Category Archives: SHOT FROM THE FILE

Brown Bear – Waiting and Watching

Waiting and Watching

Seeing is an art that relies on waiting and watching.

Waiting and Watching

It was just before first light somewhere along a remote Alaskan river.  At first glance the scene appeared unchanging and uninteresting.  Closer examination proved otherwise.  There was much to behold, hear and feel by just simply concentrating.

The air was brisk and dense with mood.  A gentle breeze lilted through the thick grass compelling the tall reeds to undulate in sensual arcs, and the river spoke tenderly.

As morning’s subdued light slowly germinated, a massive shadow took form along the tenebrous shore … and a mighty Brown Bear gracefully strode the waterside.  The setting evolved into a moment of visual rapture and was witnessed as a consequence of waiting and watching.

~ Anecdote and Brown Bear capture, Waiting and Watching © Jerry L. Ferrara

Snowy Owl, Common Ravens – An Unkindness

An Unkindness

A group of Ravens is referred to as an unkindness.

An Unkindness

The newly arrived Snowy Owl remained at rest on the crest of a small hillock.  Its journey from the far north had been long and arduous.  The respite the creature was enjoying was much needed, but the serene setting was soon to give way to pandemonium as dark shadows precipitated from the sky.

The furor came in the form of a band of raucous Common Ravens.  Discovering the resting owl, the sable troupe went into full mob mode in an attempt to drive the predator away.

For twenty minutes the vocal assaults and intimidating fly-bys were stoically endured by the owl.  Realizing they were making no headway coercing the “ghost from the Arctic” away, the unkindness of Ravens moved on.

~ Anecdote and Snowy Owl, Common Ravens capture, An Unkindness © Jerry L. Ferrara

White-tailed Deer – Two Younglings

Two Younglings

Two Younglings

The big White-tailed Deer doe casually walked from the forest’s edge into the open, verdant meadow.  The grace of her movement was pure visual poetry.

Periodically she purposefully paused and glanced back at the tree line from whence she materialized.  What was it that so held her attention?

In time, the answer came in the form of two younglings … the spotted fawns made their debut.

~ Anecdote and White-tailed Deer capture, Two Younglings © Jerry L. Ferrara

Elephant Seal – Clap-Threat



     At California’s Año Nuevo State Reserve this lone bull Elephant Seal had just awakened from a nap, raised his massive head, and belted forth a trumpet-like sound called a clap-threat … a sound reminiscent of a poorly-idling motor engine.   Its huge proboscis, or nose, serves a unique purpose especially during the breeding season.  The large, fleshy organ when inflated acts as a resonator for the grunts, bellows, and noises the adult males make while challenging each other.  This big fellow did not have a harem to maintain nor beach to defend, but was still in the mood to give forth his pugnacious invitation for a quarrel.  Elephant Seals were hunted mercilessly for their oil and blubber during the 1800’s and were nearly extirpated.  Today, these large seals have enjoyed a comeback and may readily be observed at places like Año Nuevo when they come ashore to breed and give birth to their pups.

~ Narrative and Elephant Seal capture, Clap-Threat © Jerry L. Ferrara

Pacific-slope Flycatcher Cordilleran Flycatcher – The “What Am I?” Bird

The "What Am I?" Bird

The “What Am I?” Bird

The Pacific-slope Flycatcher and the Cordilleran Flycatcher are two of the most annoyingly difficult native bird species to field identify.  In fact, at one time, they were considered a single species, the now-obsolete designation of Western Flycatcher.  They are so similar in physical appearance as to be virtually impossible to be differentiated by sight alone.  So they truly have become the “What Am I?” bird.

Earlier this season a pair of the “What Am I?” birds set up housekeeping near our residence…but which of the two species did they represent?  The question was simple, but the answer evasive.

Some bird watchers, with hands frustratingly up in the air, refer to this confusing segment of the Tyrant Flycatcher family as simply “flycatchers”, while others rely on range maps and voice to try to identify and distinguish the two species from one another.  Not an easy task, though, especially where their extents overlap.  To add to the complexity of this quirky conundrum, there is scientific evidence indicating the two forms may interbreed where they are sympatric, that is where their ranges blend.

What to do with the “What Am I?” bird?

Sleuthing turned up that both the Pacific-slope Flycatcher and the Cordilleran Flycatcher may be uncommon breeders in our North Idaho area.  So, were these diminutive empids one or the other, or maybe a mixed pair?  More questions than answers until the male gave voice.  His call held the tenor of a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  However, no other vocalizations were given to corroborate what I heard and it still didn’t really answer the question if one or both adults were genetically admixed.

Difficult is the game I play,
yet my voice may point the way
to tell you who I really am.
But maybe not, could be a sham.
Cordilleran or Pacific-slope,
we sometimes overlap in scope.
When we do, affairs may change,
our genes might mix and rearrange.
Though we still appear alike,
hard to tell us just by sight.

With time, the parent birds raised four spunky youngsters from the safety of the nest and then all moved on.  I no longer hear the lilting call of this elfin anomaly.  Whether they were strictly Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cordilleran Flycatchers, or some genetic hybridization of such, the “What Am I?” bird was a true joy to experience.

BACK STORY:  We discovered the flycatcher nest, occupied by the egg-sitting female, in late Spring.  It was tucked into the rafters of an old outdoor aviary our two grandchildren and Vicki are renovating into a playhouse.  Play area construction was temporarily halted until the young birds were reared and gone.

~  Essay, poem and flycatcher capture, The “What Am I?” Bird © Jerry L. Ferrara

Cedar Waxwing – Harvest



     Along Myrtle Creek I could hear their constant “contact chatter” as they secretly moved hidden deep in the fruit-laden chokecherry bushes.  They were conducting a harvest.  The distinctive, mellow, trilling conversations bespoke the presence of that attractively adorned avian native, the Cedar Waxwing.  Waiting patiently paid off when suddenly this member of the troupe magically appeared in the open with a piece of ambrosia held firmly in its beak … and then the ensemble moved on.  The event struck a deeply personal, metaphorical chord for it reminded me of growing up on our family’s vineyard at grape gathering time.  It was the fruit that gave us purpose and the means to carry on.

~ Anecdote and Cedar Waxwing capture, Harvest © Jerry L. Ferrara.  A selection from the book, Wild North Idaho:  Photos and Reflections

Cedar Waxwing – Waxy Tips

Waxy Tips

Waxy Tips

With waxy tips am I adorned.
Like sealing wax they seem so formed.
The marks are but my signature.
A waxwing so am I for sure.

~  Poem and Cedar Waxwing capture, Waxy Tips, © Jerry L. Ferrara

Double Rainbow – A Stain in the Sky

A Stain in the Sky

A Stain in the Sky

The angels bowled a round of nine-pins across the cloud-laden expanse and the thunder rolled.  Without warning the heavens opened and the firmament turned diluvian.  The tearful rant seemed interminable and then, as suddenly as it appeared, the storm ceased.  When the final drops of moisture trickled from my hat and plunged to earth, I struck a bearing across the open fell field … and the storm left a stain in the sky.

Double rainbow from California’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Eastern Sierra White Mountains.

~ Anecdote and double rainbow capture, A Stain in the Sky © Jerry L. Ferrara

North Idaho Scenic – Forest, Forest Oh So Green

Forest, Forest Oh So Green

Forest, Forest Oh So Green

Forest, forest oh so green
your tapestry so fine and clean.
Yet your simple presentation,
plainly veils your complication.
Your true essence seems to be
to hold such vast complexity.
You capture quanta with a flair
and doing so provide much fare
for life to build its wondrous state.
Great sway have you in others’ fate.
Aloof, you seem to never care,
spew you a richness to the air.
Your bearing seems a faceless sea.
Within you, though, a playground be
where many forms of life do live
through the structure that you give.
From a span you may look plain,
probe shows this does not pertain.
So in reality by far,
a complex entity you are.
Forest, forest oh so green,
your tapestry so fine and clean.

~ Poem and North Idaho Scenic capture, Forest, Forest Oh So Green © Jerry L. Ferrara

Shiras Moose – Gleaning and Chomping

Gleaning and Chomping

Gleaning and Chomping

The verdant brush in the immediate foreground quavered spasmodically as if possessed by demons.  The movement was localized, strongly suggesting a restless “presence” in the vicinity of the disturbance.  Slowly a large, dark, shadowy mass became apparent as it mysteriously moved behind the foliage … and the undergrowth continued to dance.

Ever so slowly a bristled mane and a pair of velvet-adorned antlers with a bulbous nose came into view.  The author of the commotion was simply a bull Shiras Moose gleaning and chomping a meal.

~ Anecdote and Shiras Moose capture, Gleaning and Chomping © Jerry L. Ferrara