Great Blue Heron Rookery
18 April 2014
Today was a glorious spring day here in the Cody area – Mom’s apple tree sprouted leaves, and there are leaves starting to peek out all over town. Lawns are greening up rapidly.
Today Yellowstone opened, but we opted out since the weather there was dreary and drizzly – plus the boardwalks in most of the Upper Geyser Basin were closed due to 3 or 4 carcasses that would likely bring in the bears.
So this afternoon, we headed north to Bridger to look for an old refrigerator to turn into a smoker. And we found a few at the Carbon County Appliance Repair place – nobody there, but we left a message and saw there’s a drop box for the money. So we’ll head back up as soon as we find out more.
On the way back to Cody, we stopped at the Great Blue Heron rookery – about half way between Belfry and Bridger – since we noticed a few of the nests were occupied. Not a stitch of wind there – and you could smell spring in the air. It looks like there are a couple dozen of nests there – at least from the count we made from the photos.
But while processing the images, I noticed a differently shaped and colored head. A Canadian Goose. Here’s a screenshot of the image at 100% – click on it to see it larger.
Not sure if it was just visiting for a bit, or it it had set up house and was on eggs. I’m hoping to get back there before the leaves are on too heavily with a scope to take a closer look. Once at home, I shared the photo of the goose with others and it’s sparked some interesting discussions – from thinking it surely wouldn’t nest there, to pointing out that geese do nest at times on platforms built above a pond, but normally they aren’t 4 stories high.
A little farther along, we heard the gorkling of Sanhill Cranes and discovered with binoculars one standing and one on a nest. We definitely need to revisit this area.
I haven’t yet had time to get this entry printed out with the photos and enter it in the physical Field Journal I’m keeping, but that’s simply because we decided to make the long trip over to Gardiner so we could spend at least a few hours in the Park this early. In part for the geysers (an entry will be shared over on my other blog, Geyser Watch), but also for the phenology notes. More to come on that here as soon as possible.
Room to Breathe – Bridger View
This weekend I thought I’d share a bit of a drive we took the other day – we stopped at the Heron rookery by the road between Bridger and Belfry Montana. You should be able to click on the photo and have it come up larger – though it’s not available as a print at this point (it can be if you’re interested).
Field Journaling notes and more photos to come.
Well, not your normal moving sale, though. You see,
we had a plan to keep track of the items we needed, and which could stay in storage.
We had the best laid plans…and you know how that goes.
This week we dug into storage and FOUND the rest of the boxes of binders!!! (and the crowd cheers)
Perfect for a travel journal,
making your own summer smash book,
or just to document the everyday
with lots of embellishments or just as a simple photo journal.
My favorite way to finish them is with paint…
These chipboard binders have the traditional 3-hole spacing for the half sheet binders, but with extra room to fit in some pocket pages.
Personally, I slice and dice them to fit.
And the 2″ D-Ring Binder clips have room for all the ephemera found along the journey.
Room to Breathe – Red Butte
Finally, after all these years, software has allowed me to process this image as I envisioned it upon capture. Taken back in the summer of 2010, I had been waiting for light to shine on Red Butte, just north of Cody, Wyoming in a way that really highlighted its geologic beauty. A thunderstorm had recently passed through, and the clouds had just started to break up enough to allow the light to filter through the moist air, leaving rays highlighting the scene. And it captured the bonus of a bird, perhaps a raven, soaring over.
The scene is one I can return to again and again as room to breathe – to take a pause from the hustle and bustle of the day. It’s available now to grace a wall in your home as well through Fine Art America where you can click on the image to see it at full resolution.
Field Notes to Field Journal – part two
Here’s the final entry for my field journal. I took more time to get the words down, decided to put it in an InDesign file I could add to over time (have a couple more entries prior to this one). But the final format is the same as other projects I do right now – using pocket pages cut to size so they fit in my Field Journal Notebooks.
And I had two more photos to add, so for this I included a 4×6 insert between the two pages:
Sunday 6 April 2014
Mike and I took a drive up North Fork this afternoon. Coming out of the tunnels, we wondered what we were driving into – the end of the reservoir was socked in with snow. The elk near Wapiti were packed tightly together – the wind whipping up the fur on their backs. The ones in the center were protected, but the ones on the windward side would surely start to jockey for a better position.
Not much farther up the road, the winds calmed and the sun was out again – just snow showers blasting through. Another good sign of spring.
We saw tons of deer and bighorn sheep – I really should have counted the sheep to compare with later on in the spring. Perhaps on the next trip. No bison this time at Big Game Campground, but we saw six total a bit farther up the road, making us wonder if they’re actually starting to move toward the Park. One was laid out on his side, obviously soaking up the sun after the last snow shower had passed.
A couple of turns below Absoroka Lodge, two bull moose were browsing the willows there. We stopped to watch them on the way up as well as on the way back down. The younger of the two was interested in the cars that stopped and would pose with his ears alert. The older one didn’t even give us a glance.
There’s still a tremendous amount of snow at Pahaska – well over the roof of the Honda, but it’s reach down the North Fork is diminishing. There was hardly any where the moose were, and what was left was hard packed so their hooves didn’t sink at all. So, yes, when they’re up at Pahaska, they’re dealing with deeper snow, but down a bit farther, they really don’t. Both of them had thick, glossy coats that showed no sign of starting to shed. And they were dining away on the willows. No sign of catkins emerging yet, but the tips are still full of all that nutrition from the catkin flowers and leaf buds locked in there.
One set of photos taken showed the older one testing the water with his tongue before opening his mouth to take a good drink. He also has antler buds highly visible. We wondered how long ago they dropped this last year’s antlers.
This month’s Wyoming Wildlife magazine (April 2014) has a good article on moose – focusing on the ones near Jackson Hole. They talk about the mysterious drop in numbers in recent years. Minnesota has also seen a drop in their moose population, but they attribute it to the warmer temps in winter as well as ticks according to what I’ve heard on KAXE’s Phenology Show. The Wyoming Wildlife article also speaks of ticks and other parasites. If the swollen female tick drops off of the moose and lands on dirt, they burrow down and lay eggs. If they drop off on snow, they die. So perhaps this harsher winter, while more challenging to find food might balance out with the killing of more ticks. Besides, the moose prefer the cold and snow – their thick hides protecting them well and their long legs allow them to browse the willows year round. Warmer winters are more of a struggle for them.
As we headed back to town, the elk had spread out from their tightly packed group. The sun shone warmly and many were lounging on the ground, luxuriating in the warmth that reached near 50 degrees F. The sun is higher in the sky, and giving more warmth as we march our way to the summer solstice.
Field Notes to Field Journal – part one
Now that we have a few trips under our belt in this area, the process of keeping a field journal is starting to take shape for me. Since most of the trips have been short jaunts, I’ve not taken many field notes, but rather, type them out on my ipad as soon as possible after arriving back home. I’m also downloading and processing photos in the evenings as well. So now it’s down to starting the actual journal. I hope to have a few pages to share here soon. Some of the trips I’ve already shared here – to act as a sort of place holder. And I’ve added a bit more to the Yellowstone Phenology page.
So all of this will serve me well when actually creating the final field journal pages for these trips. It’s not unlike the preparation I’ll do for scrapbook pages of everyday life. Gathering the raw material (taking photos, collecting ephemera, raw journaling) and then creating the polished version – take more time to edit the words, create final versions of the photos to print (whether in a pocket pages format or full page format), and then add it to the journal with references on species pages.
More to come soon!
Room to Breathe – Sylvan Lake
Not everyone who visits Yellowstone gets to see this gem of a lake. It’s reserved for those who enter or exit the park through the East Gate. People in Cody know it well, though. Sylvan Lake rarely sees crowds and has a couple of pullouts with picnic tables that make it an idea spot to stop and find some room to breathe. Glacier Lilies grow here in spring and the occasional bull bison visits as well. When driving in to see the thermal features of the park, I rarely stop, but some mornings, like this one, the reflection of Top Notch peak is so glorious that I stop.
Turning off the engine of the car, and grabbing my camera, I’m nearly always caught by the silence – and let myself sink in to it to allow that quiet to engulf me, and let it quiet my thoughts. This is room to breathe. A pause we all need in our days. This type of solitude is refreshing and restorative, and yet we’ve filled our lives with so much busyness that we take too few pauses.
For me, this image stands as a reminder that even pausing to stare at this calm water in the image is enough to break the fast pace of life. To break that pace with stillness. It’s a means to ‘lift mine eyes to the hills’ as a help to manage life.
This stillness can grace a wall in your home as well – as a reminder that we are the ones who make our lives so busy, and we can also create time to pause and be still. Even if just for a moment here and there.
Today’s Outing 2 Apr 2014
Despite waking to a surprising 8″ of snow on the ground here in town, we still ventured out to look at a few houses on this gray day. Guess who we saw:
And actually, we saw three pairs of Sandhill Cranes in this field and another one (possibly two, due to the car roof blocking the view) flying overhead. They were a bit far for the reach of the lens I brought with me, but it’s good to know they’re here. Not all will nest in this area, but one pair has been found nesting not far from this spot in past years.
A couple of the cranes were smaller and got us wondering if Lesser Sandhill Cranes were what we were seeing or simply a size difference. A closer look at other photos and doing a bit more research on them will help – unless you happen to know if the Lesser Sandhill Cranes nest in the Yellowstone area or not – and would be kind enough to share your knowledge in the comments. The two in the photo above were similar in size and already stained by iron rich mud (making them reddish rather than gray).
And, I also saw my first pair of Killdeer near one of the houses we looked at. The bluebirds were all over the place and we saw an active hawk nest that will be difficult to find a spot to go back and watch it, but I want to at least identify what kind of hawk it is if possible.
The snow condensed throughout the day (reaching at least 30° F today), but there’s still 4-5″ of great snowman building snow on the ground. All this wonderful moisture will green things up around here. Hoping, though, that the temperatures rise slowly over a few weeks rather than rising suddenly and sending a torrent of water from the snowpack up higher.
A Drive up North Fork 1 Apr 2014
Today was glorious – a warmer spring day with lots of sun and little wind. We’re between storms, and figured the animals would be taking advantage of the fine weather as well, so Mike and I decided to take a quick run up North Fork after lunch.
We saw tons of deer and bighorn sheep as well as lots of small groups of elk. The large group of elk were in the fields around Wapiti. Bison were on the road – looking fine and healthy:
And up closer to Sleeping Giant Ski Area, we came across this moose – a female – and doesn’t that belly look like a little one might be on the way? I’m no moose expert, but it seems like that bulge is more than just fat.
On the way back down, we had a line of bighorn sheep blocking the way.
We inched closer in the car hoping to move them along, only to get this reaction…
…which told us we probably should back up again and wait. So we did, and got a couple of decent shots. However, we did notice this guy had quite a cough going.
On our way back to town, the wind had shifted direction from – apparently – an upslope. Waves on the reservoir were going ‘the other way’ – up North Fork rather than down it. The other system is likely to set in soon, but we were grateful for another nice day.
Room to Breathe – Lamar Valley
Planning a trip to Yellowstone (again) this year? This is the time to start since only 22 days from today the Park opens for the summer season – Mammoth Hotel and the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful Village will be the only lodging available in the Park. While we’re not sure yet if we’ll make the trip there (the East Gate won’t open until May 2), I find myself pulling out a few photos from the past that help give that ‘room to breathe.’
I hope to share one each week throughout 2014 sometime on the weekend. A photo that helps us to relax and puts us right there. One of the reasons this photo work so well to do this is because it was taken mid-day – early afternoon, actually. That’s a time when we’re out and about in Yellowstone, and this photo takes me right back to that spot where you round the bend in the road and the valley opens up in front of you. Parking and getting out of the car, you can feel the gentle breeze that cools off the warmth from the sun so it doesn’t get too hot. Maybe you’ll grab your spotting scope to watch for wolves, and see the bison flow like water along the banks of the river. Or maybe you’ll grab a fishing pole and wander down to the water. Or simply grab a camera and plunk yourself down to soak it all in.
I don’t think you can do enough loafing around out in nature – it does your soul a heap of good. Something that’s a bit harder to do in the confines of the city, even though it’s possible.
You can have this image printed from 1 foot wide to 9 feet wide to fit a space on a wall where you need a bit of room to breathe, by heading over to the print shop. Even if you aren’t interested in a print, you can zoom in to 100% on this photo over there and wander around a bit in the Lamar Valley in a virtual fashion.
Happy Weekend! (and head outside to find some signs of spring – they’re there – even if they’re hard to see)