Category: Magpie

Rude Awakening

Bison and Magpie PS SS WMWhere has April gone? I will try to catch up on my posts over the next few weeks.

I took this one in Yellowstone about a month ago. The bison herd was bedded down and just waking up from a frosty night in the park. The magpies were going from one bison to the next, singing their typical magpie songs and picking off bugs as the sun rose over the hills. Most of the bison didn’t seem to mind the wake up call, but this one didn’t take too kindly to it. It tossed its head back several times to try to dislodge the bird, but the magpie just ignored him. Eventually the bison gave up his protest and went back to trying to get some more rest.

Magpie in flight deer carcass watermark

First let me say that this post was already in the works before today, which is why I got quite the laugh this morning when fellow blogger and wildlife photographer, Lyle Krahn awarded me the dubious distinction of the ‘Forgot to Leave’ award! Check out Lyle’s site for the full story as well as his great wildlife photos and stories!

Whenever I come across a carcass I have visions of wolves or cougars, or the even more elusive wolverine catching the scent and coming in to feed. The thought of witnessing these rarely observed animals in the wild doing things that I or few others have ever seen before keeps me out in the wilderness for hours on end. So with that optimism in mind, I hunkered down and waited. As you can probably imagine, sitting around in -15 degree Celsius temperatures is no fun. You can’t move around to keep warm since that will scare off any wildlife and the cold has a way of quickly removing any resolve that might have initially been there. But that day I was determined to give it a few hours so I waited some more. Within about an hour some magpies showed up and distracted me from the cold. In between feeding on the kill, they flew off to cash their food. Before flying back down to get more pieces of meat they perched in nearby trees and called out. This was great for me since it gave me enough time to turn the camera back on, compose the image and get my finger out of my glove to fire off the shutter. In their typical dramatic aerial flare, they swooped down to the carcass and fanned out their beautiful wings and tail feathers. I was treated to these displays for hours but eventually my resolve was broken. The tipping point was the hot packs I had placed in my boots and gloves could no longer keep my toes and fingers warm. Getting a few images like this made the surrender a little easier but as I hiked back to my car I wondered what I would have seen if I had waited a bit longer.