Stunning Morning and Eagles

The stars all aligned this morning for a visit to Eleven Mile Canyon. Due to the Rocky Mountain National Park trip I haven’t been there in a while and I Bald Eagle Nesting Pairam always eager to check on the status of the raptor population. As I pulled into the parking lot just before sunrise I could already see two white heads in the nest. So I leapt out of the truck and made my way down to the riverbank as quickly as possible. Fortunately they were still there when I was finally ready to snap a picture 🙂

Pair of bald eagles who call Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado their home

They put on a pretty good show in some very nice light for a few minutes. One of them flew off for a few minutes and came back with a stick for the nest while the other hopped out of the nest and up to their strategic branch. Eventually the other one  took off and flew into the canyon, something I’ve never seen them do before… I was expecting a quick return so I waited motionless as long as I could… But it was cold this morning, and I just got colder and colder until I could barely move my fingers, and that was with gloves on! Finally I had to put my hands in my pockets and risked missing a shot.

Little Sparrow by the Water

In the meantime a sparrow came to the other side of the bank to entertain me and a flock of red wings went by… males and females flying together in the same flock, also something I hadn’t seen before. I somehow managed to get a nice shot of one of the males coming in for a landing in a thicket of reeds.

Red Winged Black Bird in Flight

The eagle never came back from the canyon and and eventually the remaining raptor took flight and few toward the lake, a lucky break for me because they usually fly directly away from me when they decide to go. This time I got a nice shot against the  blazing blue Colorado autumn sky 🙂

At that point I walked my shivering self back to the truck to get another layer to put on under my field jacket. As I prepared to make the trek up to the dam I spotted something in a tree high above the river valley… Could it be one of the osprey? I snapped a picture and tried to zoom in with the LCD viewer but I could tell is that it was a large bird.

Bald Eagle Nesting PairThen all of a sudden he took flight as well and I did my best to capture him in flight… I haven’t processed that image yet but on the LCD it looked like it might be the red-tailed hawk that occasionally watches over the entrance to the valley.

Doe Mule Deer in the Woods

My final bit of luck came as I stood on the dam… as I looked up from the dam onto the trail above I spotted a doe mule deer peering out from the woods… As quickly and quietly as I could I readied the camera for a picture and she watched me curiously while I grabbed a few images. Finally she meandered into the dense forest and the moment was gone.

I hiked a few feet up the trail and spotted the rest of the herd looking out from the edge of the forest and they too watched curiously as I moved about with the camera trying to get the best angles.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I considered walking into the canyon but by this time the weekenders from the city were already piling in, stirring up huge clouds of dust and I wasn’t up for all the noise, engines roaring and fishermen yelling at each other from all ends of the canyon… The trip home was uneventful and now I’m in front of the computer where I will spend a good part of the rest of my day 😦

These were my  favorite pictures 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!

Spectacular Morning

I was up early and according to the weather channel it was going to be a beautiful morning… no excuse not to grab the camera and head for the wilderness! It seemed extra dark as I drove down the canyon and I worried that there would be no light on the river and the trip was going to be wasted. As I cleared the canyon a strange red glow steamed through the window into the front seat so I took a quick glance to the east.

Autumn Sunrise

I could not believe my eyes, the sky was on fire! I spotted a side road and quickly pulled over. My long lens was attached in preparation for wildlife photography but I knew that the effect would last but a few moments, so I quickly grabbed the camera and fired off a few shots. Seeing that there was a bit more time I put on a wide angle and snapped a few more. And then just like that, the color was gone. It’s amazing how fleeting these great moments can be!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

The canyon was cold this morning… even though the day was supposed to be relatively warm, the nights are definitely getting colder! Luckily I had an extra hoodie and a pair of gloves in the back seat! I didn’t see the eagles but I brought my long visit chair along anyway, thought I might just rest awhile and hope for a herd of deer or a bear to wander into the meadow on the opposite side of the icy river.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

The only action I could see was a few ducks milling around in the icy South Platte River and a few sparrows busying themselves along the waters edge. Pretty soon a fisherman came along to annoy me so I decided to wander over to the dam for a look see. I always approach slowly in hopes that I will catch the great blue heron, but I got to day dreaming as I approached and he flew right past me! I didn’t even have time to get my camera ready. But the heron made an unusual maneuver… a short flight and a landing near a vantage point on the shoreline. As stealthily as I could I crept through the reeds to the shoreline. There he was, standing in the shallow water… I ducked below a thicket of reeds and brought up my camera… That unfortunately was enough, off he went again… but at least I was ready and got a couple of him flying by 🙂

Bald Eagle Perching

By then it was getting hot and I had to shed a couple of layers so I went back to the truck. As always I scanned the eagle’s area and noticed a spec of bright white up in the trees! So I quickly snapped a picture just in case and  grabbed my chair again to take up an observation position. But by the time I got to the best spot though, the eagle was gone. In the meantime the two osprey that I thought had already flown south were soaring high in the clear blue Colorado sky! Far to distant for a good picture, but if you want to see him you can check my Instagram page where

Peregrine Falcon Flying Overhead

I have displayed a few more from today’s action. I don’t know what there habits of the young osprey are these days, they are never at the nest or the wide spot in the river where I was accustomed to seeing them so I had assumed they were gone! Apparently the warm weather we have been enjoying has kept them around. A peregrine falcon also made a flyby and of course there were also a few geese randomly landing and taking off. Please feel free to follow my page if you don’t want to miss the next adventure!

All in all it was a spectacular morning indeed!

For your enjoyment I have 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!

Autumn in the Canyon

Fall has come early to Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado… With the departing of the osprey some of the pizzazz has  gone out of my visits here, but the amazing color has made up for it! I arrived just after sunrise and was delighted to notice that both bald eagles were in the nest.

Eleven Mile Bald Eagle Pair

I grabbed my camera and my official observation chair and hurried down to the riverbank in hopes of catching them before they left for the day. Right around sunrise these days they can be found flying back and forth with sticks to fortify their nest for the harsh Colorado winter, but the show doesn’t last for long. Within an hour it is likely that they will both be off for the day doing eagle stuff!

Eleven Mile Bald Eagle PairJust after I got situated, one of the pair took off and flew into the canyon. Unfortunately my camera was nowhere near ready. Exposure compensation was set at +2/3 and my shutter speed was only at a 500th of a second. My first opportunity was completely blown. Quickly I adjusted my settings for eagles in flight, -2/3 exposure compensation to assure that the bright white of their head feathers are not blown out and about a 1250th of a second shutter speed. I usually like a 1600th or faster but in such low light 1250 is a good compromise.

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

Eventually the eagle returned and I was able to get a couple of nice shots of the pair in flight. Soon after of course, the show was over and I decided to walk in and investigate the fall color situation. The sunshine had not yet reached the river valley so I was able to get a couple of nice motion blurs of the flowing stream and see that the colors were going to really pop with the light of the sun.

I went back to the parking lot to retrieve my truck for a long day of fall photography.  I slowly drove along the riverside road looking for all the best views. The colors along the river were well worth some sketchy scrambling on hands and knees down to waters edge and I took advantage of every opportunity! In addition to all the wonderful still images I was able to capture, I thought it important to capture some of the sound and motion of the beautiful golden water of the river. Still images are nice but sometimes they just don’t do the scene justice!

Three Deer Crossing

On my way out of the canyon I spotted a young deer crossing the river so I stopped and grabbed my camera. The yearling was soon joined by two other doe mule deer in crossing the river but unfortunately, once again I was unprepared for the situation… my camera was still equipped for scenery pictures with only a 24-105 lens and a shutter speed of 160th of a

Three Deer Crossing

second… but there was no time for adjustments and I just started shooting. Luckily it looks like a couple have turned out, one with a bit of pleasing motion blur 🙂

For your enjoyment I have created a nice 10 minute YouTube video with still imagery and video of today’s experience.  There are also many other adventures that I have documented with multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

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 moreof 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!

Autumn Color in Eleven Mile

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!

Lessons Learned

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

It was quite a summer of photography and I definitely had to up my game this season! For nearly four decades in Colorado I have enjoyed photographing our beautiful mountain landscapes, iconic wildlife including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk and even a few bear! I have been successful shooting all these subjects from the fully manual era to auto focus, early digital, and finally to these times of amazing technology that could barely be imagined when I first began this amazing journey with my Minolta X-700 35mm film camera.

Bald Eagle in Flight

My first digital camera was the original Canon 1D. The camera was so intuitive and amazing that I never even bothered to learn how to use it’s advanced focusing system. The camera was so good at finding the subjects I was interested in that I didn’t even need to learn any more about it beyond it’s most basic settings. Unfortunately that camera had only a 4.5 megapixel sensor and quickly became obsolete as camera technology exploded at light speed.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

By the time the Canon 40D was introduced I was doing a bit of sports photography and was forced to master single focus point selection which involved only one additional button and a joy stickl on the back of the camera. By the time the 70D arrived I was confronted with increasingly difficult situations which required learning “back button focus“. With that skill mastered, I was able to rapidly switch between servo and single shot photography with just a thumb and one button on the back of the camera.

Mother Bald Eagle with Her Eaglet

But this summer was different, starting with the discovery of the eagles nesting in Eleven Mile Canyon. No big deal at first, the mother eagle was just sitting in the nest with her eaglet and my previously acquired skills were perfectly sufficient. Then it happened, the eagles flew! They took flight in some of the most magnificent photographic opportunities I had ever been presented with!

Osprey Gathering

And suddenly I was a complete failure as a photographer 😦 All my pictures were blurry and the opportunity for game changing images was lost. Back to the drawing board… Of course there were some obvious solutions, shutter speed too slow being the first major culprit. A quick trip to the internet provided the necessary information, birds in flight require a shutter speed of at least 1/1250th of a second, preferably 1/1600th and up. I decided upon shutter priority mode with auto ISO to accomplish this task and I began to get some pretty decent eagles in flight captures.

After extensive observation I learned a bit about eagle habit, what time of day they might fly, when they might return and even a couple of indicators for when they might be getting ready to take flight. Eagles are big and tend to soar in steadily making accurate focus a fairly dependable action. I believed I was set, my skills were up to the task of photographing raptors 🙂

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

One day the eagles weren’t there and I decided to venture further into the canyon in search of them. As I scanned the banks of the South Platte River looking for signs of additional subjects I spotted a huge nest on a dead tree high overhead. Closer inspection revealed a bit of motion in the nest so I parked Big Blue and got out with my long lens for a better look.

Sure enough, there was a large bird in the nest with two small bobbing heads… But what was it, a hawk of some kind perhaps? I climbed the opposite bank for a better look and surmised that this beautiful birds must be osprey. I shot for awhile and headed for home with my cache of fascinating images. A quick check on the internet confirmed my original assessment, indeed there was a family of osprey nesting high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

Subsequent trips to the viewing area revealed that further advancement in my birding skills was going to be required… for the first time I was forced to deep dive into the capabilities of my camera. Settings that I had glossed over when I purchased my Canon 90D were now items of interest… First image priority, second image priority, acceleration and deceleration, erratic motion and focus point switching were all in play with the osprey. Flight without any kind of warning, rapidly changing direction, flying through the trees and dipping and diving had rendered my previously learned skills completely inadequate.

Osprey and Hummingbird

Now by the end of summer, many dozens of hours of practice, study and trial and error have elevated my skills to a new level. I have confidence that I have my camera settings dialed in, my skills honed and my patience perfected… as much as humanly possible 🙂 Now for what I have learned …

In a nutshell, I’m not going to try to go into great detail about camera settings since each camera manufacturer and each camera is different… but at least for birds in flight and probably many other additional applications, this is what I have learned:

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

For starters, if I am anticipating birds in flight right from the get go, I’ll put my camera on shutter priority at 1/1600th of a second  with auto ISO. For birds in flight you are going to need at least a 400mm lens if not longer, so I make sure I am using my 100-400 with my 1.4x extension attached. That limits me to F8 and consequently one focus point, but I’ve discovered that unless the bird is flying against a pure backdrop such as the sky I have better luck with the greater magnification and a single point anyway. Tv mode also allows me access to the rear wheel for quick adjustment of exposure compensation which I am going to need if the bird flies high with the bright sky in the background.

Double-crested Cormorant in Flight

If I  get on scene and the birds are in the nest I may want to dial back my shutter speed to 640 which is going to bring the ISO down quite a bit for a cleaner picture. If a beaver is swimming downstream or I see some deer walking across the stream I may bump the shutter speed up to 1/800th or so to freeze the motion. But if nothing else is going on and I am going to just watch a nest for action I’ll bump the shutter speed back up to at least 1250 or 1600 depending on the light.

Wilson's Warbler

Also if I find myself in a low light situation anticipating action I may go to manual on the mode dial and use the widest aperture available, which is going to be F8 with the 1.4 attached, or F5.6 for my lens at its widest focal length without the 1.4x, and the lens fully extended to 400mm. In Tv mode, the camera may select a stop down from the widest aperture which may bump you into a higher and less clear ISO range. And of course always be paying attention to your background. If it is brighter than the light on your subject you may need to bump up your exposure compensation. A bright sky may require at least +1. As in the case of the osprey and bald eagles with their bright white heads, you are probably going to want to dial that back to -1/3 or -2/3 to avoid blowing out the brilliant white feathers.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Well I guess that’s about it for now… I have to say though, I’m looking forward to autumn and prime season for the majestic large mammals that mostly stand and pose for me.  Even with all the learning and practice a lot of birds in flight don’t turn out and I am going to enjoy the much higher success rate on the big animals 🙂

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!

Juvenile osprey in flight

Another Excellent Adventure

Bald Eagle on Nest

It was another excellent morning for photography at Eleven Mile Canyon. First of all I was glad to see that reports of a wildfire in the area were either not true or the fire is already out, no smoke anywhere in the area 🙂 I arrived just before sunrise and went immediately down to water’s edge to check for any action in the river below the dam. On a lucky day I might see the big beaver working on his lodge or even the osprey fishing for trout in the placid water. As I was getting my camera ready I spotted the great blue heron already on his daily return flight from the reeds and fish in the calm water above the dam. Unfortunately  I was not able to capture the

Tree Squirrel Eating

daily event as I was still fiddling with batteries and lenses 😦 I did however, notice that there was some movement in the eagles nest that I haven’t seen for some time! It was one of the adult bald eagles sitting on the nest and I quickly readied my camera for an eagle sitting still shot… Tv mode with a 400th of a second, ISO 640, F9 and -1/3 exposure compensation so as not to blow out the bright white on the eagle’s head!

Pair of Canada Geese

A quick scan of the area revealed nothing but a few Canada geese swimming in the placid water well below the dam. I thought I might be able to see the osprey watching for trout above the dam, but there was nothing but a bunch of tiny grey birds flitting back and forth between the cliff on the west side and the pine trees on the east side of the river 😦 This cute tree squirrl and this pair of Canada geese seemed like worth subjects though!

Mallard Duck

I looked on all the usual tree tops for the osprey but they were nowhere to be seen. The falcons were also taking a day off and I began to wonder if they and the osprey had already headed for South America. There was a cute duck quacking and swimming around in the glass like water by the reeds so I snapped a few of those, although I usually don’t bother shooting ducks and geese… but today I just wanted to make sure I captured something!

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

With nothing going on above the dam I decided to venture back into the canyon to investigate the osprey situation. As I neared the nest I was surprised when one of the majestic birds flew right over my head. I wasn’t able to recover in time to get the shot but luckily I had arrived at the beginning of the morning feeding so the first raptor took up a position in the nest. I also took up my position high on the opposite bank with my favorite view of the nest and the entire riverbank.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

The youngster in the nest chirped noisily so I hoped the parents would soon answer with a fish… However it was the sibling who first answered the call and he too landed in the nest. But being in no mood to share his catch he quickly departed with his prize and perched on a dead  branch on my side of the river. In quick succession though, the mother osprey appeared with a stick for he nest followed by the father who delivered some kind of catch… It didn’t look like a fish, perhaps one of the ubiquitous ground squirrels was the preferred catch of the day!

Doe Mule Deer in the South Platte River

Eventually the majestic birds all disappeared so I headed upstream to see if I might find them fishing in the wide part of the river a couple hundred yards to the south. I didn’t see the osprey but I did spot this nice doe mule deer eating the lush grass on an island. She cast a wary glance in my direction so I just sat down and hoped she would continue. She quickly became comfortable with my presence and began to eat again. I snapped quite a few images of her in various positions but this one at water’s edge is my favorite!

Gold Finch Eating Flowers

After shooting a few stills of the beautiful flowing water I headed back to my truck where I noticed this little gold finch feeding on some wildflowers. A nice ending to an excellent morning.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video 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!

The Eagles Were Smiling

Bald Eagle in Flight

Well I don’t know if the eagles were smiling but God definitely was smiling upon me this morning 🙂 All the places I usually go in the summer to photograph wildlife were closed this summer due to the virus so I was forced to find some new places and learn some new skills. As it turns out Eleven Mile Canyon is fairly close by and it’s big attraction is raptors and birds of various types. I have spent my summer honing my skills photographing eagles and osprey while watching the progress of our area’s favorite eaglet as he grows in strength and has finally learned to fly.

Bald Eagle in Flight

I started the summer with all my camera settings and skills calibrated for photographing large mammals and I have to say, birds in flight is a whole ‘nother game! Well anyway, today it all came together, including my finding the camping chair which has been lost for as long as I can remember… it was folded up and sitting in plain sight in my room of course but this morning I just happened to spot it, completely by accident 🙂

So off I went, just before sunrise in the hope of arriving just as the sun cleared the ridge to  the east, providing perfect light over the eagles nest and the pristine waters of the South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies on it’s journey through Nebraska to the Mighty Missouri.

Bald Eagle in Flight

With the warm sun spilling over my shoulders I set up my rig on the bank of the river with a “birds eye view” of the restricted raptor area on the west side. Ready for action, my camera set to Tv mode with auto ISO, 1/2000th of a second… plenty of shutter speed to capture an eagle in flight. I wasn’t too worried about the aperture, with my 1.4x extension attached I’m pretty much guaranteed the camera will use F8. I’d like a little faster but with the loss of a stop of light from the 1.4x, F8 is the widest my 400mm F5.6 can achieve. Usually I sit for hours with not much happening other than a little flapping of wings in the nest as the fledgling practices his newfound wing skills. The eaglet was indeed on the nest but I also spotted the mother eagle on a perch not far away so there was some hope that today could be special.

It wasn’t long and the youngster took flight and tried to join mom on the higher perch, Fledgling Bald Eaglet in Flightbut she was having none of it. The eaglet landed on a branch near her and immediately the mother eagle took flight and made a wide circle over the entire area before disappearing behind the mountain. Much to my surprise however, she was soon back and flying right over me at low altitude after which she just circled and circled for a  good long time. with each pass I shot more images as she approached, while letting off the shutter as she turned her back to me in preparation for another pass.

Eventually she swooped in and landed in a tree above the fledgling. I thought the show might be over so I packed up to go visit the osprey further up the canyon, but after walking a few steps I looked back and all three eagles were in the air!  It was clear the show wasn’t over so I just went and sat back down in my chair and decided to remain on the banks of the Platte until the heat of the day drove all the critters into the shade of the dense pines in the San Isabel National Forest.

Bald Eagle in Flight

And what a show it was, one by one each of the eagles went on a long flight above me, soaring high on the mountain air currents and circling past over and over, as if they knew I was ready and wanted me to photograph them! By the time the sun began to beat mercilessly down upon the forest I had accumulated over 800 images, almost all perfectly exposed and tack sharp 🙂

These I have included today are just a few of my favorite ones, there are many more including some cool shots of the red wings and some geese paddling by in the golden beauty of the early morning water that I photographed while waiting on the eagles 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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!

Cold in the Canyon

I awoke at sunrise and took a peek out the front window to see what kind of day it was going to be, and  already I could see a beautiful day in the making.  I thought about a further trip but being the 4th of July weekend I was all too aware of the obligatory traffic jams in the mountains as the weekend travelers make the journey back home. I hadn’t seen the adult bald eagles for a few days and someone was trying to convince me that they had left for the season, so I decided on another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon to check it out for myself.

Morning Mule Deer

When I arrived the fledgling was perched on a branch above the nest, facing the wrong way of course… I waited about an hour and then he finally flew, but just from the nest back further into the trees where I couldn’t see him at all. Today there were no deer on the banks of the river either so I decided to make the hike back into the park to check on the osprey family.

It appears though that the deer had all congregated deep in the canyon today, and they were all trying to make their way out as I was making my way in. They warily approached me so I decided to appear non threatening and just sat down on a rock while they nervously passed. Right in that particular spot there is a cliff wall on one side and a drop off to the roaring whitewater below on the other, there is no other choice but to share the road! I did get a nice portrait of this doe though, with the beautiful canyon wall on the opposite side of the river creating a nice background for the image 🙂

Eventually the osprey nest came into view and I could see even from a distance that

Osprey Fledging

there was a bird in there. As I drew closer I could see that the mother and the two chicks were nestled snugly in their home on top of the trees. I made my usual climb up the other side of the bank to my vantage point and settled in for the wait. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before one of the fledglings was feeling frisky and started furiously flapping his wings 🙂 Of course my camera was on rapid fire for that display!

Osprey in Flight

Next on tap was a flight by daddy osprey who left his perch from a dead tree high above the nest, where he keeps a close eye out for danger. He flew off and was back in a short time with a stick which he swooped in to give to mama osprey. I was fortunate to capture a good one of him coming in for a landing at the nest clutching a prize in his formidable talons. He remained but a few seconds and flew back to his perch where he remained sentry for the rest of my morning.

Osprey Family on the Nest

Mama continued rustling around, occasionally reaching into the nest to tend to the chicks before finally taking perch on top of the edge of the nest. I was able to get some nice pictures of her and the chicks but I was really hoping for a flight.

Being the middle of summer I had left my sweatshirt in the truck and it wasn’t long before I was regretting that move! As I sat there in my short sleeved shirt sitting on the cold rock I just got colder and colder. Finally by 10:00 I think hypothermia was starting to set in and I was shaking so badly I could no longer steady the camera. I hung in there another half hour or so but mama didn’t appear inclined at all to go on a fishing trip so I gave it up and climbed back down the embankment, not an easy task on cold legs that had been doing nothing but stiffening for the last couple hours! Fortunately I made it back down without falling over the edge 🙂

As I neared the truck I thought I could see some action in a tree high above the eagles

Bald Eagle Fledgling

nest. I aimed my long lens up there but couldn’t really see anything except a big brown object. It looked kind of like an eagle but it could also just be a tree branch. Finally I snapped a picture and used the LCD playback to zoom in and examine the subject more closely. Sure enough, it was mama eagle sitting in the tree with her back facing me. Once again I devoted more time in the hope she would fly, but from what I could tell she never even twitched from her statuesque pose. As I was standing up getting ready to depart I heard the eaglet in the distance calling out to mama. She answered with a screech that echoed across the valley… and soon the young one was airborne and gliding toward the nest. Fortunately I ready and was able to capture a good image of him coming in for the landing 🙂 He is just a youngster but as you can see he is already looking quite fierce!

Now as I write, there is a beautiful rainstorm in progress, thunder echoing

Osprey Learning to Fly

through the valley to keep me company. I can’t say that I’m upset that the holiday weekend is almost over, definitely not a fan of the crowds the big days bring to the mountains.

As always, the best of these images 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 Eagle Show

Baby Eagle in Nest

As the caffeine from my morning coffee began to revive my brain, I began to wonder how the eagles out at Eleven Mile Canyon were doing. The last time I was there I didn’t see them and there were reports that the eaglet had taken flight, so it has been a couple of weeks since I have seen them. By 6:30 I was itching to get outside with my camera so it seemed a good day to pay a visit. When I first arrived I didn’t see any of them in the nest, not with my bare eyes anyway… I needed a closer look so I got out my big lens and zoomed in. Much to my surprise the eaglet was in the nest, or above it I should say… disguised as a tree branch! I steadied the camera on the hood of my truck and just watched for a while.

Eventually I was rewarded with a short flight by the young raptor, probably a couple of

Red Winged Blackbird

feet over the nest. I was surprised that the parent eagles weren’t there, I thought I had a handle on their daily routine, with flight taken at about 10:00. So I thought, well… why don’t I hang around until a little after 10:00 and see if anything happens? In the meantime I whiled away the time by shooting an occasional shot of the red winged blackbirds that were hopping from perch to perch, occasionally dropping down to the clear blue water of the South Platte for a drink.

Bald Eagles in Flight

At 10:15 I was about to give up on the eagles and settle for the images of the eaglet in near flight. While messing around trying to photograph one of the speedy little swallows over the river that like to taunt me, I looked up and spotted one of the adults in the nest! Soon I also saw the other parent swooping in and I whipped my camera up and laid on the back focus button… The huge bird came into view and I started shooting. Only my middle focus point was activated and in precise mode so I did my best to keep that single small point on the eagle as he glided over to the nest and spread his wings for the landing. I was so happy to discover that quite a few of him preparing to land on the nest turned out pretty well 🙂

For a few short minutes both adults and the eaglet were in the nest together but

Bald Eagles in Flight

unfortunately the baby had ducked down and wasn’t really visible from my angle. Shortly thereafter one of the adults suddenly and without warning took flight  again, I imagine for another fishing trip over Eleven Mile Reservoir.

I hung around a few more minutes hoping that the youngster would join mama for a couple of poses but I was thinking the little one was probably tired from all his pre flight practice earlier in the day. I really hope I have the good fortune to be there when he eventually takes flight for real and joins his parents in the fishing. I wonder how long the eaglet remains with his parents before departing to make his own life? I’ll have to look that up I guess 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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!

Bald Eagles in the Nest

 

I Can Fly!!!

Eaglet on the Nest

This morning’s hike yielded nothing but a good workout, save for a picture of a distant chipmunk on a rock. Birds were chirping all around, the prairie dogs sounding out their warnings, and coyote barking in the distance. But nothing reached the lens of my camera.

So this afternoon I made another visit to see what the bald eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eaglet on the Nest

might be up to. As it turns out the adult eagles weren’t there but the youngster was in the nest still testing his wings. When I arrived he was perched on the branch above the nest but then moved back down into the safety of the large bowl. Eventually he posed on the front of the nest for a bit before jumping back down inside.

Female Redwing Black Bird

In the meantime I whiled the time away by photographing the red wings, the males chirping and showing off while the females gathered nesting materials from the ubiquitous cattails which are now bursting at the seams to scatter their seed. Today the females were very active so I practiced trying to catch them in flight. A couple attempts appear to have been successful, I’ll look those over better later.

Eventually the eaglet stood up and stretched to his full now impressive wingspan and took flight a few inches above the nest. I think it won’t be long before he is ready to take flight outside the nest and begin his life as our national bird 🙂

Eventually a walk up the trail along the river revealed this interesting bird which I have yet to identify, it appears to be some kind of grebe but I’m not sure.

Cute Water Bird