It’s been a very busy summer photo season – sometimes decent shots get overlooked the first time around, here are a few that jumped out at me after a second look…
Another hot Colorado summer is slowly coming to a close in the high country. Aspen leaves are beginning to change color, elk calves and deer fawns have nearly lost their spots, and reports of bear sightings are slowing down. Most of the osprey chicks have fledged and are now nearly identical in size and plumage to their parents. I’m ready for the fall – looking forward to watching the moose and elk in rut and listening to bugling bulls and cow calls.
Another busy week, and a great week for wildlife watching. Saw another pine marten – these guys are fast, but I will get a decent shot this summer, eventually. Plenty of moose and osprey, some elk, deer and yellow-bellied marmots, and enough bear action to keep me happy. I was able to watch a young brown-phase black bear swim across a pond near Grand Lake as I fumbled to prepare my camera and tripod – lesson again learned and hopefully this time remembered, always have your camera ready.
Working in Grand Lake for the Division of Wildlife now, frequent updates will be a bit more difficult to pull off… The past week was excellent – plenty of wildlife and beautiful vistas to be seen in Grand County. I saw my first wild pine marten, spent some time with several moose (mostly bulls, but a couple of cows and calves as well) and elk (again, mostly bulls), and was able to focus on many of the osprey nesting around the lakes in the area. Looking forward to spending the next couple of days at Roxy and Chatty, hoping for new bear and coyote shots.
Arrived in the park around 6 PM after spending an hour or so in the hot sun at Chatfield (I didn’t see much hiking along Plum Creek, only mosquitoes and meadowlarks). The twin fawns were with their mom near the visitor center, they’re growing up so quickly. No bears or lions to be seen, and the lack of predators put the deer at ease along the Fountain Valley trail. I was so busy watching and shooting the deer that I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake – the loud rattle at my feet sent me into the air, haven’t jumped that high in a while. Rob spotted a nice bull elk in the far eastern meadow around sundown – pretty far away for shots, but it was nice to see one in that area.
Too busy for detailed daily reports lately, so I’ll summarize the past few days. Deer fawns are growing fast, as is the golden eaglet on the canyon nest. The wildflowers are in full bloom, and all of the meadows are blanketed with vivid color. I’ve been seeing a pair of great horned owls, presumably fledglings, at the Sharptail Ridge trailhead nearly every night on my way home. A couple of sporadic bear sightings in the past couple of days, but for the most part bear action has slowed down for now – I’m betting it will pick back up once the berries start appearing on the bushes. Spotted a couple of bull elk at dusk on Friday at the south end of the Fountain Valley, never seen elk there before so that was a rare treat for me. Speaking of rare treats, a lion took down a mule deer doe very near the road on the 4th, and after waiting until dusk, a handful of die-hards were able to see the cougar make his way down to the carcass. No shots to speak of due to the fading light, but still very cool to watch – my third mountain lion sighting this summer! Dan reported that the lion wasn’t seen again on Monday, but a red fox enjoyed some of the deer during the day and a big black bear came down to the carcass and fed at sunset. There seems to be a good portion of meat left, so there could be more of this story still unfolding on Tuesday.
Another hot summer day in the field – still no bear cubs, but I did finally get some decent shots of a pair of twin mule deer fawns that I’ve been seeing for the past couple of days. They’re still getting used to their wobbly little legs, just adorable. Drove through Chatfield on the way home, spotted one coyote pup that for some reason ran for it’s life when I drove by, but not much else.
Pretty quiet day in the field. The golden eaglet is so big now, it eats like a horse when mom brings dinner to the nest and cries for more between every bite – what an insatiable appetite! As I was hiking the Willow Creek trail with my buddy Jay and his family, a gray fox came trotting toward us with three rodents in its mouth. I recognized the fox from our first encounter on the 13th (due to the missing piece of its right ear), looks to be a mother rearing her young kits, hopefully I can get a glimpse of the little ones soon.
On my way out of the park, near the entrance station, there was a mother mule deer and her two very young twins – couldn’t be any cuter! I had just left the park and was on my way home when I noticed a group of coyotes howling and barking to the left of the dirt road. I pulled over and, though it was nearly dark, could make out the shape of a black bear walking through the sage near the large family of coyotes. Hopefully this bear doesn’t wander too far from the park, there are numerous neighborhoods nearby and a bear in a neighborhood is almost always trouble for both the bear and the community. No cubs today, fingers crossed even tighter for cubs tomorrow!
Bears and fawns have kept me busy the past couple of days – I haven’t been able to get any really great shots, but the viewing has been excellent! The little golden eaglet is growing fast, showing more and more dark feathers every day. I’ve met some really nice folks on the trails, shared some wonderful wildlife sightings and made some great friends. The weather has been a lot hotter and drier than the past couple of weeks – hopefully we’ll get some more rain this week!