The Trees are Silent

A week ago I saw an estimate that over one billion birds were in Colorado on the way to their winter shelters. The trees on top of my mountain were filled with bird song and I could see thousands of them of every variety, blue, yellow, gray and probably many others that my eye wasn’t fast enough to notice.

Mountain Bluebird

But yesterday the trees were silent. There were a few hardy winter birds preparing for the harsh Rocky Mountain Winter and a few mountain bluebirds hiding in the thick mountain grass. But for the most part the trees and the hills were quiet.

It won’t be long now and the leaves will be changing and snowflakes starting to fall on the peaks of the high country. I’m always sad to see summer go but in all honesty summer is the most difficult time for my photography. The mountains are constantly hidden by smoke and the animals are scattered over thousands of acres of wilderness. In the winter they gather in large numbers to the lower meadows and clearings where I can find and photograph them more easily. The deep Colorado snow extinguishes the fires and the bitter cold air can’t hold moisture like the heavy air of summer. The distant mountains are crystal clear and the sky is often filled with dramatic storm clouds drifting over the peaks. Winter is when I capture my best imagery.

But for today, it is the bluebirds that made themselves available to my lens. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies” and this year’s wildlife calendar “Colorado Wildlife 2023“!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt
 
 

Morning Surprise

Cooper's Hawk

So the plan today was to drive to the upper parking lot at the trailhead and beat the ‘shroomer to the upper meadows to see if I might find the elk herd before they retreat to the coolness of the dense forest. And of course maybe get pictures of the dusky grouse flock before her dog had a chance to scare them into the forest. There were no grouse but as I neared the edge of the forest I heard a strange call that required investigation. I eventually spotted the bird in a tree calling down to me. I had seen these before but always thought they were some kind of meadowlark or something. Not a tiny bird but not a big one either, bigger than a robin though. Anyway, I snapped a few pictures until the bird took off, and I continued on through the forest to look for elk.

Mule Deer Fawn

Alas, there were no elk on the summit but there were a few cute mule deer, including a doe with her curious fawn in tow. They stopped briefly to check me out and kept on walking. With my long lens I was able to photograph from a distance beyond their danger zone.

Upon arriving at my desktop I loaded up the interesting new bird and discovered it to be a Cooper’s Hawk. The All About Birds site provided by Cornell Labs identified the raptor for me including a few interesting facts about their lifestyle. They are a forest dwelling bird that feeds on other birds and migrate in the winter along with osprey to South America. According to ABCBirds.org , “Like so many other species, Cooper’s Hawks are harmed by habitat loss, which may limit suitable breeding habitat. Collisions with glass windows, turbines, and poorly lit communications towers also account for many deaths.” Just one more reason that I’m against the wholesale adoption of all those stupid windmills that don’t supply enough power to justify their damage to the landscape.

That the hawks eat other birds could explain the apparent shortage of song birds on my mountain this season! Well anyway, there is at least one nesting pair living in the dark forest, and maybe more. Now I can’t wait to get back up there for some more captures!

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies” and this year’s wildlife calendar “Colorado Wildlife 2023“!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt

Most Special Day of the Summer

Today will probably go down as the most special day of the entire summer. Last summer began tragically when the osprey nest in Eleven Mile Canyon was blown down in a storm with the loss of all three eggs. I saw the osprey occasionally throughout the summer but never both of them together. The literature says the nest is the glue that keeps an osprey pair together for life and if the nest is destroyed there is no guarantee that the pair will return as mates the next year. At the end of the season when the warmth of summer was  giving way to the cold of winter I was fortunate to be present when the pair met at a tree near the old nest, perhaps just as they were preparing for their 4,000 mile journey to their winter location in South America.  One of the birds was repeatedly bringing sticks back to the tree and dropping them on what looked like a good place to rebuild a nest. Some stayed in the tree and some fell on the ground, but it appeared like the one was trying to say to the other, this is where we are going to meet next year. Eventually it started to rain and the beautiful moment came to an end, but not before I got a nice video of the moment!

Osprey in Eleven Mile

Well this spring I was diligent to visit the site often near the end of April and the beginning of May. I was there when the first of the pair arrived, waiting faithfully at the chosen tree. I never did see a second osprey and there was no nest built this summer in that particular tree. Once again, I spotted a single osprey occasionally throughout the summer but never two together and I was never able to track down the location of a new nest. Osprey offspring begin to fly in August and by the first of September they are expected to be self sufficient. The parents appear to begin their migration about the first of September just to make sure the new ones are forced to gain strength and perfect their skills before the bad weather comes in and they too must migrate.

But the bad news was up until today I had not seen any sign of juvenile osprey in the canyon. I had almost given up, but today I had errands to run in the city and decided on a swing through the canyon on my way home. As I was driving upstream against the sun I spotted a bird in a tree over the river. At first I thought it was just a crow but I got out the binoculars to make sure. It was definitely not a crow, through the glare of the sun it was obvious the bird had a white head. I got out the camera and moved about a little trying to locate better light. A little better light revealed an osprey but still the scene was so severe I was unable to tell if it was an adult or a a juvenile. Suddenly I heard the familiar chirp of an osprey and a second raptor was flying upstream with a fish in tow. Soon both birds were flying together in a joyful dance in the sky and I was able to capture one of the my best images ever!

Eventually the pair landed in a tree nearby in much better light and I was able to capture a couple of nice portraits, revealing the fact that we now have two new osprey in the canyon 🙂 That means of course that the pair returned and built a nest somewhere else in the canyon, hatched two eggs and all is right with the world 🙂 I hope to visit the little ones a couple more times before they make the long trip south where they will remain for a couple of years before finding a mate for life and begin the circle of life anew .

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt

Coyote on the Hunt

First Elk of the Season

I arrived at the trailhead early this morning with the intention of taking the long trail through the woods and up to the second set of peaks, in hope of finding some deer or maybe even elk to photograph. The wily hawk was not on his perch this morning so there was no need to stop and waste time with him. I cleared the first summit I looked all over the clearing but found no sign of the large ungulates. As I traversed the summit I stomped around a bit hoping to see the dusky grouse, but no luck there either.

Bull Elk

So I trudged up the steep trail through the trees to the 11,000 foot level above the treeline. As I quietly neared the summit I noticed the aspen leaves shaking wildly at the forest edge. As stealthily as I could I cleared the summit and made my way around one of the old mine digs closer to the action. As I neared I could see a large brown animal, but only the top of his head and his ears. At first I thought it was a bear foraging for food so I was a bit nervous about approaching, but I needed to get a little closer to make sure.  Eventually more of the animal came into view and I was disappointed but also a little bit relieved to see that it was a big bull elk, not a bear.

Free Range Cattle

Unfortunately my camera was set up all wrong, configured for birds in flight as I passed through the grouse zone, and as the grouse sometimes occupy the edge of the forest above the treeline I had opted not to adjust any of the settings. So the shutter speed was set to high, tracking was off and animal eye focus was off. Single point focus would have been fine but I had a larger zone selected and when I tried to focus on the elk I kept hitting the weeds. Then I finally got a shot off and for the first time in my life, the sound of the shutter actually scared away my subject. So on my way down the mountain I fiddled around with my settings and took some shots for practice of the free range cattle that had gone down to the watering hole 🙂

Thinking that my chances were done for the day I shut the camera off to save battery power and was soon startled as a whole flock of dusky grouse was taking flight all around me. I tried my best to get the strap for the monopod off my wrist and turn on the camera but in the end all I could do was watch helplessly as the beautiful birds disappeared into the dense forest 😦

Red-tailed hawk

Luckily I did come away with the one image of the elk before the great beast drifted back into the cover of trees, but now I’m thinking I need to set up a couple of custom modes for quicker reaction. With three to work with I think I could use a birds in flight, large mammals, and maybe even long exposure landscape custom settings.

When I got back down the mountain the hawk was on his perch so I chased him around a while, but he proved too elusive for me once again. No good shots in flight for today (I’m not happy unless I can see eyeball detail). Anyway, I hope you enjoy the couple of images I did manage to capture!

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt

Outsmarted Again

So I’ve been tracking this red-tailed hawk for days, and for days he has avoided a successful capture of his image. Today was no different… as I pulled my truck into the trailhead parking lot I spotted the familiar fellow perched on a perfect power pole for a picture. His favorite pole is in a place where I can’t get close to him without climbing down in a hole and shooting straight up. If I climb the hill on the other side, the early morning light is shining on the opposite side and I’m only going to get a silhouette.

Red-tail Hawk

Today he was on a higher pole in a place where the trail approaches high from the southeast where he was in good light, and even better conditions if he took flight in his usual direction. He waited patiently while I climbed the hill and sat down in an advantageous position to prepare for the image. I pre-focused my 400mm lens with the 1.4x teleconverter attached and perfected the exposure. I sat and watched for a few minutes while snapping a couple of stills until he began to fluff his feathers in preparation for flight. I was totally ready when he took flight, exactly in the opposite direction, away from the light and directly behind a mass of power lines. foiled again 😦

I completed my hike over the summit without seeing any more birds close enough to photograph and headed on into Victor to check on the art gallery and then over to the Gold Camp Bakery for coffee and a muffin and a sandwich for lunch later on. A quick pass through Goldfield yielded nothing so I decided to give it up and head for home. But as I neared the trailhead parking again I once again spotted my nemesis in an even more advantageous position!

Red-tail Hawk

So I pulled in, attached the 2x teleconverter for an even closer view, and made my way slowly toward the formidable raptor. I assumed he would allow me to get a bit closer before taking flight so I didn’t pre-focus or get my exposure parameters ready. I looked up and spotted the great bird looking right at me when suddenly he took flight and dove straight at me in perfect light. My decision to use the 2x proved unfortunate as my frame was so small and focus so far out that I was unable to get him in the frame. I quickly adjusted my focal length so as to get him in the frame, but by then he was circling overhead mocking me 😦 He made several passes over me to take a good look but overhead captures are never going to equal a head on pass at close range.

In reality… the bird gave me every chance to get the picture this time and I blew it. Oh well… tomorrow is another day!

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt

Canon R7 and New Birds

I’ve been busy lately!!!! Setting up a new camera and shooting some new bird species! So I have upgraded to the Canon R7 from my old 90D and I’m loving it! The manual for this camera is 1000 pages long though so it has taken me a bit of time to get it all set up the way I like it! We went to Manitou Lake and Eleven Mile Canyon yesterday in hopes of getting some high ISO images to test the camera’s low light capability, plus I wanted to try out DXO Pure Raw on some noise.  In the process I captured some new  birds, according to Merlin anyway… Saw some red-breasted merganser ducks, a green-tailed towhee, and a flock of broad winged hawks!

It was great having the amazing animal eye focus on the R7 helping me with the in flight pictures… The old 90D focus system actually came from the ancient Canon 80D and it was a difficult beast to control. The focus points were so far apart that the camera would often lose tracking and just go completely out of focus. The R7 with it’s newer mirrorless technology uses a completely different focusing system that enables the entire screen for thousands of focus points. There is no losing the subject with that system! Unfortunately there wasn’t much action at the lake, just a few birds perched in the reeds, no osprey, herons or pelicans flying around.

Oh, and I like DXO Pure Raw but will stick with Topaz for it’s amazing flexibility and convenient workflow. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images!

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

A Big Day

It was truly a big day, starting early on Tuesday morning with a long drive up to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Area. Kevin and I had high hopes of getting some great pictures of the burgeoning snowy egret and blue heron populations. As we drove past the central lakes we spotted a good number of egrets wading along the shoreline so we stopped to capture a few images. Shortly thereafter an osprey surprised us with a fly over and a splash down. Fortunately for us it took the intrepid raptor a few tries before we finally captured him splashing down and flying away with a fish so big he had to carry it in both talons! It wasn’t until I was home on the computer that I discovered one of the birds we thought was the osprey flying over was actually a rare capture of a Black Crowned Night Heron.  We also were privileged to get some nice shots of the snowy egrets and double crested cormorants in action.

Soon the sun was getting high in the sky and the heat of the day convinced us to move on to Waterton Canyon for a bike ride in hopes that the bears would be coming down to the river for a swim. My first bike ride of the year was not an easy one, I definitely need to get in shape! We rode all the way to the caretaker’s house without seeing anything to shoot before stopping at the old dam structure for a look. Once I had shed my pack I noticed Kevin taking pictures of the water and I soon discovered that a hapless rattlesnake had somehow fallen into the river and was trying to get out by climbing the tall cement walls of the dam.  He would try for a while and then drift back in the gentle current before trying anew. A crowd soon gathered, including a couple of the park rangers and we feared that if he didn’t change strategy he would eventually drown. Luckily he began moving across the the dam toward our side of the bank and was eventually swept away by the current which carried the poisonous viper to safety.

My hat was not so lucky though, blown into the river by a strong gust where I helplessly watched it drift downstream. We spotted it a quarter of a mile downriver and rode a bit ahead to a spot I hoped to climb the bank and recover it from the shallow water. But while we were waiting for the hat we got word that there were bears spotted in the water downstream, which of course took priority over my hat, now presumed drowned.

Sure enough there were a couple of young bears frolicking along the opposite bank where we were able to capture a few images before the beautiful beasts scrambled up the steep embankment out of sight.

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Summer on the River

I haven’t been to the river in a while so I wasn’t sure what I might find early on this beautiful summer morning in Eleven Mile Canyon. As I neared the bird habitat I was fortunate to spot a couple of mule deer does making their way up the canyon walls after an early morning drink. I quickly set my camera to shutter priority mode with a 1000th of a second dialed in. Deer pictures usually work well with a +1/3 exposure compensation so that’s what I used. When I stopped the truck and aimed my lens out the window, the deer increased their pace but stopped to look back for a couple of nice portraits 🙂

Next I came across a beautiful great blue heron which I am quite happy stayed around a few seconds so I could get some pictures before taking flight. For the portraits I risked a little motion blur by setting the shutter speed to around a 500th of a second to allow for a lower ISO value and less noise, while quickly going to a 1600th of a second for in flight pictures when I  thought the great bird might take flight. I usually use a negative exposure compensation when shooting birds with some white feathers in their plume, but with the sun direction this time of year it worked out that +0 was the best value to use.

Finally as I was ready to exit the canyon I spotted yet another blue heron preening himself on the opposite bank. I decided to shoot a few seconds of video when I saw him do something I’d never seen a heron do before, he spread his wings like a giant buttercup, apparently in an effort to dry out his feathers in the warm morning sun. 

All in all it was a great day even though the canyon was soon to be invaded by the hordes of weekend fishermen.

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

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Breaking A Long Dry Spell

Pretty good morning out in the woods today, got some nice shots of birds and even a buck mule deer on the run. I can usually take a few landscape photos if I don’t see wildlife, but we’ve had such haze and smoke this summer that the distant mountains are barely visible. I’ve been to Eleven Mile Canyon a couple of times with no success and finally decided to just shoot whatever I happen to find on my local hikes.

Well today I got to shoot a magpie in flight, the male mate of the western tanager I saw yesterday, a Clark’s nutcracker and even the previously mentioned buck with fuzzy antlers well along to full growth later in the summer. Anyway, I hope you enjoy today’s batch of images 🙂

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Another New Bird!

I’m always amazed at the variety of birds I find on my simple mountain. Grouse Mountain is nothing special, it’s not high, not particularly scenic, and no more rugged than any other place. I often see sparrows and song birds and the occasional red-tailed hawk. And just when I think I’m about to get another picture of an ordinary sparrow or song bird I find out how little I know. The other day I thought I was just taking a picture of another goldfinch when I discovered that I had actually seen a female western tanager. Never even heard of the cute little bird, but here she is!

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