Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Went out to check on the eaglets the other day, hadn’t been there in a while. As I pulled into the parking area at sunrise I caught a brief glimpse of on of the adults flying into the fog, leaving one juvi behind on the nest.

Heavy rains as of late have resulted in lush vegetation and a full flowing river. Unfortunately to go with it is a bumper crop of mosquitoes which I am still paying for days later with a number of itchy welts on my fingers from no more than five minutes on the river bank.

Kevin and I quickly retreated to higher ground and decided upon a drive up the canyon in hopes of locating the other two juvenile baldies.

Long story short, the baldies are doing fine and are happily flying about, exploring their newly discovered world 🙂 We had several sightings and we’re able to capture quite a few nice images.

So two of the three eaglets are flying, which is pretty good. I imagine by the time I get out there again, all three will be airborne!

Saw an Old Friend

Made the journey back to Eleven Mile Canyon today, wanted to check on the progress of the bald eagle triplets! I usually drive up the canyon first to see if there is any action in the upper reaches but today I decided to go directly to my favorite bald eagle viewing vantage point. The eagles were my primary goal and I didn’t want to miss the golden

Eaglets at Eleven Mile Canyon

hour. It didn’t take long to ascertain that all three eaglets are still thriving and growing stronger. The last time I was there they still lacked the confidence to hop onto the outer branches but today they stood proudly on those branches flapping their wings furiously 🙂 It won’t be long before they are in flight, probably a couple weeks from now. I’m sure the oldest will take flight first followed by the other two with the youngest one a week or two behind.

I had hoped to see the parents but after a couple of hours I decided to take a cruise up the canyon to see what might be going on upstream. It was a quiet and lazy summer day in the canyon today, spotted a few pelicans in flight and a pair of great blue heron soaring high above the river but I guess all the other animals were sleeping. I was not aware that herons liked to soar like eagles, but apparently they are more than willing to put those giant wings to use on a beautiful sunny Colorado summer day 🙂

Great Blue Heron Pair

I was able to snap a couple of shots of the herons but with such great distance the images are nothing to shout about but at least I have a record of the sighting! The return trip down the canyon was no more eventful until right at the end… Just as I was ready to depart I heard the sound of the “angry birds”, the unmistakable sound of peregrine falcon running off an intruder! Last year the cliffs at the entrance to the canyon were filled with them, but up until today I had not seen any in the canyon. As I quickly looked up I got a fleeting glimpse of a pair of them scampering into their little crevice in the rocks high above. I marked where they went in by the white stripe of bird poo below their entrance.

Osprey Perch

I sat for a bit in the truck and looked for them through my long lens but the road is narrow there with a steep cliff on the other side. I didn’t want to block the way so I drove on out to the outer parking lot and hiked back in. And here is where I spotted my old friend… The osprey high on the very top of a dead tree on the top of the ridge above where their nest fell. I snapped a few distant images of him just to prove the sighting before climbing the old mountainside for a better look from my favorite vantage point. However by the time I got up there he had already taken off and all I got was a glimpse of him flying over the ridge. He and his mate must have taken shelter on the back side of the ridge after their nest fell, as I have seen them a number of times going back there.

So… the pair continue to linger around their nesting area, perhaps they will migrate south together in the fall and return next year to build again. I sure hope so, the loss of their nest has left a huge void in my summer plans 😦 I never did get a picture of the peregrine, it may be that they are quietly nesting in the cliffs, it seems to me that my images of them last year were in late August through September, probably after their young have grown.

Triple Eaglets

I did get some good footage of the eaglets trying to fly, so I hope you enjoy the video on my Youtube Channel! Please like and subscribe if you enjoy the content, it really helps me in the rankings to have lots of interaction from the viewers!

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.

The Birds of Manitou Lake

All winter I had wondered if there was such a thing as an annual pass into Eleven Mile Canyon. The rangers at the Fossil Beds National Monument thought there might be but had little information as to how to acquire one and unfortunately the kiosk the entrance to the canyon is unmanned until May 1st each year. Finally the other day I received a tip and on my latest visit I was able to get one from the gate attendant 🙂 Well as it turns out, the pass is good for quite a number of additional interesting places in Colorado, including Manitou Lake  located just a short distance north of Woodland Park on Highway 67.

Great Blue Heron in FlightSo I thought what the heck, I’ve never been to Manitou Lake, why not give it a try! I had heard rumors that there was a big colony of great blue heron and some osprey in the area using the lake as a source for fish. Unfortunately Kevin and I arrived about an hour too early… there is a  gate at the lake and they lock it up at night. We saw some heron flying around and going back into the Painted Rocks area so we ventured on back into there. We found a number of heron wandering around, including one proudly percned on top of a giant boulder. Unfortunately they all scattered before we could get our cameras ready for a shot, however we were lucky enough to see the large clumsy looking aquatic birds flying up and down the Trout Creek valley all morning.

red-winged blackbirdFinally 8:00 rolled around and we entered the park. As hoped, the window sticker into Eleven Mile was also good at Manitou Lake, so in we went. There is a website for Rocky Mountain Recreation, the company that manages some of these recreational areas but it appears to be a California company and it isn’t easy to use and there is no comprehensive list of sites in Colorado that the pass is good for. If you suspect that a place you want to go might be covered by your pass you can go on the website and do a search. If you don’t know the name of the place you are basically out of  luck.

It’s not a huge lake so as we ventured out onto the boardwalk on the south end it was pretty easy to observe that there were no herons walking the shores. There was good abundance of red-winged blackbirds lining the shores and they are a fairly entertaining species to photograph. Soon an osprey looking interested in doing some fishing appeared overhead so we decided to walk around the lake to a good looking vantage point where we would have an unobstructed view of the action. And sure enough, a number of osprey showed up to hover over the lake looking for fish.

Osprey at Manitou LakeWe were fortunate enough to grab a couple hundred good captures of the osprey circling and diving into the water. Eventually all the raptors caught fish and flew off into the nearby mountains. We moved on over to the northeast side of the lake where we found a nice bench to sit on while we waited for more osprey. Unfortunately though, the show appeared to be over at least until evening so we entertained ourselves by shooting some swan like birds swimming out in the middle of the lake, which Kevin correctly identified as western grebes. I had never seen a western grebe before so I was particularly interested in capturing some good images for my lifetime sighting list at my Cornell Labs eBird profile.

Western Grebe SwimmingThere was one more bit of excitement to be found on the walk back around the lake. We encountered a strange looking black bird rustling around in the reeds. At first it appeared to be a normal blackbird except for it’s strange call, yellow eyes and inordinately long tail. Once home with access to my desktop, the Merlin app identified the odd bird as a great-tailed grackle. Unfortunately the little guy didn’t stick around long enough for me to capture any video, but you can listen to his strange call on this YouTube video provided by the Cornell Labs research site.

Great-tailed GrackleI’m sure there will be a ton of other species inhabiting the lake as summer approaches so I am looking forward to many future visits. The lake is a well maintained facility and costs $7 for a day pass to enter unless you have the annual pass. Trails surround the lake including a nice boardwalk through the marshy area which also includes signs describing the local wildlife habitat and points of interest. Later this month I hope to find a thriving colony of blue heron and more osprey flying overhead and to explore what new bird species I might find there!

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.

And Then There Were Three (Osprey)

I made it to the Canyon early today to see the eagles and osprey. I had hoped to see father eagle bring in a fish but he wasn’t around when I arrived at the entrance so I drove on in to look upstream. I didn’t see any osprey or eagles upstream either so I decided to just sit in the sun and watch the nest at the canyon entrance for eagle action. Others were gathered to watch the eagles as well and some were concerned that the male hasn’t been seen. It’s been two weeks since I have seen him so I hope he is OK.

Osprey in the Canyon

Eventually it warmed up enough for me to hang out on my vantage point at the osprey nest where I hoped to see papa osprey fly in with a fish… It wasn’t long before I heard the call of the osprey and there he was, swooping in to check on the female at the nest. After a minute or two he was off…  in hot pursuit of an intruder, a turkey vulture that had ventured too close to the nest. Once the intruder had been warded off I watched our hero fly past the cliffs and into the canyon upstream.

Then much to my surprise I heard the call of the osprey again… only this time it was off to my left, on my side of the river. Sure enough, there was an osprey perched on the dead tree behind me and to my left… calling out to the female. I had no idea how he had circled back so quickly and landed without my even seeing a shadow on the ground. Then all of a sudden I saw another hawk out of the corner of my eye, or what I thought was a hawk circling over the nest. I couldn’t believe that the osprey remained peacefully on his perch as the intruder flew closer and closer. I snapped away at the hawk in flight and got a few pretty good captures of what I assumed was going to be the red-tail against the brilliant blue Colorado sky. As I zoomed in and examined my LCD screen it was revealed that the hawk was actually another osprey.

Osprey in the Canyon

As I watched the show it became apparent that the two osprey knew each other and were friends. Then to my disbelief both osprey were landing on the nest to check on the female as she cared for the eggs beneath her. And she was fine with it too, absolutely no defensive action taken against either of the free flying raptors. This leaves me to wonder if one of them is their offspring from last year, or perhaps the second one is another female not yet of breeding age. Who knows, but I’ve never heard of a family of three adult osprey at one nest.

Eventually the two great birds took off at the same time where I later found them soaring together over Lake George lake. By this time mother eagle was still looking intently off to the north for her mate. Since I had spent quite a bit of time with the osprey I really don’t know if he had ever come back or not… but there was no evidence that there was any food left behind. On the other hand the young eagles didn’t seem to panicked about their next meal, so maybe all is normal after all.

Bald Eaglet and Mother Eagle

The drive home proved to be a bonus as I spotted a small herd of bighorn sheep and then a herd of mule deer grazing in the warm spring sunshine.

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.

Bighorn Sheep

Staying Close to Home

Beautiful Buck Mule Deer

Decided to just stay close to home today, no sense shooting hundreds of new pictures when I don’t even have the ones processed that I have already captured! Really what I wanted this morning was just a bit of exercise and some quiet time on my mountain.

As I climbed toward the top of the mountain I saw my favorite rough legged hawk in the distance. I readied my camera settings for a hawk in flight but the majestic raptor never came close enough. He glided through the valley and around the mountain to the north without ever coming near enough for an image. I have attached an image of him that I captured another time (see below).

I strode on, through the dense forest and up the mountainside to the summit. On the summit I looked around for any wildlife that might be enjoying the solitude of the quiet mountaintop and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a lone buck, peering out curiously from the woods. I quietly set up for a shot and he stood still for a few seconds while I dialed in the best composition. I put my pack down hoping he would remain long enough for me to attach my 1.4x lens extension, but when I looked back up he had vanished into the pine forest. I have to say he is the best looking buck I have seen all year, just magnificent!

Free Range Cattle

Today I decided against the second and third summits on the high ridge and just turned down the old wagon trail towards the return trail. The free range cattle were grazing on the high mountain grass as I made my way back down through the middle of the herd. These cows used to run from me but over the last three years I guess they have gotten used to my presence. In fact this little family of calves started coming over to say hello but before they had gotten very far I was already further from their mother than they were brave enough to venture.

Finch posing in the Rockies

Near the end of the trail birds had gathered by the dozens in the tasty wild bushes. I was trying to get some shots of them but every time I got close they would fly another ten feet away. Finally a couple of these little finches landed on the rocks just close enough for me to capture this nice portrait 🙂

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!

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

Rough Legged Hawk in Flight

Eureka!

No long photo trip for this morning… just a nice visit to my favorite local mountain. The “Three Amigos” were there, along with a couple of new buddies that have joined them. If these fellows stick around I’m going to have to think of a new name for the group! The guys were not in the best place for lighting purposes but there was no way I was  going to make it past them and around to the other side so I just had to do the best I could. Luckily it was a bit cloudy so I didn’t have to contend with a super bright background. I think these came out OK!

Portrait of a Mule Deer Buck

A good day, and to top it off I solved a problem that has been vexing us all summer, the issue of setting exposure compensation (EC) when in manual mode. Normally manual means manual and EC is irrelevant but it comes back into play if you select auto ISO, which now means you aren’t really shooting in full manual mode. You can select the shutter speed and the aperture to control the creativity in your shot but if there isn’t enough light for the selected ISO you will underexpose your image. The easy fix of course is to select your creative parameters and let the ISO float, allowing the camera to assure a correct exposure.  But then your front wheel is used for the shutter speed, the rear wheel for aperture and there isn’t another control with which to select your EC.

Mule Deer Portrait

My original solution to the problem was to just use Tv mode, knowing the camera would probably select a decent aperture. But!!!! I finally looked into it and discovered the real solution at least for Canon cameras, the Q button… EUREKA! If you click the Q button all the pertinent parameters come up on the LCD screen where you can change them, shutter, aperture, ISO, and a graph for the EC! If you have a camera new enough for a touch screen you can just change it right there to whatever you desire. With the 1DX that has no touch screen I assume you could wheel over to it and change it with the set button.

I have to say, I have grown quite fond of  Tv mode as a method of controlling my images, especially when it comes to bird photography. It is easy to quickly change from bird in

Herd of Bucks

flight to photographing a deer in  the meadow with a spin of the front dial to change the shutter speed if you run across an unexpected subject change. However I am glad that I can once again just leave the camera on manual most of the time, knowing that I have control over all my important settings.

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 I should add that this article was not sponsored by Canon or any other camera company. All equipment used was purchased by me on my own volition.