Elk, Osprey, Blue Heron, Beaver & Eagles – What a Day!

Elk in the Pike National Forest

I knew it was going to be a good day when a small herd of elk cows crossed the road and ran out into golden light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise on my trip up to Eleven Mile Canyon! Traffic was stopped in both directions to allow for the passage so I grabbed the trusty Canon 90D and snapped a few pictures of the animals, happy to be safely on the other side of the highway. At the time only half the herd had crossed, but the other half didn’t appear interested taking the risk so I continued on my journey.

Soon I was at the entrance to the canyon and on my way past the high cliffs of the opening, looking intently for osprey and peregrine. Neither were at their expected location and I took note of the rushing water as a photo op for motion blur photography in case my wildlife endeavor in the canyon came up empty on this day.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

But it wasn’t long before I spotted my intended target, a beautiful white osprey perched high above the canyon on a dead tree branch. He was quite a distance away though, too far for my 400mm and 1.4x teleconverter. Fortunately I had recently borrowed Kevin’s 2x converter so I attached it and dragged out the tripod with my solid Vanguard ball head.The only reliable way to use the 2x is to switch the lens to manual and use focus peaking with live view. With that method it is possible to zoom in to 10x on the camera and turn the focus ring until the red color outlines any part of the subject that is in focus.

I watched the osprey for a long time, hoping he would take flight and I would get the coveted wing span in a flight image, but he seemed quite intent on remaining on the branch. His behavior was very much like a male osprey overlooking the valley for threats to a nest, not looking down at the river for fish, but scanning the valley up and down, carefully watching for intruders. This makes me think that maybe the new nest may be in that section of river, but I was not able to see the new structure, not even with my 10x binoculars. The male osprey upon seeing a threat will take flight and vigorously defend his territory and I have yet to see a bird willing to risk the ire of an osprey with his wicked talons extended.

Great Blue Heron

Eventually I got too cold in the canyon wind to continue at that location so I got back in the truck and cruised upstream hoping to see eagles, deer in the river, or blue heron. I was soon rewarded with a blue heron standing upon a rock in the sun on the opposite bank of the river. He was safe and comfortable in his location and allowed me to walk out onto a sandbar on the river and sit down on a nice soft island for a long session of photography.

While I photographed and filmed the heron I noticed a disturbance in the water on the opposite bank, closer inspection revealed a beaver swimming back and forth with a meal he had found deep in the river channel. Now I had to split my time between heron and the busy

Beaver in the South Platte

beaver, filming and shooting stills of them both. It was then that I noticed my camera wasn’t behaving properly. Usually when I’m filming with the 90D, the live view focus system will locate a subject and then track it. This time a single stationary focus point was lit up and failing miserably at keeping the subject in focus. If the focus point wavered at all off the subject the animal would go out of focus until the point returned over the subject.

I wasn’t able to resolve the problem until later at home in front of the computer and the detailed PDF 90D manual. It turns out that somehow while messing around with settings lately I had managed to take the camera out of tracking mode and select single point mode. I can’t imagine how I did, that but happily the problem has been corrected and the camera is once again tracking subjects in video mode 🙂

Eventually I decided the heron was not about to leave his comfortable sunny position on the rocks, and the beaver had sufficiently gorged himself on the succulent river grass he had located under the blue water of the South Platte and had continued on upstream. It was very cold down by the icy water and once again as I neared hypothermia, I gave in to the promise of heat and comfort in the truck and continued on upstream.

Bald Eagle on a Nest

There was nothing to see upstream and I noticed on my return trip that the blue heron had not moved from his original position. This time I passed him by and continued on downstream in hopes of seeing the osprey again. Upon failing to locate the osprey, my attention turned to the eagles nest where mother eagle was watching over her young. Once again I retrieved the tripod and the 2x in hopes of video footage including an eaglet or two.

I can tell from the behavior of the mama eagle that there are definitely eaglets in the nest, not just eggs. She is sitting much higher and spends a bit of time tending to something deep in the nest. It will be a few weeks yet before little heads began to appear above the rim of the nest!

I was lucky that the focusing problem didn’t destroy all my footage and am happy to present this Youtube video of my day, hope you enjoy it!

If you enjoy the content and would like to contribute to the cause, please feel free to click the donate button and leave a small gift!

 

 

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!

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! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Spring in the Canyon

The canyon was full of life this morning! There were bald eagles, juvenile eagles, osprey, blue heron and a ton of little song birds. So amazing to see it this way after so many months of bitter cold. I tried a little experiment today, I left off the clear filter that has been attached to my 100-400mm lens since I got it a couple of years ago. I’ve been aware of a slight ghosting on distant objects for some time now but have been unable to determine the source of the problem. I thought it might be a known problem of moisture building up in the lens hood when the lens is warm and the air is cold but that didn’t seem to be it.

So this morning I focused on Mama eagle and took off the filter. Not positive but I think maybe it was a little more clear. So I tried today’s shoot without it. Unfortunately I was really tired this morning and wasn’t really able to concentrate on what I was doing so I don’t think I did that great of a job focusing, but the pictures are still nice. Hope you enjoy them !

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!

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! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

They’re Back, the Osprey Have Returned

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon in early spring

Last year I first spotted my first osprey of the season on the 31st of March and the second the next day to reunite our nesting pair. It just so happened that I could make the trip to the canyon today so I made sure to look closely for osprey. Didn’t see any on my way up the canyon but was rewarded with two bald eagle sightings for my effort. Well actually I think it was one bald eagle spotted twice. I was messing around when he took flight the first time so I completely blew some perfectly good in flight shots but was lucky to see him again for a redo.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

I was hoping to get a lot of good footage for a video so I made sure to switch for a few seconds each time. I didn’t notice right away but I had left my picture style on monochrome so I ended up with monochrome video 😦 Oh well, there wasn’t much color early in the morning so I guess it didn’t hurt anything. Saw some deer on the way back down the canyon but no more eagles. Then just as I was passing the tree where we think the osprey might build their new nest this summer I spotted a white head in the top of a pine tree, a very unusual place for an osprey. So I snapped some pictures and took a few seconds of video before he flew. He landed on a cliff which was perfect for pictures and then flew again to the next cliff face.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

I never did see the mate, the lone osprey did seem to be looking around for her so maybe like last year she will only be one day late. I would sure like to see a few more of the amazing white hawks move into our valley, there was one extra for a while last season but it appears he moved on without finding a mate to nest with in the canyon. We have another pair over at Manitou Lake but the pictures are so much more attractive in the canyon.

Well anyway, it’s off to the city tomorrow to pick up my CD and black and white film at Mike’s Camera, so I don’t think I’ll have time to stop in but perhaps I’ll check on them again Sunday.

I’m getting better at Premier Pro all the time so I hope you enjoy the video! If you enjoy the content and would like to help out with the cause, please feel free to click the donate button!

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

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! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Signs of Spring

My day started out with the unpleasant task of having to drive down to the city to renew my drivers license for the umpteenth time. I can’t believe how fast the last five years have gone by. I had just gotten a new license prior to moving to Cripple Creek so I had only had my license for a few months before the address was incorrect. All these years I have meant to get back down there to get the address change completed and now suddenly five years is gone and I never got it done. Fortunately the process went smoothly and my new license with the correct address will soon be in the mail.

Storm on the Peak

I used to go to Colorado Springs all the time with my wife shopping and looking for antiques so I sat in my truck and wondered what nostalgic thing I might be able to do while I was there. But as I sat and wondered I realized that all those years I was going there just for her. None of the places we used to go had any interest at all for me. There was a pet store nearby so I grabbed some pet food and just headed back up the mountain.

On my way up the pass I could see weather moving in on the great peak so I hoped I might have an opportunity to shoot my millionth picture of the mountain enshrouded in fog and snow. As I passed through Woodland Park I realized there was one thing that I might like to do, I used to love to go to the Donut Mill first thing in the morning and sit at the end table where I could drink coffee and stare out at the peak while trying to get my brain going. It was at that very table a decade ago that my idea for a wildlife and nature themed blog and website was hatched. That’s something, ten years of blogging, launched from that very chair. So once again I sat and pondered life with a cup of coffee and a massive maple frosted doughnut.

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

After that I needed to go pick up some puppy meds near the Eleven Mile Canyon and decided upon at least one trip to the southern dam and back. Afternoon isn’t the best time for photographing wildlife in the canyon but anytime I get within a few miles it seems a shame to pass up the chance to get some pictures. So as it turns out I didn’t see any eagles or hawks but I did see welcome signs of spring. As I passed the lake and the calm section of the river I noticed the tell tale sign of ice melt by the darker blue ice in the middle of the channel. The lake is still frozen solid but in a month that ice too will be getting thin and the ice fishermen will be pulling their fishing huts off the ice and  back to their summer homes.

Pair of American Dippers

The lower rapids that were totally frozen over a couple of weeks ago now have an open channel through the middle and most of the rest of the river is now mostly open water. A few very happy American dippers were singing and playing along the river bank. I hoped to see them fishing but they were just singing and playing while making their way downstream. They were successfully evading all my attempts to photograph them until this moment when I was fortunate to catch them together in an image before they vanished.

The osprey should already be well along in their perilous 4,000 mile journey back to the canyon from their winter home in South America and I’m very much looking forward to that. I have to say, photographing osprey might just be my favorite photographic activity. They seem to have a lot of personality and are fairly tolerant of photographers… and other people too. In my home town they built an osprey platform right in the middle of the baseball fields and a pair of osprey were willing to put up with all the activity and build a nest in the midst of the humans. Last year our osprey arrived on the last day of March.

 

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!

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! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

Coming to Life

Raptors at Eleven Mile CanyonEleven Mile Canyon is coming back to life! I had an awesome visit to the canyon this morning… almost no campers and fishermen, a hint of the familiar bone chilling cold and and a return of the bald eagles to the banks of the South Platte River. I wasn’t able to get a good shot of the baldie but I had a couple of good opportunities with the red-tail and the osprey. It seems that a big red-tailed hawk has claimed the territory between the foot bridge and the bend, but I’m sure he will relent once the eagles return when the lakes are frozen over.

I was able to spot both the osprey and the red-tail in good position for a shot and they both cooperated by flying down from the high branches right towards me 🙂 The only problem was that the branches in the background have made for quite the ugly background, which I have done my best with Photoshop to mitigate.

Hope you enjoy today’s pictures, and looking forward to many more as the ice takes over my world!

 

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

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.

Ospreys Staying Extra Long

Made a visit to Eleven Mile Canyon with no particular goal in mind other than to see what the upper reaches are like in autumn. I’ve spent time at the entry to the park watching the osprey nest but it has been a very long time since I have actually been all the way through in autumn.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

I was a bit early in the season for peak color along the banks of the South Platte but it was nice and cool along the river and still picturesque. As I passed the first tunnel and entered into the prime territory for hawks and eagles I spotted a huge bird in a tree right beside the road. Being a bit out of practice I pulled up way too close and by the time I got my camera ready for bird photography the handsome raptor was already on his way to the next tree.

I did catch a couple images of him as he watched me and then flew away again, but they were in shadow where as if I had gotten the first image he would have been brightly lit in the glorious light of the early morning sunshine 😦 As it was the shots I got required massive noise reduction as they required ISO 12,800 to freeze motion on the great bird as he took flight.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove upstream I soon spotted another large raptor in a dead tree along the water. Much to my surprise it was one of our osprey pair, still in the area a full month after their expected departure in late August. This fellow was very active on this morning and he entertained me for about an hour as I followed his exploits up and down the stream. Later I also saw his mate watching from high above on a tree near the top of the ridge.

Eventually the osprey and other raptors caught the warm air currents of this beautiful autumn morning and drifted ever higher and finally out of the range of my camera.

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

Watch “Colorado Wildlife Photography Wildlife of Eleven Mile Canyon” on YouTube

New video of the amazing wildlife that call the canyon home!

%d bloggers like this: