Dean M. Chriss
Taking Shelter from the Storm, Mountain Bluebird

Taking Shelter from the Storm, Mountain Bluebird

(Click image to enlarge)

This picture looks calm and serene but the situation was not. It was early October when an an early and especially fierce winter storm arrived. Many of the trees in Yellowstone National Park were just starting to change into their fall colors and flocks of mountain bluebirds were congregating to go elsewhere. With sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph), gusts to 60 mph (97 kph), and temperatures quickly dropping to below 10°F, this small mountain bluebird and the rest of his flock took advantage of several junipers; the only shelter available for miles. Most of them perched as deeply as they could in foliage on the downwind side of the trees. This one found a sheltered spot where a branch joined the trunk and pressed himself into it.

Taking sharp photographs at a focal length of 1200mm in the low light and high winds was nearly impossible. The bitter cold quickly numbed my lightly gloved fingers and soaked through my many layers of clothing. I took countless pictures, nearly all of which were hopelessly blurred. The sharpest among them is shown above. By the time I got back to my vehicle, which my wife had smartly stayed in, I was shaking so much that I couldn't put the key in the ignition. She kindly assisted and we sat there with the heater on high for nearly 30 minutes until I felt comfortable again. Experiences like this make one realize how hardy and resourceful these little birds truly are.