A couple of weeks ago, I went to photograph sandhill cranes. While there, I saw what I thought was Canada Geese. They seemed a bit unusual though, they were darker in color and instead of a handful, there were hundreds. I took a few images and thought little more about them. I stopped to talk to a person that led a tour I once took. I mentioned the geese. He told me they were not Canada Geese, they were Cackling Geese. I knew that several years ago, the powers that classify birds, split Canada Geese into 2 separate species: Canada and Cackling. All I ever knew was that the cackling geese were smaller. This person told me that there were other indicators: most have a white ring at the base of their dark neck and their call is more of a cackle than the honk of the Canada Goose; thus their name. So, it was a great experience. I learned something that will help me in the future. By the way, this was the Aleutian subspecies migrating to California’s central Valley from Alaska. They’ll start their trip back in January.
Please click on caption to see higher resolution image.
In November and December, the chinook or king salmon migrate from the ocean into the American River. The salmon breed and die. So, along with the salmon, the population of gulls and Turkey Vultures rise greatly. I assumed that what we see are California Gulls. After all, a gull is a gull. What I learned is we also get Herring Gulls. Both are white with a gray mantle, back and wing feathers. The California Gull is a noticeably darker gray, the Herring Gull is medium gray. The California Gull has yellow legs, dark eyes and a black spot on his bill; sometimes there is both a black and red spot. The Herring Gull has pink legs, yellow eyes and a red spot on his bill. Some of those colors change with the winter molt. I understand we also get the ring billed gull but I haven’t seen one.
A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, along route 395 from the junction of Rt 89 to Bishop, CA. Generally, we wanted to enjoy the autumn foliage. But we also wanted to explore Buttermilk County, the area along Buttermilk Road near Bishop. We did all of that and managed to include a drive into McGee Creek Canyon. The rabbitbrush was in bloom. Aspens and other trees were displaying the finest golds and oranges. It was a wonderful trip into the mountains.
Note: Please click on see images at higher resolution.
Sandhill Cranes populate much of the North America. But here, around Sacramento, we live along the Pacific Flyway; one of the primary migratory paths for birds heading to their wintering spot. One of the treats is that we attract large numbers of Sandhill Cranes who spend their nights in flooded rice fields and their days foraging in fields of cut grasses and grains.
Note: Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.
Here is a few shots of some wildlife we saw travelling through various places. The locations are listed with each image.
We hadn’t seen any bears in the wild for several years. Then, on one trip, we saw 2. Unfortunately, the one that got away, was a cinnamon colored one. Maybe someday I’ll be able to photograph one of those.
The tufa in Mono Lake are beautiful themselves but we got a rare treat – an osprey on its nest on top of a tufa.
Note: Click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is another one of Yellowstone National Park’s iconic features. The steep, rugged canyon is cut through volcanic rocks that are colored by deposits of iron. It is being cut by the Yellowstone river which, in other parts of the park, seem calm and serene. But, in the canyon, it is a raging torrent. It tumbles down over Upper Yellowstone Falls (109’) then, after a short distance, tumbles over Lower Yellowstone Falls (308’). After the falls, the river flows its way alongside fumaroles and over cascades as it winds its way through the canyon.
Most of these images are from a recent trip. But I decided to include 3 from previous trips to give you some other perspectives of the canyon. They are Bottom of Lower Yellowstone Falls with rainbow like color, The Beam, a unique winter phenomenon and Lower Yellowstone Falls in Winter by the Light of the Full Moon.
Note: Click on caption to see image at higher resolution
The Grand Prismatic Spring is another of Yellowstone’s iconic hydrothermal features. It is the one that looks like a big orange and blue eye. The spring sits along the Firehole River in the general area of the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful resides. It produces a constant flow of water that flows into and heats the Firehole River. To me, the Firehole River is the most fascinating of Yellowstone’s rivers. It flows from Madison Lake, on the continental divide, 21 miles to the Gibbon River at Madison Junction. What fascinates me, is that it travels through the Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful is located, and past the Grand Prismatic Spring. Those and other hydrothermal features dump their water into the Firehole. This raises the temperature 9-18 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pool filled by the Grand Prismatic Spring is very shallow. It is colored by the brown. orange and yellow bacteria and algae that grow in its pool. The sun highlights its colored features and the water reflects the blue of the sky. Steam rising from the spring adds mystery to the landscape. Though you can appreciate the spring by just giving it a cursory walk-by, paying attention to the details and seeing how the light seems to make them change provides a breathtaking experience.
Bryce Canyon, in Utah, is stunningly beautiful; especially at sunrise and sunset. It should be on your bucket list. You can enjoy it any time of day but, I recommend being there in the morning, before the sun creeps over the distant mountains and as the sun sets in the evening. The colors saturate, the whites appear almost translucent at hose times and it will take your breath away. If you can, walk the trails that take you below the base and look at the hoodoos face on.
As I looked over the landscape, my thoughts turned to the ancient cities from fantasy and action adventures. Perhaps drawing from Petra in southern Jordan. I can imagine temples and palaces constructed from the hoodoos. I see “impregnable” walls being breached by the barbarians outside. It’s a fun connection.
For me, the process of how the land became to look as it does, enhances its beauty. In this case, water channels away the softer soil, forming the hoodoos. The freeze-thaw cycle sculpts the hoodoos by breaking off chunks. The wind helps sculpt too, but, to a lesser degree. What is left are acres of an orange and cream landscape filled with spectacular hoodoos and the erosional hills and valleys at their base.
I can’t wait to go back. Only this time, I am going to allow a day to hike and see what other treasures I uncover. I wonder what it would like in snow.
Note: Please click on caption to see higher resolution images.