New Species in the Canyon

Yesterday was the day for my weekly visit to Eleven Mile Canyon. Unfortunately with gas prices the way they are I’ve had to limit my visits to the canyon to once a week. They day began with an apocalyptic looking cloud of dust enshrouding the entire landscape,  the result of tremendous winds we’ve been experiencing this spring. The wind from the night before had never subsided and was still buffeting my truck as I traveled down Teller County Road 1 to the canyon.

Bald Eagle Nest

I was unable to see eaglets in the nest at the entrance, probably due to the wind. I could see the mother eagle was fighting to stay on her perch on the edge of the nest as powerful gusts threatened to unseat her. I imagine the young ones instinctively know to keep their heads down in such conditions.

I watch carefully for osprey in the lower mile or two, as that is they formerly chose for their nest. However there were none to be seen on this day. There was also nothing at the bend, no eagles and not even the often seen blue heron that seems to have made that part of the canyon home for the summer season. However not too far past the bend we spotted a blue heron, then another… and another. All together there appear to be at least four of the great birds nesting somewhere near that relatively calm section of the South Platte River, good information for future visits!

Double-Crested Cormorant

Just beyond there another bird flew in and took up a position high on the giant rocks lining the river. A quick look through the binoculars identified the visitor as a double-crested cormorant, a first for the canyon! We snapped a few pictures of the handsome shore bird and continued on. Our experience with that particular bird at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal led us to believe that he might be comfortable standing on the rocks for a considerable amount of time… more than we had the patience for to be sure.

White-Faced Ibis

Another mile upstream another large bird revealed himself, a species I had never seen before… a large heron looking shore bird with the beak of an oversized sandpiper and unusual red and greenish markings. This one would have to wait for identification until I could get home and feed the image into Merlin, my bird ID application. Eventually I would learn that this was a white-faced ibis… another canyon first! Further investigation indicates that this species as well as the cormorant are expanding their range as climate change warms the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains.

Eventually the osprey flew over, but my equipment let me down on this encounter and I was not able to acquire focus lock as the great hawk circled overhead. Hopefully it won’t be long before the much anticipated Canon R7 mirrorless upgrade to the 90D is available and focus issues will be a thing of the past! I understand the new animal eye focus is quite incredible!

High winds often made audio impossible for the video I was shooting, but I still managed to get a few seconds of footage of the new visitors to the canyon, I hope you enjoy the short video on my channel!

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Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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3 thoughts on “New Species in the Canyon

  1. Hi Steve,
    Yep I understand throttling back on the travel. Been spending my time at Manitou Lake which is only 7 miles away. A lot easier on the gas tank. We have osprey, eagles (one with a transmitter on his back), herons, beavers, mink, a flock of ibis, 9 pelicans, belted kingfishers, a moose and baby—although I’m just seeing daily tracks…. So if you are in town give it a whirl. That’s probably just as far away as the canyon from Victor. Gene and I are still enjoying your posts. Jamie

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