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

 

Exciting Bald Eagle Developments

So yesterday was a huge day, well obviously the huge day came a bit earlier but it was huge day for me! Eagle fans from all around the area have been eagerly awaiting news on the new eaglets in Eleven Mile Canyon. So yesterday I piled my gear in the old Dodge and headed for the canyon. The first place I went when I got there is my favorite eagle viewing area down on the banks of the South Platte River.

Bald Eagles with Eaglets

When I arrived both adult eagles were at the nest and I snapped a few pictures. Unfortunately I missed the father eagle’s flight out of the nest but I stayed to see what else may develop in the beautiful meadow across the river. Every once in a while I would aim my camera back at the mother eagle who seemed to be feeding the little tykes. Much to my surprise the little guy popped his head up over the rim of the nest in his quest for another bite from mama. Awesome… I was positive that there was going to be an eaglet to watch grow throughout the summer. Later on I heard a rumor that there were actually two eaglets and when I got my video clips home I was happily surprised to see that I had actually captured proof that there would be two babies this year!

Osprey Nesting Pair

From there I ventured over to the dam and then on to the osprey nest where I found mama osprey deep down in the nest… presumably busy hatching eggs. Last year she too hatched and raised two osprey chicks. I was a bit concerned because I hadn’t seen the father osprey in a few weeks so I climbed the opposite bank and sat on my favorite rock to observe. Much to my relief the father showed up after a few minutes to deliver a stick to the nest. He worked with the stick a bit and then took off again. This time I was ready for a picture so I was able to get a nice capture of him taking flight, now available on my website for purchase as wall art.

I rounded my day out with a few more minutes watching the eagles, which were both back at the nest when I returned. This time I was lucky enough to get some captures of the father eagle in flight as he soared overhead before heading downstream on another fishing trip.

Red-Winged Blackbird

I’m really happy with the results of this outing, several nice captures of the great raptors plus a couple of nice shots of the newly arrived red-winged blackbirds 🙂 I also captured enough video footage to create a nice Youtube video of the action, including the sighing of both of the new eaglets 🙂  So please be sure to visit my channel and leave a like and a subscribe if you enjoy the content!

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 Eagles with Eaglets

A Wildlife Photography Smorgasbord

I wasn’t sure what I would encounter this morning as I made the familiar trip to Eleven Mile Canyon. I knew that shooting the eagles and osprey was going to be an iffy proposition with both species in the midst of their brooding

Herd of Elk

and hatching season. I always look for elk and deer as I pass the beautiful Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Even though they are rarely spotted, large herds of the magnificent beasts reside there and I always hope to see them.

As I neared the monument I spotted a couple of elk cows out in the open and quickly found a place to pull over. Much to my surprise there were many more scattered around the meadow, all heading my way in a big hurry! Not sure why they were in such a hurry, I guess they just didn’t want to be left behind. I looked across Teller 1 to the west to see what they were moving towards and spotted the bulk of the main herd already waiting on that side. I just started shooting as many of the little groups as I could get my camera focused on… I know these moments are over as quickly as they begin. Later I wished I had shot a little video footage, but the still pictures are my bread and butter and they are often all I have time for.

Bald Eagles at the Nest

Eventually all the animals were on the west side of the highway, relaxing and feeding in a thick patch of reeds as they meandered toward the dense forest to the west. I wanted a capture of the entire herd but by this time all the beasties were facing away from me.

As I approached the entrance to the canyon I noticed that both bald eagles were in the nest so I stopped for a couple of images and some video as they cackled and squawked about something. We now have at least three great blue herons on the lower stretch of river but they were too far away for a meaningful image. A few merganser ducks, a couple of mule deer and some red-winged blackbirds rounded out the big variety of wildlife that were out enjoying a beautiful Colorado spring morning.

I went back to check on the osprey but there was little action at the nest… mama is sitting deep in the nest on the eggs and papa osprey is back on his regular perch high on the ridge to watch for threats, something he seems to have a great amount of patience for! I watched for a while but the cold wind blowing over the ice water of the South Platte River was more than I could handle for very long!

Mule DeerAgain there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the 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.

Merganser Ducks