Thursday, September 30, 2021

Wildlife on the Ranch in September

I've had a lot of fun photographing wildlife on the ranch at sunrise and sunset this month. Here are some of the photos. One day I was surprised to find a Great Blue Heron up on the pivot. Was this something new? I asked my husband, and he said that it was the first time he had seen it up there. I positioned myself to get Notch Peak in the background, love that distinctive mountain!

Here are deer eating the cut alfalfa. What? Are they too lazy to eat the tall alfalfa? Maybe they just like cut salad!

Sandhill cranes are migrating through, and I just love seeing and hearing them.

A closeup of them flying.

The geese are also arriving. (Do you see the Great Blue Heron in the background on the pivot?)

One morning I could just tell that the clouds were going to make for a special sunrise. They didn't disappoint!

Hooray, the sandhill cranes also flew with the cloud bands as a background.

I went to a little pond and enjoyed watching this western sandpiper looking for food. It probably didn't even realize what a nice reflection it was making.

Also in the reflection were the nearby mountains. I was feeling like I was in heaven, such beautiful scenery.

Although I get most excited about birds and colorful skies, I'll stop and take a photo of some deer once in a while. ;)

For autumn equinox, I went out to the Baker Archaeological Site. This Fremont village was inhabited from about 1220 to 1295, and it's thought they may have oriented the buildings to help tell them when it was time to plant and harvest based on sun position when rising and setting. While I was waiting for the sun to rise, I turned in the opposite direction and saw a big beautiful moon over the Snake Range. I zoomed in for a close view.

A little bit later, the first sun rays were lighting up Doso Doyabi, including the colorful aspens and the heart of the mountain.

When I turned back in the other direction, I decided for an artistic shot, with a trail sign, modeled on a slate artifact found at the site. The "owl" may have been modeled on the eastern mountains, which with two rounded wings and two pointy ears looks like an owl (or a bat).

Here's the view of the owl/bat in the mountains with some sandhill cranes on a different morning.

I like when I can get more than one species in a photo. Here are sandhill cranes in the sky (with Notch Peak behind) and deer and a raven in the field.

The sandhill cranes hopping (with a raven in the background) made for some fun watching.

The cranes don't pay any attention to the mule deer strolling by.

One evening we went for a family drive and observed this beautiful Cooper's Hawk. Well, it's beautiful if it's far away from my chickens!

This mule deer checked us out from the field, with a hay barn in the distance.

Then we saw pronghorn, a whole lot of them.

The patterns when they stopped and looked at us were mesmerizing.

This pronghorn buck had an attitude. 

On the other side of the vehicle were more deer in the field, including several bucks.

This was a strange nontypical buck. My husband says it's called a moss head.

Here are some sandhill cranes strutting their stuff.

And finally, a good morning shot. 
Hope you've enjoyed these photos of life on the ranch!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

In Search of Sandhill Cranes

My husband and I got on the topic of Sandhill Cranes, and he mentioned that there were quite a few on the ranch right now. A few years ago I had photographed sandhill cranes in a feedlot and loved the light, but didn't get quite what I wanted. I told him my dream shot was of a sandhill crane in flight, backlit, with Notch Peak (a prominent mountain) in the background.

I went out early and went in search of some sandhill cranes. The easiest way to find them is to stop and listen. They make a lot of noise! It turns out their call can be heard up to 2.5 miles away. I found some on the edge of a field. In the photo above, one has its mouth open, making their pterodactyl sound (or how I imagine pterodactyls would sound).

A couple took off, making awesome silhouettes...and more noise!

I was a bit distracted by birds flitting around in the nearby corn field. One perched and I found a beautiful song sparrow.

The morning light on hay in the hay barn and the mountainous background was nice. This hay is watered by the meltwater from those mountains.

In this photo, the sandhill cranes had such a nice pattern with their wings.

Quite a few sandhill cranes flew to the bag yard, where there's lots of equipment and bagged silage. I went there and spotted some cranes in an empty feedlot. 

I crept closer. They stayed. I rested my telephoto lens on the bottom fence rung and started shooting. 

What I observed was that a couple of the cranes seemed to act as sentries. They walked back and forth, making lots of noise while the other cranes foraged.

In the photo below, can you see the nare (nose hole) in the birds' beaks? 

The birds got disturbed by something and a couple spread their wings. During the mating season, they'll do elaborate dances. Sandhill cranes mate for life, and their lifespan is often over 20 years, with the oldest known crane 36 years old.

Our location is considered to be on the edge of the migration rate for sandhill cranes, but we actually have a few that stay all summer long. I'm not sure if they breed or not. Occasionally a couple stay long enough for us to count them during the Christmas Bird Count, but not often. 

What do you think these two are saying to each other?

I decided to see where else sandhill cranes were on the ranch. I found a few at the pond. Can you also see the killdeer?

A few sandhill cranes looked like they were discussing things at the beach.

A couple more were visiting cows and ravens.

This small sandpiper was also in the pond.

This killdeer was also looking for some food in the mud.

I also found sandhill cranes out in the meadow.

Not far away were some turkey vultures sunning themselves. Others were riding the high winds.

This turkey vulture stretched out its wings to sun itself.

It was a lovely morning out looking at birds. What about the shot I wanted? I didn't quite get backlit wings, but I did get a silhouette of a sandhill crane flying with Notch Peak in the background! 

For more info about these cool birds, see the All About Birds website.

What are your experiences with sandhill cranes?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Flash Flood near Baker, Nevada

On August 1, 2021, we noticed a small rainstorm. However, it wasn't small everywhere. We were notified that Nevada Highway 487 north of Baker, Nevada had water flowing across it. What? This isn't an area known for flash floods. We had to go take a look.

My husband and I were eager to go, but the kids had to be persuaded. We told them they might not get to see flash flooding like this again. However, it seems that with climate change, extreme weather is becoming more and more common, and two times in later August there were big floods near Gandy, Utah. 

The road had a good amount of water going across it, with quite a few bushes in the middle of the highway. Traffic was stopped at both ends.

Water was running in some gullies, but in a lot of places, it was just running across the land.

This meant that instead of the water going through culverts, it crossed the road in wide swaths. Here's the Baker Cutoff road, when it was just one stream crossing the road.

The water appeared to be going into a field near the Baker Archeological Site.

I dropped off my husband so he could go check on fields, then I went back. Now there were two streams crossing the Baker Cutoff Road.

It was impressive watching the muddy water cascade off the downhill side of the highway.

In an hour or so, the water started receding (although in the photo below you can see the skies dumping water on other places in the valley).

This is a view of the Baker Cutoff Road from Highway 487.

Before too long (about an hour or so), the water had receded quite a bit.

It was obvious something different had happened.

Quite a few big rocks were on the road, so I started moving them off.

Some folks towing an RV and wanting to get home were happy to help.

The fence had caught quite a bit of debris.

So many rocks were moved.

Another view of a fence.

People started driving through the water.

Meanwhile, the flooding may have contributed to a motor vehicle accident.

NDOT sent out a crew and they started work right away.

The road was quite muddy in places.

Later that evening, another band of clouds came in.

We could see another downpour and worried about more flooding.

Sure enough, the next morning there was more debris on the road, but in a slightly different place than the night before.

Nevada Highway 488, which leads from Baker up to Great Basin National Park, also flooded, trapping cars for over an hour. 

The water created some big gullies next to the highway, which are still there nearly a month later. A recent accident almost resulted in the driver going into the gully (see skid marks below), but fortunately they went off the road in a less steep place.

Flash floods are impressive, exciting, and scary. Fortunately most people seemed to be respectful of the recent ones. The adage, "Turn around, don't drown," is a good one to remember.
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