Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wildlife! Caught Au naturel!

"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." 
  --Aldo Leopold --

"What is man without the beasts?
If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit,
for whatever happens to the beasts
will also happen to the man."
-- Seattle, Chief of the Dwamish of Puget Sound --

"The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands
and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust
with their hoofs,
their great heads down
pawing on in a great pageant of dusk.
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone."
-- Carl Sandburg --

  "Wilderness can be defined as a place where humans enjoy the opportunity of being attacked by a wild animal." -Edward Abbey


This cute grizzly cub was watching the stopped traffic that was watching him in Yellowstone National Park. Momma griz was nearby but no people were approaching her or the cub, so she was not agitated, just browsing the foliage near the road (second photo below). A ranger was also present making certain no one tried any selfies!

This doe and her fawns were spotted near my campsite in Yellowstone.

This mountain goat was just chilling out next to the sign-in box at the entrance to Washington's Goat Rocks Wilderness in the Pinchot National Forest.

This prairie dog was on lookout duty at the prairie dog colony at Badlands National Park.

This stellers jay was one of many thieves that kept trying to pilfer my food at a campground in Alaska's Denali National Park.

Two more grizzly bears at Denali National Park.

A mountain goat seen from the Alaska Railroad just south of Anchorage.

A curious and photogenic squirrel that joined me for lunch atop Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone. I'm not sure what he is eating, but I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

These beautiful elk was photographed at Yellowstone National Park on the lawn at Mammoth Hot Springs. I guess these guys would deb better classified as tame-life rather than wild-life.

Also at Yellowstone, this elk with the huge rack was alongside the road.

Here's a brief video I filmed in Everglades National Park while hiking the Anhinga Trail. I was fortunate to have the camera rolling as this Great White Heron catches and consumes a huge fish!

This field of elk was also taken at Yellowstone National Park across the road from our cabin at the Lake area. The elk were resting in the meadow of tall grass and appeared to be partially submerged submarines.

This is "Cathy" the wild turkey. She lived at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Bright Angel Campground, near Phantom Ranch. The story is that she walked down from the North Rim years ago and had been a fixture at the campground ever since.

This bison was photographed at Yellowstone National Park. It and its companions were walking in the southbound lane of traffic in an area where a mountainside was on its right and a steep dropoff on the other side of the roadway, so walking on the road made perfect sense. These critters avail themselves of the easiest way to get from one place to another. All traffic was stopped of course, so I reached for my camera, but the flash went off as I took the shot and this behemoth turned his huge head toward me and affixed his "evil" eye on me, giving me a startle -- and I momentarily feared he might completely turn his body and using his size and weight, butt my vehicle off the road and over the cliffside. Fortunately, he had other things on his day's agenda and just kept meandering south with his buddies.

This cute fellow is a marmot. They live in the higher altitudes, in this case at 11000+ feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are curious and entertaining companions when you join them for a night in their domain. I also saw a cousin of his in Glacier National Park where there are hoary marmots -- the front half of their bodies are white and the back half brown, giving them an unusual appearance. A number of times backpacking, I've camped and shared their hoe with them for a night. They've never bothered me, though I always had my pack off the ground so as not to tempt them.

Here's another marmot with white fur coat but brown tail, as if someone held it by the tail and dunked it in a can of white paint.

This guy is more grizzled and probably older, and notice his head is solid black with white around his black nose.

These two mountain goats were traveling with their kids when I encountered them on the Highline (Garden Wall) Trail in Glacier National Park, up at the top of the Grinnell Glacier Overlook spur trail. In fact, they were ON the trail and I had to wait 5 minutes for them to meander off at their own pace, not wishing to anger mothers with their children.

Moments later, same terrain obviously, I came across this guy following them.

Also seen on the Highline Trail in Glacier was this shy bighorn sheep, camouflaged in the rocks but circled in green marker.

Man assume alligators are only in Florida, but I've seen this guy on three different trips while biking the perimeter trail around Jekyll Island off Georgia's coast. He resides in this pond which is located in a small woodlot, but he is always just 10 feet from the bike trail, and often sunning alongside the trail.

Many deer live around Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon since it is a riparian ecosystem thanks to Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River, rather than desert like much of the rest of the canyon away from the river. The pack poles are not very high, mainly to get your gear and food off the ground and out of reach  of ground critters. The deer can reach the packs, but unless you leave a compartment open, they won't bother your stuff. In other words, they won't eat through the fabric to get at whatever is inside.

This emaciated and sickly fox lives around Windigo on Isle Royale National Park. Numerous foxes live around the campgrounds, scrounging and begging for "people" food. Unfortunately, they get enough handouts to become lazy and dependent on scraps and don't bother to hunt for their own food. The diet is, of course, all wrong, too, and they become sickly and die. Is there a lesson here? I hope so!

This family of mergansers numbered 19, comprised of mama and 18 babies. They were out for diving lessons, with mama leading the way and all 18 kids following her example. Of course, they were not as good as mom yet, and after diving, the babies would follow suit, and mama would surface after 30 seconds underwater and they would be far behind her or off to one side or the other. Upon surfacing, they would frantically locate her and scamper back to her tail, and the process would begin anew. We watched this for 45 minutes, thoroughly entertained, until the babies grew weary and mama took them to some rocks for a period of feather primping and a nap.

Isle Royale National Park is prime locale for spotting moose which number as many as 2000. They have never been hunted by people (just by the indigenous wolf population) so they do not fear humans, so sightings are frequent and can even be close encounters. Twice I've come around a blind turn and nearly run into a moose butt, whose front end was busily browsing foliage. I've even had to detour off the trail to get around a moose that wasn't about to interrupt its meal to move and allow me to continue on the trail!

Moose also aquatic animals, quick in the water and able to dive to decent depths to browse the luscious and ubiquitous underwater plants. We've watched them do just that from our campsites at times. They can put on quite a show at meal time.

These wild burros live in Custer State Park in South Dakota.

This alligator was photographed at Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve. You can see gators from Key West north all the way to Georgia and the Carolinas.

Below is a crocodile. Everglades National Park is about the northern extreme for their range, so the Everglades is about the only area where they intermix with alligators. I've been to Everglades NP at least six times, but 2015 was the first time I saw a croc up close enough to get a photo, and actually I saw three crocs that year, and every time it was because the park rangers we were working with on our volunteer trail crew project pointed them out to us.

This cottonmouth snake was sunning on a branch above the flooded waters of Wateree Swamp in South Carolina. I was on a volunteer trail project for the Palmetto Trail constructing boardwalk on an old railroad trestle, and was shooting down at the snake from about 10 feet above it on the trestle. They were the reason we were warned not to drop any tools into the swamp, and if we did, not to try to retrieve it.

This deer was on hillside above the road near Firehole at Yellowstone.

This caribou was slowly sauntering across the Al-Can Highway in the Yukon Province of Canada.

This photo of a reindeer (caribou) with a magnificent rack was taken at Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska, a suburb of Fairbanks.

These caribou were photographed along the Al-Can Highway in the Yukon Province of Canada.

These sea lions were relaxing on ice floes in Tracy Arm Fjord out of Juneau, Alaska, as we approached Sawyer Glacier.

These bighorn sheep were on the shoulder of the Al-Can Highway in the Yukon Province of Canada.

These bison were on and alongside the Al-Can Highway in the Yukon Province of Canada.

Everglades National Park was the home for the critters in the next four photos. First, this gator was sauntering across the tram road/bike trail in the Shark Valley section of the park, so naturally I stopped my bike and gave hime the right-of-way (and snapped his photo.)

One of my favorite birds because of his multi-neon colored boy -- the purple gallinule.

This convention of gators was convened below the spiral observatory halfway around the Shark Valley loop in Everglades National Park. I've actually seen several dozen at this location on other visits.

Look closely -- this is another gathering of gators -- there are three babies in this photo atop one another (and a fourth behind and blending in.)

Here's a brief video with movie footage of Florida wildlife, mostly waterfowl -- fifty in all.

One of my other favorite colorful birds is the Roseate Spoonbill. These were photographed at one of the best locales for seeing Florida waterfowl -- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Canaveral. Here's one hunting for lunch...

...and here's one in flight...

A pair of ptarmigan in Denali National Park.

These moose was browsing on the campsite next to mine in Grand Teton National Park. You can see someone's camping chairs behind the light brown moose.

A large herd of pronghorn antelope were having a hillside lunch alongside the highway at Blue Mesa Reservoir as I drove to Gunnison, Colorado...

...and I spotted their cousin while hiking along the shore of Yellowstone Lake...

This solitary bison was browsing at Yellowstone's Old Faithful, completely oblivious to the hundreds of spectators seated and standing a few dozen feet away, awaiting the next eruption. (Yes, the bison was safely out of range of the hot water by the time it erupted. He must have checked the schedule in the Visitor's Center!)

This herd of bison were residents of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, a park many people have never even heard of.

This osprey (fish hawk) was perched high above a body of water in Everglades National Park, scanning for lunch below.

This flock of wild turkeys was looking for supper as I returned to my campsite in Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

One of the strangest and neatest looking species of ducks -- the Muscovy -- which is common in Florida.

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