Deer Old Friends

Herd of Curious Deer

Not sure what the reason is but for some reason I have had my mountain to myself lately. For the better part of a year every time I arrive the trail has already been cleared of wildlife by people and their dogs but now that nicer weather has arrived I have been able to see my favorite deer herd, including my favorite bucks, the “Three Amigos”. As an added bonus, since mating season is not in progress they have a few does following along with them. Their antlers are just beginning to sprout now so that I can identify them as males and I am fortunate to witness the cycle of life in the mountains anew.

The Three Amigos

As a result of our unusually cold and snowy spring, the Sangre de Cristo continue to be adorned with their magnificent winter mantle of snow. Storm clouds hanging around the area throughout the last week have also added to the beauty of the scene and I have to say the last couple of days have been spectacular!

Today I was inspired to climb to the second highest peak in the area, unfortunately all I gleaned from the extra effort was a bit more exercise… which is OK! A little extra hiking never hurt anyone!

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel to watch videos of many of my adventures in the mountains, and if you wouldn’t mind I could use the thumbs up and a subscribe if you enjoy the content and want to help my channel!

Storms on the Sangre de Cristo

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.

Journey into the Clouds

Snowing again for the I don’t know how many days in a row… I was trying to figure out what to do today while actually considering taking a day off and staying inside. Finally I made up my mind to just go out and shovel a bit and clear the snow off my truck so that I could go somewhere if I could ever figure out what to do. Once I was dressed and out I decided to just go visit my local trail and see how amazingly beautiful the trees of the high country forest might be on this cold dreary spring morning.

High Country Snow

Once on the trail it came to me that the key to finding something rewarding to do in this beautiful state of Colorado is just getting out the door. Once you are out in the great outdoors it doesn’t really matter what you have decided to do. Being outside in these amazing mountains is reward enough. Anything after that is a bonus. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting the same trail for the millionth time… it looks different every time you go. You never know what you are going to find. You could see some amazing cloud formations, a herd of elk, deer, a coyote hunting, a bald eagle or a red-tailed hawk.  If that doesn’t happen you might discover a new species of bird to add to your lifetime sightings collection!

As for me today, I wound up at my usual trail… I didn’t want to drive very far as the weather forecast was calling for a significant amount of snow and I don’t like to take chances with bad weather on the road. I began my climb up the hill and decided that at a minimum the trees covered in a beautiful mantle of white were going to be a great subject for today. I put my camera on a 650th of a second with auto aperture and ISO. I knew the bright white snow would affect the meter so I set my exposure compensation to +1 and snapped a test shot.  Then I wrapped my camera and lens in my trusty rain shield and headed up the hill.

High Country Snow

Amazingly at the summit I noticed that I was actually inside the storm clouds. The weather app indicated that it wasn’t snowing but a quick glance around proved definitively that was not the case at this elevation. This is often the case when you find yourself high enough to be in the clouds. I could see them swirling around me so I attempted to capture some of that action on video. I captured some idea of the effect but even video didn’t do the wonder of the scene justice!

As a bonus for the day I managed to capture a couple of images of deer and a red-tailed hawk in the snow. All in all I have to say I am quite happy I decided to just go outside… with or without a plan!

High Country Snow

Again 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 great blue heron!

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.

Deer in Snow

They Know More than You Think

I am continually amazed at the level of advanced thinking exhibited by even the least of God’s creatures. Yesterday while out on my photo trek I spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I pulled my truck up so that it would be hidden behind a boulder where the bird would be unable to see me exit the door. However I was surprised to discover that the great bird had somehow been spooked and had flown off. Glancing around a bit, I saw him further upstream, as I wondered how he had become spooked. So I walked upstream until I had a clear shot through the reeds. Once satisfied that I had captured a nice image I moved further upstream and captured a few more images while the heron remained still.

Great Blue Heron

I continued my approach until I was directly across from the great bird where I continued my photography. I was fairly surprised that he didn’t fly. He was obviously aware of my presence, yet he remained still. I spotted a path across a shallow channel in the river and was able to access a sand bar that took me even closer where I was able to capture the best images of a Great Blue Heron of my entire career.

It was there that I discovered the explanation for the beautiful aquatic bird’s strange behavior. As I stood watching him a great shadow passed over which didn’t go unnoticed by the heron. This is also where my understanding of animal intelligence increased dramatically. The bird saw the shadow on the ground, but he looked up… He knew the threat was not from the shadow on the ground but from the terror in the sky above, in the form of the deadly talons of a massive eagle. There are fishermen lining the banks of this river from top to bottom so the heron understands that people are not a big threat in this environment. He was willing to take his chances with me a few yards away, but as he worried about the eagle he moved a few feet back from the bank into a little cave where he couldn’t be spotted from above.

This exhibits some fairly advanced thinking for an animal, not to mention a bird! First he has to understand the concept of a shadow and the source of the shadow. Then he has to be able to prioritize his threats and take evasive action. He understands that if he is able to block a line of sight from above, the eagle who is looking at the ground for prey will not be able to see him. He has identified a threat and made a plan to evade the threat while tolerating a large foreign being much larger and closer than the eagle above. I find this quite astonishing.

Animals experience joy, grief, fear and pain. If you have ever seen eagles dance in the sky, seen the joy of a wolf pack when a new litter of pups is introduced or listened to the mournful cry of a cow who has had her calf ripped from her side you would know this.

As long as we continue to elect greedy unprincipled men and women to our highest offices, people who’s god is money, who worship on the altar of power for the sake of power, no progress toward higher ideals in our law will be possible.

It’s time for this country to give our four footed and feathered creatures the respect and compassion they deserve. It’s time for America to join the few European countries that have recognized this and given sentient being status to their wildlife and livestock. This would go a long way toward the elimination of trophy hunting and trapping as sport in this country.

Again 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 great blue heron!

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.

Happy Easter 2021

Easter, my favorite holiday… and probably the most important day in Christendom, to me even more important than Christmas. It is the celebration of the resurrection, the transformation from man to King sitting on the throne at the right hand of God. For me it is usually a day of peace, while everyone else is scurrying around for the semi-annual trip to church to show off new dresses and three piece suits I have His magnificent creation mostly to myself.

This morning at sunrise there was no wind, total silence save for the chirping of happy birds greeted me at the summit of my favorite mountain. The weather today is beautiful, the sun shining with the temperature in the low 40’s. We’ve had so few nice days this spring, bitter cold and snow were the rule for the entire month of March and now finally it seems like spring has set in for the long haul. Perfect conditions to walk and contemplate the magnitude of the gift that we were given on the cross that day.

Dark-eyed Junco

A few birds are starting to arrive at the higher elevations, including a good sized flock of robins joyfully flitting from high elevation shrub to shrub. Unfortunately they were moving much to fast for my camera to focus on so I was just satisfied to watch and enjoy the advent of the new season. As the trail wound it’s way down in elevation a few more birds began to appear, although not the plethora of song birds that will populate the open space as the spring turns to summer.

I spotted some kind of ground sparrow foraging for bugs and grasses on the forest floor that I thought I might get a shot of. So I fastened my camera to my monopod, set my shutter speed to 1/1600th of a second and the aperture to F8. and waited. Soon he and his diminutive friends were comfortable with my presence and drew near. I watched for them to position themselves just right in the sun and snapped a few pictures.

Now that I am home on the computer I have learned that these little sparrows are actually dark-eyed junco… who knew? I am continually amazed at the variety of sparrow alone we have up here in the mountains, not to mention the vast variety of song birds and raptors we have here in Colorado. Up until last summer I was blissfully unaware that we had anything but the ordinary sparrow. Since then I have been enjoying the assistance of a great little free phone app developed by Cornell Labs called Merlin. It’s a wonderful little tool that allows you to just show it a picture and it will quickly return what it believes to be a match.

Anyway, I hope you all are having a wonderful  and blessed Easter.

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.

Both Osprey are Home

I was relieved this morning to see that both osprey have made it  back home to Colorado 🙂 As I passed the nest I noted that one of the great raptors was resting comfortably in the nest and I scanned the mountainside for the male

Osprey Nesting Pair

osprey’s favorite trees. I didn’t see him so I just kept going, hoping for an eagle sighting further up the canyon. But after driving only a few feet I spotted a large bird headed toward me from upstream. I leapt out of the truck and grabbed for my camera but I was way too late for any hope at getting a picture. However as the white bird flew over I was able to verify that it was the male osprey headed back to the nest with a large trout in his formidable talons 🙂

The sighting changed my plans for the day and I found a good parking place with a clear view of the nesting pair. The female osprey has been busy preparing her nest with soft materials from the marshy area downstream so with the male back in the area the two got right down to business. Not too long after I began to observe them they began their mating ritual so I imagine now all we have to do is wait and there will be young osprey to add to the mix in a few weeks.

Osprey Nesting Pair

I noticed the steep trail leading up to my favorite viewing area is mostly clear of snow and ice now so I made the climb with my big carbon fiber tripod and fluid head for steady video and still images. I watched for about an hour as they came and went and eventually just sat together in the sun relaxing, seemingly quite happy to be back at their home high above the beautiful South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon.

I should have a video ready to go in a couple days, which I will amend this post to include. And here is that video! Also please be sure to subscribe to my channel and help it grow!

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 Nesting Pair

Hiking Outlook Ridge

wp-15913695475213382998794198163891.jpgThe great Ansel Adams once said, “Don’t confuse hiking with photography, a good photograph taken from the road is as good as a photograph taken from the trail.”, or something close to that. We had set out to reach Lost Pond from the Outlook Ridge Trail to photograph birds and wildlife that might be gathered at the pond, but unfortunately it was shaping up to be a dismal day for photography.  So this day I guess we were just “hikers”, according to Ansel.

We parked at the Outlook Ridge trailhead and began the short hike downhill along the

Outlook Ridge

trail to the Lost Pond Loop. It wasn’t long before we found the cutoff and descended to the small oasis in the dense pine forest. Unfortunately the shoreline was fairly barren, providing little habitat for birds or small animals to find cover or food. We sat in the shade for a while hoping for some birds to show themselves but all we saw was one water walking bug and a robin hopping around on the far side of the pond.

Eventually we gave up and continued along the Outlook Ridge Trail hoping for a photo op in the tall pines. On the far end of  the Outlook Ridge Trail is an out and back along the ridge to the rocky outcropping known as “Outlook Ridge”.  Again we took a break,

Mule Deer Doe

sitting on the rocks and hoping for the arrival of some animals or birds to photograph. There was one small chipmunk who kept darting into his cave and a hummingbird that blew past at a rate of speed impossible to catch with a long lens. No hawks or eagles soaring above in the intense blue Colorado sky and no deer or elk visible in the valley below. The view from there is fairly spectacular however with the west face of Pikes Peak and a rocky ridge off to the east, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and local peaks and the Mosquito Range mountains far to the west.  The image above is the rocky ridge just east of the overlook.

Since it is mostly downhill to the ridge, the trail back is all uphill, and a fairly steep ascent at that 😦 Along the way we did spot a doe mule deer grazing on some newly  bloomed aspen leaves but she was in the shade with the intense Colorado sun shining on the background. Terrible conditions for photography.

Finally we made our way up the mountainside through the heat to the finish line. The photography was disappointing but I suppose at least we got a good workout which will hopefully make some future adventure a bit easier!

A Perfect Morning

Morning Mule Deer

I know we like our sunshine here in Colorado but sometimes some clouds and humidity are a welcome sight, especially for a photographer! It was a perfect morning, a slight breeze, cool and quiet, and rain clouds overhead providing just enough cover to soften the morning light for photography 🙂

Finch on a Perch

It wasn’t long before I spotted a pair of mule deer, buck and doe enjoying a break from the usual intense sunlight. Usually by this time of morning they would have retreated to shady areas under the tall pines of the Pike National Forest. Today however, the wary couple gave me a few minutes to photograph them before vanishing into the dense wilderness.

I continued my hike along the high meadow at the top of the mountain enjoying the sound of birds happily chirping out their approval of such a pleasant morning. I stopped and sat for a while on a flat rock hoping for an opportunity to capture a couple images of the furtive little creatures and fortunately they obliged 🙂 Not the best pictures, but I did manage to get a couple shots of what appear to be a couple of the finch variety.

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

Eleven Mile in Springtime

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

I’ve been wondering for a while if Eleven Mile Canyon was closed for the Corona Virus and today I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was a beautiful sunny morning in southern Colorado and it would be a splendid morning to spend along the pristine headwaters of the South Platte River if I were fortunate to find it open. As I neared the entrance my optimism was growing… no big nasty CLOSED signs in sight! I arrived before the attendant unfortunately because I only had a ten dollar bill to pay the seven dollar entrance fee. Oh well… an extra three dollar donation for the park is a small price to pay for such splendor.

Along with me were my heavy tripod and four stop ND filter, but the water wasn’t

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

roaring as I expected so no long exposures with smooth water. There were some rapids, but not really anything worth getting out the four stop for. I drove slowly along the banks of the river looking for the most scenic spots but some of the best places were still in the shade and I was thinking that I would catch them on the return trip when the light was better. I explored some new locations and some new trails along with some fairly sketchy river bank access points. Saw some deer, some ducks a few geese and finally just as I was about to leave the park I spotted an eagles nest in the distance.

Bald eagle and her chick

This was  going to be worth a closer look so I parked Big Blue and attached the long lens to the camera to get a birds eye view… so to speak. Much to my surprise, there was a bald eagle on the nest with one chick occasionally popping his little head up to look around.  The nest was a long way away though so I knew I was going to have to exercise some extraordinary care if I was going to get any kind of a usable picture. First I attached the 1.4 lens extender and the 100-400 lens to the camera and placed them on the tripod. Once I had that equipment set up it became clear that I was also going to need my shutter release cable in order to avoid camera shake when pushing the shutter button.

I also decided to use Live View with the extra zoom capability to accomplish the best Bald Eagle Nestingpossible manual focus and to lock up the mirror to avoid even the slightest vibration from mirror slap. The mama eagle moved around in the nest a bit, looking in every direction, something I would not have really been able to see at the extreme distance I had to settle for. There was no way to get closer with the river flowing in front of me so this is the best I could do! I was hoping mama would take flight so I watched the action for about an hour before giving up. Obviously I do not have the patience of a successful birder 😦

As always, these images and more will be available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Also available with one of  the many pictures available on my site are tons of cool gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, stationary, blankets and pillows, tech gadgets including battery chargers and phone cases and much much more!

 

Distant Herd and Unrelated Rant

Distant Herd of Mule Deer

The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…

Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was Distant Herd of Mule Deerjust whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.

Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I was  going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!

Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states “By policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.

The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?

Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.

If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. I  guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.

The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation  gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.

The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.

Wild Morning

Pair of cute mule deer

One of those mornings… I was up and ready to go by 6:00. After a couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast I tried to go back to sleep in my easy chair, my eyes certainly felt tired enough but it was not meant to be. I glanced out the window and I could see it was already getting light and that was it. Grabbed my camera bag and was off to the trailhead.

It was a cold foggy morning with ice freezing on the foliage and the sky spitting snow as I made my way up the steep mountainside to the summit. My mind wandered in the solitude of the cold and dense fog and I found myself thinking how cool it would be to see the deer or elk herd in this fog! Well as luck would have it I glanced back and there they were, my favorite little herd of deer grazing on the mountainside behind me as I was descending from the summit. And now after visiting them a few times over the last couple of weeks they just looked at me with some curiosity and went on with their eating. As they moved around I watched for them to from little groups so I could  get some nice portraits.

Herd of Mule Deer

Soon I was back to the trailhead and getting ready for the trip home when it came to me to go check the mines at Goldfield. Sometimes they can look quite mystical in a dense fog. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as I had hoped but I still got some nice pictures.

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal  or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items are also available including t-shirts, coffee mugs, blankets and pillows and much much more! Also be sure to visit and subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

Foggy Mines