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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Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Went out to check on the eaglets the other day, hadn’t been there in a while. As I pulled into the parking area at sunrise I caught a brief glimpse of on of the adults flying into the fog, leaving one juvi behind on the nest.

Heavy rains as of late have resulted in lush vegetation and a full flowing river. Unfortunately to go with it is a bumper crop of mosquitoes which I am still paying for days later with a number of itchy welts on my fingers from no more than five minutes on the river bank.

Kevin and I quickly retreated to higher ground and decided upon a drive up the canyon in hopes of locating the other two juvenile baldies.

Long story short, the baldies are doing fine and are happily flying about, exploring their newly discovered world πŸ™‚ We had several sightings and we’re able to capture quite a few nice images.

So two of the three eaglets are flying, which is pretty good. I imagine by the time I get out there again, all three will be airborne!

Sure Sign of Spring

Red-winged blackbird

A sure sign of spring has arrived at Eleven Mile Canyon. My latest eagle finding adventure was less than successful, but I was happy to see the red-winged blackbirds have returned from their long journey south for the winter. It took a couple of seconds for my mind to identify the new sounds, which were quickly identified as the welcome sound of spring and the call of the red-winged blackbirds that make their home in the plentiful reeds along the South Platte River.

Mother eagle is still dedicated to her task of hatching her new eggs and the deer have also returned to the river bank in the early hours of morning to drink and partake of the tender grass found along the banks of the flowing water. Soon the osprey and other colorful song birds will be returning as well and I am looking forward to a summer of color in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado

Mother Eagle Hatching her Eggs

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!

Deer on the Banks

Nature’s Way

Mama Osprey

Many of you know that I have been watching the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests that I discovered in Eleven Mile Canyon since early spring. I saw one eaglet grow up under the careful eye of his mother and father, spread his wings and finally take flight to begin his life as America’s National Bird. He still lives at the nest, gaining strength and learning from his parents how to hunt. Today I saw him take his longest flight yet πŸ™‚

Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

The Osprey family has two chicks, both of which are growing in size and strength. Today I witnessed a new development… the mother osprey made a short flight across the river over to a dead treetop not far from my favorite perch. At first I thought she was going on a fishing trip but then I thought she landed… I couldn’t see very well from my precarious position but I kept looking and eventually I spotted her through the branches of a tall pine tree. I slid over on the pine needles to a better spot which later resulted in the need for tweezers 😦 and got a shot of her watching over the youngsters. Soon she was calling out the the chicks, apparently encouraging them to fly and they did their very best! The older one flapped his wings furiously and for the first time he actually gained some air! It was quite an experience to behold πŸ™‚

Osprey in Flight

In the meantime a couple of turkey vultures were circling overhead, eventually drawing the ire of the father osprey who took flight to confront the intruders. They were apparently not eager for a fight with the fierce predator and promptly fled the scene. I tried my best to photograph the aerial incident but the confrontation was far too high in the sky for me to adequately capture.

Bald Eagle Fledgling

As I sat at my vantage point and watched the action I was struck by the dedication of the osprey and the eagles to the task assigned them by their Maker. The spend their days doing what they are supposed to do, asking nothing more and nothing less out of their lives. There is no question in their minds about what they are, what they are supposed to do or whether there might be something else in life they might pursue. They find a mate, hatch their eggs and tend to their chicks. The mother is content to nurture the young and the father stands guard on a perch high above the nest with a view of any danger that might approach and occasionally bringing a fish to sustain his family. It is Nature’s Way.

I only wish that people were so disciplined, so obedient and dedicated to the purpose given to them by their Maker. Unfortunately it is not so with humans constantly disobeying their Creator, ignoring all restraint in quest of their own will. Unlike the raptors I have been watching humans are never satisfied with their God given reality, aspiring instead to create their own kingdoms to the detriment of themselves and everyone around them. Those who seek that kind of power over others have something terribly wrong in their souls, they are evil and may God Himself destroy their tyrannical aspirations.

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!

Distant Herd and Unrelated Rant

Distant Herd of Mule Deer

The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…

Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was Distant Herd of Mule Deerjust whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.

Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I wasΒ  going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!

Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states β€œBy policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. β€œThis rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.

The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?

Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.

If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. IΒ  guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.

The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation Β gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.

The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.

Trail Closed

Autumn on the South Face of Pikes Peak

After a couple of days rest from my Rocky Mountain National Park Adventure I was finally ready to resume my regular regimen of hiking and wildlife photography. However a rude surprise was awaiting me at my trailhead in the form of an earth mover the size of a house. My trail is closed and they are building a super highway to the summit of my mountain. I’ll probably never see wildlife there again 😦 I don’t know why they can’t just leave some things alone.

As long as I was that far down the road I decided to go check on the leaves on the south

Autumn on the South Face of Pikes Peak

face of Pikes Peak. They are still a bit green but in the early light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise it was still a beautiful scene… Worth a few pictures anyway!

As always, these pictures and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift, tech and household items are also available with a beautiful Rocky Mountain Image from S.W.Krull Imaging! Click to explore!

Bucket List Gold Camp Road

Gold Camp Road Scenery

Well I finally did it… I drove the length of Gold Camp Road from Victor to Colorado Springs, something I have always wanted to do but never quite worked up the nerve to actually do! I wasn’t planning on it… The plan was to test out the GPS on the phone by driving in a couple of miles to Almagre Mountain and hike a couple miles to the summit for some exercise. The GPS worked splendidly, taking me not a couple of miles, but five miles to a turn off and then three more on a rugged forest road to an unmarked turnout, at which time it told me I had “arrived at my destination”. There were no trail markings, no real hiking trail, just an ugly jeep road heading right up the side of the mountain 😦

Rugged Gold Camp Road Colorado

Pretty soon another four wheeler pulled up and saw me looking up the mountain and asked me skeptically I might add, if my truck had 4wd. No, I replied… my plan was to hike the short route on foot to the summit. Looking relieved he responded, well it’s about two miles up this jeep road to another jeep road at which time you turn left to another jeep road and it will take you to the summit. Apparently there is another trailhead up yet another jeep road a couple of miles up Gold Camp that is supposed to be shorter but I wasn’t able to locate that route. Having already climbed Grouse Mountain earlier in the day I decided to abandon that plan and head for home…

Gold Camp Road

However once I got back to Gold Camp Road I got to thinking it might be fun to check off that bucket list item and complete the drive down to Colorado Springs. So I turned the old Dodge left and went for broke. Lol… now for my description of Gold Camp Road… It is a stupendously bad washboard riddled, pothole filled, rocky, curvy narrow road traveling through numerous single lane sections between rocky walls that don’t always stay in place and some allegedly haunted tunnels. Several times I had to maneuver around minor cave ins, large rocks in the road and huge holes. My truck was rattling, my teeth were rattling and everything passing by in the other direction was rattling! And that was the good part… when I got closer to the Springs the ride got steeper, rockier, and even more filled with holes!

Gold Camp Road Scenery

That being said though, the scenery was spectacular, especially the steep part near the Springs. There were a few places where it was possible to look back on the rugged mountains of the Pike National Forest and even though it was mid day by then some of my pictures are kind of nice, at least I think so anyway πŸ™‚ Also the road is lined with aspen groves from end to end so I would highly recommend this route to autumn leaf seekers! I think the colors will be spectacular in late September and early October this year!

Finally I arrived at the end of the dirt road and wound the rest of my way down to the city on the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which I think is what Gold Camp used to be called. According to Westside Pioneer Online, the road has a rich old west history with it’s beginnings as a railway to transport gold ore between Cripple Creek and Midland. Now it popular with four wheelers and ATV enthusiasts and I also saw a few mountain bikers negotiating the steep ascent from Colorado Springs.

Don’t think I’ll need to make that trip again, unless maybe I finally get the jeep that I have been wanting my entire life… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story! As always a couple of these images are available for purchase as wall art and gift items on my website! The traffic and the heat down in the city were horrendous so I think I’ll just sit out the rest of the holiday weekend and wait for the tourists to go home. Next week when the mountains aren’t so crowded I may visit Waterton Canyon again and I have hopes of hiking to Continental Falls near Breck πŸ™‚ Stay tuned!

 

My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.Β  It took a lot less timeΒ  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows πŸ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow