Bear Spray or Not!

According to a survey of 8,281 people at Yellowstone done between years 2011 and 2014, only 52% of backpackers carried bear spray. Only 13% of day hikers carried bear spray and less than 1% of boardwalk hikers carried bear spray.

https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/visitor-compliance-bear-spray-hiking-group-size.htm)

So, should you carry bear spray? Well, below are two pictures of Sawmill Pond. The first one is looking at it from the north. The second is looking at it from the south. It is below a rather large turn-out that is very popular. As you can see, it’s a beautiful place. Most people get out of their car to see if any animals are there at or in the pond. Some will even take short hikes. My previous post, Mama Bear & Cubs, was about this very spot.

Sawmill Pond looking North
Sawmill Pond looking South
Sawmill Pond looking North
Sawmill Pond looking North

A day or two before Mama Bear & Cubs, I was there when a large group of people had stopped to view this beautiful spot. What they didn’t see or know at first was this…

Can you see it?
Can you see it?

Well, maybe now….

Still a little hard to see
Still a little hard to see

Now, I’m sure you can see it.

Coming into view
Coming into view

There should be no doubt now!

Yes, it's a black bear!
Yes, it’s a black bear!

As I mentioned, most people were looking at the pond. This bear was on the hill behind them. It was only about 125 or so yards away!

By itself, but very big!
By itself, but very big!

Now, it wasn’t coming toward us and it seemed to be by itself so I don’t think we were in any danger but…….

The point is, you never know from where they may come. Even in places that seem safe with a lot of people around, they could show up. The entire area is their habitat and their home. We are the intruders.

This bear posed no threat. After getting a drink, it went back up the mountain.

So, should we carry bear spray? Well, I think it would be safe to say the authorities think we should.  “Studies show that bear spray is more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear, especially when combined with the park’s other safety recommendations” Click the link below for more info.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/yellowstone-urges-tourists-to-carry-bear-spray-just-in-case/article_c352db0b-8c1d-5d0b-9fb2-04b98660d7d2.html

I know that it’s an individual decision, but I can tell you this. I don’t leave my car in any area except town without my bear spray.

This is their home!
This is their home!

Always be safe!

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

 

Mama Bear & Cubs

At the northern end of Moose Wilson Road in the Grand Teton Nation Park, there is a special place I often go to very early in the morning. I try to go there an hour or so before sunset as well. There’s a large pull-out area for cars to park. Directly below the parking area is Sawmill Pond. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen moose, elk, osprey fishing, six different black bears and a variety of ducks and other animals in that area. I keep missing the Great Grey Owl though!

It’s well-marked with a sign that states that this area is frequented by bears and your safety cannot be guaranteed. Most people stop and stay just a few minutes especially if they don’t see an animal right away. Some will hike a short distance from the parking area while a few of us will hike a mile or so along the ridge. I like to do it an hour or so before sundown because the sun is in a perfect spot should I see elk or moose.

Two weeks ago I hiked out there a little more than an hour before sundown. I had heard three elk bugling and was hoping to get a good environmental shot of at least one of them.  After about an hour, one of them showed himself and I got this shot. I got lucky again!

Bull Elk showing himself
Bull Elk showing himself

The sun was about a half hour from setting so I headed back. About 200 yards from the parking area, I saw a couple who were clearly in distress. The woman’s eyes were wide open and she was making gestures indicating a big bear and  two small bears were close by. The man was on his cell phone trying to explain in his broken english that they were in trouble because the bears had crossed the trail right in front of them. They were afraid to move and didn’t know what to do.

I told them they were safe with me. I had bear spray and would walk with them to their car. I knew this bear was not interested in us but trying to find food. We are not their prey. She was most likely looking for berries for herself and her cubs. The folks were quite relieved when we got to their car as they continued to thank me over and over again.

By that time, a ranger had come and of course, a horde of people showed up as well. As the ranger and I talked, I kept watch for the bear. I saw it coming toward us. Now, the next few pictures are not of the quality I would like but, I’m posting them anyway. You see, we had to keep moving back because she was coming towards us so it was a little tricky trying to get the shots I wanted. I was also trying to help the ranger with crowd control. (Well, that’s my excuse….. 😉)

Female Black Bear coming towards us
Female Black Bear coming towards us. The little bit of brown on the right is one of her cubs.

Here she is looking back to be sure they were following her.

Are you coming?
Are you coming?

This is a picture of her second cub. We noticed that it was limping and following at a slower pace.

I'm coming too!
I’m coming too!
Just hobbling along
Just hobbling along…..

Mom stopped coming toward us and decided to go back down to the pond area which is 35 yards below the parking area.

Coming out of the brush
Coming out of the brush

She continued to go along the edge of the pond right in front of us. While it was only about 35 yards away, the ranger felt we were safe as long as we stepped back just a bit.

She continued to go to our left towards a berry bush.

Hmmmm this may be good!
Hmmmm this may be good!

She then reached up to sample some of the berries.

That's about as high as I can reach.
That’s about as high as I can reach.

Cub #1, the non-injured one, climbed right up into the bush. It was fun to watch as it swayed around a bit. I was wondering if the small branches would support its weight. Well, they did and it did not fall.

I think there are some up here Mom!
I think there are some up here Mom!
Whoooo, it's a bit shaking up here!
Whoooo, it’s a bit shaking up here!
OK, now I've got it!
OK, now I’ve got it!

Soon, they seem to have their fill and started to move off behind the bush where we could no longer see them.

Time to move on...
Time to move on…

The next thing we noticed, mom was crossing the pond.

I wonder what's on the other side.
I wonder what’s on the other side.

A minute or so after mom made it across, cub #1 swam across too.

Just about there!
Just about there!
Made it!
Made it!

Well, where’s cub #2?.  It finally caught up to the area where mom and #1 had been but they were not in sight.

Hey guys! Where are you?
Hey guys! Where are you?

Soon #2 disappeared behind the berry bush. We couldn’t see it. All of a sudden, we heard it softly calling out to mom. It got a little louder and then even louder. It almost sounded like it was crying.  Saying, where are you MOM! Then it stopped. Next, we saw this.

They have got to be over here..... I hope!
They have to be over here….. I hope!

Yup! It swam across the pond in just about the same area as mom and #1 did.

As it got on the other side, mom came out from the trees to greet it.

Where have you been?
Where have you been?

She was there after all making sure #2 was safe and ok. She was being a really good Mom!

I was starting to worry about you, little one!
I was starting to worry about you, little one!

And then, they went off together into the woods.

Time to go find #1.
Time to go find #1.

Everyone was relieved to see them together again. I hope they find enough food to make it through the winter especially cub #2. If it does, with that drive to survive, it’s going to be an awesome adult bear.

I hope to see you next year little one!

Well, that’s my National Geographic experience for this year. I hope you enjoyed the trip with me.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

 

Koala, is it a Bear?

Nope, the Koala is not a bear. It is a marsupial mammal.

Most of the time they are asleep when people come to see them at the Kansas City Zoo. I was very luck this morning to catch them not only awake but eating and moving around. It was so very cool!

Having Breakfast
Having Breakfast

 

Just another bite
Just another bite

They eat only leaves and bark from eucalyptus trees. There are over 600 types, or species of these trees, but Koalas only eat the leaves and bark from 12 of them. The Kansas City Zoo has them specially brought in to be sure they have the right type.

Oh he's taking my picture. I'd better give him my best side.

Oh, he’s taking my picture. I’d better give him my best side.

 

No, wait a minute. Maybe this pose is better
No, wait a minute. Maybe this pose is better

 

So there!
So there!

 

Yes, there are two of us!
Yes, there are two of us!

 

_BA85327-Edit
Come on now. I’ve just got to be the cutest thing you’ve seen today!

Koalas are mostly nocturnal. They spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping or resting in trees, curled up gripping the limbs with their feet. But you have to admit. They are just adorable when they’re awake.

In the Aboriginal language, the word Koala is thought to mean “does not drink”

I know, I know…… I’m one lucky person but you can be as well. My suggestion is to go to the zoo early in the morning. You just might get lucky to see them awake too.

I hope you enjoyed them. I know I did.

Thanks for stopping by!

Shawnee Mission Park Animals

Well, this is the time of the year when I start planning for my annual trip to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This will be my seventh consecutive year of going. Normally it’s just me, my camera, my tent and bear spray. This year, however, I’ll be staying in a motel. We’ll see how well that goes….

I never get tired of going there because there are always new areas to explore and different animals to photograph. But you know, you don’t have to go that far to get some great shots of animals. As a matter of fact, I never get tired of going to Shawnee Mission Park which is only 8.5 miles from my front door. It’s a great place to practice before going to one of the big parks. I thought I’d show some of the animals I’ve been fortunate to see and photograph while in SMP.

It’s a rare day when I don’t see deer. Below are a few of my favorite shots….

White-tailed Buck
White-tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck
White- tailed Buck… These two were very close to each other when I took these photos.
Sometimes they're easy to see...
Sometimes they are easy to see…
Sometimes you have to look very carefully
Sometimes, you have to look very carefully to see them….
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you
Sometimes they will stay looking back at you….
Sometimes you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique
And sometimes, you get really lucky to see and photograph something unique.

Of course, there are a variety of birds to see and photograph as well.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
American Robin on a very cold day
American Robin on a very cold day
Eastern Bluebirds
Eastern Bluebirds
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager
American Crow
American Crow
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me
Red-tailed Hawk looking back at me

Sometimes if you know where to look, you get very lucky and see things like this…

Red-tailed Hawk and its chick
Red-tailed Hawk and its chick on their nest.
Flying in with breakfast for its chick
Flying in with breakfast for its chick.

Along the stream way in the park, it’s very common to see these too….

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron taking off
Great Blue Heron taking off

I know, I know, not everyone likes them but if you’re real lucky, you my get to see some of these too…

I'm pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
I’m pretty sure this is a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
Copperhead
It is a Copperhead!
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.
Copperhead up close. Yes, it is venomous.

There are other mammals to be seen, like these….

Muskrat
Muskrat
Look close. Yup, it's a sleeping raccoon!
Look closely. Yup, it’s a sleeping raccoon!
Opossum, the only North American marsupial.
The Virginia Opossum is the only North American marsupial.
Come on now, it is kind of cute don't you think?
Come on now, it is kind of cute don’t you think?
Now, I think it's just too cool posing for me!
Now, I think it’s just too cool that it’s posing for me!

With a keen eye you may get to see these….

Coyote in the grass
Coyote sneaking away in the grass
They wouldn't let me get too close
They wouldn’t let me get too close.
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away quickly
These hear you coming from a long way off and start running away very quickly.

One has to be very lucky and have a lot of patience to observe these at their nests.

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker looking out of the nest. Is he waiting for the female?
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
Well, there she is!
Leaving the nest
Leaving the nest!

Well, we cannot forget these!

Male Mallard
Male Mallard taking flight
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male
Honestly, I think the female mallard is just as beautiful as the male.

Those who know me, know that I have a great affection for owls. Yes, if you pay attention, you may get lucky and see them too.

Great Horned Owl on the nest
Great Horned Owl on the nest
Barred Owl hunting for its young during the day
Barred Owl hunting during the early morning.
Even though it saw me, it didn't see me too concerned
Even though it saw me, it didn’t seem too concerned.

Of course, these aren’t all the animals I’ve seen or photographed in Shawnee Mission Park. Even though there are no bears, elk or wolves there, it’s a great place to practice your wildlife photography skills before going to the National Parks. Of course there are no guarantees that you’ll see wildlife each time you go out. To increase your odds of seeing them, be sure to go very early in the morning. I always go before sunrise and get into place before the animals start to bed down or hide.

The next best time is an hour or so before sundown. The animals tend to start moving around again at that time. The light is best during those times as well. I actually prefer early morning to sundown because there are fewer people in the park.  If you wait until late morning or mid-day, the light can be very harsh especially on a sunny days. It makes the shadows very dark and one tends lose detail in them. That being said, I love to photograph anytime it’s cloudy. The light is soft and sometimes the animals are still roaming around.

Even if you don’t live close to Shawnee Mission Park, I’ll bet there’s a park close to you that has more wildlife than most people know about. You just have to go out early and see for yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of these critters. Good Luck searching for them in parks close to where you live.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

 

Nikita the Rock Star Polar Bear!

Most local folks have heard the sad news that Nikita the Rock Star Polar Bear at the Kansas City Zoo will be leaving us. He is heading to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro to mate with 15-year-old Anana. While it is very sad for all of us, we know that it’s necessary for the preservation of his species.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos of him with you. Below are the first two pictures I took of him. He is rather handsome, don’t you think?

What a Handsome Polar Bear!
What a Handsome Polar Bear!
Even a Polar Bear needs a nap from time to time
Even a Polar Bear needs a nap from time to time

As you know, he is the Rock Star most people see first at the zoo. He seems to know it and always seems to put on a show for them. Where else can you get this close to a Polar Bear as it does flips just inches from you?

Here  He Comes!
Here He Comes!
There He Is!
There He Is!
What a Ham!!!
There he goes. What a Ham!!!

He seems to bring joy and amazement to everyone. People never seem to tire of his antics.

Amazing!
Amazing!

The children always seem to be laughing and squealing with joy as he comes so very close to them.

Hello There!
Hello There!
I wish I could pet him just one time!
I wish I could pet him just one time!
I can hold this fish for a few seconds before eating it so please snap your picture!
I can hold this fish for a few seconds before eating it so please snap your picture!

Sometime he would try his best to fool us into thinking he is really a Brown Bear.  He seems to love to roll in his sand box area from time to time.

I'm a Brown Bear.... So there!
I’m a Brown Bear…. So there!

Few people know of the Sniff Hole but it’s there for all to see and for him to smell us.  I’m not sure what he was thinking when he saw me though it on that day!

Who is that smelly person?
Who is that smelly person?

The picture below was taken when we celebrated his Birthday the first time. It was held a day or so before his actual birthdate, a Saturday as I remember. It was celebrated then so more people could enjoy celebrating with him.

Oh Boy! A Birthday Cake!!
Oh Boy! A Birthday Cake!!!

On his real Birthday, the keepers gave him a large toy to play with. I was very lucky to be there to see it and to record it. I have to admit, when he put his head through it, I was a bit concerned. What would happen if he got stuck? How would they ever get it off him?

Oh Cool! A new Birthday Present!  I think I'll just wear it!
Oh Cool! A new Birthday Present! I think I’ll just wear it!

Well, not to worry!  He did not get stuck and he seemed to really enjoy playing with the tire. What great fun!

He is a magnificent Ambassador for his species. Just look at him!

Ok Bill, here's my right profile
Ok Bill, here’s my right profile
Yes, I can stand up too!
Yes, I can sit up too!
Just hanging out being a Cool Polar Bear!
Just hanging out being a Cool Polar Bear!

You know, we of the Kansas City area and those who have come from far away to see him are really going to miss him.  However, the folks who will miss him most of all will be the wonderful keepers who have taken such great care of him for the past several years.  Thank You! I’ll bet he’s going to miss all of you too.

Not saying Good Bye.... Just So Long for now!
Not saying Good Bye…. Just So Long for now!

Rest assured there will be many tears shed when he leaves in a few months.  However as much as it hurts, we all know that it’s necessary and how very important he is to the survival of his species. We are so lucky to have had him at the zoo and in our lives.

On his way.........
On his way………

While it’s too soon to say Fare Well, my heart is already starting to hurt.  You Big Guy, will be miss by so many ………….

Eagle on the Nest

Last Monday I went to one of my favorite places to see if eagles had returned to their nest.  From a distance I could see one very close to one of the nests but it flew away as I got a little closer to it. However, below was what was in the nest.

Now where did my mate go?
Now where did my mate go?
I hope he brings back breakfast!
I hope he brings back breakfast!

I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to cause it any stress. In my opinion, no photograph is worth taking if it causes harm or stress to the animal. The safety of the animal always comes first! Because it was just as the sun was coming up, I’m confident the mate flew off looking for food.  Later, from quite a distance, I saw it return but I was too far away to see if it brought back anything.

Just a few clicks later, I went on my way to practice photographing ducks with my new Tamron 150 – 600mm lens. Already, I found that I liked it but I still had to learn how to effectively use it.

As some of you know, I like to photograph American Coots. As I was practicing snapping some shots like these……

 

Quite morning searching for breakfast.
Quite morning searching for breakfast.

All of a sudden, all hell broke loose and I wasn’t quite ready for it!

Look out!
Look out!

My first thought was that they were afraid of me even though I’d been there for a while taking their picture with no signs of them being stressed. But NO, it wasn’t Me! It was a HUNTER!

Looking for a meal!
Looking for a meal!

It flew over my head and swooped back towards the coots.

Looks like breakfast down there!
Looks like breakfast down there!

It really put on a show as it kept turning trying to hone in on one of them.

So many to choose from!
So many to choose from!

It continued to fly back and forth  and seemed to have trouble singling out one but of course, the coots were all flying away in different directions to get away.

I just can't seem to make up my mind!
I just can’t seem to make up my mind!

The hawk didn’t seemed bothered that I was there taking pictures. It continued to hunt for a while but eventually, it gave up without getting anything. I guess catching coots isn’t easy after all.

Oh well, maybe I'll try something other than coots this morning!
Oh well, maybe I’ll try something other than coots this morning!

The entire hunting episode happened in probably not more than a minute. However, I wish I had been better prepared but that’s what practice is all about. If I had been better prepared, the photos might have been a little sharper. It was great practice though and great fun to watch.

What a fantastic morning! Yes, I got lucky again. I hope you enjoyed the post.

Thanks for coming by!

Bill

 

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