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

Aftermath of the Snowstorm

Colorado’s fourth biggest snowstorm in history went on for three days so I was really happy to finally get out and enjoy the mountains again today! I was planning on snowshoeing my trail but when I got to the trailhead it became apparent that the oddities of Colorado’s weather had defeated that idea. Although parts of the county had received as

Snowy Traill

much as three feet of snow with drifting even deeper than that in place, my trail had received almost none. I was concerned on the drive down that there would  be so much snow in the parking lot that I would have to abandon ship and think of something else to do… But when I arrived there was no one flake of snow in the parking lot.

I didn’t even bother to bring my snowshoes with me as I climbed the east side of the mountain. As I suspected, there was a pretty good sized snow drift in the trees through which someone had already cut a trail, making the trek an easy one for me. The scenery on the mountain was even more incredible than usual so I shot a short YouTube video to document the visit, I hope you enjoy it!

Storm on the Sangre

The storm clouds over the Sangre de Cristo Range were particularly incredible looking so I stopped there to shoot a few stills which I will be uploading to my website for sale.

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!

Weathering the Storm

New YouTube video of my snowshoe hike in the howling wind and driving snow on top of Grouse Mountain Colorado. Wasn’t able to record audio on the mountain due to the tremendous winds but I hope you enjoy the beauty of such harsh conditions! My Ruggard rain cover performed admirably on my camera, very easy to use and provided excellent protection for the camera, especially for such a great price! Looks like my minor repair on my MSR snowshoes is holding after accidentally running over them with my truck last year 😦

Ground Blizzard

Neither the video nor this blog post was sponsored, all equipment used in the production were purchased on my own volition.

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!

Between Storms and Monochrome Toning

It finally warmed up a bit this morning, well above zero with mostly clear skies so I thought it was a good day for a hike. As it turns out it was also a pretty good day for pictures! Although it was just partly cloudy here there were thick ominous clouds hanging over the Sangre de Cristo range at sunrise and it was quite a sight!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

I saw a lot of evidence of recent wildlife activity in the snow but saw no actual animals on my two mile trek through the fresh snow. Still, there’s something therapeutic about a walk in the mountains. 

These images looked pretty nice in color, but so early in the morning with a lot of haze from the previous storm there wasn’t much color to work with. I decided that these would look much more dramatic in black & white so I used the channel mixer to create the best monochrome version possible. They looked pretty good but I thought I could do even better with a little bluish toning which I accomplish using the “hue and saturation” tool in the Photoshop adjustments drop down. First I click the colorize check box which adds a horrific color and hue to the image. From that starting point I adjust the saturation, in this case I chose 12 to apply just a bit of color. Then I change the hue to the value most representative of my plan for the image, which was 242 in this case. The lightness value I left alone, at zero.

I actually got the idea for doing this while reading an Ansel Adams book filled with some of his best landscapes. I noticed that the default values for black and white weren’t nearly as dramatic as the ones in the book so I read up a bit and learned about the process of toning from the era of photographic film processing. I wanted to find a way to recreate that look and it was just through experimentation and trial and error that I eventually came up with this method.

And of course no day of hiking would be complete without a quick trip over to historic Victor for some biscuits and gravy and coffee at the Gold Camp Bakery 🙂

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!

Stormy Sangre Sunrise

Every Day a Surprise

I decided to take a different route around the mountain today… I normally just go straight up what Kevin has appropriately dubbed Hell Hill to the summit where I hope to find whatever wildlife I’m going to see for the day. However lately the winter wind has been relentlessly howling and even the animals are avoiding the summit.

Rocky Mountain Deer Herd

There is another route around the east side of the mountain that doesn’t include such a wicked hill so I decided I would avoid the wicked cold wind and just take the lower trail past the free range cattle. As usual they were curious and walked over to greet me, particularly this cute little young fellow 🙂 I glanced up toward the high meadow on my way past and didn’t see anything so I was glad I had taken the sheltered route.  As I was nearing the high point of the lower trail I spotted a pretty good sized herd of mule deer heading down the mountain toward the shelter of the pine trees in the valley below.

I wasn’t near enough to get any closeups but the herd did spot me where they stopped for a second to check me out. Then I captured some pretty nice images of the entire herd disappearing over the ridge.

I guess the moral of the story today is just take the hike. There are surprises to be found on even the easy trails 🙂

Rocky Mountain Deer Herd

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!

Flight of the Eagle

The plan for the day was to capture bald eagles in flight… Eleven Mile Canyon looked like the most likely place for that to happen. A high wind warning looked to foil my plan, but as it turned out the wind in the canyon wasn’t nearly as ferocious as  the wind out in the high prairie beyond the southern Colorado foothills.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

I didn’t spot my first eagle until I was probably six miles into the canyon, a handsome fellow standing on a branch in the shade high above the South Platte River. Unfortunately he was in a terrible location  for a photograph so I decided to just shoot a bit of video, and a bit was all I was going to get. Seconds after getting out of the truck the great bird took flight. I was able to capture a few seconds of his flight before he disappeared around the bend.

I drove upstream a mile or so and then decided to turn around and look for the original character.  Again, I found him in an impossible location for photography, on rivers edge with the sun directly behind him. I did my best and bagged a couple of captures before he moved on to his next location where finally he had found a place in perfect morning light

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eventually the raptor took flight again and by this time the hour for soaring high into the sky had come, there would be no more closeup imagery on this day. So I decided to drive  back to the entrance and check on the nest that one of the two eagle pairs residing in the canyon calls home. When I arrived the female was in the nest, obviously disturbed by a couple of crows circling over her. Normally the eagle mom has a great amount of tolerance for the smaller birds but now with nesting season drawing near she has run out of patience.

She left the nest and chased the smaller birds with vengeance. The had no desire to take the eagle on and quickly left the area. I took that as my cue to call it a day, the wind at the canyon entrance was horrendous and I was certain all the eagles would be hunkering down until the windstorm was over.

Bald Eagle Chase

At each stop I captured a little video, enough to make a nice record of my day, I hope you enjoy it! Please take the time to subscribe if you enjoy my work and it will also really assist my channel to grow if you would also hit the thumbs up button!

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!

Icy South Platte River

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!

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 🙂 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 😦

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 🙂

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