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

More Burrowing Owls … Say What?

So, during the 2017 burrowing owl season of raising the young owlets, I knew that we were moving to Colorado before I could get another years worth of the “owl fun”.  I was determined to get my fill, if you will, of these incredibly personable cuties.  These images in this, as well as the others posted in the last year, have been from the 2017 season. With that, I invite you to sit back and check out this next installment of images … and laugh if you will, but appreciate how amazing these little owls are.

Adult burrowing owls, especially the dads, play a huge role in keeping the intruders at bay or at least keeping their family safe from them.  Often that means issuing the call for them to rapidly retreat into the burrow for safety.  To help them identify any threats in their environment, they often perch on the stakes in their area to get a better vantage point.

DSC_8010Early in the season, both parents are often found at and above the burrow.  Sometimes they’re coughing up pellets …..DSC_8529….. sometimes they’re simply spending some much needed time preening themselves …..DSC_8590….. sometimes they’re staring upward towards the sky looking at predators, other flying birds, planes, insects, or the errant helium balloon.DSC_0188After a call is issued to dive into the burrow, they eventually emerge … cautiously I might add.  The owl on the left is one of the parents, while the other is a young owlet which is obviously a bit more timid and cautious.DSC_8542You may have noticed a slight difference in the color of the eyes in the adult and young in the above image.  See, while burrowing owls usually have the traditional lemon yellow eyes, they don’t always.  As you can see below, sometimes the adults or the owlets have very dark (almost alien looking) eyes.  It’s not that the younger owl dark eyes will change, it’s just how they’re born.  I find both to be so fascinating … as well as the variety of variations in between.  🙂DSC_4613The young owlets are quite the inquisitive bunch … and you can almost see their minds working as they try to figure out the significance of everything that they see.DSC_4729This trio is all from the same burrow and much like our own children can have different eye colors, so can these owls … all from the same set of parents.  I just love how they tend to follow each others focal point.DSC_4698Burrowing owls, as their name implies, make their homes in burrows on the ground.  Now that I live in Colorado, which also has burrowing owls (more on that later), an obvious difference between them is that in Florida, these owls dig their own burrows in the grasses.  In Colorado, they make residence in abandoned prairie dog burrows.  They are also residential in Florida, while transient in Colorado, though they raise their young in both.DSC_8766The stare of any owl is quite intense and powerful and these little guys are no different.DSC_8683What seems like silly antics in these owls are actually how they see and interpret their world.  They perform these extreme head twists in an effort to triangulate coordinates, distances, etc.DSC_9858One of the most endearing moments is that when the young owlets are interacting with the adults, such as this moment of the mom feeding a worm to its young.  Such patient parents.DSC_0093It’s usually not long before the young owls are out and about and testing their own skills for securing their own food.  Soon they will be on their own and obviously that’s a very important life skill.DSC_9916Looks like this one was pretty successful in tearing into its meal and devouring it.DSC_9784Each owl has its own personality and believe it or not, the observer can tell them all apart for the individuals that they are.  I mean, how could anyone not love these cuties?DSC_0076While mom plays more of a role feeding the young the food that the dad hunts down, the dad sometimes needs a break and retreats into a nice shady tree for some rest, relaxation, and mainly quiet time.  LOLDSC_8738Yes the life of a burrowing owl is quite an interesting one … and whether they’re warm and dry … or wet and soggy as this one is … their expressions are endless and personalities varied, but they all are pretty social and definitely ADORABLE!DSC_9793I hope that everyone enjoyed the burrowing owl images … I do have one more installment coming up in the near future.

Next Up:  As long as we’re talking about owls … how about some personal time with some screech owls?

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

I’ve Always Wanted To Go To British Columbia In The Spring … So I Did :-)

Not too long ago we amde a trip to British Columbia for some birding opportunities.  One of the places that we visited was the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C. (Canada).  It has been designated as a site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network.  Consisting of marshes, wetlands, and dikes, one can see a sampling of the approximately 250 species that, at one time or another, call the sanctuary home.850_2360People tend to ask when the best time to visit there (or anywhere else for that matter) … well, it all depends on what you’re looking to find.  We didn’t pick our visit time for any particular reason, other than that’s when we were on holiday.  🙂  Of course, springtime is always a pretty safe bet if baby birds are on your agenda.

There were many (as in many many) wood ducks present.  Since it’s a species that I didn’t get a lot of in Florida, I was tickled with them being so available.  Everyone’s favorite is the quite colorful / beautiful male wood duck.  With its iridescent colored head, colorful beak, and that iconic red eye, it’s easy to see why.850_2362While there were female wood ducks and young ones in tow, I tended to concentrate on the striking males.500_1185Speaking of striking males, the cinnamon teals were also present … male and female … but the most photogenic were again the males.850_2474I just love the way the frothy waters and floating feathers ornamented this beautiful one.500_0982There are lots of hiking trails along the way and quite a few bird boxes, some affectionately labeled as “Apartments”.  Nice to see some tree swallows making good use of them.850_2419They were also plentiful outside of their nesting homes as they flew around in search of bugs and other dining choices.  So very beautiful they are.850_2520It wasn’t just tree swallows either … quite a few barn swallows had nested in the rafters of some of the gazebos in the area.500_1228Of course, no Canada trip could be complete without some Canada goose and their goslings swimming by us.  I just love how the young ones are usually bookended by the adults.  LOL500_1316Along the boardwalks we found several spotted towhees feeding seeds left by the tons of visitors that had come by before us.  I just love that red eye of these quite beautiful sparrow-like birds.850_2436A beautiful song sparrow was spotted as it darted through the marshes.  Thankfully it pause long enough for a few snaps of the lens.500_1053Singing away so beautifully was this adorable marsh wren, also spotted in the marshes and very cooperatively perched on an open reed.  Just love the way their tail feathers stand up like that.500_0925There was also a pair of sandhill cranes who were nesting there.  They reportedly had nested earlier in the season and lost their eggs, but re-nested soon enough.  Hopefully they became proud parents of a baby colt or two just a few weeks later.  🙂500_1153Nearby the sanctuary, we found this beautiful great horned owl, which had 2 fledgling owlets perched high up in the trees as well.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get a clear shot of them.  Ugh.500_1253Of course, being in British Columbia (near waters) bald eagles were numerous.  We were thrilled when this pair flew overhead past us.500_1132At another nearby park, we came across a absolutely stunning red-breasted sapsucker.  Often one might find rufous hummingbirds near these woodpeckers which drill sap wells in the riparian trees, but we just saw this guy who entertained us for quite some time.  Such a gorgeous bird!500_1547500_1397Well, that’s just a sampling of the various birds we found during our stay in British Columbia.  Before I close, I’ll leave you with one more image.  🙂500_1575Hope that you enjoyed that …

Next Up:  Got so many more burrowing owls to share, so if you’re ready …

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

Few Things Are Cuter Than Fox Kits

Everyone knows that my absolute favorite subject to photograph are bears … brown bears, black bears, polar bears … it doesn’t matter.  They are far and above my number one!  After bears, my affection goes to owls … great horned, burrowing, western screech, barn, eastern screech, barred, short-eared, long-eared, northern pygmy, northern saw whet, or even the snowy (yes, we had one visit once in FL, believe it or not).  After bears and owls, come fox!  Yes FOX, and in 2018 so far, I’ve had my share of them.

One encounter, my first in Colorado, was particularly exciting for me to witness … as the first always is.  Sure, I’ve encountered many in other areas, such as Yellowstone and the Tetons, but this one was CO.

It seemingly appeared out of nowhere … and as you can see, it brought along its shadow as well.  LOL.

500_9056Before long, another appeared over the dirt berm and my heart began to skip a beat.500_9027To witness such sweetness makes it difficult for me to photograph.  I want to stare directly into it mesmerizing eyes and follow that up with squeals of delight.  Look at that dirty nose, indicative of the rooting around that it had been doing.500_9284Wasn’t sure how it would react to me, as I respectfully kept my distance, though never let it willingly out of my sight.  I think it was a contest of intrigue and curiosity of the other.  I absolutely loved that it showed no fear whatsoever with my presence and continued to act so naturally.500_9300Birds flew about and called out periodically, which made the fox kit turn its attention to them as well.500_9117Before long, the two began to attempt at playing, which furthered my happiness.  There’s nothing as wonderful to me when photographing wildlife as to have them acting like the young kits that they were … much like bear cubs or owlets, their entire day is filled with learning about their environment and other life lessons that will serve them well.  Of course, there’s always time for playfulness too.500_9168It was all I could do to keep my excitement to myself when I was met with stares like this.500_9112As 2018 progressed, I had other fox kit encounters … so much so that it felt like it had become the year of the fox for me … that is, until I returned to Alaska recently.  LOL500_9375-Edit-EditI really hope that everyone enjoys the little fox kits … for there are so many more to go.  Until then, I look at this image and my heart reignites.  Any other fox lovers out there?

Next up:  Sanctuary birds of BC

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

The Mating Dance Ritual of the Greater Sage Grouse

In the last blog post, I shared images from a spring trip to the small town of Walden, CO.  Though we saw a variety of wildlife as well as a variety of birds, it wasn’t actually the purpose of our trip.  See, we had a date with some greater sage grouse.  I was quite excited and totally willing to get up at 4 AM, gather up my gear, layer up for the coldness of the early spring morning, and head out to meet our group.

The Chamber of Commerce of North Park and Colorado Parks & Wildlife offer spectators and photographers an opportunity to observe these amazing grouse from a viewing trailer.  One must arrive in the darkness, well before the earliest of light, as to not disturb the upcoming activities.
IMG_6880Greater sage grouse (centrocercus urophasianus) are the largest species of grouse.  They reside in the sagebrush environment and during the spring, they congregate – males and females – on ceremonial mating grounds called leks, which they return to year after year.

Once we arrived at the trailer, we were put ushered quickly and quietly into the trailer and remained there in the dark.  After some time, we could hear the sounds of the grouse gathering outside, but our trailer blinds were down.  It was quite cool to listen to, as our minds curiously wondered how many were out there … and how close.  Eventually, our awning was lifted.  In the beginning we couldn’t see anything … but a quick glance through my binoculars proved that they in fact had arrived.
500_1521Males would sometimes confront each other almost seemingly sizing each other up.500_1735The females would gather in the center of the action, as if to judge the displays of the males.500_1725It’s incredible to witness this display, as the males transform themselves into a semblance that one wouldn’t recognize just hours earlier.  500_2288Basically, the males perform mating rituals on the lek through strutting displays.  The more dominant males gather on the inside of the lek “circle”, where the females are hanging out.

The strutting starts by a male who fans its spiked tail first ….500_2409….. then its yellow eyecombs follow, along with its “ponytail” filoplumes.500_2531As the male begins to strut, he inflates a pair of yellowish throat sacs, which are underneath its white breast feathers. 500_1790500_2576500_2533-Edit500_2558An incredible popping noise is audible … which we became very attune to in knowing when the press the shutter.  500_2563Then the courtship dance ritual is repeated over … and … over … as many as 6-10 times per minute for an incredible 3-4 hours daily.500_2464500_2471

500_2415On this particular day, there were about 47 males on the lek, courting approximately 11 females.  The more dominant males would enter the center of the lek, where the females were congregated, while the younger and thus less dominant males would strut their stuff further outside the inner circle, unlikely to get noticed.500_2473

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500_2577They say that 80% of the females mate with the dominant or alpha male, while the next male in line mates with the remaining 20%.
500_2293Then, with no warning it seems, the party is over and they revert to their pre-mating ritual selves … and fly away!500_2611Once they have all vacated the lek area, it’s safe for us to emerge.IMG_6881As I gather up my belongings, I can’t help but think back to the privilege I had just experienced in watching the Greater Sage Grouse.  IMG_6883Their numbers have been declining overall due to loss of habitat (secondary to a number of reasons) and efforts to get their protections that they desperately need via the Endangered Species Act have been unsuccessful.  I sure hope that one day everyone can have the privilege to witness their amazing courtship/mating dance for themselves and appreciate their instinct in returning to the lek year after year.  Please read up on these amazing creatures and assist in protecting them for generations to come.  Thanks.500_2474

Next Up:  Local birding near Fruita, CO

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

 

 

My Walden Adventure

So, I had always heard about Walden, CO … a small town in Jackson County.  It’s other claim to fame is the self-proclaimed title of the “Moose Capital of Colorado”, boosting hundreds of them.  I certainly hoped that we would see some moose, but our purpose on this trip was not the moose, but rather an Endangered Species, but more on that in the next blog post.

So off we went, my good friend Amy and I, on our adventure.  It was my first trip there, so I had no idea what to expect.  It was about a 4+ hr drive, but with us, it tends to take longer.  You guessed it … lots to see along the way, therefore lots of photo stops.  LOL

It wasn’t long before we started seeing lots of deer … often crossing the road in front of us, but sometimes just hanging out on the snow covered landscape along the way.

850_1214It wasn’t just the deer either … we came across several groups of wild turkeys.  It was such a cool sight to see this tom turkey chasing one of his ladies.  LOL850_1295-EditThe herds of elk were much more elusive and stayed relatively higher except for a herd that was crossing a field down low.850_1375One of my favorite sightings is a northern harrier (as some of you know) so when I saw these two fly by, soaring over the field, I was thrilled.  Funny, but to me they almost seem to be holding hands … or should I say … wings.  ❤500_9443Other birds witnessed along the way were the ever abundant horned larks …500_9506… and a personal favorite of mine, the American dipper.  500_9410Once we arrived into Walden, we drove around the area to see what we could see.  Canada geese were plentiful everywhere, and it was quite a thrill to see several northern pintails.500_9517In addition to that there were also northern shovelers… so very pretty.500_9782Pied-billed grebes were also plentiful … and they were sporting their breeding plumage.500_9927Then the white pelicans flew in and sort of stole the show.  In Florida, we got our share of white pelicans, as well as brown pelicans, but we never got the white pelicans in their breeding plumage.  See the horn on their bill?  That is present when they are ready to breed and then afterwards they lose them.500_9732The pelicans worked with much effort and speed to feed in the waters.500_9887Probably one of the more interesting observations with these pelicans was the interaction between 3 of them.  One was clearly in the lead and when it would change course, the two immediately following changed course.  The two following would also get quite aggressive with each … challenging and snapping beaks.500_0182Finally, one of the two grabbed the first one by the neck and thrashed it left to right and then eventually straight down into the water, while the other simply watched.  Not sure what that was about … but I have my hunch.  :-O500_0274Later the two were swimming together notably alone.  I just love how for “white birds” they are quite colorful and full of detail.500_0229-Edit-EditDriving down a dirt road, we came across this lovely hawk.  It was calling out repeatedly in what could only be compared to as a red-tailed hawk call.  However, this wasn’t a red-tailed hawk, but rather a Swainson’s hawk.  It was then that I realized how similar their calls sounded.  It was quite persistent too … calling over and over.500_2845During our travels we came across a pair of American kestrels, which I believe might have been beginning to prepare their nest.  The pair were flying around and announcing their territory.  Isn’t the male just gorgeous?500_3470Now one of the star raptors always is the golden eagle and there was no shortage of them.  Quite beautiful in flight as they make their way past us over the landscape.500_3442Being that Tom and I have been doing a lot of raptor observation lately, I knew right away from its field marks, that this was indeed another golden sighting.500_2696Of course, there were a variety of birds spotted throughout the sagebrush landscape.500_3411Some were even showing off for the camera.  🙂500_3387We then headed back to the lake and found several otters playing … of course, they were a bit camera shy and headed out for a more distant view.500_3090We also found muskrats and beavers in an adjoining waterway.  The surface of the water was like glass and as such the beaver’s head had a perfect reflection whether it was coming or going.500_3273500_3292-EditWell you can’t come to Walden and not look for moose, right?  OK, so we did eventually do that, but at first I had to get some beautiful mountain bluebird poses and images.  Is there any prettier bird out there?500_3012So we did finally get our moose sightings … about 5 if I remember correctly.  Early spring  moose are not that exciting, as the bulls have already lost their antlers and re-growth hasn’t started.  Also, they tend to be more secretive and deep into the brush foraging for food.500_2964The sunset was also fabulous and I think, the perfect way to end this blog post.  There was so much seen and photographed.  Too much to include everything in this post, so forgive me for not sharing it all.  Yes, Walden is a magical place.850_1601

Next Up:  The main attraction in Walden … i.e. Why we went.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

 

 

A Little Birding By The Lake

One of our local Colorado State Parks is a favorite destination for us to get outdoors, with limited time, and get in some wildlife viewing and photography.  Most times, in the spring, that means birding.

In Florida, we have a year round abundance of osprey.  I was worried that I would miss these beautiful birds, but I haven’t found that to be the case … except of course for the quantities.  In fact, the osprey both spend the summers here in western Colorado and also nest and raise their young here.  Furthermore, the osprey can be found in 49 of the  50 US states!  I really had no idea.500_8139Another bird that is found in almost all states, but here they’re primarily spending their winters, is the merlin.  Interestingly, we found this one in the spring, but with the mild winter that we had perhaps there wasn’t much of a signal that it was time to move on. :-O This one was so beautiful and quite cooperative for the lens.500_9270One of our year-long residents is the American kestrel.  Being one of the smallest raptors (other than several species of owls), the kestrel can often be seen on power lines and poles throughout our neighborhood.  They hunt in the rural fields and nest here as well.500_8282Around the shores of the lake, you can always count on the killdeer.  Easy to spot because of their running around, seemingly at a frantic pace, and also their calling out … also franctic.  LOL.  So beautiful with the red ring in the eye and their lovely markings.500_8451A whole host of other shorebirds share the shoreline with them.500_8640One of my favorite sightings locally this late spring was that of a few eared grebes.  500_8091Fully dressed in their breeding plumage, these two followed each other around the lake, often times mixing it up with the coots and a few western grebes.  The eared grebe is the most abundant grebe in the world.  Another amazing fact about the eared grebes is that they spend 9-10 months of the year essentially flightless … the longest of any bird that has the ability to fly!500_8044That amazing red eye is undeniable … your eye and that of the camera lens gravitates right to it.  Splash in those organge feathers contrasting with it and … oh wow!  With eared grebes, the sexes appear similar.  In the winter, they are much more drab looking.  Lucky for all of us, they emerge into this amazing plumage.500_7890Right behind them in their beauty are the American avocets.  Their grace in flight is unmatched … well, except by perhaps the black-necked stilts.  500_8412These long-legged shorebirds possess that thin, long. slightly upturned beak with black and white feathers patterned on their back and sides, as illustrated above.  The images ahred here are those which are adults in breeding plumage.500_9064They feed in the waters on insects, crustaceans, and invertebrates.  I just love it when they feed or drink in the water, especially when the droplets of water coming from their beaks is captured through the lens.500_9112-Edit-EditWhen we photographed them wading in the shallow waters, some were sleeping, some simply resting otherwise, and then one was just showing off for the lens.  LOL.  I loved the symmetry of this image. ❤500_8342-EditOf course, where there are birds and smaller wildlife … there might also be foxes.  Lucky for us, we spotted this beautiful red fox exploring its surroundings … probably looking for a quick meal.500_9324Yep it’s such a wonderful place to get out and explore and the best part is … you NEVER know what you’re going to find!

Next up:  Let’s go a bit NE of our home … and see what we find.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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