Monday, May 21, 2012

Coso Petroglyphs

I am on my 31st annual camping trip with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson.  The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Coso Petroglyphs, which might be the highest concentration of rock art in the western hemisphere.
This is an extremely unusual petroglyph, apparently showing a confrontation between archers.  The extra toes might be because this was a depiction of an hallucination.

The petroglyphs are located on China Lake Naval Weapons Station near Ridgecrest, California.  The area is NOT open to the general public.

This beautiful panel includes a lot of bighorn sheep, which is the most common object here.  Most images were probably made in the last 2000 years, but some may be as old as 6000 years.

Tours are arranged through the wonderful Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California.  If you want to go, check their web site and sign up the first day the tours are announced, or you probably won't get in.
These petroglyphs are on a rock that shows the terrain inside the canyon. The hike is fairly strenuous and includes climbing down two dry waterfalls, very uneven footing, and some deep sand.  Good hiking boots are required.
Human figures (anthropomorphs) are common and spectacular.

Anyone who signs up to see these petroglyphs must have proof of US citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport.  Everyone will be given a background check before being allowed to enter China Lake Naval Weapons Station.  All cars will be searched thoroughly.  Security will give everyone a half-hour lecture while you are waiting for the security check to be completed.  Cameras and binoculars will not be allowed to be accessible until the petroglyph site is reached.  Museum docents will accompany the group at all times, and they are an excellent source of information.

I recommend a polarizing filter to bring out the images.  The petroglyphs on the right side of the canyon will be visible on the way in, and some on the left side will emerge from the shadows as you walk out.

The petroglyphs here are really special, and the experience is an adventure if you can get in at all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Red-shafted Flicker

A female red-shafted flicker is hollowing out a nest in a cottonwood in a city park here in Montpelier, Idaho.

It took her about one-half hour to return to the nest after I parked close by.

Flickers are woodpeckers, and do an amazing job hollowing out nesting cavities with their beaks.

I had never seen behavior like this before.  She would bring a beak-ful of wood chips to the entrance of the nest and spin her head as she dropped them out, so that they wouldn't accumulate in a pile at the base of the tree.  This spinning motion is so quick that it is blurred in the photo.

Once she got the nerve to return to the nest, she ignored me and worked to enlarge the hole.  Here she is, just before the head-spin to drop the wood chips.

When she is done, the nesting cavity will be 13 - 16 inches deep.  The male normally helps the excavation, but may have been too scared to come around while I was there.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Surrounded By Bison

The same day that we encountered the grizzlies (see previous post) we were surrounded by a herd of about twenty bison in Grand Teton National Park.  We first saw them grazing in a beautiful aspen grove at Mormon Row.
Some tourists were standing nearby, and one big male was giving them the evil eye.  I put my camera on the "continuous" setting in case I got an opportunity to photograph action shots as the bison charged the tourists, but no such luck.

The tourists eventually left, so I drove closer and parked so that Linda would have a clear view out the passenger window.

The bison were much more comfortable around the car than around the tourists, and they walked right up to us.  It turned out that I had parked next to rain puddles, and that must have been why the bison were waiting for the tourists to leave.

The huge animals all drank from the puddles as we took photos from just a few feet away.
I had a tough time getting a clear view because I had to shoot past Linda.  But it worked out OK because my restricted viewpoint encouraged close-ups of the bison as they drank.  The huge animals didn't seem threatening at all, as long as we stayed in the car, but I did wonder what would happen if they decided we didn't belong there.

As they finished drinking, the herd wandered around the car to a field, surrounding us for awhile.  I enjoyed watching a calf watch me as a big one passed behind the car.  What a day of wildlife photography!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grizzly Encounter

Linda and I visited Grand Teton National Park for a couple of days last week and were sure we wouldn't get any decent photos because of the terrible weather.  Heavy overcast, rain, snow, wind... we had it all.  We didn't see the beautiful views we wanted, but were thrilled by the abundant wildlife.
Imagine our surprise when this grizzly sow with two big cubs walked in front of us.  This through-the-windshield shot shows the bears just after they stepped out of the woods.

The sow was extremely nervous.  She was obviously surprised by the attention and confused about what she should do.  She cringed whenever a car went by and looked like she was ready to defend her cubs.

Photography was fairly difficult because of the dark, overcast conditions.  Notice the movement in her front paws as she walked toward me.  This was caused by the 1/30 second shutter speed needed in the poor light.

Was it exciting to have a nervous, full grown grizzly walking toward me?  You betcha!

This cub certainly was aware of all the attention.  The three bears were only there for about a minute before they walked back into the woods together.