Monsoon Horizon

July / August is our typical monsoon season. Storm clouds on the horizon bring great skies, wonderful sunrise and sunsets, and lush grass.

The lush grass brings out the animals happily feeding on the tender greens.

Nature takes care of its own as newborns are born around June to take advantage of the ample food and water to quickly nurture them to adolescent before the harsh winters are upon them.

It’s a beautiful season and great time to get out and enjoy its many blessings.

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.

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/

Industrious Mouse

We were at Schnebly Vista, (see my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2021/06/11/schnebly-hill-vista/ ), when we caught this little mouse gathering food.

We watched this little guy for quite a while, nibbling away on an agave, then proceed to carry this stalk probably 5x his size down into a his home.

How often is it you can watch a wild animal going about their daily activity?

While he knew we were there, he was more intent on gathering food, perhaps for his family.

Either way, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to witness him (or her) at work. Very cool.

Snow Foraging

Elk forages through the snow with bull elk behind.
Buck prowls through the deep snow.

I never realized the trouble our animals had trudging through thick snow. With the threat of predators, swift winds, and deep snow, animals hunker down during large snow falls.

I can only imagine them running in heavy snow, with unknown ground coverage, rocks, and trees beneath their feet.

It made me happy for what we have, and not have to fend for ourselves or our food. It can be a harsh world out there, so take the time to practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

See my other posts, here… https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/29/a-world-of-friends/ and here… https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/27/we-got-snow/.

The Ones that Didn’t Make the Cut

You may have seen my Best of Landscapes 2019, here…. https://kritterspix.com/2020/01/09/my-best-landscape-photos-of-2019/  or my Best of Wildlife 2019 here… https://kritterspaw.com/2020/01/09/my-best-wildlife-photos-of-2019/ .  Below are some of the ones that DIDN’T make the cut.

1. Pismo Beach, CA... wish I could get sunset shots like this in AZ! PismoSundown_IR.jpg

2. Lil Buck… If only AZH had published THIS pic  _40A9745_IR.jpg

3. Hawley Lake ….  Through the Fog is Clarity  _40A4245_IR-2.jpg

4. Javelina … not a common sight in this neck of the woods  Javifurup_IR.jpg

5. Snow Elk…. Animal behavior can be so much fun to capture, sometimes these little guys do the darnedest thingsrest_IR.jpg

6. Moqui Snow … I need to work on getting more landscape snow pix  snoburst1_IR.jpg

7. Oak Creek Fall … Gotta love waterfalls & fall, such an amazing combination BoulderBed_IR.jpg

8. Morman Lake Elk Pool …   While this is a busy pic, lots of fun interactions to look at morman lake elk pool_IR_IR.jpg

9. Kaibab Daisies … I had never been to Kaibab Lake before, I need to get out more _40A2967-HDR_IR.jpg

10. Babies Rule … love me some baby wildlife!  Cuddle_IR.jpg

I could go on, but I think the exercise of limiting oneself to only the best forces one to be critical of oneself, encouraging growth and improvement.  Something we should all heed in our lives.  Happy New Year!

My Best Wildlife Photos of 2019

It’s been a great year for wildlife for us.  We have seen a wide and varied collection of birds, waterfowl and big beasts – including our first ever mountain lion.

Below are those I consider my best of the year….

1.  Sandhill cranes, Whitewater Drawsandhill hills_IR.jpg

2.  Deer in falling snow_40A7919_IR.jpg

3.  Bobcat, Lake MaryBob Lake_IR.jpg

4. Hawk stare _40A3440_IR.jpg

5.  Pygmy Owl PygmyEyes_IR.jpg

6. Sea OttersSea Paws_IR.jpg

7. Blue Heron Wide Eyed Blue_IR.jpg

8.  Monarch Butterflies B Comming In_IR.jpg

9.  Big Horn Sheep Ram Portrait_IR.jpg

10. Baby antelope runIMG_0440_IR.jpg

AND the number 1 top photo of the year, despite the fact that is isn’t the most technically perfect shot (would have better if he was coming toward me) is, solely for the thrill of it:

11.  Our first mountain lion

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We saw fox and javelina, elk and deer, eagles and turkey, but these were the ones that excited me for one reason or another – and sometimes not just for their expression or technical merits.  Sometimes a shot can just emote an emotion or a feeling that brings us back to it.  Maybe it was the place or the experience, but anything that keeps us coming back is worthy of a nod.

Check out my best landscapes here… https://kritterspix.com/2020/01/09/my-best-landscape-photos-of-2019/

Wildlife Sightings

People ask me, ‘where do you go to get your animal pictures?’

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It’s actually not an easy question to answer, as there is no straight forward answer.

I can tell you that ZERO of my wildlife photos are taken in a wildlife park or zoo.  They are 100% taken in the wild.  As all things wild, they are unpredictable.

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Many wildlife photographers get a lot of their photos through their livelihood, as biologists or working in nature conservatory for AZ Game & Fish or Forest Service preserving an animal’s habitat.  These sorts of jobs help the photographer, often early in their career, to learn the habitat and tendencies of their subject.

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I have not had that advantage.  I have had to learn the hard way on my own.  While, I have stumbled across various animal habitats, like the pair of great horned owls at Whitewater Draw, that’s the exception more than the rule.

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Sometimes it’s easy to go to where you know there will be animals, like Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, where the sandhill cranes flock to every November / December.

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But for me, that’s more the exception than the rule.  Sometimes, I get animal shots in my own yard.

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Often, though, it’s a matter of getting out there.  You have to look, to see.  We make frequent trips to the rim, leaving early morning when it’s still dark out, to get to the rim at first light when the animals are still moving around.

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Besides the rim, we go out on photography trips just in search of that great landscape or animal shot.  Knowing that antelope can be found in the plains, or that there is a herd of big horn sheep that frequents the Greer area, can be helpful.

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Other than that, one just has to get out there.  You don’t find animals sitting on the couch eating bon bon’s, unless you’re watching the National Geographic channel. Ha! : )

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In any case, luck favors the prepared.

Just this week, we were wandering around the woods (as we often find ourselves), actually looking for water where there was none.  We found lots of dry holes instead of Lakes, but we did encounter well over 1000 sheep crossing the road.  That’s not something you see every day – or ever before!

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Sometimes, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

 

 

 

A trip to the Rim

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Life gets busy, but we should never be so busy that we don’t take time out to frequent our favorite spots and do the things that rock our individual boats … and for us that includes the Mogollon Rim.

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We actually got snow, sleet, hail, and rain during our short trip, which made for awesome scenery and elk wondering what we were doing there.

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It made me wonder what took us so long… oh, there was that project, and that chore, and that meeting, plus that snow storm, the roads were closed… well, okay.

Always find time to smell the roses, or in our case fresh forest air.

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