.  🙂

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As we entered our 3rd day in Yellowstone NP, we were treated to lots of steamy landscapes and a light magical dusting of snow, all with full bluebird skies.

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Whether it was the backlit trumpeter swans floating on the river or the sparkling bokeh serving as the perfect background for icicle-laden pine needles, it was absolutely amazing.

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On this morning, we not only photographed mature mated pairs of trumpeter swans, but also were fortunate enough to get shots of sub-adult swans as well.  It was quite interesting to see how their appearance transforms as they mature.

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On our way south in the park, we stopped at Norris Geyser Basin to take in some of the sights.  I must say that this area was absolutely stunning in the winter time, as the thermal grounds combined with the cold air made for some fascinating atmosphere.

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Again, it was amazing weather … which made for stunning images and an enhanced experience for the observer.

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We were treated to an awesome, though fairly distant, sighting of a red fox.  At first we thought it was a coyote, but I was pleasantly surprised.  We photographed it as it hunted on the open expanse of snow.  OK, I do believe that I might have squealed with delight with its antics … sit …leap straight up … dive head first … whip the hind legs over its head … land its hind legs … and pull out its head from the snow, hopefully with a tasty morsel.  A bit different than your typical coyote mousing scenario and probably more entertaining.

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Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Snow and ice covered bison were also seen, as they traveled the bare landscape in search of food.

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Finally we arrived to the Yellowstone iconic location … Old Faithful Geyser Basin … home to Old Faithful.  Now I’ve been here numerous times before, including once in the winter, but I have never seen it so peaceful and believe it or not, uncrowded.  It was such a pleasure to observe the eruption, not just once, but twice.  Since we got to see it twice, we did the traditional viewing (nearest the lodge) and then from the vantage point of the opposite side of the geyser.  Both offered different views, though both were remarkable.

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The winds were really still, which was wonderful because often it’s not so still and the steam from the geyser hitting the cold air then drifts in the wind and makes viewing difficult.

Of course, hiking around in the basin was also a must-do and it was quite fulfilling as well. The landscape was crisp and refreshing and the bison were out in force, dotting the snowy landscape, as they sought the thermal grounds for warmth.

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On our way home from Old Faithful, we ran into another red fox.  This one was a bit closer, but nowhere near as active.  Gosh, they couldn’t have been cuter.  It made me wonder … “what DOES the fox say?”  LOL

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A day in Yellowstone wouldn’t feel complete without a bald eagle sighting…. and this one was sure a beauty.

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Ultimately our 3rd day was coming to an end.  Thankfully we stopped for a sunset shot, which I took advantage of.  See, sunsets are always a nemesis for me.  I really liked how this one turned out though.

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A perfect end to our day!  Only one day left … and I didn’t want it to arrive.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

All’s Clear for Everglades National Park

During the winter months, Everglades National Park becomes a mecca for bird watching and photography.  Not only that, but the weather is simply gorgeous … sunny skies, cooler temperatures, spectacular sunrises, and most importantly … a noticeable decrease in the number of mosquitoes.  So, each winter, we begin our own migration of photography trips to the Everglades.

This particular year, the water levels remained so elevated and because of that, many of the usual birding spots were affected and we saw much less activity and nesting going on.  In fact, on one trip through the Anhinga Trail boardwalk, we saw only a few great blue herons, purple gallinules, tri-colored herons, cormorants, and anhingas.  Oh, but there never was a shortage of vultures.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.

 

It was a good winter for red shouldered hawks as well.  Often, in the early morning hours, they seemed to be everywhere along the park road.  Sometimes they would even pose for the camera …

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… and sometimes they were looking quite tropical themselves.

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This year at Eco Pond, we were treated to a reddish egret … aka “the entertainer”.  I just love to watch and photograph them as they glide over the surface of the water so gracefully and preen themselves when they take a break from their fishing endeavors.

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As they run around like drunken sailors, I just find myself laughing to myself and sometimes to photography complete strangers.  LOL.  When they fish, they canopy feed to shade the surface of the water for easier pickings.  They’re quite quick too!

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After they’ve had enough, or if they get chased off, they elevate from the water’s surface and take flight … usually to simply return without being gone too long.

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The roseate spoonbills were also present in numbers, especially in the early light, but don’t stay too long.  No worries, they’ll be back later.  Of course, the black necked stilts provide endless entertainment as well.

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This year, there was a pair of avocets that hung out with them as well.

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Osprey are present in big numbers, especially in the Flamingo area.  Why not?  The canals and the bay are ready sources of food for them and they are quite efficient and skilled fishermen.  There are many nests in the area too.  Most nests are higher in trees, but there’s one nest by the marina where you can literally almost look into the nest!

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We watched this pair of osprey parents over February and March raise their two young ospreys.  It’s amazing how fast they grow up.  This particular mama osprey is quite demanding of her mate and she seems to always be calling for something … food, nesting material, a break …. whatever.

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Often, when he goes out to catch dinner, he’ll come back to the nest with it, but then will almost instantaneously depart – with the dinner!   He’ll take it to a nearby tree, post, or stump and eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of it, then return to the nest with it.  Mama will then take the remnants and tear into it and feed her babies – one at a time.  Many baby birds in a nest will fight violently for their fair share of the food, but not these osprey.  So patient, so peaceful, and yes, so adorable!

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Another big star of Flamingo are the American Crocodiles.  The Everglades are one of only a few places that they can be found in the U.S.  My favorite thing to watch is the tourists that go out in rented canoes and kayaks when they arrive back at the marina docks, only to find several crocodiles in the water right next to them.  It’s quite intimidating to them and the look on their faces can be priceless.

"My what beautiful teeth you have!"

“My what beautiful teeth you have!”

Perhaps my favorite sighting each winter and early spring is the arrival of the swallowtail kites, which to me is about as iconic of a symbol of the Everglades as there can be … well maybe except for the alligators.  Oh, that and the mandatory stop at “Roberts is Here” fruit stand for an amazing key lime (or many other flavors) milkshake.  Tom won’t let a trip go by without one.  Yum Yum!

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Hope that you enjoyed the Everglades sights as much as I did photographing them.  🙂

 

 

The Final Curtain Call – Yellowstone

Our last day in Yellowstone NP finally arrived.  I remember in the beginning, it seemed like four days would be plenty … I would have my fill of the cold … the snow coach … the photography.  What was I thinking?  Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

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Our day started with a group of elk in the middle of a side road near the river.  Before this, we had only seen small gatherings of elk.  This group seemed to have a dominant elk, which seemed to keep its eye on us.  They seemed quite inquisitive …

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… and quite entertaining …

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Before too long they bolted into the nearby brush – one at a time – as they leaped over smaller shrubs and trees.  They have a tough life ahead of them, especially in the winter and I hope that they remain safe.

Another wonderful bald eagle sighting was encountered, right on the roadside.  This mature eagle sat in the nearby tree and offered us some awesome shots.

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It too, got a bit bored with us, or tempted by something in its immediate surroundings and off it went, but not before clipping its wing on a branch, allowing a drift of snow to fall down around it as it took off to its next destination.

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Roadblocks seemed to be the theme today as we traveled throughout the park.  This time it was a herd of bison – all seemingly sunning themselves in the middle of the road.  They didn’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere fast, so we became delayed by them.

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Of course, what do you do when you’re being held up by wildlife in Yellowstone?  You get out and begin to capture it.

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

It took some time, but eventually they got up, one by one, and began to move on down the road.  We took the opportunity to bypass them.

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Late in the day, we began to make our last drive from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone.  Along the river, in awesome light, we came across another group of elk, but this time they were bulls.

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We were totally enjoying our time shooting them, when all of a sudden, I heard Dan say … “someone said that there’s a bobcat down the road”.  Well, that was all that I needed to hear.  While the bull elk were gorgeous … I mean, a bobcat … AGAIN!  Off I ran, along with several of my fellow photographers.

Sure enough, it was our bobcat from our first day in Yellowstone.  Only this time, it was on the move!  I ran into the snow and began to shoot it, but found it hard to keep up.

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As I struggled making my way through the snow, I was not so gently reminded by my body and cardiovascular system, that I was from the flatlands of Florida, which was also warm and humid.  This environment was cold and dry and the altitude was obviously higher that what I was normally used to.  I was also not accustomed to trekking through the deep snow.  After some time, I made my way to the road, which afforded me the ability to keep up the pace of the bobcat.

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Several times this cat stopped in its tracks, as it was stalking a duck floating in the water.  I feared that we would witness carnage, but thankfully for me, that never happened.

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I couldn’t believe the beauty of this creature and the grace it possessed as it made its way down the river … to the exact location that we saw earlier in the week.  I truly felt blessed to have shared in its day.

I couldn’t imagine a better ending to our time spent in Yellowstone!  As we drove back to our lodging, I believe that collectively we all arrived with big smiles on our faces.  🙂  I know that I did.

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Honestly, I didn’t know what I expected from this photo tour.  What I found was obviously amazing photo opportunities (both wildlife and landscape), but even more pleasantly surprised was the amazing people that I shared this trip with.  I’m quite sure that many of them I will see again at some amazing place or another.  I also learned a lot about myself – most of which I won’t bore you with – but I encourage everyone to challenge themselves throughout life.  It’s always good to see what you’re made of.  🙂

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Thanks so much to Dan & Tanya Cox of Natural Exposures!  Your hospitality was truly wonderful – from start to finish!  Oh, I can’t also forget to thank Colter, tour assistant-extraordinaire!  You’re amazing!

Next blog post will most likely be something more local, so stay tuned.  Until then …..

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Courtesy of Daniel J. Cox

Another Day in Paradise … a.k.a. YNP Day #2

Waking up in the morning, I couldn’t help but wonder … what kind of things will present themselves today?  I mean, after yesterday, how could we possibly ever top all of that?  Will the weather remain as cooperative as it was yesterday?  So many questions yet to be answered.  Again, our carriage awaits … in the form of the Yellowstone snow coach, of course.  It really was nice … nicely heated for our comfort, especially on those early and cold mornings … roomy as well, as we each had 2 seats to work with, which was handy to keep all of our gear ready to spring into action … spacious yes, but intimate enough to engage in conversations and form friendships with fellow photographers.

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Birds once again were the first order of business.  The trumpeter swans were out in force and began strutting their stuff in the early morning hours.

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I was fascinated to see numbers of common goldeneye ducks – male and females – sharing the waters as well.

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Of course, bald eagles were not to be outdone.  It wasn’t long before we spotted and even more exciting, heard our first eagle of the morning.  It was truly lovely to see, as it was relatively an eye level shot and the calling of the eagle and then subsequent flight was a sight to see, enhanced by the snowy backdrop.  The sound of eagle calling out in the wilderness left me breathless.

The call of the wild

The call of the wild

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Of course, it wasn’t too long before we started seeing bigger wildlife, such as the female elk.  Several of them were together and feeding on whatever vegetation they could find underneath the snowy landscape.  It was so beautiful as they would look up with the traces of their efforts on their faces.

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Some young males were found sitting nervously in the sunlight, relaxing, but always on alert for an unwanted “visitor”.  Just love their snowy noses.  🙂

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Of course, there were more coyote sightings.  Seemed like everywhere we went we ran into coyotes.  Fun for us, yes, but that must mean a different story for the status of the wolves, which we never did see over the course of the week.

One of the coyotes we watched from afar, but before long it was nearer to us and just looked glorious in the midst of the sea of white that blanketed the immediate area.  It came to the rivers edge, looking for food.

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Each day, we stopped at the Madison rest stop and on this day we ran into my favorite dusky grouse.  Again, the park rangers were not pleased with her presence.  Eventually they trapped her and were preparing to introduce her, miles away, to an area where she would not be exposed to people.  Seems a bit unfair to me.  I’ll just leave it at that.

On this trip, there was never a shortage of food or drinks.  We were treated to magnificent lunches that I still think about, our hot beverages of choice, and a daily scrumptious yummy … guaranteed to keep your energy high and your blood sugar zipping … as if I needed something extra to keep me hyper!

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

More elk were encountered seemingly most of the day.  We enjoyed their natural grazing as they made their way up the river.

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Today was going to be more than wildlife we knew, since Yellowstone NP is also a landscape photographers dream.  So off to the geyser basins we went and actually we were treated to an active geyser erupting which usually only goes off 1-2 times daily.  Perfect timing in Biscuit Basin!

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The paint pots are always a fun place to visit as well, especially in the winter.

DSC_1106The winter landscape is perfect for creating that special mood and atmosphere.

_DSC5503One of my favorite drives in Yellowstone, no matter the season, is Firehole Drive.  It is home to the Firehole Falls … a winter’s landscape dream.

_DSC5650Once again, we stop at the Madison rest stop for a needed “bio break” and it’s confirmed that we no longer have a grouse visitor in the immediate area.  So sad.  😦  But we did have a parade of bison marching through and also a coyote, which apparently understands the road signage … LOL.

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A quick trip on one of the Madison area turn-outs also yielded yet another coyote sighting, as this poor coyote was deep in the snow as it ran up the hillside.

_DSC5709OK, so I have to admit … at first I thought … what are we going to do with 4 entire full days in Yellowstone in the winter?  I mean, we had seen so much the first day.  Now that our 2nd day was winding down, it happened … I began to be sad that my experience was 1/2 way over.  So, as a celebration to my trip so far, I toasted our trip so far with Moose Drool draft over dinner!

photoHere’s to the next 2 days!  Stay tuned for more blog posts on Yellowstone in the winter!

Winter Magic of Yellowstone NP

For several months, I had been getting the itch to return to Yellowstone National Park in the winter.  It finally culminated on New Year’s Eve, when Tom was making his plans to venture out on his annual month long snowboarding trip.  I thought … why should he have all of the fun?  I know that I didn’t have a month’s worth of vacation to spend, but could I have a month’s worth of fun in just 1 week?  The answer was an overwhelming YES!

That’s how I decided to join a group of photographers for a Winter in Yellowstone photo tour … then it hit me … NO SHERPA!  Yikes!  Well, it was more than time to pull on my “big girl panties” and so I packed my 48# camera bag carry-on (bless all of the men who helped me with my gear on and off the plane), my tripods, my winter clothes and off I went … looking like I was indeed going on that month-long trip, like Tom.  🙂

Arrival into Bozeman

Arrival into Bozeman

I arrived into Bozeman and was transported to West Yellowstone the following day (after literally about 18 hrs of sleep, yes, I had burned the candle before making the trek).  By the time I arrived in West Yellowstone, I already had felt a great comfort with the other members of my group.  Yes, it was the start of an amazing trip!

My arrival gift

My arrival gift

The day began with an early boarding on our snow coach.  As we all piled in, ourselves and our equipment, I distinctly heard a “holy crap” when my bag was hoisted inside.  It did get lighter as the week progressed.  A girl from south Florida into the winter wonderland of sub-zero temperatures of Yellowstone, just had to be sure to have everything she needed.

Snowcoach is the only way to go in Yellowstone in the winter!

Snowcoach is the only way to go in Yellowstone in the winter!

As we drove down through Madison, we immediately found several pairs of trumpeter swans on the river.  What a great way to get those image-taking fingers warmed up!

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We would pass more trumpeter swans, but we were on a mission to Hayden Valley, so we passed them up.  “Stop the bus” was called out for a coyote on the hillside, only to find out 2 things:  #1  There were several coyotes there, including 2 frolicking along the rivers edge right across from us & #2 The snow along the roadside is REALLY DEEP!  Of course, I found out the hard, but fun way!  LOL

I think I interrupted their play time by falling waist deep into the snow!

I think I interrupted their play time by falling waist deep into the snow!

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The coyotes were running around up and down the hillside, through the deep snow, in the absolutely gorgeous light!

Coyote making good time on its way down the hillside

Coyote making good time on its way down the hillside

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JUMP!

JUMP!

We stayed there longer than planned, but how could you leave these beautiful creatures when we were all having so much fun …

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A much needed bathroom break yielded probably one of the most bizarre situations of the week.  There was a dusky grouse who was hanging out at the rest stop, apparently making good use of the human’s crumbs.  Well, the park service didn’t like that and tried their best to make it leave.  Meanwhile, it entertained the visitors as it ran around, flew to the top of a nearby shack, tried to bury itself in the snow on the roof, and eventually flew down to the snow, amongst the visitors.  What a thrill for me and quite a beautiful bird.

Sliding down the snow covered roof

Sliding down the snow covered roof

So beautiful!

So beautiful!

Thanks Dan for capturing this image - she flew down to me!

Thanks Dan for capturing this image – she flew down to me!

What YOU looking at?

What YOU looking at?

Other birds along the way included some time spent with an American Dipper, as it would fly from the frozen river bank to the water and back … repeatedly.  The goldeneyes were also congregating nearby and plunging into the water as well.

Taking flight ....

Taking flight ….

.... touch down, just prior to the dive ....

…. touch down, just prior to the dive ….

.... flying back to do it all over again!

…. flying back to do it all over again!

"I will not be outdone by the dipper"

“I will not be outdone by the dipper”

"Look what I can do!"

“Look what I can do!”

Of course, no trip to Yellowstone is complete without visiting Yellowstone Falls … such an iconic sight to see, and even more beautiful when draped in winter’s snow & ice.  I don’t think that its ever looked more beautiful!

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The surrounding canyon views weren't too shabby either.

The surrounding canyon views weren’t too shabby either.

We got our first glimpses of the bison, as they notoriously carry around much frozen snow and ice on their coat.

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When we were having so much fun with the coyotes, I jokingly asked Dan if he could arrange a lynx for me.  He laughed and said that he would see what he could do.  Well, we didn’t get the lynx, but we did get the bobcat!  What a beautiful creature it was too!

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It didn’t do much, other than sit there … look at us … blink … turn slightly …. and close its eyes, but it didn’t matter.  I was jumping for joy with this sighting and I thought to myself … I can go home now!  Of course, I didn’t mean it literally, but I was thrilled beyond belief.

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How could our trip possibly get better?  Well, I was about to find out!

Stay tuned for more, as I will blog more about the magical winter experience I had in Yellowstone NP.

The end of a wonderful start to my trip to Yellowstone NP - winter-style.

The end of a wonderful start to my trip to Yellowstone NP – winter-style.