Beaver Behavior

The more I embrace this Wildlife Photography the more I learn about what I don’t know. Much of my animals have been by luck by golly, and a product of many many outings. At the risk of stating the obvious, we are learning that you can actually ‘predict’ (as much as that is possible with wildlife) where and when the animals might be.

Their habitat will help to identify where you might find a particular animal, both in terms of weather, climate, and environment. For instance, antelope like the low plains and fields to graze on. Elk are partial to the dense wooded areas, and of course water fowl (and beaver) can be found on lakes and waterways.

If you can follow footprints and / or scat (poop) to track the animal you can lay in wait for them. All animals, particularly when rain is sparse are attracted to water holes, and in search of food. They come out early morning & evenings (or middle of the night).

If you can find their home – a nest or den – you are much more likely to be able to camp out and wait for their arrival or departure. We were lucky enough to encounter a beaver den. Sometimes they are abandoned, but fresh cut trees will lead you to where you might find them.

It’s gratifying when a plan comes together and persistence pays off. It keeps me coming back for more.

Evolution

It’s interesting to witness the evolution of my own wildlife photographs.

I recall oh so many years ago taking photographs of animals so very far away. Today, I look at those photographs and wonder what it’s of. Oh, there it is, that little dot in the distance is some almost unrecognizable animal. Hmmm, I guess I have improved!

When I bought better equipment, bigger lenses, and learned more, I began filling the frame with the animal. But it’s more than that, it’s clearing the clutter of a messy background.

It’s including some background that shows the animal in it’s environment.

It’s including action, if you’re so lucky.

It’s catching that glint of it’s eye, making sure it’s sharp and looking in your direction.

It takes anticipation of the animals behavior and patience to wait for the animal to come to you, look your direction and capture what it does in it’s environment.

It’s a ‘sport’ that is humbling, gratifying, and frustrating at the same time. It takes practice and time, lots of it. Something I try to apply as I continue to learn and improve.

Everything Changes

With everything going on in the world, I guess it goes without saying that everything changes. I’m not talking about the prices, lack of workers, or social upheaval. If you go someplace or do something long enough you are bound to see change, whether it’s at a restaurant, a golf course, or a favorite outing.

Considering this a blog for my photos, I’m not talking about restaurants or golf. We have heard of Black River for decades. We were told it had unsurpassed beauty and wildlife. So, finally, after so very many years of hearing about it, we decided to bite the bullet, buy the White Mountain Indian Reservation permits and check it out.

We began our drive from Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ in a cool 70F day and began to decent the long road to the river. Once we got to the ‘border bridge’ of the San Carlos Indian Reservation we stopped to check out the river at the only viewpoint from the road. We found ourselves in 98F heat and considering the hot and sandy environment, lack of scenery, and animals, we made the decision to turn around and head to the ‘U.S.’ side outside of Big Lake.

Once there we were greeted with cooler temps, including 39F overnight. Not having ever been to Black River, we were surprised to see the lack of views of the river. I suppose if we were to hike down the river with waders the scenery would improve. The Alpine / Big Lake side still wore the scars of the 2011 fire that rolled through Hannigan Meadow and Greer. The Black River had remnants of burned trees and heavy overgrowth along the river way.

Wildcat bridge across Black River

We were further surprised to see the lack of open dispersed camping. Signs everywhere advised no camping in non-designated areas, only in the Pay-Park here spots. The campsites were dusty and trash ridden with no trash receptacles.

Everything changes. We have camped for years, pulling up in any stretch of earth and calling it home for the night. Over the years we have never paid for camping in the forest land we pay taxes on. We have found very little trash early on, but when we did, we always took home more trash than we came with and picked up anything we found. These days we travel for hours to a beautiful spot only to find heaps of trash littered everywhere. Heck, we find it on our road to our subdivision. Now, we have to pay for the pleasure of picking up others trash with no place to put it, other than take it home with us, and pay for it to be picked up.

More and more there are an increasing number of closed forest roads, gated areas we are no longer able to visit, other than designated spots where we have to listen to someone else’s generator. Sorry for the gripe. Everything changes. I’m glad we camped throughout AZ and saw all that nature has to offer. We will continue to do so, but with limited access from what we have become accustomed to.

See more photos from our outing.. https://kritterspaw.com/2022/06/18/benny-creek/

Snow Shelter

Animals shelter when the temperature drops and the snow flys. They hunker down and protect themselves from the elements and predators seeking food sources.

So when the storm is over, we go out searching for critters coming out of hiding to gather food.

I always laugh as we bundle up to be the first ones out in the fresh fallen snow looking for animals. It seems like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but we are more lucky than not, and often find a number of wildlife, and even manage to get their picture (though not always).

… and luck is the apropos sentiment, as we leave our home and debate, ‘which direction should we go today’?

I admit to being very fortunate when we go out, but we also go out a lot, are prepared for what we might encounter, and tenacious enough to keep trying even if we aren’t successful the first time. They say, fortune favors the bold, in our case it favors the tenacious photographer.

Big Horn Lounging

I do enjoy it when we see animals. We encountered these big horn sheep enjoying a grass field lying in the shade and munching away.

It was almost as if they were talking to one another, laughing and telling stories, while others just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.

Most of the ones in this herd were males, or rams, with only a few female ewes. The boys demonstrated their dominance by locking horns, but seemed more affectionate than fierce.

While I tried to keep my distance, they didn’t seem to mind that I was there and got closer to me than even I was comfortable. I took every advantage of their presence.

A world of friends

I have to say, with all that is going on in the world, and our lives right now we have felt very alone. I know we are not the only ones. Having not seen or talked to so many friends we have (or had) during all this isolation seems so sad. Will it be different when the world opens back up? Or will they be gone forever? That I can not answer, but suspect it is a combination of the two.

So, without getting too sappy or melancholy, today I feel thankful for the my many friends and supporters of my photography. It’s times like these that we should immerse ourselves in those things that make us feel joy and happiness when all the rest is falling by the wayside. I have had many folks who have asked to see pix of the snow. So it is with that encouragement, that we braved the storm and trudged out every day to get what pix we could.

Snow photos can be difficult to get. First off, the snow itself is white and blindingly bright. Having no ‘color’ it is hard to take photos of and exposures can be tricky. The snow storms bring bleh clouds and gray skies, drab and not very photogenic. Here on the mountain, most of our roads are closed. Snow plows have created berms along the main roads making pulling off the road impossible.

Animals are scarce, as foraging through the snow can be difficult for them. See my post here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/27/snow-foraging/ . But with the encouragement of friends, we were persistent and somewhat successful in our quest to find some decent photos.

We went North toward Winslow looking for snow and animals. We went out into the forest behind our home to see if we could find some snow views. We headed toward Flagstaff to see if we could catch some animals. We ventured toward Pine to see what that might yield. See post here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/27/we-got-snow/

We ran into road closures, icy slick roads, dead animals, stupid drivers, impassable areas, ugly skies and bright harsh light. But we also found bull elk standing in a meadow blanketed with snow staring back at us wondering what we were doing there. We saw trees caked with snow on the windward side majestic and satisfied with new found water. Ponds and waterholes previously dry were filled with fresh fallen snow, thirsty grass poking through the hill surrounding her.

There is beauty when we look for it, both in the environment around us and those in it. Be thankful for what you have and who you have to share it with, as we are today and everyday.

Best of 2020 – Animals

I like to review my year’s photos to consolidate the best of the year.

I posted my Best of 2020 – Landscape photos here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/12/best-of-2020-landscape/. Now it’s time to review my animal pix. It was a good year for animals, as we saw a lot of different types.

Big Horn Sheep

We were lucky enough to see this beautiful herd of big horn sheep as we left Alstrom Point. We saw the herd in the distance, so drove ahead of them, and I walked out behind a rock to see if I could sneak up on them. I’m not sure who was more surprised when we saw each other as I crotched down from behind a ridge – me or them. It was a fantastic moment.

Coyote

Admittedly, I am not a big fan of coyote. They are scavengers and corral & hunt my precious deer and elk. So I’m just as happy not to see any. But I did this year, and got a decent photo that makes the cut.

Kit Fox

We don’t see many fox, so I was thrilled when we saw this pup this year. So cool!

Deer Fawn

All babies are cute, especially the 4 legged animal variety!

Javelina

Speaking of babies… it was super cute to get so see this affectionate family of javelina with new born babe.

Elk baby

And elk baby, or calf.

Elk bull

The next best thing to new animals (at least for us), or baby animals, are those big boys… elk bulls

Deer Buck

and bucks…

The cuter and better expression, the better!

Chipmunk

I got a ton of chipmunk pix this year, they were just too darn cute.

Deer Doe and fawn

And finally, pretty much any animal in the snow. Just wish we had more of it!

The Bucks Have It

While I love when we see any animals, the most coveted are the most unique and least often seen. Big animals, boys (bucks and bulls), and babies bring the most attention due to their illusiveness.

Aside from that, gestures and action, garner more interest, like this floppy eared buck.

I try to capture their personality and individualism in their environment to share.

These animals are here and gone, so it’s important to me to make their moment shine. I keep telling ’em, smile pretty for the camera – sometimes they actually listen.

You Must Have A Good Camera

People often ask me, “what kind of camera do you have?”  Or my favorite statement, “you must have a good camera!”

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It reminds me of a story I heard some time ago, about the photographer who goes to a gourmet chef’s house for dinner.

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The well known published photographer shows up at the woman’s house for dinner.  The home owner & chef goes on about how beautiful his photographs are and as she invites him in she adds, ” I love you photographs.  You must have a great camera.”

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After a lovely evening and an amazing gourmet meal, as the photographer is leaving, he tells the woman how wonderful the meal was, and in parting “you must have a great oven!”

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The right camera gear is essential, skill… is priceless.