Closing out the workweek is a shot of an absolutely gorgeous Peregrine Falcon taken last week at Yellowstone National Park.
Peregrine’s can be found just about anywhere on the globe. Here in North America, much like other raptors, the bird was threatened by pesticides in the 20th century but is making an incredible comeback now.
This particular Peregrine Falcon was not in the wild (although they do reside in Yellowstone) but rather belonged to a falconer that happened to be staying in the campground I was in. The man was kind enough to let me snap off bunches of pictures of this bird (Merlin) as well as two others he owned.
I don’t normally take many pictures of little birds but this guy was quite persuasive. He perched himself on a railing two feet away and intently watched my family so I felt I had to give him his time in the spotlight. 😉
It took me three sunrises to capture this image last week as smoke from wildfires in Washington and British Columbia was creating a great deal of haze in the sky on the first two.
On the last morning there still was some smoke lingering which you can see but at least it eased enough to get some pretty decent shots. The calm waters of Oxbow Bend allowed the freshly sunlit Tetons to be reflected in the water.
Scroll down for more scenic photos from Grand Teton National Park.
The thermal features of Yellowstone National Park are certainly nothing short of astounding. The Grand Prismatic Spring is very aptly named due to its large size and amazing array of colors. It is in fact the largest hot spring in North America and the third largest in the world. The array of colors come from mats of bacteria that thrive in the 160° water.
On the day I took this picture I learned a lesson – Don’t visit hot springs on a cold morning. The air temperature was only about 40° and the result was a very obscured view of this natural wonder. Despite the fog and steam, it still made for a pretty scene.
It is with a heavy heart that I learned late yesterday of the passing of a local eaglet. The female Bald Eagle was the offspring of a pair of the majestic birds that I had closely watched and photographed for the past six months.
I first discovered the parents at the end of January as they worked on a nest near the intersection of a highway and relatively major street. Despite the high profile location, they went relatively unnoticed and I routinely visited them in the following months as they courted and worked on their new home.
The pair provided many extraordinary photo opportunities and I became quite familiar with them, and they with me I like to believe. We spent many hours in each other’s presence, me thoroughly enjoying their presence, they not minding mine.
The latter half of March it was apparent the female had laid at least one egg as she spent her time sitting on the nest, rarely leaving. That put an end to me visiting them other than to watch from afar as I wanted to be sure to give them their space and not endanger their eggs.
By May the little one was visible and she grew quickly over the next couple of months. She was expected to fledge around the first part of July and as the time got closer, so did the public attention.
The Raptor Education Foundation (REF) put out a very public call on all local news media for people to start watching the eaglet. The very real concern was that her first flight could take her onto the highway.
She was slow to take that first flight and finally did this past Monday. Thankfully she went into a nearby field and seemed to be okay.
However, her parents ignored her and even after being moved closer to the nest by the raptor group Tuesday, she was alone. Yesterday, Wednesday, came the news that the eaglet was found to be very ill and soon passed away. The statement from REF is pasted below.
I can’t help but have a heavy heart today.
Many early mornings were spent sitting in the winter cold watching them for hours. I have shot hundreds of pictures of them and felt like I had gotten to know them, and they me as well.
My kids oftentimes went with me and it was great to share the experience. My daughter had even named the new arrival “Heritage” – a fitting name for such a majestic bird. She and her parents have given me and my family so much joy.
The chances of a bald eagle surviving its first year of life are less than 50% so in some ways this isn’t surprising; that however is little consolation.
I hope they try again this coming winter and establish a new heritage of eaglets at the nest.
Writer’s note: As the statement from REF indicates, a necropsy will be performed to try to determine the cause of death. I can’t help but wonder if the tremendous increase in traffic in the area created by the group that put out the public call didn’t cause undue stress on the eagle family and contribute in some way.
At times there were more than a dozen cars lining the street and the news media made many appearances. It seems to me there would have been other ways to get volunteers without potentially putting the birds at risk.
While the location of the nest was hardly a secret given its vicinity to major roads, few members of the public knew of its existence. The time an eaglet fledges is critical and this layman can’t help but wonder if the increased attention didn’t contribute in some way.
On the net:
This little guy seemed to think a few blades of grass would be enough to hide him at Grand Teton National Park. Didn’t work so well. For most folks in the west these rodents are considered pests but for some others, they can actually be quite a tourist attraction. They are kind of cute – if you can set aside the diseases they can carry and the damage they do. 😉
Pics of osprey were some of the better images to come from the trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, probably because they seemed to be quite prevalent so I had tons of opportunity (versus a single black bear and a single grizzly). This male was from a nesting pair at the south end of Grand Teton NP and he and his mate gave me quite a show.
Scroll down for more pics of these osprey and others in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
These two young deer were hanging out with mama in the southern part of Grand Teton National Park this morning. They were absolutely the cutest thing you can imagine. They were also quite fleet-footed as when they ran they were very agile and fast (a different picture I will share in the near future).
One of the Moulton Family barns in this historic location first settled in the late 19th century. Pretty rugged country and the winters had to be absolutely brutal for early settlers. Feel free to share. (Read more here)
Scroll down for more scenic photos from Grand Teton National Park.