As freezing temperatures grip the Northeast United States this week, we are reminded that a frozen landscape offers a new kind of beauty. The colorful palette of autumn leaves are nearly gone, and winter’s snow introduces a new aesthetic.
This image is one of 12 featured in Cathy Kelly’s 2022 Wyoming Nature calendar. There is still time to order one for the holidays. Email Cathy for details.
Jackson Lake water levels are at record lows this Fall (in 2021) after a very dry summer. From this location on the dry lake bed, we could see mist rising on a cold Fall morning and snow covered Mount Moran in the background.
In my opinion, a good gator is a motionless gator. I always try to keep my distance from an alligator, especially one that is watching me, because I have seen how lightening fast they move, when they bolt. This gator was floating in the fresh water of the Everglades. You can see its leg dangling in the water.
Dear Beautiful Heron, Please watch your step as you tiptoe silently through the long grasses and past the purple thistle. Do you remember those baby alligators that you like to eat? When they grow up, those big alligators might take a bite out of you. If they catch you, they will eat you whole, feathers and all.
Also silently lurking nearby in the grass is this large alligator. If he is hungry, the Great Blue Heron could be his next meal. Yikes! The food chain is merciless.
As we begin another week in Southwest Florida of temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat index around 100, I’m thinking back on a bitter cold morning in Jackson Hole when my fingertips and toes were frozen.
Venturing through Grand Teton National Park with two other photographers, we spotted elk, bison, eagles, trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and a coyote during the day. We also admired the shapes in the snow-covered landscape.
A visual treat of the early morning light was the hoarfrost on the trees along the creek. Rising water vapor coated branches and froze overnight. Before the midday sun melted the ice, we were able to capture some photographs of these crystalline trees.
Near Kelly, Wyoming —- Who knew that bison have black tongues? In this image, I caught Mama Bison chewing some plants while looking in my direction. I was shooting with a 600mm lens from a safe distance. At least, we hoped we would be safe!
In this next close-up, you can see the bison trudging up the hill in fresh snow. It was also snowing, windy and cold. I like the raised hoof indicating the action taking place. In no time, all five bison had traveled from the field where they were lying, through the hot spring, across the road and up the hill.
This was our best sighting of the week in Jackson Hole. While we spotted moose several times, we never had a good opportunity for photos like this. A shout out to our guide with Wild Things of Wyoming, Colin Boeh, for his experience with finding and safely observing wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to Colin, we had a fascinating and very educational day!
Sunday afternoon, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming —
A close encounter with five enormous bison? It unfolded like this: As the bison waded across the hot spring that separated us and approached the road, we backed up several yards to give them plenty of space. We were mindful of National Park Service rules for keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and we anticipated that the bison planned to cross the road and head up the snow covered hill. This scenario was unfolding peacefully until a pick-up truck, pulled up right in front of the bison, blocking their path.
What did the bison do? They looked down the road to us and gave us the stare-down. “Move the truck!” we said quietly — to the driver, but only loud enough that the three of us could hear. Luckily, the truck moved on after a pause of a few minutes (surely taking photos out the window and oblivious to the spot they put us in). I looked behind me for a tree to hide behind, but there were none. I’m not sure what we would have done, had they charged at us. There were several cars and spectators on the far side of the bison, but the three of us were isolated, standing on the road.
Once the truck moved, the bison trudged across the road and up the hill, as we predicted, stopping a few more times to stare in our direction.
There were three adult and two young bison, causing the two mother bison to exhibit protective behavior. It was our job to stay distant, quiet and non-threatening. During this time, I used my 600mm Sony lens to capture as many action photos as I could. Watching these enormous wild animals at close range was a rare and special experience. If you like this image, stay tuned, as I’ve got more good ones!
At first glance, you might not look at this photograph and realize something is terribly wrong. Something is killing the lodgepole pine trees in Western Canada. Do you see the “red” trees? They are dead lodgepole pines, and the blight has engulfed nearly half the forest in Jasper National Park.
The villain behind this vast arboricide is a tiny insect called the mountain pine beetle. It lays eggs under the bark that leads to fungus, blocking the circulation inside a pine tree trunk, killing it. With the warmer weather of climate change, the pine beetle has flourished, unchecked by mild winters.
What is Parks Canada going to do? For a long time, the answer was “nothing,” because the philosophy was not to interfere with the ways of Nature. Recently, however, workers have begun cutting down some of the dead trees to reduce fire risk to nearby communities.
Botanists have discovered that the lodgepole pine cones, containing the seeds that would start regeneration only open in the extreme heat of a forest fire. After a natural forest fire has swept the acreage, then the seeds will begin to grow the next generation of lodgepole pines. To me, it seems like a harsh path of evolution wherein the pest thrives, the verdant hillside dies and waits for lightening to strike.
To read more about the pine beetle crisis, you can click here.
If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.
As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!
My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.
We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.