That Wolf is Too Close!

I left Kansas City around 3:00 am on my 16 hour journey to the Grand Teton National Park. I wanted to get there before dark. This trip was to be only three days in the park so an extra hour or so of good light would be great even if I was tired.  Just before sundown is often a good time to spot wildlife.
After checking in at the motel in Jackson Hole, there was about an hour of light left before sundown.  I headed out to one of my favorite spots. I was a little disappointed because the sun had already gone down behind the mountains making it quite dark in the area.

It blended in so well that I almost missed it. It was the movement that caught my eye. At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I stopped my car and pulled off the narrow road. Park rules state that we must be no closer than 100 yards to wolves or bears. It was only about 35 – 40 yards off the road. It seem to be eating something or parts of something.

I thought the light was too dark to get decent shots so, I stayed in my car and just watched it for several minutes. I knew there were wolves in the park but had not seen any on my previous trips. This was special!

I decided, what the heck! I’ll give it a try to take a couple of shots. Perhaps I can brighten them up in Lightroom.  All these photos have been cropped and edited so you can enjoy what I saw.

As you can see, it didn’t seem to be concerned that I was there.  Several people drove by but no one saw it. However, once I put my camera in view, people started to stop. Yes, I was the start of a “Wolf Jam”.

People didn’t just stop, they started getting out of their cars!  This wolf was too close to do that!

Two young people started walking toward it with their phones to get a picture. I yelled at them to get back in their car. They were way too close!

As you can see, the wolf was not too happy!

Fortunately, it turned and walked away.

As the wolf went away, I was both glad and sad. I was glad to see the wolf  and that no one got hurt. If someone had gotten hurt most likely, it would have been the demise of the wolf. It would have only been protecting its food but….

I was sad  the people had gotten out of their cars rather than staying put and just watching the wolf in its natural environment. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy the moment. We can’t always get the picture. Memories can last a very long time.

I learned later from the rangers that the pack had killed an elk in that area the day before. The rangers had to moved the elk carcass to an undisclosed location because it was too close to the road. They moved it for the safety of the wolves and the people. Evidently, the wolf had come back for some remains that were probably left there.

Well, that was my first evening in the Grand Teton National Park. I hope you enjoyed the photos.

There will soon be another blog about my time with a Grizzly and her two cubs so stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge… a day trip (3/1/2017)

Wednesday, I was able to sneak away and spend the day at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge. I really didn’t know what to expect because I normally visit in the fall during the geese and duck migration.  I’ve gone at other times and always manage to come away with some photos but I’ve not gone this late in the winter.

The first critter I saw was a barred owl but it was too dark and it was too fast for me to get a shot….. Darn! I had to remind myself that I should “just enjoy the moment.” Which I did, reluctantly.

Not to be disappointed though, look who’s peeking out of the nest. At first I didn’t see anything in the nest. A train came by then all of a sudden it looked out. I was quite lucky to be there at the right time.  I stayed only a few minutes because I never want to disturb nesting. I drove by the nest several times throughout the day but that was the only time I saw it peeking out.

I always love it when the animal I’m photographing doesn’t  know I’m there. It affords getting a glimpse into their normal daily lives.

This coyote was hunting and at first didn’t notice me. However, they have excellent hearing. After a couple of clicks, it knew I was there.

It quickly went on its way. I was hoping it would stop and turn around as they often do to see if it was being followed.  It did but in tall grass where I couldn’t get clear a shot of it.

The next critter I saw seem to be happily dancing along the side of the road.  It really looked like it was dancing. I was surprised to see it because they are nocturnal. It brought a smile to my face as I watched it dancing along.

This eagle looked so majestic, that I couldn’t resist taking its picture.

Then, it made a gesture as if to say, “Are you kidding me?”

Even our National Symbol gets an itch now and then!

They must have been tired!  This is the first time I’ve been able to get this close to them without them getting nervous and flying away.  Too Cool!

This was the second coyote I saw. However, it saw me first. While butt shots are rude, this was the only shot I was able to get as it quickly moved away.

This might have been what it was hunting. Can you see it?

Now, I’m sure you can see it. There were two of them. While they have excellent hearing, I don’t think they knew I was there. I watched them for a few minutes as they slowly walked by.

Nope! This is not the same opossum. Now I knew it was a luck day. You hardly ever see one in the daylight, but two?  How cool is that?

This one didn’t seem as happy as the other one and didn’t want anything to do with me so I just took a couple of quick shots and moved on.

Just as the sun was going down, all of a sudden, hundreds of thousands of red-winged black birds appeared. There were hundreds of them perched in all the nearby trees while the sky was fill with them flying in all directions. I have never seen so many at one time.

You can tell by the soft golden glow of the light that the sun was almost down. This flock  landed on the ground close to me.

This is an enlargement of the center of the previous photo. Like the ducks and geese, I just don’t know how they avoid mid-air collisions when they all start to fly at the same time. It was really awesome to see.

Well that was my day at the refuge. I saw other animals which were to fast for me to photograph.  There were a variety of hawks, including a northern harrier, that barred owl and of course, there are always deer. All in all, I think it was a good day.

For the locals, it’s really not that far to go and visit. From my house in Overland Park, it takes an hour and a half to get there. I hope you’ve enjoyed my day adventure at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge and perhaps, visit it yourself.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

Bald Eagles of Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge

As many of you may know, the name of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge has been changed to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge. It was done after much debate and input from several Native American tribes. It seems, the word squaw has a derogatory meaning for many of them. This change has in no way taken anything away from this wonderful place but makes it better for all who love it.

From this time forward, all my post with photos taken here will be listed under the new name. That being said, I hope you enjoy these photos. Some are new.  Some are from times past but I hope you enjoy seeing them again.

December 12, 2016 was a very good day for eagle watching. There were so many in the tree that I couldn’t fit them all in photo below. There were also several  flying around in the same location at the same time.

Good day for Bald Eagles, 12/12/16

They were coming from all angles!

Coming at you!

The next series are of the same bird in flight as it was flying around with some of the others.

Getting lift!
Just taking to the sky
Flying by

At a certain time of the year, you may get lucky and see them on the nest. When I do, I never stay long because I don’t want to cause them any stress which may interfere with their well-being or nesting.

Nesting!

After viewing this one for a few minutes, he flew over me to the pond behind me. He gather nesting material, then flew close to me as he brought the mud and grass to the nest. I’m reasonably sure it was the male because he seemed to be the smaller of the two. Most of the time, adult female raptors are larger than males.

Building a home
I hope she likes the new furniture!

I call this photo “The Couple”. One was squawking. The other was just not paying attention.

I’m not listening!

I was lucky to get these three together. They look to be of 3 different ages. The one on the left is at least 4 to 5 years old. Their heads and tails turn white around 4 to 5 years of age. The one on the far right might be a little unique. I haven’t seen many with so much white on their breast and legs.

The look of three different ages.

Just another couple hanging out together!

Hanging out together!

Time to rest and just look around!

Just looking around!

A series of one taking off.

Getting ready to take flight!
One Giant Leap!
Almost there
Airborne!

Please don’t be too ruffled about the name change. I think it represents the area well and it’s kind of catchy! The eagles don’t seem to mind.

Ruffled but not because of the name change.

I never get tired of photographing our National Symbol. They are so majestic! I hope you come to Loess Bluffs during the fall migration to see them. If you like seeing lots of water fowl and eagles, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Bye for now!

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill

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