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

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

When Eagles Soar

It was another excellent day with the eagles… My original intent was to just go for a hike on my trail close by, but the second I arrived so did my nemesis with his wildlife chasing dogs. So I jumped back in my truck and took the four wheel drive road to the summit to make sure there wasn’t any wildlife there, and indeed I didn’t miss anything. So I drove back out and decided to head to my backup location and better photo location, Eleven Mile Canyon. It was my hope that I would find wildlife there, especially the eagles. I’m also watching the osprey nest with great anticipation!

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

All in all I would have to say it probably worked out for the best, I had several eagle sightings and some great captures! Plus there was a bonus at the end as I spotted a small herd of mule deer feeding on an island in the river. I stopped to grab a couple of captures and the gentle creatures didn’t seem to mind my presence so I was able to get some fairly closeup images. And much to my surprise the little herd decided to actually cross the icy river… an event that I came close to missing. Fortunately I was able to scramble up the trail a bit and get into position to capture most of the beautiful beasts in the water 🙂

Be sure to check out my video of the day which has the best clips and pictures of the day included. Also please be sure to click the notify, like and subscribe buttons if you enjoy my content and want to help my YouTube channel!

Mule Deer Doe in River

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!

This blog post is not sponsored. Any equipment used in the production of this post was purchased by myself on my own volition.

 

 

 

 

Eagles Hawks Hiking and a Frozen River

Enjoy my new YouTube video of a day of hiking and wildlife including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and the frozen South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Please hit the subscribe button if you enjoy the content and want to see more!

_MG_8555As 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!

Flight of the Eagle

The plan for the day was to capture bald eagles in flight… Eleven Mile Canyon looked like the most likely place for that to happen. A high wind warning looked to foil my plan, but as it turned out the wind in the canyon wasn’t nearly as ferocious as  the wind out in the high prairie beyond the southern Colorado foothills.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

I didn’t spot my first eagle until I was probably six miles into the canyon, a handsome fellow standing on a branch in the shade high above the South Platte River. Unfortunately he was in a terrible location  for a photograph so I decided to just shoot a bit of video, and a bit was all I was going to get. Seconds after getting out of the truck the great bird took flight. I was able to capture a few seconds of his flight before he disappeared around the bend.

I drove upstream a mile or so and then decided to turn around and look for the original character.  Again, I found him in an impossible location for photography, on rivers edge with the sun directly behind him. I did my best and bagged a couple of captures before he moved on to his next location where finally he had found a place in perfect morning light

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually the raptor took flight again and by this time the hour for soaring high into the sky had come, there would be no more closeup imagery on this day. So I decided to drive  back to the entrance and check on the nest that one of the two eagle pairs residing in the canyon calls home. When I arrived the female was in the nest, obviously disturbed by a couple of crows circling over her. Normally the eagle mom has a great amount of tolerance for the smaller birds but now with nesting season drawing near she has run out of patience.

She left the nest and chased the smaller birds with vengeance. The had no desire to take the eagle on and quickly left the area. I took that as my cue to call it a day, the wind at the canyon entrance was horrendous and I was certain all the eagles would be hunkering down until the windstorm was over.

Bald Eagle Chase

At each stop I captured a little video, enough to make a nice record of my day, I hope you enjoy it! Please take the time to subscribe if you enjoy my work and it will also really assist my channel to grow if you would also hit the thumbs up button!

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!

Icy South Platte River

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

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