Band of Brothers

I was fortunate to run into this handsome herd of Mule Deer bucks just as they were leaving a field in the early morning. It isn’t often you see this many horned ones together and it was a joy to watch and photography them for about an hour before I had to move on.

Mule Deer

These fellows got over their alarm at my presence fairly quickly and it was interesting to watch their interactions at my leisure.

Four Point and Three Point

Western count, this is a nice four point and three point hanging out.

Alert

King Stag

This guy was definitely the biggest buck and the most wary. He dived into the tall brush and hid for a good little while until he decided I wasn’t a threat. He ran out an joined the rest of the herd and allowed me to get a few good shots. He has some pretty gnarly eye guards. Classic four point Mule Deer Buck.

Mix of Bucks and Does
In Motion
Play Fighting

These bucks did a little bit of play fighting while I watched. I was hoping they would knock their horns off it being March and time for them to be dropping their antlers. No such luck.

Bald Eagles

February and March are prime months for seeing Bald Eagles as they migrate through the high desert. They follow the flocks of snow geese, tundra swans and numerous ducks that fly through the area on their way back north.

Bald Eagle in Flight
Bloody Feet

I like to photograph and record nature with realism. Birds of prey have to eat and that is messy. Eagles cull the weak and sick birds from the flocks. They fly over large rafts of snow geese scaring them into panicked flight. They pick the ones off the water that are too weak to fly or are struggling. Nothing goes to waste. Ravens follow the eagles and clean up any scraps.

Old Stage Stop in Central Nevada

I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer in the center of the state as I have a cow elk tag and a mule deer buck tag in units that are in that area. I have been combining scouting with site seeing and have ticked off some places I have wanted to visit and explore for a long time.

One of those places is an old stage stop located in a remote canyon down a very dusty road. At times I had to four wheel drive it to get through the powdery dust that was as deep and treacherous as a snowfall.

Stage Stop Cabin

So this had to have been built before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. It has to be at least 155 years old. It is still in great condition due to the solid rock construction. It sports a dirt floor and elaborate chimney. It would be pretty tight quarters. I rode in one of those authentic stagecoaches up in Virginia City a few summers ago. Very uncomfortable ride! I can’t imagine bumping along all day in one of those and then “resting” here!

There was an old stone corral as well but it was hard to photograph. I also took photos of some wild horses, golden eagle and a cooperative Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark
Wild Grullo Mare and Foal
Golden Eagle

Hummingbirds at Rest

When we think of hummingbirds we tend to think of perpetual motion, speed and agility. It may come as a surprise to read that they actually spend quite a bit of time perched and at rest. I hung two perches designed for Hummingbirds near a couple of the feeders I have in the backyard and they use them regularly.

Using the Perch

Hummingbirds are fiercely territorial so perching near food sources is common. They also conserve energy by doing this.

Perching on a Branch

The birds use a variety of perches around my backyard. Any bare branch is attractive to them. They also perch on dead flower stems.

Rufous on Flower Stem
Hummingbird on Dead Headed Bee Balm

I have several sculpture objects around the yard that are Hummingbird related and it is especially amusing to me when they perch on those.

Hungry Hummingbirds

I have been impatiently waiting for the migration of Rufous Hummingbirds to start. Finally on Saturday the birds seem to have arrived. I don’t know if climate change is affecting their timing but the last two years they have shown up about 10 days later then I am accustomed to seeing them and they have definitely been hanging around later in the fall until I am forced to take down freezing feeders. I think these Rufous make their way north in the spring up through California. We don’t see too many of them at that time.

We have locals, Black Chinned Hummingbirds, that quietly hang out in the backyard helping themselves to the feeders and early blooming flowers in spring and early summer. Then in August it gets wild with high numbers of Rufous battling over blooms and the feeders.

Rufous with Astagache Glowing Embers

It is challenging and fun to try to capture all the action with the camera. The birds soon become used to your presence if you sit quietly. They are apt to fly right up to your face and examine you at close range. I have read that they recognize people and learn to trust you.

Rufous with Desert Solstice Astagache

One of the challenges to getting a good photo is they are always chasing each other off the flowers. They are fiercely territorial and even though I am offering them a huge banquet of flowers and feeder choices they are quite protective of their food sources.

Hummingbird defending against attack from above
Pretty Pose

Better late than never. Enjoying the annual show these tiny titans are putting on.

Ospreys – End of the Dive

Of course the whole point of the Osprey’s efforts are to come up with a fish! For a few weeks last summer this small pond afforded me numerous opportunities to photograph the Ospreys as they hunted. I sat for hours on the edge of the pond for many days to capture the action. In the following series of photographs you can see the Osprey almost submerged in the water as he/she successfully snags a fish, to the point it flies off with it’s prize.

Osprey

I was surprised when reviewing the photos at how deep the Ospreys go into the water. I thought they just skimmed the top of the water and grabbed fish.

Osprey leaving the water with fish

If you look closely you can see a trout in the Osprey’s right talon.

Osprey with fish
Gaining speed
Osprey

Angelic Ospreys

Osprey looking for Fish

Just like everyone else, I’m looking for things to do while the this quarantine/social distancing drags on. Going through photos is an activity I’ve been enjoying. I took a lot of photos of Ospreys fishing last year. They look angelic to me against the soft summer sky.

Osprey fishing

You can see that the Osprey is intently studying the water below.

After the Osprey sees a fish near the surface it starts the dive.

Starting the Dive
Diving

These photos don’t capture the speed that this all takes place at. I had to take a lot of photos to get it done. 🙂

Spring in the Great Basin

First day of Spring!

Even though our world is anything but routine right now, nature’s rhythms continue to turn on the rotation of our planet.   The northern desert is awakening from it’s winter slumber. Tiny flowers poke through our most recent snow and animals follow their inner clocks and begin their spring activities. For larger mammals it is nearing time for females to give birth. For birds, courtship and nesting are about to jump into full swing. In the high desert, on healthy sage brush steppes, the Sage Grouse have begun their ancient courtship ritual of Lekking.

Male Sage Grouse Courtship Display

lekking

[ˈlekiNG]

NOUN

  1. the practice by males in certain species of birds and mammals of engaging in a communal display during the breeding season on a patch of ground known as a lek.

“from 5,000 to 50,000 males may congregate during lekking”

ADJECTIVE

  1. (of males in certain species of birds and mammals) engaging in a communal display during the breeding season on a patch of ground known as a lek.

“in comparison to other lekking animals, the great snipe show very little sexual dimorphism”

Male Sage Grouse

Weather permitting, I try to visit several Leks in northern Nevada and California in the Spring. It has become a Spring time ritual for me observe and photograph these amazing courtship displays. It takes some dedication as the dirt roads can be iffy with mud and snow. Couple that with needing to be at the Lek well before it gets light in often 20 degree or less temperatures, it isn’t for everyone.

Sage Grouse start lekking the end of February and will continue until the first week in May. They meet on the Lek where the males dance and strut for several hours before the sun comes up.  About an hour after sun up, they all fly off. The responsible observer gets there well before they do and hides in a blind or stays quiet in the vehicle until the birds have left. Disturbing them may cause them to abandon the lek forever. Many of these leks have been in use for thousands of years.  

Pronghorn frequently visit the Leks

Short-eared Owls

Short-eared owl with prey

Short-eared Owls are easier to find this time of year. They are unusual for owls as they can be active while it is light enough to photograph them. I find plenty of sleepy Great Horned owls early in the morning getting their naps on and while I am grateful for the opportunity to take their picture its exciting to see owls going about their owl business hunting and eating.

Short-eared Owl in afternoon light

In the flat fields of the Sierra Valley, I’ve been lucky enough to find quite a few Short-eared owls congregating in the late afternoons. They have been pretty cooperative posers, not too flighty or scared as I shoot them from my truck.

Short-eared Owl in profile

These owls love open fields and grasslands as they hunt small mammals like mice and voles.

Short-eared Owl in it’s habitat

Short-eared owls are widely distributed occurring on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They are not threatened and seem to be doing well as a species.

Short-eared Owl

Thanks for looking! 🙂