A cold quiet sunrise greeted me at Eleven Mile Canyon. One of my favorite places for wildlife photography was formerly teeming with life through spring and summer but on this crisp autumn morning the river was silent. There were no herds of deer gathering in the clearing on the opposite bank of the South Platte River, no beaver hard at work in the reeds and no birds chirping. The only sound was that of the gurgling river on it’s journey through the Rocky Mountains and across Nebraska to join the Mighty Missouri.
As the sun arose to greet the icy pristine water, plumes of steam swirled around and combined with the fog forming from above. It was a beautiful tranquil scene, a fitting greeting to the changing seasons, autumn and the relentless approach of the Rocky Mountain Winter. As the morning sunlight conquered the darkness a lone bald eagle greeted me from far above, intently watching over the scene from her perch in the treetops.
Eventually I decided to venture deeper into the canyon hoping for signs of life along the roaring whitewater, or perhaps near the placid pool above that. Only the sound of the rushing water greeted me as I strode past the home of the peregrine falcons, perhaps they have already embarked upon their annual southward migration.
As I neared the osprey nest the incessant chirping of the juvenile osprey was conspicuously absent, the nest high above cold and empty. The two young raptors had been spending a lot of time watching over shallow waters in a meadow upstream so I just kept walking, hoping for one more chance to photograph the majestic creatures.
Finally, a lone American dipper greeted me at the prime fishing spot… Hopping around on the rocks, occasionally jumping into the ice cold water in search of sustenance. I whiled away the time observing the shenanigans of the energetic little bird, trying over and over for the perfect capture as I awaited the return of the osprey.
I repeated scanned the valley above and below for the osprey hoping to see their triumphant return from a fishing trip, prey firmly in the grasp of their mighty talons. But the moment did not come, the treetops remained silent, the river in sole possession of the tiny birds of autumn. It appears that the cold snowy weather that enveloped Colorado earlier in the week has convinced them that it was time to begin their odyssey southward to the warm waters of Central America where they will spend two to three years maturing and gaining in strength and skill before once again venturing north in search of a mate and suitable breeding ground.
Vaya Con Dios my beautiful feathered friends, may He watch over you and keep you safe in your travels. I look forward to your return to this magnificent canyon someday.
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