Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wildflowers at Walker Lake, Nevada



Springtime in the Great Basin Desert!




Whether it is intense heat in the summer or frigid cold during the winter, Nature in the desert is always being challenged to adapt to harsh conditions.  These challenges, when nature must adapt to survive, present fascinating photo opportunities and are the reason that I am so drawn to the desert. 

At rare times, Nature's tenacity is revealed when conditions come together at just the right time.  The barren desert thrives and becomes a showcase of nature's bounty.  Such were the conditions during the past winter of 2013 when areas within the Great Basin Desert received adequate moisture from rain or snow. 

To the northwest of Walker Lake lies a sandy flat area facing east that is protected to the west by the Wassuk Range.  Within this area of approximately one mile radius (1.609344 km) the desert was in bloom with a number of wildflowers and shrubs.


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 What first caught my eye were the patches of Desert Plume accenting the landscape and standing tall over the yellow blanket of Desert Dandelions.


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The Desert Plume, Stanleya pinnata or Golden Prince's Plume can grow up to 5 feet tall (153 cm) in the alkaline soil.   The slender wands of yellow hairy flowers attract bees and other pollen gathers.


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Brilliant Desert Dandelions were growing in batches through out the region.


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One of the plants edible by humans and often the first wildflower to bloom, Desert Dandelions provide vital nourishment for bees coming through the winter.


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My timing for these wildflower photos was right on since the Spiny Hop Sage Grayia spinosa was in bloom throughout the desert.


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The small shrub of Spiny Hop Sage only shows its colorful fruit for a short duration in spring and then turns into a woody gray thicket when the climate dries and begins to warm. 


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Even the Burrobush Hymenoclea salsola or Cheesebush was showcasing its tiny white flowers.  Its common name Cheesebush is due to the pungent odor when the leaves are crushed.


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The broom like shrub of Mormon Tea was just beginning to show buds.  Mormon Tea gets its name from the early Mormon settlers who brewed a tea from the stems and leaves.  The tea was also used by Native Americans for stomach disorders and made into poultices for burns or sores on the skin. 


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Many of the wildflower seeds are annuals or ephemerals like the Desert pincushion.  Their seeds lay dormant waiting for just the right amount of moisture and sunlight. At which time they will spring to life thriving only for a short period to be pollinated by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds before the climate becomes too hot or dry.  


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Unlike annuals that last only for a season desert plants that are considered perennials, as with the Tufted Evening-primrose will re-bloom and come out of dormancy only when adequate water becomes available. 


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A variety of other flowers and shrubs were just beginning to bloom.  It will be interesting to return in a few days and after the latest rains to see what else is there, waiting for my camera. 



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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


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Monday, May 12, 2014

Observing a Family Group of Desert Bighorn Sheep




Ewes, Lambs and Immature Rams at Walker Lake

Coming across a large band of Desert Bighorn Sheep in early May, 2014 was such a thrill.  I was looking for wildflowers at the base of the canyons to the west of Walker Lake when I noticed a sheep standing watch on one of the protruding rocks.

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 Just as I saw the ewe, she began to make a bleating call.  It is rare for Bighorn sheep to vocalize and they might make a coughing sound if alarmed but this ewe was calling to her lamb.  I quietly switched from my macro to the long Nikon 500mm telephoto lens and then set up my tripod.


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What I had discovered was a family or ewe grouping of females and lambs.  A number of lambs were so small; they were still trying to nurse.


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 Bighorn sheep are seasonal breeders, e.g. they successfully mate only during July through October which allows for birthing at the optimal time of year, when food and water are more plentiful and temperatures are most favorable.  Females usually produce just one lamb per season.


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I settled my heavy tripod on level ground but close to the edge so that I had full range of viewing.  There were so many small groups of ewes and lambs; I could hardly believe what I had wandered on. 


 Some of the ewes were eating mallows and other native plants, with others were lying down in the shade of the rocks to chew their cud.  Bighorns are active and feed during the day.  At night they retire to the same bedding areas that have been used for many years.

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Being a comfortable distance from the sheep allowed me the opportunity to witness the interactions of the lambs and ewes within this large family group.  Suddenly, a very young lamb came to nurse and then walked right over his mother to get in the best position.  Unperturbed, she stayed still and allowed her baby to suckle. 

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Bighorn sheep are very gregarious with a social structure that is matrilineal--based on female associations.  Females remain with their maternal group for life and do not breed until they have reached the second or third year of age.


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Mature males stay in separate ram groups most of the year, but move between ewe groups during the breeding season, from July through October.  Normally, males do not mate until they are at least 7 years old.
Within this family group were a number of immature males and one of the frisky youngsters appeared to be getting some practice at an early age.


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While I was standing back observing the social behavior and clicking away with my camera, two small rams started to approach each other.  What happened next was the best part of the experience, they began to practice their butting skills and continued for me to focus and shoot  8 exposures.


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After several hours, the sheep began to settle in and retire to the shade.  I took this as my cue to quietly make my departure and show my appreciation for being able to observe such a rare opportunity of social interaction with wildlife.  It is always my creed when in the presence of wildlife to never get so close that the animals are aware of me.  Take only photos and leave with just the memories!


Bonnie Rannald




No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

Oriole on Flowering Red Hot Poker


Creating the Image after a long wait!



Having patience is a needed virtue with nature photography. However having to wait for over a year is a long time, as this was the case when I tried to catch my resident male Bullock's oriole on my Red Hot Poker flower.  

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The Kniphofia hirsuta Fire Dance has a short flowering period that is contingent on the heat, dryness and wind at Walker Lake.  So last year the flower was in bloom for a short period. Furthermore, the birds made a quick feast of the blossoms, leaving only the stalks.

The afternoon of May 3, 2014, I happened to notice a male on the flower.  I rushed inside to get my Nikon 500mm 4.0 lens that I had left attached to the camera just for this opportunity.  As I walked outside with camera, lens and tripod, the bird flew off.  I waited with finger on the shutter release button, hoping that he might come back.  Sure enough my tenacity paid off because he did fly right back. Since I was at least 30 feet away, the oriole was unaware of my presence and began to eat away on the flower.


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Upon eating his fill, the oriole then flew over to the pond for a nice afternoon bath. 


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 I continued to click away as the bird submerged his head and then the rest of his body in the cool water. 


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 After each submersion, he would shake off and then go back for another dunking.  


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Finally after about fifteen minutes, he shook off and flew over to a flowering mallow for some insect that he saw. 



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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/