Fox on the lawn

This little guy decided to poke his head in the window at our vacation condo while we were having supper. My wife’s cooking smelled REALLY good, and he took notice.

We don’t feed wildlife, but he decided to put on quite a show for us. Apparently he figured we’d be more likely to toss him some chow if he looked as adorable as possible.

Thankfully I had my camera handy, so I was able to capture some nice shots from his display of cuteness. That didn’t help his chances of getting any grub, but he didn’t know that.

I have to hand it to him, he’s quite photogenic. I’m pretty sure he’s well practiced in this routine. It wasn’t working on me, though.

On that note, he took off along the shore to find someone else more likely to indulge him. Thankfully the eight little baby Mallards who had been hanging out along the shore were nowhere in sight, because I’m quite sure a couple of them would have become a meal.

I’m glad our guest decided to stop in, but I’m adamant that feeding wildlife is not in their best interest. It was a good lesson to teach my kiddos, while getting some great photos at the same time.

Just chillin’

My boy actually spotted this hawk as we zipped by at highway speed. As he described what he saw, I decided to turn around at the next opportunity and drive past again, this time slowly since there was no traffic around. He seemed to be favoring his wing, as though injured.

I don’t know…I’ve photographed injured hawks before, and this one just didn’t have the same posture. So I decided to take a closer look and try to determine what was up with this unusual (for a hawk) pose.

It was then, as is common for all raptors in the presence of my camera, that he hopped right up in a manner all too spry for a bird with a serious injury, then took flight as if everything was completely normal.

I don’t know why he was hanging out that way, but it certainly was weird. Maybe he’d seen so many farmers go by with their arm out the window, and thought he’d try it out for himself? I guess I’ll never know.

The Greg trifecta

One of my many long-standing traditions is to name the bunny on our property, even when I lived downtown, Greg. This is an homage to the irreverent yet hilarious Greg the Bunny, the main character on a short-lived FOX television show. Well, I discovered a new bunny last night, in an unlikely place in front of our house, and therefore dubbed him Greg. I snapped his photo from the front door before Greg, as bunnies often do, bolted around to the back of the house.

Later in the evening, I went around back and discovered that I now had two Gregs in the backyard, as another one crept out of the cattails along the water behind our property. Two for the price of one.

Later still, I saw even a third Greg munching on my lawn. How do I know these are all unique Gregs? Good question. They were all three in the yard at the same time. I wish they’d mow it for me, instead of just chewing on it a little at a time! Well, they only gave me a brief moment for some photos before all three scampered into the cattails and vanished. Presumably not into the water, but along the dry stretch to wherever it is they must be burrowing.

There weren’t any blowfish in sight, however

This is Hootie, the owl inhabiting a friend’s tree.  Here he’s striking pretty much the same pose I did this afternoon.  I was trashed from a late night urban mountain bike ride, so after church I went home to take a quick combat nap before heading to the church picnic.  Well, I ended up zonked out entirely through the potluck, but I did get a chance to visit Hootie for a few minutes.  I can tell right away we’re kindred spirits.

I expect that we’ll be spending more time together, since we appear to be somewhat in tune.  As such, I hope to share more photos of this little guy this summer.

I’d say it was a couple of bucks but it’s actually a load of bull

elk_41665I’m no hunter, so I had to use Google to verify that a male elk is a bull and not a buck.  Don’t ask me why.  All I know is that these guys and a few of their friends hung out near me for a little while after I arrived at the part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where they were grazing at sunrise.

badlands_sunrise_41752-7_hdrI’m glad they sauntered off when they did, because if they hadn’t I’d have missed this shot…my favorite of the summer!

I got a few Northern Lights photos last night, and – SQUIRREL

baby_squirrel_37557Before I process and share the photos of Saturday night’s blazing auroras, I have to share this little guy.  We had the kids at a park in Mandan for an afternoon with their cousins, and my youngest came up to tell me he was able to pet a little squirrel. He wanted my help to climb the tree where the little buggers were (apparently there were two) so he could get another look at them.  Well, I found the tree and one of the squirrels.  I was astonished to find a hole in the tree and a tiny little baby squirrel daring into it.


squirrel_setup_ip_8341Well, that’s all it took.  I got my camera gear out of the truck and set out to capture the little guy.  The family day was wrapping up anyway, so I set up shop under the tree and decided to wait until the baby squirrel(s) decided to make an appearance.  All the din of the boys and girls had settled, and after a while one of the babies popped up for a visit.


baby_squirrel_37570Isn’t this cuuuuuuuuuute?  Peek-a-boo!  Thankfully I didn’t appear to be too big a threat, as I actually had a much longer time with my subject than I anticipated.  I had the tripod all set up in position so I wouldn’t have to waste time framing, I had my focus point set, I had weighted down the tripod with my bag to avoid wind issues, and I had the remote handy so I wouldn’t have to get any closer to take my shots.  Preparation paid off.


baby_squirrel_37563I didn’t see any evidence of my own to corroborate the existence of two baby squirrels here, but rather than wait around to find out I chose to pack up and work my way home…after checking out a place for a sunset shot.  That shot didn’t happen, as my fuel pump in my truck decided to flake out on me…but from a photographic standpoint I was satisfied with my day.  Just not from an automotive point of view.

Uh oh … we could have a LOT more mouths to feed

mantie_7407My youngest boy catches the strangest things as if it’s second nature.  That’s why I was elated but not altogether surprised when he brought home Mantie the praying mantis.  She’s huge, ferocious, and entertaining.  We even let her spend a few days at the boys’ dentist’s office, where I’m told she was a big hit.  And now she’s about to have company.

As you can see in the photo above, she’s just laid an enormous egg sac.  We suspected this was coming; she’d been blimping out like crazy since we got her.  Male mantises are much smaller than Mantie, and often don’t survive the mating process, so I had no doubt that Mantie was a girl.  Whether or not she was going to lay eggs was another matter.  Finding a praying mantis in North Dakota is rare enough; what are the odds of that mantis getting a date?

I’m told that there could be upwards of 200 little Manties in there.  While I’m okay with keeping a cricket farm for Mantie’s nutritional needs, I have no idea where I can get aphids – especially enough to feed a dinner part of 200 – so I’m planning on stashing the egg sac out by the water behind our house.  It should ride out just fine until Spring, and then maybe I’ll have an army of mantises to take care of mosquitoes.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

The trick now is to get the egg sac outside in the cold so it doesn’t hatch.  Otherwise the warm indoor air will trigger something for which we’re entirely unprepared.  Yikes!

Ruthless killer apprehended in northwest Bismarck

mantis_35617I have never seen one of these in the wild before, and certainly not in North Dakota, yet my littlest boy brought one home from a nature walk today!  I shouldn’t be surprised, since he caught a four-inch “walking stick” bug at the sandbar a couple of weekends ago.  He catches toads and frogs, flies, and any manner of bug.  I don’t think he got that talent from me, although I did “catch” him a fuzzy caterpillar on the way home from work today.  This mantis is one majestic insect, let me tell you.  But it’s got a mean streak.


mantis_35622“If I could do this, I’d never leave the house…” 

In addition to being a talented climber, this bug is a diligent preener as well.  It spent plenty of time tending to its legs and feet while I snapped away in an impromptu dining room photo shoot.


mantis_35599“Say it isn’t so!”

I don’t have any photos to post, but once we put this critter back into its habitat with a grasshopper from the yard it showed its true colors.  I looked over to see how it was doing, and it had gnawed the head off the grasshopper and going to town on its body like it was an ice cream cone.  Before long, nothing was left except a few bits of wing and forelegs.  Yikes.

After I’d tucked the little ones to bed and was sitting in my recliner, I heard a spooky scratching.  The mantis was trying to escape its bug hut (good luck, pal).  I went to the next room and peered at it through the plastic wall.  Its antennae constantly swayed back and forth in a nearly hypnotic motion, and it stared at me with an unwavering “I’ll chew your face off, wise guy” glare.

We’re going to go the extra mile to prepare a happy habitat for this predator.  Grasshoppers and crickets abound right now, and are available year round.  I think I may lock my bedroom door at night, though…