Moose, Swans, Birds and Critters from Early November in Jackson Hole, WY.
At the end of October this year, we had an early snow fall in Jackson Hole. To be specific, it was a big snow storm dumping five or six inches and more over most of the valley—and much more in the mountains. After the summer sun melts most of the snow on the Teton Range, it is always a welcome sight to get a fresh blanket of snow. The Tetons look spectacular with snow on them! The animals react to the early storms, too.
Morning Bull Moose: November 15th. During the Fall, moose spend much of their time along the river bottoms feeding on willows and other vegetation. As that food source diminishes, they move out to the sage flats where they feed on bitterbrush which grows alongside the sagebrush. Snow usually initiates their change in diet and location, though some still hang close to the cottonwoods for a while.
Bull Moose and Calf of the Year: November 3rd. Bull moose still cling to the last of the fall rut and hang with cows and calves for a few more weeks and then seem to lose interest in them.
Gentle Prodding: November 3rd. This cow bedded down, but the bull still wanted to court her. A few pokes in the back and she was back up.
Washakie in Snow: November 3rd. This bull, often called Washakie, hung around in the edges of the cottonwoods and sage flats for a while, then moved to the sage flats north of Kelly. At one time, he was limping badly, but has since recovered.
Sparring Bull Moose: November 3rd. Bulls still “spar” even long after the rut. This side attack could be fatal if the fight was for real.
Team Sparring: November 15th. Occasionally, more than two will get into a sparring match. On this day, two smaller bulls ganged up on one larger bull. They went at this routine for much longer than normal and I got lots of shots.
Standing Bull Moose: November 15th. If given a choice, I’d much rather photograph moose in the cottonwoods than in the sagebrush. I prefer to see all, or at least most of their legs. This bull has a large cut in his left ear. They make it easier to identify the same bull from year to year. The antlers on a bull will be similar next year.
Streamside Pause: November 3rd. On this cold morning, this young bull was hanging around with a couple of other mid-sized bulls and one fairly large one. It looked like this one was going to the water, so I moved to a good position for the shot, and hoping the rest would follow. They didn’t, but I still liked getting a bull moose near the creek.
Roaming Bull Moose: November 3rd. This bull moose was on a mission when I saw him. He was leaving the Kelly area and headed towards the Teton Science School area. The morning sun had just started hitting the valley floor. I caught this bull with a bit of rim light coming over the Gros Ventre valley.
Moose Shooting Data: Most, if not all, of the moose shots above were taken with a Nikon D800 body and a Nikon 200-400mm lens. It fills the bill most of the time, but I usually carry a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens around my neck, along with a rangefinder. I can switch bodies if I think I might get into some action shots. The 28-300mm lens on the D4 gives me the option for going wide if the moose is in front of the Tetons or something interesting. I use the rangefinder to help make sure I stay back at least to the minimum distance and usually much more. I am almost always in Aperture Priority mode and usually in the F6.3 to F/8 range if I have enough light. I adjust the ISO as needed to stop action and am usually in -.7 EV just in case light hits the paddles of their antlers. That varies some if there are overcast skies or odd lighting circumstances.
Straight On Stretch: November 12th. Trumpeter Swans pass through the valley during their migration starting in early November. A few pairs take up residence in Jackson Hole and along Flat Creek and can often be seen from the observation platform along Flat Creek in the summer. This year, we even got to see some of the tiny cygnets for a few days.
Swan Stretching: November 12th. After preening, or usually right after they climb up on an ice bank, a swan will often flap its wings to straighten their feathers. Sometimes, I get to catch them early in the morning and get the beautiful backlighting.
Trio of Swans Taking Off: November 12th. Take-offs are always so dynamic and made even better with morning back light.
Swans and Ducks on Flat Creek: November12. Despite the heavy snows at the end of October, Flat Creek stayed open until past the middle of November. Besides the Trumpeter Swans, a variety of ducks and waterfowl share the space.
Swan Water Walk: November 13th. Swans are big birds and need quite a bit of space to take off. There is a point during their take off they appear to be walking on water.
Swan Shooting Data: Since their is a good possibility of action, I normally use the Nikon D4 and my Nikon 200-400mm lens. I know I can shoot 90 or more consecutive images in a burst—so I never worry about filling the buffer. At 10 frames per second, I know I will be getting a lot of images in which I can pick just the right one. Maybe some people are good enough to click the perfect split second out of a take off or wing stretch, but I can’t do it. In most cases, I photograph the swans in Aperture Priority with an EV value set to either -.7 or -1. Their wings can easily blow out if the sun light hits them and especially so if the background is on the dark side.
Back Yard Critter: November 9th. On days when I can’t get out to shoot, I can usually set up my tripod in the back yard and load the bird feeders to capture some interesting shots. Even though I live in town, I have a fairly wooded back yard. I’ve loaded it with stumps and branches for the birds and squirrels. This little red squirrel has been a resident in my back yard for quite a few years and manages to stay out of the jaws of our Golden Retriever.
Red Squirrel in a Tree Trunk: November 9th. She’s fairly animated and will usually be good for a few fun shots each day and countless nice images on stumps and branches. Someday, I will probably do a page that features only this squirrel!
Northern Flicker Male: November 9th. Flickers and Woodpeckers come to my yard to feed on suet and peanut butter I press into the cracks and holes in the tree trunks.
Clark’s Nutcracker Calling: November 9th. Once a Clark’s Nutcracker finds peanuts or food in my yard, they’ll call in their buddies and clean out the supply in no time. Magpies will often hang around and pick up the peanuts they throw onto the ground.
Blue Jay on a Branch: November 9th. Although I don’t get them very often, Steller’s Jays are seen in parts of the valley in the winter. A Blue Jay like this on is much less common around here.
Black-capped Chickadee: November 9th. Chickadees are not easy birds to photograph. They don’t stay in one place very long, nor stay still very long. I get both Black-capped Chickadees and Mountain Chickadees, most of which hang around all year if I keep a supply of sunflower seeds out for them. I read the Native Americans called them “the birds of seven songs”.
Bird and Critter Shooting Data: Normally, I drag in my Nikon 200-400mm lens with whatever body I had on it earlier in the day. It could easily be the Nikon D4 or the Nikon D800. Either one works fine for my back yard shooting. As before, I am almost always in Aperture Priority, with an EV value set between -.3 to -.7 on most days and on most subjects. ISO in the back yard is often set to 640 and up to about 1250.
Please Note: All of the images on this page are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office. ©2013 Mike R. Jackson – All Rights Reserved