Journey into the Clouds

Snowing again for the I don’t know how many days in a row… I was trying to figure out what to do today while actually considering taking a day off and staying inside. Finally I made up my mind to just go out and shovel a bit and clear the snow off my truck so that I could go somewhere if I could ever figure out what to do. Once I was dressed and out I decided to just go visit my local trail and see how amazingly beautiful the trees of the high country forest might be on this cold dreary spring morning.

High Country Snow

Once on the trail it came to me that the key to finding something rewarding to do in this beautiful state of Colorado is just getting out the door. Once you are out in the great outdoors it doesn’t really matter what you have decided to do. Being outside in these amazing mountains is reward enough. Anything after that is a bonus. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting the same trail for the millionth time… it looks different every time you go. You never know what you are going to find. You could see some amazing cloud formations, a herd of elk, deer, a coyote hunting, a bald eagle or a red-tailed hawk.  If that doesn’t happen you might discover a new species of bird to add to your lifetime sightings collection!

As for me today, I wound up at my usual trail… I didn’t want to drive very far as the weather forecast was calling for a significant amount of snow and I don’t like to take chances with bad weather on the road. I began my climb up the hill and decided that at a minimum the trees covered in a beautiful mantle of white were going to be a great subject for today. I put my camera on a 650th of a second with auto aperture and ISO. I knew the bright white snow would affect the meter so I set my exposure compensation to +1 and snapped a test shot.  Then I wrapped my camera and lens in my trusty rain shield and headed up the hill.

High Country Snow

Amazingly at the summit I noticed that I was actually inside the storm clouds. The weather app indicated that it wasn’t snowing but a quick glance around proved definitively that was not the case at this elevation. This is often the case when you find yourself high enough to be in the clouds. I could see them swirling around me so I attempted to capture some of that action on video. I captured some idea of the effect but even video didn’t do the wonder of the scene justice!

As a bonus for the day I managed to capture a couple of images of deer and a red-tailed hawk in the snow. All in all I have to say I am quite happy I decided to just go outside… with or without a plan!

High Country Snow

Again there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the great blue heron!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Deer in Snow

They Know More than You Think

I am continually amazed at the level of advanced thinking exhibited by even the least of God’s creatures. Yesterday while out on my photo trek I spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I pulled my truck up so that it would be hidden behind a boulder where the bird would be unable to see me exit the door. However I was surprised to discover that the great bird had somehow been spooked and had flown off. Glancing around a bit, I saw him further upstream, as I wondered how he had become spooked. So I walked upstream until I had a clear shot through the reeds. Once satisfied that I had captured a nice image I moved further upstream and captured a few more images while the heron remained still.

Great Blue Heron

I continued my approach until I was directly across from the great bird where I continued my photography. I was fairly surprised that he didn’t fly. He was obviously aware of my presence, yet he remained still. I spotted a path across a shallow channel in the river and was able to access a sand bar that took me even closer where I was able to capture the best images of a Great Blue Heron of my entire career.

It was there that I discovered the explanation for the beautiful aquatic bird’s strange behavior. As I stood watching him a great shadow passed over which didn’t go unnoticed by the heron. This is also where my understanding of animal intelligence increased dramatically. The bird saw the shadow on the ground, but he looked up… He knew the threat was not from the shadow on the ground but from the terror in the sky above, in the form of the deadly talons of a massive eagle. There are fishermen lining the banks of this river from top to bottom so the heron understands that people are not a big threat in this environment. He was willing to take his chances with me a few yards away, but as he worried about the eagle he moved a few feet back from the bank into a little cave where he couldn’t be spotted from above.

This exhibits some fairly advanced thinking for an animal, not to mention a bird! First he has to understand the concept of a shadow and the source of the shadow. Then he has to be able to prioritize his threats and take evasive action. He understands that if he is able to block a line of sight from above, the eagle who is looking at the ground for prey will not be able to see him. He has identified a threat and made a plan to evade the threat while tolerating a large foreign being much larger and closer than the eagle above. I find this quite astonishing.

Animals experience joy, grief, fear and pain. If you have ever seen eagles dance in the sky, seen the joy of a wolf pack when a new litter of pups is introduced or listened to the mournful cry of a cow who has had her calf ripped from her side you would know this.

As long as we continue to elect greedy unprincipled men and women to our highest offices, people who’s god is money, who worship on the altar of power for the sake of power, no progress toward higher ideals in our law will be possible.

It’s time for this country to give our four footed and feathered creatures the respect and compassion they deserve. It’s time for America to join the few European countries that have recognized this and given sentient being status to their wildlife and livestock. This would go a long way toward the elimination of trophy hunting and trapping as sport in this country.

Again there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the great blue heron!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

A Wildlife Photography Smorgasbord

I wasn’t sure what I would encounter this morning as I made the familiar trip to Eleven Mile Canyon. I knew that shooting the eagles and osprey was going to be an iffy proposition with both species in the midst of their brooding

Herd of Elk

and hatching season. I always look for elk and deer as I pass the beautiful Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Even though they are rarely spotted, large herds of the magnificent beasts reside there and I always hope to see them.

As I neared the monument I spotted a couple of elk cows out in the open and quickly found a place to pull over. Much to my surprise there were many more scattered around the meadow, all heading my way in a big hurry! Not sure why they were in such a hurry, I guess they just didn’t want to be left behind. I looked across Teller 1 to the west to see what they were moving towards and spotted the bulk of the main herd already waiting on that side. I just started shooting as many of the little groups as I could get my camera focused on… I know these moments are over as quickly as they begin. Later I wished I had shot a little video footage, but the still pictures are my bread and butter and they are often all I have time for.

Bald Eagles at the Nest

Eventually all the animals were on the west side of the highway, relaxing and feeding in a thick patch of reeds as they meandered toward the dense forest to the west. I wanted a capture of the entire herd but by this time all the beasties were facing away from me.

As I approached the entrance to the canyon I noticed that both bald eagles were in the nest so I stopped for a couple of images and some video as they cackled and squawked about something. We now have at least three great blue herons on the lower stretch of river but they were too far away for a meaningful image. A few merganser ducks, a couple of mule deer and some red-winged blackbirds rounded out the big variety of wildlife that were out enjoying a beautiful Colorado spring morning.

I went back to check on the osprey but there was little action at the nest… mama is sitting deep in the nest on the eggs and papa osprey is back on his regular perch high on the ridge to watch for threats, something he seems to have a great amount of patience for! I watched for a while but the cold wind blowing over the ice water of the South Platte River was more than I could handle for very long!

Mule DeerAgain there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the eagles!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Merganser Ducks

How to Win an Argument

As I’m sitting here in my favorite spot along the river waiting for the wildlife situation to develop, it occurs to me that I’ve learned a valuable bit of wisdom in my years upon this earth. An idea is more like a seed than a hammer.

Autumn Color in Eleven MileIf you have an idea and you know you’re right, just say your piece and walk away. If you stay around and bludgeon people with it many will become angry and stop listening. Use your idea like a hammer and it will be like a seed planted on stone. No matter how hard you try to pound it in, it will never take root.

If you just plant your idea properly with faith and patience, like the seed of a plant or flower it will take root. Remember, even the mighty oak tree starts with a tiny acorn.

The seed may take longer than the hammer, but the end result is more fruitful.

Magnificent Wildlife of Colorado

Another stunning day with the Colorado wildlife in Eleven Mile Canyon. The main goal was to capture some images of our newly arrived amazing pair of osprey but it was fairly dark in their part of the canyon just after sunrise so Kevin and I decided to drive on upstream in search of the bald eagles. As we neared eagle territory Kevin spotted a large bird in some

Great Blue Heron

beautiful boulders lining the banks of the South Platte River. We quietly pulled behind some reeds and slowly and stealthily exited the truck. The bird it turns out was a huge Great Blue Heron, which appeared to be holding his position for us. We were able to snap off a few shots before the majestic water bird flew a few feet to another spot where we were also able to approach behind some cover and capture a few more before he decided to move on. We searched downstream for him but were never able to locate him again.

We continued upstream in an unsuccessful search for the eagles before deciding to reverse course and go down to observe the osprey. As we neared the osprey nest I noticed a small herd of mule deer crossing the stream that fortunately paid little attention to us and continued their slow passage across the beautiful blue water. What a bonus sighting that was! Deer in the water are one of my favorite subjects 🙂

Mule Deer in the South Platte

Seconds later we spotted a red-tailed hawk circling overhead. It was a scramble to exit the truck and get in some shots before the formidable raptor circled higher and higher and quickly out of range of our 400mm lenses. Luckily I did get a presentable image out of the encounter 🙂

As we neared the osprey nest it became apparent that both of the amazing raptors were in the nest, and there they remained while we readied our cameras and moved into position for some shots. Eventually the papa bird took flight and lit on a dead tree far above the nest. Fortunately we were able to grab a couple captures of him against the blazing blue Colorado sky before he circled high and out of range. I tried a couple of shots of him on the branch far away, but he was just a speck, too small in the frame for a picture.

Wilson's Snipe

Finally we decided to go back to the canyon entrance and check on the eagles at the nest . We believe that the eaglets have hatched due to the mother’s attentiveness in the nest below her. Surprisingly both of the nesting pair were attending to the nest at the time and I was able to catch this rare capture of the pair together. And now that I’m here working on the computer I have discovered an exciting development! What I thought was an ordinary picture of a female red-winged blackbird is actually a lifetime first for me! An image of a Wilson’s Snipe 🙂 I never cease to be amazed at the variety of life calling that beautiful canyon home!

Bald Eagles at the Nest

I couldn’t fit the full beauty of the day into a single blog post but please feel free to view the rest on my Instagram page for the best of the day and also where there are also tons of pictures from my other photographic adventures! Please remember to follow my page if you enjoy the content and want to be sure not to miss any updates!

Also here on my YouTube channel is a beautiful and touching video of the osprey on the day that they returned 🙂 Also please be sure to subscribe to my channel and help it grow!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Osprey in Flight

Happy Easter 2021

Easter, my favorite holiday… and probably the most important day in Christendom, to me even more important than Christmas. It is the celebration of the resurrection, the transformation from man to King sitting on the throne at the right hand of God. For me it is usually a day of peace, while everyone else is scurrying around for the semi-annual trip to church to show off new dresses and three piece suits I have His magnificent creation mostly to myself.

This morning at sunrise there was no wind, total silence save for the chirping of happy birds greeted me at the summit of my favorite mountain. The weather today is beautiful, the sun shining with the temperature in the low 40’s. We’ve had so few nice days this spring, bitter cold and snow were the rule for the entire month of March and now finally it seems like spring has set in for the long haul. Perfect conditions to walk and contemplate the magnitude of the gift that we were given on the cross that day.

Dark-eyed Junco

A few birds are starting to arrive at the higher elevations, including a good sized flock of robins joyfully flitting from high elevation shrub to shrub. Unfortunately they were moving much to fast for my camera to focus on so I was just satisfied to watch and enjoy the advent of the new season. As the trail wound it’s way down in elevation a few more birds began to appear, although not the plethora of song birds that will populate the open space as the spring turns to summer.

I spotted some kind of ground sparrow foraging for bugs and grasses on the forest floor that I thought I might get a shot of. So I fastened my camera to my monopod, set my shutter speed to 1/1600th of a second and the aperture to F8. and waited. Soon he and his diminutive friends were comfortable with my presence and drew near. I watched for them to position themselves just right in the sun and snapped a few pictures.

Now that I am home on the computer I have learned that these little sparrows are actually dark-eyed junco… who knew? I am continually amazed at the variety of sparrow alone we have up here in the mountains, not to mention the vast variety of song birds and raptors we have here in Colorado. Up until last summer I was blissfully unaware that we had anything but the ordinary sparrow. Since then I have been enjoying the assistance of a great little free phone app developed by Cornell Labs called Merlin. It’s a wonderful little tool that allows you to just show it a picture and it will quickly return what it believes to be a match.

Anyway, I hope you all are having a wonderful  and blessed Easter.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Springtime in the Rockies Video

Check out my new video, Springtime in the Rockies! Includes some great footage of our osprey nesting pair, a juvenile bald eagle, a great  blue heron, red-winged blackbirds and more! Please don’t forget to click the thumbs up and subscribe buttons if you enjoy my content!

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Both Osprey are Home

I was relieved this morning to see that both osprey have made it  back home to Colorado 🙂 As I passed the nest I noted that one of the great raptors was resting comfortably in the nest and I scanned the mountainside for the male

Osprey Nesting Pair

osprey’s favorite trees. I didn’t see him so I just kept going, hoping for an eagle sighting further up the canyon. But after driving only a few feet I spotted a large bird headed toward me from upstream. I leapt out of the truck and grabbed for my camera but I was way too late for any hope at getting a picture. However as the white bird flew over I was able to verify that it was the male osprey headed back to the nest with a large trout in his formidable talons 🙂

The sighting changed my plans for the day and I found a good parking place with a clear view of the nesting pair. The female osprey has been busy preparing her nest with soft materials from the marshy area downstream so with the male back in the area the two got right down to business. Not too long after I began to observe them they began their mating ritual so I imagine now all we have to do is wait and there will be young osprey to add to the mix in a few weeks.

Osprey Nesting Pair

I noticed the steep trail leading up to my favorite viewing area is mostly clear of snow and ice now so I made the climb with my big carbon fiber tripod and fluid head for steady video and still images. I watched for about an hour as they came and went and eventually just sat together in the sun relaxing, seemingly quite happy to be back at their home high above the beautiful South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon.

I should have a video ready to go in a couple days, which I will amend this post to include. And here is that video! Also please be sure to subscribe to my channel and help it grow!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Osprey Nesting Pair

They’re Back !!!

I’ve been checking for a month now and finally… they’re back! The osprey have completed their four thousand mile semi-annual migration from Central America back to their breeding site at Eleven Mile Canyon, Colorado 🙂 As I entered the canyon I was disappointed to see that there were no osprey in the nest. It looked just as cold and lonely as it has all winter so I just kept driving with the intent on going up the canyon to look for the bald eagles

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

But wait… what is that, on the tip top of a dead tree way on top of the ridge. I stopped and got out with the camera and trained my long lens on the speck standing out against the blue sky.  It looked like a bird but I was unable to ascertain what kind so I snapped a picture that I knew wouldn’t be any good, but I could zoom in on the LCD screen and maybe see some more detail. Indeed it was an osprey, I could see the unmistakable stripe on his face. I assumed since he was so high just watching over the valley, that he might be the male as that is the behavior we came to know him for.

From last summer I remembered that he was patient, capable of sitting on that perch for hours at a time without moving. So I decided to continue on to search for the bald eagles. It wasn’t long before I spotted Speckles sitting in a tree looking intently at the river for a fish. He wasn’t quite as jumpy as he has been lately so I was able to get a few captures and some video footage as well. Eventually he flew and took up another position in the trees. Up to this point all I had been able to capture was him on the perch. Both times he flew it was into the trees with no chance of a picture.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Finally I spotted him in a  very unusual location. He had taken up a perch on a tiny tree on top of the rocks above the tunnel. The lighting didn’t look very good so I was a bit disappointed but decided to stop and watch anyway. He remained a good long time and as I watched I realized that if he did take flight it would likely be right at me, a rare opportunity for sure! So I shot a few seconds of video footage before deciding to concentrate fully on the impending launch. Eventually my patience paid off and the great raptor took flight, just as I expected… right at me. He was even looking straight at me as his flight leveled off and the upward trajectory began.

Another highlight of the eagle hunt occurred up near the big dam. I spotted two large birds flying together in what appeared to be joyous play. A closer view had me hoping that I was witnessing the golden eagle finding a mate. Not so, however the news is good anyway, it appears that two juvenile baldies have decided to take up residence in the canyon. Probably the offspring of the two nesting pairs residing at each end of the canyon.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

My thoughts then returned to the osprey. I figured enough time had passed that the beautiful male might be done with his sentry duty at the top of the ridge and there might be some action closer to the nest. As I neared the nest I was happy to see  what I believe to be the female busy working on their abode in preparation for the mating season. I shot a few seconds of video and snapped a few images from the truck and then climbed the icy hillside on the opposite side of the river, at least as far as I dared given the less than safe condition of my usual perch on a rock high above the canyon floor.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

The mother osprey was active on this day, flying back and forth with sticks to fortify the nest, battered from the harsh Colorado winter. I was blessed to get captures of her approach, soaring in the sky and landing in the nest, all within an hour or so. I never did see the two birds at the same time but considering the behavior I witnessed, I’m pretty sure they are both back. Anyway, I am looking forward to a summer of entertainment from their antics, hoping they are able to raise two healthy offspring from nest to flight in late August.

To go along with this blog post I have recorded one of my better videos, including my trips up and down the canyon, the eagles and the osprey. I hope you enjoy it 🙂 And if you wouldn’t mind, please hit the thumbs up and the subscribe buttons to help my Youtube channel to grow! Also in anticipation of hundreds of new osprey images that I will be taking this summer I have created a new gallery on my website dedicated to these amazing raptors! Just click to enter the gallery and then click on your favorite image to view product options and pricing.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon