Autumn Adventure with the Bighorns

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

Probably our most successful outing with the bighorn sheep of the season. It was a great start to the day… a short ride of only a couple miles and we were already seeing sheep, right where they haveΒ  been congregating at the mouth of beautiful Waterton Canyon. At the time of our arrival though there were just a small group of ewes, youngsters and one big ram hanging around on the not very picturesque mountainside so we decided to press ahead past the diversion dam to see if we might see the bear or maybe the bigger herd of battling rams.

We saw no more wildlife at all on the four mile ride to the crossover so we decided to

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

just turn around and head back to where we saw the small herd. unfortunately the turnaround greeted Kevin with a flat front tire and there was nothing to do but walk the three miles back down 😦

But the good news was, when we got back down to the sheep, that a couple more rams had joined the action and were jostling each other around a bit while also chasing around the ewes. Pictured in the video, one of the rams took quite a fancy to one of the girls and was chasing her all over the place. However, she wanted nothing to do with him and every time he got close she ran off. finally her patience was gone and she turned around to give him an unexpected blow between the eyes with her own horns… obviously she didn’t have the horns or the mass of a male, lol… but he did look pretty surprised for a little bit! After quite a few minutes of the chase she finally just laid down and put an end to it.

Eventually the entire herd decided to take a break and laid down in the shade of the big trees lining the bank of the South Platte River. We decided to do the same and I found a nice spot to sit on the other side of the jeep road. I wondered if we were done for the day but it was no more than a half hour before a few of the little ones were back up and meandering down the embankment for a drink at the river.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

The underbrush there was pretty thick and there did not appear to be a pathway to the river, but I knew if we didn’t get down to the riverbank we were going to have no opportunity at all for photography. I grabbed my trekking pole and picked my way down the steep riverbank to the thick vines at the bottom. As it turns out there was a faint trail at the base of a big cottonwood so I fought my way through.Β  And there they were, a little group of the youngsters and one ewe on the shoreline of the pristine river getting a drink. I picked a spot nearby, noticing that they were casting a wary look in my direction. I thought maybe if I just sat down a little distance away they might not perceive me as a threat and go back to their normal routine. It turned out to be a successful strategy and I was able to get some wonderful pictures with the beautiful blue water in the background. In the meantime a couple of ewes and little ones crossed over to try out the vegetation on the other side.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

There was a commotion on the other side of the river as a ram began chasing one of the girls around over there. Her evasion tactic was going to be a river crossing but the ram was not going to be deterred by a little water. He just chased her right into the river where we were waiting with our cameras at the ready πŸ™‚ At first I wasn’t sure I liked my shot of this, but the drama of the event is growing on me and this image has become one of my favorites of the day.

Eventually the big ram became interested in the girls on the other side and he too

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

decided to cross, the moment I had been waiting for! As soon as I perceived that he was going to cross I quickly made my way down the embankment and through the thick brush. Much to my surprise the massive beast had come down another way at the same time and I found myself in an unnerving face to face encounter with a huge bighorn sheep ram! I had no desire for a head butting challenge with the great beast so I quickly backed away and told him I’d be going the other way! He kind of looked at me and then thankfully turned towards the water in another direction.

Here I got some nice video footage of a few more of the young ones standing with the grandfather of the herd along the water, and eventually some shots of him in the water as well. It was one of those moments, at the completion of it, when you just know. I got the shots I came for. We packed up our gear and headed for the truck. My guess is that with such low key tussling among the rams on this day that the rut season is winding down. Will probably take a break from the canyon next week and do something else… some snow shoeing maybe!

As always, these pictures and more are available for purchase on my image website as wall art, Christmas cards, t-shirts, blankets, pillows, tech gadgets and more! Also feel free to watch the youTube video!

 

Advertisements

Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold πŸ™‚

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel πŸ™‚

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.Β  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

A Day in Limbo

Majestic Bull Elk bugling on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

Grounded… truck in the hospital getting new brakes and I’m stuck at the computer on a perfectly beautiful late autumn day 😦 But IΒ  guess that’s ok, I still have dozens of pictures to work on from my recent adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park and Waterton Canyon πŸ™‚

Today I processed these two and placed them on my print website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items are also available, including holiday cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, household goods such as pillows and blankets, tech gadgets like battery chargers and phone chargers and much much more!

Click to explore, Christmas is well on the way!!

Bighorn Sheep In Autumn Colors

 

The Leap

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

Cold and windy out today, some sort of freezing rain / fog / light snow going on, covering everything with a sheet of ice. Were my trail not closed by the mine for their stupid drainage system maintenance I probably would have gone out in the weather to capture the stark white scene, but with the trail closed I’d have to take a long drive on the pass for forest access and that just is not in the cards in these conditions.

I’ve had this picture on my mind for a few days though, from my mountain bike ride

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

into Waterton Canyon last week. The rams just walked into the river and then powered through to the other side. This ewe however took a different approach. She climbed up on the rock and watched the rams cross. When the rams began feeding on the lush grass on the other side she just took the leap, winding up in the water about a quarter of the way across before making a run for the other bank splashing water everywhere. It was quite a sight! I had considered switching my camera to video to capture the action but in the end decided that stills would be the more prized result πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available on my website for sale as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, apparel and handy household gadgets and tech items are also available with a picture. Click to explore!

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

Bighorn Afternoon

Winter weather is on the way, 8-15 inches of snow they are saying, but this morning it was beautiful! Checked the forecast and it looked like I would have until about 5:00 p.m. to go off and do something! Over coffee and a cinnamon roll I decided another run at Waterton Canyon would probably be the most profitable. I arrived at the canyon at about 10:00 a.m., strapped on my pack and headed into the canyon on mountain bike hoping for some good photography, but planning only on a good workout and a beautiful ride along the beautiful blue South Platte River in stunning autumn colors.

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

I wanted a good cardio workout so I was pedaling hard past the lowest bighorn viewing area with no beasties in site. Breathing hard I pushed ahead watching the cliff to the north for sign of the animals. Another mile passed and I thought I could see some large animals on the path ahead. I slowed down and carefully pulled up to park my bike at a safe distance to unpack my gear and ready myself for photography. As I neared on foot I noticed that the trio was a small group of rams wandering along the river while occasionally sparring with each other.

One of the beasts eventually moved into the grass to graze while the other two stood head to head, waiting for the other to make a move. Hoping for a clash I started a video but the two gladiators eventually separated and moved apart, the smaller one joining the other for lunch on the riverbank.

While I was getting some good portraits of the biggest ram, I noticed he had begun to

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

stare intently up the canyon towards the west. When I looked over to see what he was so interested in I saw the herd of ewe sheep and young ones walking toward us. Eventually the males and females joined and walked downstream together, grazing on the vegetation along the bank while occasionally approaching the river for drinks when a path to the water was available.

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

I just followed along with the herd, hanging withΒ  them trying to get the best shots of especially the rams and the cute little yearlings who would occasionally butt heads as if trying to get the feel of the big game the rams were playing. The steep bank along the north side of the river finally gave way to a shallower approach and the rams took interest on some vegetation on the other side. All three of the big brutes walked to the edge of the stream and I could see that they were going to jump in. I thought they might just walk in and stroll across, but instead they leaped in and powered across as fast as they could! I wasn’t really ready for that but I think I got a couple of good shots of the action πŸ™‚

One of the bigger females joined the rams in the feast when all of a sudden the little ewes

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

and lambs took off running downstream. Something obviously spooked them and they quickly headed for their favorite rocky cliff where I usually find them in the morning. I stopped for a few shots, and I would have liked to just stay forever… but dark clouds had already begun to move in and I sensedΒ  that the weather was going to turn ugly earlier than predicted. Eventually I gave in, climbed back on my bike and pedaled for the truck as fast as I could.

Good thing too… it was snowing hard in Monument and raining and snowing already in Colorado Springs. At the time of this writing tonight, snow is falling hard in many parts of the state and car accidents are already piling up at an alarming rate.

I did manage to get some video footage which you can view on my Youtube Channel. Please subscribe if you like,Β  I need 100 subscribers so I can get my swkrullimaging URL!

As for me, I’m happy to be back home in the glow of my computer monitor as I review the splendid day that I had πŸ™‚ As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool gift and household items and tech gadgets are also available with a picture. Just click the link to explore!

Sheep and a Rattler in Waterton Canyon

Pretty good day of photography in the Canyon, although for a while there it was looking like a shutout. We mountain biked in to the usual bighorn viewing area where there was sign but no sight of the iconic western critters. But we had all day so we just continued with our ride up the canyon hoping for a chance to photograph the bigger rams and maybe even the bears.

Cormorants on Rock in River

Eventually we passed all the good locations with still no photo ops with the bighorn. People coming back down from higher in the park offered little encouragement. Discouragement began to settle in and we stopped for a break at one of the picnic areas in view of a pair of cormorants sunning themselves on the rock they have called their own. Soon volunteer ranger Joe stopped by to chat and provide some knowledge on his way on foot to the upper reaches of the canyon, which of course was a pleasure and welcome advice πŸ™‚ Word was that the bear was in the area and that the big rams had been seen further up the canyon in recent days.

We passed the rock mitigation area and continued on up the canyon where finally we

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

saw some of the ewes and lambs playing and eating on the cliff walls in the beautiful colors of aspen and other flora in full autumn glory. Eventually we continued on in hopes of seeing the big guys, but once again, people coming back down had not seen anything. We reached the crossover where a bridge takes you to the other side of the South Platte River, which was our planned turnaround point. The river is quite beautiful there and I decided that would be a good place to get some river photo and video before heading back down. Feel free to click on the video link to my Youtube channel and subscribe if you like!

Bighorn Sheep In Waterton Canyon

On our way down we encountered another herd of ewes and youngsters playing on the road so we stopped for a few more photographs before continuing to the park entrance. word of a rattlesnake in the road gave hope for another photo op, but again… no word of the big males sheep. Unfortunately well after it was too late to do anything about it we received the disheartening word from one of the rock mitigation workers that a herd of the big rams had been seen somewhere in the upper part of the canyon. Later we learned that a herd of rams had put on quite a show crossing the river near the dam. Dang I would have loved to have photographed that event!

Rattle Snake in Waterton Canyon

Soon the rattlesnake came into view so we stopped and put on our long lenses in hope of getting some nice shots from a safe distance! The little fellow was quite content lying in the sun and didn’t get too worked up about our presence. He did curl up and hiss when a truck went by, giving us a little better opportunity for pictures before heading on out of the canyon. In a way it was disappointing outing, but any chance to mountain bike in the canyon is always a plus, wildlife photography or not!

As always, a few of the better images have been uploaded to my website and are available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items and handy household gadgets are also available with one of these images, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, battery chargers, blankets and pillows, handbags and much more! Just click the links to explore!

Platte River in Waterton Canyon Colorado

Bighorn Break

Caught a break today… my fall photography hasn’t been going too well thus far, a fierce wind is blowing the leaves off the trees and unfortunately there is a huge fire burning out of control near Salida. Between the smoke and the wind and the heat it really isn’t turning out to be much of an autumn.

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep

Today’s big break was the bighorn sheep sighting… I was on my way home from buying supplies for my Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip tomorrow when an approaching car flashed it’s brights at me, a sure sign that there were either sheep or state patrol in my future. As I rounded the bend I saw the telltale gathering of people with cameras looking intently at the mountainside and sure enough, there were the sheep standing by the road.

I found a place to park and jumped out with the camera and my 400mm lens. The closest ones were on the rock and dirt hillside which is OK, but I hoped they would move further up into the changing aspen leaves. As I gazed intently into the leaves I discovered that there were a few of the nimble creatures up higher with the leaves in the background. A little bit too far for my 400 so I went back

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep

to the truck for the 1.4x which turned out to be just about perfect, 560mm not including crop factor.

Patience was rewarded as all the animals eventually got tired of gleaning the salt out of the rocks and made their way up the mountainside into the more colorful foliage of autumn. The little herd was made up of ewes and lambs, the big boys continue to evade me on this side of summer 😦

I don’t leave for Rocky until tomorrow but I already have the pre-game jitters. I imagine I won’t sleep much tonight and the butterflies won’t leave until the first pitch is thrown, baseball analogy πŸ™‚ I know we will see some big bull elk and some awesome scenery in the park… hoping to round out the trip with bear and moose too!

Autumn and the Bighorn Sheep