And Who Might You Be?

A lesser sandhill crane stands in a meadow near the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail in Yellowstone National Park

I wasn’t sure what I was looking at when I came across this crane in Yellowstone National Park in 2004. I was only aware of two species of crane in my country, the sandhill crane and the whooping crane. It looked like a sandhill apart from the brown coloring on its body, so I wondered if it might be a juvenile. Later research showed this to be a subspecies of sandhill, the lesser sandhill crane.

We’re moving to Arizona soon (we’re in Arizona at the moment, we found a house yesterday we’d like to rent), so I’m going to have a lot to learn as I explore my desert home. No matter how long I live here I’ll still come across identification puzzles, I still do even after being in Oregon for 21 years, a combination of my lack of skills and nature not always being so easily pinned down.

Little, But Less So

Two black bear cubs walk single-file up a hillside

Two black bear cubs follow their mother (she’s just out of frame to the right) up a hill in Yellowstone National Park in October 2006. She was very protective of these two, when another adult bear came wandering by she sent them scurrying up a tree without waiting to see if the other bear meant trouble (it didn’t). The cubs were still quite small compared to an adult but were much heavier than they would have been in the spring, a necessity for the winter that arrives early in Yellowstone.

Ro-Ro-Rosie

A black bear named Rosie walks near a stream amidst fall color in Yellowstone National Park in the fall of 2006

There have been multiple generations of Rosies in Yellowstone, a name given to a line of female bears that has stayed near the Roosevelt area. According to a park ranger on my fall visit in 2006, the previous Rosie didn’t appear to have survived the winter, she had lost a lot of fur before she hibernated. The new Rosie was a fine mother, looking carefully after her two cubs (who were following her just out of frame). She’d been tagged in her ears to help identify her, although its hard to tell in this picture since it matches the bits of brown leaves in her fur. The picture was a bit of a nod to wildlife photographer Nick Nichols, whose work in National Geographic inspired me. The light was low and the bear moving, so I tried to capture the movement with a low shutter speed and panning with the bear instead of trying to go for sharpness and freezing its motion. A technique Nick did well but I did not, but I still enjoyed the moment.

Look for the Stones That Breathe

An American pika looks out for the talus field that it calls home

Whenever I pass a talus field as I’m hiking in the mountains of Oregon or Washington or Wyoming, I always look for the rocks that live and breathe, although sometimes it’s my ears that find them first. The amazing pika spends its whole life here, in the rock fields of the high places, and doesn’t hibernate in the long winters the way so many other mammals do. The warming climate is going to be hard on these remarkable creatures as they rely on snow to insulate their homes during the coldest weather. At a younger age I couldn’t comprehend why the same people who insist in the truth of Noah’s ark would so eagerly condemn such a creature to extinction. The answer would break my heart.

[mr.burns] Excellent! [/mr.burns]

An American pika sits with its fingers held together in Grand Teton National Park

I came across this beautiful pika just below Inspiration Point on the trail into Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. I was delighted to see one again on this trip in 2006 as I fell in love with them the first time I saw one in 2005 (on the trail to Death Canyon). I had to turn around not much further up, as the trail narrowed to a small ledge on a tall cliff, and with my fear of heights even on my hands and knees there was no way I was willing to go on.