I wonder if these two grasshoppers thought their end was near when this sooty grouse suddenly loomed large, as they are one of the insects grouse like to eat, but the bird paid them no heed as it sauntered through the mountain meadow. Taken in the fall of 2014 on my last visit to Mount Rainier National Park.
I had been watching this chipmunk feeding near the trail in Mount Rainier National Park for quite a while when it straightened out its tail and began whipping it back and forth. I looked behind me, then checked the skies, but couldn’t see what had raised the alarm. There were some grouse feeding nearby that were partially obstructed but they had been there even longer than I had.
I soon got my answer when it ran over right in front of me and picked up a grasshopper that had been smashed underfoot by a hiker, then ran back to the big rocks to eat it. Even though I had been watching it for a while, I’m guessing the tail flashing was one last test to make sure I meant it no harm. When it was done eating, it actually ran between my legs and on down the trail.
I guess I passed the test.
A hoary marmot collects grasses and flowers late on a fall day in Mount Rainier National Park. I didn’t think it could add more without dropping what it already had, but I was wrong. After adding that last bit it was either satisfied with its collection, or felt unable to collect any more, and trundled off towards its den.
A hoary marmot eats the leaves of wildflowers late in the day in Mount Rainier National Park, taken soon after I arrived on my trip to the park last fall. I’ll be deciding within the next couple of weeks on my trip for this fall, the two major candidates are returning to Mount Rainier and/or Olympic National Park, or heading out to Yellowstone and possibly the Tetons. Also might look into Glacier National Park or taking several small trips so I could also hit the Oregon coast and the redwoods in California.
Usually it comes down to lodging availability, road construction, weather, how long it’s been since my last trip, and how much driving I feel up to. Sometimes I feel a particular pull to see certain types of wildlife, and at the moment the marmots and pikas of Mount Rainier are calling me back, even though I was there just last year. I didn’t see them as much as I would have liked, and it poured rain during much of the trip. Except it didn’t rain when I was in the Hoh Rain Forest like I wanted, so maybe the fifth visit will be the charm.
On the other hand, I haven’t been to Yellowstone in four years. The last trip wasn’t as much fun as other years, although a couple of days were two of my favorites of any trip, and even a lesser visit to the area is still a pretty great time.
The other little wrinkle this year is my cameras. My Canon 7D II and 100-400 II lens were both released too late last year for any major hiking trips, so it would be fun to try them out in the wildlife-heavy parks. I did cancel my pre-order for the new Sony A7R II, I would have been a part of the initial shipment but it was just too much expense to risk without waiting for more thorough reviews. If I had kept the order I’d lean towards Yellowstone, as the Sony can shoot lovely 4K video and I’ve long wanted to video the geothermal features there. It’s high-resolution full-frame sensor would also be fantastic for still shots, so I probably would have spent the entire week in Yellowstone and split my time between the scenery and the wildlife.
Strangely enough it’s the scenery of Yellowstone that is attracting me more this year than the wildlife, I should probably check myself for a fever.
I wouldn’t complain about a week of hiking in the Tetons either except I’m out of good hiking shape and all that elevation change while carrying the cameras might do me in. I love photographing the mountains at sunrise but I’ll want a better camera before making that a priority, the full-frame cameras are much better suited to that than the 7D.
The good news is these are all fun places to visit so there are no bad choices. It’s the planning I hate.
A hoary marmot eats wildflowers on a rainy fall afternoon in Mount Rainier National Park. The pouring rain reduced the crowds on the trails compared to the previous sunny day, but the marmot has to eat rain or shine, for a cool wet afternoon is nothing compared to the brutality of the coming winter that will drive it into hibernation.
My first full day in Mount Rainier last year started off with a bit of rain but was sunny and warm most of the day, before it started raining buckets for the rest of my trip. This chipmunk was taking full advantage of the sunshine, and the hikers it brought in numbers, to fatten up for the coming winter by eating the many grasshoppers that people had crushed underfoot on the nearby trails.
Sometimes when looking at my wildlife pictures it’s hard for me to remember how big or small an animal really was without something familiar to provide a sense of scale. I don’t get to see pikas that often so this time, to help me remember their size, I took a picture of one eating a Christmas tree.
Water drops coat the back of a sooty grouse on a rainy afternoon, but it has shaken most of the water from its head. I wish Canon would build teleconverters into all of its telephoto lenses like they did with their 200-400mm lens, as it would be very helpful on days like this. I was photographing multiple grouse who were moving all around me as I sat on the trail, sometimes walking right up to me as they fed, but I was also keeping my eye on a marmot that was feeding nearby. I would have preferred to switch my teleconverter in and out as my subjects moved about, but given the heavy rain I was hesitant to take the lens off the camera.
I had been photographing this hoary marmot with telephoto lenses when I decided to switch to a wider angle to show the amazing landscape that this animal calls home (the waterfall in the background on the far right is at the end of the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier). That’s when I noticed that a small collection of plants was growing underneath the lip of the big rock, protected not only from wind and snow but also from being crushed by hiker’s shoes. I like photographing plants growing in seemingly inhospitable locations as I’m intrigued by how often life can take root if given the chance.