An Environmental Success Story

In early spring, we took a quick trip out to Colorado.  We arrived into Denver in the darkness of the late night, so stayed overnight near the airport.  We decided that we would check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, not far from downtown Denver.

Much of the land has transitioned over the years from farmland to being used by the army to produce chemical weapons, and later their dumping grounds for the weaponry developed there.  It was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) and designated a “Superfund” site, being considered an environmental disaster.  After 23 years and $2.1 billion dollars in the clean-up efforts, the remediation and clean-up work was considered complete.

Consisting of currently 15,988 acres of national wildlife refuge, it’s one of the largest urban refuges in the USA.  The complex is home to 330 species, including the endangered black-footed ferrets, which were re-introduced there.  One of the species that was influential to the refuge’s existence is the bald eagle.  DSC_4221I had often seen images of the bison there with either the backdrops of the Rocky Mountains or downtown Denver.  I hoped that we could get some of the same.  Sure enough, before too long, we came across 2 bison grazing in the grasslands.DSC_3655Further along, there were more.  I couldn’t help but wonder if those bison appreciated the wildlife refuge, where they could roam freely, with those amazing scenic landscapes.DSC_3801-EditA few of the areas are fenced off a bit, which made those images a bit annoying, but it sure was a beautiful day and the bison didn’t seem to care.DSC_3856At one point, we encountered a herd of bison, roaming from one side of the road  to another, and often, back again.  It made traveling down the road a bit challenging.  LOL_DSC2119These bison seemed a bit more skittish than others that I’ve encountered before.  At one point, I got out of the opposite door of our vehicle to get a better image … well outside safe distances for photographing bison.  To my surprise, I startled them and them stammered a bit, to which I quickly got back in the car.  The last thing I wanted to do was alter their behavior.DSC_3970DSC_3881-EditTrue to natural bison behavior, they preferred to hang out together in the herd.  There were a few young ones, which we would observe nursing on their moms.IMG_3286Of course, the Arsenal is more than bison.  Though we didn’t see the black-footed ferrets (except the ones in the exhibit viewing area), but we did see LOTS of prairie dogs!DSC_4128A good variety of birds were seen as well.  The northern flickr, which is a favorite of mine, was spotted in a nearby tree.  It didn’t feel like cooperating for the camera lens, so I left it alone and kept driving.DSC_4077The western meadowlarks were out in force as well, though fairly erractic in flight and a bit further out than I’m used to in Florida (our eastern meadowlarks, of course).DSC_4206Always a thrill for me to witness observe, and photograph were the red-tailed hawks.  Several times while we were there, a few circled in the thermals above us.DSC_3723-EditDSC_3711-EditNear the waters within the refuge, we spotted lots of birds, though most were a bit further out as well.  The Barrows goldeneye in flight was a fun subject.DSC_4092The Canada Goose was present in pretty good concentrations and some were seemingly nesting along the roadside as well.  This one let me get low and close for a head shot.DSC_4091-EditYes, we enjoyed our time at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge … where it’s living proof that good things can happen at bad places … for both the benefit of man and nature.  🙂_DSC2140As we were driving away, one of the MANY prairie dogs was spotted checking us out.  It seemed to be saying … “leaving so soon”.  LOL  Ok, maybe not!  if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend to visit this urban gem.DSC_4295Next Up:  Back to the wetlands of Florida

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Everglades NP Fun

Often in south Florida, you have to dodge raindrops … or should I say weather system storms.  See, we were scheduled to attend a sunset photography workshop, involving boats and I was so looking forward to attending and learning.  Unfortunately a tropical weather storm was scheduled to “attend” that day as well and therefore our afternoon of fun was cancelled with a days notice.  Torrential rain, high winds, and rough seas were forecast over most of south Florida.  However, it didn’t look too bad in Everglades NP, so my friend Claudia and I decided to give it a try.  In the early morning rain, I picked her up and off we went.

Sunrise photography at the lake, which has been popularized by Claudia, appeared at first to not be very cooperative to us.  Already there, and packing much hope with us, we waited … and waited …_dsc1884 … eventually the clouds and colors cooperated for us.  It was weird too because there were fast moving clouds on the low horizon, which made the captures even more challenging._dsc1941-hdr Once the colors began to wane, we decided to leave the area, only to find these magnificent clouds all around us.  It was the type of sighting where you didn’t know where to photograph first or even how to get it all in.  I chose to grab this one … looking a bit up to the clouds, but including that crow on top of the pine tree near the right … as the sun began to peek through._dsc1983 Not long ago, the white-crowned pigeons were listed on the threatened list of birds within Florida, so I was quite excited when we came across these beauties.  In the past, my images of them were rare sightings, canopied by tree branches, with them looking down at me in the relative low light.  On this day, they were out in the beautiful sunlight and out in the open.  So very beautiful was this mature one taking a peek at me as well.dsc_3785 I’m certainly no expert on these birds, but this one might have been more of a juvenile, as its crown was still mottled and nowhere near as brightly colored.  However, it exhibited those beautiful iridescent colors around its neck.  dsc_3699 Nearby were a group of red-bellied woodpeckers who also cooperated quite nicely.dsc_1905 I was lucky enough to time this one to the second before it flew off from its perch.dsc_3744 Again, always present hawks and other predator birds circle overhead.dsc_2639 Of course, when I photograph any birds or wildlife, I tend to get distracted by birds flying in and out of my line of sight.  I usually don’t photograph them because … 1. I have difficulty chasing them in and out of the tree branches and  2. I don’t usually even know what I’m photographing!  LOL.  After consultation with bird ID and photographer extraordinaire, Michael Libbe, my gut ID was correct … Savannah sparrow.  Thanks Michael!dsc_2562 It’s always a treat to encounter a bald eagle in the area, as I saw this one fly by and then perch itself on a bare snag.dsc_4199 Imagine my surprise when the one eagle turned out to be two bald eagles that eventually mated in the very far distance!  dsc_3010 After they tried to assure the next generation of eagles, they settled down and looked out over their landscape.  It was a fascinating experience that I had never witnessed before.dsc_3081 Iconic landscape shots abound in the Everglades, and the famous “Z Tree” is one of them.  Had to capture one more image of it.  The Everglades NP is a place near and dear to me and I worry about its preservation.  I encourage everyone to activate themselves, in whatever way possible, to assure all of our national parks, monuments, and recreational lands are protected for all to enjoy.  🙂_dsc2014Next Up:  Life In The Rookery

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Spring Is In The Air

Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th … or so the calendar say.  Try telling that in the midst of winter to the birds of Florida.  They’re already out and about in the Florida sunshine!DSC_0061Whether it be the beautifully irridescent purple gallinule foraging about in the flowering plants or the yellow-rumped warbler darting in and out of the trees, there’s always something going on.  _DSC9057-2While some of the birding activity involves migratory birds just passing through or here for a brief stay, many of them are residents.  Such is the case of the great egret, seen here in full courtship display.  That plumage is amazing to witness that’s for sure.  Like it placed a foot on a magnetic ball and static electricity resulted … plumage standing up in every conceivable direction._DSC5262-EditSome birds, such as the double-crested cormorant, while they sport colors that pop out during breeding season, their display is one more in the dance or rhythmic movement.  It’s truly hard to miss._DSC8767One of the more popular birds to observe during this time is the great blue heron.  Probably due to its beauty, grace in flight, and dedication they possess and exhibit.  Of course, their size makes them an easy target for your eyes as well.  Standing high on the tops of the pine trees, this guy prepares for flight in search of more nesting material._DSC8349_DSC8350After some preliminary flapping, we have lift-off!  No other bird in my opinion executes such full extension of its body as the great blue heron.
_DSC8377Before long, it returns with the perfect stick._DSC8453As it prepares for its landing, I get a topside (or is it backside?) view … love the variety of feathers it possess, each with a role in the perfect landing.  🙂DSC_0115Landing light as a feather at the nest, it greets its mate with the presentation of the chosen stick for the job.  She examines it and accepts it from her mate and they together place it in the nest._DSC8416I think that she liked it!  They celebrate their union and their love, as well as their young ones to come soon._DSC8566Other birds of the rookery are doing the same thing as well, such as the ever-present wood storks.DSC_0083-Edit-EditSome birds do it quite quickly, while others seem to use the task time to take a break along the way.  Isn’t that just like a man?  LOL, sorry guys, couldn’t let that one pass by.  This anhinga rests for a moment before it grabs a sprig of pine needles to return with.  I just love their breeding colors and plumage as well.  Like a skilled make-up artist and hair stylist just paid a visit.  🙂DSC_0180-EditWhile some birds, even of the same breed are still preparing their nests and choosing their mates, some got an earlier start and are already raising their young.  This great blue heron parent returned to the nest, with fish dinner in tow (stored in its throat), to an anxious young one._DSC8865At first, the young one just makes their “request” (i.e. FEED ME!) known politely.  If the parent doesn’t oblige in a timely manner, the young one takes matters in its own hands, or should I say beak!  If you look closely, you can see the parent trying to share that fresh catch._DSC8916As often as I’ve seen this rough feeding routine play out before my eyes, I always wonder if the parents absolutely dread coming back to hte nest to take this kind of abuse!  Haha.  Sometimes, the parents walk away, almost as if to teach their young a lesson.  As you can see, the young one uses that moment to throw an utter temper tantrum … yet learns to use their wings a bit in the process._DSC9016Of course, nothing sounds as sweet as the flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks as they fly overhead.  Love their calling out melody.DSC_0063Next up:  Let’s all go to the Everglades!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Driving Through Rural Florida

Don’t ever be mislead into thinking that Florida is entirely a “concrete jungle”.  While that may be more of a reality on the Florida’s coastline, especially in the south, there are certainly areas that offer a much more rural feel.  On days that Tom & I both have some free time together, we take drives into such areas.  Why don’t you come along for the journey?  🙂

Along the shores of one of the many lakes in Florida, we came across some horses, albeit not wild, but they still made for a peaceful looking image.  DSC_9042That was until we heard and saw a bunch of action going on.  Seems like a crested caracara joined a party of two crows and was far from welcome there.  They both ganged up on the caracara with some ferocity, which I always find so fascinating.DSC_8992DSC_8993After a chase ensued, the caracara finally got the message and took flight over the landscape.DSC_9005The crested caracara is normally found dining roadside with some of our vultures (black and turkey) … feasting on some recent road kill or some other type of carrion.  They are referred to as “Mexican eagles” since they have so many of them there and are found in areas like Florida, Texas, and perhaps other gulf states.  They are actually in the falcon family.  I have always found them to be quite beautiful and interesting.DSC_8211Speaking of the oddly intriguing … we also find many wood storks along the way.  It’s easy to see how they got their name.  They’ve made quite a comeback too and can be found bullying over the nests of other birds in our Florida rookeries.DSC_8310More elegant are the common great blue herons.  They have got to be the most patient birds when it comes to feeding, as they will stand there motionless for what seems to be an eternity (at least while you’re photographing them) waiting for the precise moment of opportunity to strike.DSC_8290DSC_8255Feelings of pride and patriotism rush over me whenever I spot our U.S. national bird, the bald eagle.DSC_9107DSC_9223DSC_9171Such a symbol of freedom are they.  I remember that when I was growing up, I never saw them, but they are many out there now in numbers.  Such an amazing comeback story of how the Endangered Species Act, as well as environmental protections, work together to ensure that they thrive again.DSC_9542Always searching for hikes to take out in wilderness and this one yielded this juvenile black-crowned night heron, who incidentally, wasn’t bashful at all.DSC_9378Sandhill cranes, always a favorite of mine whever I can find them, are a thrill to see.  These two are a mated pair and exhibit such dedication to each other.DSC_8512When they start unison calling, I just stop in my tracks.  Much like the sound of elk bugling or a bear cub purring, I can’t get myself to myself to even flinch a muscle when I hear it.DSC_8534Only to be outdone is when they begin their dance of love and celebration.DSC_8521This pair was drinking water in the field, exhibiting a behavior that I had never seen before.DSC_8568The whooping crane can sometimes be found hanging out with the sandhill cranes.  It is primarily white feathered, with black tips and a red crown, it’s much larger than its cousins.  I hope that they will rebound like the bald eagles did.  While sandhill cranes are sometimes hunted (why?) over migration states, the whooping crane is protected.  Sadly though, they are sometimes “mistaken” for a sandhill crane.  When you see a whooper, it’s hard to understand how  they could possibly be mistaken as adults.DSC_9526The great egret, sporting its white lacey breeding plumage backlit by the sun, is a fabulous sight to see as well.DSC_9708Of course, the trip-colored heron is a show to watch as it hunts as well.DSC_9759Towards the end of the day, the sandhill cranes begin to return to roost for the night.  In the beginning, they fly a few at a time….DSC_9859… eventually numerous constructions of cranes soar overhead … all generally calling out their impending arrival.DSC_8838Their silhouettes against the setting sun, which has highlighted the atmosphere, is nothing short of wonderful.  When they drop their legs, as they ready to execute their landing, reminds me of paratroopers as they find their way back to earth.DSC_8856Yep, we may not have mountains and varied mammal wildlife in Florida, but we do have much to be thankful for.  🙂
FullSizeRenderNex Up:  Wonder of the wetlands

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Day To Remember ;-)

I’ve often wondered if I take living in Florida for granted.  While my friends from other areas of the country are dodging snowstorms and bitter cold, I’m basking in temperatures ranging from a cold of 50’s to a warm of 80’s.  It’s totally no problem for me to drive out in search of wildlife or natural landscapes in just my light pants and top … maybe a fleece for the early pre-dawn hours.  I laugh because when I wear long sleeves and pants … it’s to keep the sun or mosquitoes away.

Nonetheless, in the midst of “winter”, I venture out and see sights such as the juvenile bald eagles circling around known nests, probably looking for mom/dad to give them a once willing handout.  No more … they are on their own for food.
DSC_4455The mature eagles are too busy guarding their nests from intruders, which include past years broods.  I find it strange when I visit out west and see this nesting and courtship period much later in the season … often at least spring.  Makes sense, as these eagles don’t have to worry about snow or migration.DSC_4713Once I’m away from the hustle and bustle of coastal south Florida, eagle fly freely as they go about their day.  They often call out to one another as they soar over the landscape, with a call that’s quite distinctive and always summons me to stop and look for their presence.  Sometimes I get a up close fly by that would be hard to miss … sometimes I can simply detect a tiny white head in the faraway trees.
DSC_4761DSC_4760Other predators lurk nearby as well, such as our ever-prevalent red-shouldered hawk.DSC_4737But by far, the eagles are mst prevalent and busy with their nest building, courtship, and hunting.  I’m always so fascinated by their feather patterns and love it when I get a topside view.DSC_5054Beside predator birds, there are also a wide variety of “little birds” migrating through.  Most times I’m struggling to isolate them in the trees as they dart in and out, but this one was quite curious about me and came over for a closer look.  Reward:  picture taken.  🙂DSC_4813While bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and a wide variety of “little birds” can be found in other places besides Florida, the Everglades snail kite is endemic to Florida in the US.  Endangered in the Florida, it feeds primarily on pond apple snails, though Florida now has some invasive snails that it will feed upon, though with some difficulty.  See, the other snails are invasive and quite a bit larger, so the Everglades snail kite has to work harder with its beak to get the snail inside.  They are quite fascinating hunters and always a thrill to encounter.DSC_4930The belted kingfisher is also a treat to see and photograph … for when it’s hunting for fish, you can capture them in their notorious hovering position … much like a hummingbird.
DSC_5424Limpkin, a noisy wading bird found regularly in Florida, also eats the snails, but with their long straight beaks, they effectively crack open the invasive snails and pull their snail out of its shell much more efficiently than the Everglades snail kite.DSC_5211Even when birds are scarce, you can almost always count on the great blue heron to be somewhere about the wetlands.  The most patient hunters I’ve ever seen, they will eat just about anything!DSC_5404Of course, when the sun begins to set, the party really begins._DSC5159_DSC5179Just when you think your day is over, here comes the owls … count them … 1 … 2 … 3 … great horned owls getting ready for the evening hunting ritual.  Of course, though not an esthetically pleasing location, it’s always a thrill when you can find 3 together!DSC_5685On this evening, I had the pleasure of encountering something that I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before.  As I was winding down my pole shots of the owls, one flew away to a location unknown.  The other two remained behind until I could see one getting ready to fly as well.  It flew down to a post nearby to where I was shooting from.  I was photographing it, figuring that it would fly off to begin its hunting.  Then before I knew it, the other remaining owl flew down.  I wondered where it was going to land because unlike the burrowing owls who jockey for position on the posts nearby, there really wasn’t room for two.  Was I way off!  This guy was jockeying for position all right … on the backside of the female.  As they say, the rest was history.DSC_5835-EditDSC_5841-EditDSC_5847-EditI clicked away furiously trying to capture what I could of the rendezvous … dark or not … I mean it was literally right before my eyes!  When he was finished, he flew off right over my head, but I was so stunned that I didn’t capture any more.  I looked at Tom, who was sitting in the running car (remember I was just ready to call it a night).  We were both speechless.  Note:  Pardon the grainy/soft images, but I just had to share the experience.

Yep you could say we had a great time that night, though maybe not as much fun as that great horned owl couple.  😉_DSC5189Next up:  A date with a king … fisher, that is  🙂

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Florida Birding

Florida is known for many things … the sandy beaches, beautiful weather, tropical winds, palm trees … perhaps crowds and traffic too … but also for its birds.  During the winter, there are many birds which migrate through Florida, though there are many year-round residents as well.  Such is the case of the bald eagles.dsc_9526It’s a favorite sighting for me to see the bald eagles (coincidentally the only eagles we have) soaring overhead, building their nests, courting, mating, and raising their young.  Such a symbol instilled into all Americans … representing freedom, power, and respect.dsc_9556dsc_9777Then there’s the substantially smaller American kestrel, which in my opinion, has the personal goal of flying away as soon as you see them or even just slow down the car.  🙂dsc_9754The calling out of the limpkin is loud and pretty much unmistakable.  They are beautiful birds which, like the snail kite, feed on snails, but also on frogs and insects as well.  They are year-round residents of Florida as well.dsc_9789dsc_9992The belted kingfisher is a fabulous, fast, and flighty little bird … who I generally can only capture in the hovering mode.  🙂  Generally speaking, in most of Florida, it migrates here in the winter, so it’s a treat when it’s vacationing.dsc_9820But for me, the story is usually revolving around the eagles.  Here a pair of bald eagles perch near each other and begin calling out together … also an unmistakable sound.dsc_0078dsc_0220As much as I believe that she was asking for it and I was channeling some Barry White music their way, they did not mate while I was cheering them on.  I guess maybe they didn’t want an audience.  🙂dsc_0948It’s not just the mature eagles that pass by, but rather juvenile ones as well.  They have totally a different appearance than the mature ones, most notably the lack of the telltale white head and tail feathers, which they generally don’t possess until 4-5 years old.  There’s something special about them though that intrigues me.  I love their mottled look.dsc_0536dsc_0550One bird that is generally found across the US is the great blue heron.  These birds are large, extremely patient hunters, and very beautiful in flight, courtship, and nest building.  They are year-round residents as well.dsc_0731As the sun goes down, the eagles perched on a sign with the sunset colors in the background, makes a nice photo op.We also have our share of owls.  Here is the great horned owl, which is one of the largest and powerful owls here, but we also have barred, burrowing, and barn as well.  I’m quite an owl fanatic so all owls get photographed.  Have I told you before how obsessed I am with talons?dsc_1155

As the sun begins to set in the distance, it becomes the perfect setting for a silhouette shot of the bald eagle._dsc7988Speaking of colors, this particular night was an explosion of colors … which kept changing as the sun went down.  img_2261As hard as it was to say goodnight on this fabulous shooting location, of course, it was a must eventually.  So yes, Florida is an incredible location, especially in the winter to find birds galore.  Winter is also, my favorite time in Florida.img_2255Next Up:  More Colorado touring

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Lemonade Never Tasted So Good

In October, we really don’t as a rule worry too much about tropical storms or hurricanes in Florida.  Sure, it’s still technically hurricane season until the end of November, but our peak is usually July, August, and September … at least according to this “almost native Floridian”‘s recollection.  So, when we realized that a potential Cat.4-5 hurricane by the name of Matthew was lurking around Florida a few days earlier, we became concerned.  We were thankful that south Florida was pretty much spared from the wrath of the storm, so when our flight allowed us to check in, we thought we were in the clear.  WRONG … by the time we checked in online to the time we checked into our hotel, a few short hours from Denver, we received the text message … FLIGHT CANCELLED.  Yep, lemons thrown our way.

I felt especially terrible because my daughter and her husband had just left for backpacking in Europe and we were charged with taking care of our grandchildren … doggy ones.  🙂  Luckily, we were in the midst also of sights like these …dsc_7985dsc_7997So with those lemons, we decided to make the proverbial “lemonade”.  We altered our plans (after all, a friend of theirs was battening down the hatches until we got home and all flights into Florida were cancelled) and chose to not sweat it out and swing by Rocky Mountain NP with our newly gained freedom.  OK, truth be told, it probably did involve some “sweating it out”, but you get the gist, right?

I hadn’t been to Estes Park in probably 2 years and this was pretty crowded for me.img_2151After we left the hustle and bustle of town and got into the park itself, it was much better.  Right off the bat, we came across a gang of wild turkey.  I believe that there were mature and juveniles within the group.dsc_8005Of course, everyone knows that October in RMNP is synonymous with the elk rut, so my hopes were high.  Can you imagine how excited I was when I came across this handsome bull down by the lakeside … keeping a keen eye on his harem.dsc_8218It was really cool to get images of him standing almost chest deep in the water.  Of course, when he bugled from there as well, it was well over the top for me.  NOTHING compares to the sound of a bull elk’s bugle!dsc_8342He really was quite the handsome lad and quite cooperative with his poses.  I have a feeling that he’s used to the camera lens.  🙂dsc_8404Of course, during the rut, the bull elk have more on their minds than eating, but that didn’t stop the ladies from getting their fill on the nearby vegetation.dsc_8432A very tender moment to me was when he went nose to nose with one of his gals.  I wondered if she was his favorite … only just kidding.  LOLdsc_8556Instead of eating the vegetation, he would use the bushes to scratch himself.dsc_8593The girls in his harem were about 15, which I thought was a pretty good size.  While most of the rut was over, the mating had yet to begin.dsc_8715Yep, this bull sure knew how to work the camera.  Never have I gotten them in the water during rut like that.  I was thrilled.dsc_8795Sunsets are always a thrill and this place didn’t disappoint.  I just loved how the colors were so mixed, yet oh so beautiful._dsc1775Out at dinner one night, I happened to notice this sign … it warmed my heart to know that some people and places do everything in their ability to protect the bears from being labelled as a “problem bear” secondary to actually “problem people” who don’t exercise common sense.  (I’ll now exit my soapbox)img_2159This time of the year, the mule deer were also out in force and sporting nice racks too.  Such sweet, sweet faces.dsc_9030dsc_9331These guys were out for a little bit of jostling around as well.dsc_9191Now this bull elk, shown from afar so that you can actually see how many gals he had in his harem … 24 in all!!!  Crazy to imagine how busy he was going to be in the near future.  LOL.  We even saw one of them actually try to mate him!  Guess she was getting close to being ready.  😉_dsc1818So in the end, we got home a night later, got to go the Rocky Mountain NP, arrived to Jacksonville to pick up the grand doggies, and safely drove home.  Yep, lemonade never tasted so good!_dsc1813Next Up:  How about some birding?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Backcountry Exploring … 4-Wheel Style

When staying in Grand Junction, there are many places that are within a relatively short drive.  I guess it’s all a point of perspective.  So, wanting to see more of the immediate area as we began to make our way home, we decided to drive over to Ouray, which was about a 2-hr drive (or a bit less or more depending on your stops).  It was an absolutely fabulous day and I was finding it hard not to have Tom stop at almost every turn … thankfully he’s used to it.  ;-o_dsc1502The area was so vast and ever-changing, though one thing remained the same … it was beautiful!_dsc1519I just loved the way that there was a lovely layer of snow down on the landscape in areas still that weren’t exposed to the sunlight.  I remember wishing that this was my final destination … the lake, the beauty, the serenity … all to ourselves._dsc1523But alas, there was much more to come and the colors were out, though depending on the elevation, the storm that had just blown through stripped many of the leaves in areas._dsc1577-hdrAlong the road, I remember coming to this corner and I couldn’t take it any longer.  STOP THE CAR order was issued and off I went trying to attempt to capture a fraction of the magnificent scenery that I saw before me.  When I saw that puddle, I knew that I found what I was looking for.  Yes, Colorado at that moment, felt like heaven on earth._dsc1604We had a wonderful dinner and then got some sleep because the next day was going to be filled with adventure and new places to see and photograph.

The next morning we met for breakfast to start our day off right, then we jumped into Rick Louie’s vehicle for a day of 4-wheeling the backcountry road of southwestern Colorado. img_2125-1Just past the town of Telluride, which itself was spectacular, we drove up this pretty steep section to Bridal Veil Falls, which was beautifully dusted with snow and some ice as well._dsc7886I could hardly believe that this was the first week of October still!  To say I was loving the cold weather reprieve from the heat and humidity of home was an understatement.img_2122-1Of course, when we came upon accessible stands of aspen, I just had to run over and center myself in the midst of them and get that classic “look up” shot.  Nothing makes me feel more small, yet so connected to my surroundings as that feeling of looking up and that sun starburst sealed the deal._dsc7922It was all so adventurous as we made our way over into Ridgeway._dsc7941Nothing compares to the views off of Million Dollar Highway …_dsc7950… especially when seen through the entrance of the Last Dollar Ranch._dsc1731Yes, there are some pretty impressive homesteads out there … and the views are even more impressive._dsc1637_dsc1712Now for me, all of this landscape shooting was so much appreciated, but I still got a bit excited when I finally saw my first glimpse of some wildlife … this lone ram out in the middle of the flat landscape.  I so appreciated seeing this guy as he grazed on the grasses.  But all fun days had to come to an end and off we drove on our way back towards to Denver for our flight home … or so we thought.dsc_7937I want to thank Rick so much for taking us around his home state of Colorado in the most adventurous way possible.  If you ever want to do some 4-wheeling in the backcountry roads, we highly recommend him.  Check out his website at http://www.ricklouiephotography.com._dsc1644Next Up:  A change of plans on behalf of … Matthew.

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Grand Junction Hospitality

When in Colorado, Grand Junction specifically, one of the first places I want to go is to visit the Colorado National Monument.  A unit within the National Park Service, the “Monument” consists of sharp canyons of sandstone and various types of rock formations high on the desert land of the Colorado Plateau.  Tom loves it for the exceptional cycling that it offers … I love it for its amazing photographic value and it being a place to get away from the city of Grand Junction which resides at its base.

Usually, we start off with a sunrise from the top, though on this day it was lacking cloud formations which always enhance a sunrise.  Still it’s a great way to spend a morning, as seen from this view of Independence Rock._dsc1334-hdr_dsc1298Similar to that which can be said of the lighting on the Palouse farmland of eastern Washington state, the scenery is fascinating from every viewpoint and angle and the views are ever-changing with the light and shadows._dsc1370-hdrThe breadth of the views are amazing … as seen from this vista overlooking Monument Canyon and looking a bit north._dsc1427_dsc1449It’s not all about landscapes though.  There is a considerable amount of wildlife to be found up there, but I’ll save that for another post.  After enjoying the sunrise and a delicious brunch, we decided to head to Vega Lake, a Colorado State Park in the town of Collbran._dsc1453There, we made our way to Vega Lake, which is a high mountain lake surrounded by lush meadows, which were colored beautifully for the fall.  Sitting at an elevation of ~8,000 feet, it was so incredibly beautiful.  We walked the beaches for quite a bit and then I saw it … lots of flat rocks laying on the sandy beach, just waiting for someone to come play.  See, every year Tom and I make a cairn on our wedding anniversary, which is at the end of August and usually celebrated in Alaska, but in 2016 we were unable to get away, therefore we never got to celebrate sufficiently.  So it was like 2 lightbulbs that went off simultaneously … let’s build one here … and so we did.  A 19 + 1 for good luck rock cairn signifying one rock for each year we’ve been together and then one more to seal the deal for the next.  ❤_dsc1483While there we saw deer and the fattest red fox I think I’ve ever seen, but he wouldn’t stick around for images … guess he didn’t want to be famous.  😉

It was such a fabulous day so far, but no day would be complete without a return to the “Monument” for afternoon light and ultimately the sunset.img_2553

Tom and I took our also obligatory shot of us and our feet overlooking the scene.  Having a fear of heights, you can’t tell but I’m grabbing on to his pants for dear life!fullsizerenderSunset finally arrived … it was fabulous, though it also lacked the clouds.  I guess I have to bring them with me next time.  LOLimg_2590Then it was on for some fabulous – yummy, yummy, sushi and some wine/beer.  Such a wonderful day, beautiful sights, fun celebrations, and most of all, the best of company.  It doesn’t get any better than that!img_2023Next Up:  A bit of touring … and 4-wheeling  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com