They Know More than You Think

I am continually amazed at the level of advanced thinking exhibited by even the least of God’s creatures. Yesterday while out on my photo trek I spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I pulled my truck up so that it would be hidden behind a boulder where the bird would be unable to see me exit the door. However I was surprised to discover that the great bird had somehow been spooked and had flown off. Glancing around a bit, I saw him further upstream, as I wondered how he had become spooked. So I walked upstream until I had a clear shot through the reeds. Once satisfied that I had captured a nice image I moved further upstream and captured a few more images while the heron remained still.

Great Blue Heron

I continued my approach until I was directly across from the great bird where I continued my photography. I was fairly surprised that he didn’t fly. He was obviously aware of my presence, yet he remained still. I spotted a path across a shallow channel in the river and was able to access a sand bar that took me even closer where I was able to capture the best images of a Great Blue Heron of my entire career.

It was there that I discovered the explanation for the beautiful aquatic bird’s strange behavior. As I stood watching him a great shadow passed over which didn’t go unnoticed by the heron. This is also where my understanding of animal intelligence increased dramatically. The bird saw the shadow on the ground, but he looked up… He knew the threat was not from the shadow on the ground but from the terror in the sky above, in the form of the deadly talons of a massive eagle. There are fishermen lining the banks of this river from top to bottom so the heron understands that people are not a big threat in this environment. He was willing to take his chances with me a few yards away, but as he worried about the eagle he moved a few feet back from the bank into a little cave where he couldn’t be spotted from above.

This exhibits some fairly advanced thinking for an animal, not to mention a bird! First he has to understand the concept of a shadow and the source of the shadow. Then he has to be able to prioritize his threats and take evasive action. He understands that if he is able to block a line of sight from above, the eagle who is looking at the ground for prey will not be able to see him. He has identified a threat and made a plan to evade the threat while tolerating a large foreign being much larger and closer than the eagle above. I find this quite astonishing.

Animals experience joy, grief, fear and pain. If you have ever seen eagles dance in the sky, seen the joy of a wolf pack when a new litter of pups is introduced or listened to the mournful cry of a cow who has had her calf ripped from her side you would know this.

As long as we continue to elect greedy unprincipled men and women to our highest offices, people who’s god is money, who worship on the altar of power for the sake of power, no progress toward higher ideals in our law will be possible.

It’s time for this country to give our four footed and feathered creatures the respect and compassion they deserve. It’s time for America to join the few European countries that have recognized this and given sentient being status to their wildlife and livestock. This would go a long way toward the elimination of trophy hunting and trapping as sport in this country.

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.

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

Magnificent Wildlife of Colorado

Another stunning day with the Colorado wildlife in Eleven Mile Canyon. The main goal was to capture some images of our newly arrived amazing pair of osprey but it was fairly dark in their part of the canyon just after sunrise so Kevin and I decided to drive on upstream in search of the bald eagles. As we neared eagle territory Kevin spotted a large bird in some

Great Blue Heron

beautiful boulders lining the banks of the South Platte River. We quietly pulled behind some reeds and slowly and stealthily exited the truck. The bird it turns out was a huge Great Blue Heron, which appeared to be holding his position for us. We were able to snap off a few shots before the majestic water bird flew a few feet to another spot where we were also able to approach behind some cover and capture a few more before he decided to move on. We searched downstream for him but were never able to locate him again.

We continued upstream in an unsuccessful search for the eagles before deciding to reverse course and go down to observe the osprey. As we neared the osprey nest I noticed a small herd of mule deer crossing the stream that fortunately paid little attention to us and continued their slow passage across the beautiful blue water. What a bonus sighting that was! Deer in the water are one of my favorite subjects 🙂

Mule Deer in the South Platte

Seconds later we spotted a red-tailed hawk circling overhead. It was a scramble to exit the truck and get in some shots before the formidable raptor circled higher and higher and quickly out of range of our 400mm lenses. Luckily I did get a presentable image out of the encounter 🙂

As we neared the osprey nest it became apparent that both of the amazing raptors were in the nest, and there they remained while we readied our cameras and moved into position for some shots. Eventually the papa bird took flight and lit on a dead tree far above the nest. Fortunately we were able to grab a couple captures of him against the blazing blue Colorado sky before he circled high and out of range. I tried a couple of shots of him on the branch far away, but he was just a speck, too small in the frame for a picture.

Wilson's Snipe

Finally we decided to go back to the canyon entrance and check on the eagles at the nest . We believe that the eaglets have hatched due to the mother’s attentiveness in the nest below her. Surprisingly both of the nesting pair were attending to the nest at the time and I was able to catch this rare capture of the pair together. And now that I’m here working on the computer I have discovered an exciting development! What I thought was an ordinary picture of a female red-winged blackbird is actually a lifetime first for me! An image of a Wilson’s Snipe 🙂 I never cease to be amazed at the variety of life calling that beautiful canyon home!

Bald Eagles at the Nest

I couldn’t fit the full beauty of the day into a single blog post but please feel free to view the rest on my Instagram page for the best of the day and also where there are also tons of pictures from my other photographic adventures! Please remember to follow my page if you enjoy the content and want to be sure not to miss any updates!

Also here on my YouTube channel is a beautiful and touching video of the osprey on the day that they returned 🙂 Also please be sure to subscribe to my channel and help it grow!

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.

Osprey in Flight

Springtime in the Rockies Video

Check out my new video, Springtime in the Rockies! Includes some great footage of our osprey nesting pair, a juvenile bald eagle, a great  blue heron, red-winged blackbirds and more! Please don’t forget to click the thumbs up and subscribe buttons if you enjoy my content!

Osprey in 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! 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.

Both Osprey are Home

I was relieved this morning to see that both osprey have made it  back home to Colorado 🙂 As I passed the nest I noted that one of the great raptors was resting comfortably in the nest and I scanned the mountainside for the male

Osprey Nesting Pair

osprey’s favorite trees. I didn’t see him so I just kept going, hoping for an eagle sighting further up the canyon. But after driving only a few feet I spotted a large bird headed toward me from upstream. I leapt out of the truck and grabbed for my camera but I was way too late for any hope at getting a picture. However as the white bird flew over I was able to verify that it was the male osprey headed back to the nest with a large trout in his formidable talons 🙂

The sighting changed my plans for the day and I found a good parking place with a clear view of the nesting pair. The female osprey has been busy preparing her nest with soft materials from the marshy area downstream so with the male back in the area the two got right down to business. Not too long after I began to observe them they began their mating ritual so I imagine now all we have to do is wait and there will be young osprey to add to the mix in a few weeks.

Osprey Nesting Pair

I noticed the steep trail leading up to my favorite viewing area is mostly clear of snow and ice now so I made the climb with my big carbon fiber tripod and fluid head for steady video and still images. I watched for about an hour as they came and went and eventually just sat together in the sun relaxing, seemingly quite happy to be back at their home high above the beautiful South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon.

I should have a video ready to go in a couple days, which I will amend this post to include. And here is that video! Also please be sure to subscribe to my channel and help it grow!

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.

Osprey Nesting Pair

They’re Back !!!

I’ve been checking for a month now and finally… they’re back! The osprey have completed their four thousand mile semi-annual migration from Central America back to their breeding site at Eleven Mile Canyon, Colorado 🙂 As I entered the canyon I was disappointed to see that there were no osprey in the nest. It looked just as cold and lonely as it has all winter so I just kept driving with the intent on going up the canyon to look for the bald eagles

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

But wait… what is that, on the tip top of a dead tree way on top of the ridge. I stopped and got out with the camera and trained my long lens on the speck standing out against the blue sky.  It looked like a bird but I was unable to ascertain what kind so I snapped a picture that I knew wouldn’t be any good, but I could zoom in on the LCD screen and maybe see some more detail. Indeed it was an osprey, I could see the unmistakable stripe on his face. I assumed since he was so high just watching over the valley, that he might be the male as that is the behavior we came to know him for.

From last summer I remembered that he was patient, capable of sitting on that perch for hours at a time without moving. So I decided to continue on to search for the bald eagles. It wasn’t long before I spotted Speckles sitting in a tree looking intently at the river for a fish. He wasn’t quite as jumpy as he has been lately so I was able to get a few captures and some video footage as well. Eventually he flew and took up another position in the trees. Up to this point all I had been able to capture was him on the perch. Both times he flew it was into the trees with no chance of a picture.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Finally I spotted him in a  very unusual location. He had taken up a perch on a tiny tree on top of the rocks above the tunnel. The lighting didn’t look very good so I was a bit disappointed but decided to stop and watch anyway. He remained a good long time and as I watched I realized that if he did take flight it would likely be right at me, a rare opportunity for sure! So I shot a few seconds of video footage before deciding to concentrate fully on the impending launch. Eventually my patience paid off and the great raptor took flight, just as I expected… right at me. He was even looking straight at me as his flight leveled off and the upward trajectory began.

Another highlight of the eagle hunt occurred up near the big dam. I spotted two large birds flying together in what appeared to be joyous play. A closer view had me hoping that I was witnessing the golden eagle finding a mate. Not so, however the news is good anyway, it appears that two juvenile baldies have decided to take up residence in the canyon. Probably the offspring of the two nesting pairs residing at each end of the canyon.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

My thoughts then returned to the osprey. I figured enough time had passed that the beautiful male might be done with his sentry duty at the top of the ridge and there might be some action closer to the nest. As I neared the nest I was happy to see  what I believe to be the female busy working on their abode in preparation for the mating season. I shot a few seconds of video and snapped a few images from the truck and then climbed the icy hillside on the opposite side of the river, at least as far as I dared given the less than safe condition of my usual perch on a rock high above the canyon floor.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

The mother osprey was active on this day, flying back and forth with sticks to fortify the nest, battered from the harsh Colorado winter. I was blessed to get captures of her approach, soaring in the sky and landing in the nest, all within an hour or so. I never did see the two birds at the same time but considering the behavior I witnessed, I’m pretty sure they are both back. Anyway, I am looking forward to a summer of entertainment from their antics, hoping they are able to raise two healthy offspring from nest to flight in late August.

To go along with this blog post I have recorded one of my better videos, including my trips up and down the canyon, the eagles and the osprey. I hope you enjoy it 🙂 And if you wouldn’t mind, please hit the thumbs up and the subscribe buttons to help my Youtube channel to grow! Also in anticipation of hundreds of new osprey images that I will be taking this summer I have created a new gallery on my website dedicated to these amazing raptors! Just click to enter the gallery and then click on your favorite image to view product options and pricing.

Osprey in 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! 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.

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon

Sand Hill Cranes and the Dunes

Well we took a much longer road trip than usual yesterday, all the way over to the Great Sand Dunes and the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. The journey started early, with a 3:30 a.m. wake up alarm followed by a sleepy drive over the pass where I met up with Kevin in Divide. We were already heading over Poncha Pass in light snow before the sun even

Sand Hill Cranes

started to rise. One stop for fuel and a gas station cappuccino later we were at our first destination, the wildlife reserve at Monte Vista hoping to spot some sand hill cranes to photograph. We knew we were pushing the limits of the great semi annual migration and the spring flight to the Nebraska Sand Hills, but were still hopeful that we might see a few of the amazing birds lingering behind.

The morning visit yielded a few captures of a small number of the great birds wandering around the refuge but we quickly decided to move on. The plan was to try another refuge located a few miles to the east, near Alamosa called the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge. It was exciting to see the Rio Grande River for the first time, and a beautiful northern harrier, but once again, the visit resulted in limited success.

Northern HarrierOnward to the Great Sand Dunes… It looked like it was going to be a cold dreary day at the dunes as heavy clouds were building over the Sangre de Cristo Range, but really it wasn’t too bad. We hiked a bit in the soft sand but the imposing dunes and the approaching winter weather convinced us that a trip to the summit of the dunes at this time of the day was not in the cards. I did get a few nice pictures of the towering piles of sand and the magnificent

Sangre de Cristo Range though, which I was pretty pumped about 🙂 One thing I learned, even though the wind wasn’t that bad, the fine sand blowing across the surface is not going to be friendly to camera equipment. Next time I’ll bring and old camera and lens with a rain cover over the gear for good measure. And no changing lenses while on the dunes! That fine sand could grind up internal DSLR parts in a hurry!

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

From there we decided another visit to the Monte Vista Refuge was in order. We were hoping some more of the birds had completed their daily travels in pursuit of food and had returned to the wetlands. A quick stop at the riverside viewing area proved the decision to be a good one. Several hundred of the gangly birds had gathered near the viewing area in a large bunch and we had a blast photographing them walking and hopping around as they foraged in the rich  grasses along the banks with a magnificent panorama provided by the snow capped San Juan’s in the background.

_MG_0983Eventually the birds began to squawk and hop around while stretching their wings so we believed that a mass take off was imminent, the very event we had been hoping to photograph. Unfortunately the entire flock didn’t take flight at once but we did get some nice pictures of a number of good sized groups leaving the wetlands for their nightly roosting locations in the fields.

At that point it was  getting late and we decided to head for home… but the photo ops were not completely over with, the view of the western slopes of the Sangre with the afternoon sun shining through storm clouds was magnificent! Some of the scenes were so fantastic that photo stops along the roadside were necessary! And that wasn’t the only excitement on the way home… the wildlife began to come out for the evening and we saw deer, buffalo and a huge herd of elk in the Platte River Valley on the high prairie between the front range and the big mountains of the continental divide.

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Today finds me sorting through over a thousand images as I identify the best ones for my website and a few for the YouTube video that I have just completed! I hope you enjoy the video and please don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and hit that subscribe button! My channel is finally beginning to grow with all of your help 🙂

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.

Herd of Elk

 

 

Mountain Storm and a Coyote

Once again I started a day with low expectations and a main goal of getting some fresh air and some exercise. But like many mornings the mountains have a way of  surprising me. First the view of the Sangre de Cristo Range which I assumed would be completely obscured turned out to be magnificent. Our next cold front and ensuing snowstorm is nearly upon us and the storm clouds are already covering the spectacular mountain range. But right at sunrise good fortune greeted me with a break in the clouds and a stunning view of the highest peaks on the range.

Storm on the Sangre

As I was trying to video the beauty of the range, the camera lost focus as it has frequently been doing for a while now. I decided then and there that I was going to figure that problem out and put an end to it! Many cameras these days conceal menu items that aren’t available with the settings you are using at the time so I made sure I was in video mode and began to examine the focus settings. As it turns out somehow this winter I had changed the awesome smart tracking system on the Canon 90D to use single point auto focus which could probably be named dumb tracking. A quick turn of the wheel and click of the button, and the problem is resolved. And I had no idea the timeliness of that bit of good fortune…

Coyote on the Hunt

My next surprise came in the form of an absolutely gorgeous coyote hunting for rodents in the tall mountain grass. He quickly became aware of my presence but decided the hunting was too good for him to worry about me. I watched him for about an hour, witnessing several successful dives into the snow and grass after his prey. He wasted no time gobbling down his catch before continuing the hunt. I was already prepared for the action with my 400mm lens and 1.4x tele extension so I just concentrated on getting the best shots that I could. When I was confident that I had captured the still shots I needed I switched to video and captured some footage of the handsome creature in action. As I watched I wondered how such a beautiful shy creature minding it’s own business while ridding the countryside of those pesky rodents could be the subject of such hatred from his human enemies. The coyote has to be one of the most misunderstood animals in all of God’s creation. People just don’t understand the importance of these predators in keeping balance in the ecosystem of the mountains and surrounding countryside. I hope each and every one of you will call your representative and lobby against fur products and the wanton destruction of these animals.

Coyote on the Hunt

I guess the moral of this story is don’t let your low expectations stop you from going out. So many times I have seen the most amazing things on the days my expectations are the lowest. When it comes to photography, there is no substitute for being there when the action develops!

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.

Coyote on the Hunt

Sure Sign of Spring

Red-winged blackbird

A sure sign of spring has arrived at Eleven Mile Canyon. My latest eagle finding adventure was less than successful, but I was happy to see the red-winged blackbirds have returned from their long journey south for the winter. It took a couple of seconds for my mind to identify the new sounds, which were quickly identified as the welcome sound of spring and the call of the red-winged blackbirds that make their home in the plentiful reeds along the South Platte River.

Mother eagle is still dedicated to her task of hatching her new eggs and the deer have also returned to the river bank in the early hours of morning to drink and partake of the tender grass found along the banks of the flowing water. Soon the osprey and other colorful song birds will be returning as well and I am looking forward to a summer of color in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado

Mother Eagle Hatching her Eggs

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!

Deer on the Banks

The Road to Quandary

The plan today was a mile and a half hike on my usual trail… but when I got up the hill I felt great and decided to press on. Before I was done I had hiked all the way to the end where I filmed a break and decided that I felt so strong that I made the announcement that a 14er was in my future!

The last time I climbed a 14, 000 foot peak was Mount Columbia back in 2016 I think. I have been wanting to scale a 14er in my 60’s since that birthday in 2018.

Well any I managed to put together a pretty cool video to go with this post and I hope you enjoy the scenery!!!