Raptors in Motion

The excitement is building in the world of raptors, especially in the bald eagle department! The mating season is near and the unattached birds are preparing for migration. That means here in Colorado we photographers are getting ready for the highlight of the year when hundreds of the great raptors descend upon our rivers and reservoirs to look for mates and make the journey south for warmer digs.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

The nesting pairs that choose to stay however, are busy getting their nests ready for the long cold Rocky Mountain winter. And that’s exactly what my favorite nesting pair was up to at Eleven Mile Canyon on this photo adventure. It was chilly when I left before sunrise so I made sure to bundle up in my warmest winter gear for what was sure to be a bone chilling visit to the banks of the South Platte River at my favorite eagle viewing vantage point.

As I drove into the park and the nest came into view I was delighted to see that both eagles were still on location just as the sun was clearing the mountains to the east. The light was perfect and I was going to get the opportunity to capture some great moments!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAt first there didn’t seem to be a lot going on so I settled into my camp chair for a long visit along the frozen banks of the clear cold South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies toward it’s destination in eastern Nebraska. Pretty soon I began to see some activity, one of the eagles hopped out of the safety of the nest onto the “eagle porch”, a piece of dead branch sticking out over the nest.

I took this as a sign that something was about to happen, these eagles often hop up there when they are about ready to depart for their favorite fishing grounds for the day. It wasn’t long before the pair flew away without my being able to get a very compelling image of them in flight. I decided to stick around for a bit to see if maybe they would come back. And it’s a good thing I did, both birds returned with a stick for the nest! I watched as the mother eagle carefully decided upon the optimum location for the new building materials… Speaking of building materials, I recently read that an eagles nest can grow to ten feet wide and weigh up to half a ton!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually both birds took flight again, this time in a direction more toward me, as they flew past the beautiful cliffs behind the nest where I could get closer and more interesting images. I thought myself fortunate for this brief moment but much to my surprise both of the huge raptors  flew skyward and circled together past me several times 🙂 I have never seen them do this before and I snapped each of their approaches toward me several times as they circled higher and higher, eventually drifting away and out of the range of my camera.

It was still early though and I wasn’t quite ready to give up on my day… so I decided upon a hike into the icy canyon to see what else might greet my day. As I strode along the river I noticed a herd of mule deer mirroring my journey on the other side of the river. I wondered if they might have the low point along that side in mind for a drink or a possible crossing so I did my best to stay out of sight as I tried to beat them to the spot.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived first and took up a seat to wait patiently on a rock partially obscured from view on the other side by some foliage. I was right, it wasn’t long before the small herd of does arrived along the shores if the river for a morning drink. Unfortunately just as I was about to get some good river shots a fisherman roared up in a monster truck to disturb my scene and scare off my subjects. I was able to catch some pretty nice images of the herd as they departed, this being my favorite one. I also chose this image to try out the new radial filter in Adobe Camera Raw… the background was a bit bright for my tastes and I was pleased to be able to create this nice low key rendition of the scene as the furtive herd drifted back into the safety of the tall pines and mountains beyond.

American Dipper Fishing

The fisherman mentioned that he had been seeing what he thought was a mink swimming in the water near there so as I made my return trip I kept my eyes on the water, hoping for yet another photo opportunity on this beautiful early winter morning. And just as I was nearing the fast water, and the end of my ambition to photograph river life in he canyon, I spotted some movement, a sign of life in the cold dark water. It was an American Dipper… jumping from the safety of a rock into the icy water in search of a meal.

American Dipper Fishing

I watched in amazement as the diminutive bird actually dove under the water for several seconds at a time before popping back up several feet away with a little prize. These little birds are amazing, but I never imagined that they would actually swim underwater, submerged for seconds at a time! This proved to be very difficult to photograph however, I was never able to get focused in time for the entry and I was also unable to guess the exit location in time to be able to get a shot. The best I could do were a few images of the little guy on the rock, planning his next attempt.

I’m looking forward to the climax of the mating and migration season in the middle of next month. Another eagle watcher in the canyon yesterday said that she had been seeing a few more eagles, five in one day… including both golden and bald eagles!  Be sure to click the button to follow my page and not miss the next episode in the wilderness of these beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains!

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!

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!

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!