April 17~2012 a.m. temperature 40 degrees F
Partly cloudy and rained off and on throughout the day~ (we need it)
April 18 -2012 am. temperature 40.3 F
Cloudy and rainy again today~ more of the same ..
I wandered outside this morning, planning on heading to the river to search for mergansers in flight~ Cloud cover was pretty think and I changed my mind as I figured it would be too dark in the trees along the water to capture the images I was looking for. I found myself sitting in the sage, surrounded by tiny singing birds, breath taking scenery and more.
I sat for a while as the storms crawled across the mountain tops and just enjoyed ~
And enjoyed some more.. I am always amazed at how these large game birds can disappear in what seems like blank countryside
(and no Jody at the Hunters Wife ~ Sage Grouse is not a spice.. thought id does sound like a yummy recipe )
And even after my coffee cup was empty and I had been rained on, I stayed a little longer as the sun was finally burning through the clouds to the East and the birds were on the move.
It rained off and on the rest of the day~ I picked Josiah up from school and had dinner with my parents. (Thanks mom and dad) and on my way home~ the sun came out and spread a beautiful blanket of light across the freshly washed landscape and once again I ended the day like I started it~ surrounded by bird song and breath taking scenery.
and the clouds returned to my mountain as the light of day faded into a dark and raining night…
(First light! One of my favorite times to be out and great the new day)
Today I will wrap up the tutorial from The Won~ Shoot to Thrill article with one final tip.
“It’s easy to notice animal tracks in snow and mud, but it’s also important that you know how to tell when those tracks were made. Know how to recognize the not-so-obvious signs.”
I wrote the article for The WON (Women’s outdoor news) to answer the most common question that I am asked as a wildlife photographer.
~ “Where do you take all these photos?”
Well next most common thing that I hear from people is ” If I had a camera(or lens) like yours, I could get photos like that too” or “If I lived where you do, or had as much time.. etc and so on.
Do people realize, or care how insulting they are being when they say things like this.?
Yes, I have a nice camera, and I love my lens, but you might be surprised…
I had a friend join me on a hike last week. At one point in the hike, I spotted a Big Horn Sheep on the side of the hill. He was a ways off so I pulled up my camera and used it like binoculars to tell if it was a ram or not. My friend wanted to know how I could tell, so I handed her my camera.. she looked through the view finder and said.. “Oh! I thought it would be MUCH closer with that lens. What do you do? Do you take the photos and then crop them so it looks like you got close?” ~ Nope.
I DO live in a beautiful place. But that doesn’t mean that the animals just throw themselves in front of me begging to have their photos taken. This is were the “know how to recognize the not- so- obvious” part comes in. I know that March and April are mating season for the sage grouse. It took some looking and asking around a few years ago, but I was able to locate their Lek grounds (the general area~ that is.. it changes a bit from day to day~ year to year) I have gotten some great photos of the male (Boomer) Sage Grouse drumming on the lek. But like anything it takes time and determination. This morning I woke up early, got my child off to school and was out near the lek grounds at first light. The weather at home had been calm and beautiful, but by the time I reached my destination.. the wind was HOWLING. 24 degrees and winds around 50-60 MPH made it quite miserable actually. Now let me also add that this was not my first trip out looking for the Sage grouse this year. This was my 5th time and though I have seen them on a couple different occasions.. none of the trips resulted in “Good” photos. They were either 2 far off, I was late, the weather and lighting wasn’t right, etc.
This morning I was down right cold and windy. As I looked for sign I thought about how perfect the weather was just a couple days ago, but how I had other responsibilities and was unable to make it out here in time to look, and wondered if this year would be a repeat of last~ and I would miss out on capturing any great photos of these incredible birds once again. Either way, I had enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, and the silvery sage dancing in the wind had a beauty of it’s own this time of morning. I made a loop and had decided to head back home when I noticed the sign ~ Sage grouse scat under nearly every clump of sage. They had been here. I carefully scanned the area, but seeing nothing, I decided that it was just too windy for them to be out drumming.
Almost back to the main road I spotted something against the sage. ~ Ah HA. There really are sage grouse out here. I stopped and took a few photos of their hiding spot~ open expanse of sage with the mountains in the background , but I was right~ they were more focused on trying to find shelter from the wind, than drumming. I sat for a bit and watched them anyhow and just as my fingers were starting to go numb…
One lone male couldn’t fight the urge any longer… and I caught a brief glimpse of spiky tail feathers.
and then another…
It was brief. Just a little moment, before they huddled back down behind the sage.
But it was also greatly appreciated. Later, I checked the odometer on my vehicle as pulled back in the drive way. This one little trip out into my back yard to look for sage grouse had added 40+ miles to my vehicle.
Yes, I live in an amazing place. I have sage grouse, and deer, elk, bear, Mountain lion, wolves coyotes, elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, just to name a few of the creatures that live in my back yard. But my back yard is also quite large.
Have you taken the time to look in YOUR own back yard lately?
You should, you might be surprised what you can find hiding there.. if you just know where to look.
As I sat at the bus stop Wednesday morning, a gorgeous cotton candy sunrise was forming over the Pryor mountains. The colors were stunning. Muted pastel oranges and pinks. Josiah and I joked about weather or not the bus will come soon enough for me to rush home and grab my camera before the colors faded away. The bright sunlight broke over the horizon just as the bus rounded the corner. Missed it again ~ That’s ok, I figure if I hurry I can still make it out to the lek grounds in time to see if the sage grouse are drumming yet. But as I pull back into the driveway and reach for my coffee cup in the console, I realize that my fuel gauge is dangerously close to E. Uhg! What was I thinking? No trip to the sage this morning. Later that afternoon, I ran into town as school got out to get fuel, picked Josiah up from school and made a swing by the lek grounds on the way home to see if there were any tracks or sign. Nothing~ the wind had scoured the ground and left nothing but small drifts.. but still beautiful in its own way.Thursday morning~ do over.. I took Josiah to the bus WITH a full tank of fuel and even managed to remembered to grab my camera ~( and my a stainless steal cup of coffee to go) The sunrise wasn’t nearly as captivating, but I enjoyed watching the sunlight glow through the tail of a bald eagle as it soared over head.
In the early morning light I spotted a set of “cat tracks ” and decided to get out of the wind and visit the draw where Hawk and I had treed the Mountain Lion a couple winters ago~ curious to see if it was still frequenting the area.
(cat tracks of the house cat species ~ responsible for countless numbers of wild bird deaths. Ferrel and stray cats are considered a predator in the state of Wyoming)
I sent a quick email to Hawk to let him know where I was going as I wasn’t sure I would have service for much longer. In the short drive there I saw Mule deer. (and secretly willed these antlers to fall off as he jumped the fence.. but no such luck)
As well as turkey, more bald eagles, rough legged and red tail hawks, ducks, and geese, I was also finally able to glimpse the sage grouse I had hoped to search for yesterday.
This in its self would have been a complete and happy day for me~ But the discoveries and adventure were actually just beginning. But right now I am going to stop here and continue this story tomorrow as today is March 2nd and I haven’t taken the time to post the March Desktop Calendar.
TO BE CONTINUED~