Of Seals

A harbor seal closes its eyes with its feet and tail sticking out of the water in the shallow surf near Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head Outsdanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon in October 2017

The past couple of years I’ve been watching some old movies I haven’t seen before, using Turner Classic Movies to catch up on some old gems. Last night I TiVo’ed Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, which has been on my watch list for some time. I haven’t watched it yet and since I try to not find out anything about a movie before I watch it, even the basics of the plot, I don’t know if the movie is about harbor seals, elephant seals, or leopard seals. With seven seals, maybe all of them! Can’t wait to find out!

Legs Up, Hands On Hearts!

A wave begins to break over the body of the first harbor seal in a group at Cobble Beach in Yaquina Head Oustanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon in October 2017

The rising tide brings waves that overwhelm the sleeping locations of the harbor seals, eventually sending them into the water. The bigger seals often held the ground that let them sleep the longest while the younger seals took the first brunt of the wave action. As each wave swept past, they’d raise their legs in unison, allowing the water to sweep over their bodies instead of knocking them into the sea, though in the end the water always wins.

I could spend hours watching the seals, relaxing on land or swimming in the sea, someday I’d love to spend more time in the area. A couple of years ago when it was time to choose between two job offers, the job in California would have put me relatively close to the coast with not just harbor seals but other mammals I haven’t seen before. If the cost of living had been swapped between the two locations perhaps we’d have gone on a different adventure, but thankfully the Sonoran Desert had its own wonders in store.

Harbor seals lift their legs as a wave breaks over them at Cobble Beach in Yaquina Head Oustanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon in October 2017

A group of harbor seals lie with their legs raised after a wave swept past at Cobble Beach in Yaquina Head Oustanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon in October 2017

Not Samwise

A close-up view of the face of a bobcat with it's mouth a bit open to let heat escape, taken through the window of my office in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2020

A bobcat in our front yard, taken through the window of my office. The window makes the pictures a little odd but it’s not easy to be this close otherwise. Those teeth are a reminder that this is a predator, and indeed it captured a rabbit beside the house that morning. It may be the reason the ground squirrel who built a nest in the front yard has not been seen lately, though there are other predators too. Yesterday a pair of spiny lizards seem to have moved into the squirrel’s hole and this morning my wife saw a roadrunner had flattened itself against the ground outside the hole. I saw the female lizard later but it’s a dangerous world, in far too many ways. Theirs of necessity, ours of our own invention.

A close-up view of the ears of a bobcat, taken through the window of my office in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2020

Trixie’s Second Favorite Orange Tabby

Through my office window our cat Trixie watches a bobcat at the edge of our yard in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2020

Sunday I woke early enough to go hiking but being tired and knowing I had a long week ahead I went back to sleep for a bit. So I was home but not awake when my wife and Trixie noticed a bobcat sitting on the ledge of my office window. I was up when it made its return hunting rabbits and other prey, though this time it didn’t come quite so close.

All the Shades of Brown

A close-up of the face and shoulder of a male American bison, showing the many shades of brown in his fur, taken near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

As I sat beside the road, playing around with close-ups of the mothers and their young, the old bulls eventually ambled into view. These would be my favorite shots from this trip in the fall of 2011, what I love most about this one is that even though I often think of them as being one shade of brown, I am reminded, bison contain multitudes. As was often the case in Wyoming, many of my favorite encounters would be on the trails but many of my favorite pictures would be near the road. I hope you had a good life, not-so-little one.

Baby Pictures

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf as it looks at me near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

An American bison calf gives me a quick look with mom as a backdrop. I had my big lens with me on that trip and was shooting the herd from the road so everyone was relaxed. Taken in the fall of 2011, it’s hard to believe that was my last trip to Wyoming but later trips were canceled due to government shutdowns and the occasional early storm. I doubt I’ll visit again for a long while as there are too many places closer to here I want to explore during my limited time off, until then my many fond memories will have to tide me over.

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

Dressed in Orange

A mule deer doe and her fawn graze in the desert scrub in the first light of the day along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

The first light of day filtered through the desert scrub, bathing a doe and her two fawns in orange light. I too was dressed in orange, my jacket a holdover from my time in Oregon when I walked to the train station and needed every advantage to be seen by drivers who weren’t looking for me. I stick out like a sore thumb in the desert and have thought about replacing it with something less distracting, but for the moment I’ve held off as it does make me more visible both from a distance and a glance to the cyclists I share the trails with.

Though she’s looking at me for eternity in this picture, the doe paid me little heed as I stood quietly and watched the trio graze as the sun rose. Suddenly to my right a young buck and doe crossed the trail and I stopped taking pictures for a while, obviously I was rather visible but I didn’t want to make any noise as the mother doe was slightly nervous at the new arrivals. She relaxed when the two showed no aggression and they all breakfasted together, coming in and out of view through the shrubs and trees and cacti, when suddenly they bolted and disappeared from view. I soon heard why as two cyclists came riding up the trail, we said our good mornings and they too disappeared from view. A lovely quiet morning on the Watershed Trail.

Double Perched

A pair of American kestrels perch on the tallest saguaro in the area while a Harris's antelope squirrel sits atop the rocks below, taken on the Latigo Trail in the Brown's Ranch area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020

A male and female kestrel share a perch high atop the tallest saguaro on a cold winter’s morning in the Sonoran Desert. I was able to watch kestrels in the Pacific Northwest, on rare occasion at very close distances, but there they tended to hover in place above the meadow while looking for prey below, while here the old giants give them a similar viewpoint from a sitting position. On the rocks below them is a Harris’s antelope squirrel, keeping an eye on the neighborhood. It wasn’t bothered by the kestrels, I suppose it’s too big to be carried off by the little falcons. Scattered around are smaller saguaros of various ages and sizes, with a barrel cactus in the middle.

Pleasant Dreams

A gray wolf with black fur watches me from a atop a ridge as dusk falls at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

It had been a fun day in Yellowstone in the fall of 2006, after a long hike during the day in which I saw little wildlife I spent the evening near the road with a crowd watching black bears, later on my own watching a coyote near Mount Washburn. On the long drive back to the hotel, the light fading and night approaching, a dark form moved across the road and disappeared from view. I stopped the car and readied the camera, just in case, and was dumbstruck when the curious creature popped up atop the ridge and watched me for the briefest of seconds. My one and only wolf sighting.

Perhaps because I recently edited that picture to bring an old blog post back online, Friday night I’d finally see them again, if only in a dream, as I hiked in the mountains and saw them at a distance. They came down closer but as they played in the snowy landscape I realized I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me. But I soon forgot about not just cameras but even wolves when I looked to my right and saw Ellie bounding towards me. “How are you walking?” I asked, skipping right past the more obvious question. I didn’t wait for an answer and was thankful for one more romp in the snow with the pup. I wouldn’t have so much trouble sleeping if all my dreams were so sweet!

Just Out of Reach

A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy evening at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy fall evening at Yellowstone in 2006. I felt for her, trying to fatten up as much as she could for the long Wyoming winter but not wanting to risk injury and condemning not just herself but also her two young cubs. She and the cubs all made it down safely after eating the seeds in the cones, one cub in particular eating its fill.