Epic Battle in the Sky

Every day I go out I think is more amazing than the day before and today didn’t disappoint! Yesterday I wanted to get some motion  blur images of  the river flowing through the snow in Eleven Mile Canyon but by the time we were done

Icy South Platte River

with photographing the eagles the sun was too high in the sky, and that much contrast is not conducive to that kind of imagery.

So today my plan was to get back to the canyon early and photograph the river before the sun cleared the ridge on the east side, with the hope that I would spot some more bald eagles fishing along the banks of the South Platte. As I neared the entrance to the canyon I cast a quick glance over at the nest to check on the action there. It appeared that the great birds had already left the area so I quickly purchased my pass and entered the recreation area.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Along the way I stopped a few times to shoot some particularly scenic spots along the river with my 24-105 and nine stop ND filter. I began to watch the treetops more carefully as I neared the bend, which is the eagle’s favorite place for fishing. Bang… sure enough there was a beautiful bald eagle perched high on their favorite dead tree. I pulled over and readied the camera for eagle photography, had to completely reset shutter speeds, apertures, the shutter drive mode and attach the 100-400mm lens and 1.4x converter. I carefully exited the truck, being careful not to startle the huge raptor too much.

I took a few shots of him on the perch even though he was in an inopportune spot with a branch right in the way, just so I could make sure I had my exposure compensation dialed in. There wasn’t much light yet so I was stuck with ISO values that I wasn’t too happy about, but sometimes in wildlife photography early in the morning you just have to deal with it.

Bald and Golden Eagles

After a minute or two the majestic raptor took flight and fortunately I was well prepared for the event. I probably got about half a dozen really nice ones before he soared high into the sky. I was busy tracking his movement hoping to discover where he might be going next, when much to my surprise he circled back towards me! I quickly reset the exposure compensation to +0 and checked my histogram. He soared away and then circled back once again… but this time with a few friends! It was difficult to tell what all kinds of birds had joined in but I’m pretty sure I spotted three bald eagles in the sky along with what I thought was a bald eagle juvi that continues to reside with his family.

However it appeared that the eagles were actually trying to drive away the golden colored one and as I zoomed in with the display I discovered that the odd one was actually the golden eagle that I see occasionally. I knew that guy was big, but until I saw him next to the baldies I had no idea how big! That bird is mammoth! And the group circled several times giving me a chance to include more than one of the great hunters in a single frame! Eventually the epic battle in the sky came to an end and the all the eagles soared away out of range of my camera. Unfortunately the light was on the opposite side so my captures are a bit silhouetted, but I still consider myself fortunate to have seen such a spectacle!

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

It’s difficult to put into words what it was like to see and hear this stunning encounter. This was one of those times when it is all over that I find myself just standing there thanking God for blessing me so. And believe it or not, my day wasn’t over… I had one more excellent sighting of a red-tailed hawk and some great weather photography as our next winter storm rolled in over the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. All I can say is wow… what an epic morning!

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!

Sangre de Cristo Winter Storm

Eagles Preparing for Spring

For the second time this week I failed to find the eagles fishing in their usual spots upstream. I saw one flying high overhead on a fast track to somewhere else, but no eagles were perched on the dead trees along the banks of

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

the South Platte in Eleven Mile Canyon. I was considering a second run up the six mile road but thought I’d better check the nest at the entrance to the canyon before making another wasted trip.

Sure enough, the instant I passed the ranger station I spotted a bright white head in a tree along the river bank below the dam. I immediately pulled over and tried a couple of shots but he was simply too far away for a usable picture. When I pulled into the lower parking lot I spotted the second eagle and before I could get ready they were both in the air and unfortunately I missed the dive into the clear calm water for a fish. By the time I was ready to shoot, both of our nesting pair were back in the nest.

I decided to wander down to waters edge where I spent so much time last summer to see if I could even get down there through the snow, and also to try to get a better and closer shot. For some reason the snow has melted there and turned into a thick later of ice but I carefully stayed along the edge where it wasn’t quite as slippery and made my way down to the water. Much to my surprise the river has completely thawed at that spot in the river, and also above the dam where the osprey like to fish when they are not at their winter location south of the equator. I was fully decked out in my warmest winter gear today, expecting another brutal ordeal in the arctic wind tunnel, but as I stood on the banks of the river in the bright sunshine it actually felt like spring. I am so looking forward to the return of the osprey!

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

Fortunately for me the eagles were quite active today… they are busy adding on to their nest as they get ready for the hatching season 🙂 I assume it was the father eagle repeatedly flying over the hill out of sight to hunt for and bring back a stick for the nest. He would give it gently to his mate who would then carefully place it in the necessary place in the giant nest. After a bit papa eagle would make another trip and return after a few minutes with another prize. I was able to capture a few shots of him in the air and a couple of nice ones of them together on the nest, these being my favorites of the batch.

I was also able to get this nice video footage in which you can hear the eagles talking to each other, they seem pretty happy about the beautiful day and spring on the horizon 🙂 I hope you enjoy it 🙂

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!

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

A Bird in Hand

My original plan today was to hustle up the mountain and beat the elk to the summit where I would stealthily hide myself and photograph them when they came over the top. However just at sunrise I encountered a nice herd of mule deer at the top of the first mountain and had to stop and photograph them. It was such an

Mule Deer at Sunrise

amazing scene, the sun just coming up, the deer bathed in beautiful golden morning light, surrounded by fantastic scenery! I feared this interruption would make me late for the second summit and the elk but the old adage came to me… “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. So I stayed for as many pictures as I could gather. The deer were a little nervous and a couple of the does ran off but soon came back when the bucks decided the lush mountain grass was worth hanging around for.

And as it turns out  I was only eight minutes behind schedule for the elk, which weren’t there anyway. I have a lot of experience with mule deer behavior. You can usually count on them doing the same thing a few days in a row. They travel in a circle and show up in the roughly the same place each day at the same time. They do vary their path by a number of yards, I suppose to throw the mountain lions off track. By the time they are done with an area it is so tracked up that following them by smell would not be an easy task.

Mule Deer Sunrise

Elk however appear to have a much larger range. Once they pass by it may be several days or never that they show up again. So yesterday I was fortunate to see and film the elk at a distance but today I saw deer. A day with any wildlife is a good day, I might add 🙂

The trek through the dark forest was a tough today… I haven’t been through there since the last snow and it is starting to pile up in the shade of the tall pines! Soon I will be needing snowshoes to get through there, which will be an extra treat… nothing much that I like better than snowshoeing!

Mule Deer Doe

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

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!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Barr Lake Photo Adventure

Late December through February every year a growing population of American Bald Eagles gather in Barr Lake State Park Colorado to winter and search for mates. Kevin and I have been talking about making the journey up there for a couple of years now and finally we decided it was time to get it done!

Buck and His Doe in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

We started the day at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal though as there have been rumors of eagles gathering there as well. We didn’t see any eagles but there was a nice herd of mule and whitetail deer grazing on the dry winter grass surrounding the lake that cooperated with us for a few pictures. We also saw some kind of woodpecker banging out a meal high in the massive cottonwood trees along the lake. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of that little fellow so you will just have to imagine!

Northern Harrier

Eventually we pressed on to Barr Lake while sighting a red-tail hawk along the way. We got a few of him on a power pole, but beyond credit for the sighting of a raptor I’m not too thrilled with power pole images.  Once inside the park we spotted a northern harrier that we had seen back in the fall that appeared willing to cooperate with a few captures. I managed to get a couple of him soaring high in the beautiful blue Colorado sky, but no dramatic closeups.

Eagle Population at Barr Lake

It was a 1.3 mile trek around he south side of the lake where the state of Colorado has constructed a  beautiful gazebo for watching the eagles which were gathered along the far south and west side of the lake… unfortunately about 1,000 yards away. I had my 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter taking me out to 560mm of focal length, but even that was not enough to bring in very much detail. However it was quite a beautiful scene with the snow capped Colorado Rockies in the background. We saw a nesting pair in a huge cottonwood tree along with a few more mature and juvenile eagles standing on the shoreline of the scenic reservoir.

Geese at Barr Lake

The eagles were far outnumbered by a huge flock of  Canada Geese that looked like a cloud when they all took flight! I got a few still captures of the amazing scene but when I went to try to get video footage the silly waterfowl refused to cooperate 😦 Eventually we decided to spend the golden hour of sunset back at the Arsenal with the deer.

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

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!

Deer in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

On the Wings of Eagles

What an awesome day with the bald eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon! I drove in expecting to see them at the bend and just when I was getting worried that they weren’t going to be there I spotted one on the very top of a dead branch intently watching the placid water below. This particular stretch of river is a favorite for the raptors for it’s wide valley and slow moving water. I quietly parked and took up a position just on the other side of a bush so as not to bother the intrepid hunter too much.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

But man it was cold! I was only out for a few seconds and already my fingers and toes were burning. Soon I began to shiver and then there was no holding the camera still. I went back to the truck for my portable seat so that I could steady my elbows on my knees, and hopefully then the camera. And I waited… hoping to see the inevitable dive into the river for a fish. I watched for probably about a half an hour and then it happened. The eagle leapt off his perch and swooped downward. I fired off as many shots as I could hoping for a sharp image of the impact point. But he never got there… apparently he lost sight of his prey and just swooped back toward the sky.

I tried to watch where he went, packed up my gear and drove upstream… relishing the heat inside my vehicle! Eventually I spotted him again, this time on my side of the river… Luckily there was a large parking area so I situated the truck so that I could just aim out the window and shoot, without getting out into the cold. Soon I heard the call of an eagle on the other side… I spotted his mate high in the treetops watching the action from the other side of the river. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

train the camera on her from inside so I got out and braced my elbows on the hood of the truck. It wasn’t long before my fingers were once again frozen and burning… and I began to shiver uncontrollably. I tried to shoot some video and even the Image Stabilization feature of my lens was not able to overcome the onslaught of hypothermia. I just could not believe how cold it was!

The eagles took one more flight upstream where I was able to shoot a few more images before they flew on, apparently to their home out of sight. I hope somewhere along the line one of them was able to catch a fish so they have a good meal!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

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!

First Picture of 2021

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonI went out looking for hawks yesterday, without success… but today at Eleven Mile Canyon I had better luck. Got my first picture of the year as the bald eagles appeared over the South Platte River. The first one spotted was perched high in the tops of the pine trees, and he remained in place long enough for me to get my very first image of 2021 🙂

Eventually he took flight and I got a few more before he disappeared around the bend. The rest of the day was quite successful as well, with the capturing of numerous images of the proud birds in flight and perched in the trees above the bitterly cold South Platte River.

Bald Eagle 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!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon