A male osprey, busy collecting building materials, rejoins his mate at their nest. The background is a calm lake reflecting the surrounding forest.
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Sony 75-300mm lens @ 300mm
1/500 sec @ f5.6
© Teklanika Photography 2011
It’s early September and the elk rut is on! Hunting pressure has made wildlife viewing in the National Forest sporadic (to say the least), so I’ve been spending most of my free time in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneeche Valley. The big bull elk are trying to herd up as many cows as they can, chasing them around and bugling their hearts out. Smaller bulls lurk around the outskirts of the herds, bugling loudly as well, attempting to pull a cow or two away from the main group for a romantic rendezvous. Most are chased away by the dominant bulls, but some are successful. The elk coy (calves of the year) are extremely confused by the behavior of the previously peaceful bulls, and they stay very close to the older cows when the bulls begin to chase and herd the harem. I haven’t seen any serious sparring skirmishes between the big guys yet, mostly just bulls chasing each other around and threatening each other from a distance.
Mornings are very cold in the high country now – the canteen that I keep near my sleeping bag while I sleep has been freezing solid by dawn.
Here’s a great snippet from a National Geographic video featuring elk rutting season in Rocky Mountain National Park…
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.
Wonderful bunch of days in the woods! Rain or shine, the natural beauty of Grand County never ceases to amaze me. Plenty of moose, elk, deer, fox, marmot and osprey – but still no pine marten shots… patience, patience.
“Years ago, vast herds of mountain buffalo roamed the Spirit Lake meadows. According to legend, one year, the lake froze over in early December. Early snowfalls blanketed the entire lake, with the exception of one little patch in the center. The ice formed and thickened quickly, allowing buffalo herds to roam freely on the lake’s surface. Buffalo tracks were everywhere, but one set of tracks in particular had everyone’s attention. The tracks originated from the open patch of water and returned to the same spot. They were enormous, larger than anything anyone had ever seen. The incident gave birth to the name Spirit Lake – because many believed that a supernatural buffalo emerged from the depths of what is now called Grand Lake… surfacing from time to time to roam the frozen waters.” – Grand County Chamber of Commerce
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.
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.
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!
Soggy week, not very conducive to outdoor photography – I was able to make it to Chatfield SP early in the week and Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday, but other than that I’ve been sticking around the studio and processing photos.
There’s a fox den across the street from my mother-in-law’s house, I’ve been staking out the den in the mornings from 6 to 7 or so. The fox mom, dad, and 2 kits have made many appearances, but I’ve yet to nail any decent shots of the family (fingers crossed for this week!). I snapped this photo of another neighborhood fox one morning as she was attempting to carry two eggs in her mouth without breaking them. It was a slow, painstaking endeavor – frequently stopping to rearrange her precious cargo, jumping several 6-foot fences and even avoiding a couple of speeding vehicles on the way back to her den, without breaking either egg.