Elk, Osprey, Blue Heron, Beaver & Eagles – What a Day!

Elk in the Pike National Forest

I knew it was going to be a good day when a small herd of elk cows crossed the road and ran out into golden light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise on my trip up to Eleven Mile Canyon! Traffic was stopped in both directions to allow for the passage so I grabbed the trusty Canon 90D and snapped a few pictures of the animals, happy to be safely on the other side of the highway. At the time only half the herd had crossed, but the other half didn’t appear interested taking the risk so I continued on my journey.

Soon I was at the entrance to the canyon and on my way past the high cliffs of the opening, looking intently for osprey and peregrine. Neither were at their expected location and I took note of the rushing water as a photo op for motion blur photography in case my wildlife endeavor in the canyon came up empty on this day.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

But it wasn’t long before I spotted my intended target, a beautiful white osprey perched high above the canyon on a dead tree branch. He was quite a distance away though, too far for my 400mm and 1.4x teleconverter. Fortunately I had recently borrowed Kevin’s 2x converter so I attached it and dragged out the tripod with my solid Vanguard ball head.The only reliable way to use the 2x is to switch the lens to manual and use focus peaking with live view. With that method it is possible to zoom in to 10x on the camera and turn the focus ring until the red color outlines any part of the subject that is in focus.

I watched the osprey for a long time, hoping he would take flight and I would get the coveted wing span in a flight image, but he seemed quite intent on remaining on the branch. His behavior was very much like a male osprey overlooking the valley for threats to a nest, not looking down at the river for fish, but scanning the valley up and down, carefully watching for intruders. This makes me think that maybe the new nest may be in that section of river, but I was not able to see the new structure, not even with my 10x binoculars. The male osprey upon seeing a threat will take flight and vigorously defend his territory and I have yet to see a bird willing to risk the ire of an osprey with his wicked talons extended.

Great Blue Heron

Eventually I got too cold in the canyon wind to continue at that location so I got back in the truck and cruised upstream hoping to see eagles, deer in the river, or blue heron. I was soon rewarded with a blue heron standing upon a rock in the sun on the opposite bank of the river. He was safe and comfortable in his location and allowed me to walk out onto a sandbar on the river and sit down on a nice soft island for a long session of photography.

While I photographed and filmed the heron I noticed a disturbance in the water on the opposite bank, closer inspection revealed a beaver swimming back and forth with a meal he had found deep in the river channel. Now I had to split my time between heron and the busy

Beaver in the South Platte

beaver, filming and shooting stills of them both. It was then that I noticed my camera wasn’t behaving properly. Usually when I’m filming with the 90D, the live view focus system will locate a subject and then track it. This time a single stationary focus point was lit up and failing miserably at keeping the subject in focus. If the focus point wavered at all off the subject the animal would go out of focus until the point returned over the subject.

I wasn’t able to resolve the problem until later at home in front of the computer and the detailed PDF 90D manual. It turns out that somehow while messing around with settings lately I had managed to take the camera out of tracking mode and select single point mode. I can’t imagine how I did, that but happily the problem has been corrected and the camera is once again tracking subjects in video mode 🙂

Eventually I decided the heron was not about to leave his comfortable sunny position on the rocks, and the beaver had sufficiently gorged himself on the succulent river grass he had located under the blue water of the South Platte and had continued on upstream. It was very cold down by the icy water and once again as I neared hypothermia, I gave in to the promise of heat and comfort in the truck and continued on upstream.

Bald Eagle on a Nest

There was nothing to see upstream and I noticed on my return trip that the blue heron had not moved from his original position. This time I passed him by and continued on downstream in hopes of seeing the osprey again. Upon failing to locate the osprey, my attention turned to the eagles nest where mother eagle was watching over her young. Once again I retrieved the tripod and the 2x in hopes of video footage including an eaglet or two.

I can tell from the behavior of the mama eagle that there are definitely eaglets in the nest, not just eggs. She is sitting much higher and spends a bit of time tending to something deep in the nest. It will be a few weeks yet before little heads began to appear above the rim of the nest!

I was lucky that the focusing problem didn’t destroy all my footage and am happy to present this Youtube video of my day, hope you enjoy it!

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4 thoughts on “Elk, Osprey, Blue Heron, Beaver & Eagles – What a Day!

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