Alaska Moose (Alces alces gigas)
Canon 100-400mm lens @ 400mm
1/500 sec @ f5.6
© Teklanika Photography 2015
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 excellent few days of wildlife viewing in Grand County. Still no shots of the elusive pine marten – plenty of time spent among moose and elk though, which provided some great photo opportunities. Osprey fledglings in the area are preparing for their maiden voyages, flapping and hovering on the edges of their nests. Geese are beginning to head out of the lakes and marshes, signaling the upcoming changing of the seasons – autumn arrives early in the high country.
Plenty of fawn and bear action lately, but not a lot of photo opportunities. The grass is so high that the fawns are easily obscured, and the bears have been too far away for any decent shots. Sunsets have been excellent, so I’ve been spending most of my time on landscape photos.
The lack of new shots has given me a bit of time to work on some older ones…
It seems like May, one of my favorite months for photography, passed by so quickly this year… I spent a good portion of the month outdoors, and, with patience and luck, was able to see and photograph many of the wild creatures that call Colorado home: moose, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, lynx, coyote, fox, porcupine, beaver, yellow-bellied marmot, muskrat, black-tailed prairie dog, abert’s squirrel, american pika, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, spotted ground squirrel, golden mantel ground squirrel, vole, great blue heron, canada goose, cackling goose, bald eagle, golden eagle, great horned owl, night heron, glossy ibis, osprey, cormorant, snowy egret, raven, mallard, cinnamon teal, wood duck, ring-necked duck, common merganser, redhead, red-tailed hawk, cooper’s hawk, prairie falcon, magpie, crow, steller’s jay, avocet, killdeer, northern flicker, bullock’s oriole, kestrel, kingfisher, mountain bluebird, broad-tailed hummingbird, red-throated hummingbird and a ton of other small birds.
A few snapshots from last month:
Only a couple of weeks until Spring yields to the dry heat of Summer, bring on the bears!
My buddy Rob and I headed for the mountains at 6AM for bighorn shots, but soon changed our minds and decided to go on a moose search instead. Winter Park turned up nothing of interest besides a colony of nesting swallows, so we continued up the road to Rocky Mountain National Park. As soon as we reached Grand Lake we spotted a scraggly red fox with a bird in it’s jaws, slowly skirting the lake shore. We were pulling over and getting into position for shots when three dogs appeared, running full-speed after the fox – the fox easily outran the dogs, gave them the slip in a stand of pines, then crossed the road directly in front of us and safely made it’s way up the hill and to the den with the bird breakfast in it’s jaws.
Several groups of cow elk were out roaming the Kawuneeche Valley (as always), but we continued with the mission until we reached the Coyote Valley trailhead – finally, a moose! The lone bull moose with brand new horns poking through his head was about 100 yards or so off of the road, kneeling down on it’s front legs grazing. Rob stuck near the car while I (as always) took off in search of a different vantage, setting up the tripod in a marsh about 40 yards from the car. After 5 minutes of shooting, the bull began to pay close attention to us, and started walking straight at me. As he was making his way toward me I realized that all four of his hooves were extremely overgrown (the front right hoof was the shortest, at about 10 inches), it looked like he was wearing those long, pointy, curly boots – they didn’t seem to be uncomfortable, just cumbersome. He walked to a willow bush about 25 feet from me, then turned and walked right between Rob and I toward the road. A truck spooked the moose and he ran down the road, his giant, curved hooves loudly clip-clapping. He ran off of the road, right past me and into the marsh.
We spent a while with the big guy, then headed out of the park. Passing through Grand Lake, I spotted a couple of people on a road above the highway looking intently into the trees – a mama moose and two tiny calves, what luck! These two little guys were less than a week old (according to local experts that had “known” this particular mama moose it’s entire life – it’s great to meet other people who really “know” the animals in their area), and they couldn’t be any cuter. Still unsteady on their long legs, it was a joy to watch them wobble around behind mom as she grazed on a hillside about 25 feet from us. The next hour or so was spent with the moose family, chatting with friendly folks who would come to adore the toddlers in between shots.
After a while mom took the babies up to the top of the hill and out of sight, so we headed to the car. Local experts told us that this mother moose had ditched her two yearlings last week, and they’d still been following her around from a safe distance. We drove about a half mile down the road and there were the yearlings, right on cue. We spent some time shooting the two yearling moose, then headed back to town – mission accomplished!