Still Together

I wasn’t expecting much, just decided to drop in for a look at Eleven Mile Canyon on my way home to check on the state of the river. We’ve been getting daily torrential rains right on the reservoir just above the canyon and I was hoping for some roaring whitewater on which to try out my four stop ND filter. As I cruised in to the canyon I didn’t see any action at the eagles nest and I didn’t hear the powerful rumble of a full river either.

Osprey at Eleven Mile Canyon

But what the heck, I have a season pass to the canyon so I decided to go in and see if the osprey were hanging around their old nesting location prior to the tree falling. Sure enough, I spotted something in the broken tree that they recently have  taken an interest in. I zoomed in with my big lens to discover what I believe to be the female eating a fish that she had pinned to a Y in the branch.

Much to my surprise, shortly thereafter the male appeared with a stick in his talons which he dutifully delivered to the tree. After the destruction of their nest and eggs in the spring storm I did some research and the literature says that osprey will not rebuild their nest. It isn’t even a guarantee that the pair will remain devoted to each other with the center of  their lives eliminated. The nest is everything to them and without it the little family often disintegrates.

Osprey at Eleven Mile Canyon

I haven’t seen them together all summer so it was my fear that they had just flown off and gone their separate directions. But when I saw this my heart leapt for joy, the two intrepid raptors are still together and looking for a new nesting site. I watched and filmed and photographed as the male made a dozen trips to the mountainside for sticks to return to the nest. Unfortunately the  female has yet to construct the foundation for the nest so he was just dropping the sticks on the tree trunk in vain, and many fell to the ground.

Soon I heard thunder and the male flew high in the sky to soar upon the approaching winds while the female never departed her precious meal. Soon the rain began and finally gave way to a deluge that I couldn’t leave my camera exposed to. But I did make this short video which I kind of feel is representative of the struggle these two intrepid souls have been subject to this year.

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

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

Eleven Mile and a 2x Converter

Had an opportunity to borrow a Canon 2.0x III teleconverter yesterday so I immediately thought of the eagles nest at Eleven Mile Canyon which has always been just out of reach for a good crop with my little 1.4x converter and 400mm lens. As I drove into the park area I didn’t see any eagles at the nest so I cruised on into the canyon in search of the osprey and blue heron and hopefully even the juvenile baldies.

Great Blue Heron at Eleven Mile Canyon

Didn’t see the osprey or the peregrines near the entrance so I motored upstream searching the banks of the river and nearby trees where I have seen the great birds many times. Eventually I spotted a blue heron in a tree, mostly just taking a nap, but looking up every once in while for possible threats. Unfortunately he was on the dark side of the river and with the 2x which introduces a two stop loss of light, my ISO values at a shutter speed of even just 1/800th of a second were up around 10k to even a less workable 12,800k. There was so much noise in the preview that I really couldn’t even tell if I had the image in focus. Oh, forgot to mention, with the 2x I’m limited to F11 and my Canon 90D won’t autofocus with a lens combination smaller than F8.

Osprey at Eleven Mile CanyonUnfortunately I didn’t get another opportunity to photograph until I had been all the way up the canyon and almost back out, when I finally spotted a large bird across the river resting in a dead tree. A quick glance through my long lens verified that the bird was an osprey so I rested my camera on the window frame of my truck and captured a few images. Eventually the beautiful hawk took flight and I was lucky to be ready, capturing a few images of him as he flew off with a fish in his sharp talons.

I quickly exchanged the 2x for the 1.4x which allows for only one stop of light loss and auto focused on his flight against the beautiful blue Colorado sky 🙂 Later as I looked through my images it appears as though the tree the osprey was using to eat his breakfast could be a good candidate for a nest next spring. I hope she or he was taking good notes, it’s going to be a long winter down in the tropics before they return again to breed next spring!

Osprey at Eleven Mile CanyonHappy with my captures I departed the canyon, taking a quick look one more time for the peregrines on the cliffs of the canyon entrance. The eagles nest once again appeared to be empty, but I decided to put the 2x back on to do a magnification check against the 1.4x, just to see what it would be like to watch the nest a bit closer. As I peered through the lens and monkeyed with the focus ring I spotted one of the juvi’s in a tree a few yards behind the nest. I snapped a couple shots of him and decided to go down to the river bank for a closer look.

I grabbed my big tripod with the heavy duty Vanguard ball head and took a better look. Just as I got focused the third young bald eagle flew right in front of the other two and landed in the nest. Quick reactions resulted in a pretty amazing capture of all three of the offspring in one frame drawn in close with the 2x converter 🙂

Juvenile Bald Eagles

So I have to say it was a pretty happy day in the canyon with good images of a great blue heron (taken with the 1.4x), the osprey and the young bald eagles!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

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

Making the Best of Bad Weather

Great Blue Heron at RiverBoy it’s been tough to catch a break lately, seems like every time I get a chance to go out and shoot it is either raining or snowing! That doesn’t work very well for bird photography which requires a lot of high quality light, but sometimes it can work out well for landscape work. The Sangre de Cristo Range usually is a good candidate for bad weather photography, but as beautiful as they are… you can’t get good pictures in the rain of a subject that is sixty miles away :( Also, as in the case of dense fog… you can’t see them at all!

One of my days was just cloudy with a little haze so I was able to go to Eleven Mile Canyon where the canyon is so narrow, if you do find some wildlife it is a sure bet that the critters

Osprey at Eleven Mile

will be fairly close to you if they don’t scamper away! In fact the great blue heron like cold cloudy weather so I was able to grab a couple of my best captures ever of those majestic birds. The less than bright light also works well for the white headed osprey.  If you don’t get the exposure just right you will lose all detail in the most important part of the image. In direct sunlight negative two or more stops of exposure compensation is required which wreaks havoc on your background, so a little bit of diffusion from the cloud cover can be quite helpful!

In the case of dense fog, some great images of the pine trees and aspen yet to acquire leaves can be had. The historic ghost mines of the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district also make for good subjects on a foggy day. Now that the area has been modernized and and tourist defended, there are a ton of fences and signs that look terrible in a picture. A bit of dense fog hides a multitude of hideous photographic blemishes

Dense fog in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

A video hike through the fog is also an attractive possibility, like this trek I filmed on the way to the top of Grouse Mountain. A bit of fog added some mystery and entirely new look to my usual mundane hike that I mostly just do for exercise and the possibility of spotting some deer or cute little birds, now that the warm weather is here! Speaking of cute birds… just yesterday I was able to add a new life sighting of a green-tailed towhee that I photographed at the end of my hike when the sun was finally starting to break through!

And then there is always storm chasing, something I might try this afternoon with some tremendous thunderstorms promised starting at about 3:00 p.m.

Fog on the Mountain

Please don’t forget to visit my YouTube channel to watch videos of many of my adventures in the mountains, and if you wouldn’t mind I could use the thumbs up and a subscribe if you enjoy the content and want to help my channel!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Cute little Green-tailed Towhee in the grass

Springtime in the Canyon

New life abounds everywhere and water levels are finally rising in the South Platte River. I hope you enjoy my new video of osprey along the banks of the river plus beautiful scenes of bald eagles raisin triplets!

Encouraging Osprey Update

On a day I thought was without hope for a photo shoot, there was a break in the persistent Colorado snow as of late, giving me a short window to visit Eleven Mile Canyon. That is not to say it was a beautiful sunny day, on the contrary it was cold, foggy and gloomy. But as a photographer, this kind of day is sometimes the best of all!

Deer Herd in Snow

The drive to the canyon was magnificent, amazing stormy clouds and fog, and beautiful white snow covering the pine trees of the Pike National Forest like vanilla frosting. As I approached the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument I spotted a herd of mule deer at the base of the stunningly beautiful hillside, so I pulled my truck over onto Upper Twin Rocks for a good vantage point. Soon a huge black Dodge blocked my line of sight, as I looked up I discovered it was some old friends from my church in their new ride stopping to say hi 🙂 They drove on and I proceeded to capture as many views and focal lengths as possible before the gentle ungulates moved on.

Storm Clouds on South Platte Rvier

I glanced over at the eagles nest upon arrival at the canyon entrance and mama eagle was on her usual perch. There isn’t much room in the nest these days with three voracious young ones all simultaneously clamoring for sustenance! However it was early and with all the gloom I knew that at best I would be able to obtain a bland noisy image, the likes of which I already have a collection of hundreds.

I made a slow cruise past the old osprey nest hoping to spot some action on the hillside indicating the construction of a new nest, even though I know that the possibility of such a thing is extremely unlikely following a failure to reproduce. Unfortunately I saw nothing to support my hopes for the newly homeless osprey couple. I continued my slow cruise up the rough canyon road carefully watching the dead trees along the banks of the South Platte as well as the riverbed for signs of wildlife.

Northern FlickerI stopped to snap a couple of images of the river and canyon along the way, but the trip upstream yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Near the big dam at the headwaters of the canyon I heard a peculiar chirping sound, so I pulled big blue over to the side of the road and got out to investigate. I quickly spotted an unusual colorful bird, slightly bigger than a robin or common blackbird calling out from one of the choke cherry bushes. I snapped a couple of images for Merlin and then began to make my way around to the south where I knew I would have better light. Unfortunately I was never able to get a front view of this little character, but I did get a good enough image for Merlin to identify it as my first ever northern flicker of the woodpecker family. shortly thereafter I captured an image, another lifetime first, a chubby little bird known as a townsend’s solitaire, which I’ll soon be adding to my Instagram page, along with a ton of other images from this shoot and many more!

Great Blue HeronThings began to look up on the trip down as I made several sightings of a beautiful great blue heron fishing along the river banks. Most of the time the giant water bird took to flight before I could get an image but fortunately I was able to capture one fleeting moment and a couple of satisfying images.

Eventually the winding river road returned me to osprey territory. I wanted to film a little video footage by the stream so I decided to get out with my camera at a particularly beautiful spot along the river. Much to my surprise I spotted one of our osprey flying in from downstream, so I readied my camera for a white bird in flight image against the stormy Colorado morning skies: shutter priority, a 2000th of a second and auto ISO with +1 dialed into the exposure compensation. I was stunned and woefully out of position when the great raptor landed along the banks of the pristine river. I tried to stealthily approach in hopes of a closeup but I was quickly detected and the beautiful hawk took flight.

Osprey Retrieving a Stick

Fortunately my settings were still good for a flight against the sky and as he circled me a couple of times I was able to capture a number of images. At first I thought he had caught a fish, but later in the truck as I zoomed in with my LCD screen to inspect the image I discovered that he had actually made the trip in quest of a stick from the riverbank. I have been heartsick since discovering the downed nest so earlier I had prayed for a sign that the impossible would happen, that the pair would spend the remainder of the summer rebuilding for a return to the area following this year’s migration. And I believe this simple stick is just the sign I was looking for, why would the osprey pair be gathering sticks except for the construction of a nest? 

Heavy Snow on the South PlatteI tried to follow the determined traveler but big blue is unfortunately no match for osprey wings. I spotted one of the pair again later, flying past the eagles nest heading back into the canyon, but soon the ever frequent Colorado snow had obscured my sight and I decided to call it a day. However, it is now my belief that the intrepid couple are somewhere on the hillside, busily preparing for next year’s offspring. I will continue to make frequent visits to the area in hopes of locating their new home.

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

 

 

A Small Bit of Joy

Spent the day in Eleven Mile Canyon… Was expecting to have a snow day today but this morning I could see the radar forecast was going to give me a window in the snowfall to get out for a while. Had a pretty good day in the canyon, saw the eagles, a couple of hawks, a blue heron and some nice scenery. I also managed to climb up the steep rocks to the lookout on the Overlook Trail for the first time ever 🙂 I have some video and I’ll go into more depth of that hike in a future post.

_MG_6907But the greatest moment of all was a sighting of our beloved osprey. They have apparently decided to stay in the canyon, probably until they migrate in late August. The literature I’ve read says they will not work on a nest this summer. The female osprey only lays eggs once a year and if there are no eggs forthcoming it seems they don’t have the instincts to build a nest. Once a nest is built it is the center of their lives so now that it has been destroyed it isn’t a sure bet that the pair will remain devoted to each other and return next summer to start again, but I hope they do. They bring such joy to me and many other visitors to the canyon.

This is such a terrible picture, the osprey was soaring high above the ridge over where their nest was, far out of camera range. But I thought the tiny speck in the sky looked like the profile of an osprey so I snapped the picture with the hope that I would be able to identify it when zooming in Photoshop. Sure enough, I was right and the distant form was one of our osprey. I’m pretty sure I saw the other one further up the canyon but wasn’t able to move fast enough to capture an image.

Well anyway, I was glad to see them and the fact that they have stayed in the area together gives us a small bit of hope!

Devastation on the River

It is with terrible sadness in my heart that I have to report that our beloved osprey nest in Eleven Mile Canyon was felled by one of last weeks late spring snowstorms, two unhatched eggs were found in the river. They like to build their nests in barren trees and this one along the river just could not withstand the weight of all the wet heavy snow. We had so much fun watching this beautiful pair raise their chicks to flight last summer and were so much looking forward to another family this year.

Osprey Nesting Pair

The pair had returned right on time and had gone right to work on their nest. It wasn’t long before mama osprey was sitting on eggs and the father was busy bringing sticks and fish to his family in wait. We went to the canyon yesterday in hopes of catching some of the action on film but it was not to be. When we arrived we found the tree down, the nest destroyed and the beautiful raptors nowhere in sight.

Now we don’t know what will become of the nesting pair. From what I can read they may hang around the area for the rest of the season until they migrate. It is apparently the nest that holds the pair together so it isn’t guaranteed that they will return and rebuild but it is certainly our hope. I will return from time to time to look for them throughout the summer but I have to say, my heart is broken and I just feel like quitting.

I have created this Youtube video tribute to this pair of amazing raptors, I hope you enjoy it. Vaya con dios my beautiful feathered friends. May God give you the strength to return and rebuild next year.

Osprey Nesting Pair

Cool Video Clip of an Osprey Dancing

We decided upon an unusual afternoon photoshoot in Eleven Mile Canyon hoping for some osprey pictures before

Osprey Diving on a Fish

Kevin goes on vacation. We arrived at the canyon and decided to go directly to the osprey nest. As we arrived at our vantage point high on the opposite bank it became apparent that the mother osprey was indeed in the nest. Hopefully father osprey wouldn’t be far behind.

Luckily it wasn’t a long wait and we spotted him flying up the canyon. Soon he was soaring and swooping and finally landed on a log on the riverbank, something we’d never seen him do before. As I watched him he was bobbing and weaving like a prize fighter and I decided to catch his antics on video. Soon he dove off the branch and plucked a fish right out of the water. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a shot of the fish, but I hope you enjoy this image of him in full dive.

Osprey in Fishing Mode

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Wildlife Photography in the Canyon Stunning News

I set out this morning for an ordinary wildlife photo shoot in Eleven Mile Canyon. As I entered the area I spotted both bald eagles on the nest but opted to continue on up the canyon in hopes of something new. There was no obvious action at the osprey nest as I cruised by, so I continued upstream in hopes of spotting an eagle or a great blue heron fishing along the headwaters of the South Platte River.

Osprey in the Canyon

Unfortunately I made it all the way to the big dam at Eleven Mile Reservoir without seeing a thing, took a short break and headed back downstream. As I neared the twin tunnels I thought I spotted a large bird on top of a tree high on the opposite bank.  This is a very narrow and high stretch of the dirt road so it was difficult to locate a spot wide enough to stop… but I finally found a place next to a clearing in the tall pines. Sure enough, a bird on a tree… closer inspection through the big lens showed it to be an osprey. Great, I thought! I have discovered where the osprey like to hang out and fish! Something I’ve been searching for without success for some time!

Osprey in the Canyon

I aimed my camera out the window and took a couple of still shots and then waited for the flight. Unfortunately, the flight came but I failed to properly focus and the shots were a bust. I watched the raptor fly downstream and I thought I spotted where he found a new tree. As I arrived at the new location I was surprised to observe a second osprey flying in. The first osprey upon spotting the second puffed out his chest and flapped his wings. My guess was this must be some kind of greeting or a show of happiness to alert the other one to his location.

I was surprised to see the second one because I am fairly convinced that the mother osprey is sitting on eggs and it would be highly unlikely for her to leave them unless there was already a failure to produce results. After a bit they both flew off and I continued my journey downstream. I saw one of them high on a tree on top of the opposite ridge but I didn’t stop as he was way out of range of my 400mm lens.

Osprey in the Canyon

Eventually I was back at the nest where there was no obvious action. I decided to climb to my vantage point anyway, hoping to see mother osprey still sitting on eggs. As I observed the nest I thought I could see a couple of black feathers sticking above the rim of the nest but I couldn’t be sure if they were moving or if the wind was just blowing them. Eventually I was happy to see the white head of the female moving around between the loose sticks on the top of the nest.

Then I heard a familiar screech… Father osprey was sitting on a dead tree about 50 yards downstream. Hmmm… I didn’t see any of the osprey flying downstream, could there be four osprey in the canyon? As I look over the pictures I’m inclined to think so, the ones that I photographed upstream have a young look about them. I know that yearlings aren’t supposed to return from down south for a couple more years, but could it be that last year’s pair have returned to the canyon? Or perhaps these two have raised chicks in other years that are finally ready to return. Perhaps they are a migrating pair looking for a suitable place to nest. Anyway, it is quite an exciting event to have more than one pair of osprey in the area!

Osprey in the Canyon

I was lucky to snap a couple of images of the male osprey flying up to check on his mate before he took up his normal post high above the nest where he can watch for predators. I would have stayed longer but there is another winter storm moving into Colorado and in the shade on that cold rock in the canyon I was starting to get pretty chilled so I decided to move downstream to check on the bald eagles.

Along the way I heard quite a chirping commotion from the rocks along the river so of course I had to pull over and investigate. Standing proudly on a boulder out in the middle of the stream was a cute little grey bird known to us in these parts as an American Dipper. They are amazing little birds that sit on the rocks or along the shore looking for small fish. Occasionally you will see them submerge in

American Dipper

the water and come up with a prize.  I’ve seen them swim underwater for several feet while chasing their prey. They are quite fun to photograph and one of these days when they are particularly active I am going to capture some video footage so everyone can see these sturdy little birds in action !

Both eagles were on the nest when I pulled in but while I was getting my camera ready the father eagle flew off.  Then to my consternation the mother was nowhere to be found either. I observed the nest for a bit as one of the little ones was stretching his stubby wings… flight is already on his mind 🙂 Soon I spotted the second chick and then… there he was, a third eaglet. We have three growing eagle chicks in one nest! The turkey vultures overhead began to worry me a bit and then all of a sudden mama eagle Three Bald Eagletsflew in out of the trees. She was never far off after all and soon the vultures were circling the mountains from a much more comfortable distance. This was the best photograph I could get of the three little birds, catching them at all at a distance of probably 100 yards is a surprise to me! I watched for a while until I began to worry that one was going to get shoved out of the nest. I know it is unlikely that all three will survive to flight but I didn’t want to be the one to witness the inevitable unfortunate event 😦

So it was a stunning morning indeed. We may have another osprey nesting pair and hopefully three new eagles will be catching some air in about 10 weeks!

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! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Bald Eagle and Eaglets