Elk and Eagles

Elk in a Winter Wonderland

We had a pretty good snow last night and I know nothing brings out the elk like fresh snow! It was already getting close to sunrise so I scrambled to grab my camera and suitable clothing and ran out the door. Had to do a little shoveling in order to get out but I still managed to make it to the trailhead only 15 minutes or so after sunrise.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

The second I set foot on the trail I regretted leaving my snowshoes at home. There was only an inch or two at my house, but up here another thousand feet it looked like three our four. But I had to beat that guy with his dogs to the top of the ridge in time to get plenty of pictures before he and his dog showed up to chase away all the wildlife. I was hoping the deer would be hanging around the tall grass at the top where I could get a nice closeup… but they weren’t there.

Young Elk Cow

I looked across the valley and there was the entire herd of elk… grazing and napping lazily in the morning sunshine on the hillside πŸ™‚ I stopped to snap a few images and then devised a plan to get closer. I would climb to the the edge of the woods and sneak around the south end where I might be able to find a vantage point while remaining undetected until I was right in front of them. Much to my surprise… as I was plotting my next moves, a lone young elk cow ran right past me. I don’t know how she had managed to become so far separated from the herd but she was definitely in a hurry to reunite with her friends! I had time to snap a couple of shots as she made her way past and then took a few more as she galloped across the valley toward a couple of her companions that were also intent upon rejoining the main herd.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

My plan mostly worked, except that the elk had already moved on up the mountainside. However I was able to get much better shots than I had from across the valley. I snapped a few and then began to move slowly toward the huge beasts. In seconds they detected my presence and began to make their move over the top of the mountain. I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer so I stopped and shot whatever I could. The groups of elk within the herd stopped occasionally to look at me which gave me opportunity for some nice group shots.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

Eventually they had all moved over the mountain and I was faced with the fact that what I had intended to be a short trek around the loop trail had now developed into a significant back country adventure. The snow was fairly slick and a steep descent down the slippery mountain was ahead of me. I wished I at least had worn my ice trekkers, but they remained strapped to my backpack which I had left in the truck 😦

Fortunately my trekking pole proved enough on this day to anchor my steps and enable a safe descent to the dirt trail below. I will not be making that mistake again, the snowshoes will be taking up permanent residence in the backseat of my truck for the remainder of the winter!

A great view of the Sangre de Cristo Range came into view and I stopped for a few of the fresh snow, including this cool pano image πŸ™‚

Beautiful Snowy Sangre de Cristo 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!

Sangre de Cristo mountains the day after a big Colorado snowstorm

Where the Spirit Moves

I had no plan at all when I awoke this morning… I might have been content to just sit in my chair with the dog and drink coffee, but as often occurs right about sunrise my mind wandered to my favorite mountain trail and it wasn’t long before I was dressed and out the door.

My hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain yielded nothing but a bit of exercise and before long I was back in the truck. As I contemplated going home with nothing to show for my day but the Spirit began stirring me to drive out to Eleven Mile again, a place I had recently decided I wasn’t going to visit for a while.

Big Herd of Elk

Saw this elk herd on my way, I would have stayed for more pictures but the huge beasts spotted me and began to run and I didn’t want them getting injured in a stampede so I quickly jumped back in the truck. The plan worked, almost as soon as I was out of sight they settled back down and went back to grazing on the mountain grass. Our elk in Teller County aren’t like the friendly ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can practically walk right up to!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted my two favorite bald eagles sitting on a huge boulder together, surrounded by a fan club of crows. Unfortunately by the time I got out my camera, one of the huge raptors had already flown over to an ice floe in the river. I snapped a couple of the remaining bird with the crows and then it flew off as well. Much to my surprise though, the eagle made a return trip… circling past me a couple of times before flying past the cliffs to a treetop near the nest. I believe this is as close as I have ever been to a bald eagle in the wild and I am so happy that all the settings on my camera were just right for an eagle in flight! Very fortunate event in the life of a wildlife photographer πŸ™‚

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In the meantime the other eagle had flown back into the woods as well, perching on another treetop behind the nest, almost completely obscured by tree branches. I watched for about an hour, listening to the two mates calling out to each other but it appeared that they were done flying around for a while. I have learned eagles are content to sit on their branches for hours at a time if they aren’t in need of a meal.

Just as I was ready to call it a day this little muskrat came out to visit, making a couple of passes to check me out and see what I was up to πŸ™‚

Muskrat in the South Platte River

My plans for the last couple of weeks have pretty much been a bust, nothing much from a trip to Waterton and nothing to speak of from another planned visit to Eleven Mile State Park on free State Park day. Gets me to thinking… maybe it’s best to just go where the Spirit Moves, after all… they are His Creation!

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 Rocky Looking forward to next weeks return visit! Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss this year’s adventure!

Video of autumn in the Park. Looking forward to next weeks return visit! Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss this year’s adventure!

Elk Herd on a Rocky Mountain Autumn Evening by Steven Krull

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/elk-herd-on-a-rocky-mountain-autumn-evening-steve-krull.html Picture of the Day – wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of household items and gifts are available, including clothing, coffee mugs, blankets and pillows and much more! Click to explore!

Elk Rut Season Coming Soon!

https://youtu.be/IJVIICuYIpE Video of last year’s elk rut season in Rocky Mountain National Park which I’ll be going to again in a couple weeks! Subscribe to my channel if you like and want to be kept apprised of this year’s adventures!

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 πŸ™‚

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!

 

Unsocial Distancing

Elk Herd on the Mountain

Hit the trail for the first time since my surgery, observing my usual “unsocial distancing” practice. My rule of thumb for that is six miles rather than six feet, basically I’m annoyed if I see anyone at all πŸ™‚

The climb up the ridge was not any easier than it was before I got all out of shape sitting around the house recovering, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath for sure! I thought for a minute I was going to have to turn around when I saw a giant snowdrift ahead but fortunately with all the freezing and thawing the snow was hard packed and easy to cross.

Elk Herd on the Mountain

The climb turned out toΒ  be worth it though when I saw the elk herd πŸ™‚ The lighting was horrible so I didn’t get the glory shot, but it sure was nice to be back in the great outdoors! And the frosting on the cake were my coyote friends who cut loose with a good coyote song for me while I hiked on past πŸ™‚ you can hear the beautiful song in this short video on my YouTube channel! Please subscribe to my channel if you like, I need a few more to get my custom URL!

The hike started out in snow and fog but by the time I reached the summit the beautiful snow capped Sangre de Cristo were beginning to shine through πŸ™‚

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

A World of White

It is truly a World of White on the mountain these days. It has been snowing every couple of days for months and it is just white as far as the eye can see and although there isn’t much color to photograph I was hoping that the day after a big snow would be a good day to try some photographs! If not, it was still going to be an awesome day for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

I was also wanting to try out my new Keen Revel III winter hikers that I got with an awesome end of season closeout deal at REI πŸ™‚ They are light, waterproof and insulated with patented Keen Dry breathable membrane and insulated using a special charcoal bamboo material to keep warmth in and moisture out. Also handy to me is that this is one of the only boots I’ve seen that has a gaiter hook for attaching the front of your gaiters.

The instant I arrived at the trailhead I knew it was going to be a good day. The elk herd was grazing in the thick pine and aspen trees on top of the hill, so I did my best to pull in quietly and ready my camera. Unfortunately there were some power lines in the way and I couldn’t use my truck for a hide. I quietly began to move along the fence in hopes of getting a better angle, but the wary beasts spotted me right away and quickly moved to the other side of the mountain.

There was still hope though, if I could stealthily snowshoe around the other side of the mountain I hoped I would find them lingering in the high meadow on the other side of the summit. So I made my way though the deep snow up the steep trail on the east side of the mountain hoping I would arrive at the summit before they had completed their trek to the cover of the forest. Enough snow had fallen since my last visit that I could barely make out my trail, but faint tracks showed me the way along the partially packed route. I would have been struggling through a couple of feet of powder otherwise!

Eventually I neared the summit aware that the crunching of snow under my shoes was

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in winter

probably alerting the great beasts to my presence. Unfortunately that was the case and as I sneaked around the other side of the mountain I could already see them looking in my direction. By theΒ  time I came into view for a shot they were already moving towards the dense forest on the edge of the high clearing. I managed to snap off a few shots and then switch to video mode for a few seconds of footage which I was able to cobble into a YouTube movie for my channel πŸ™‚ By the way, please subscribe to my channel, I am needing a few more subscribers in order to obtain the custom #swkrullimaging URL that I need step up to the next level of success there!

Finally the elk had all moved over the other side of the ridge into the pine trees of the Pike National Forest and out of view so I made my way along the ridge admiring the beauty of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range before heading back down the other side of the mountain.

My feet remained warm and dry in my new Keen’s and were so comfortable that no break in is even going to be required. By the way, this article is not sponsored by Keen or any other firm in any way. I purchased the boots and all equipment used in this hike with my own funds on my own volition.

As always the elk images and much more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items, apparel, tech gadgets and household items are also available for purchase all with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain image from #swkrullimaging! Once again, please visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel to experience the beautiful Rocky Mountains in High Def Video!

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain