The First Eagle

Deer in the CanyonSaw my first eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon since last spring I think. The rumor around the mountains is that the yearly migration of the baldies has begun so I was hoping I would see a few around the canyon. I slowly drove up the canyon scanning the dead trees along the banks of the beautiful South Platte River, hoping to spot the intense white heads shining through the trees when I spotted a pair of mule deer walking along the east bank. I stopped behind a big bush hoping to get a shot of the pair crossing the river but unfortunately they were already on the side they wanted to be on and soon began the treacherous ascent of the steep and rocky canyon wall. Fortunately for me they passed through a clearing high on the rocks where I could get a shot of them, one at a time though…

Bald Eagle Looking For Fish

Soon they disappeared over the ridge and I turned my focus back to searching for the bald eagles. Then just as I was nearing “the bend” I spotted the familiar sight. One lone baldy on a branch looking down fiercely at the river below. I stopped the truck a ways back from his location and aimed my long lens out the window, using the window frame for support. At this time there wasn’t a lot of light and at a 1600th of a second I noted that my ISO was coming in at a questionable 6400 value. I wanted to be sure to get a clear image of the great raptor on the branch so I dialed back my shutter speed to a 320th of a second for a few shots before switching back to watching for a take off with a higher shutter speed.

Bald Eagle Looking For Fish

Much to my surprise the eagle was content to remain on the  branch so I fired up the truck and moved ahead another 20 yards or so for a closer view. By now it was  getting a bit lighter but I still went back and forth between high and low shutter speeds as I captured a few more stills while waiting for the inevitable flight. Eventually the great bird evacuated his load and began fiddling with his feathers, a sure sign that a takeoff was imminent! By now the sun had cleared the ridge and light streamed up the valley right onto the bright white head. I snapped a shot to make sure that my exposure compensation was in range and discovered that the -1 value was now completely blowing out the white head.  After a bit of experimentation I settled on -2 for the big event.

Bald Eagle Looking For Fish

This time I was lucky, baldy gave me some warning before taking off… he rustled his wing and stood up a bit higher on the branch, telling me that flight was imminent. I was already prepared with zone focus mode activated, giving me nine focus points in the center of the frame with which to track the flight trajectory. As he took flight I snapped off a few frames before clamping down on the back focus button, and after having lived this scenario a few hundred times my thumb seemed to know the exact moment to activate the focus tracking system, giving me one of the most sharply focused series of flight images I have ever managed to capture!

Unfortunately on this day the eagle had decided to perch on what is probably the ugliest tree in the entire canyon so this series isn’t even close to my favorite ones from last winter, but it was still good to see my old friends again. I was able to use the new Photoshop selection and masking tools to somewhat subdue the ugly background. The new masking tools in Camera Raw made a surprisingly accurate selection which after inverting enabled me to desaturate and darken the tangled branches.

I hope you enjoy the images, please be sure to check out out Eleven Mile Canyon Facebook Group where we keep track of all the amazing activity in this amazing 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.

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.

Hawks, Hunting and Gold

I fully expected to go out to another flat tire this morning so I was pretty happy to discover that the tire had held air overnight. Ran back in the house, grabbed my camera and headed for the Victor / Cripple Creek gold mining district where the leaves are changing around the old historic gold mines of a past era.

Gold Mine in Autumn

The leaves up on Victor and Tenderfoot Passes are in peak color, but a few  feet lower down in Victor there is still quite a bit of green so I was not expecting any photography there until later in the season. However there was a view of one of the mines with some gold in the background so I stopped to capture an image. I had to shoot with the long lens and crop pretty tight to get the leaves in the image, hopefully on another day I’ll have a wider field to work with. I also need to get back out in the morning and find the names of these mines for the metadata!

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

I worked my way north up Victor Pass hoping for some more cool images when I spotted a red-tailed hawk hunting in the prairie dog town. I followed him around a bit until I finally saw him take a dive and snatch up a rodent, I assume a prairie dog. I would think the little creatures would be more mindful of the “death from the sky”, but maybe the young ones aren’t too smart yet. The great bird must have killed the rodent instantly because I never saw it so much as wiggle once he was in the grasp of the razor sharp talons of the powerful raptor.

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

The hawk carried his prey high into the sky and then headed out across the open field, perhaps to bring to a young one or to a more private place to enjoy his breakfast. I was ready for some breakfast myself by this time so I headed back down the hill when I spotted a good view of this mine (below), the Vindicator I believe… with some golden leaves in the background. I stopped and readjusted my camera for a still shot of the mine and snapped a few pictures.

Unfortunately there was a large crowd at the Gold Camp Bakery so I decided to just go home for breakfast. Not a fan of the large crowds of leaf lookers up here in the mountains at this time of year.

 

Gold Mine in Autumn

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.

Cloud Dancers

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Snow is flying on Trail Ridge Road already, if you ask me that’s a good omen 🙂 This morning greeted me with 43 chilly degrees, clouds and a pretty stiff breeze. Of course for me, that only meant that I needed to get out in it 🙂 My favorite close by mountain seemed like good medicine for this day, a guaranteed good long hike at elevation 🙂 I haven’t seen any wildlife there in a while though, I’m kind of thinking maybe the dusky grouse has already migrated. Come to think of it, my osprey pair in Eleven Mile Canyon may also have migrated, according to the literature late August is their assigned time for departure for their southern locations. It seems like the adults leave early while their youngsters hang around awhile perfecting their fishing skills and strengthening their new wings. Last year our juveniles at Eleven Mile remained until around mid September.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Sure enough, I hiked all the way to the summit without seeing a thing to photograph, the Sangre de Cristo Range is completely obscured by the California smoke and there was no bird song at all at the summit. I wonder if many of the little species have already migrated… It makes me wonder what kind of horrific winter we may be in store for!

On my way down I was happy to see the pair of red-tailed hawks sitting together on one of the power poles, for the longest time there was just one hawk so I’m glad he or she has found a mate 🙂 I was in pretty good position for a shot so I set up the tripod and switched to live view where it was easier to keep an eye on them through the three inch LCD screen. Plus I don’t have to strain my neck so much to just sit and look at the “big screen”, rather than the little tiny viewfinder!

It wasn’t long and the beautiful pair took flight and headed north for their daytime locations which I’m not privy to. I waited a bit to see if they would come back but it appeared that the decision was made for the day so I decided to go on up to the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor for some  biscuits and gravy, always a treat 🙂

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

Eventually the sun was shining brightly and it appeared that my day of photography was over so I turned Big Blue back down the pass towards home. But as I passed the trailhead I looked into the sky and saw four large birds soaring and chasing each other in the sky. I trained my big lens on them and by golly it was four red-tail hawks, just playing in the sky 🙂 I suspect that the two extra must be the offspring of the nesting pair that I’ve become familiar with. All the more red-tails to photograph in the months to come!

They circled overhead for quite a while, twirling and diving and chasing each other all over the beautiful blue Colorado sky. I followed them with my lens as best as I could, shooting whenever I was in focus and they were close enough.  I probably snapped about 120 captures before it was all over and the amazing cloud dancers drifted off into the distance.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

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.

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.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Sacred Sighting

Feeling pretty blessed this morning… Just as my trek up the mountain began I was  greeted by this beautiful red-tailed hawk. I was hoping to see one of my feathered friends so my camera was at the ready, shutter speed at a 1600th of a second, aperture f8, and auto ISO to guarantee a correct exposure.  My 1.4x extender was attached to my 400mm long lens and IS mode 2 was selected

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

for the optimum value for panning in case I could catch a raptor in flight. My eyes scanned the hillside looking for one of the great birds perched on the tree tops and there he was, already aware of my presence and watching warily from his distant perch.

Fortunately for me the trail snaked back and forth up the steep slope culminating with a pass just in front of the beautiful hawk on it’s journey into the dense pine forest. Finally I stood on near the summit right

across from the prize, still staring at me intently… I readied the camera and the instant that I achieved focus he took flight, well  before I was ready to begin tracking him 😦 By this time I was close enough that keeping him in the frame proved to be difficult, but I managed to get in a few nice captures before I lost him in the clear blue Colorado sky.

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

I watched where he flew and made sure my trek included a pass by those distant trees in case I might catch him again, but I would see no more raptors on this day. I have to say though, any day you can capture a hawk in flight is a good day 🙂

So as I began this blog post I did a quick search for “red-tailed hawk” so I could provide link to general information about this bird and I discovered that viewing one of these great birds is quite the spiritual experience! There were numerous links available to discover the deeper meaning of these fortuitous  encounters!

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

According to the “Power of Positivity” website, “Hawks represent the messengers of the spirit world, so seeing them definitely means the universe wants you to learn powerful lessons or expand your knowledge and wisdom. Hawks also encourage you to use laser focus and precision to get things done, and to take the lead in life. So, if you happen to spot hawks often in your life, the universe could be trying to send you these important messages.”. Who knew I was so close to destiny today 🙂

Red Tailed Hawk in the Pike National Forest

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!

Houston We Have Lift Off


Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

Well that’s it… all the osprey we have been watching all summer are officially in the air 🙂 About a week ago the older chick took his first tentative flight from the nest over to the top of a nearby cliff, after which he took the leap and soared high into the clear blue Colorado sky. Today the younger fledgling hopped up and down, wings flapping furiously in a sustained test flight above the nest.  Papa osprey took up his usual perch overlooking the area as he kept a watchful eye out for any danger to his family while mama left the nest  for a nearby perch to give the young one space to take the plunge out of the nest. The older offspring soared high overhead as if to give the nest bound chick the confidence to take the leap.

Osprey Chick First Flight

Anticipation was high as the entire valley knew something big was up… Then it happened, the nest was left behind with a flight that swooped low at first and then gained altitude as the exuberant raptor flapped his wings and soared high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. After a couple of triumphant fly by’s the young bird found a landing spot and took up a perch in a tall dead tree high on the canyon walls.

Osprey Chick First Flight

We watched for a long time, the young aviators joyfully taking turns soaring over the canyon to practice and show off their new skills. For a while the siblings actually flew simultaneously and perched side by side on a tree limb to celebrate the moment together.

Not much attention was paid to the nest on this day, it appears that the summer home as a social gathering point has become secondary as the new flyers learn to soar and hunt for themselves. It is with a twinge of sadness that I realize our task as photographers to document this momentous occasion may be complete for this breeding season, although I may journey further into the canyon to see if I can discover the best fishing spot in hopes that I may capture the victorious moment a meal is snatched out of the water.

Osprey Chick First Flight

I also wonder what next summer will bring, will the young ones find a mate and return to the canyon to nest and raise a family of their own? Or from their vantage point high above the bonds of earth will they spot a better location to continue the circle of life? Time will tell…  as my thoughts turn to autumn, changing colors and cooling temperatures, and the rut season for the big mammals… the bighorn sheep, elk and deer.

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!