Tales From The Field: An Ibex Day At Ikh Nart

4-ibex
I spent over an hour watching this group of ibex nannies and kids, six or seven in all; I’m working on a painting of them is this great setting of rocks and green grass

I was staying at the research camp at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in September of 2012. It’s one of the best places in Mongolia to see argali mountain sheep (Ovis ammon) and Siberian ibex (Capra siberica).

I went out walking one morning for a day of hiking around and it quickly turned into One of Those Days that wildlife watchers and artists dream of…nine separate sightings and three times spending an hour or more with an entire group.

About halfway through the morning I’d come along the top of the valley and was now walking down a draw towards the valley, intent on heading towards the western end rock formations and following a very narrow path left by various animals, both wild and domestic. I was maybe ten yards from where the draw joined up with a larger one which would drop down to the valley when, with no sound or warning, two ibex nannies came running at full speed around the corner of a rock straight at me! They pulled up fast, gave me a look and turned. One bolted back up the way she’d come and the other, which I now saw had a kid, ran off down the direction I intended to go. Everyone involved was equally surprised. Needless to say I didn’t get any photos of the actual encounter, but I can see it in my mind’s eye. all of us standing there for an instant looking at each other. No idea, of course, why they were running so hard and fast.

where-ibex-came-from
At the fork of the “y” where we all came together. I’d come in from the left, the ibex had come barreling around those rocks that are also on the left. I’m standing with my back to the draw I was heading for.

And, as you can imagine, my heart was pounding. They could have easily run right over me. But everyone was fine, they were gone, so I continued on down the draw. And, believe it not, there was the nanny and kid…

ibex-nanny-and-kid-2
The nanny  was straight ahead of me

Amazingly, the ibex had stopped running, had gone up on a rock formation and was just standing there.

nanny-and-kid-1
Siberian ibex nanny and kid

I walked forward a slow step at a time and got close enough for a few shots and her youngster. The photo above is not cropped. It was taken with my Nikon D750 and Nikon Nikkor 80-400 lens. She looked around a bit then she and her baby vanished on down the valley. I waited a bit to let them get ahead of me and be able to go where they wanted to go. I think she’d seen enough of me for one day.

Here is a far more common way of seeing ibex. One learns to spot them from quite a long distance because the pattern of head and horns doesn’t match the rocks.

ibex-behind-rock
This was the first sighting of the day, very typical, just a head above the rocks.

And here are some more photos of other sightings that day. I finally got down to the rocks on the south side of the western end of the valley and found a large group of nannies and kids, who I hung around with for over an hour.

7-ibex
There are seven ibex in this photo

Farther down the valley there was yet another group. A couple were wearing radio collars. Once they settled down I sat in plain view, photographing and sketching them.

4-ibex-on-rock
There were a number of kids who were playing and jumping around on the rocks, which was great fun to watch

They finally moved off out of sight, but I’ve learned to hang around and wait. This time I was rewarded by having the whole group reappear and cross in a long line along the ridgetop, finally disappearing out of sight for good.

6-ibex
Ibex nanny group against the sky

There were a couple more long distance sightings of one or two ibex on my way back to camp, but they were either too far away or in the shade for photos anything other than “I saw them” shots, which I always take as a memory jog, if nothing else.

And that’s the tale of my “Ibex Day” which I will long remember.

9-18-2016: I’m In Dubois, Wyoming For The 15th Annual Susan K. Black Foundation Art Workshop/Conference

a grand tetons
The Grand Tetons on a fine fall afternoon

I flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming last Wednesday and spent a few days cruising the art galleries, the annual auction art and a stop at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Also had time to do some wildlife watching and location sketching and painting. I drove east to Dubois yesterday afternoon and had dinner with an artist friend and colleague who lives on a ranch.

I’m going to try to post something every day of the workshop, which begins this afternoon and runs through next Saturday morning. There are instructors and artists here from all over the country, including James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. He was the featured artist the year before last, when I also attended.

Here’s some photos from the wildlife watching in Grand Tetons National Park:

Mule deer buck
As seems to sometimes be the case, it’s the end of the day, the light is gone and I’m heading back to the motel on Antelope Flats Road and suddenly realized I was driving between two mule deer bucks, one on either side of the road. I stopped turned around and drove slowly along side them. Then the bigger of the two turned towards the road and I stopped, shooting through the windshield as he crossed the road right in front of me
a black bear
Sometimes lucky is better than good. I showed up at exactly the right moment to be stopped by the ranger and photograph this young black bear crossing the road. Was this going to be a theme for this trip?
late light cottonwoods
The fall colors were at their height, these cottonwoods glowing in the late light
a bull bison
I saw no bison the first day. The second afternoon there was a BIG herd to the north of the famous old barn, way too far for photos. I hadn’t driven down Mormon Row yet, a dirt road with old homesteads on either side at one end which connected with Gros Ventre Road at the other. About half way was another herd of bison! And pretty close to the road. I stayed until the sun dropped behind the mountain behind me
a cow moose
I was driving through the Gros Ventre Campground in the morning, well-known among wildlife watchers as a moose hangout and spotted a cow moose laying in the bushes. Took a few “I saw her” shots and moved on. Really needed a restroom after hanging with the bison so headed back to the campground. On the way out, by golly, there she still was, only on her feet and browsing. I mentioned seeing her to someone in town and they told me that she’s always there
a bull moose
In all my trips to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons over the years the one animal that I had never got a full view or decent photos of was an adult bull moose. I was driving back to the motel, quite happy to have seen the cow, when I saw the row of folks with scopes and cameras on the riverbank. What the heck? I walked over just in time to see this big bull emerge from behind the cottonwood. It had gotten dark enough that I sat on the ground and used my knees for a tripod to get a number of shots of him.
oxbow
Yesterday I drove north from Jackson and stopped at this iconic view of Mount Moran from the Oxbow, where the Snake River makes a curving bend. Then it was on to Dubois

Wildlife Sightings In Georgia and New York State, March 2016

Eastern cottontail
Eastern cottontail, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

This is a wildlife wrap-up of my trip back east since my next trip to Mongolia is coming up in three weeks and I’ve got posts coming about that. I was going to do a short post about the wildlife that I saw in Georgia, a bit of Florida and New York state. Instead it took me almost all of yesterday to pick out one of each of as many critters as I had decent photos of and make any adjustments necessary. Turns out I saw a LOT. I’m going to start with mammals, then birds, reptiles and finally insects. It’s a long post, but I wanted everything in one place for future reference. Hope you enjoy this wildlife trip!

MAMMALS

White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer, Okefenokee NWR. Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Eastern grey squirrel
Eastern grey squirrel, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Eastern grey squirrel, red squirrel
Eastern grey squirrel and red squirrel, Hudson River Valley, New York State (red squirrel was a new species for me)
Eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunk, Hudson River Valley, New York State
Muskrat
Muskrat, pond in the Hudson River Valley, New York (seen while out painting on location with Jim Coe; first muskrat I had ever seen, so had to post a photo even though it’s not a good one; for the record)

BIRDS

Wood stork
Wood stork, Harris Neck NWR
White ibis
White ibis, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis, Savannah NWR, South Carolina
Anhinga
Anhinga, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Tricolor heron
Tricolor heron, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Great blue heron
Great blue heron Egan’s Creek Greeway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida (notice the turtles off to the right)
Great egret
Great egret, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach,  Amelia Island, Florida
Little blue heron
Little blue heron, Turtle River area, Georgia
Green heron
Green heron, Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Ring-necked ducks
Ring-necked ducks, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Blue-winged teal; American alligator
Blue-winged teal; American alligator, Savannah NWR
Common moorhen
Common moorhen (juvenile), Harris Neck NWR
Turkey vultures
Turkey vultures, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Turkey
Turkey, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker, Okefenokee NWR
Hairy woodpecker
Hairy woodpecker, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker, Hudson River Valley, New York state
White-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Blue jay
Blue jay, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Purple finch
Purple finch and goldfinches, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Tufted titmouse
Tufted titmouse, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Cardinal
Cardinal, near Harris Neck NWR
Mourning dove
Mourning dove, near Turtle River, Georgia
Mockingbird
Mockingbird, near Turtle River, Georgia
Blur-grey gnatcatcher
Blue-grey gnatcatcher, near Turtle River, Georgia
Warbler
Warbler, Okefenokee NWR, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia
-Palm warbler
Palm warbler, Egan’s Creek Greemway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Slate-colored junco
Slate-colored junco, Hudson River Valley, New York state
Boat-tailed grackle
Boat-tailed grackle, Savannah NWR

Birds I saw but did not get photos of or don’t have good ones include: swallowtail kite (no photo), cormorants, various ducks, a belted kingfisher, cowbird, snowy egret, and gallinule.

REPTILES

American alligator
American alligator, Okefenokee NWR, Okefenokee Swamp Park ( The park people named him”Crazy” because he is very aggressive and is the current dominant bull gator; 12′ long, 800-900 lbs.)
American alligator
American alligator, Okefenokee NWR
River cooters
River cooters, Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Soft-shelled turtle
Soft-shelled turtle, Okefenokee NWR
Banded water snakes
Banded water snakes, Okefenokee NWR
Midland water snakes
Midland water snake, Okefenokee NWR
Midland water snake
Midland water snake, Okefenokee NWR
Penninsula ribbon snake
Penninsula ribbon snake, Okefenokee NWR
Water moccasin
Water moccasin/cottonmouth, Okefenokee NWR
Water moccasin
Water moccasin/cottonmouth (I was told by a local who works in the woods, so has to know snakes, that this was the biggest one he’d ever seen and, from the bulge, it looked like the snake had a “belly full of frogs). This species is extremely venomous)
Green anole
Green anole, Okefenokee NWR

INSECTS

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly, Okefenokee NWR
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly, Okefenokee NWR
Dragonfly
Dragonfly, Okefenokee NWR

 

 

 

 

 

The Okefenokee Swamp NWR And Harris Neck NWR, Traveling in Georgia

 

American alligator
American alligator, Harris Neck NWR

I’m currently on a road trip in southern Georgia. I flew to New York on March 10 (which is why there was no blog post last week)  to attend the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (ECAD) and had a terrific time. The opening of the group exhibition “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” is the evening of March 31 at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. What to do in between? It didn’t really make sense to fly home to California for two weeks and then fly back, so I decided to see what there would be to do on the east coast where it was warmer and in the same time zone. After considering a number of possibilities, some more ambitious than others, including flying to Paris for a week or going to somewhere like Belize or Costa Rica, I took another look at the map, Florida being too expensive and everything pretty much booked, and saw….the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, somewhere I’d wanted to go since I was a kid. Plus there’s the barrier islands of the Georgia coast. Sold! I flew down on Monday to Savannah, picked up a rental car and drove to my first of three Airbnb lodgings, this one near Brunswick. The next day I did quite a long drive over to the western entrance to the swamp. Here’s some of what I saw:

I sat at the end of this boardwalk to sketch and do a watercolor.
I sat at the end of this boardwalk to sketch and do a watercolor.
There was a large flock of white ibis all around
There was a large flock of white ibis all around
Of course everyone wants to see the alligators, but they're a wild animal, so you never know. But this little one swam right across in front of where I was sitting.
Of course everyone wants to see the alligators, but they’re a wild animal, so you never know. But this little one swam right across in front of where I was sitting.
On the way back I spotted this red-shouldered hawk
On the way back I spotted this red-shouldered hawk
I was on another section of boardwalk over water and there was suddenly a loud "galoop" of water. This whitetail doe came out from underneath. I walked right over where she was. But she stopped, had a little chin scratch and then started to browse the leaves on the trees.
I was on another section of boardwalk over water and there was suddenly a loud “galoop” of water. This whitetail doe came out from underneath. I had walked right over where she was. But she stopped, had a little chin scratch and then started to browse the leaves on the trees.
I took a break at a bump-out seating deck and there was this green anole (currently turned brown) who stayed around for me to take quite a few photos
I took a break at a bump-out seating deck and there was this green anole (currently turned brown) who stayed around for me to take quite a few photos
I got up to leave, walked over the balcony. looked down, saw a movement in the water and spotted this water snake (non-poisonous) swimming by
I got up to leave, walked over the balcony. looked down, saw a movement in the water and spotted this water snake (non-poisonous) swimming by

The next day I met up with artist and fellow Explorers Club member Alan Campbell, who took me around Harris Neck NWR.

The refuge is known for it's wood stork rookery.
The refuge is known for it’s wood stork rookery.
Wood stork gathering nesting materials
Wood stork gathering nesting materials
Wood stork carrying twigs back to the rookery. The birds have recently been removed from the endangered species list.
Wood stork carrying twigs back to the rookery. The birds have recently been removed from the endangered species list.

We twice drove the route through the refuge so went a couple of times to a dike bordering the big pond where the storks since things are always changing. The second time we saw this turtle!

River cooter, a local species of turtle
River cooter, a local species of turtle
There were a lot of little gators by the edge of the dike. This one came up onto the grass and Alan got some good close-ups.
There were a lot of little gators by the edge of the dike. This one came up onto the grass and Alan got some good close-ups. A few second later he raised his hind end and we both wondered what he was going to do, but he simply turned and walked back down into the water.
Gator reflection
Gator reflection
Gator yawn
Gator yawn
One of the quintessential trees of the Deep South...a live oak festooned with Spanish moss
One of the quintessential trees of the Deep South…a live oak festooned with Spanish moss

It was a great day! I’m on the road again with trips to the other entrances to the Okefenokee and explorations of the barrier islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Great Days at Yellowstone National Park Last Week

Saw a lot of these huge bull bison in the park
Saw a lot of these huge bull bison in the park.

I’m now in Dubois, Wyoming at the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop and having a inspiring time, chatting, networking and painting with old and new friends and colleagues. I’ll be posting more about that next week, but this time I’d thought I’d share some of the photos I took at Yellowstone National Park last week, starting with the big guy at the top. I never get tired of seeing these huge bulls.

One of the famous Yellowstone "bison jams".
One of the famous Yellowstone “bison jams”. Back-ups can be very long, but the animals have the right of way.
The third day I was there a snowstorm came through I was in the area known at "Little America", just to the west of the Lamar Valley, when, right next to a pullout in a hollow was this small group of bison, hunkered down and waiting it out.
The third day I was there a snowstorm came through I was in the area known at “Little America”, just to the west of the Lamar Valley, when, right next to a pullout in a hollow was this small group of bison, hunkered down and waiting it out.
Young bison calf born very late, but I've been told even these little ones are tough enough to survive the winters.
Young bison calf born very late, but I’ve been told even these little ones are tough enough to survive the winters.
The Lamar Valley is known as the "Serengeti of North America" because it's where you can see scenes like this....a very big herd of bison moving through
The Lamar Valley is known as the “Serengeti of North America” because it’s where you can see scenes like this….a very big herd of bison moving through with pronghorn antelope closer to where I was. And a single male pronghorn closer yet.
Yellowstone scenery.
Yellowstone scenery.
On my way out of the park, I spotted this pair of trumpeter swans floating on the misty river.
On my way out of the park, I spotted this pair of trumpeter swans floating on the misty river.

 

A New Dog! And Winter Birds At Our Pond/Bathing Pool

Hailey (Romany's Hadley)- our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies
Hailey, our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies

We haven’t had winter yet here on the north coast of California. The storm door has never opened and there’s been, until today, only one round of rain in our rainy season. It was really cold for a few weeks, but recently we’ve had warm, record-setting days when it’s gotten up over 70F.

But our winter birds are around and I got some nice photos of them bathing in our pond a few weeks ago. I’ve posted some of my favorites.

The big news is that we have a new collie! Our dear old collie boy died unexpectedly back in October and it was a hard loss for us. Being without a collie in the house left a big hole in our hearts. After searching around for a responsible breeder we found Romany Collies, located up near Portland, Oregon. I contacted them and it turned out that they had exactly what I was looking for….a older rough collie puppy. We brought her home on Janauary 13. Hailey is 10 months old, which is perfect. She’s a good girl with a fun personality, a solid temperament and is as sweet as can be. We love her lots.

Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.
Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.
She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as "Collie Pose" (although I know other dogs do it too)
She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as “Collie Pose” (although I know other dogs do it too).

We like to sit down by our pond in the afternoons after work and during the day on the weekends. A variety of birds are often around including, in the winter, a black phoebe, flickers, juncos, sparrows, robins and chestnut-backed chickadees. I recently caught the last two at bathtime. The robin was really enthusiastic!

robin 1robin 2robin 3robin 4robin 5robin 6All done!

chickadee 1chickadee 2

We Take A Drive Up The Coast On Solstice

I’ve spent most of my life in northern coastal California. And love it here. We’re within the sound of the ocean and only a half hour from Redwood National Park.

We went for a drive on Solstice in between storm fronts and found some lovely light, rainbows, Roosevelt elk and crashing waves.

Here’s an “album” of my favorite photos as a holiday gift from me to you, my friends and fans. Thank you for your interest in my goings-on and I hope you have a great 2013!

Roosevelt elk bulls
Roosevelt elk bulls, hanging out together again after the yearly rut
Roosevelt elk bulls can weigh up to 900 pounds.
Roosevelt elk bulls can weigh up to 900 pounds.
Rainbow at Dry Lagoon State Park with Goat Rock in the background.
Rainbow at Dry Lagoon State Park with Goat Rock in the background.
Rainbow over the Pacific Ocean.
Rainbow over the Pacific Ocean.
Storm clouds coming in.
Storm clouds coming in.
Surf's up.
Surf’s up.
Every winter the ocean breaches the spit between it and Stone Lagoon.
Every winter the ocean breaches the spit between it and Stone Lagoon.
Redwood Creek was running full. Usually we can continue down the gravel onto the beach.
Redwood Creek was running full. Usually we can continue down the gravel onto the beach.
This vernal pond, backed by red alders, was hosting some hooded merganser ducks.
This vernal pond, backed by red alders, was hosting some hooded merganser ducks.
On the way home, we could see the next storm coming in and we got caught in a short spat of heavy hail.
On the way home, we could see the next storm coming in and we got caught in a short spat of heavy hail.

New Painting Debut! “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab”

“Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” 20×46″ oil

Definitely a change of pace for me, this painting is the first one of three for the upcoming Sea of Cortez group show, which will open at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on March 16, 2013. You can read about the trip and see some of the drawings I’ve done and photos I shot here.

While I was on the trip with 30 of my colleagues in March of 2011, we had access to a very nice fishing yacht whose owners generously took us out to an island that not only had these colorful, irresistible-as-subjects crabs, but also California sea lions and many species of birds.

I knew as soon as I saw them that I would want to paint one. Fortunately, there was also a Zodiac (small pontoon boat) that got us right up to the rocks. That and fast shutter speeds and I got some great reference.

Here’s the step-by-step of “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab”:

Here’s how I was able to get such great shots. We were able to get REALLY close to them.
Reference photo; I knew from the beginning that I wanted to paint the crab BIG and crop in for a horizontal rectangle. I used other photos for comparison and to change the position slightly of one leg.
Preliminary graphite study, 7×17″;  to learn my subject, ensure that the composition worked and to establish the value pattern
Color rough,  6×14″; this is a really different color palette for me compared to the more restrained earth tones I use for my Mongolian subjects. Can’t remember the last time I used red and yellow pretty much right out of the tube.
Grid transfer in pencil; Raymar canvas board is tinted with raw sienna
The brush drawing. I realized after I’d done the one from the pencil drawing that the crab wasn’t nearly big enough, so I wiped if off and re-drew it. By this time I’d done the graphite study and the color rough, so I “knew” him/her pretty well and it didn’t take long.
First color pass
This is a little more than half-way there. The next step was to catch the background up with the crab and then move on to the legs and claws and then go back and tweak everything until it was done.
“Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” 20×46″ oil

I thought I’d share some details of the crab and the background.

The crab was on a rock totally encrusted with barnacles. I had absolutely zero interest in painting 50 gazillion of them, so instead I analyzed the visual texture and values and then indicated those in a variety of colors and values.
But just to make sure the viewer knows what they are, I did a few more finished ones in the lower right hand corner.
The eyes were fun. The challenge was to get expression, to have the viewer feel that the crab is looking right at them.

The next painting for the show will truly be something completely different…a landscape with Nacapuli Canyon as its subject, with a special extra thrown in.

Mongolia Monday: 5 Photos of Favorite Places- Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve

This will be a occasional, on-going series of images of my favorite places in Mongolia. Baga Gazriin Chuluu means “Small Earth/Land Rocks”. There is also an Ikh Gazriin Chuluu (Great Earth Rocks), but I haven’t gotten there yet.

In July of 2009, my driver/guide and I pulled into the ger camp, which is located in the reserve and got settled in. I came out of my ger and was greeted with this amazing light and a woman riding down the valley. I had a feeling I was going to like this place.
It was my good luck to be there on the day of a local mountain blessing ceremony or local naadam. There was a horse race, wrestling, anklebone shooting and lots of people just riding around on their horses.
Seeing argali was my purpose for going there and within a couple of hours the first morning, my driver spotted this group of rams within sight of the car.
The following year, 2010, I got to go back as the first stop on a two-week camping trip. Here's the spot my driver/guide (same one as in 2009) picked.
Driving around, we came upon a short valley which had a number of cinereous vulture nests, including this one with a juvenile who was almost ready to fly. We climbed up on the rocks to get above him and I got some great photos.

There are more photos of Baga Gazriin Chuluu, including the story of my first trip there in 2009 here.