Snow-covered American Bison trudging through snow – Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 65mm, natural light
In 2012 we had snow in October and by the time the 10th of November rolled around we had had plenty of the snow in the Salt Lake Valley and a snow storm rolled through that day. On the 9th of November I scraped a foot of snow off of my Jeep and on the morning of the 10th I had to scrape more off just to be able to back out of the drive way. Even though there were gray skies and a heavy snow falling that morning saw me headed to Antelope Island State Park to see if I could find birds and beasts to photograph in a blizzard. There weren’t many other people on the island and in some places there was virgin snow to drive through. With the windows down it was silent except for the tires crunching through the thick blanket of white stuff on the ground.
I saw American Bison fighting in a snow storm that morning and other bison had a shield of snow around their muzzles where they had pushed their noses through the snow to get to the grasses buried beneath it. There was a break in the clouds to the west when I photographed this bison bull and I could actually see the Great Salt Lake and snow-covered mountains in the distance.
Red-tailed Hawk in a November blizzard – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 1600, +1.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited
The break in the clouds was just a small sucker hole because the rest of the morning I didn’t see any more sunlight break through them.
I did find a disgruntled looking immature Red-tailed Hawk towards the south end of the island perched in some of the Russian Olive trees. It isn’t a great photo by any means but I took it because I wanted to show the harsh conditions the birds and beasts have to survive in during winter in the Great Basin. It is hard to see the falling snow in this photo because there was a fog behind the hawk but you can see flakes of snow in front of the young raptors plumage.
Coyote hunting in a November snow storm – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 1600, +2.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
Spotting a Coyote hunting is always fun and it can be even more fun when photographing them during a blizzard. This Coyote had a snow-covered back, face and tail when I photographed it while it hunted for prey in the tall grasses and when it stopped and looked towards me I had to take this photo. I remember thinking that I wished I had a thick coat of fur while I sat with the window down and the bitter cold air making me shiver while I photographed the Coyote.
American Bison herd in a November blizzard – Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 400, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm, natural light
On the south end of the island I had to stop and photograph a small herd of American Bison as the snow fell heavily on them. Winter can be hard on them but the bison are tough and they manage to get through until the warmth of spring causes new spring growth.
As I sit here this morning writing this I think about how in the past few years how the snow doesn’t start falling in the valley until the end of November or even in December. Sure there is snow up in the high country already but the snow down here seems to fall later and later each year. For some that might be cause to celebrate but for me it reminds me that we are already seeing the effects of climate change. There is overwhelming evidence and scientific proof that we are having hotter summers, less rain, later snows, worsened wildfire seasons, crazy weather patterns, lowered levels in the Great Salt Lake and less water running through the rivers that feed it. Today I wonder what will it be like five years from now.
The birds and beasts on Antelope can survive the harsh winters here but as each years passes I wonder how they will be able to adapt to our changing climate. I can’t help but be concerned not just for the birds and beasts on the island but every living being on the planet.
Sorry to be a downer today.