Cloud Dancers

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Snow is flying on Trail Ridge Road already, if you ask me that’s a good omen πŸ™‚ This morning greeted me with 43 chilly degrees, clouds and a pretty stiff breeze. Of course for me, that only meant that I needed to get out in it πŸ™‚ My favorite close by mountain seemed like good medicine for this day, a guaranteed good long hike at elevation πŸ™‚ I haven’t seen any wildlife there in a while though, I’m kind of thinking maybe the dusky grouse has already migrated. Come to think of it, my osprey pair in Eleven Mile Canyon may also have migrated, according to the literature late August is their assigned time for departure for their southern locations. It seems like the adults leave early while their youngsters hang around awhile perfecting their fishing skills and strengthening their new wings. Last year our juveniles at Eleven Mile remained until around mid September.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Sure enough, I hiked all the way to the summit without seeing a thing to photograph, the Sangre de Cristo Range is completely obscured by the California smoke and there was no bird song at all at the summit. I wonder if many of the little species have already migrated… It makes me wonder what kind of horrific winter we may be in store for!

On my way down I was happy to see the pair of red-tailed hawks sitting together on one of the power poles, for the longest time there was just one hawk so I’m glad he or she has found a mate πŸ™‚ I was in pretty good position for a shot so I set up the tripod and switched to live view where it was easier to keep an eye on them through the three inch LCD screen. Plus I don’t have to strain my neck so much to just sit and look at the “big screen”, rather than the little tiny viewfinder!

It wasn’t long and the beautiful pair took flight and headed north for their daytime locations which I’m not privy to. I waited a bit to see if they would come back but it appeared that the decision was made for the day so I decided to go on up to the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor for some  biscuits and gravy, always a treat πŸ™‚

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Eventually the sun was shining brightly and it appeared that my day of photography was over so I turned Big Blue back down the pass towards home. But as I passed the trailhead I looked into the sky and saw four large birds soaring and chasing each other in the sky. I trained my big lens on them and by golly it was four red-tail hawks, just playing in the sky πŸ™‚ I suspect that the two extra must be the offspring of the nesting pair that I’ve become familiar with. All the more red-tails to photograph in the months to come!

They circled overhead for quite a while, twirling and diving and chasing each other all over the beautiful blue Colorado sky. I followed them with my lens as best as I could, shooting whenever I was in focus and they were close enough.  I probably snapped about 120 captures before it was all over and the amazing cloud dancers drifted off into the distance.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

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This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Joy in the Sky

When I arrived at Eleven Mile Canyon this morning I was glad to see three osprey in the nest and papa osprey not at his usual perch.Β  That meant I was about to get a shot of him flying in with the morning catch πŸ™‚ I looked around and didn’t see him in the air so I started climbing up to my own perch. Unfortunately that requires a couple of minutes with my back to the nest… I turned around just in time to spot one of the critters landing on a cliff nearby even though I hadn’t seen any shadows overhead indicating the arrival of the papa.

Osprey Chick First Flgiht

I whipped up my camera as quickly as I could and got a shot off just as the raptor was landing πŸ™‚ Odd place for papa to land though, I thought… Closer inspection revealed that it was one of the youngsters! His first flight, about 20 yards from the nest over to the top of a cliff πŸ™‚ He looked pretty proud of himself, doing some kind of little osprey dance where they kind of weave from side to side and bounce up and down… I’ll try to get some video footage of that now that I have a still of him in flight.

Eventually Papa did fly in and I was ready for him to land on the nest but he flew behind the trees and right on by the nest over to a tree near me on my side of the river. So I trained the camera back on the youngster hoping he would fly back to the nest. About a half hour later he started to stir, taking a couple of test flights just a couple of feet off the ground and then off he went, swooping past the nest and into the sky πŸ™‚ That’s the moment in the above picture… he looks so determined! No more worries about him being stranded on the cliff as he proudly soared high in the clear blue Colorado sky, making several passes past the nest and into the trees to the south.

Osprey Chick First FlightLol… it appears his landing skills are still needing some work though, I could see that he wanted to land on a couple dead trees but he overshot the target and had to continue on :( Eventually he made it to another massive bare rock where he clumsily landed high on top of a cliff. He rested there a while before once again taking flight, swooping past the trees and soaring high in the bright Colorado blue sky. It seemed like pure joy after all these weeks of being nest bound, bouncing up and down and trying so hard to follow his powerful parents into the freedom of the sky :)

He found another landing spot on the very top of the cliffs, far above the roaring river below, dangerously close to territory claimed by the buzzards who were circling today as Osprey Chick First Flightalways. I wondered where papa was, having not seen him in quite some time. As I watched through my 400mm lens I spotted a bird in a tree right above junior. I focused in and it was the ever watchful father osprey, on a perch not 20 yards from the new aviator. I should have known, the osprey are always watching their young, never both out of sight of their offspring and I know these formidable predators will never allow them to be harmed. In the picture below you can see the young one on the rock and the father in the tree overhead.

Osprey Chick First Flight

Well anyway, what an honor it was to be there for the little osprey’s first flight, I’m still pinching myself. The younger raptor was also busy today, catching a little air himself, or herself, I don’t think you can tell male from female… unless of course you are an osprey! I imagine the sibling will be taking flight in the next few days too… perhaps I’ll be there when it happens!

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

So off I went, just before sunrise in the hope of arriving just as the sun cleared the ridge toΒ  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 aΒ  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!Β  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

As always, the best of these images are available for purchase onΒ my websiteΒ 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!Β For my viewers interested inΒ images for commercial use, please visit myΒ image licensing portal!

The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

Today was the day… the day we’ve been waiting for with great anticipation for weeks! The eaglet has finally taken flight πŸ™‚ And even better, I was there with the camera to capture it! The little guy has been spreading his wings for a while now, gaining altitude above the nest, flapping his wing sand working up the courage to actually leave the nest and go out on his own πŸ™‚

The youngster left his nest early this morning and made one good pass showing off as if he knew I was there watching.

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

He then swooped in low to land on a boulder across the river. He remained there motionless until a deer went running by and startled him into flight again. This time he flew directly in front of me just on the other side of he river and into a thick area of pine forest, out of sight and out of range of my camera. I remained on the river bank for about an hour hoping he would take flight again but unfortunately I didn’t see him again today.

Baby Bald Eagle in Flight

The adult eagles were not to be left out of the action either, they were flying around swooping low and flying high, as if they too were celebrating the youngsters success! I did my best to take it all in with the camera but they were really moving! Not an easy task to stay on target with a long lens, and unfortunately the lighting was not all that great 😦  After putting on a good show they picked their favorite pine tree high on the cliffs for a perch where they sat motionless, side by side like the two love birds that they are.

Eventually I decided to take a little hike up the canyon to see what the osprey were up to but not much was happening, looks like I’m going to need an earlier start if I want to catch the best light and the most action in the canyon! I made the best of the little hike along the South Platte by shooting a couple images of the landscape and the whitewater which I have uploaded to my website… and also there was a cute little chipmunk who decided to entertain me for a little bit while I watched the osprey nest. πŸ™‚

Bald Eagle Flight

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! Also don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel if you want to see some ofΒ  my adventures in action!

Bald Eagle Flight

 

Slipping the Bonds

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, β€” and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of β€” wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air… .” John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Hawk soaring

Bird of prey soaring overhead

OK, so technically my feet are still on the ground, but when I am in the solitude of mountains above 11,000 feet with the hawks and the eagles soaring overhead it feels like I have slipped the bonds of earth. Today it also feels like I have finally slipped the bonds of civilization. I have been a bit disappointed since moving here that I have not been able to find an easy way to get beyond the limits of the town and into the wilderness that taunts me from the edges of town. To make matters worse, the clutch went out on the old Dodge a couple of weeks ago and I have been limited to the distance that my feet will carry me. Today I decided that Big Dog and I were going to find a way past the dreaded cattle guard and explore the mountainside on the southwest side of town. Fortunately someone has taken down the gate beside the guard so that my four footed hiking buddy could pass and we were home free.

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

We made our way to a hilltop where there is an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and few people have experienced. I love it when IΒ  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon πŸ™‚ Didn’t see any large wildlife, but there are hawks and eagles circling the hillsides there and they are a challenge to photograph to be sure!

As I looked around I noticed a wealth of excellent mountain bike trails that I will have to explore that are well beyond the distance that my feet would like to take me. One of my great disappointments in the Woodland Park area was the dearth of places to ride a bike without getting killed by bike hating lunatics in pickup trucks. My bike has been chained to the wall since moving here and I’m sure the tires are flat but hopefully they aren’t dry rotted as well because I can’t wait to get out there πŸ™‚

I am also determined to remember to bring along my circular polarizer as I believe it would dramatically add to the appeal of the distant Sangre’s. But for the rest of today though, me and Big Dog will be content to hide from the wicked wind that has developed on this mountaintop! A sandblasting is not something that I feel I need 😦 Maybe tomorrow!

As always, these pictures and more will be available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, matted and framed and as RF stock for those needing commercial licensing. Also available are many cool gift and household items including yoga mats, blankets, pillows, apparel, batteryΒ  chargers and more!