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 outย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Elk in a Winter Wonderland

We had a pretty good snow last night and I know nothing brings out the elk like fresh snow! It was already getting close to sunrise so I scrambled to grab my camera and suitable clothing and ran out the door. Had to do a little shoveling in order to get out but I still managed to make it to the trailhead only 15 minutes or so after sunrise.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

The second I set foot on the trail I regretted leaving my snowshoes at home. There was only an inch or two at my house, but up here another thousand feet it looked like three our four. But I had to beat that guy with his dogs to the top of the ridge in time to get plenty of pictures before he and his dog showed up to chase away all the wildlife. I was hoping the deer would be hanging around the tall grass at the top where I could get a nice closeup… but they weren’t there.

Young Elk Cow

I looked across the valley and there was the entire herd of elk… grazing and napping lazily in the morning sunshine on the hillside ๐Ÿ™‚ I stopped to snap a few images and then devised a plan to get closer. I would climb to the the edge of the woods and sneak around the south end where I might be able to find a vantage point while remaining undetected until I was right in front of them. Much to my surprise… as I was plotting my next moves, a lone young elk cow ran right past me. I don’t know how she had managed to become so far separated from the herd but she was definitely in a hurry to reunite with her friends! I had time to snap a couple of shots as she made her way past and then took a few more as she galloped across the valley toward a couple of her companions that were also intent upon rejoining the main herd.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

My plan mostly worked, except that the elk had already moved on up the mountainside. However I was able to get much better shots than I had from across the valley. I snapped a few and then began to move slowly toward the huge beasts. In seconds they detected my presence and began to make their move over the top of the mountain. I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer so I stopped and shot whatever I could. The groups of elk within the herd stopped occasionally to look at me which gave me opportunity for some nice group shots.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

Eventually they had all moved over the mountain and I was faced with the fact that what I had intended to be a short trek around the loop trail had now developed into a significant back country adventure. The snow was fairly slick and a steep descent down the slippery mountain was ahead of me. I wished I at least had worn my ice trekkers, but they remained strapped to my backpack which I had left in the truck ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Fortunately my trekking pole proved enough on this day to anchor my steps and enable a safe descent to the dirt trail below. I will not be making that mistake again, the snowshoes will be taking up permanent residence in the backseat of my truck for the remainder of the winter!

A great view of the Sangre de Cristo Range came into view and I stopped for a few of the fresh snow, including this cool pano image ๐Ÿ™‚

Beautiful Snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains

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 mountains the day after a big Colorado snowstorm

Christmas in the Wilderness

Well I have to say it was a pretty darn good Christmas… Not the traditional kind of course, but a good one out in the woods with the furry and feathered critters. It was really tempting to just stay home and watch Christmas movies, but I guess that’s not how I roll. So I scraped the frost off my windshield and headed over to

Mule Deer in the Pike National Forest

my usual trailhead. Along the way, just as the sun was just barely coming up over the mountains to the east, shining right on a pair of cute doe mule deer peering out at me from the forest over a fence. Thinking these might be the only deer I was going to see all day long, I stopped and snapped a couple of portraits of them as they looked at me with great curiosity.

The hike itself yielded nothing but some good exercise so I decided to move on to Eleven Mile Canyon. On that drive I had the opportunity to jump out and snap a few images of two red-tailed hawks perched on power poles along the highway. The second one took a leisurely flight over my head, allowing for a couple of in flight shots ๐Ÿ™‚ By this time I was feeling pretty lucky… Images of red-tails in the bank already and I wasn’t even at my intended destination yet ๐Ÿ™‚

Red-tailed hawk in the beautiful blue Colorado sky.

Finally at the canyon, I’m getting a pretty good idea where in the six mile stretch of river it is that the eagles like to do their fishing.ย  Below the dam is completely frozen over now, so my old standby location for eagle watching is no longer available. About five miles in the river widens out and rounds a bend. So I just drove in slowly with that destination in mind while scanning both sides of the river for deer, American Dippers and raptors perched on branches above open water.

Bald eagle looking for fish in the Platte River below in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Seeing nothing along the way my search grew more intense as I neared the bend, and then… there he was! Perched majestically on a dead branch above the river he watched the ducks and slowly moving water below. I got out and aimed my long lens at the great bird and watched. He cocked his head left and right and stared intently at the water. Using the hood of my truck to steady the camera I snapped a few of him on the branch before moving in closer along the river bank for a better angle. Eventually the majestic bird looked right at me, signaling that I was getting too close… So I grabbed one more capture and then retreatedย  back to my truck.

Eventually he took flight, perhaps to find a more successful fishing hole. I drove the rest ofย  the way to the dam and turned around for the return trip. Just before reaching the bend again I spotted another red-tailed hawk on a tree top. I knew I wasn’t going to have long for this capture so I readied the camera before getting out. And I was right, I got off one maybe two shots and then the handsome hawk was airborne, rising rapidly out of camera range and over the mountains to the east.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

And then I spotted the bald eagle again, perched on another dead tree just a few yards down from where he was before. This time there was no need to leave the truck and I used it for a hide as I steadied the camera on the hood once again. Again he flew after a bit, this time right toward me! And I was ready with camera settings for a bird in flight. I followed him with the view finder, snapping in high speed until my buffer was full.ย  The pictures looked good on the back screen but it wasn’t going to be until I was home at the computer before I would know for sure!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

I decided not to try to follow him again, I already had almost 300 images to sort through! Christmas day was rapidly winding down and I wanted to get home before dark,ย  so satisfied with my digital Christmas presents I decided it was time to pack it in ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

Red-tailed hawk in the beautiful blue Colorado sky.

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

My Happy Place

Decided to take the long route on my trail today… the one that takes me up to “my happy place”, the high ridge where there are no vestiges of civilization, no other people, no sound, just nature in all her glory ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not an easy climb… first there is the straight up the mountain trail from the parking lot to the top of the first

Pike National Forest Scenery

ridge, then a steep trek through the snow and dense forest to the top of what I call the Mount of Broken Dreams and finally another steep ascent to the top of Grouse Mountain. There are abandoned gold mines at the top which make nice wind breaks so I like to take a break there and just enjoy the spectacular scenery.

I had hoped to see some wildlife to photograph along the way, but today there was nothing. A couple of sparrows hiding from me to avoid having their pictures taken, but that was it! I haven’t seen the dusky grouse in a long time, I wonder if they migrate or hibernate? Maybe they have moved to a more friendly elevation. I have high hopes of someday finding an owl in the forest but so far I have no sign that there might actually be one there… just the hope. With no wildlife to photograph, I decided on these two landscapes to at least show theย  beauty and ruggedness of the Pike National Forest. Visible is the rugged terrain in this part of the Pike National Forest with the stunning beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background.

Pike National Forest Scenery

Even though I didn’t see any wildlife I always enjoy the time of solitude and connection with my Maker, and a bit of exercise can never be a bad thing!

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!