Smokey Autumn

A quick check of the weather forecast this morning dictated what I might be able to accomplish. Smoke from all the fires is everywhere but today the report particularly called out the valleys for air quality concerns. I was

Fall Colors in the Rockies

thinking of making my first outing since my return from Rocky a trip to Eleven Mile but with all the smoke I decided I’d be better off visiting a peak rather than a valley.

So I decided upon my usual trailhead in hopes of spotting a few deer and maybe even some elk. In the absence of those I figured I’d see some nice aspen trees changing color and maybe even the hawk or some other birds. Unfortunately a guy with a Vesper Sparrow in the Morningdog beat me to the trailhead so there were no big animals to be found and the hawks were in hiding as well.

But the trees were pretty and I was visited by a couple of cute little vesper sparrows at trail’s end. I took a drive up to Victor Pass to see if the colors have changed on Pikes Peak, but there was too much smoke in the sky to see the state of colors on the peak.

These were my  favorite pictures of the half dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Fall Colors in the Rockies

Snow on the Sangre

It has been a long time since I have seen the Sangre de Cristo, the fires of summer have left them totally obscured for months. Finally cooler weather, some snow and rain and calmer winds have helped with progress on

Mountain Blue Bird

putting out the fires. The air isn’t completely clear yet but I was able to see the majestic mountain range well enough to see the new mantle of white snow 🙂

Apparently it isn’t cool enough yet to attract the elk or deer herds, but there are plenty of birds! The high meadow on top of the mountain was filled with mountain blue birds and vesper sparrows this morning 🙂 It remains a mystery to me however, how do these birds know to get between me and the sun so that I can’t get a picture in this beautiful early morning light??? Looks like the fall colors are coming early this year! Not sure what the reason is for that, probably just because it is 2020…

Red-tailed Hawk

Both of my favorite red-tail hawks were waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain. Unfortunately they flew away from me in the wrong direction so I couldn’t get a nice picture of them in flight. This one on the light post will have to do for today. I’ll be back tomorrow though, hoping for a better angle!

Snow on the SangreFor your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

Snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado by #swkrullimaging

Vaya Con Dios my Feathered Friends

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.

Sunrise on the South Platte River

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.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

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 American Dipper  in Eleven Mile Canyonkept 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.

Osprey Soaring and Fishing

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.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

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.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

First Snow 2020

Summer didn’t give up without a fight… some of the hottest weather I’ve seen in the mountains persisted right through the entire labor day weekend.  Almost 80 doesn’t sound very hot to ya’ll flat landers but we aren’t used to that up here! it was much worse in Denver, Sunday I believe hitting 101 degrees. It was so hot and bright just after sunrise that I didn’t even bother leaving the house.

First Colorado Snow

But that all ended on Monday night as a cold front went through and dropped the temperature to 20f and the skies broke with eight inches of snow, wind and fog. The fog and low visibility lasted all day yesterday so I dejectedly continued my four day losing streak by not going out of the house at all, not even to exercise 😦 Today however was better, the sun was kind of out and I could see the fog was breaking up, ideal conditions for pictures! As I looked out the window my spirits were lifted by the spectacular conditions and my mind once again turned to the mountains and photography.

Mines on a Winter Day

So I laced up my winter hiking boots and hit the trail. I was hoping for that magnificent view from the top of the ridge with fog at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range but unfortunately all I could see was fog flowing into the valley from the southwest.  As I strode through the snow and fog on the summit the historic gold mine came into faint view through the fog, so I stopped for a bit to take in the view and capture the scene. The view of the valley below on the northeast side of the mountain was also well worth a couple black and white captures on the return trail.

Red-tailed Hawk

A pair of red-tailed hawks greeted me at the trailhead, each calling to the other through the mist from their own power pole. I was fortunate after a while that one of the great raptors left his pole and flew right at me 🙂 Nothing better than a good hawk in flight picture!

Mines on a Winter Day

After my hike I decided to drive through Victor and check on mine country in Goldfield, hoping for some photogenic fog and a view of the Sangres. Part of my wish came true, there was a nice foggy backdrop behind the mines which made for a nice landscape image despite the Sangre de Cristo being completely fogged over 🙂

I knew I had to make one more stop… Pikes Peak was bound to be amazing with new snow and fog so I drove to the top of Victor Pass for a look. And the great mountain did not disappoint 🙂 The cantankerous old lady always looks better in snow 🙂

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

By this time it was becoming obvious that our short bout with winter was about over. Heat rising from my sweatshirt was fogging over my sunglasses and I was getting really thirsty so I decided to call it a day. The fog never really did subside… I thought I was going to get a break on the way home but as I prepared for pictures  a new layer of fog streamed in from the valley below, totally obscuring my view of the distant mountain range.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

A Lot of Birds

Pair of Bald EaglesStopped in at Eleven Mile Canyon to see if the osprey were still there, hoping for some pictures… It was foggy, a weather phenomenon that I was hoping would add some atmosphere to my images! I took a quick look up at the eagles nest and much to my surprise both adult bald eagles were in the nest! Unfortunately the fog was so dense that I could barely see them but I fired off a couple of shots anyway. I was hoping to be able to catch one in flight heading out for a fishing trip but the fog grew even more heavy, so thick that I couldn’t even see the nest. By the time the fog cleared a bit the eagles had already departed.

Osprey and Fish

It was a quiet morning on rivers edge, no sign of deer or beaver,  I wasn’t hearing any sign of the peregrines or the osprey either so I just hiked upstream with my eyes and ears trained on the banks for signs of wildlife. Eventually I heard the unmistakable sound of the osprey calling. They were beyond the nest near the wide spot in the river upstream. I hiked up there and took up a position on a rock hoping to witness a thrilling dive into the placid water for a fish. Each osprey took a turn at flight, each returning with a good sized fish. I’m not sure where they are fishing but it was definitely not where I was!

Song Sparrow in Eleven Mile Canyon

The osprey each found a perch high on a tree on the mountainside and I knew that with a big fish to feast on they wouldn’t be moving any time soon. I decided to hike  back out and check on the eagles when I heard some chirping down by the river… further investigation revealed a flock of little birds hopping around on the opposite river bank. I’ve been hoping for the opportunity to photograph the little American dippers so I scampered over the rocks down to the riverbank where I set up my gear for a photo shoot 🙂

Yellow Rumped Warbler in Eleven Mile Canyon

I thought I was shooting American dippers based on behavior, hopping around the waters edge looking for food… but it wasn’t until I was on the desktop computer at home that I realized I had been watching several little bird species in the water. There  were grey ones, brown ones, yellow ones and more! it turned out to be quite a day after all!

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

Birds in Eleven Mile Canyon

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!

The Circle of Life

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Was privileged this weekend to witness another milestone in the circle of osprey life in Eleven Mile  Canyon. I arrived at sunrise as usual hoping to catch the flurry of activity that occurs only at that magical moment in time. If I am lucky I might see the Great Blue Heron flying back from the dam to his favorite placid water where the river widens out. Sometimes the big beaver can be seen leaving his lodge and swimming downstream for his daily activities. The deer also are active at this hour and will often cross the shimmering river, and if I am extra fortunate I might witness the osprey diving for a fish just as the glorious light of sun appears

Mule Deer Crossing the South Platte River

Today fortune shined upon me as I spotted the blue heron winging towards me just as I had made the final adjustments to my camera in preparation for the moment 🙂 I could hear the whoosh of his giant wings as he powered past me on the other side of the river. I panned my camera hoping for a good shot of the huge aquatic bird, a quick check of the LCD screen looked promising. For a brief moment I thought I could hear the loud chirping of the osprey in the distance… I scanned the mouth of the canyon for the great birds to no avail. Perhaps I had mistaken the angry squawking of the peregrine falcons for the call of the osprey.

Osprey Soaring and Fishing

Eventually I began to wonder if the osprey had left the canyon for their winter destination so I decided before any further waiting I would hike into the canyon and have a look at their nest. Sadly there was no activity at the nest so I ventured further upstream to investigate a wide area in the river that I believe the osprey have been fishing. As I neared the hunting grounds I heard the unmistakable sound of the osprey call and shortly thereafter spotted him high on a treetop, peering down hopefully at the water.

Osprey Soaring and Fishing

Soon his sister came soaring past and took up a perch in another tree. The two didn’t linger long and flew downstream toward their nest. I turned around and swiftly walked the quarter of a mile or so back to the nest and took up a position on the mountainside opposite the osprey nest and waited. Soon one swooped in with a good sized fish and began to feast on a nearby tree, quickly followed by the other… also with a good sized fish!

Mule Deer in Eleven Mile Canyon

It was only last week that it appeared the younger raptor was still not yet very good at the art of fishing, she just sat in the nest and cried for mama to feed her. I wasn’t sure the parents were still in the area so I was relieved when mama bird delivered a fish to the nest. This week however there is no sign of the adult birds at all. All the literature I have read says they will fly south anywhere from the middle to the end of August and I believe them to have taken that journey by now.

Osprey in Flight

Fortunately in just one more week both of the juvenile birds now appear adept at catching fish. They will remain for up to a week, gorging on fish and gaining strength for the long flight to Central America where they will remain for a couple of years before flying north to look for a mate and continue the Circle of Life.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

Making of the Osprey Video

The other day I had the privilege of watching a young osprey make a valiant attempt at catching a fish in the placid waters of the South Platte River just  above the old dam at the entrance of Eleven Mile Canyon near Lake George, Colorado. I had watched these magnificent raptors grow from helpless chicks to ferocious predators over the last two months and after seeing the fishing effort I was inspired to create my newest video, “Osprey Family Grows Up“.

Osprey Mother and Chick

This journey began in June when I first discovered the nest along the river. Earlier in the spring I had also been watching a bald eaglet grow up and take flight but when that happened the activity at the nest was greatly diminished so I went up the canyon looking for additional subjects to photograph. I had heard their were raptors in the canyon but had never seen them for myself.

By the time I made this discovery the chicks were already fairly large and well developed. Their wings however weren’t fully formed and they were unable to catch air at all… all they could do was flap their stubby wings furiously and chirp for all they were worth!

At first I watched from the opposite river bank, straining my neck to see the nest, built on top of a dead pine tree at least 100 feet over the pristine river flowing below. After unsuccessfully scrambling over the rocks along the riverbank to photograph the parents in flight, my sights turned to the opposite side of the dirt road and a steep trail up the mountainside.  I shouldn’t say trail, it was more of a faint path used by deer to access the wilderness on the east side of the rugged park but it was a way to scale the mountain!

I scrambled up the steep incline and found a suitable rock upon which to sit and stabilize my photography gear.  Otherwise the mountainside was so steep that I would have surely fallen off the mountain in the heat of battle! I found another rock where my backpack was accessible and also safe from rolling down the hill onto the road 60 feet below. I considered bringing a tripod in on occasion but the spot was so precarious I decided against it which unfortunately means all my video footage is handheld and some of it a bit shaky. My primary goal is always of course still photography for my stock business but there were times when the chicks were chirping excitedly and a still image would have just been insufficient to take it all in.

Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

I returned to the location at least weekly to check on the progress of the progress of the young raptors. While researching the habits of osprey I learned that the eggs can hatch up to a week apart and that became obvious as I studied the chicks. One was obviously ahead in development, he ate more food and appeared to be considerably stronger. He was also the first to catch some air, flapping his now fully developed wings and rising a foot or two off the nest while his sister looked on with great admiration.

Osprey Gathering

During this time the offspring were of course unable to provide for themselves. I watched with fascination as the parents worked hard to keep the young ones fed. The father osprey would spend hours perched in a dead tree high over the nest watching for danger. The mother remained in the nest most of the time tending lovingly to her chicks She would occasionally leave the nest to retrieve sticks for nest building and sometimes to go catch a fish. The patriarch would also occasionally leave his perch for a few minutes before returning with a fish which he would just drop off before returning to his perch.

Eventually it became apparent the older sibling was about ready to fly so I returned daily hoping to witness the first adventure out of the nest. The mother osprey took on a new routine, leaving the nest to perch on a tree on the opposite bank. From there she would chirp loudly, as if she were encouraging the youngster to take the leap out of the nest. Finally the day came, the young osprey flapped his wings and rose up out of the nest. Then he just kept going and landed on top of a a massive rock slightly above the nest and about 30 feet away.  There he strutted around proudly doing a happy dance which I wish I would have remembered to obtain video footage of, but I was so excited about getting pictures that I forgot all about it!

Osprey Soaring

Then I began to worry that he wouldn’t be able to get  back to the nest, but after about a half hour of strutting around he took a leap off the cliff, and soared high into the clear blue Colorado sky! At first he wasn’t too adept at landing, he wanted to come to rest on one of the many treetops but he kept missing them and finally found another huge rock to land on. His sister followed his success, taking flight about a week later.

Then for a while it appeared there were regular feedings, early in the morning, one around noon and one in the evening. The osprey seemed to know what time it was and one by one they would return to the nest where a fish would be brought in by mom and dad.

Now from my studies on the subject, there is no formal fishing training for the osprey. They just seem to figure it out for themselves. I noticed that the juveniles were making a lot of trips downstream so one day I decided to set up near the old dam with a good view of the placid water both upstream and downstream to see if I could figure out where they were fishing.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

And then it happened, one of the young ones circled the water just above the dam and then swooped in for the kill. I was able to get some still images of the attack, including the splash down and the takeoff. While he was nearly submerged I  became concerned that he would be unable to get out of the water and danger was ahead! The water in that area, although not whitewater is moving quite swiftly. If he were swept over the dam into the roiling water at the bottom he would

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

surely perish 😦 I have since learned that osprey have no problem exiting the water, sometimes with great weight from a very large fish!

Unfortunately this attempt only yielded a bit of sea weed but I noticed him returning with a fish from further downstream on another day. Now I see both juveniles frequently fishing together but I have not been able to match my photographic success from the big day.

Now it is mid August and near the time when the osprey fly south to their winter location in central or South America. The adult osprey go first, leaving their offspring behind. The young ones have been known to remain for a few days gaining in strength and skill before they  themselves take flight on the long journey south.

Pair of Osprey

I will frequently return to the location until all the majestic birds have departed which will be a bittersweet day. I know that the time must come and it is part of the cycle of osprey life but I will miss the great birds as they have become a big part of my life this summer! I wish them luck and safety on their long odyssey and hope for their return next spring to repeat the cycle! I have learned that the adults return to the nest but the yearlings remain in the southern location for two or three years before striking out on their own to find a mate and reproduce.

I encourage you to watch the video, you will hear the chicks chirping loudly, the river roaring below, and see images not seen before. You will feel like you were there yourself to witness the whole reproduction cycle 🙂 Also, if you enjoy the footage please click the icon on the lower left to subscribe! And visit my video channel where you will find many more, including bighorn sheep, deer and the elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park!

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!

My Best Day with the Osprey

It was without a doubt my best day ever with the osprey since finding their nest in Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this summer. The two little ones were already hatched by the time I learned of them and it was pretty special to get to watch them grow, learn to fly and now learn to catch fish for themselves.

One other time when I was set up along the river further downstream I spotted one of them trying to fish in the calm waters where the river widens, but I wasn’t able to capture a very good picture… it was just too far away. My buddy and I have been regularly camped out at the nest trying to capture all the action, including the daily feedings as the parents bring fish to the nest. It’s quite an exciting event for  little ones, they begin squawking loudly and flapping their wings when they see the parents approaching and it is a blast to photograph the delivery of the fish. It doesn’t take long and if you can get high enough on the other bank you can see them ripping off strips of meat with their powerful hooked beaks.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But since the little ones have learned to fish for themselves the feedings are few and far between and there is little action at the nest. I have been noticing that they are flying downstream and I surmised they were probably fishing in the calm water on the south side of the dam. So yesterday I decided to take a chance on hanging out at the dam, the risk being that none of them ever show up and I get no reward for my efforts.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived at sunrise and went directly to the dam, biding my time photographing the peregrine falcons that frequently fly over the river to attend to some kind of falcon business on the other side of the river. Then I heard it, the loud call of an osprey. It was one of the juveniles and I grabbed a few images of him as he flew a few laps around the calm water. Eventually he landed on top of a dead tree overlooking the glass like early morning water of the South Platte River. He probably perched for about a half hour, looking all around and occasionally letting out a squawk, I assume to let his sister know of his whereabouts. Osprey can turn their heads completely around so you have to be careful if you are photographing them in the tree to make sure they aren’t looking backwards!

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

Then all of a sudden he took flight, making another lap and then descending toward the water. I desperately tried to follow him with my long lens but I lost him as he neared the water. I just kept moving my camera and shooting until I found the water and there was the majestic bird in a great struggle to catch is breakfast. At one point he was almost completely submerged, which caused me a bit of concern. If he were unable to escape the water he would be carried over the dam where he would surely perish 😦

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But as it turns out the young bird had everything under control and soon burst out of the water in triumphant flight. Unfortunately it appears that he only managed to capture some seaweed so breakfast would have to wait. He returned to his perch in the tree and soon his sister arrived and took up a perch in their other favorite tree. One more unsuccessful attempt was made before the pair flew together downstream where I know they have had success in the past.

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

The osprey weren’t my only success on the day, I was astonished as a doe mule deer and her fawn crossed the river in the beautiful light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise. Fortunately both of them in the light at the same time, as I set my exposure and focused on the pair for a perfect capture 🙂 Then to top it off on my way out of the canyon I spotted the Great Blue Heron walking in the calm water as if he were striding through a mirror. And much to my surprise there was a purpose to his slow stroll through the water. Apparently the huge birds slowly walk along until they find a fish which they quickly grab and eat with their powerful beaks.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

With over 600 images to process I will be working on this adventure for a while! But these are a few of my favorite ones, many of which I have uploaded to my website for purchase.

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!

Sunrise on the South Platte River

Scrambling to Catch Up

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

I seem to be capturing more images than I can keep up with these days! However it won’t be long and the osprey will be heading for warmer temperatures and I want to spend as much time as I can with them as the little ones continue to grow and increase their skills. They have to be ready to fend for themselves on the long trip to South America, usually by the end of August!

Sunrise on the River

On top of that, summer is racing by and autumn will soon be upon us, especially up here at 10,000 of feet! It is time to plan my fall visit to Rocky Mountain National Park so I was checking back through my archives to see when I went last year. In doing that I discovered that there are dozens of images from last year’s trip that have not yet been processed! So of course I am faced with the task of reviewing and editing them while I try to keep up with all the new stuff!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Today began early, I wanted to be at Eleven Mile before sunrise to make sure I captured every event possible before the heat of the day would drive the animals into the protective shade of the forest. I was not particularly fond of the drive in the dark over the curvy mountain road, I may not do that in the pitch black again 😦 There must have been a major rainstorm last night, the water level had increased considerably and my vantage point on the river bank is very nearly underwater 😦 Thank God for Gortex boots, my feet managed to stay dry during the soggy trek and one face plant as I made my way through the mess. Fortunately I was able to keep the camera above water, although I did have to clear some muck out of the hot shoe 😦 It was worth it though, I arrived in time to get a couple of captures of the beautiful sunrise!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Much to my surprise the Great Blue Heron was winging towards me in his daily fishing trip to the calm side of the dam when he just stopped and posed on a rock! this or course gave me the opportunity to shoot a couple of nice portraits and prepare for his next flight! I kept aiming the camera at him as long as my arm muscles could take the weight of my long lens, hoping I would be prepared when the flight finally came. Luckily I was ready and snapped off a number of images of him in perfect flight 🙂

Common Merganser Ducks

The falcons were also flying around, very difficult to photograph in flight. They are very fast and they like to change directions! I will have to look carefully at each one to see if I have any keepers. A little family of merganser ducks paddled slowly by so I could get a nice shot of them and one of the osprey even flew over! Later on I wandered over to their nest to see what they were up to today. They were pretty active with several flights over their domain and the father osprey caught a huge fish! Unfortunately he brought it to a distant tree instead of the nest so I really didn’t get a shot of that.

Osprey in Flight

All in all it was a pretty productive day and I am happy with what I came away with. Tomorrow the plan is to be back at the riverside by sunrise!

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!

 

Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain 🙂 I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet 🙂 Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I could  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse 🙂 it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years 🙂 I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade 🙂 I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

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!