Finding Eagles – a day of eagle photography in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado by #swkrullimaging

Autumn in Rocky Looking forward to next weeks return visit! Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss this year’s adventure!

Video of autumn in the Park. Looking forward to next weeks return visit! Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss this year’s adventure!

Making of the Osprey Video

The other day I had the privilege of watching a young osprey make a valiant attempt at catching a fish in the placid waters of the South Platte River just  above the old dam at the entrance of Eleven Mile Canyon near Lake George, Colorado. I had watched these magnificent raptors grow from helpless chicks to ferocious predators over the last two months and after seeing the fishing effort I was inspired to create my newest video, “Osprey Family Grows Up“.

Osprey Mother and Chick

This journey began in June when I first discovered the nest along the river. Earlier in the spring I had also been watching a bald eaglet grow up and take flight but when that happened the activity at the nest was greatly diminished so I went up the canyon looking for additional subjects to photograph. I had heard their were raptors in the canyon but had never seen them for myself.

By the time I made this discovery the chicks were already fairly large and well developed. Their wings however weren’t fully formed and they were unable to catch air at all… all they could do was flap their stubby wings furiously and chirp for all they were worth!

At first I watched from the opposite river bank, straining my neck to see the nest, built on top of a dead pine tree at least 100 feet over the pristine river flowing below. After unsuccessfully scrambling over the rocks along the riverbank to photograph the parents in flight, my sights turned to the opposite side of the dirt road and a steep trail up the mountainside.  I shouldn’t say trail, it was more of a faint path used by deer to access the wilderness on the east side of the rugged park but it was a way to scale the mountain!

I scrambled up the steep incline and found a suitable rock upon which to sit and stabilize my photography gear.  Otherwise the mountainside was so steep that I would have surely fallen off the mountain in the heat of battle! I found another rock where my backpack was accessible and also safe from rolling down the hill onto the road 60 feet below. I considered bringing a tripod in on occasion but the spot was so precarious I decided against it which unfortunately means all my video footage is handheld and some of it a bit shaky. My primary goal is always of course still photography for my stock business but there were times when the chicks were chirping excitedly and a still image would have just been insufficient to take it all in.

Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

I returned to the location at least weekly to check on the progress of the progress of the young raptors. While researching the habits of osprey I learned that the eggs can hatch up to a week apart and that became obvious as I studied the chicks. One was obviously ahead in development, he ate more food and appeared to be considerably stronger. He was also the first to catch some air, flapping his now fully developed wings and rising a foot or two off the nest while his sister looked on with great admiration.

Osprey Gathering

During this time the offspring were of course unable to provide for themselves. I watched with fascination as the parents worked hard to keep the young ones fed. The father osprey would spend hours perched in a dead tree high over the nest watching for danger. The mother remained in the nest most of the time tending lovingly to her chicks She would occasionally leave the nest to retrieve sticks for nest building and sometimes to go catch a fish. The patriarch would also occasionally leave his perch for a few minutes before returning with a fish which he would just drop off before returning to his perch.

Eventually it became apparent the older sibling was about ready to fly so I returned daily hoping to witness the first adventure out of the nest. The mother osprey took on a new routine, leaving the nest to perch on a tree on the opposite bank. From there she would chirp loudly, as if she were encouraging the youngster to take the leap out of the nest. Finally the day came, the young osprey flapped his wings and rose up out of the nest. Then he just kept going and landed on top of a a massive rock slightly above the nest and about 30 feet away.  There he strutted around proudly doing a happy dance which I wish I would have remembered to obtain video footage of, but I was so excited about getting pictures that I forgot all about it!

Osprey Soaring

Then I began to worry that he wouldn’t be able to get  back to the nest, but after about a half hour of strutting around he took a leap off the cliff, and soared high into the clear blue Colorado sky! At first he wasn’t too adept at landing, he wanted to come to rest on one of the many treetops but he kept missing them and finally found another huge rock to land on. His sister followed his success, taking flight about a week later.

Then for a while it appeared there were regular feedings, early in the morning, one around noon and one in the evening. The osprey seemed to know what time it was and one by one they would return to the nest where a fish would be brought in by mom and dad.

Now from my studies on the subject, there is no formal fishing training for the osprey. They just seem to figure it out for themselves. I noticed that the juveniles were making a lot of trips downstream so one day I decided to set up near the old dam with a good view of the placid water both upstream and downstream to see if I could figure out where they were fishing.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

And then it happened, one of the young ones circled the water just above the dam and then swooped in for the kill. I was able to get some still images of the attack, including the splash down and the takeoff. While he was nearly submerged I  became concerned that he would be unable to get out of the water and danger was ahead! The water in that area, although not whitewater is moving quite swiftly. If he were swept over the dam into the roiling water at the bottom he would

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

surely perish 😦 I have since learned that osprey have no problem exiting the water, sometimes with great weight from a very large fish!

Unfortunately this attempt only yielded a bit of sea weed but I noticed him returning with a fish from further downstream on another day. Now I see both juveniles frequently fishing together but I have not been able to match my photographic success from the big day.

Now it is mid August and near the time when the osprey fly south to their winter location in central or South America. The adult osprey go first, leaving their offspring behind. The young ones have been known to remain for a few days gaining in strength and skill before they  themselves take flight on the long journey south.

Pair of Osprey

I will frequently return to the location until all the majestic birds have departed which will be a bittersweet day. I know that the time must come and it is part of the cycle of osprey life but I will miss the great birds as they have become a big part of my life this summer! I wish them luck and safety on their long odyssey and hope for their return next spring to repeat the cycle! I have learned that the adults return to the nest but the yearlings remain in the southern location for two or three years before striking out on their own to find a mate and reproduce.

I encourage you to watch the video, you will hear the chicks chirping loudly, the river roaring below, and see images not seen before. You will feel like you were there yourself to witness the whole reproduction cycle 🙂 Also, if you enjoy the footage please click the icon on the lower left to subscribe! And visit my video channel where you will find many more, including bighorn sheep, deer and the elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park!

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!

Winter Day with the Bighorn

Alpenglow on the Sangre De Cristo

There is nothing I like more than spending a day with the Waterton  Canyon bighorn herd 🙂 The weather on my mountain was going to be cold and blustery but a nice sunny day was predicted for the Canyon and the decision on what to do and where to go was an easy one!

I got to the trailhead at about 9:30 a.m. which is usually a good start time. The parking lot was nearly empty so it wasn’t long before my pack was loaded, water bottle filled and mountain bike ready to go! My recent efforts at bike tuning appeared to be successful as I was comfortable in the newly adjusted saddle and that wretched squeak was gone! Turns out a slight alignment of the front brakes was all that was needed for my newly acquired peace and quiet 🙂

I soon passed the first of the favorite hangouts for the sheep with no sign of the herd.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

Recent reports from the Canyon positioned them about four miles into the ride so I pressed on. I passed the yellow house and then the big dam at the 3.1 mile point, still no sign. Soon though I noticed a pile of rubble in the road… a very good sign 🙂 The bighorn scrambling around the cliffs often result in a lot of rock in the road and today was no different.  A lone sheep stood in the road and a quick glance upward revealed a few more. A big ram was resting along the bank of the South Platte River and a group of ewes and yearling were foraging on the mountain grass in the cliffs of the northern cliffs.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

So I quietly put down my bike and pack and prepared for some photography.  This was going to be a good day to test out my new Manfrotto 502 tripod head 🙂 I snapped a few pictures and then attached the camera to the new fluid head and tried my hand at some motion picture recording. Though the new head was smooth and a pleasure to use, following the agile creatures is still a trick! I might add here that no one furnished me the 502, I purchased it on my own and there is no sponsorship from Manfrotto or anyone else for use of this head.

Soon the rest of the animals were on their way down to the road as some of them crossed

Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

over to the river for a morning drink. Then much to my surprise they came walking straight to me! I backed off a bit and they came to me again! Soon one of the game wardens admonished me to give them some space, at which time I told him I did but the sheep appear to want my company!

I imagine they milled around my location for about an hour and then began wandering down the road. My second goal for the day was to ride all the way to the top of the road to the start of the first single track segment of the Colorado Trail, the entire six miles to the turnaround point, something I haven’t done in a long time! There is a stretch of river up there that I have been wanting winter photographs for a number of years now. I have a nice fall shot there but have always wanted to see it in ice and snow!

As always these images are available for

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of my pictures, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, stationary, battery chargers, phone cases and much much more! you can also view collections on my website to enable simplified access to just the pictures that you are interested in!

Also please be sure to visit and subscribe to my YouTube site where you will find a short film set to inspiring music of this trek!

My First YouTube Movie

This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to for a long time… getting some software to piece my video clips together into a more polished video. One of the most amazing features of my Canon 70D DSLR that I purchased back in 2015 was the capability for it to do video clips, a DSLR that could shoot video, who could have imagined! Well I wasn’t that interested in shooting video, the camera had all that I could ask for in just it’s still shooting capabilities. Consequently, until this year I never even bothered to learn how to shoot video, didn’t even know how to switch it on!

Earlier this year I was photographing the beautiful South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon when it came to me that the still photographs I was shooting simply were not enough to capture the essence of the scene. Without the sound of the thundering whitewater there was simply no way to convey the grandeur of the moment. I thought of taking a phone video but the microphone is on the wrong side and the resolution is just not that impressive…. so I turned my camera around and studied the buttons. Hmmm… a switch, lets see what happens! What happened is there was a click and the OVF went blank! So I flipped out the LCD screen and shazzaammm there was a live moving picture! So…  I pushed the other button and recorded thirty seconds of the violently churning water 🙂

I had created a YouTube channel some time ago for some reason, so I uploaded the clip to see what it would be like. Well it was a video clip with no intro, no reference to my website, no music, no transitions, nothing but a video clip. But I thought, maybe that is enough to start my channel with. In these days of social media, it is just not enough to take still pictures and send them to a stock site anymore. People like video and not having it is a serious deficiency in a photographers audience reach.

Same situation in Rocky Mountain National Park, without the bugling of the elk there was just no way to convey the full sensation of what I was witnessing. So I took a few clips in the park. And then a few more clips of the battling bighorns in Waterton Canyon and now I’m thinking I should get some software and put it together into some sort of cohesive theme.

Well I did it, I finally got some software and after a couple days of frustrating fiddling,  I finally have my first video to show 🙂 Clearly I have some rough edges to iron out and I have a long steep learning curve to a more complete understanding of the software, but this video of the elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park is my start 🙂