Western Wild

Dave Showalter's Conservation Photography Weblog



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  • Prairie

    Welcome Twenty-thirteen!

    January 1, 2013 | Permalink | Post a Comment

    The first sunrise of the new year squeezes through a gap in the clouds to light the Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado

    Partly because we could have the gargantuan vegetarian breakfast at Turley’s, we headed out with Abby the labby for a walk below the Flatirons to welcome in the new year. A simple study of a place that we love.

  • From The Vault, Prairie

    Ocean Of Grass

    December 14, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment
    comanche national grassland, timpas

    Ocean Of Grass : Prints Available

     Gazing across open spring grassland in the Timpas, or northern unit of Comanche National Grassland, I recalled stories about an ocean of grass. Early settlers compared the waving grass to the sea and often became disoriented on the open Great Plains. The Timpas Unit of the grassland is south of LaJunta and easily accessed.

    “As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea… There was so much motion in it, the whole country seemed somehow to be running.”
    Willa Cather

  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR


    November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment

    Mule Deer Buck Exhibiting Flehmen Behavior During Autumn Rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

    Flehman: (fley-muhn)

    noun Animal Behavior .
    a behavioral response of many male mammals, especially deer, antelope, and other artiodactyls, consisting of lip curling and head raising after sniffing a female’s urine.
    Definition courtesy of dictionary.com

  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

    Mule Deer Rut

    November 13, 2012 | Permalink | 2 Comments

    A large mule deer buck rouses a specific female during the autumn rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado.

    The autumn mule deer rut (mating season) action has begun at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, with bucks competing for the attention of does. I was out one evening last week and located a herd of five bucks and ten or so does. It’s interesting to watch smaller bucks follow does, tasting the air for estrus, and thinking they’ll get a chance to mate until a much larger buck emerges from tall grass and takes over. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR is renowned for big bucks; and although their numbers are down from historical populations, there are some very large deer at RMA. The rut will continue into December, generally peaking before Thanksgiving. In early December, you can observe larger groups of deer, often a single, big buck with harem. Take the auto tour route and be prepared to photograph from your open car window. I often travel with a 400mm lens ready to shoot.

    A large mule deer buck pauses to look at the photographer while following a doe during autumn rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado.

  • Prairie


    October 26, 2012 | Permalink | 6 Comments

    “Great Horned Owl Autumn Transition, Jefferson County, Colorado” I love the intensity of a great horned owl’s stare. Every one of them will look right through you, then slowly pivot their head, maybe even doze off for a bit. I was looking for the last golden leaves after a snowstorm when I spotted the dark form of this owl, a happy late October surprise.

  • Prairie

    Prairie Watcher

    October 19, 2012 | Permalink | 4 Comments
    great horned owl, nocturnal

    Prairie Watcher : Prints Available

     An adult great horned owl watches an area where grassland meets riparian from his perch on the historic Lindsey barn. Great horned owls are mostly nocturnal, but I frequently see them in daylight.

    This great horned owl is living the good life, with a spacious barn providing both shelter and perch to hunt for small mammals moving through prairie grass. I’ve seen him in daylight a few times, just yesterday here he was, hanging out in the mid-morning sun, sheltered from a ferocious wind. Courtship begins next month and he’ll have a good nesting site in the old barn. At 22″ tall, Bubo viginianus are by far our largest owl. They like rabbits and skunks, so it’s good to have them around, keeping both from overruning the earth. Imagine a world of skunks and thank a great horned owl.

  • Events, Prairie

    Presentation At CSU Pueblo

    October 12, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment
    western rattlesnake, Plains Conservation Center

    Coiled Western Rattlesnake : Prints Available

    A western rattlesnake shows his displeasure with me by coling and rattling to let me know he means business. A 600mm lens enabled me to keep a safe distance. Crotalus viridis

    I’m proud to announce that I’ll be presenting at Colorado State University Pueblo on October 25. The talk will focus on Colorado’s remarkably diverse shortgrass prairie and grassland conservation. I’ll present images from my Prairie Thunder book project, ongoing conservation outreach work, with both historical and new imagery. This free program is an All Pueblo Reads event. This year’s book is Plainsong by Kent Haruf – I plan to bring this excellent fictional novel to life. We hope to see you there!

  • From The Vault, Prairie

    From The Vault: Common Nighthawk

    September 6, 2012 | Permalink | 6 Comments

    Common nighthawk roosting on fencepost. Pawnee National Grassland, CO

    While working on my Prairie Thunder book in 2006, I visited the Pawnee Grassland on a particularly hot July day. I made a lot of these missions for the project where I’d leave home in the afternoon and blast up to the Pawnee until sunset, then make the long drive home in absolute darkness. With the thermometer pushing near 100 degrees, this nighthawk roosted on a fencepost, waiting for darkness when insects come out. A member of the goatsucker family, nighthawks have wide mouths to help them snare insects in flight. Listen for their nasally peeent call at dusk and marvel at their ability to instantly change direction in mid-air. I’ve long wondered about the term “goatsucker”, so I looked it up using the Google box. Oxford says the origin began with the European nightjar: early 17th century: so named because the bird was thought to suck goats’ udders. Thanks Oxford, I’ll probably have a nightmare about this.

  • Prairie

    Death Of A Stream

    June 18, 2012 | Permalink | 2 Comments

    A stream in tallgrass prairie is plowed under for a housing development. Jefferson County, Colorado

    I visited a prairie stream today and marveled at the vesper sparrows and meadowlarks zooming across the grassland, pausing to sing from a mullein or a sturdy big bluestem. It was already 70 degrees just after sunrise as first light grazed the grassy tops, backlighting salsify blooms with golden light. My two track disappeared in grass well above the running boards, hiding the glacial cobble that made this land unsuitable for the plow when the land was settled. I bounced along a fenceline heading into the rising sun, putting the truck in 4WD for the steady drop to the creek. At a point where the creek was freshly dammed, fresh water pooled below, the scarred hills reflected both green prairie and tracks of giant machines. A lone elk zig-zagged on the staked hillside, seemingly unsure of where to go. Red-winged blackbirds and songbirds still sang next to the praire sunflower by the creek on a piece of ground that hadn’t been bulldozed yet. The workers hadn’t fired up there machines so early on a Monday morning, so the sounds of the prairie and the green grassland community were juxtaposed against disfigured land that will be transformed for thousands of homes. Before leaving, I imagined thousands of bison traveling the stream, Native American hunters lying on their stomachs along the ridge where I stand.

    The stream is unnamed on my map and appears to flow from a seep in the foothills. That it is unnamed seems appropriate for its fate.

  • Prairie


    May 7, 2012 | Permalink | 3 Comments

    With all the hype over the “supermoon”, Marla and I went up nearby Lookout Mountain to watch the moonrise. It would’ve been cool if it had risen over downtown Denver, but the moon rose just south of Green Mountain.

    While waiting for the supermoon, a powerful storm developed over Golden, flanked by North and South Table Mountain. Mammatus clouds started to form and the wind came up big as darkness fell.

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