It’s a Happy Birthday Elk!

Greetings all on this last day of September!  For the counters out there, you were probably getting worried that my production this month was coming up a bit short on my self-imposed quota.  No worries, as you can see.. that deficiency has officially been addressed.  Truth is this month is an annual test of how much sleep one truly needs to be able to function.  In my case that is staggeringly low.  Running definitely takes time off the top, but the rest is being consumed by work on the Haunted Trail of Tears.  Somehow I forget how much work it is to put this on every year… a true labor of love.  Today also happens to be the one year anniversary of my Father’s passing.  One of the saddest days in my life and still a big hole in my heart that will never be filled.  Um to that Yang, it is Ron’s birthday and nothing says Happy Birthday like an Elk.

Elk spotted at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado in May 2014

It isn’t very often that you get to have an Elk from the Rocky Mountains give you a birthday greeting.  By the way, that is your gift this year hehehe.

Elk spotted at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado in May 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the Wapiti.


Itty Bitty Wapiti

In honor of my birthday, I th0ught it might be fitting to add another chapter in the “Newborn” series.  I’ve covered newbies from a number of the animal kingdom over the last two months including Bison (link here), Pronghorn (link here) and even Bear (link here).  Today I get to add these..

Elk shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Isn’t she .. well to be honest, it could be a he but “it” just sounds too cold for such a cutie.  This young Wapiti (or Elk depending on your preference) was photographed while on our trip out to Yellowstone National Park back in May 2013.  I am not studied up on these creatures beyond what is available in Wikipedia and such, so it is impossible for me to tell you how old she might be for sure.  A quick search on the web indicated they give birth in late May and early June.

Elk shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Our trip out there was the end of May and first few days of June so this one was at most a week and likely less.  They will lose their spots at the end of Summer.   To be honest, this shoot was at first exhilarating and then gave way to some serious concern.  I had climbed up a small hill off the side of the road hoping the higher vantage point might give way to some interesting subjects.  After looking around for bit, a rustling sound came from 50 or so yards away.  After about 5 or 10 minutes of trying to stand as still as possible, this newborn came walking out from among the brush.  That is the part that fits the exhilarating aspect – heart rate goes up, the camera goes up and the finger goes down on the shutter.  5 minutes later my brain kicked in and reminded me this could be a dangerous setting.  Heart rate goes up, finger comes off shutter head swivels.  Wildlife is no different than us – get too near the babies and the moms get understandably anxious – there are plenty of lessons to be had just checking out the Bear tragedies that occur out there from unexpected encounters with cubs.  The fact I was alone only added to the concern.  A few parting shots and I got the hell out of there! (never did see the doe, but can’t imagine it was too far away).

Hit the jump to see more pictures of the Elk of Yellowstone – and even shots of a younger calf!


Wapiti – Not The Sound of a Spinning Window Shade

Keeping with the theme of ungulates and that home away from home they call Yellowstone National Park, I bring you the big boys of the park – the Cervus Canadensis which is sooo big they have two names.  Thanks to European settlers we have the moniker of the Elk where are native Americans (according to Wikipedia specifically the Shawnee and Cree) we have “it which has a white rump” or Wapiti.  Since the first days of hearing this original name I’ve always associated it with a snapping window shade – do those even still exist?  If you recall, when one of them recoiled (typically never when you want it to!) first you will involuntarily twitch as the piece of wood in the bottom goes whipping past you and then your ears are barraged with Wapi Wapi Wapi Wapi as it cycles around the cylinder.  Ironically, whenever I get the opportunity to see these creatures I also twitch except in this case it is with excitement.   They are fairly docile (at least in Yellowstone) and are great subjects for us wildlife photographers.  Here is a younger one that was more than happy to pose for me.

If you haven’t noticed yet (which means you haven’t been looking close enough at about every animal set featured in this blog), I’m partial to the turn back across the body pose.  Just my thing I guess, but it is something I set out to do on each outing.  Personally I think it quickly distinguishes the prey from the predator.

If you can see the full eye, you should feel a little more at ease since you are not looking at an aggressive animal.  I also find that Elk have a tendency to pose which is a self serving description of animals that tend to have an intense curiosity.  Case in point.

Hit the jump to see a whole bunch more pictures of Yellowstone Wapiti


Hoofing It

I just noticed my WordPress dashboard is indicating I passed a milestone of such.  Apparently a couple of posts ago I hit my 200th blog post.  Seems like yesterday when I started this whole blog thingy, but in reality it’s the middle of the third year.  Yeah, it has been work at times, but it gives me a change to show off some of my photos along with things that happen to catch my attention.  I definitely appreciate you taking the time to peruse my ramblings and offer up comments from time to time.

Apparently, Linda and I have been poisoned by the Par-A-Dice deli tonight.  My money is on the cheese fries, but the jury is still out – well, the stomach jury has definitely provided a verdict.  While waiting for this to pass, I figured a bonus post was in order.  This one will close out the large mammals from the Yellowstone trip last June.  Still trying get caught up in preparation for the upcoming vacation, this should leave me with some bird shots and a collection of water themed snaps that stood out while reviewing the vacation portfolio.  Ironically, Linda and went out on a shoot yesterday and now we have about 10 more blog topics… guess there is really no such thing as catching up.

This is a miscellaneous set and not all tack sharp by any means.  Let’s start with an Elk.

These animals are simply majestic to look at.  Although not the largest rack of the ones spotted on this trip, it was definitely up there based on size and weight.  Not being an expert on antlers, it is hard to tell how mature this one was.  The antlers were still covered with velvet and for all I know still growing.  According to the guide, they can grow 5′ long.  Oh, and they can run 35mph.  They are also called Wapiti which is Shawnee for Pale Deer.  Come for the pictures, leave a little smarter 8^).  Amazingly, these beasts were not bothered by us and generally just focused on grazing.  This buck happened to look over resulting in a perfect pose.

If you caught the previous Bison post, you know there are plenty of them out there.  Another plentiful animal is the Pronghorn.  By the time we got to South Dakota you couldn’t go 5 miles without seeing them off the side of the road.

Not one of my better pictures, but for some reason I didn’t take any other photos of them.  This is a buck per the short black mane.  Contrasting that with the elk, the male pronghorn antlers only reach about 6″ (with a extra 9″ sheath that is shed in the winter).  Although slightly slower than the elk, these guys can run 30mph for 15 miles with bursts up to 70mph making them a tough prey.  Another interesting piece of information is, thanks to conservation, they are more abundant than they were in the 1900s.  By the way, they are part of the antelope family if you were wondering.

Go ahead and hit the jump, there are two other specimens for your viewing pleasure


What Are They Thinking?

At Culvers today I was thinking it was nearing the end of the month and I was way behind on my posts.  I actually have plenty of content queued up, but have been having a hard time to sparing the time to get it written up.  The trip out to Yellowstone energized me to start cleaning up my forest acreage and getting the trails cut in.  This has a tendency to drain me especially when I have to end the day with my 7-8 mile Bix7 training runs.  I was jarred back into the moment at hand when a young woman approached the counter with her friend.  She was holding a wrapped hamburger which begged my attention.  Correctly guessing, it was a messed up order.  Two statements made me stand and wonder what was going on in their head.  First, while explaining what the problem was, the young girl states “I threw the onions out the window because that’s what everyone did”  For one of the few times I can’t think of any context where an observed action makes any sense.  Was there a big pile of onions on the side of the road she was simply adding to?  Did she see a whole like of people ahead of her in the drive through whipping their condiments out the window?  I have nothing here folks other than the possibility she was savvy enough to know they come from the ground so returning it seemed like the appropriate action. The other interesting statement was from the cashier.  For some reason she was not stunned at all about the onion comment, but after listening to the issue she responded with “Would you like that made again right now?”  I had at least 4 clever responses in the time that took her to respond with the boring “Yes”.  Possibly a clever cashier followup would have been to simply grab the sandwich and scrape the undesired condiments off on the edge of the counter and handed it back.  It probably would have been job ending, but I probably would have shook her hand after redeeming herself from a stupid question.

Anyway, I decided to get this post on a couple of vacation scenes that made as much sense as this encounter.  First a quiz.  Does anyone out there think Bison are tame?  Does anyone believe that wild animals don’t care about their young?  And lastly, are wild animals entirely predictable?  If you answered affirmative to any of those questions you need to stay out of our National Parks and stick to safer destinations like zoos.  I can’t tell you how many times we saw people chasing out after wildlife to get the perfect shot.  Note, this can all be remedied by purchasing higher powered glass, which is significantly cheaper than getting a horn removed from your rear.

This lady decided that the numerous stay away from wildlife warning signs didn’t apply to her.

Dumb Human

We had already taken a number of pictures from the walkway (with the 200 glass) and was able to get various angles in complete safety.  What this lady didn’t know is there is a calf (guess that is what you call it) on the other side.  I kept my finger on the trigger for funniest home gold.  In case you questioned, the answer is I have little sympathy for stupid people but luckily for her the subject didn’t decide to test her speed.

Then there was this guy.

Dumb Human

The elk are probably a little more tame than Bison, but this guy essentially stalked this elk for 15 minutes.  He was trying to be clever and stay out of view, but checking the angle of the elk tells you how successful that was.  Every time the guy took a few steps forward, the elk would head a little further up the hill.  I joked to my wife that he was being led closer to the tree line so his friends could roll him.  Yes, I kept my camera ready for any violence that might have been initiated.  I ended up 0-2 for content on the my series When Good Animals Go Bad.  Admit it, you would watch it – and you can’t tell me it would be any worse than watching the wife of our removed and soon to be put on trial ex-governor Blowjobovich trying to replace her cuss filled tirade wiretap image with a PR stunt in the woods.  But the funny thing about this is there was another elk (with a similar rack) sitting under a tree not 30 feet from the trail.  The whole time that elk kept a close eye on the guy.  Made me wonder if it was not the humans who were on display.  I wish I could tell what that elk was thinking at that moment.  Maybe it was this.

The Food Chain