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A Jay for Today

Among many other photographic subjects, I’ve been pursuing Stellar’s Jays for the past several years in an effort to capture a few nice images. We don’t have them near where I live, so I have sought them in my travels across the west. I find that they like to hang out in the shadows of trees, which makes photographing a dark bird kind of difficult. A couple weeks back, while at Bryce Canyon National Park, I finally had a good opportunity, and even though the bird was in the shade of a Bristlecone Pine, there was ample light to take home some good images.

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Signs of Life

High elevation, desert-like sand dunes; not a place where one generally expects a lot of native inhabitants. Yet, if you look closely and remain attentive, you may notice an abundance of life signs. Such was the case when I visited Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab, Utah last week. The dunes at 6000 ft above sea level are created by wind erosion of the nearby red sandstone cliffs, driven by the funneled wind squeezing through a gap between mountains. The color of the sand is a pinkish-red, due to iron oxide in the sandstone. However I’ve noticed that the perceived color of the dunes can change depending upon the angle and intensity of the sunlight striking the sand. In harsh, direct light, the sand seems to be a rich gold color. Light filtered through clouds, and the low evening sun tend to bring out the unique pink color.

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My stay at the park was too short to find out what critters left behind the signs of their presence, but I think you’ll agree that each had a unique calling card.

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?????

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No idea, but almost looks like a bicycle track at first glance!

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Has a tail…maybe a lizard?

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Hops on all four feet, but no tail (or a very short tail)

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A veritable critter highway – the curvy worm-like trail caught my eye.

Communing with the Hoodoos

Last week I was able to spend a few evening hours wandering around in Bryce Canyon National Park. Snow still lingered in the upper elevations of the park, but the weather was very Spring-like. Despite visiting this park several times in the past, I never ventured down the road toward Fairyland Trail, one of the first and lowest access points. I actually found this one of the best areas to get out and among the rock formations, without having to deal with a lot of people. The sun was rapidly setting, so I was somewhat limited in my exploration, but enjoyed my short time there.

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Whistling Dixie in the Theater

Southern looking panorama of the Amphitheater at the Cedar Breaks National Monument, near Parowan, Utah.  The Dixie National Forest encompasses this region.

Cedar Breaks Amphitheater

To view an interactive panorama of this scene, click this link:  Cedar Breaks Amphitheater – Dermandar. You cursor or mouse will allow you to scroll anywhere within the image, and double-clicking will zoom into the scene.

On Musselshell Pond

The morning was overcast, but with snow forecast for later in the day, I figured that early morning may be my best opportunity to photograph eagles today. So I left for church a few minutes early, planning to shoot the “regular” Bald Eagles that are often warming themselves in the early morning sunshine. Despite the lack of sun, a juvenile eagle was perched in a dead tree adjacent to the pond near Musselshell.

Juvenile Bald Eagle seemingly annoyed with the noise and sparring of the Canada Geese

Juvenile Bald Eagle seemingly annoyed with the noise and sparring of the Canada Geese

As I started capturing a few images, he (or she) turned his attention to a tremendous commotion among the Canada Geese on the far side of the pond. Though I was watching the eagle, I heard a lot of honking and cackling, as well as splashing happening. Following the eagle’s lead, I turned my camera to the geese to find them sparring over pieces of real estate on the islands in the pond. Arguments and battles would ensue like lightning among groups of geese that were only a moment earlier calm and foraging. Most of the battles didn’t last very long, and the spontaneity and short duration of these episodes made them difficult to capture. However, I did manage to capture (albeit poor quality) a very interesting battle posture of one goose trying to encroach on the tip of an island. It would seem that the Canada Goose is educated in the martial arts.

 

Canada Geese battling over nesting territory

Canada Geese battling over nesting territory

Although these birds join large flocks to make their long migration, they try to establish semi-private nesting areas once they reach the northern destination. Despite all the bickering and fighting, they will often nest in view of one another, and may even become become semi-colonial.

 

Peek-A-Bear!

Peek-A-Bear

 

A Black Bear image taken in June 2012.  More photos of this bear were posted at http://bigskyken.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/what-kind-of-bear-have-you/

Of Ice and Men

A couple weeks ago we experienced an odd chain of weather events that led to ice jams and flooding along the Musselshell River here in eastern Montana. On the morning of March 8, the ice flows came through our area and I followed the head of the high water taking both still and video footage of the event. Below are a few of the images I took, along with some video clips of the flowing ice in the riverbed.

My first vantage point allowed me to present a before and after comparison that gives an idea of how big the initial surge impacted the river.
Ice Flow Before and After

I shot this video from the same position as the ice flow fully filled the river.

Next, I moved a couple miles down river. The river level rose under the sheet of ice covering the stream until it raised enough to flow over an irrigation diversion, which caused the ice to breaks as it flowed over. A number of beavers had been wintering in the river at this spot, and were violently upset from the churning action of the ice in the river. Below is a beaver scampering for safety on the flowing ice.
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This video was taken from the same location, showing the ice sheets breaking as they cross the diversion dam.

There were numerous places where ice jams formed, causing the river to find alternative courses and flooding a lot of farmland in the process. Below you can see the ice jam in the river at the bottom of the frame, with the flooded fields beyond where the water found a less restricted path.
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The next video was taken at the moment when an ice jam finally broke loose after several hours.

“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.” Psalms 93:3-4

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