Interview With The Grim Raptor

InterviewGrimRaptor9306Redtail Hawk Colorado                           click to enlarge

 

Every once in a while we are fortunate enough to bring you an up-close and personal interview with personalities in the animal world. This week we are fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with one of the most interesting characters we’ve ever met. He’s one that everyone is curious about but few get to meet before their time. Here is our in-depth interview with the Grim Raptor. Due to the importance of our subject this week our interview is being conducted by the Institute’s very own CEO, and President, the man we know mainly as The Director.

TD*: Welcome to the show, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to call you. Is it Mr. Grim, or Raptor, or Ted or GR. What would you prefer?

GR*: GR will work.

TD: Well to start off, I’m sure that our audience would like to know how you came to be called the Grim Raptor.

GR: Well, it’s because I kill stuff.

TD: I see, well that certainly is to the point. That’s all you do?

GR: Yup, hunt ’em down and kill them.

TD: I’m sure we’re all dying to know, how did you get this job. It’s not like you can go down to the Unemployment office and say “Hey Got any openings for a Grim Raptor?” Is there a training program or a guild or Union, what, how does this work?

GR: We don’t usually talk about this, the other Grimmers and me, I mean, this is stuff that is very secret hidden knowledge, arcane kind of stuff you know. But the truth of it was me dad was a Grim Reaper and his dad before him and my grandpa, it goes way back. When I was just a little Raptor fresh out the nest, me Mom and Dad were off at some kind of retreat or convention or something and me and me brother was home alone and we got to squabbling like young Raptor’s do and he said stuff and I said stuff, tempers flared and before long I just pushed him out of the nest. That was it. When the folks got home, Dad took one look and said “That’s it then Ted, you’re a Grim Raptor”.

TD: Wow. You pushed your brother out of the nest? How could  you do that?

GR: Yeah, well, he was a whiney little twit, always trying to get up on nest edge so he’d get the first mouse that the folks brought back, always hogging the shade, hanging around with mom telling her stuff I’d do while they was gone, so I just got my head up under his wing and pushed and out he went. Simple really.

TD: Ok, well uh, moving along, you mentioned earlier that there were Grimmers. What are Grimmers? Are there are more than one of you who does what you do?

GR: Yeah, sure, there’s bunches of us. See, it ain’t that big of a secret really, every group has somebody who is the Grim Raptor of their group, they don’t call ’em Grim
Raptors of course, they all have their own names for them. I can’t tell you what they are because of the pact we made at the last get together but they’re out there. Even you guys have one. Death. He’s a scary bastard that one. I know we ain’t supposed to say his name but man, he makes us look like Sunday school teachers. Watch out for him.

TD: I didn’t  know that. I knew about death of course, but I didn’t know there was one for every type of being on the planet. That’s amazing.

GR: Right, it’s a big job isn’t it, and the big guy can’t do it alone so he farms parts of it out, outsourcing like, and so that’s how this all gets done. Makes sense then doesn’t it, when you think about it I mean. Uh oh, Looks like I got to cut this short. There’s a rabbit over there that I’ve been looking for. Got to go, See you later, well it probably won’t be me but it’ll be somebody. Until then, Be Good.

TD: (Long Silence…) So that concludes our interview with the Grim Raptor. I’m sure   you all found that informative, as did I, and I was going to say that I hope we’d have him back soon but on second thought, let’s do somebody different next time.

*TD The Director  * Grim Raptor

Early Morning Bryce Canyon

BryceMorning Splendor4103Bryce National Park                              click to enlarge

 

April in Bryce is a very good time to visit. The crowds are down, it’s not too cold for the sunrise. Alright it’s a little cold. You are at 8000′ after all and that can be chilly in the morning all summer long. But the air is bracing, it smells incredible with the scent of pines and cool breezes and it is one of those places that makes you glad you had the good sense to come and see it.

By this time of year you have the birds back and their songs carry along the cliff face and echo off the spires and hoodoos. Occasionally a mule deer will move silently across the meadows that lead up to  the canyon’s edge and far off the faint sound of a raven calling for its mate will travel down to you with the wind. If you’re still and watchful an entire image of how the canyon starts its day will enfold before your eyes.

Mornings are good in the park. Most morning people are not loud and boisterous. They’re here to see how Nature gets up in the morning and they don’t want to disturb her. Later on when the buses arrive and discharge the hordes who want to race around and see everything in the 15 minutes or so allotted to this view, things are different, but now it’s peaceful and quiet. When the noise starts it’s a good time to head back in for breakfast. Besides it won’t be all that long until sunset. That’s another good time.

No Services

NoServices0562Canyonlands Utah                                click to enlarge

 

Phlegm Catarrh’s World Famous Trading Post!

Cold Soda! Post Cards! Bus Stop! Greyhound station! Customs! ATM! Fishing Licenses! Gas and Oil! Party Favors! Maps! Pony Rides! Moccasins! Information! Taxes Done While You Wait! Indian jewelry! Fry Bread! Mechanic On Duty! Bible Verses Explained! Passports! Barber Shop! Rodeo Tickets! Water! Water To Go $8! Brakes Inspected! Flare Guns! Box Lunches! Wills Made Out! Internet Café! Babysitting Done Cheap! Snake Bite Kits! Message Board! Immigration advice! Notary! Cabins to Let!

These signs and more greeted us as we pulled up to the rusty gas pumps. Everything was covered with the fine red dust that makes this country look like a movie set on Mars. It was desolate but we were just happy to find someone alive. After getting Powell the pump dog to move we stuck the nozzle into our gas tank and flipped the lever up. Several minutes went by with nothing happening. Clicking the handle, flipping the lever up and down, smacking the side of the pump, nothing worked. Finally we heard the Screendoor slam and out came an older fellow, unshaven, kind of tall, kind of covered with the same red dust, who we guessed was Phlegm himself. He came out to the edge of the porch and said “Ain’t no gas. Truck hasn’t been here in three years. If you need gas you’ll have to take the short cut down to Potash rd. then onto 279 until you come to 191. That ought to take you into Moab. I heard they got gas.” How far is that, we asked in our bravest voice, we’ve got less than a quarter of tank left. “Shoot, no problem just head on down the hill here and try not to use your 4 wheel drive too much.”

Are the roads marked, we don’t want to get lost, you can probably tell we’re new around here. “You don’t say, Hell Yes They’s marked! Sorry Ma’am. The school bus driver put up fresh piles of stones at all the corners so the new driver wouldn’t get lost. Damn fool wound up way the hell , sorry Ma’am, back behind the Hopi reservation last week. We didn’t see the kids for three days.” I’m not sure we understand the stone marking system, how does that work? “You people really are new ain’t you. Where you from, New York city? Listen up then. The first corner you come to at Potash there’s a big flat rock and on it are two kinda smaller, rounder rocks with the littlest one pointing up the road where you’re supposed to go. It’s simple you can’t miss it. How much gas did you say you got?” Little less than a quarter of a tank. “Hmmm, you might want to coast the first 7-8 miles down the hill then.”

Don’t you have any gas at all you could let us have, we’d really appreciate it. ” No, can’t really spare any but I can sell you a map. It’s pretty close. They made some changes to White Rim road though after the rockslide tore it up. Buried the town grader under 20′ of rock. Damnest thing you ever saw, sorry Ma’am, if old Ed hadn’t stopped to take a leak, sorry ma’am, we still be digging for him. Come to think of it you may want to coast a little farther down the hill, you’re going to need 4 wheel drive to get through that stretch.”

How much is the map then? I guess we better have one. “Well, seeing as it’s the last one I got and it’s almost a collectors item, I can let you have it for 20 bucks.” 20 bucks for a map? That’s a little steep, isn’t it Phlegm? ” Well, I don’t know, young fellow. You got a Map?” So we paid our money and started down the hill. It was a very steep part of the hill with a sharp bend to the right when we saw the faded sign that said ” No services for the next 128 miles.”  Phlegm had not mentioned this to us and as there was no place to turn around for as far as we could see and we couldn’t back up, we walked the half mile back up to the store to ask Phlegm what that meant.

Phlegm! There’s a sign there that says No Services for 128 miles! Is that right? “Yup that’s right. The signs there for sure.” We can’t go 128 miles on a quarter tank of gas! ” Well, son, then don’t miss that flat rock with the two smaller rounder rocks on it. If you do, then it’s 128 miles to the next Trading Post, but it ain’t as well stocked as this one, so look close.” Do you have a phone Phlegm? We need to call Triple A. ” Nope, used to, but the last tow truck that came up here slid down the hill. Took out three of our poles and phone company hasn’t sent anyone out since. You folks better get going if you plan on making it out before dark. That roads tricky at night.”

How much are your cabins Phlegm? “Well son, I can let you have one with two beds in it for 250 dollars a night. The ones with one bed are all taken, You like Fry bread?, by the way, do you folks need your taxes done? Come on over this way, watch for snakes now if you need to use the crapper, I mean the facilities, sorry Ma’am.”

 

 

He Ain’t Heavy

HeAintHeavy986Coyote Pups Yellowstone                   click to enlarge

 

He ain’t heavy, He’s my brother. The refrain from that song plays in my head every time I look at this picture. Spring in Yellowstone means family. The animal world has figured out how to make sure all the creatures get their young born at the best possible time to ensure their survival as individuals, and as a species. So when spring breaks get out-of-the-way because everything that’s going to have young ones is having them.

Besides being a good survival technique its good for photographers too. If you watch what’s going on and keep a sharp eye open you’ll soon be stumbling all over animal kids. You’ll be knee deep in coyote puppies, elk calves, BIghorn sheep lambs, Osprey chicks, antelope fawns, badger babies, every single specie that has two or more members of the opposite sex present will be having offspring.

These coyote pups were born in a small cave in a rock outcropping that was literally 3-4′ from one of the main roads in Yellowstone, not far from a major tourist lookout point at Gibbon Falls. Thousands of cars went by it every day. Thousands of cars wasn’t an exaggeration as the road past Gibbon Falls is a main portion of the loop road that rings the park. If you’re coming up from Old Faithful on the West side of the park you can’t get North to Mammoth or East over to the Hayden Valley without travelling on this road and passing by this family’s home. Within several feet of it actually.

It was amazing how few people saw these guys playing in their front yard, goofing off, waiting for mom to show up with lunch. Photographers saw them though. This coyote den wasn’t too far from a pullout and every day until mom finally got tired of the traffic and noise and moved everybody to a better neighborhood, the pullout would fill up with photographers vehicles and everyone would trudge up the road to set up for the days shoot.

Of course as soon as the tripods and long glass came out the cars going by would slow, their windows rolled down and the tourist’s lament would come forth, “Hey Whatcha lookin at?” Coyotes ” Those puppies?” Yep. “They look like dogs” No answer. “What are they doing?” Sleeping. “Sleeping? Do they do anything else?” No answer. “Have you seen any Elk?” No, we’re watching coyotes. “Well they ain’t doin nothing.” No answer. “Is this all you guys do all day?” Yep. And off they’d go in a flurry of squealing tires and loud music, a look of total disbelief on their face that grown people would spend the entire day watching sleeping puppies. Occasional there would be a brake light if somebody thought they’d seen an elk but mostly it was pedal to the metal to get to the next thing to see.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach to visiting the park. People experience life the way they want to. We can get all evangelistic about it and try to show them the error of their ways ( at least as we think it should be ) but when everything is said and done, if they’re happy so what. They’ll figure things out eventually. In the mean time I’m busy watching sleeping puppies.

Fish Alert !

FishAlert9383Bald Eagles Colorado                        click to enlarge

 

For Immediate Release

Fish Alert !

Eagles are back ! This is a Condition Red Warning !

Post at all Lakes Rivers Ponds Irrigation ditches Fish Farms

This is a warning to all fish. This is not a drill. Eagles are back and are patrolling all places of fish habitat. At this point there have been only a few reports of fish taken but you may expect increased levels of activity as the nesting season draws near. Spawning time is one of our most dangerous times. Remember the eagles know where you live. Be extremely vigilant and refrain from feeding at the water surface until full darkness. Teach your fry the signs of eagles overhead. Swim at least 30-42″ below the surface during daylight hours. If Osprey are known to be in the area increase this depth to 65-75″. This is the minimum safe depth to prevent Talon Acquisition.  Watch for fleeting shadows across the surface of your environment. If you swim in a school try to be the bottom fish. Remember “Look up and Live”. Last years depredation of our populations was significant. Do not be Eagle Food. Be Ever Vigilant! The life you save may be your own.

This warning is brought to you by “Save Our Fish Today” or SOFT. We may be SOFT but we put out a Hard  message. Listen Hard, Stay Hard. Stay Alive.

 

Khazad-dûm

minesof moria1999Window Mt. Carmel Tunnel   Zion      click to enlarge

 

This could very well be an observation window overlooking the East gate into the Mines of Moria, also known as Khazad-dûm. Khazad-dûm, which means Delving of the Dwarves in their language, perfectly describes the purpose of the city they created within the mountain.

It was here, in Moria, that the dwarves created the tunnels and caverns that was the magical city beneath the Misty mountains. It’s history is as long as that of Middle-Earth and it is made up of legends of monumental victories, incredible tragedies, halls filled with gold, silver, and jewels that defy counting, and was the source of the fabled Mithril, a metal beyond price. It also contains the bones of those who failed to protect it.

Much of the adventures of the Fellowship could well have been shot here in Zion National Park. If you know the story at all you can imagine where many of the events could have taken place had they been staged here. This window, one of several carved into the face of the mountain, lets in air and a small amount of almost blinding sunlight that you encounter as you travel through the near total darkness of the 1.1 mile long Mt. Carmel tunnel. It isn’t difficult to imagine orcs watching from the darkness as you pass.

The natural wonders of Zion are more than enough to draw you there but it’s always fun to add a layer of fantasy to this spectacle of natures miracles. But even if you’re not a fan of “Lord of The Rings” you’ll have your own adventure just experiencing this amazing place.

 

 

 

Mouse Meat

MouseMeat5675Kestrel & Mouse Colorado                  click to enlarge

 

Mouse meat may not even sound like meat to you. When we think of meat, or at least when I think of meat, images of steamship round of beef, or a haunch of elk, or even a quarter pounder with Cheese come to mind, not mouse meat. Mouse meat hardly brings up an image at all. I don’t think you could get enough ground round off a mouse to make a teenie, wienie, ittty-bitty, tiny small little burger.

But to this Kestrel, we’re talking USDA Prime Grade Beef Has this label stamped on the beef carcas. [The BEST]. In the beef world less than 2% of all beef in the U.S. is graded prime, but in the Kestrel world 100% of the mouse meat is USDA Prime. If he can catch it, its prime and he eats it all, right down to and including the tail.

The other day when I was out trying to force the appearance of Spring I went to a few of my favorite shooting grounds hoping that there would be something, anything, shootable. I would even consider shooting a mouse if one were available and I didn’t have to spend time with his agent getting releases signed, royalties discussed, etc., when who should appear but a Kestrel with its favorite meal, mouse meat.

Since the mouse was already dead I didn’t have to do the agent/photographer dance and I could shoot until my shutter finger gave out. Kestrels have an agreement with the Wildlife Photographers Association that gives us unlimited rights to photograph them if we agree to never trap mice. I had signed this way early on so I just shot until he was done eating and flew away. That is probably more Kestrel images than I need but then it has been a long dry spell and I needed badly to shoot something.

But you know what, shooting that Kestrel was kind of like the economy, it was an improvement, it means things are slowly getting back to some kind of normal. It may not be grizzly bears but it was wildlife and it felt good shooting mouse meat. I’m going back out tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see a Redtail hawk getting a rabbit. Now that would be something. I’ll let you know how it turns out.