Squaw Creek’s Other Critters

My mission yesterday was to see if Bald Eagles were on nests at Squaw Creek. I have seen three nests there. One is very visible. The others are not.  I’m  sure most people don’t know where they are and don’t see all of them.

I arrived at Squaw Creek before sunrise.  After driving to the west area of the park, I parked the car and waited for the sun to come up. Just as it was starting to get little light out, four deer went running by me as though they were being chased. No one else was in the park and it’s not hunting season so I was surprised to see them so spooked.

Is it coming after me?
Is it coming after me?

It was so dark that even with a high ISO, the fastest shutter speed I could get was only 1/13th of a second. It’s hard to hold the camera still enough to get a sharp photos at that shutter speed.  As I stayed still, wishing the sun would hurry and rise so I could get a faster shutter speed, I noticed what most likely had spooked the deer.

The Trickster!
The Trickster!

Some Native American tribes call them the Trickster. Of course we know them as Coyotes. There were two of them. One saw me right away and quickly hid in some bushes. This one was still looking for breakfast.

What is that?
What is that?

When it did see me, it didn’t seem to be too concerned. It watched me for quite a while then wandered off slowly. As you can tell, it was still quite dark.  I was lucky it stood so still.

When the sun was high enough to provide good light, I drove close to the eagle’s nest that’s most visible to the public. I saw the eagle pictured below. It was  close to the nest but I saw nothing in the nest. It started calling and sounded as though it might be calling for its mate.

Now where is my mate?
Now where is my mate?

It stayed on that branch for quite a while calling from time to time but not another eagle came by.  After a while it was time for me to move on to see what else might be moving around early in the morning.

Red-winged Black Bird
Red-winged Blackbird
Where's my mate?
Where’s my mate?

There were a lot….. no…. there were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds. Many seem to be calling for mates too.

As I moved to a different pond, I saw this little critter swimming along. When it saw me, it stopped then turned towards me as though it wanted to get a better look. Do you know what it is?

MMMMM!
MMMMM!
What is it?
What is it?

If you said Muskrat, you would be correct. There are a lot of muskrat lodges in the various ponds at Squaw Creek. This is the first time one actually stopped to check me out! Most of the time, when they see you, they swim away and hide. After about a minute, it appeared to do just that. It swim away as fast as it could.

YIKES!!!   I'm out of here!
YIKES!!! I’m out of here!

You’ll almost always see Great Blue Herons.

Sure wish something would come by. I'm hungry.
Sure wish something would come by. I’m hungry.

Because they stand so still while hunting, they are easy to photograph. Of course if the wind isn’t blowing, the reflection will be better. I watched it for a while but breakfast seem to be running late. They are so patient. I’ll bet it eventually was successful.

At one of the other ponds, this little guy seemed to be happy to be by itself. It just walking quickly around foraging for breakfast in the shallow water.

Killdeer
Killdeer

Killdeer are so cool. Their young look like miniature adults. Did you know that the male builds the nest and they can have two broods per year?

OK, but what about those eagles on nests?  Well, below is a picture of another eagle close to a nest. This nest is so far from the road I couldn’t tell if an eagle was in it or not. However, the photo does show how massive their nests can be. Bald Eagles often use the same nest year after year. They are known to add more sticks to them each year. Because of that, some nests weigh more than a thousand pounds and will be as large as a Volkswagen Beetle.

Bald Eagle & Nest
Bald Eagle & Nest

Oh yes, there was a large number of geese and ducks. There were swans and hawks too. We often see pictures of the thousands of geese and ducks that stop over at Squaw Creek and nothing else. I didn’t take a single picture of any of them this time. I thought you might like to see some of the other critters that are there too. Of course, there are a lot of other critters that I didn’t see or photograph. Maybe you’ll get lucky and see some of them. I hope you do.

If you do make the trip, go early.  By doing so, you’re sure to see more of critters before they hunker down for the day.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the other critters of Squaw Creek.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Blue jay Being Cool!

I really wanted to get outside today because it snowed last night. While it was not a lot of snow, it would have been great for tracking animals in the woods. However, I just couldn’t do it. I’m recovering from minor surgery and slipping or falling….. Well, that’s just not an option. So… I decided to put some bird seed on my deck railing to see what might come by.

A Blue jay was the first to came by and did it put on a show!

Beautiful Blue jay
Beautiful Blue jay

It seemed intent on selecting just the right seed.

Gotta find the right one!

Once it found a piece that appeared to be just the right one, it would pick it up.

OK now watch this!

Flip it!

One, two and three....
One, two, three and……

Then catch it!

Tadaaa!
Ta-dah!

What a kick to watch and photograph!

The Jay seemed to be having fun because it did the same thing several times. I know I was having fun just watching. It also gave me a great opportunity to practice bird photography even though I could not get outside.

Lesson learned…. You don’t have to go out to practice and get fun shots. You just have to be creative and wait to see what comes along.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Opossum…… Really?

I just had to get out of the house. You see, a skunk has moved in under our front step. Yes, we have traps set but….. I just had to get out! A walk in the woods seemed like a good choice. The temp was to get to 37 degrees and I needed some fresh air. I learned some time ago to always bring my camera. I normally don’t go out in the middle of the day looking for wildlife and today was no different.

As it is, I always see deer no matter the time of the day but I certainly didn’t expect to see this at 2:30 in the afternoon!

If I get up high he won't see me!
If I get up high he won’t see me!

Yep! It’s North America’s only Marsupial. It is a Virginia Opossum. It’s nocturnal which is why I was so surprised to see it.

Oh No! He does see me!
Oh No! He does see me!

The temperature over the past several days has been very cold so it must have been out today looking for food which is why it’s out during daylight. Hunger might make it do that. The black dots on its nose looks like mud or dirt to me. So, it must have been rooting around for something. They are omnivores so their diet is varied.

If I stay really still, he'll think I must be dead!
If I stay really still, he’ll think I must be dead!

In the above photo, you can see that it doesn’t have fur on its tail.  The fur on other mammals tails helps to keep them warm when they are all cuddled up. Poor thing!  Another thing that’s kind of sad it that they rarely live longer than two years.

I'm good looking.... Don't you think?
I’m good-looking…. Don’t you think?

While my wife doesn’t agree, I think it’s kind of cute!

Well, that was my major sighting for the afternoon.  I sure hope that skunk wakes up and goes out looking for food too.  When it does…. We’ll have it trapped…… I hope!

Oh yeah, I saw this Nuthatch too.

Am I called a Nuthatch because I can do this?
Am I called a Nuthatch because I can do this?

I think they’re very cool because they can walk up and down a tree trunk! I wish I could do that!

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to go and light a few scented candles.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Big White-tailed Bucks on New Years Day!

Those of you who have been visiting my blog know that I’ve been trying to find some white-tailed bucks over the last several weeks.  I even went out very early Christmas morning looking for Rudolf.

I had planned to go again this morning because it’s the first day of the new year. There shouldn’t be many people out and about very early, especially today. However; because it was only 16 degrees out there with a slight wind, I almost didn’t go. It was so nice and warm in the kitchen. The coffee was really good! And, well, it was damn cold out there!

I argued with myself and finally said “Get your butt out there before the sun comes up! You won’t photograph anything sitting around here drinking coffee!”  Am I ever glad that I did. Below is the first deer that saw me!

I see you Bill!
I see you Bill!

Look at his rack. The tines closest to the center of his head are huge!  His rack almost looks like a crown. Below is the second one that I saw.

Big Buck!
Look at me!

His rack is more spread out and larger than the one above.  While each is unique, both are beautiful. WOW!

The sun was not up and I was trying to hand-hold the shot at a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second which is why the photos are a little softer than I like. Trying to keep 10 pounds of camera and lens dead still with freezing hands is not easy!  I just may have to break down and get a monopod.

During the next two hours of hiking, I only saw does. I seem to have no trouble finding does. They are beautiful too but I was looking for bucks. No more were to be seen.

However just as I was about to leave, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk all puffed out trying to stay warm. I just couldn’t resist taking its photo. As I did, I thought it looked familiar.

When I got home, I looked at some photos I took in March of a hawk. You may recall the post, “Coyotes or Hawks.”  I think it may be the same hawk I took photos of back then! It has the same kind of cow-lick like feathers on the back of its head. I’ve never noticed that on any other Red-tailed Hawk.

Remember Me?
Remember Me?

I didn’t want to disturb it so I didn’t get too close. Below is the photo I took in March 5th.

Bye Bill! It was fun.
Bye Bill! It was fun.

You can see the cow-lick that I’ve mentioned. What do you think? Is it the same Hawk? If it is, that is so very cool!

Those of you who know me, know that I love to photograph eagles, owls and hawks so this capped a wonderful New Years Morning for me. The New Year has already started off just GREAT!

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful New Years Morning and day too.

I wish you all a very Grand and Prosperous New Year!

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Birds of Ernie Miller Nature Center

With snow covering the ground for the first time this year, I knew the bird feeders at Ernie Miller Nature center would be quite busy. I thought it would be a great time to practice some bird photography.

It's busy at the feeder!
It’s busy at the feeder!

There is a terrific viewing area in the Sun Room with plenty of large windows. Now, all these photos were taken hand-held. I wanted to practice as though I was in the field but was in the comfort of being inside.

You can get some decent shots at the feeder as you’ll see below.

Blue Jays are beautiful too!
Blue Jays are beautiful too!
I thing female Cardinals are beautiful
I believe these to be a female and male Purple Finch
Beautiful female Cardinal
Beautiful female Cardinal

You can also take some photos that are away from the feeders which make them look more natural.

Male Downy Woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker

Now, this next bird is a bit harder to photograph. They come to the feeder very quickly, grab a seed then fly off to a tree. This one must have been waiting for an opening at the feeder. I feel lucky to have gotten the shot.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

Environmental shots are my favorite. With a lot of patience, you can take some shots that shows them in their environment and looking quite natural. These are my favorite types of shots.

p
Male Purple Finch
Who you looking at?
Who you looking at?
Female Cardinal
Female Cardinal
Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal

When you’re tired of taking those kind of shots, you can then practice trying to get them in flight. This is great fun and it’s very rewarding when you finally get one that you really like.

Coming in for a landing!
Look out! I’m coming in for a landing!
The birds on the upper left, "It was my turn! No, it was my turn!"
The birds on the upper left, “It was my turn! No, it was my turn!”
A very quick fly-by!
A very quick fly by!

Of course, no bird feeder would be complete unless you had someone to clean up the mess the birds make throwing all those seeds around.

MMMM... Keep um coming guys.... mmmm
MMMM… Keep um coming guys…. mmmm

If you like photographing birds, come on out. There’s plenty of room. As you can see there is a lot of variety of birds to photograph.  There were several other species that came to the feeder this morning but I was just not quick enough to get my glass on them.  Maybe you will be luckier than I. If you’re in the Olathe, Kansas area, come on out and give it a try! The folks are friendly and it’s warm inside!

I hope you enjoyed the birds.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

Moose Antler Rub!

In a post last year, I mentioned how I was hiking in an area looking for moose in the middle of the day. They should be bedded down in the shade by then because they don’t handle the heat very well.  You might remember that I came across an area where the moose had been rubbing the velvet off their antlers and how astonished I was with what I saw.

Moose bedded down in the shade
Moose bedded down in the shade

This year, I was lucky enough to see a couple bedded down. However, I thought you might like to see what I saw and believe to be  “Moose Rubs”.  Below, you will see three different rubs

Rub #1
I don’t think a deer did this!
Maybe it was an elk?
Maybe it was an elk that did this?
Now this is way too big for an elk!
Now, this is way too big for an elk!

I also collected some fur that was still stuck to some of the nearby branches. I’m reasonably sure this was done by moose rubbing the velvet off their antlers before the rut. I have seen one rubbing the velvet off on a bunch of bushes but not on trees like this. It was very violent as it got all tangled in the bushes and seemed very agitated.

I think it’s all very cool but don’t want one to rub on me!

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

Only in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

It took me only a few minutes to capture dozens of people all photographing the same thing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What can it be???

Got to get it just right!
Got to get it just right!
Hold steady now!
Hold steady now!
If I tilt it this way.....
If I tilt it this way…..
It takes two to line it up....
It takes two to line it up….

But what can be so intriguing about it for a person to want to photograph it three times with three different cameras? By the way, she wasn’t the only person I saw doing it.

Got to get the right angle!
Got to get the right angle!
No, maybe from this angle with this camera!
No, maybe from this angle with this camera will be better!
Well, just in case... I'll get with the big gun!
Well, just in case… I’ll get it with the big gun!

People were even taking photos of it from their cars ……. But what can it be?

I hope the light doesn't turn before I get this shot!
I hope the red light doesn’t turn before I get this shot!
Go real slow now....
Go real slow now….

Well, I have a dozen more photos that I could show you of different people all taking pictures of the same thing but I don’t want to bore you with them. If you’ve been to Jackson Hole, you probably have taken a picture of them too.

If you’ve been there, you probably have guessed by now.  People are taking photos of the Jackson Hole Elk Antler Arches.

Only 1 of 4!
Only one of four!

They are massive and there is one of them on each corner of the town square. They are so impressive that people just have to stop and take pictures of family members or friends under them. Each arch is made of around 2,000 antlers and weighs in at 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. I’m told that no elk was harmed in the making of the arches. Elk naturally shed their antlers each year and they are collected from the ground.  

Based on the number of people I saw taking pictures of them, these arches are probably photographed as much as the Grand Tetons.

In a few weeks, they will be decorated in lights for the Christmas Holiday. I’m sure you’ll find more information and pictures of them if you do a google search for them.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill