Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yellowstone National Park - A river runs through it

One of the greatest rewards in photographing wildlife for me is actually in the dramas that I have had the privilege to witness. The photograph is the icing on the cake, but the real thrill comes in the experience. Whether I am watching humpback whales bubble-net feeding, or Orcas chasing and killing a Dall's porpoise, polar bear males mock-fighting, or penguins waddling down the beach, the reward is being there in person to get a true glimpse of wild animals doing things that so few people ever get to see for themselves. It is those rare moments that make all the long hours of waiting and watching so worthwhile.

These images of elk battling in the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park are a perfect case in point. The entire story took over four hours to unfold as a challenging bull elk bugled from a distance towards the bull elk who had control of this harem. The defender actually had time to sharpen his antlers in preparation for the fight. The sounds reverberated from the hills as the challenger closed in and then finally charged. The fighting was fast and furious as these two huge bulls pushed and shoved each other in the river. The fight seemed to favor first the challenger, then the defender as both contestants were very evenly matched.

In the end the challenger was just not up to the fight. The defender held the challengers head underwater and then stood over him as the exhausted and panting bull had to give in. I actually thought the winner was going to drown the loser, but he finally let him up out of the water for air, then stood over the harem as the challenger left. What an amazing drama to watch from start to finish! Caramba!

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Yellowstone National Park - Bison Antics!

Now I have seen some amazing photographs of bison (buffalo) by many photographers over the years here in Yellowstone, but I have to admit that I see this animal as a bit of a comic in a heavy winter coat. I can't help but laugh as this huge mammal finds itself in some of the funniest situations. Whether getting its' tongue stuck on a frozen metal garbage dumpster, or acting as a roost for birds, it seems to me that the bison is just plain (no pun intended) silly...

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Yellowstone National Park - Super Weasel!!

October, 2006

Good things come in small packages, and I think that one of the most amazing experiences I had in Yellowstone this time around had to be the antics of this short-tailed weasel (also called an Ermine). With a fresh rodent kill in its' jaws it bounded from rock to rock at high speed and never even slowed or dropped dinner! This animal equivelant of superman had me chuckling as I tried to capture such strength and agility in a photo...if only I could hand hold my 300mm f2.8 lens and camera body and then run as fast as this weasel, I might be a super hero too!

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Yellowstone National Park - Pouncing Coyotes!!!!

October, 2006

The leaves on the trees are turning to gold and the grasses are also losing their color here in Yellowstone. One of the park's most efficient scavengers is out on the prowl looking for a meal. Traveling the easy route of the pavement it is quite easy to see coyotes here in the park. Since the re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone the Park Service estimates that the coyote population has decreased perhaps as much as 50% due to direct mortality and changes in coyote denning behaviors. I have a hard time confirming that based on the number of coyotes I have seen this trip. With patience and observation it is possible to watch these sly canines as they prowl the tall grasses looking for small rodents to pounce on. Time and again I encounter a coyote on the prowl! These four images are all different coyotes on different days doing what they do best...pouncing!

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Yellowstone National Park - Pronghorn

September 2005

With the coming of fall many of the herd animals are galvanized into action during mating season. Males mark and then defend territories, and the females within the territory, against other would-be challenging males. It is a wonderful time to observe and photograph animals since they are absolutely unconcerned with you, and are absolutely driven to distraction by the need to pass their own genes down into future generations. Such is the case with these pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America (they are able to sustain sprints of 50 miles per hour!) I watched in fascination as this male first marked his territory on sagebrush, then snorted and wheezed as a challenger approached. In the end the male had to chase the pesky challenger away. The females, for their part, seemed unconcerned and almost uninterested in all of these high-speed chases.

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Yellowstone National Park - Elk!

September 2005 and October 2006

Last year in late September I visited Yellowstone National Park. It was the first time I had returned to the park since I spent a couple of weeks there after the 1988 fires, which had destroyed over a third of the park.

Now, as most of you are aware, I consider myself a marine critter photographer. My love and passion lies in the ocean, and it is usually there that I invest my energy and resources. This year several uncontrollable factors found me with time and a want to travel in late October so I again wandered north to Yellowstone. The fall colors were magnificent and the animals again were spellbinding. What a privilege to come to understand (at least a little) the pageants that are being played out here by animals of all sorts and sizes. It has been a pleasure to train my lenses on land mammals are a few of the results. I hope you enjoy them!

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