Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) Yesterday proved to be an excellent day to spend in the higher country at elevations in excess of 10,000 feet. Temperatures were moderate and pleasant, but locating birds proved to be more difficult than anticipated. The mountains were awash with fall colors — the gold and flame-like appearance of Quaking Aspens illuminating in the sun was extraordinary. As the day, and traveling to find suitable and apparently absent subjects passed, a flock of Mountain Bluebirds was located in a montane area with an apparent abundance of food — there were too many birds to count. The next hour was spent watching and waiting for one to come close enough to provide a decent photograph. Research indicates this is most likely a typical post-breeding migratory flock. They may move up and down the environment in search of available food sources prior to migration. This particular bird is apparently a female. There were many male Bluebirds in the flock, but none came close enough to be photographed. While not possessing the rich cerulean to methyl to cobalt blue of male Mountain Bluebird, she is still spectacular in appearance, especially with the ethereal backlit primaries.
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.