Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock certainly is one of the strangest looking birds on the planet, and it has been high on my list to see.
I set up my camera on this lek, tucked in the forest on a small point jutting out over the confluence of two rivers, and waited. I could just barely see two males with bright red head through the trees, and suddenly a female flew by and out of sight. This changed the game. Suddenly, I could see and hear 8 males energetically bowing, strutting, jumping, and flapping their wings, all in an eager attempt to win her attention

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Costa Rica

Often the best moments arrive in between destinations.
As we were racing down country roads in a hurry to get to a river where we planned to photograph, we rounded a corner to this scene. I had time for one frame, before the dog hopped up and trotted off. It’s one of my favorite moments from the past month in Central and South America, and a good reminder for me to that it always pays to be present and aware.

Costa Rica

Shadow Show

One of the most striking shadow displays I’ve ever seen took place as this storm moved over the Teton range.

Teton Shadow

Great Grey Owl

Sightings of the Phantom of the North have been rare in the ecosystem over the past few years, as the population is at a low point. So having the opportunity to sit with friends, and this male Great Grey as he waited out a snow storm was a real privilege.

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Spring Grizzly

It’s always so exciting to see my first grizzly bear each year...5 months is a long time to go without bears. This male looks huge after hibernating, so I can only imagine what he looked like going into the den. In hibernation bears rely entirely on fat reserves, and in 5 or 6 months of laying around, they lose virtually no muscle mass.

Spring Grizzly

Whitebark Pine

A dead whitebark pine stands alone in an alpine meadow. Whitebark pine is considered a keystone species because of how many species rely on the cones it produces. This tree is one of thousands which have succumb to the recent mountain pine beetle epidemic. Over 80% of the stands in the Greater have dead trees in them. 

Whitebark

Research has shown that a remarkable variety of species rely on the nutritious seeds produced by the pine cones. Red squirrels relentlessly harvest and cache the cones and seeds during the summer months. Shortly after, grizzly and black bears spend weeks raiding the cones from them. In 2009, a federal judge overruled an attempt to delist the grizzly bear, primarily on the basis of the decline in whitebark pine. The importance of these cones reaches far beyond bears and squirrels. Clark’s nutcrackers, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are among the many others that rely on these seeds.

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What do moose eat in the winter?

Visitors to the Greater Yellowstone often look at the vast sagebrush and wonder what purpose it serves...other than catching your feet and tripping you on every step. Actually, this ecological community supports a remarkable diversity of wildlife. For example, sage brush flats provide critical winter habitat for moose. Such as the bull moose pictured here browsing on bitterbrush.

Moose

Ermine

Catching a glimpse of these little guys is always a treat...one that never lasts long. This is an ermine. Their coat turns from brown to white each winter, allowing them to be nearly invisible as they move through a snow white landscape. Their tail has a black tip on the end, which functions as a decoy luring any potential predators to strike there, rather than a more vulnerable part of the body. 

Ermine


Bull Bison in Grand Teton

This may be my favorite thing to see in the winter...a big bull bison covered in frost. The winter coat of a bison is so well insulating that there isn’t enough heat escaping their body to melt the frost. I’ve been able to photograph this bull several times over the last couple years. His exceptionally red coat, and the red patch on his face, make him easily recognizable.

Bison.jpg