Coyote Views

It appeared at the corner of my eye, a shadow perhaps, then was gone. I brushed it off as my far-too active imagination, but then I saw it again. Staring intently into the woods, I realized that the woods were not as empty as they might have been. It was a grey, gloomy day in the mountains of New Mexico, and the snow just added to the gloom; surely nothing was out and about. Little did I know I was about to experience some incredible coyote views. For what I did know at that moment was that a coyote was about to step out of those woods.

The coyote did not share my assessment of the day, and it was out and about on its business.

Hunting Coyote

My first good look at it was as it was gliding out of the woods into a small clearing. Covered in snow, it was completely intent on its prowl, and luckily, and paid no attention to me. That suited me more than fine. As it was moving through the clearing, more quiet than a whisper, it kept its gaze forward, and somehow, amazingly, didn’t react at all to me. Oh, I don’t flatter myself that it didn’t know that I was there; merely, it decided that I was not of concern. This afforded me the wonderful opportunity for the first of these wonderful photographs. The coyote drifted along a few feet.

Coyote's Winter

After a short bit, it stopped and simply stood there in the snow, a frozen tableau of nature. It’s sharp, keen eyes appeared to look beyond and through everything else; oblivious to the snow it was intently focused on whatever caught its gaze and attention. I was almost as frozen as it was, daring to hardly even draw a breath; the moment for us both seemed to last forever, and it was an extraordinary moment in time.

The coyote moved on into the winter’s day, yet these coyote views will let us relive this amazing moment in time.

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You can preserve this moment in a very tangible form for yourself, since Hunting Coyote and Coyote’s Winter are both available.

Stallion Battle

Stallion Battle

Often, we look at a horse and think that they are such gentle animals. And indeed, in many cases, that is exactly the case, especially when it comes to domesticated ones. Even if we see a horse trying to buck off a cowboy, or racing across a field, we still think of them as completely “tame” animals. But when it comes to wild horses, nothing could be further from the truth. And when we consider the instincts and traits of the stallion, the results are spectacular to behold. When two stallions fight, it is a true battle, a contest of strength, will and cunning. These battles have been going on for as long as horses have been horses, and it is a part of them.

This stallion battle began in the Red Desert, located in southeastern Wyoming, and managed by the BLM. The Red Desert’s low rolling hills stretch for endless miles, as we chatted about in Desert Trot,  without anything except the low sage brush growing to any appreciable size. There isn’t a lot of water, so there aren’t any trees, and there certainly isn’t any grasses. If you look from the top of a hill, you can literally see for miles. The horses know this, too, and they use it to their great advantage.

Moments before this battle began a mare was in the paint’s, the stallion to the right in this photograph, band. It was clear she wasn’t happy where she was, for the moment she spied two fine-looking stallions in the far distance, the grey and red to the left in this photograph, she took off towards them. As stealthily as she could, she tried to give her band the slip, but they paid attention, and saw her leave. As she sped up, they sped up, following her, doing their best to persuade her to stay. Her mind was made up, however, and she continued on to the new stallions. Soon enough, everyone met everyone. It was not an overly pleasant meeting.

The stallions eyed each other, and sized each other up, all without giving a hint to humans of what was to happen. Before you could even blink the battle was enjoined; one fighting to keep the mare and the other to claim her for his own. Dust flew everyone, and it was a very confusing situation. They reared into the air, time and time again, and the dust clouds roiled in protest. Hooves were flying, the stallions were calling out, and the battle raged on as each tried to best the other. Eventually, however, the stallion on the right decided to acquiescence, and as quickly as it all started, it ended. Just like that, the horses stood around together for a moment, deceptively peaceful. The red, however, left with the mare, and they trotted off into the distance. No one was hurt, thankfully.

The wild horses of the desert remain just that: wild and free. It is up to us to ensure that they remain so.

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Elk’s Paradise

Elk's Paradise

The spring morning was cool and calm, and the day ahead held considerable promise. The previous days had seen a little rain, and the forest was a little brighter, a little greener, and definitely more vibrant than normal. The snow-capped mountains reached for the rising sun, eager to shed their winter’s burden while high above them the clouds lazily drifted by, indifferent to the mountains or anything else below. The elk simply stood there, at ease, gazing out over her paradise. It was going to be a very good day.

This tableau happened in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, where both human and elk consider it a paradise. There is something deeply profound about sharing such a moment as this with nature; I was there, with the elk, enjoying the moment. Elk and human, while not side by side, stood there together looking out at the glorious, perfect morning, each lost in their own thoughts. It seemed to me that this moment lasted an eternity, and I am glad that it did, for I wanted to soak up every little detail, because I know that I will remember it forever.

Frankly, these are the moments that I live for. I had been keeping a watchful eye on this elk since well before sunrise, almost an hour before I made this photograph. She had seen me, and I kept my distance, which is very wise around elk. As peaceful as they are, they have a mind of their own, and they are quite a bit bigger than you are, not to mention quite a bit faster, too. Still, as the morning progressed, she had relaxed about me, and went about her business, while I went about mine. As she would move to another area, I would casually move along with her, which is of itself an amazing experience. This delicate dance continued, and always–always–I kept my distance. The conventional wisdom is that if an elk looks at you, you are too close, and it is an exceptionally good rule to follow. We drifted through the forest, then, together, until, at exactly the right time, with exactly the right background, she stepped out into the clearing. “This is paradise,” I thought to myself, and I knew at that instant that this photograph was going to be something special.

Eventually, the moment passed and it was time for us to part ways; we did so, each acknowledging that this moment in paradise was extraordinary. It was going to be a very good day.

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Hummingbird Snack

Hummingbird Snack

There is something absolutely compelling about the color red to a hummingbird, that’s for sure, and when that red something happens to be a flower, the results are more than predictable.

I caught up with this hummingbird outside of Tucson, Arizona on a gorgeous spring day, and it was a perfect day for hunting down a flower for a snack. The buzzing of the wings first caught my attention, tugging at the periphery of my awareness, gently, yet incessantly, and eventually, yanking on it to get my full awareness. “Ah ha!” I though to myself, a hummingbird is near, but, by that time it was long gone. Hummingbirds are exceptionally fast and when they want to move along, they don’t waste any time. As I looked around, I wondered what had attracted the attention of the hummingbird; it didn’t take me long to spot a grouping of flowers, red ones no less, and figured that had to be it. I settled in for the wait.

This begs the question, however, of why do we think that hummingbird prefer red flowers? We don’t really know this answer, but science can make a few guesses. In short, it might well have to do with bees. Why bees? As it turns out, bees, as are all insects, see ultraviolet light, which in turn means that the color red doesn’t show up very well. Since they don’t see red, and especially red flowers all that well, those are largely ignored. Hummingbirds, however, do notice the red flowers, and visit them frequently. Whether this is by instinct or something every individual hummingbird quickly learns we don’t know, but either way the results are the same. Red flowers contains sweet, wonderful nectar and are well worth visiting.

It didn’t take long. I heard the distinct buzz nearby. I turned my head to try and find it, but saw nothing. Luckily, I had the sense to look back at the flower, and sure enough, there it was, happily enjoying another sip at the amazing nectar. I was ready, though, and made this photograph.

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Desert Trot

Desert Trot

The Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming is a vast, featureless desert, devoid of anything, except the miles upon endless miles of desert sage. If you stand on top of a low rise you can see for something close to forever, if not a little farther, and you won’t see much. This doesn’t mean that the Red Desert is completely empty, however. It actually teams with life, as most deserts do. And sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see some of the residents trot on by.

Such as this fine fellow. This stallion is trotting alongside me as I made this photograph. He is a true wild horse in every sense of the word. He, and his band, fend for themselves, without the want or need for human intervention. For generations, wild horses have lived comfortably out in the desert, and they know the life and true meaning of freedom.

This area of the Red Desert is called the “checkerboard”, so named because of the land ownership. Public and private lands are interspersed and intermixed throughout the area, making figuring out who owns the exact piece of land you are on a difficult task. Oddly enough, this situation came about when the railroad came through, since much of the land needed for the railroad was acquired by land swaps. In any event, the checkerboard is a confusing hodgepodge of ownership. What makes it an exceptional area for wild horses, however, is the complete lack of fences, or any other barrier. Mile after mile of unbroken desert await our equine friends, and they are free to live wherever they choose. Encompassing hundreds of thousands of acres, they have quite the environment in which to live and flourish in. However, not everyone is completely pleased with this arrangement, and we’ll continue the tale of the wild horses in Stallion Battle.

The stallion continued his trot on his never-ending journey.

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Junco Bath

Junco Bath

There is always something special about a warm spring day, isn’t there? After a cold winter, full of snow and chill, the contrast that spring brings is always heartwarming. Everyone responds to it, in some way or the other.

This dark eyed junco, or to be precise, this gray-headed form of the dark-eyed junco, has decided that a bath is the best way to celebrate the day. It flew in close to inspect the water, and to be sure all was OK. It was. It approached cautiously, for it knew I was about, but after a while decided I was no problem. It hopped into the water, again showing caution, but almost immediately forgot about everything else save the pure delight of the bath. It splashed and sloshed about, and you could see its delight in the refreshing water. It would hop back up onto a rock, but it wouldn’t stay out for long! Right back in it would go, and the splashing would begin again.

There is something magical and amazing when you share in the delight of birds, and I spent quite a bit of time watching them. Each one has its own personality, and over time, it is possible to recognize individuals. They come and go, yet, many of the same birds will visit you day after day, season after season, and year after year. It is one thing to watch them feed: it is quite another to watch them enjoy themselves, seemingly for the simple sake of the pleasure it brings. This junco is certainly no exception.

Eventually, it spread its wings and shook the water off, and relinquished the bath to the next lucky feathered occupant. After drying for a moment in the warm spring sun, it took off. Everyone’s day was made that much more enjoyable by the experience.

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Zion’s Curiosity

Zion's Curiosity

The world around us is full of wonders, some small, and some large. Some of them are blatantly obvious and others much harder to discern. For those with a keen sense of curiosity, finding them is a challenge in and of itself, and richly rewarding. But what happens when those wonders are curious about you?

This is exactly what happened to me in Zion National Park, Utah. I was chasing a sunset on a winter day. It was cold, I was tired, and my usual curiosity was nowhere to be found. I simply wanted to hike the last mile to a point where I thought the photograph might be made as quickly as possible; I reasoned that I would come back to this area a different day, since it was quite beautiful and didn’t deserve to be bypassed. As I rounded a bend on the mountain trail, I glanced ahead.

There, curiosity had found me in the form a bighorn sheep. She was already on the trail, and she knew I was coming. She wasn’t afraid, really, but she was timid all the same. She held her ground, and I stayed well back. We looked at each other for a bit, and we each relaxed, just a bit. It was an amazing moment as we held each other’s gaze, each with questions on our minds, each wondering about the other, each deciding the other was OK after all. We parted ways, each richer for the experience, and each having found a friend in the other.

It goes without saying that wildlife, especially in the backcountry, always deserves the utmost respect. Be careful, and do not approach. Do not act in an aggressive or threatening manner, and most of all, be aware that we are in their world.

Does curiosity have the better of you?

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Geese Drop-In

Geese Drop-in

It was a quiet winter morning at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, and the sandhill cranes were enjoying it immensely. It was sunny, the temperature was quite reasonable for January, and most of all, the field had plenty to forage on. In short, it was an absolutely perfect day.

That is, until the geese decided to drop in for brunch. At first, it was just one snow goose that decided it would join the cranes. But, where there is one goose, there are thousands, and before the cranes realized what was about to happen, the geese began to land. What was a quiet morning turned, in a heartbeat, into an intense, noisy affair. What was a serene field with plenty of room to spread out turned into a crowded, cramped space, with geese underfoot everywhere. What was the perfect spot to feed turned into something considerably less so. Worse, geese are flighty, constantly taking off and landing, and in the process, stirring up the dust up constantly.

The sandhill cranes, though, suffered their fate admirably. They, to the best of their ability, ignored their uninvited guests, choosing, instead, to focus on their brunch. And the geese? They were happy with their new-found bounty, and stayed on for dinner!

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