Giving Thanks For Autumn

During the late summer, we traveled to Alaska (more on that trip later), which was nice because it isn’t only Florida that gets hot in the summer.  We found out just how hot it can be in Colorado too.  So when we returned to Colorado in mid-September, it wasn’t long before the autumn season to begin to emerge.

First, there’s a wonderful crispness to the atmosphere and the leaves start to turn yellow.   To see our first signs of color we headed up to the Grand Mesa.  There we saw the first  colors beginning to reflect in the lake waters.

850_5610Yes, the aspens have turned shades of yellow, light green, and have begun to deepen also into some light orange colors.  With each week … heck even with each day … the colors of the leaves change drastically._DSC5639-Edit-EditOne week we ventured over Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains to the town of Silverton.  At the summit area, we came across magnificent colors both on the mountainside and in the water’s surface below._DSC5797-Edit-EditLooking down at the autumn-kissed landscape below, I just loved how the yellows, oranges, reds, and shades of green all blended together so beautifully._DSC5819-EditBack to the Grand Mesa, which is less than an hour away from Grand Junction, I love to find myself immersed in the midst of the tall golden aspens … looking up towards the sky.  Nothing like feeling so insignificant in the scheme of things._DSC5958Today this landscape is already covered in snow, but it sure is so stunning in the fall.  _DSC5706Speaking of what it looks like now … of course, it would be evergreens and lots of bare, monochromatic trees. _DSC5694_DSC5680Though it’s difficult to capture properly through images, I just love the vast array of colors in any single given array of trees standing.  Of course, those clear blue skies make it even more impressive._DSC5730-EditYes the autumn season is a new one for me, as in Florida we really didn’t get treated to one.  I find it a favorite time to get outdoors to try to capture its beauty … for it is always changing – day to day, week to week, year to year (or so I’m told) … but for me, it’s just too fleeting.  _DSC5743I really wish that it would last longer   🙂_DSC5748Even the wildlife looks so incredibly beautiful with that amazing fall bokeh in the background.  Don’t you think?  LOL500_1037News Flash … it actually snowed here this past Saturday already!  Almost a full month earlier than last year.  See, I told you that the autumn season was fleeting this year.

Next Up:  Honestly, with the holidays almost upon us … I’m just not sure.  :-O

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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The Birds, Wildlife, & Stars of the Mesa

One of our favorite places to go not too far from our home base is the grand Mesa Wilderness.  It’s only about 1/2 hr to the exit off I-70, then about another 1/2 hr all of the way to the top.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of fun stuff from the canyon floor to the Mesa vista to see … to the contrary, there are subjects to see all along the way.  On this couple of days in late spring, I thought I would share some fun images.

I was speaking to someone today about birds that you see in one locale (i.e. state) that you don’t in another … such birds are what I call “ho hum” birds … the ones that are quite plentiful.  See, when i lived in south Florida, I loved to see white-crowned sparrows, since I didn’t see them all of the time … or hardly there at all.  Here we see them pretty much all over … and in all stages.

500_4923Then there’s the pine siskin … a never seen (usually) bird in south Florida, but another uite common bird in the western Colorado geography.  I have been having a great time photographing them.500_4733500_4749The western kingbird is a beautiful flycatcher, which is common here and known to winter in south Florida … that doesn’t mean that I’ve photographed one there … for I wasn’t known for my knowledge of “non-raptor” birds.  LOL850_4386Some birds which migrate through Florida during migration, actually spend their summers here in Colorado … such as the beautiful yellow warbler.  500_4840During the summer, they nest here and that’s when my skills as a bird ID’er really get challenged … fledglings are seemingly everywhere.500_4770I absolutely love the yellow-dumped or Audubon’s warblers.  They have the most striking combination of black, gray, and white, with a sprinkling of beautiful yellow as well (this is the male).

500_5064Speaking of beautiful … the lazuli bunting summers here as well and it’s quite a thrill for me to see it when I’m out and about.  I was fortunate even to get a few who visited my back yard feeder.500_5354Singing birds are such fun to encounter as well.500_5506Not only do we have western kingbirds, but we also have eastern kingbirds (OK, truth be told I THINK that this is an image of one … but even if it isn’t, we do have them).850_4167Of course, my favorite of all types of birds are the ones in the raptor heading.  All kinds of raptors … from hawks to owls to eagles to falcons and everything in between.  Prairie falcons are quite fascinating raptors in the falcon family.  We never had them in Florida, so I’ve learned a lot about them lately.  It nests on cliffs and can often be found there or searching for prey on the prairies.850_4268850_4319The most common raptor we have is the red-tailed hawk.  Contrary to belief not all red-tailed hawks actually have red tails, but you can be pretty sure if you see a red tail, that’s what it is.  Other clues are things like belly bands and patterns on the back of the birds when perched.850_4096Wait a minute … now that’s not a raptor or even a bird.  Actually when up on the Mesa, Tom enjoys flying his RC glider sailplanes.  LOL.  It’s always fun to hear people talking about it when they see it flying about.850_4345Of course, the Mesa is not only birds.  In fact, there are lots of wildlife species up there too.  There are smaller animals such as the squirrels and the chipmunks … which have been quite habituated.850_4352500_4055850_4356850_4370Several times we’ve also encountered some nice healthy-looking coyote.  It always amazing me how they freeze their action when spotted until they assess that you’re not a threat … at which time they go about their normal day and hunting.850_4157Then there are yellow-bellied marmot and in the late spring, there are lots of them.  Both adults and their young can be found scurrying about.  Of course, the interactions of the young are simply fabulous to observe.  Sometimes their play fighting takes on quite the realistic look.  LOL500_5587-EditLike pika, young marmot gather up grasses and run their payload into the cracks and crevices of the rock piles they live in.500_5836-EditThen there’s the nighttime skies over the Grand Mesa.  Trust me, it gets pretty dark up there and it’s fabulous to take in some astro photography up there.  If not, you can still enjoy the millions of stars and the Milky Way as it rises over the night sky.  The perfect way to end the day … or I should say night … on the Mesa.850_4473-EditNext Up:  A favorite Colorado pastime in the autumn

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Coastal Oregon

Growing up within a few miles of the ocean, I have fond memories of the coastal shoreline, the sounds of the waves crashing onto the shoreline and the birds flying about, the smell of the salt air, the winds blowing across my face, the feel of sand between my toes, and watching the sun rise (or fall) across the horizon of the ocean.  I wondered if I would miss it once I became “landlocked” in Colorado.  To my surprise, I didn’t miss it all that much.  It seemed that I traded it with mountains, red rock canyons and landscapes, more varied wildlife, less crowds, and more quiet.

Fast forward to a trip to the coastal town of Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Having visited there before while living in Florida, we found ourselves wanting to return … and so we did.  Immediately, the smell of the salt air and the winds blowing in my face brought back memories that I recognized this year over past visits.

IMG_7380I was fascinated by the lines in the groomed sand.  It was a bit chilly so I passed on the sand in the toes thing … besides which sand in my toes wasn’t always a pleasant memory for me.  LOLIMG_7381We took the opportunity to re-visit Ecola State Park nearby … off the Tillamook Head.  We found that while the views were just as beautiful, the landscape of the seaside slope had changed quite a bit and places that we had explored in the past were now too unstable to safely pursue.  We learned that last winter storms had caused the deterioration by heavy and high seas.850_4005-Edit-EditWhile we search for various shorebirds … I really was on a quest for 2 in particular … black oystercatchers and tufted puffins.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from photographing this lovely whimbrel.500_1979So off I went to Cannon Beach again … towards Haystack Rock.850_3965Close attention must be paid to the tidal tables, so that one can get close to the nesting colonies of birds.  After some time and patience, I finally spotted a black oystercatcher.500_2356Contrary to the American oystercatcher found in coastal Florida (as well as other select areas), the black oystercatcher is just that … black plumaged (as opposed to the black and white plumage).500_2180I was quite excited to see the mated pair of black oystercatchers too.  They are known to the area and have bred successfully in that locale.  They are year-round residents on the Pacific coast.500_2237I found myself quite fascinated with their brightly colored beaks and their bright yellow eyes with that notable bright orange ring around it.  500_2312This pair was getting ready for their breeding season.  They build their nest among rocks or grass on inaccessible areas of cliffs or islands … just above the high tide lines.500_2401I found this one in a quite interesting position in the rocks.  Must have been signaling that it was ready for action.  😉500_2341They would fly in and out, though always returning to the same general area.500_2422They would spend some of their day preening themselves, as well as searching for food.500_2425Of course, the rock formation was home to many other birds as well, such as the cormorants.  I could be wrong, but I believe this one to be a pelagic cormorant.500_2128Then I saw these birds flutting around in a fast and furious manner … though from the backside of the rocks.  At first, I really didn’t pay it much attention at all, then I decided to take a closer look through my binoculars.  To my surprise, and delight, they were tufted puffins!500_2479Again, being nested on the other side (i.e. inaccessible) of the rock, I couldn’t get very amazing shots by any stretch, but I did manage a few fun ones.  Yep, they were speedy ones for sure.500_2508All of a sudden, I heard major squaking and commotion going on.  A pair of gulls seemed to be having a great time on the cliff.500_2607Apparently she had enough and reached back to bite the neck of the male.500_2624Meanwhile getting back to the black oystercatchers foraging around on the tidal floor of the water moist rocks searching for mussels and limpets.500_2697500_2677-EditSuch beautiful birds and I was tinkled pink that I found them.500_2655A coastal storm started rolling in, so we called our time just a little bit short of what the tide would have mandated.  Back to our cabin along the coast … grabbing some images along the way.IMG_7377There were so many beautiful blooms around town as well.  I turned into an iphone photographer at that point on my way to dinner.  LOLIMG_7402IMG_7410IMG_7409Before we entered the restaurant, we took one more long glance at the setting sun … gosh it was so beautiful and the perfect way to end our stay.850_3990Well what a beautiful sunset … and a wonderful Citrus Mule to seal the deal!  Until the next time ….IMG_7398

Next Up:  On top of the Mesa!

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

 

My Colorado Neighbors

I never was much of a “smaller bird” watcher in Florida … don’t know why, but I just wasn’t.  Probably though I found them a bit frustrating to photograph as they darted in and out of the bushy trees.  LOL.  However, here on the western slope, I find it more fun to photograph them and have learned a whole lot about them.

On of the more popular and quite beautiful birds that we get is the Bullock’s oriole.  Being mostly bright orange with a black crown and eye line they are quite easily spotted as they dart from tree to bushes, feeding on berries, fruits, and small insects.

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They are one of only a few species that will eject the eggs of a pesky cowbird that has slipped one of their own eggs into the orioles nest for them to raise.  Quite fascinating.500_3458-Edit-EditThe male blue grosbeak is another that is easily spotted and identified in good light.  Its behavior of feeding is quite similar to that of orioles.  It’s quite a beautifully colored bird.500_3183Though I can’t identify birds by their songs and sounds to save myself, that doesn’t mean that I don’t try.  LOL.  Often I hear songs that I believe are one species … only to find a northern mockingbird instead.  They are the masters of mimickery (is that even a word?) for sure.  I always wonder why a bird named “northern” would be primarily found in the south … right?  It’s the state bird of 5 states (Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi) … those aren’t even remotely “northern”.  Go figure.500_3245Another beautiful bird that we never had in Florida is the lark sparrow.  I personally love its striped head and social nature.  An interesting fact about lark sparrow is that when on the ground, they only hop around, as opposed to walk around, when they’re in courtship mode, which in itself is quite fascinating.  Love this one with its “bonus bug” in its beak.500_3797500_3168There are many different types of swallows here on the western slope, including the ever-abundant barn swallow, whose range is almost the entire lower 48 + AK + Canada and Mexico.  They have deeply forked tails and the females tend to prefer those males with the longest tails … I guess that (tail) size does matter!  LOL 500_3208Northern rough-winged swallows have a similar geographical range.  They are pretty much less colorful or striking to view as the others.  This pair I would see on the same branch almost every time I looked.  500_3817I’ve had quite the hummingbird education since I’ve been in Colorado.  In my backyard, the black-chinned hummingbirds are my most common hummingbird visitors.  I saw my first hummingbird nests and was astonished to see just how very tiny they are.  Did you know that this species’ nest can also expand to accommodate the growing nestlings?  Now that’s amazing to me!500_3175The water birds can be fun to photograph as well.  Two of them are my personal favorites for this area.  The American avocet is quite beautiful with the daintiest long curled upward beaks ever.  500_3325Another favorite of mine are the killdeer … which you will undoubtedly hear long before you see them scurrying about.  Such characters they are … and quite beautiful as well.850_4482-Edit-EditNow, of course, anyone who knows me knows that birds of prey are my favorite birds.  This amazing Cooper’s hawk is just one of many that call my area home.500_4006During the late spring and summer, we also get Swainson’s hawks.  When they call out, to me, they sound just like red-tailed hawks and their call is sure to make your hair on your neck stand up.  LOL500_4261Being from Florida I was quite used to reptiles (lizards, alligators, non-native iguanas), but here we have numerous species of our own lizards.500_3986My favorite one is the collared lizard, which I was in search of and when I finally found one, I stopped in my tracks.  I was so impressed with their colors and patterns in their skin.500_3865-Edit-2-Edit-EditThey’re also quite tolerant of the observer … but rest assured I photographed these using my car as a blind because I was so excited and really didn’t want to alter it from sunning itself.500_4203I’m also quite impressed with those long claws … such fascinating creatures too.  When the mom lays her eggs, she leaves and the young emerge having to fend for themselves right from the start.  Amazing, huh?  Can’t wait until next spring/summer to see more!500_4237Hope that everyone enjoyed this week’s post.  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment if you would like.

Next Up:  I’m missing the beach … so let’s hit the ocean!

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com