The Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is one of two mammals native to the islands. They are endangered and seeing them sunning on a beach or resting along a flat stretch of rocky shoreline, is special. Around Kaua’i, there are an estimated 35 resident seals with some nomadic visitors from smaller islets further northwest along the Hawaiian chain (the animal’s total population is estimated to be around 1100). The Hawaiians call the seals ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua which means “dog that runs in rough water”. Ke’e Beach is a frequent destination for a lone seal to visit and I just missed seeing a seal there on three separate visits. While photographing Red-footed boobies courting at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the island’s northeast tip, I noticed a dark shape sliding across the rocks far below the viewing point on was photographing from.
It took a minute for me to put on as much lens as I had brought with me, a 300mm and a 1.4 extender for a total telephoto reach of 420mm, which turned the spot into a recognizable seal. I would have liked more reach but the airlines don’t make travelling with large lenses an easy proposition. Nevertheless I could watch the seal well through the lens and the upside was certainly that no one was disturbing the animal from that distance.
All along High,way 40 which runs through the heart of Kananaskis and winds through spectacular scenery, there are Columbia ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus) scurrying around. They are pretty low on the food chain so they are wary critters. When there is any noise or motion approaching they stand upright and assess the danger. When something gets too close, they chirp out a warning and then dive for one of the holes connecting to their hillside tunnel complex.
This little guy watched me from his mound above the pullout while I was loading up for a hike near the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park entrance. I was happy to have this little creature stand for a short portrait session.
We’re up in Banff for a few days and staying at the Douglas Fir Resort (nice place with an excellent waterslide for the kids) on Tunnel Mountain. We drove past a few elk (wapiti) cows near the lodge yesterday which served as good foreshadowing for this morning.
I went down to the Vermilion Lakes for a sunrise shoot and when I was out on the lake edge I noticed this bull elk laying down on the hill above me along the wildlife fence that runs along the highway corridor to prevent wildlife collisions. I carried on with my landscape shooting for almost an hour and when I returned to my car saw the bull had only moved a few meters along the ridge. I changed to a telephoto lens and climbed up the mountainside a fair distance away from him. I stayed in sight so he knew where I was and headed up the opposite direction from where his grazing was taking him along the ridge. I wasn’t sure if the elk would stick around or trot around the rocks. I was wading through some deep snow so it took a few minutes to get up but he hadn’t wandered away. I set up my tripod and then photographed the beautiful animal for about half an hour before I headed back down. He was eating the whole time and was not bothered by me (a true advantage of longer lenses) so his head was down low most of the time. He did raise his head up a few times, once in response to a train whistle, and I took a couple of those images. Really a great encounter – too bad a little sunlight couldn’t break through the morning cloudbank to bring some warm illumination to that coat – but no complaints.
Elk are members of the deer family which, in North America, includes moose, whitetails and mule deer. In sheer size, they aren’t the largest but as you can see with this buck their antlers can be incredible. This fellow is young and skinny. I think the winter has been hard on many animals this year with the cold and the deep snow burning a lot of calories that are hard to come by. A very good reason to look forward to spring.