Baby Mountain Goats begin to travel with their Mother and siblings just a few days after birth. They are desiring of breast milk while the family members seek food and shelter in remote areas all the while the baby is subject to great danger.
As part of this year’s photo-shoot of Mountain Goats with Nappy Neaman, I learned about the greatest threat to newborn Mountain Goats; Eagles. Yes, Eagles. I learned this fact from Nappy after asking him why are the Golden Eagles constantly circling above the canyon’s. Spend more than 30 seconds thinking about it and a predator towards the top of the food chain seeking these tiny animals makes total sense. Nappy explained that if the baby strays too far away from mom, an eagle will swoop down, collect the baby goat, carry it up high, drop it to the canyon floor below and begin its feast. Ugh!
In a drainage Nappy calls Black Rocks we sight three different female goats with newborns and in two cases additional yearlings. It is an interesting mix to watch interact. Having arguably the nation’s top expert at my side for the play-by-play call and color commentary makes the experience about as good as it gets. The feeling is similar to going to a live baseball game, sitting in field-box seats, and having Vin Scully next to you in person.
Nappy: “Here we go Jeff… mom on the move to the right on grayish red rock shelf with the baby two strides behind looking for its next milking…”
Vin: “Great to be at the goat sighting in the company of Nappy and Jeff … brought to you by Lean Farmer John Meats. Interestingly enough… as rock falls below mom low and away… the canyon straddles two types of geological formations. First and to the west is a collection of Eocene granite, pink granite, syenite, rhyolite dikes, and rhyolitic shallow intrusive rock. Second, and slightly to the east begins what makes up the Boulder Mountains… Eocene granite, pink granite, syenite, rhyolite dikes, and rhyolitic shallow intrusive rock.”
These photo-shoots have been demanding on a host of fronts. The hiking and rock scrambling at high elevation with a heavy pack is always a challenge. Another challenge is trying to be close enough to observe but not interfere with the animals. This approach requires us to sit on one side of a canyon looking for Mountain Goats on the other side. The implication is I am constantly re-evaluating what camera and lenses I want available to me during a shoot. For one portion it the the PhaseOne IQ and XF with prime lenses from 35-240MM. For others it is a Nikon D810 with a 70-200 Zoom, 600MM, 800MM and 1000MM lens. The photo’s on this post were shot with the Nikon and the big long lenses. Therefore we had to identify and then photograph the animals from 2,000 to 4,000 feet away. Add in dramatic shifts in the light from low and flat to bursting bright with animals constantly moving and you got yourself a tricky photo-shoot.