Late Fall Photos With a Touch of Winter

Late fall has suddenly turned to winter in the Northland. It has certainly made for some fun photography. I have a lot of photos to share in this post. I had a couple of fun moose encounters before all the snow arrived. They cooperated well for photos! Areas of the North Shore and the forest have anywhere from 8 or 10 inches of snow to 24 inches plus! I’ve got some fun grouse photos included with all the snowy landscape pictures. Thank you to everyone who has ordered my 2023 North Shore Calendar! I really appreciate it. I’m very happy with how they look this year. If you’d like to take a look, follow this link. Calendar!
I’ll be pretty short on words in this post, just wanted to share all the recent photos. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Temperance River with the first winter coat of white
Dawn breaking on a river in Superior National Forest – Minnesota
The freshly flocked forest of northeastern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest
River rapids and a flocked forest
Temperance River along the Superior Hiking Trail
Tucked in for the winter in Superior National Forest

Before the snow blanketed the landscape, I was still seeing a few moose around. The first part of November is typically when I stop seeing moose with any regularity until spring thaw. Mating season has long passed and the moose just don’t seem to wander around as much in winter, so they get harder to spot. Most of their watering holes are frozen, so they probably stay put when they find what they need in winter. That’s OK, winter brings so many other opportunities for wildlife sightings and the added feature of winter tracks, which is a huge aid in finding and photographing any critter in the wild. Anyhow, here are a few photos of a beautiful cow moose with her young from last season.

Mama moose surveys the scene while her little one feeds along the river edge
Cow moose heading for the buffet
A morning moment for this pair
I think I’ve been spotted
Swampside breakfast
A little swamp vegetation makes a fine morning repast

I’ve got a couple of ruffed grouse living nearby, and they visit my big tree often. I was surprised to notice the cool heart pattern on the back of one one day. Take a look! Perfect little hearts. A friend told me they also look like little barn owl faces! Ain’t nature fun?

Patterns in nature – note the almost perfect little hearts
My neighborhood ruffed grouse
Ol ruff – cleaning up under the feeders
The gorgeous ruffed grouse in snow
Spruce grouse tracks in the snow. This one was doing a display for another grouse in which it’s wings are out and were dragging in the snow a little on either side.

So many new opportunities for photography with the changing landscape. If you can find a way to tolerate the snow, ice, wind, freezing temps and bad roads, winter can be one of if not THE best season for photography. Looks like we could be in for a long one!

Driving in the tall pines of Cook County – Minnesota = Superior National Forest
Who doesn’t love a fall color drive on the 600 Road?
Muskrat on the thin ice of Fourmile Lake
Pine grosbeak checking out the winter tracks
Winter sets in on a forest creek
The MV Edwin H Gott cruising past Grand Marais Minnesota
Freshly fallen
Oh deer, it’s November!
Forest scene with snow

Thank you all for taking a look! Have a great Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. If you’re looking for a gift or two, grab a calendar or check my website for prints at this link https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/

Take Care for now!

Moose, Northern Lights, Fall Colors and a 2023 Calendar Preview of Minnesota North Shore Wonders

It’s been a spectacular fall this 2022 season. We had a brief, early start in September, with nice weather leading into a peak color season that lingered well into October. The shore was especially vibrant, it seemed, this fall. There seemed to be a proper “peak” that encompassed the whole forest for a week or more. Often times, the reds and higher country will have come and gone before the areas near Lake Superior have peaked, but things seemed to synch up for a spell. I’ll include a few photos I haven’t posted yet. I’ve also had a lot of moose encounters so far this fall. The mating season, or “rut, has come and gone for the most part and moose can often be found grouped up, just hanging around together for a few weeks after mating. I’ve captured a few moose photos this fall that I really like. A couple even made it into the 2023 calendar! We’ve also had a few signs of the coming winter, which could begin any day in the northland! Some areas of the North Shore woods have already seen some snow and definitely a few good frosts. It’s made for some nice photo opportunities, extending the fall color photo season even longer 🙂 Add in a few northern lights displays earlier this fall, and it’s been hard to beat. I’ve added a few photos from those displays in this post too. We even picked up a rare SAR arc in the night sky which I’ll include a picture or two of.


The soft, tranquil silence of the first snow fall in Superior National Forest
My 2023 calendar is for sale! Thank you all for the support each year. I really appreciate each and every purchase. I’ve included beautiful Lake Superior, some moose out in Superior National Forest, some other wildlife and some northern lights over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. See the links I’ve included.

Here is a little preview of my 2023 calendar I have for sale. You’ll see northern lights over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, massive Minnesota moose in Superior National Forest, a few of Lake Superior’s seasonal moods and a few other surprises and landscapes. I don’t like to spam you all too much or too often, but a few times a year I have an offering like the calendars that I’ll promote through the holidays 🙂 I always appreciate the print and calendar purchases. They allow me to continue bringing you some of the images you enjoy here and on social media. Thanks for taking a look at this link for this years Minnesota’s North Shore – Woods Waters and Wilds – A 2023 Calendar

Fall color season has come and gone although some of my Favorite, the golden tamarack are now the main feature in the North Shore woods. Here are a few photos from the past few weeks.

Tamarack in golden yellow with the first touches of snow
A carpeted path of autumn leaves leading to Lake Superior
The furrowed brow of fall. The natural potholes on the shoreline at Temperance River State Park collecting the fallen fall foliage.
A beauty view from Carlton Peak
The 1000 foot Mesabi Miner and Lake Superior from the Sawbill Trail.
Fall splendor
Brilliant fall color in Superior National Forest

Fall is such a great time to photograph moose in and around the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The moose become a little more active in September and October. The moose mating season begins in September and is done by early October, for the most part. It can be an exciting time to see moose. The bulls have shed their velvet coating from their antlers revealing a shiny, new rack on their heads, hoping to attract a mate. You can often encounter males with females and males together often trying to attract the same females. It keeps the moose active, and a little more distracted and less worried about us picture takers and gawkers 🙂 I saw a very large bull as well as a few others so far this fall.

A big bruiser in the North Shore woods
Backside view of this big moose’s antlers
A bull, cow and last year’s calf are silhouetted in pre-dawn light
An iconic Minnesota morning scene
First frost and a nice sized moose
This bull was heavily in rut and was responsive to my calls.
Another silhouette…

The northern lights have been adding a little fall color of their own. September provided a couple of wonderful evenings under the dark, northern skies. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, our chances increase for seeing these wonders in our skies. With darkness coming on so early in fall and winter, we can often see the northern lights well before bedtime 😃 Here are a handful of recent aurora images.

The aurora borealis over the Temperance River with an SAR arc forming – Minnesota
SAR arc and the Milky Way in Superior National Forest
The northern lights and moonlight shadows over a swampy creek
Fantastic overhead aurora
A brief, spectacular display of aurora over Superior National Forest – Minnesota
Tofte Park and the northern lights
Lake Superior and Aurora Borealis in Tofte, MN
Foggy autumn morning on Crescent Lake in Superior National Forest

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little fall recap. It’s always a favorite time of year for many, including myself. The fast, constant change is pretty fascinating to witness. Winter will soon bring another major change to the landscape, so I’ll enjoy these fleeting fall days while I can now. Thanks again for taking a look at and ordering calendars, too. I appreciate it!

April – The Lake and its Moods, The Northern Lights and Wildlife

From Crazy to Calm – Lake Superior
April weather really covered all the bases this year. We had snow, cold, warm, rain, wind and gorgeous. The big April Gale on the 14th and 15th was a highlight for sure. The northeast winds brought massive waves crashing along the shore. some of the best places to watch a northeast gale are in the Split Rock and Tettegouche areas. The cliffs in the area can make for dramatic scenes from the waves crashing and rebounding off the cliff faces. Even a smaller gale can be impressive against these walls. This particular gale wasn’t accompanied by much precipitation which made for a fun day of photographing the waves. Often times, these gales come with heavy rain or snow which can hinder photographing them a bit.

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Crashing waves at Tettegouche State Park – 4/14/2018

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Massive splash on the cliffs along Lake Superior. Wave height was in the mid teens but splash heights were reaching 100 feet, 150 feet and more in places.

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The ice coated trees take a beating in this little lake side forest at Tettegouche State Park.

The calm clear views from Tettegouche State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park one week after the gales…

Earth Day was a picture perfect day to be outside in our State Parks. I made it a point to hit three in my travels that day. The calm, clear day was a huge contrast to the chaos of the previous week. Keep a circular polarizing filter in your camera bag. They are great for days like these. They can help you see into the water even more by removing some glare. They will also help create more contrast between blue sky and white clouds. A valuable tool to use in many photography conditions.

 

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Lone tree on Shovel Point – Lake SUperior, MN

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Beachside at Tettegouche State Park

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Clear, Calm, Beautiful

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A view of Shovel Point

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Split Rock Lighthouse

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Kayaking on the calmest of lakes…

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Split Rock Reflections

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Kayakers passing by Split Rock Lighthouse.

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The view from Shovel Point looking towards Palisade Head

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Stack Reflections

April Northern Lights – An All Nighter 

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April Aurora And The Setting Moon – 4/20/2018


The night and morning hours on April 19th and 20th produced a rather remarkable northern lights display. What started out as a faint glow for almost two hours, erupted into shimmering sheets and dancing waves of aurora which lasted until morning light. I put in a 4 1/2 hour shift of sky watching and photographing the lights. The slideshow shows you the progression, in a way, from around 10:00 PM CST on April 19th until around 1:00AM on April 20th. When the lights are strong, I have a pretty good view of the dark, northern skies from home. I spent another hour or two watching from the deck and even out the windows.
While there is no way to truely predict a good aurora display, you can do a few things to help alert you. Space Weather dot com is a great resource which can alert you via email when solar activity may cause aurora. They have a great photo gallery and information on all things space and sky related. Another resource are regional aurora “hunter” groups. These groups are full of entusiasts who will report in real time when the aurora are visible in your area. Great Lakes Aurora Hunters is a good one for my area. As far as viewing in Cook County, one needs to know that viewing with the naked eye and photographing the aurora can be two entirely different experiences. I won’t go into detail in this post, but our cameras see in the dark much, much better than we do, to make it short. So for viewing, you’ll want to get over the hills and into the darkest areas, away from towns, resorts, cabin lights. The overlook just past the Britton Peak parking area on the Sawbill Trail, just a few miles off highway 61 is a fantastic place to watch from a car or lawn chair. It has the best, widest northern view you can drive to that I know of. If you aren’t in Tofte, go up one of the “trails”, Gunflint, Caribou, Arrowhead, Cramer Road, and find a north facing lake, boat landing or hillside. Our dark skies won’t disappoint during a northern lights storm. For photography, I like to find a river, lake, or other point of interest for foreground attention and a sense of place or location. The scene becomes more important to convey the feeling, maybe, moreso than seeing the entire sky and display. If you have never seen the northern lights, and are not interested in taking photos, you’ll want to just stay put once you find a big, wide northern view. Hope this helps you see the aurora someday on the North Shore!

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April Wildlife 

It was a good month in the woods for wildlife. From grouse to lynx to moose and loons!
Spruce grouse could be found most mornings pecking for roadside gravel. I have heard some drumming this spring, but not much. Moose sightings were few. I did manage to snap a few recent photos though. Two very healthy looking moose together at the end of the month.

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Female spruce grouse – April in Superior National Forest

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Male spruce grouse – Superior National Forest

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Whiskey Jack or Canada Jay – Superior National Forest

 

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Turkey vulture and the nearly full April moon.

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Though I had heard loons the previous week, this was the first one I actually saw close enough to get a photo. Always a fun spring “first”.

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A pair of moose on the run in Cook County.

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And gone, into the woods.

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One would emerge, briefly, and gone again!

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I had a late afternoon encounter with 3 lynx in earlier April. I saw each one alone, about a mile apart from each other. Something tells me this was 3 of the 4 kittens I had been seeing earlier in winter with the mother. Once the mother mates again, the kittens are set off on their own to figure out how to hunt and survive alone. The size and proximity to one another tells me this is the same family, now entering the next phase of their lives as solitary animals.

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A lone lynx prowls for an afternoon meal

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Grouse – Superior National Forest

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Male Spruce Grouse – Superior National Forest

 

Last year at this time we had already been on the lakes for almost two weeks. Now, we are still waiting for the thaw. The lakes still have a foot or more of ice on them in some areas. Recent warmer weather is helping to speed things along and I think we will see open lakes in the coming days. Fishing opener is near and I hope you’ll tune in again for all things May in my next post. Please subscribe so you’ll be notified when I post again.

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Current conditions on local lakes as of 5/2/2018 – Little ways to go for that Fishing opener! 😉

 

 

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March – Two Full Moons, Some Moose and Florida

March 2018 was a fun, quick month in my world. This post will cover the month I had in photos. From two full moons, to moose, grouse and a lot of Florida birds, I hope you enjoy these photos and notes on the month of March. We still have a lot of snow and ice in the Northwoods and it still feels like winter here, though we shifted to “spring” on the calendar!

March 1st, 2018 Full Moon

March 1st, 2018 Full Moon

March 31st Full Moon Rise

March 31st Full Moon Rise Reflection and Shadows

 

I had a few moose encounters early this month. We still had a lot of snow in the woods, and one moose had stepped into the “deep stuff” on the roadside and got itself into a bit of trouble. It was stuck to it’s shoulders in the snow. I can happily report the moose and it’s partner both safelyu made it into the woods that morning. Video below…

Another moosey month in the area. One of four I spotted earlier in March.

The two moose from the video after getting unstuck from the snowbank.

Moose in the deep stuff!

Spruce Grouse were plentiful in the early morning hours this month. I had numerous encounters with them as they pecked gravel on the roadsides in the morning sun.

Male Spruce Grouse

Male Spruce Grouse

Female Spruce grouse getting gravel in the morning sun.

We did have some aurora activity in the month of March! Here are a few photos from earlyh March along the Sawbill Trail near Tofte, MN.

Aurora and Snowshoes – March 2018

Aurora and iridium flare from a satellite.

Star trails and northern lights – Sawbill Trail March 2018

 

Aurora along the Sawbill Trail near Tofte, MN

Florida and Smoky Mountains
March has historically been a time to get away for me. Below are a collection of photos from a roadtrip to Florida including a stop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cedar Key, Florida, on the Gulf Coast was my destination, but other stops included Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Manatee Springs State Park, Shell Mound Archaeological Site, Smoky Mountains, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge to name a few.

Heron in Cedar Key, FL

Gator at Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland, FL

Roseate Spoonbill – Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

Great Horned Owl – Cedar Key, FL

Barred Owl – Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

Great egret – Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

Cedar Key, FL

Spoonbills in the rain

Cardinal – Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

Owl Nap – Cedar Key, FL

The cemetery at Cedar Key

Preening Spoonbills

Cedar Key by Night – Old Fenimore Mill Condos

Great Smokey Mountain Sunset

Smoky Mountain Views

 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

It was great to get away from winter for a while, but it is always nice to be back on The Shore, near The Lake. April should bring us some warmer weather and the hopes of open waters on the inland lakes for paddling and exploring. Melt and break-up are on their way. Stay tuned for notes on April next month.
Tom

Fall 2015 – Leaves, Aurora and Moose, Oh My!

Fall is a great time in the Northwoods. This has been a busy and rewarding season for photography and exploring the woods.  Most of my explorations and photography have shifted inland this year.  I have not been visiting The Lake for sunrise as often as I am most often into the woods by sunrise time.  This has been great for fall colors and moose alike.  Don’t worry Lake Lovers!  I will likely return more often now to Lake Superior as winter approaches and takes hold.  Lake Superior photographs well in winter 🙂 This will be a three-part post highlighting my three favorite things to photograph, all of which happened to happen in the past few months.  Fall colors, the northern lights, and the majestic, Minnesota moose.

This year it seems that our fall color season was long, but not as “spectacular” as past years.  In my observation, color started early in some spots and finished late in others.  This never gave us a really great “peak color” time as the forest was changing at different rates, often in pockets.  I still had some great photography days chasing fall color…

Early color along the Honeymoon Trail. Sept. 23, 2015

Foggy, misty morning along the Honeymoon Trail. Sept. 2015

Six Hundred Road looking beautiful every fall. A fall favorite and fall classic back road drive.

Forest Scene near Tofte, MN.

October and nearly the end of fall color. This was a great scene as the leaves were floating on 8-10 feet of crystal clear Lake Superior water.

If you are an aurora chaser, or one whom enjoys pursuing the northern lights in the night sky, this has been a good fall.  The Great Lakes Aurora Hunters Gathering also took place in October.  We are on the downslope of the peak of a “solar maximum”.  Much like our seasons, the Sun has cycles.  The Sun goes in 11 year cycles with a minimum and maximum.  At solar maximum, sun spots and solar flares are more prevalent.  This means better chances for better aurora, more or less.  The whole year has been good for northern lights, in my opinion.  Things have slowed down here in late October, but early fall was great for night sky fun…

One of the best, although brief, displays of the northern lights that I have witnessed. This was early September and it was a wild sight for about 25 minutes. One to remember. 9/8/2015 near Schroeder, MN

The Schroeder dock and Lake Superior – September 2015.

October lights along the Temperance River outside Tofte, MN.

Another view of the Temperance River reflecting a light aurora glow from above. October, 2015

October was also the annual Great Lakes Aurora Hunters Gathering in Two Harbors, MN. 200 people from 10 states and two countries got together for three days of fun. Fantastic speakers and meals all weekend. The northern lights were not cooperating, so steel wool spinning was the evening’s activity at Gooseberry State Park. This is Jamie Rabold of Willowmaker Images spinning steel wool.

Matt Rohlader spinning steel wool at the annual Great Lakes Aurora Hunters Gathering.

Double spin…

Happy Halloween! Carved up the pumpkin from my mother on a nice, starry, aurora filled night. October, 2015

The International Space Station often becomes visible in the night sky for a few days in a row. I use this site to predict the times. It is always spot on! http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ ISS and northern lights – October, 2015

And let me tell you about the moose! 🙂 It’s been an exciting couple months when it comes to moosing.  Fall brings all kinds of wildlife activity to Superior National Forest and surrounding woods.  Everyone is preparing for the coming winter in various ways and it seems that the chances of fun, unique wildlife encounters are more common.  In addition to many moose encounters I have seen pine marten, spruce and ruffed grouse, ducks of all kinds, deer, eagles, a northern shrike out hunting in a field, and many more thrilling sightings.  The moose have been my main quarry this fall.  I have run into 8-10 different bull moose, likely 4 different cows and a couple with calves.  There is a cow with a GPS collar that I have not been able to photograph but have seen a couple of times.  The moose numbers are declining in NE Minnesota and there are some “research moose” in the area. (I pictured one below that I saw in Grand Portage)  These collared moose have GPS units that can track the animals habits throughout the seasons.  Important data is collected about seasonal habits and movements and the animals range.  They can also alert researchers if an animal dies.  This can be important so the researchers can get to the body asap to determine the cause of death.  It will be interesting to see the next count.  A January 2015 count showed the population at 3450 animals.  In 2011 the survey showed around 4900 moose and back in 2006 the count showed nearly 9000 animals. I have heard many theory on the subject and have not formulated my own conclusion but am following closely.

Collared moose – Grand Portage, MN

I have had the good fortune of following another big group of moose this fall.  It is rivaling last fall for quality encounters.  I have filmed a lot of video over the past two months and I am working on a project to compile video clips and still images into a nice, short video featuring these moose.  I will keep you posted on that.
Here is a sample of the massive moose I have seen starting with a unique looking bull from Labor Day weekend and taking us through November 1st…

BWCA Bull Moose I spent the better part of a HOT Labor Day Sunday out in a canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The fishing was slow that day but this big bull moose swimming in the lake made up for it.

Nothing like a dip in the lake on a hot afternoon. Labor Day Weekend – BWCA Bull Moose

One of the younger moose. He makes up for it in spirit and spunk. This one was prodding the larger bull on another occasion.

A frosty little beauty…

Cow moose. She had a bull off to the left that I could see. I did not know she also had a calf at her feet. It would later stand up, revealing itself when I got home and saw the photos on screen.

Bull, cow and calf. The calf is well hidden even after standing up. Can you see it? These three were together on multiple mornings.

Field of Cows – Two cow moose snacking in the late afternoon sun. October 2015

Another scene from an early morning wildlife cruise. Two eagles sparring over the high tree. There was a nearby bear carcass the two were feeding on.

I call this one Number Two. While a massive animal, he is a bit smaller than Hoss. He also seems to know his place around the bigger one. Smart animals in this post-rut group. We watched the sunrise together a few times this fall…

One of the smaller bull moose scenting, or just amazed that he can see his breath on this cold October morning…

Bully and Number Two Bully is the scrappy, smaller guy. Never afraid to test the limits of his elders…

Number Two likes to bask his face in the morning sun on these frosty mornings. I have watched him and the bigger bull do this a couple of mornings. Once, the group of four had their backs to me as they all raised their heads to the morning sun coming up over the trees.

Number Two watching over a cow. Her calf is nearby, too.

Four Bull Morning – the group on a frosty October morning.  I was able to watch this gang interact for almost two hours.  Once they ambled off out of range, I left them.  I try not to spook the moose.  If possible, I photograph them and leave them calm, grazing, like I found them.  I hate to see them running or in a panic because of me and that rarely happens.  Watching your step and walking slowly around them is key.

Mother and Child – Cow and calf with frost at first light.

Big Hoss. I have been fortunate with this moose. I have been running into him a lot and have logged a few hours watching him. Lots of video and photos of him with the group and alone. He is a sight to behold, especially in the near dark, early morning hours. I have caught him in photographable light, too.

Hoss watching over a cow and calf.

Another one of the locals. I don’t see this one as often but he sure is a beauty. He had a cow and calf with him for a couple of mornings, but now seems to be gone. I wonder if Big Hoss pushed him out and took over the cow and calf?? The bulls can be solitary animals, so they may be breaking up for winter already. They will often stay grouped up into winter, though.

These next photos are from yet another encounter with Big Hoss. November 1st in the light rain.

Outstanding in his field… 😉

He’s even outstanding in his swamp!

Great Profile – Great Rack

Hold it right there… November Bull

We may have a month or more of fall left here on The Shore, but there have been days that feel like we are turning the corner towards winter.  Before long, the tracks I see will be in the snow, not mud.  The animals will be stark against a white backdrop, if they aren’t hibernating or burrowed in.  The woods will be quiet except for the wind in the pines.  unless they are muffled by a fresh blanket of snow…  The ever changing seasons in The North.  Winter is coming.  11/2/2015 *edited 11/5