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 Beauty in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

https://youtu.be/5Z-_2lA1KBo Sights and sounds of a beautiful autumn morning in magnificent Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado including amazing fall colors, bald eagles,  and mule deer. Don’t forget to subscribe if you like and don’t want to miss the next episode!

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

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!

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!

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!

 

The Animals are More Civilized

Another magnificent morning in Eleven Mile Canyon with all the wild forest dwellers. I arrived at sunrise with my chair and camera and as always I set up camp along the banks of the South Platte at the entrance to the canyon. I love that spot, at sunrise the amount of activity is incredible and you never know what you are going to see! I’ve seen all manner of birds, including eagles, falcons and all kinds of aquatic birds… not to mention the ubiquitous red wing blackbirds, deer and even a beaver!

Great Blue Heron in Flight

My day started with a brief sighting of the ever busy beaver retrieving materials for his lodge well hidden in the reeds along the west bank of the South Platte. Unfortunately he disappeared into the cover of the thick reeds before I could even raise my camera. As I watched to see if he was going to re-emerge a huge Great Blue Heron exited the canyon and flew towards me. Fortunately my camera was already set up for birds in flight to prepare for my anticipated eagle sighting and I quickly started shooting.  My new camera “wildlife photography setup” paid off and I was able to capture a few good ones of the flight 🙂

Double-crested Cormorant in Flight

As I was looking downriver to see where the heron may have gone another huge bird which at first I thought was the heron coming back already, came winging up from the lake. It was a huge long necked black and orange aquatic bird which I was also fortunate enough to capture on such short notice. At the time I didn’t know what it was but later on the computer I was able to determine that it was a Double-crested Cormorant. By this time I was feeling pretty privileged!

Merganser duck and ducklings

No sooner had I sat back down to watch for the eagles, I heard a kerplop in the water right  beside me. As it turns out a little family of Common Merganser ducks had been hiding in the reeds right beside me and had jumped into the water for a swim 🙂 Mama with a couple of ducklings in tow swam across the river to the west bank in the pristine water of the South Platte reflecting the golden glow of a Colorado sunrise. I didn’t notice it at the time, but one of the ducklings was actually hitching a ride on mama’s back 🙂 Now I don’t see why these ducks are called “common”, to me they are amazing looking and decidedly uncommon!

Female Red Wing Blackbird

And of course if you run out of things to point your camera at, there is always the considerable Red-winged Blackbird population to entertain you. I thought this little female busying herself along the riverside was extremely cute! I was fortunate to catch her standing still for a few seconds in front of the dense reeds lining both shores 🙂

By now the sun was rising high in the eastern sky and the flurry of activity along the riverbank was beginning to subside. Unfortunately there was no sign of the eagle family, which I haven’t seen in at least a week. I assume they are still coming back to the nest at night, but if they do they are gone at the first hint of morning light.

Pair of Osprey

I decided to make the trek up the canyon to see what activity I might find at the osprey nest, while at the same time looking around for the unpredictable flock of falcon that sometimes occupy the cliff walls near the entrance. I had seen a few of them flying back and forth out of the range of my 400mm lens but I didn’t see any along the canyon wall. Soon the osprey nest came into view and I could see one of the amazing raptors inside. It was one of the two juvenile birds which took flight shortly after my arrival.  I climbed the eastern bank of the river and sat with all my gear in my usual seat in full view of the nest and entire river valley.

Osprey with a Fish

The youngsters entertained themselves by taking turns soaring high and swooping low, putting on a great show for this photographer 🙂 I sat on my perch for hours watching the action. The nesting pair soared together in a show of pure joy and companionship which I imagined had been seen by very few human eyes. After a couple of hours each of the four family members had taken a perch high on their own dead pine tree near the top of the west wall of the canyon. However during this down time I did get to witness some rare aerial conflict, at one point far beyond camera range the father bird left his perch to warn a vulture that had strayed too close, followed closely by a falcon who was also disturbed by the huge scavenger’s proximity. Interestingly however, the osprey and the falcon however seemed unconcerned with each other. Besides that , the osprey family remained relatively motionless for a couple of hours until I was about ready to give up.

However by this time it was getting close to noon and several times in recent days I had noticed the entire family at the nest at about that time, so I decided to remain and see if the pattern would continue. Sure enough, at

Osprey Bringing Fish

about 11:50, one of the young birds returned to the nest and took up a perch on one of the lower branches. Then at 12:15 the other youngster returned and perched on another branch under the nest. The father bird remained motionless on his perch overlooking the scene when all of a sudden mama appeared with a fish for the lunchtime gathering! It wasn’t long before the papa osprey left his perch and flew off towards Eleven Mile Reservoir on a fishing trip of his own. He soon returned with another fish for the family as they all gathered inside the nest for the feast. I was fascinated by this bit of osprey custom, and by the fact that the entire family within a few minutes seemed to know what time it was!

Osprey Soaring

Angry clouds had begun to gather behind me and I knew rain was not far in the future. The osprey too seemed to know that a rainstorm was up as the rare gathering of all four birds in the nest continued until my departure. The father bird rarely stays in the nest more than a few seconds after delivering his bounty so I surmised they were hunkering down in preparation for the inclement weather.

As I hustled down the canyon to the shelter of my truck I began to dread leaving this idyllic location only to return home to all the bad news sure to greet me on the television and on the internet. The animals all seemed so civilized, mothers and fathers taking care of their young, watching so carefully over their nests and offspring, children obediently following behind and learning the ropes of the animals life they would soon be growing into. In fact they seemed more civilized that the population of human savages that I was about to rejoin. It’s a sad state of affairs when the animal kingdom is more civilized than the humans. It is astonishing to me that the behavior we have recently seen is tolerated, and even more astonished that some of our leaders even seem to be encouraging the mayhem. I can only assume that somehow they think they will benefit from the chaos, but I think they will soon discover that they have made a grave miscalculation.

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