Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5/23/12 Excellent Elk Viewing for Holiday Weekend

Elk watching is great but you have to get out of bed for the best experience. This morning we saw 4 herds spread across the valley. They were heading for cover as soon as the light hit the valley, about 7:30AM.  This is the summer pattern.

Fans of bull elk will enjoy seeing the "big boys" growing their antlers for the 2012 season. I am certain I saw the Prince of Boxley this morning. He is not going to have as perfect a rack as last year, but the start of his drop tines is evident. He is a bit larger than last year and should be a contending major herd bull in the 2012 rut.

Elk calving anytime now.

Be safe and drive slowly in Boxley Valley.

Elk Herd Positions in Boxley Valley 2/23/12 

Friday, May 18, 2012

5/18/12 Elk Viewing Great, Haying for Great Photos

Yellow Swallowtail on Horsemint
Elk viewing was outstanding this morning, continuing a pattern now in place for some time.  Elk calving is now just around the corner. Here and there are bull elk in early velvet, a picture that many have on their "bucket list".

Delicate ground-hugging morning fog and hay bales now offer great morning landscape photo opportunities. This won't last long as farmers will move the bales to storage, but it could run through the weekend.

If you want to see the elk, get to the Boxley Valley early, just after sunrise. Cool weather extends viewing times, but remember that very early morning viewing will get you real close to the animals. Keep in mind you should drive slowly. At first light, many elk are between the road and fences, and there will be some leisurely crossings. It is a great time to be out there.

Butterflying is now very good. Roadsides are lighting up with blooms and when the elk viewing is done, the butterflies are beginning to get active. It is a great way to combine two subjects that compliment one another perfectly during the morning hours.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

5/13/12 Elk Viewing Great for Mothers Day

Great elk viewing this Mothers Day morning with many small herds of elk spread across Boxley Valley.

Cow elk are widely disbursed in small groups, with many scattered single cow elk. Typically cow elk isolate themselves before giving birth. This small herd and single cow elk looks like the pre-calving formation.

Happy Mothers Day.

The elk herd location map follows:

May 13, 2012 Elk Herd Locations 

Friday, May 11, 2012

5/11/12 Elk Viewing Excellent Today

Newborn Calf Elk 
Elk viewing is outstanding in the valley now, but you must get up to see them. Viewing in most seasons is an "ends of the day affair", never more than the "summer pattern" we are in now. I saw elk in all zones this morning, and stragglers elsewhere. To see them all you must get up early and be out there at daybreak.

Early summer mornings are great viewing, evenings are good viewing.

There is an amazing amount of forage now until haying is completed over the next few weeks. For ranchers, this means there will be 3 cuttings of hay, an outstanding year.

Calving is the theme for the next few months. Some cow elk breed early in the rut, and others late.  They return to estrous on 30 day cycles until successfully bred. This process extends across months from early September (early) to even January (very late). The peak for calving is in June, but early calves could begin arriving now and extends to late summer. The peak for calving is just weeks ahead.

Haying in Boxley Valley -- A great photo
opportunity in morning fog
Remember this. You will not likely see a newborn calf elk, but if you do, give the cow and calf room. A cow elk with a calf is a dangerous animal and she will attack and stomp you. I will be reporting more on calving in the next entry.

Sometimes I get asked to guide. I don't. I will not tell anyone where elk nurseries are, don't ask. We need to respect these animals and not harass them. This is especially true during calving season.

See updated elk herd location map below:

May 7, 2012 Elk Herd Location Map & Wildflower List

Friday, May 4, 2012

5/4/12 Elk Watching Very Good -- Before 7:30AM

Morning Light, Fog & Clouds in Boxley Valley
Elk watching has shifted solidly to a summer viewing pattern. Before 7AM today I saw 4 herds grazing in Boxley Valley fields. By 7:45 they were starting to migrate to their bedding areas. This is the summer elk viewing experience.

Is it worth it to get up so early to see elk?  Absolutely yes. The elk are grazing in foggy fields. You can get photos of elk in the fog, around the edges of it, and fully emerged in the same photo. This makes ordinary field shots special if conditions are right. 

Besides seeing the elk, Boxley Valley on foggy mornings is just stunning.  If you are a photographer it is a great time to take moody landscape photos that exploit the fog as it lifts and animates the fields and buildings. Speaking personally, these are the summer landscapes that interest me besides the pooled-up river. This weather is wall-hanger weather if you can get your exposure correct. Perhaps it is a good time to learn HDR techniques to incorporate in your images. 

Hummingbird Moth at Ponca Elk Education Center
Roadside wildflowers are now blooming heavily. These are great places to get pictures of butterflies too. Make sure you pull off the road and be alert to traffic. There are many places you can prospect for roadside flowers along country roads. This is all day shooting. Butterflies like heat so you can shoot elk and landscapes early, then look for butterflies and roadside wildflowers later.

A great place for butterflies is the grounds of the Ponca Elk Education Center. There you park and be safe out of traffic. Any of the river access points are a good bet too. Remember that butterflies like to "puddle" along the edges of the river and creeks. 

The elk today were in southern pattern. Most of the elk are from the Highway 43/21 intersection and points south. There was one herd near Ponca.  I did see bulls in early velvet in another group. See the  brand new May map below. 

I have edited the wildflower list, although it is possible in some hollers a random specimen might show up of the early species, most are done.