This time of year, it’s mating season for moose. Male moose that have grown a big rack, let the younger, less developed males know they are superior. They attract a “harem” of females with which to mate. They may sow their seed and impregnate several females. Female moose, I’m told by Derek of Sundog Wildlife Excursions, are attracted to the males with big antlers, by instinct. Perhaps they project that their offspring will be alpha males as well some day.
Along the roadside near Jasper, Alberta, Canada, we spotted 5 moose — a female, a calf and 3 males. It was tough to get a clear photograph of the male with the fully developed rack since he walked behind the brush. When he did come out to walk by the road where we had a clear view of him, the Parks Canada truck cut in front of us, blocking our view and presumably shielding the animal from spectators in cars. Personally I think the alpha males working for Parks Canada wanted the best view to themselves, as we stayed respectfully inside our vehicles. Anyway, I got one exposure of Mighty Moose in the dwindling light through an open window, and here it is.
Just to show you a comparison, here is my photo of a younger male moose with newly developing horns. Hopefully one day, he will attract a harem of females and enjoy his mating season as the Big Cheese.
For me the American photographer, I was pleased to have five chances to photograph these enormous wild animals on a random evening in September. Word on the street is that most visitors aren’t as lucky. Derek’s record as a regular guide is six.
The Little Blue Heron is born as a stark white bird, and it gradually develops those vibrant slate blue feathers as it matures. If you were not aware of that color change, you might wonder about the identity of this unique bird when you see it in the Everglades.
Standing on one leg, the heron rests the other while silently watching the water for fish. “Little” is a relative term, as it can grow to 29″ and have a wingspan of 41 inches. It is only “little” when compared to the tall “Great Blue Heron,” that can stand 4.5 feet high.
Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!
For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.
The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.
The small baby alligators of the Florida Everglades are wise to follow their instincts and stay close to their mother, even lying on top of her. Their small size and still tender hides make them vulnerable to a Great Blue Heron or even a male Alligator. I spotted about six babies close to this parent.
A 600mm lens allowed me to capture this close-up photograph, while standing about 15 feet away. It’s wise for humans to keep a safe distance away from this dangerous creature in the wild. While they lie still most of the time, when alligators are extremely quick when they attack.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mama Gator. Good luck keeping your babies safe.
Whoever the teacher was who told me, “always look behind you,” was right again today. Watching a pelican at daybreak and listening to a dog barking persistently, I turned around to find exactly why the dog was barking… two bobcats were stalking in the shadows and hissing at one another.
I was lucky to have my 600mm lens mounted on my Nikon D800, and clamped on my RRS (Really Right Stuff) tripod, so I quickly focused and snapped a few frames. The light was very low in the shade of the large ficus tree and on a foggy morning at dawn, so the shutter speed was very slow. Motion blur, unfortunately, compromised the quality of the final image — but you definitely get the idea.
These wildlife experiences are always teachable moments. One rule, often repeated for good reason is: Never hike alone. This morning I was grateful to be out with about 15 other bird watchers. The bobcats were more interested in each other than in us, but I’m sure the size of our group discouraged them from approaching us.
To capture a better final image next time, I will have changed my ISO setting ahead of time to 1600 or 3200. I confess to being half asleep at 7am, and I had not changed my ISO setting from 100, which I use for a still landscape when motion blur is not an issue.
Lastly, I feel more thankful than disappointed because this wildlife sighting was something special I experienced. It was exciting!
This herd of bison can often be spotted near the state road 191 in Grand Teton National Park several miles north of the Jackson Hole Airport. I made sure to take my husband there to see them, since he was raised as a Buffalo Bills football fan.
In this image, you see the bison from a safe distance, since it would not be safe to approach the herd on foot. (My mother would be happy to hear me say this.)
There are an estimated 500 head of bison in Grand Teton National Park, and many more north of here in Yellowstone National Park. Spotting wildlife — bear, moose, bison, coyote — is a big part of what makes American national parks an exciting destination.