I forgot to mention the sideshow

riverboat_crane_29063A while back I posted about the riverboat being hoisted into the Missouri River to begin its season, but I didn’t tell the whole story.  You see, while all this coordinated action was meticulously taking place, there was another show going on in the river behind us.  Here’s the video…the noise you hear is the crane crew and the image stabilizer on my telephoto lens.


I don’t know what species of bird these are, but they’re hilarious to watch.  It was cute to see them dart underwater in large groups.  They’d all go under for a little while, then gradually resurface a few at a time about ten meters or so from where they disappeared. There were at least two enormous clusters of them slowly making their way upstream, undeterred by all that was going on around them.

If you know what kind of bird, please leave a comment.  Enjoy!

Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti

moose_28134A friend of mine who works nearby called me this morning to tell me that a moose had decided to visit.  It later walked across Century Avenue, deciding to hang out and enjoy the nice wetland area on the corner of 19th Street.  After a taco lunch with some new friends I decided to stop by.


moose_28149While making some small talk with a patrol officer, animal control officer, and game & fish officer I was able to grab a couple of shots while keeping my distance.  The beast was having a nice lunch and didn’t seem to care that he was about to become a spectacle.


moose_28196About the time that someone remarked that they figured he was about to move on, the moose showed us how much we know about moose…mooses…meese…whatever.  He dropped to his knees and eventually settled down to chill and digest his lunch.

That’s when the circus came to town.  Soon there were gapers everywhere.  I even saw some absolute idiot dash across 19th street, tugging along two little girls who couldn’t be older than 5, through 35mph traffic while all the drivers were paying attention to the moose and not potential jaywalkers.  While the moose couldn’t have cared less, the police were notably agitated…and rightly so.

Not wanting to be lumped in with the developing crowd, I left.  I’d already gotten some satisfying shots, managed to stay out of everyone’s way, and didn’t want to be part of the officers’ consternation.


moose_28233On my way home from work I decided to swing by the area and see if they’d managed to bring their plan of walking the moose southward to the Hay Creek area to fruition.  They’d just begun.  I kept ample distance due to the wonder of telephoto lenses, snapped one shot, and again left as quickly as I’d come.

I presume that by this time the moose has meandered southward.  In the mean time, we North Dakotans will wait for the next spectacle at which to gawk en masse.  It’s something we’re really good at, even if we feel somewhat silly afterwards.  Maybe next someone will spot a flying squirrel!

Bird whisperer?

wings_13929Those who know me well know that I’m very fond of birds.  Above is my little lovebird, Scooter, who sadly is no longer with us.  Over the years of being his best friend, I was able to develop quite a rapport with the little guy.  One example of that was being able to coax him into showing off his feathers.  One way was by asking him to “get fluffy”, at which point he would fluff up his feathers and stick his breast out proudly.  The other was by showing me his wings as he’s doing in the photo above.

wings_4307I came across this photo from a Dakota Zoo photo contest a while back, and it brought to mind the “conversation” I had with this sandhill crane.  My boys know this as the “pecking” bird for reasons that should be self-evident from the nom de guerre which they assigned to him, and I’ve always known this to be a particularly cranky bird.   Well, one day I visited the zoo on my lunch break in an effort to photograph this challenging subject.  After what seemed like twenty minutes of talking to him, he suddenly began to show off his wings.  As I encouraged him, he finally struck a pose that was a shoo-in for the photo contest.

wings_20DThen I spotted this photo, from the very first year I got my first digital SLR camera.  I was poking around on the sandbar beneath the old Liberty Memorial Bridge when I spotted a sandpiper wandering around nearby, keeping his distance and eyeballing me.  I began to talk to him since there was no one else around and I didn’t see anything else worth photographing.  I stayed in one spot for a while, looking around and talking to the bird, when suddenly he began to stretch out a wing.  He didn’t take his eye off me, of course, but he spent the next several minutes stretching out those feathers.

wings_46845Finally, we have the trifecta.  I took another lunch break to head to the lake at the Game & Fish office east of town, the large OWLS area which is always promising as a photo spot.  This time around I spotted three geese who were apparently happy to see me.  Not only did they let me walk right up to them, but they all began to vogue in front of me for the next several minutes.  I started chatting ’em up for a while in the hopes of keeping the mood light, and they kept up the act for a while until apparently we all thought it was played out and we parted ways.

I’m not claiming any sort of supernatural gift or anything, but when I consider all these instances it looks like I have a knack with winged creatures.  Even more likely is dumb luck, but I’ll take it.  I love birds, and when I can get them to relax around me and even show off a little I’m absolutely thrilled.  I’m sure the fact that I egg ’em on so much (see what I did there?) once they start to show their feathers helps get them into the act, and I’m glad I have a camera to catch them hamming it up.

This is how I feel on Mondays

porcupine_27196I wasn’t aware that porcupines did this, but when they do I’m glad I have a camera handy.  If I had a nice branch to cling to right now, I think I’d do the same.  He sure does look comfortable!  He was gracious enough to let me snap away while he settled in for an afternoon snooze.

porcupine_27194Granted, I don’t have the claws that this critter does…so maybe dozing off in a tree would be a bad idea.  I tried to cling to my pillow with the tenacity of a clawed beast, but unfortunately duty calls and I have to get the day started.

Hopefully your Monday goes well, too!

Wheee! Good morning!

turtle_27917I spotted this little guy in the road near Hay Creek as I barreled toward him in my dually crew-cab work truck.  I turned round down the street a ways to see if I actually saw what I thought I saw, then doubled back to find him.  My coworker riding in the truck didn’t see anything, but I was positive and had to prove it to myself.  I pulled off to a side street, waited for traffic to pass, and bolted over to a tiny little spot in the road.


turtle_iphone_1079When I say tiny, I wasn’t kidding.  This little guy, yet to be named by my little boys, is pretty small.  As a photography enthusiast I like to think I can pick out details in the world around me, but to spot a quarter-sized lump walking across the road has got to be a new personal best.

I may take another few photos of this little guy and perhaps even let the fellas issue him a name, but then he’s going back to the Hay Creek area to be set free.  I’m no expert in the care of snapping turtles, and he can only get more hazardous to curious little-boy fingers as he grows.  It sure was neat to meet him, though!  Isn’t he cute?


UPDATE:  Snappy the turtle has been returned to Hay Creek from which he came:

turtle_return_27956My little guy and I waited for the rain to pass and made a dusk voyage out to the east end of town and let the little turtle go.  One could call him Lucky considering that he would likely have been pasted had he remained on East Rosser.  In any case, he’s got a shot at survival now.  He wouldn’t have made a good pet and I try to teach my boys to be responsible with nature, so it was a teachable moment.  After all, Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast…”

Fawning over this photo

fawn_26284Adding to the list of “things that didn’t flee immediately” from my recent photo trip, I present this little guy.  I’m told there are two spotted fawns poking around in this location, but I only saw the one.  It was, however, a cooperative subject for a little while before finally being spooked and bolting off into the tall grass and trees.  I’ve overused the phrase, “oh, deer!” so I’ll refrain today.

This week I was fortunate to have found two typically elusive members of the wildlife community, in front of nice backgrounds for my photos, and in a willing state to allow me to snap a few shots.  Between the previously mentioned hawk and this little fawn, I’ve had a good week for capturing wildlife!

Roadside raptor rescue

raptor_rescue_26309On a photo drive tonight I spotted something unusual in the road ahead.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but as I rolled nearer I saw it was true: a hawk in the oncoming lane.  He didn’t seem to flustered by the fact that I was there, either.  Usually hawks bolt as soon as my camera draws near, but not this guy.

raptor_rescue_26310Yep…determined to stay put.  No matter how close I or my telephoto lens came, this bird was set in place.  It didn’t look injured, sick, or even frightened; however, it was not about to fly away.  Soon passers-by joined me and noted that they’d seen this hawk earlier in their walk.  Clearly something was amiss.

raptor_rescue_26345Before long, a resourceful homeowner nearby came up with a solution to help the hawk find its way into the relative safety of the grass of the yard a short distance away. It was able to climb up on this broom, its wings worked to steady itself, and there was no sign of illness. We surmised that it was a young one from a nearby nest that wasn’t sure what to do. With the threat of immediate danger beneath the wheels of passing automobiles abated, it was time for him to pose for some photos. I was more than happy to oblige.

raptor_rescue_26371What a handsome specimen! After years of watching in vain as potential photo subjects took flight before my camera was ready, this was a welcome change.

raptor_rescue_26454After a long time of photographing my willing subject from various angles while lying on my stomach in the grass, I figured it was time to give him some space and venture on down the road for a chance at photographing the approaching sunset. Hopefully the hawk eventually decided to move on to safety, even if under some of the trees in the yard. I’m thankful that we got to spend some time together, and hopefully he’s in fine shape and fleeing from my camera in the future!

Might as well go for a walk

What do you do when the water’s still too hard to sit in? These migratory birds were spotted simply mulling around near Menoken when my boy and I were out on a recent photo exploration. Instead of being able to drift around cozily in one of the Prairie Pothole region’s many wetlands, these poor creatures had to resort to simply meandering aimlessly about.

This isn’t how I want to get close-up shots of large raptors

I got some of my closest photos of an enormous hawk a couple of weekends ago while on a roving photo trip. I was able to slowly approach within several feet of this big guy, although that’s not how he would have preferred it. He even stayed uncharacteristically still for me, and there wasn’t even a fresh kill nearby that he was trying to protect. In fact, he was trying to protect himself.

Sadly, this bird has a broken wing. I noticed him standing beside the road as I drove by and, since that sort of behavior is peculiar and I love trying to get close-ups of hawks, I stopped and got out to investigate. That’s when I realized why this predator wasn’t flying away like dozens of others who’ve seen me approach with my camera: it couldn’t. This would be an amazing pose if it didn’t mean he was wounded and trying to look intimidating so I’d go away.

Many of you know that I’m particularly sympathetic to birds, even lean, mean, killin’ machine birds, but I was unable to do something for this one. I was out in the absolute middle of nowhere, totally unequipped to try to catch him and take him to the zoo or somewhere, and nobody to call. I took a few pictures while talking to him for a bit, and then he vanished into the tall grass behind him.

I originally thought this bird had been shot, but didn’t see any sign of a GSW. The wing simply looks broken. At first it was really exciting to be able to get so close to such a large and elusive critter, but in the end I just ended up feeling sad at its plight and my own inability to assist.

I hiked through poison ivy to take these, so you bet I’m gonna post ’em

We had some welcome house guests during our family Black Hills retreat last weekend. As I rolled into the driveway I saw a doe hanging out behind the deck, and sprang out with my camera without even unlocking the house and dashed to the backyard.

As it turns out, there were two does as well as two bucks and two fawns. With ample grazing in the yard (and apple trees over the deck) they were always rummaging about in the morning and evening.

Of course, after climbing all over the side of the mountain that suffices as a backyard, I realized that it was teeming with poison ivy.

I’ve had poison ivy so many times that it doesn’t even really bother me any more. I had one itchy spot on my ankle for a few days and, since I didn’t scratch it, it didn’t spread. I was tempted a few times but stayed strong.

I wish I had this kind of luck with human subjects; the deer posed so nicely and, since they’re deer, remained relatively still. Since we were throwing them apples from the trees by the deck from time to time, we didn’t appear to pose much of a threat.

The fawns were the most skittish, the hardest to find, and the least likely to approach the house. I only saw them a few times and they rarely left me an opportunity to point the camera at them. When not moving they blended into the background so well that they were hard to spot even when near.

Since we pretty much left them alone and there was plenty of good grazing around, they hung out with us for the week. They seemed to be okay with me wandering around nearby with my camera as long as the fawns were hidden.

I’ve pretty much had my fill of deer photos now, except I wouldn’t mind having a nice close-up session with the fawns again sometime. Unfortunately they weren’t about to give me that opportunity this time around. Maybe next time. Until then, I’m pretty satisfied with my little mountainside deer-chasing adventure.