Marmot Curiosity

hibernate, yellow-bellied marmot

Marmot Curiosity : Prints Available

Curiosity gets the best of this adult yellow-bellied marmot, looking out from talus rocks above timberline. Sometimes called 'whistle pig' for their high-pitched warning call, marmots are common in high mountain rocky slopes. They eat green vegetation and hibernate through the winter months. This image shows the long digging claws that enable marmots to tunnel under rock piles. 

Marmota flaviventris

I turned my back and the curious mamrmot was chewing on my Lowepro pack straps to supplement his diet with salt:)

Marmot-camera-bag

Yawn!

Morning-B-Owls

Burrowing Owl Chicks in Early Morning Light. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO

Just stumbling upon this image made me smile today, so I thought I’d share it here. During the frenzied activity of a prairie summer, one can expect to see burrowing owl chicks popping from prairie dog burrows in mid to late June. I made this image of burrowing owl chicks from a portable blind just after sunrise on a June, 2005 morning. The yawning chick expressed my thoughts perfectly.

Prairie Song

western meadowlark, prairie

Singing Western Meadowlark : Prints Available

 Western meadowlarks are often seen singing from perches above prairie grass - yucca, mulleins, and fenceposts. While sitting in a blind waiting for burrowing owls to emerge, this nearby meadowlark was singing his head off. I opened a window slowly and saw that he was standing in the grass just a few feet away, He didn't care about the shutter firing, maybe because he was making so much beautiful noise. 

Gunnison’s winter of 2007/2008

gunnison, Parlin, winter

Parlin Barn Winter : Prints Available

 The winter of 2007/2008 was harsh, even by Gunnison standards. Gunnison is often called the doughnut hole by locals because winter storms sit on surrounding mountain ridges; but that didn't happen in that particular winter. It snowed with no relief and ungulates sought hay bales to avoid starvation. Eventually, the Colorado Division of Wildlife fed deer and elk from the air. Hundreds of resident pronghorn died and have since been reintroduced to the Basin. I made this image of the old barn near Parlin, a reminder of the heaviest snow cover I've ever seen. 

As another wimpy winter winds down, I’m feeling nostalgic for a full-on snow season.

Ocean Of Grass

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

Everest Base Camp and “Do It Now”

At Everest Base Camp with our guide, Lhakpa and assistant guide.

“I was older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan

In 2002, Americans weren’t traveling much while the U.S. was still reeling from 9-11. Nepal was in civil war. The government had a tenuous hold on power as Maoists controlled the sparsely populated countrysides where tourists like to go trekking. But my wife, Marla likes to say “do it now, while you can” and we traveled halfway around the world to go trekking in the Everest region. Our trek lasted 16 days and took us over 18,000 feet three times; at Gokyo Ri, Cho-la Pass, and Kala Pattar. Gorak Shep sits below Kala Pattar, a round mound standing 5,545 meters in a sea of giant peaks that offers a classically awesome view of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. We stayed one night at Gorak Shep, where we were out of breath just from rolling over in our tent. And although Everest base camp wasn’t on our itinerary, Marla convinced our guide to take us there, just a few kilometers up the trail at 17,600′. Other than a rock table, there were no signs of the temporary climbing village constructed on the glacier during peak climbing season in May. Just a beautiful glacier of whitish-grey stone below the Khumbu Icefall and the biggest mountains in the world. This picture takes me right back to that trek, the most ambitious of our travels, and reminds me how “do it now, while we can” holds meaning in our daily lives and our adventure life.

From The Vault: Common Nighthawk

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.