There’s only one word I can think of to describe yesterday’s photo trip… and that is “Stunning!”. The journey was underway before the first rays of sun began to warm the mountainsides so my first goal was to just not hit an elk or deer with my truck before sunrise. As I pulled into the meeting place at Eleven Mile Canyon a few golden rays of sunshine revealed a layer of fog that had settled in over the cool early autumn morning. I was prepared for wildlife photography, but the beauty of the canyon in the morning forced me to dig into my camera bag for my 18-150mm landscape lens for a few shots of the scene unfolding before me!
Soon Kevin arrived and our trip was underway. The plan was to drive straight to Jefferson Lake about an hour’s ride to the north, to look for moose. Many times we have made the trip in vain, only once have we ever seen a moose. On a dreary rainy afternoon a couple years ago we saw one cow moose with her two calves under the darkness of the pine canopy, but we had never seen the great beasts feeding in the beauty of the shimmering beaver ponds in the soft golden glow of early morning light.
The trip was barely underway however when I spotted movement in the dense fog. A closer look revealed a herd of elk in an open meadow. It looked to be three big bulls with around 20 cows. We were careful not to scare them into jumping the fence, something our Rocky Mountain elk don’t seem to be very adept at doing. The bulls knew better than to let the herd run out onto the highway, quickly rounding up the group and moving them east toward the safety of the forest and away from the threat of humans. Eventually the majestic animals settled down and we had the opportunity to shoot away for a while, until the scene was adequately captured
A few more miles down the road and a giant bird was spotted in a tree along Highway 77, otherwise known as Tarryall Road. The majestic bird didn’t quite look like the usual red-tailed hawks that usually line the roadway and closer inspection revealed an amazing bald eagle. We carefully exited the car, hoping to capture a few images before the great bird took flight. However as it turns out, the eagle had no interest in vacating his perch, especially not for a couple of photographers consigned to the other side of the barbed wire fence. So we photographed and waited, moved around and waited… until it became apparent that the big raptor was not going to fly. With the hope of moose still before us, the decision was made to abandon the position and head for the beaver ponds.
Soon we were rumbling down the rough dirt road leading to the beaver ponds just hoping for a miracle. As we drew near I spotted a huge black figure moving in the mist and the foliage… A moose, and a big bull at that! We found a good place to pull over and prepared for a few fleeting moments with a bull moose, an amazing event indeed! Much to our surprise the great beast wasn’t too impressed with us and continued his morning feeding only a few yards in front of us. Eventually I was confident that I had some good captures but soon another huge bull came into view… Would it be possible to capture two bulls in the same image, the answer soon came as both animals stepped into the shimmering waters of the beaver ponds with beautiful autumn foliage behind them. The huge beasts slowly made their way across the pond, allowing every possible angle and lighting opportunity. Before it was over I had over 1,000 captures of the powerful and elusive animals logged onto my memory card! It was only 9:30 in the morning and we already achieved more than we could have possibly dreamed for!
The only question then was, do we just call it a day or keep pressing for more? The light was still good enough for some hawk pictures so we went back a couple of miles down Tarryall Road again where we knew the red-tailed hawks would be lining the road from their vantage points high on power poles. I was hoping for a capture of a hawk with the beautiful peaks of the Mosquito Range behind them and it wasn’t long before I had accomplished that goal as well! Although it wasn’t until I had brought them up on the desktop computer at home that I was able to see the extent of that success! I didn’t know it out in the field but I had captured exactly the image I was hoping for!
From there it was onward to Antero and Eleven Mile Reservoirs where we were able to capture additional images of more red-tails, white-faced ibis, killdeer, horned larks, and even a herd of American Bison!
I hope you all enjoy a few more images from this fantastic day!!
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