Search for the Elusive Dusky Grouse

I’ve only seen the elusive little fellow once this season, and it wasn’t a very good sighting at that. So I’ve been taking the hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain every once in a while in hopes of spotting this beautiful bird again. It’s a pretty strenuous addition to my regular hike so I’m not that eager to make the extra climb… Every once in while I have to remember a quote by the great Ansel Adams… “Don’t confuse hiking with photography…”

Dusky Grouse in the Morning Light

So there are now two parking lots at this trailhead, one at the bottom that I’m accustomed to using mostly just for the exercise. This trailhead starts with a strenuous hike straight up the side of the mountain for about three quarters of a mile and a new one that the local parks service built at the summit, along with a mock historic gold mine complete with historic information placards.

I decided on this day to park at the summit, which makes the walk across the top of the ridge and through the forest a lot quicker, increasing my chances of an early morning sighting of the little grouse. And my effort was met with success, just as I cleared the dense forest and was making my way through the mountain grass to the summit, the grouse took flight and landed in a nearby tree. It wasn’t the best view of the handsome fellow but I was able to capture a few seconds of video and a nice still.

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.

Amazing Alpine Hike with the Elk Herd

Funny how things work out… As I sat sipping my coffee this morning I decided I didn’t want to do any driving today. For one thing gas prices are insane, and for another… I really don’t like spending time on the road. So the plan I worked out included a short drive to my favorite trailhead and a good hard hike.

When I reached the first summit it was so pretty and quiet out that I decided to stop and capture a few seconds of video and post it as a greeting on Facebook. I sat and enjoyed the ambiance for a few minutes while the video clip uploaded and then I headed back down the trail. But then I began to hear the birds singing over in the woods, some song that I didn’t recognize. So I decided to take the hike to the next summit and hoped I might catch a glimpse of the new birds.

Herd of elk in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

As I neared that summit I could see over to the next high peak, and on it was a beautiful herd of elk. I knew if I cleared the summit they would see me and take off, so I quietly got my camera ready and began to film and photograph. As I watched through my long lens I wondered what the cows were looking at so I moved up a bit further and saw that  they were watching over their crop of new calves! It was then that I knew for sure I was going to have to make a real video 🙂

I filmed for awhile and then decided not to disturb them by walking toward them so I just went back down through the forest the way I came. As I neared forest edge a grouse startled me by jumping out of the grass right at my feet and flying into a nearby tree. I got a few seconds of footage of that guy and took a few stills before he grew annoyed with me and flew away for good. But I was glad to see the little fellows have returned to my mountain. They normally like to run along the ground on the high ridges so perhaps I’ll get some better pictures of him another time.

Dusky Grouse in the Morning Light

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and if you wouldn’t mind and you like the content, please like and subscribe!

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.

The Three Amigos and a Lot of Fog

As of last night I wasn’t holding out much hope for a day outside today… We are supposed to have cold and rain every day for the entire next week, including a very high chance of rain today. And indeed it was raining before sunrise as the raindrops hitting the window awakened me well before I wanted to be awake. The plan was obviously to use the awesome sleeping weather to sleep! However, by the time I had drank my coffee and chowed down my waffles the rain had stopped. A quick check of the radar forecast indicated that at least for my little section of the mountains, the rain had subsided until afternoon.

Herd of Bucks

So I grabbed my camera and Gortex jacket and headed for the hills. A slight sprinkle at the trailhead convinced me to pack along the rain cover for my camera and off I went. I wasn’t expecting much more than a bit of exercise to help pass the day but as I strode along past the pine forest I could hear a lot of chatter. The birds it seems are not at all deterred by a little sprinkle! As I was getting the settings on my camera prepared for bird photography, a red-tail hawk flew right over me not 20 feet over my head! Darn… but even if I had been ready I don’t think I could have aimed and focused that quick, the whole show was over in about 3 seconds. But I watched where he flew and made a mental note to watch carefully for him on top of the tree branches on the return trip.

Soon I cleared the tree line and walked around to the other side of the mountain. There I could see the expected storm clouds rolling in so I quickened my pace. At one point I stopped to take a look back and much to my surprise I spotted the familiar face of a mule deer buck. I quietly and carefully readjusted my camera settings for the conditions and snapped off a couple of shots before attaching the camera to my monopod for some more stable captures. It was then that I noticed another buck… and then another! It was the Three Amigos as I call them 🙂

Herd of Bucks

They are quite used to me so they allowed me to quietly shoot for a while before wandering off into the dense forest at the bottom of the gulch. But I have to say, I was quite delighted to find them still alive and healthy! I also had the foresight to shoot some video footage, it was quite a scene to find them in the fog! The rest of my walk went as expected and I got back to my truck just as the rain began to increase a bit.

I wasn’t quite done though, there is a spot on Victor Pass where you can see the south face of Pikes Peak and also the historic mines of Goldfield, preserved from back in the gold boom days of the late 1800’s. This can be quite an amazing scene in dense fog so I always try to get up there with my camera when the weather turns nasty! As I arrived  the storm clouds were rapidly filling the valley, so I captured what I could of the mines and then with just seconds to spare I got a nice shot of the peak. Soon it was completely obscured and bigger raindrops were striking my windshield. I took that as a hint that my outdoors time today was over and I headed  back down the pass. Soon it was pouring and I began to look forward to see my bounty on the big display at the computer.

Historic Mines in Fog

I hope you enjoy the video of the Three Amigos and the fog rolling in on my Youtube Channel! Please like and subscribe if you enjoy the content, it really helps me in the rankings to have lots of interaction from the viewers!

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.

Pikes Peak in Fog

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.

 

 

Journey into the Clouds

Snowing again for the I don’t know how many days in a row… I was trying to figure out what to do today while actually considering taking a day off and staying inside. Finally I made up my mind to just go out and shovel a bit and clear the snow off my truck so that I could go somewhere if I could ever figure out what to do. Once I was dressed and out I decided to just go visit my local trail and see how amazingly beautiful the trees of the high country forest might be on this cold dreary spring morning.

High Country Snow

Once on the trail it came to me that the key to finding something rewarding to do in this beautiful state of Colorado is just getting out the door. Once you are out in the great outdoors it doesn’t really matter what you have decided to do. Being outside in these amazing mountains is reward enough. Anything after that is a bonus. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting the same trail for the millionth time… it looks different every time you go. You never know what you are going to find. You could see some amazing cloud formations, a herd of elk, deer, a coyote hunting, a bald eagle or a red-tailed hawk.  If that doesn’t happen you might discover a new species of bird to add to your lifetime sightings collection!

As for me today, I wound up at my usual trail… I didn’t want to drive very far as the weather forecast was calling for a significant amount of snow and I don’t like to take chances with bad weather on the road. I began my climb up the hill and decided that at a minimum the trees covered in a beautiful mantle of white were going to be a great subject for today. I put my camera on a 650th of a second with auto aperture and ISO. I knew the bright white snow would affect the meter so I set my exposure compensation to +1 and snapped a test shot.  Then I wrapped my camera and lens in my trusty rain shield and headed up the hill.

High Country Snow

Amazingly at the summit I noticed that I was actually inside the storm clouds. The weather app indicated that it wasn’t snowing but a quick glance around proved definitively that was not the case at this elevation. This is often the case when you find yourself high enough to be in the clouds. I could see them swirling around me so I attempted to capture some of that action on video. I captured some idea of the effect but even video didn’t do the wonder of the scene justice!

As a bonus for the day I managed to capture a couple of images of deer and a red-tailed hawk in the snow. All in all I have to say I am quite happy I decided to just go outside… with or without a plan!

High Country Snow

Again 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 great blue heron!

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.

Deer in Snow

Every Day a Surprise

I decided to take a different route around the mountain today… I normally just go straight up what Kevin has appropriately dubbed Hell Hill to the summit where I hope to find whatever wildlife I’m going to see for the day. However lately the winter wind has been relentlessly howling and even the animals are avoiding the summit.

Rocky Mountain Deer Herd

There is another route around the east side of the mountain that doesn’t include such a wicked hill so I decided I would avoid the wicked cold wind and just take the lower trail past the free range cattle. As usual they were curious and walked over to greet me, particularly this cute little young fellow 🙂 I glanced up toward the high meadow on my way past and didn’t see anything so I was glad I had taken the sheltered route.  As I was nearing the high point of the lower trail I spotted a pretty good sized herd of mule deer heading down the mountain toward the shelter of the pine trees in the valley below.

I wasn’t near enough to get any closeups but the herd did spot me where they stopped for a second to check me out. Then I captured some pretty nice images of the entire herd disappearing over the ridge.

I guess the moral of the story today is just take the hike. There are surprises to be found on even the easy trails 🙂

Rocky Mountain Deer Herd

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!

A Bird in Hand

My original plan today was to hustle up the mountain and beat the elk to the summit where I would stealthily hide myself and photograph them when they came over the top. However just at sunrise I encountered a nice herd of mule deer at the top of the first mountain and had to stop and photograph them. It was such an

Mule Deer at Sunrise

amazing scene, the sun just coming up, the deer bathed in beautiful golden morning light, surrounded by fantastic scenery! I feared this interruption would make me late for the second summit and the elk but the old adage came to me… “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. So I stayed for as many pictures as I could gather. The deer were a little nervous and a couple of the does ran off but soon came back when the bucks decided the lush mountain grass was worth hanging around for.

And as it turns out  I was only eight minutes behind schedule for the elk, which weren’t there anyway. I have a lot of experience with mule deer behavior. You can usually count on them doing the same thing a few days in a row. They travel in a circle and show up in the roughly the same place each day at the same time. They do vary their path by a number of yards, I suppose to throw the mountain lions off track. By the time they are done with an area it is so tracked up that following them by smell would not be an easy task.

Mule Deer Sunrise

Elk however appear to have a much larger range. Once they pass by it may be several days or never that they show up again. So yesterday I was fortunate to see and film the elk at a distance but today I saw deer. A day with any wildlife is a good day, I might add 🙂

The trek through the dark forest was a tough today… I haven’t been through there since the last snow and it is starting to pile up in the shade of the tall pines! Soon I will be needing snowshoes to get through there, which will be an extra treat… nothing much that I like better than snowshoeing!

Mule Deer Doe

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

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!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo