Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris). I suppose I could gripe about uncooperative weather and the effects it is currently having on birds and wildlife. But, isn’t that part of the beauty of photographing these critters? My preferred subjects, are, generally unpredictable. So unpredictable and inconsistent weather coupled with unpredictable subjects just makes the process a little more difficult, and interesting. The weather has as much to do with bird and animal behavior as other conditions. However, I have not yet been too successful so far. Even during a recent trip to photograph Mountain Goats and high anticipation for close images, the goats had different ideas. During a scouting excursion, I came across some Marmots and Pikas. Having seen bi-pedal animals with regularity, they were slightly habituated to humans and were a little curious. I grabbed my three-legged chair, shouldered my camera and tripod and found a place where a family of Marmots went about their business and the Pikas scurried about gathering their larder for the approaching cold weather, and settle in. Neither cared much about my presence, as long as I minded my manners and respected their territory. Ubiquitous in some locations and perhaps overlooked, I find these large, colorful, rodents a pleasure to watch.
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala changula) I had been watching this Goldeneye for a couple of days and took note of what I perceived were his movement patterns. To get a clear opportunity for photographing the bird, I decided that I could sneak among the reeds and bulrushes to get a clear shot. There was a small peninsula that would provide an excellent view of the bird’s movements and which I hoped was somewhat solid and would hold me. On the day I decided to venture out, I noticed a large raccoon in the same immediate area that I planned to go through. Raccoons can be a bit temperamental and can routinely defeat a large dog if confronted, so I tentatively made my way through the area while crouched over and careful to hopefully not startle the raccoon. I planned on getting as low as possible going through the reeds and did not want a confrontation — when I reached my selected area, I knew I would either be laying flat or in such a position that I would be at a disadvantage and unable to move quickly should the Raccoon choose to defend his territory. I have no idea where the raccoon went, but from signs in the area, it was a regular visitor and I was probably on his home turf. Successfully negotiating the path to the end of the peninsula, I was able to spend some time observing this bird and its behavior before a car stopped close by and the occupant got out of the car and walked to the edge of the water. I had taken my time to get into my position being careful not to disturb the bird’s behavior, but he took exception to the newly-arrived visitor who chose to stand in full view. He turned and swam farther down the channel out of camera range — my time with the bird abruptly came to an end.
A few days ago, I began what ended up being many, many miles driven, in different locations in an attempt to find and photograph suitable subjects. I drove, I walked, I sat, I pondered. The harder I looked, the less presented itself, or so it seemed. On a whim, I decided to take an unlikely detour to a location where I felt it was unlikely to really find anything. I had nothing but time, so I took the road (I could throw in, “less traveled,” which it was, but that would be cliché) and not really paying much attention. Then, in my view was an animal. At first I thought I had seen an otter and as I slowed to get a better view, it disappeared. Continuing on, I found nothing, except a bull moose about three counties away, so that was out of the question. I returned to the location I had seen the yet to be identified critter, and there is was. So, I carefully stopped so I could observe what I had found. To my disbelief, I was looking at a beaver (Castor canadensis). I have never seen a beaver in winter before. This one was busy gathering branches from the surrounding brush, dragging them to a hole in the snow and then disappearing. As I waited, he/she appeared again and came completely out of the hole into which it had disappeared. It’s snout snow-covered from rearranging snow around one of the holes it was using. So, on balance, it ended up being a pretty good day.