Elk and Eagles

Barr Lake Photo Adventure

Late December through February every year a growing population of American Bald Eagles gather in Barr Lake State Park Colorado to winter and search for mates. Kevin and I have been talking about making the journey up there for a couple of years now and finally we decided it was time to get it done!

Buck and His Doe in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

We started the day at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal though as there have been rumors of eagles gathering there as well. We didn’t see any eagles but there was a nice herd of mule and whitetail deer grazing on the dry winter grass surrounding the lake that cooperated with us for a few pictures. We also saw some kind of woodpecker banging out a meal high in the massive cottonwood trees along the lake. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of that little fellow so you will just have to imagine!

Northern Harrier

Eventually we pressed on to Barr Lake while sighting a red-tail hawk along the way. We got a few of him on a power pole, but beyond credit for the sighting of a raptor I’m not too thrilled with power pole images.ย  Once inside the park we spotted a northern harrier that we had seen back in the fall that appeared willing to cooperate with a few captures. I managed to get a couple of him soaring high in the beautiful blue Colorado sky, but no dramatic closeups.

Eagle Population at Barr Lake

It was a 1.3 mile trek around he south side of the lake where the state of Colorado has constructed aย  beautiful gazebo for watching the eagles which were gathered along the far south and west side of the lake… unfortunately about 1,000 yards away. I had my 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter taking me out to 560mm of focal length, but even that was not enough to bring in very much detail. However it was quite a beautiful scene with the snow capped Colorado Rockies in the background. We saw a nesting pair in a huge cottonwood tree along with a few more mature and juvenile eagles standing on the shoreline of the scenic reservoir.

Geese at Barr Lake

The eagles were far outnumbered by a huge flock ofย  Canada Geese that looked like a cloud when they all took flight! I got a few still captures of the amazing scene but when I went to try to get video footage the silly waterfowl refused to cooperate ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Eventually we decided to spend the golden hour of sunset back at the Arsenal with the deer.

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!

Deer in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

On the Wings of Eagles

What an awesome day with the bald eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon! I drove in expecting to see them at the bend and just when I was getting worried that they weren’t going to be there I spotted one on the very top of a dead branch intently watching the placid water below. This particular stretch of river is a favorite for the raptors for it’s wide valley and slow moving water. I quietly parked and took up a position just on the other side of a bush so as not to bother the intrepid hunter too much.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

But man it was cold! I was only out for a few seconds and already my fingers and toes were burning. Soon I began to shiver and then there was no holding the camera still. I went back to the truck for my portable seat so that I could steady my elbows on my knees, and hopefully then the camera. And I waited… hoping to see the inevitable dive into the river for a fish. I watched for probably about a half an hour and then it happened. The eagle leapt off his perch and swooped downward. I fired off as many shots as I could hoping for a sharp image of the impact point. But he never got there… apparently he lost sight of his prey and just swooped back toward the sky.

I tried to watch where he went, packed up my gear and drove upstream… relishing the heat inside my vehicle! Eventually I spotted him again, this time on my side of the river… Luckily there was a large parking area so I situated the truck so that I could just aim out the window and shoot, without getting out into the cold. Soon I heard the call of an eagle on the other side… I spotted his mate high in the treetops watching the action from the other side of the river. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

train the camera on her from inside so I got out and braced my elbows on the hood of the truck. It wasn’t long before my fingers were once again frozen and burning… and I began to shiver uncontrollably. I tried to shoot some video and even the Image Stabilization feature of my lens was not able to overcome the onslaught of hypothermia. I just could not believe how cold it was!

The eagles took one more flight upstream where I was able to shoot a few more images before they flew on, apparently to their home out of sight. I hope somewhere along the line one of them was able to catch a fish so they have a good meal!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

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!

First Picture of 2021

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonI went out looking for hawks yesterday, without success… but today at Eleven Mile Canyon I had better luck. Got my first picture of the year as the bald eagles appeared over the South Platte River. The first one spotted was perched high in the tops of the pine trees, and he remained in place long enough for me to get my very first image of 2021 ๐Ÿ™‚

Eventually he took flight and I got a few more before he disappeared around the bend. The rest of the day was quite successful as well, with the capturing of numerous images of the proud birds in flight and perched in the trees above the bitterly cold South Platte River.

Bald Eagle 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!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Elk in a Winter Wonderland

We had a pretty good snow last night and I know nothing brings out the elk like fresh snow! It was already getting close to sunrise so I scrambled to grab my camera and suitable clothing and ran out the door. Had to do a little shoveling in order to get out but I still managed to make it to the trailhead only 15 minutes or so after sunrise.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

The second I set foot on the trail I regretted leaving my snowshoes at home. There was only an inch or two at my house, but up here another thousand feet it looked like three our four. But I had to beat that guy with his dogs to the top of the ridge in time to get plenty of pictures before he and his dog showed up to chase away all the wildlife. I was hoping the deer would be hanging around the tall grass at the top where I could get a nice closeup… but they weren’t there.

Young Elk Cow

I looked across the valley and there was the entire herd of elk… grazing and napping lazily in the morning sunshine on the hillside ๐Ÿ™‚ I stopped to snap a few images and then devised a plan to get closer. I would climb to the the edge of the woods and sneak around the south end where I might be able to find a vantage point while remaining undetected until I was right in front of them. Much to my surprise… as I was plotting my next moves, a lone young elk cow ran right past me. I don’t know how she had managed to become so far separated from the herd but she was definitely in a hurry to reunite with her friends! I had time to snap a couple of shots as she made her way past and then took a few more as she galloped across the valley toward a couple of her companions that were also intent upon rejoining the main herd.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

My plan mostly worked, except that the elk had already moved on up the mountainside. However I was able to get much better shots than I had from across the valley. I snapped a few and then began to move slowly toward the huge beasts. In seconds they detected my presence and began to make their move over the top of the mountain. I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer so I stopped and shot whatever I could. The groups of elk within the herd stopped occasionally to look at me which gave me opportunity for some nice group shots.

Herd of Rocky Mountain Elk

Eventually they had all moved over the mountain and I was faced with the fact that what I had intended to be a short trek around the loop trail had now developed into a significant back country adventure. The snow was fairly slick and a steep descent down the slippery mountain was ahead of me. I wished I at least had worn my ice trekkers, but they remained strapped to my backpack which I had left in the truck ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Fortunately my trekking pole proved enough on this day to anchor my steps and enable a safe descent to the dirt trail below. I will not be making that mistake again, the snowshoes will be taking up permanent residence in the backseat of my truck for the remainder of the winter!

A great view of the Sangre de Cristo Range came into view and I stopped for a few of the fresh snow, including this cool pano image ๐Ÿ™‚

Beautiful Snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains

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!

Sangre de Cristo mountains the day after a big Colorado snowstorm

Wild Winter Solstice

Herd of Mule Deer

It was a wild morning on this 2020 winter solstice! I was much relieved to see the Three Amigos again, I haven’t seen them for months and was afraid a hunter had gotten them. Actually I am thinking of calling them the Fab Four since they have been roaming with another buddy since the fall, the fourth member was already at the tree line when I took this shot. Of course I know the Fab Four is also the name for the Beatles, but if you ask me the musicians don’t hold a candle to these big boys! They didn’t stick around long though, soon after they spotted me they began meandering toward the dense woods on the north and west side of the mountain.

Herd of Mule Deer

As my trek veered toward the north I spotted the rest of the herd making their way west as well, enjoying some mountain grass along the way. It looked to me like I would get some really nice shots in good light if I used some patience and waited for them to pass, so I took a seat on a big rock and waited. They were actually moving along pretty steadily so it wasn’t long before I began to get some good opportunities. However I noticed that they started nervously looking back and moving a little faster. I was pretty sure I wasn’t disturbing them as I peered into the distance to see what might be coming out of the trees over the hill, a coyote perhaps? Soon the disturbance came into view… my nemesis with the two dogs was coming up the trail behind me, and soon the deer were galloping

Herd of Mule Deer

toward the safety of the trees to the north. I did my best to capture the herd running, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for such an event. The original plan was to leisurely shoot them grazing in the grass at a relatively slow shutter speed and correspondingly low ISO value. I scrambled to reset the camera and fired a few frames off over a few seconds and then they were gone. I tell you, this guy is ruining my life, every day chasing away my livelihood ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I hope he moves on soon… or maybe this is a sign that it’s time for me to move on, perhaps closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe even Montana.

Such a brief encounter wasn’t enough to satisfy my wildlife fix today so I decided to drive on up to Eleven Mile Canyon in hopes of spotting some eagles or maybe some more deer or even a herd of elk! The initial drive up the canyon yielded exactly nothing, except that I did see the eagle lady driving back down the canyon… peering intently into the trees along the river. At the top I just turned around and headed back down hoping for a more fruitful pass through the canyon on the return trip. On my way down I spotted the eagle lady headed back up, I guess I should find out her name…

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually my journey came to an end and I had nothing to show for it. I pondered the eagle lady’s strategy and began to wonder if I should make a second trip? What the heck, I had already paid the fee and I wouldn’t be coming back for a while so I turned big blue back around and began a second pass through the beautiful wilderness along the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon I came upon the eagle lady out of her car with camera in hand, so I pulled up behind her and got out to see what the excitement was. Sure enough she had spotted a baldy in a pine tree looking intently at a section of open water, for fish I presume!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile CanyonEventually he flew off in the opposite direction and I continued my drive up the canyon. No more eagle sightings but I did find a nice red-tailed hawk, also fishing along the river. He didn’t stay perched for long and I managed to get a nice shot of him in flight before he drifted away, well out of range for pictures.

I hoped for more on the way down but I was satisfied with the days good fortune and just enjoyed the scenery and the solitude the rest of the way down.

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!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Canyon

A Frozen World

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Range was exquisite this morning, the golden glow of sunlight reflecting off fresh snow on the 14,000 foot peaks as a new winter storm begins to build in the distance. This was the highlight of my trek to the top of my favorite mountain today. Perhaps the four footed critters sense the approaching weather and have already hunkered down. As I began my descent I noticed that the distant peaks were already becoming obscured by dark clouds, it’s a good thing I got an early start!

Approaching Storm

Unsatisfied with the results of my adventure in the high winter wonderland, my thoughts turned to Eleven Mile Canyon. The clouds were giving me that beautiful soft light that I knew would be perfect for photographing bald eagles. Plus I know it is nearing the mating season and I am hoping that some of the migrating raptors decide on Eleven Mile as a place to hold over before they meet up and journey on.

_MG_2161A quick glance as I entered the park showed no activity at the nest so I decided to drive the entire six miles into the canyon, hoping for eagles especially, maybe even aย  golden… but satisfied to see any kind of wildlife stirring in the frozen world that is the Colorado Rocky Mountains! The river at the mouth of the canyon was mostly frozen over, a situation inhospitable to any of my favorite wild creatures! About halfway up, openings in the ice began to appear and it wasn’t long before I spotted a lone American Dipper fishing along water’s edge. Much to my surprise the brave little fellow was actually leaping off his perch on the shoreline to dive under the icy water in search of a meal. It was a challenge to capture him in the air as he dove into the water but I finally managed to get a satisfactory image. I tried to follow him under the water to capture his exit, but that proved to be nearly impossible. The little guys actually swim under the surface for several seconds, changing direction all the while!

Icy South Platte

As I drove up the canyon I noticed that all of my favorite locations looked amazing in the snow and ice, the water even more beautiful than usual. I stopped several times to get out and photograph the amazing scenes using my 25-105mm lens with a circular polarizer attached, which was perfect for shooting the river as it snakes it’s way out of the mountains. I thought about trying some long exposures but it was extremely cold down by the water. I think I’ll wait for my 10 stop ND to arrive in the mail later this week and make another run at it next week with a heavy coat on! I decided this image looks best in black and white… and I also used my own toning method that I have perfected over the years to add a hint of blue to enhance even more, the mood of the bone chilling cold!

Winter Eagles

As I got back in the truck I spotted the faint shadow of a huge bird passing by… It was a bald eagle flying low, up the canyon towards the reservoir. I tried to keep an eye on him as I proceeded up the canyon, but a driving mistake here could be catastrophic! I was in no mood for a swim in the river so I eventually lost track of my intended subject ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

More and more open water began to appear and the ducks and geese were taking advantage of it for themselves. I hoped that where waterfowl were gathering there would also be eagles in search of fish. My eyes scanned the shoreline and the treetops as I searched for the huge raptors. Finally, a large bird in a tree about 60 yards off the opposite bank. I put my 400mm and 1.4x extension back on and took a look. It was a bald eagle, staring at me from the distance. I snapped a couple using the truck window frame to steady the camera and dialed in the proper exposure compensation, well over a stop against the bright morning sky. Once I had captured the perching scene I looked down to reset my shutter speed to a 1600th of a second in anticipation of a flight. When I looked back up the great bird was no longer on the perch. I leapt out of the truck and looked around frantically for him and eventually

Winter Eagles

spotted him heading right at me! I acquired focus and completely loaded my buffer. A couple seconds later the camera buffer had cleared and the eagle soared past and made a circle just overhead. I felt so blessed to have witnessed such a tremendous flight ๐Ÿ™‚

Eventually he flew around a rock outcropping and steered toward the east end of the reservoir, an uninhabited area of the lake where I have long believed the raptors go to spend their days. As I made my way back down the canyon I spotted the second eagle of our nesting pair, high in a tree on top of the mountains, motionless as if frozen as surely as the river they depend on for sustenance. I captured a couple more images even though I knew she was too far off for a usable picture, I can’t help myself.. a bald eagle!

My day wasn’t done though… as I drove along another large raptor flew past on his way down the canyon. I tried to follow what appeared to be some sort of white hawk, but he never stopped and I didn’tget a chance to get out the camera. A couple more scenery pictures of the frozen river and I decided to call it a day, and what a day it was in the frozen world of the Colorado Rocky Mountain winter.

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!

American Dipper on an Icy Perch

Where the Spirit Moves

I had no plan at all when I awoke this morning… I might have been content to just sit in my chair with the dog and drink coffee, but as often occurs right about sunrise my mind wandered to my favorite mountain trail and it wasn’t long before I was dressed and out the door.

My hike to the summit of Grouse Mountain yielded nothing but a bit of exercise and before long I was back in the truck. As I contemplated going home with nothing to show for my day but the Spirit began stirring me to drive out to Eleven Mile again, a place I had recently decided I wasn’t going to visit for a while.

Big Herd of Elk

Saw this elk herd on my way, I would have stayed for more pictures but the huge beasts spotted me and began to run and I didn’t want them getting injured in a stampede so I quickly jumped back in the truck. The plan worked, almost as soon as I was out of sight they settled back down and went back to grazing on the mountain grass. Our elk in Teller County aren’t like the friendly ones in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can practically walk right up to!

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

As I drove into the parking lot I spotted my two favorite bald eagles sitting on a huge boulder together, surrounded by a fan club of crows. Unfortunately by the time I got out my camera, one of the huge raptors had already flown over to an ice floe in the river. I snapped a couple of the remaining bird with the crows and then it flew off as well. Much to my surprise though, the eagle made a return trip… circling past me a couple of times before flying past the cliffs to a treetop near the nest. I believe this is as close as I have ever been to a bald eagle in the wild and I am so happy that all the settings on my camera were just right for an eagle in flight! Very fortunate event in the life of a wildlife photographer ๐Ÿ™‚

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

In the meantime the other eagle had flown back into the woods as well, perching on another treetop behind the nest, almost completely obscured by tree branches. I watched for about an hour, listening to the two mates calling out to each other but it appeared that they were done flying around for a while. I have learned eagles are content to sit on their branches for hours at a time if they aren’t in need of a meal.

Just as I was ready to call it a day this little muskrat came out to visit, making a couple of passes to check me out and see what I was up to ๐Ÿ™‚

Muskrat in the South Platte River

My plans for the last couple of weeks have pretty much been a bust, nothing much from a trip to Waterton and nothing to speak of from another planned visit to Eleven Mile State Park on free State Park day. Gets me to thinking… maybe it’s best to just go where the Spirit Moves, after all… they are His Creation!

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!

Giving Thanks

Today I’m giving thanks that I spent my day out in the wilderness instead of fighting Black Friday crowds ๐Ÿ™‚ Cold but beautiful upon arrival at Eleven Mile Canyon, the cold and fog were bone chilling, the eagles absent and sunrise appeared non existent. It didn’t take long before my hands and feet

Sunrise in the Rockies

were so cold that I decided to give up on waiting for action by the river. Kevin would be arriving soon and I decided to just wait it out in the truck. I know, what a wimp right?

However the instant I turned around I spotted a peak, one that I have apparently never noticed before… This time it was enshrouded in fog and the morning sun was shining right on it. I’ve probably looked at it a million times, but I had never seen it glowing with such glory!

Red Tailed Hawk in Eleven Mile Reservoir

Kevin and I decided to hike over for a quick look at the other side of the dam where we saw a lone goose and some really cold icy looking water. We heard one lone bird on the west side of the canyon calling out from a really good hiding place and we decided to just head over to Eleven Mile Res for free state park day. The reservoir proved to be even colder and foggier than the canyon but we took a quick drive through the park in hopes of spotting the eagles. No eagles, but we did see a really miserable looking prairie falcon sitting on a fence post. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one before, but according to my ebird app, I have a new life sighting with this capture! That can’t be a bad thing!ย  As stealthily as possible we got out of the truck to capture an image. I quickly grabbed this shot of him on the fence post but he quickly flew away below

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

the fence line where I couldn’t get focus on him. By the time I was able to get an in flight shot all I could get was a distant flying away image, certainly nothing to jump up and down about.

A short hike on the hiking trails revealed some spectacular stark beauty. Something about the cold and

Scenery in Eleven Mile State Park

snow inspires me… I can never resist the opportunity for these captures! We hiked around an inlet in the lake in hope of spotting bald and golden eagles on the other side but it quickly became apparent that the fog was going to obscure our view of the northeast side of the reservoir from seeing much of anything so back to the truck we went for a return trip to the canyon.

Doe Mule Deer in Eleven Mile CanyonThe view was much better upon our return to the canyon so we decided upon a road trip into the deeper reaches along the beauty of the pristine South Platte River, thinking just maybe… the eagles might be fishing in some of the deep pools in the calm parts of the waterway…

Fog and Snow in Eleven Mile Canyon

Once again, no luck with the raptors, but we did spot a small herd of mule deer enjoying the lush grass on the other side of the river. One particularly cute doe proved to be my favorite of the day ๐Ÿ™‚ There were also a couple of magnificent scenes in the snowy icy waters of the magnificent canyon that merited a stop and a few captures.

At first I was thinking the day was a bust photographically but after loading my take for the day onto the computer it turns out I am actually pretty happy with what we experienced. Of course any day in the wilderness is going to be a day in the city hands down!

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!