Obviously, I’ve had a lot of time to stay at home and do some backyard birding. This time of year is always interesting because there’s a chance of early migrators coming through. This one surprised me though. It’s a common redpoll and summers adjacent to the Artic Ocean. In fact, they rarely come too far south and I haven’t seen one in several years. Every couple of years, they irrupt into the portions of north and central US. I was pretty excited when a pair of them showed up yesterday.
Since many of us are staying at home right now, I thought I would go back to the start of last year and post one photo from each month that I haven’t posted anywhere. This one is from January 2019 and shows the Wapiti Pack along the Madison River gathering together to move out. The light wasn’t great and they never were really close but every snow coach in the park coming in from West Yellowstone must have been stopped there that morning.
About ten to fourteen days ago, this female red crossbill showed up in my backyard. She had trouble flying and was only able to fly a few feet at time, never going far from my feeders. I checked her out by photographing her at different angles and couldn’t see any injuries so I was a little baffled by what was wrong with her. She would hop from branch to branch in order to get high enough to glide over to the next tree away from the feeders where she would spend the night. When in the feeder, she would chase off any larger birds that tried to feed, so she certainly had spirit. I don’t have a lot of crossbills this winter and she is certainly the brightest yellow one we’ve had. After watching her for a week or so, all the crossbills disappeared for several days, including her. Late yesterday afternoon, two males came back in. Shortly after, she flew in as well, feed with them, and then flew off into the forest as strong as ever. No idea what happened to her, but I was glad to see she recovered and was healthy again.
Locally, February 2019 was jokingly referred to as the blizzard month as huge snowstorms pummeled the region after what had been a fairly mild winter. Surprisingly, as I go through images from that month, I did pretty well photographically. And before you feel bad for this bison, the snow sticking to it’s coat is a sign that the animal is healthy and relatively warm as it is not losing any body heat. It was snowing so hard that these animals were covered completely in a few minutes. Every so often, they’d stand up, shake off the snow, and then hunker back down against the storm. Bison are indeed hardy animals.
One of these days I’ll find a porcupine sleeping in a tree that doesn’t have his/her face obscured by vegetation! This guy was sleeping near the top of a cottonwood tree and when I saw him initially, I thought he was in the perfect location. His backside was, but he had just enough twigs in front of his face to make it a near miss. I hadn’t posted much lately and I’ll try to do better going forward. With the wife home full time right now and my birthday this past weekend, I haven’t focused on posting much.
With all that’s going on around the world right now, I hope this beautiful little guy can put on a smile on a few faces. The evening grosbeaks returned to our yard yesterday. When I walked the dogs yesterday morning, I was pretty sure I heard their distinctive call. Sure enough, a couple of hours later, I spotted the first one in the yard and shortly after there were five. They certainly were a bright spot in the week for me!
Today is the last day for access via over-snow vehicles to the interior of Yellowstone hence ending another winter season. That said, depending how you define winter, winter weather is still possible across the region for quite a while longer. Plowing is underway in Yellowstone and roads will being opening around the third week of April. This image was taken this winter at Midway Geyser Basin. The view across the layered snow shows steam rising from Excelsior Geyser. Excelsior Geyser supposedly had eruptions 300 feet high by 300 feet wide but it’s believed those powerful eruptions damaged the plumbing system. Today, it still discharges around 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River.
While photographing backyard birds, our yard squirrel decided to pay a visit. We actually have two yard squirrels but who’s counting? As he climbed a pine tree, he moved into a spot where the morning light was beautiful for a background and his pose was kind of interesting too. I do enjoy photographing animals that are common and perhaps not as exciting as some others and making interesting images with them.
Last week I posted a photo of a Clark’s nutcracker and described it killing and eating a pine grosbeak. Two days later, I was in the backyard with my dog when a nutcracker attacked another grosbeak. My dog ran towards the commotion, scaring the nutcracker away. The grosbeak sat dazed on the snow. I grabbed my dog to prevent her from grabbing the grosbeak and the bird flew off before I could see how badly it was hurt. Yesterday this bird showed up at one of my feeders. You can see the injury behind the eye where the shadow from a branch crosses the head. I’m making a huge assumption, but I’m guessing this is the same bird. Injury aside, he seemed healthy and active. Since the first predation, I made changes to my feeders to discourage the nutcrackers from coming around and they rarely do so now.
When there’s a background like these mountains in eastern Idaho, a long telephoto lens can be set aside so the photo can include the entire scene. While the three white-tails walking in a row was nice, the mountains made the scene and gave it all a sense of place. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for wildlife photos with mountain backgrounds.