A wing and a prayer

I have been on an Osprey mission lately. I have been obsessed with getting that perfect shot. The more I try the better I get, and the more I learn, but I still seek that sharp, clear, close photo of an osprey with his prized catch.

It’s more difficult that it seems. The lighting has be right. It has to be close enough to fill the frame (without clipping its wings) – probably the most difficult task. It must be sharp, despite the fact that the bird is flying at a swift rate with its prize – and normally away from you.

Some of these things you have control over, some you don’t. If you are shooting at a large lake, the chances of you catching him with his catch are more difficult. The best lighting and time are early morning and evening. During the day the fish aren’t as active, and nor are the osprey – but it depends on the day and lake, the size and quantity of the fish, and time of the year.

All I can say is, I’ll have to keep trying. Practice makes you lucky.

Benny Creek

We’re not normal campground folk. We drive long distances to amazing overlooks to camp on our own throughout our forest lands. Unfortunately, that is becoming increasingly difficult, you can see my gripe here: https://kritterspix.com/2022/06/18/everything-changes/. When we were going through Big Lake, we stayed in the Big Lake Campground where we had a nice view of the lake down the road.

Big Lake is a popular fishing lake in the area. There are actually quite a few of them in the Pinetop / Lakeside area, most with designated campgrounds (some with ‘No Camping’).

Greer Lakes is another, with fishing at any of three reservoirs: Bunch, Tunnel, or River Reservoirs. There are 2 pay campgrounds: Rolfe Hoyer and Benny Creek.

Benny Creek Campground has a flowing stream at its base and overlooks Bunch Reservoir from the top of the hill. Fishermen on the dock and in boats can be seen from its shores, along with blue heron seeking their own meal.

Along the long dirt roadways we took, we did find a number of animals from birds to big horn sheep.

While I had hoped to get some pix of black bear, which are known to be prevalent in the areas we drove, we weren’t so lucky – this time. We’ll keep trying though. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy the outdoors and everything it has to offer.

A picture tells a story

I have been determined to get that great story telling shot, since I missed the shot here … https://kritterspix.com/2022/05/14/tucson-to-greens-peak-in-45-degrees/

The story I want to tell, is of an osprey catching dinner, trout in it’s talons, taking it back to the kids for dinner…. and of the photographer (that would be me… getting her shot).

We heard there were osprey at Woods Canyon and Willow Springs Lakes. Along the way we saw herds of bull elk, deer, a bear cub, and coyote. At Willow Springs we found cute chipmunk willing to pose for the camera.

We headed to Hawley Lake hoping for better luck. We didn’t find any osprey, but we found turkey, elk, and bluebirds.

We kept moving, hoping for that illusive osprey shot. We found blue heron at Horseshoe Cienga Lake.

In the morning, still looking for osprey, we encountered beaver and baby Canadian Geese.

Still on a mission, we headed to Bog Tank for osprey, where we had seen them before.

We weren’t there 5 minutes, I had barely gotten out of the truck with my camera when we saw an osprey overhead… coming toward us.

With a lot of luck, (and a ton of practice), I actually captured my illusive shot. The osprey got his prize.. and I got mine. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you intend, but if you’re patient and take what comes one can get more than they sought.

Chasing the Weather

There is something to be said about chasing the weather.

I posted about Granite Dells here …. https://kritterspix.com/2022/03/25/blue-sky-blues/

Granite Dells is a picturesque lake with almost 2 miles of 1.4 billion year old Precambrian granite boulders protruding the water’s surface.

When we were there previously we got nothing but blue skies. So we decided to go back when weather predicted clouds. Tuesday was the day, according to the forecast. So we made reservations at the Watson Lake Park campground, feeling lucky to get a spot. Oh, but wait…. the forecast changed! Now it was Monday. After much cajoling of the City of Prescott, we were able to move our reservations to Monday.

This is the second time in a row we moved our reservations to accomodate the weather. Both re-scheduled launch times proved fruitful, as the weather the earlier night we arrived was the best it had been the whole time we were there.

It pays to be flexible and change with the weather.

Interestingly enough, Granite Dells is a sunrise spot as the sun peaks over the rocks to yield its lovely light. Of course, this can be a blessing or a curse with its harsh light and dark shadows. It all comes down to the clouds and how they may play out. Sunsets are equally opportunistic with the sun at one’s back and glows she may cast on the rocks, along with any light the clouds may cast on the water below.

For our re-scheduled visit, we got sunset light with clouds; and sunrise blue sky.

Snowbirds

Tourists seeking warmer weather aren’t the only ones wintering in Arizona.

An increasingly common sight from Avondale to Tucson are the American white pelicans, normally seen in coastal waters around Mexico and California. These large clumsy birds normally migrate to Great Salt Lake and the west coast of Mexico, but hurricane storms, mild temperatures, and man made lakes & ponds stocked with fish have made Arizona a desirable stopover.

The pelicans typically head to their breeding grounds in Canada and Upper Midwest in March, but more are expected to migrate to the Phoenix area in winter months.

Even the more ‘out of place’ brown pelicans have been found to escape coastal storms and enjoy Arizona’s mild climate.

We saw these brown and white pelicans hanging out enjoying ‘chilling’ in the waters of Alamo Lake. They seemed out of place in AZ, but apparently are becoming more commonplace, as they too find being a snowbird in AZ has its advantages.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu is home to the famed London Bridge, but it is also home to a lot of RV’ers and boaters.

During our brief stay, we had a wonderful visit with our special friends, and saw an abundance of large (& fast) boats driving through town and on the waterways. Though February is not necessarily prime time for the boaters, it certainly was for the RV’ers, who litter the campgrounds and desert with big rigs.

While we weren’t there long, we enjoyed our stay and the warm weather (89F) away from our snow packed roads (6F the morning we left).

Gotta love the diversity of Arizona.

Snow Windfall

We were projected to get 1/2″ of snow, so weren’t we surprised when we got over 8″ of snow?

It came down in large soft flakes, covering the trees and the landscape. It was absolutely beautiful.

We were fortunate enough to get animals during… and after the snowfall.

Which we tried to take great advantage of.

It was amazing how quickly the snow came in… and how fast it was gone. Spring is coming and our snow season may be on the way out.

I’d be happy for a few more snow storms before Spring enters the foray. There is something surprisingly peaceful and beautiful about the fresh fallen snow. If we are to endure the cold… give me snow!

Eagle’s Landing

After a successful shoot at Whitewater Draw, I wanted to check out the eagles in Pinetop / Lakeside.

Generally, their season is between November through March. But, as with all wildlife, they don’t follow a precise schedule and don’t necessarily indulge in our guidelines.

I have previously enjoyed watching eagles catch fish and hang out among the many trees around Rainbow Lake. On my recent outing I was fortunate to see a few bald eagles and a couple juvenile eagles. None seemed to be inclined to fish, and were merely hanging out.

It would appear that I was too late for this year’s season. Though, who’s to say, if I came back tomorrow I might find a myriad of eagles fishing to their heart’s content. Such is the nature of the beast.

No matter, I got a few nice pix, and a wonderful day out. It’s all good.

Birds a feather…

What do they say? Birds a feather flock together. That is no more true than at Whitewater Draw, where thousands (we heard numbers anywhere between 20,000 and 47,000) sandhill cranes flock to this lush marshland in southern Arizona.

But it’s not just sandhill cranes. The area is rich with all sorts of birds, including the blue, green, and cinnamon -winged teals, Northern pintails, red-winged blackbirds, Northern shovelers, grebes, egret, hawks and owls.

Cinnamon teal at Whitewater Draw
Green-winged teal
Northern shoveler rests in water at Whitewater Draw

We saw quite a variety of waterfowl during a trip to Whitewater Draw for a Photo Workshop sponsored by Arizona Game and Fish. (See my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/whitewater-draw-workshop/)

Pintail duck at Whitewater draw

We saw birds I never heard of, like the colorful Vermillion Flycatcher and Northern Harrier.

Vermillion Flycatcher
Juvenile vermillion flycatcher in the weeds along Whitewater Draw

Not to mention the very entertaining sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane graze at Whitewater Draw
Sandhill cranes chatter

Whitewater Draw has had increasing numbers of sandhill cranes year over year. This area is the best sandhill crane-viewing site in Arizona, and one of the largest migration sites in the country. It’s a thrilling sight to see and experience.

I got a lot of trigger time with my camera, and practiced my Birds-in-Flight (BIF) photography. Check out my post of BIF photography here.. https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/birds-in-flight-bif-photography/

Weather Promises

We had been promised snow on multiple occasions. They said we’d get 1 – 3 inches during the day, and 4 – 6″ that evening. Not to be that day, or the next, or the one after that.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’ve come to like the snow. It blows in all sorts of things, like this beautiful cooper’s hawk.

Or this little falcon….

As we feel the storm coming, the clouds and winds roll in, but the promise doesn’t come… our friends in South Carolina are soaking up the sun in shorts & tee-shirts on the beach. (This just after coming back from freezing on the West Coast, enduring incessant rains and cold temperatures on the California beach.)

We finally got our snow, about 6″. It was here and then gone. But with it, we got our animals.

We took the opportunity to go out and find them, and were rewarded with some nice shots of elk in the snow.

And big horn sheep

In the course of a week since we got back from CA, we saw deer, elk, ram, and even a coyote.

Gotta love where we live!

See more snow / animal pix here …

https://kritterspix.com/2022/01/01/first-snow-3/