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

 

 

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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

 

 

Altered Plans That Turn Out For The Best

In early spring, we decided to take a day trip a bit northeast of our home in extreme western Colorado.  Leaving early in the wee hours of the morning, we always hope to make some wildlife sightings along the way.

Yep, that we did … as we came across a herd of elk crossing a mostly barren landscape, though some snow was still hanging around.

850_0966Along the road we also spotted several raptors … including this beautiful red-tailed hawk perched in the tree and nicely exposed.500_7165Others were out flying and perching in nearby trees … with skill in their execution I might add.500_7185-Edit-EditOthers soar through the sky, searching their landscape for their next meal.  I have been amazed that while many of our raptors are in fact red-tailed hawks, there is quite a variety of other raptors out here as well.500_7318Sometimes the best laid out plans don’t actually work out … especially in the winter season.  So when we reached a “closed for the winter” sign on a road that we expected open, we knew that we had to alter our path.  That of course, usually means something cool is coming up that we were intended to see.

All of this commotion was going on in the trees and upon closer inspection we realized that it was this beautiful song sparrow.  Easy to see where they get their name from as their song is so varied and so sweet.  Even the mockingbird, which is usually the skilled imitator, cannot imitate their song.  500_7274-EditAlong the river, we spotted small wren-like birds darting up and back along the river’s surface.  The fast moving water was quite cold and there was snow and ice along the bank … none of which appeared to bother the dipper.500_7555-EditSteadily perched on the boulders in the water, the dipper looks for food consisting of insects, small fish, and fish eggs to dine on.  500_7440I have to admire its stability in that cold rushing water as it gets splashed about by the action of the waves.500_7423It feeds by diving into the water and often swimming with beating wings through the depth of the water.  Quite fascinating.  This one was doing something totally different though, so we didn’t really know what was going on.500_7595When diving or otherwise submerging itself through the water, it has an additional eyelid which it uses.  Quite amazing, and even creepy, to see.  :-O500_7551500_7605Eventually we watched it as it began to gather up algae and wet mosses and twigs from the bottow of the river and submerged rocks.  500_7674Yep, it became abundantly clear to us that it was foraging for nesting materials.  Now THAT was super cool to watch.  Unfortunately when it would take the “building materials” under the nearby bridge so we could not play inspectors to how it was progressing.  😉500_7661But for sure the action was repeated over … and over … and over.  Yep, as I said, fate has a way to alter our laid out plans and I never question it too much.  I just keep my eyes open for the reason.  It’s usually there.  🙂500_7724Next Up:  Let’s take a trip to Northern Colorado

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                  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

365 Days & Counting

Well, I can’t believe it, but 5 days ago marked my 1st complete year in Colorado!  Man, time sure has flown by … guess that means I have been having fun, right?  🙂  I wanted to use this post as a reflection of my life so far in CO … what I have learned, what I miss, what is new, and pretty much what hasn’t changed much.  So let me get started.IMG_4281-2

I don’t want to frighten anyone by sharing how long it was that I lived it FL … but let’s just say that it’s been since I was 3.  Deciding to make the BIG move to Colorado was quite the adventure, as many of you can relate to.  For me, it was Tom and I, along with my mom and her husband … so the challenges were many.  Oh, and how could I forget my “live outside” cat … just getting over the plane trip was enough to fill most people’s quota of adventure.  LOL

For those of you who don’t know me personally, we decided to move to the small rural mountain biking town of Fruita, CO.  So I started out with the culture shock of moving from a large metropolis (Hollywood, (south) FL – population of ~ 150,00) to the rural community (Fruita – population of <13,000).  While we do have gas stations, grocery store, downtown shops, and even a hospital … most of our services are obtained about 15 miles away in the “big” town of Grand Junction, CO (population of ~ 62,000).  It took me 10 days before I heard a horn honk … and even then it was someone waving as they drove by to their neighbor.  LOL.  After about a week or 2 of being in Fruita, we had business to take care of in GJ and I told Tom I needed to get out of town, because it was too crowded.  Funny how quickly perspectives change.IMG_5713

Early on I learned that the year did in fact include seasons … and the colors changed and leaves were lost and snow may or may not fall.

I learned the sounds of farm animals, which I now call “neighbors”.  Changes of season were a welcome change for the better.  I learned that flights around the country often involved 4 hour drives to either Denver or Salt Lake City … both beautiful places so it could be worse.850_1084

I also learned just how precious water is … for it was something plentiful in south FL and I realized that my appreciation for it will now be forever changed.  IMG_4434-3

I learned that while I didn’t have to worry about hurricanes as much ….IMG_4808

…. I did have to pay close attention to wildfires.IMG_7896

One of the reasons why we wanted to move out west was the abundance of wildlife living there.  In Colorado, we have been treated to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, badgers, marmot, and pika as real treats … and also for birds, I was treated often to golden eagles, greater sage grouse, and Northern pygmy owls.850_6326-Edit-Edit-4DSC_8358-Edit-Edit500_1718

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Landscapes of mountains scenes are abundant and I have taken full advantage of indulging in them.

Some things never change and I find that I still get to photograph coyote, deer, fox, bald eagles, great horned owls, and screech owls (albeit western versus eastern species).

DSC_8740-2DSC_7876500_9375-Edit-Edit-4500_1291500_4553-4_DSC9055The above image showed a pair of eastern screech owls that called our neighborhood home and used our back yard to raised its young.  The image below is just one of the many western screech owls which call Grand Junction/Fruita home.  Actually, GJ/Fruita have the highest number of WESO in the country!  At least, on bird count days.  Yes, we take them quite serious here.DSC_2554-Edit

All of those subjects, whether species that are now new to me having in my home state, or those that I still have available to me, make me quite excited to be here.

I would be lying though if I said that there weren’t things that I do miss out here though.  No, it’s not really the beach, though sunrises on the ocean do pull at my heartstrings a bit._DSC1375-2

When I peruse the photographs of my friends still in Florida, I find myself myself missing things such as the grace of swallow-tailed kites …DSC_5426

… the beauty of the roseate spoonbills …20150501-DSC_9839

… even the red-shouldered hawks.  OK, I know I have red-tailed hawks galore, as well as other species, but it’s funny how your mind goes to things that you don’t have.  LOL._DSC2671-4

Such as the crested caracara ….

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Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower – Kenansville, FL

… barred owls …._DSC2711

and alligators and crocodiles._DSC7989-4

Don’t even get me going with the burrowing owls and the sandhill cranes.  OK, most of you know that Colorado does have those birds, but it’s quite a bit different.  Let me explain … CO burrowing owls are quite timid and much less animated and social than our Florida ones.  Also while they are tons of sandhill cranes that migrate through here in the winter, finding them breeding and nesting here is so much more complicated.  How I long for shots like these ….

So, as they say …. sometimes you tend to want what you don’t have.  I don’t necessarily agree with that, for there are so many things that I really appreciate about being in CO.  There are just those few things that I wish I could see again, but I guess that’s what visiting home is all about.  😉  Least I forget, I do miss tremendously the family and friends that we left behind.  If anyone heads out to CO, please be sure to let us know.  🙂IMG_5455IMG_6696

I’ll leave everyone with another benefit of CO life … dark night skies, offering up gorgeous starry night skies like this …850_4473-Edit-4

Hope that everyone enjoyed this look back at 365 days of living as a Colorado resident.  I’m proud to be here.  🙂  Lastly, I want to thank Tom, my husband, for his support in this move and for all of his hard work in making the transition as smooth as possible.  ❤IMG_6689

Next up:  Local sights and sounds

© 2017 & 2018 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

Oh, I Can’t Get Enough Of These Guys

So did anyone out there think that the burrowing owl images from Florida were done?  LOL, oh no my friends, I still have lots of images to share from the 2017 owls … and don’t forget that I visited with my feathered friends also in 2018… so hang on.  Hope that I don’t bore anyone with more images of these cuties.  🙂

So, let’s start of with a typical juvenile burrowing owl.  So dang adorable, I can hardly stand it.  LOL.  I mean, who could look into those big bright yellow eyes and not fall in love?  ❤DSC_8229Of course, they don’t always look like that.  When they first emerge from the safety of the burrow at around 2 weeks old, they appear more like this guy on the right.  I affectionately call this their “hair plug stage”, with those adorable downy looking feathers emerging on the tops of their heads.  The one on the left has already lost most of theirs, indicating that they’re a bit older.  Why would it be you might ask?  Well, the owlets within a brood hatch at different times.DSC_7871As they grow up, they become quite affectionate, not only to their parents who provide excellent care of them, but also to their siblings.  Often they huddle up for comfort and safety.DSC_7252In Florida, there’s always plenty of bugs around the burrow to entertain them.  It’s so much fun to watch them as they get focused on crawling ants, buzzing bees, flying butterflies, or even an errant balloon or plane in the sky.DSC_7598There’s something so special about any head tilt from a young owl.DSC_8258And it seems that the more it tilts it, the more excited we onlookers get.  LOLDSC_8303Of course, so owls get so bored with it all.  🙂  Either that or sometimes they yawn like this when they’re preparing to expel a pellet, which is actually undigested bones, feathers, etc.  DSC_7317Most burrowing owls regularly will take a few moment to stretch their wings … usually a leg goes with it.  Sometimes it’s one side, then the other, and then they end up in almost a bow stretch.DSC_9751Often people wonder how you tell the difference between the adults and the young owlets.  Many times people say size, which works well when they’re younger, but a month or two down the road and size is difficult to use.  Here is a good example of an adult on the left, with the jevenile on the right.  The juveniles possess that creamy looking belly, while the adults will be more barred feather pattern.  DSC_8155DSC_9636In 2017, I witnessed something that I had never witnessed in the years earlier.  This behavior where the adult lays down low and spreads its wings out laterally.  It often also puffs up its wings almost creating a dust cloud in the earth below.  It’s thought that perhaps it’s how and trying to cool off.DSC_8048I even saw little ones seemingly laying on the earth as well.DSC_7723When it comes to eating, in the beginning the parents bring food to their young.  Here a lizard, from a cached stash, was retrieved and offered to the young owl.  It’s so fascinating to watch as they grab the prey with their feet and maneuver it skillfully, eventually able to consume the entire lizard.DSC_9946Self grooming, as well as mutual grooming, are practiced regularly by the burrowing owls.  Sometimes it’s the parents doing the work, other times it’s the siblings.DSC_8930There’s nothing like the shade provided by a tree when the temperatures start to rise.  Doesn’t this one look so content?  I mean, it almost appears to be smiling.  LOLDSC_8216This pair of young owls, gathered at the bottom of a marker post, almost trying to figure out how to reach the perch.  All in good time, my little owls.DSC_7668Yep, before long they navigating the ropes and exercising those wings.  You can almost see how proud they are too when they succeed.DSC_9140Of course, the ultimate goal is that of the nearby trees.  On the hanging branches, it becomes a bit dicey when your fellow mate jumps on in your spot as well.  LOLDSC_0473But they quickly settle down and establish solidity in their standing.DSC_0449In South FL, we often get lots of rain, and people wonder how they fare in it.  I must first say that it’s one of my favorite times to photograph them.  Not only does it cool down for the onlooker, but also their feathers get all wet and therefore textured more.  DSC_9811They fluff up often and try to shake the water droplet off of their feathers.  One more observation is that they tend to get a bit grumpy looking too. DSC_9871Yes, there are few things more enjoyable that spending hours observing and photographing these adorable young owls.DSC_0101They are so full of personalities, silly antics, and tons of expressions … all which leave me laughing out loud … even when I’m there alone.DSC_7444One more image to share before I close this blog post.  As I said before, I have lots more to share so stay tuned.  One day too I hope to share some from my new area as well.  Until that happens, enjoy this ….DSC_8286Next Up:  An unforgettable experience and sighting from the winter

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

Teton Birds In Winter

Grand Teton National Park … one of the many fabulous U.S. parks set aside for the public to enjoy … and that we did.  It was towards the end of winter and it had snowed heavily the week before we got there, so it was gorgeous to say the least.

_DSC4860The last blog post featured many of the animals that call the Tetons home.  This blog will now focus on the birds that reside here through the winter season … starting out with a beautiful juvenile bald eagle.500_4492Having moved out west, I’ve been much more exposed to a variety of raptors.  One of my favorites is the rough-legged hawk.  There’s something so beautiful about their markings within their feather pattern.500_2841Of course, their grace and agility in flight are worth noting as well.500_2840Rough-legged hawks are one of the only hawks (the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle being the others) that have feathered legs down to the toes … making their identification easier.  I just love they way that they appear in flight.500_2885-EditOn the ground, we often see bald eagles are they feed on carrion.  This mature bald eagle worked hard on this carcass in the brush.500_3011500_3162-EditAt one point, we came across another mature bald eagle, sitting so still on a post that I was pretty sure it was a fake sighting … for I’ve been fooled by those before (though usually by owl ones – LOL).  It’s feet were full of what appeared to be nesting material.  The sighting was so perfect that even though I saw it blink, I still questioned my eyesight.500_3460-Edit-EditAs we approached closer, it barely even made any signs of flight or concern.  It was breathtaking!500_3647-Edit-Edit500_3625When it finally looked like it was going to fly away, it did its “business”, re-positioned, and after quite some time, finally flew off.500_3904Of course, it wasn’t all raptor sightings … in fact we saw many water birds, such as the ring-necked duck.  It was so beautiful as it swam around in the water and the sunlight showed off its colors.500_4247We also saw many Barrow’s goldeneye, like this male, but also had female sightings as well.500_4230We found swans in numbers as well.500_4255Then we kept running into the rough-legged hawks again, which I was thrilled with,  Not sure that everyone in the car shared my enthusiasm … but hey, at least it wasn’t another male northern harrier (a definite favorite of mine).  LOL500_4326500_4340The bald eagle sightings were numerous though … sometimes multiples in a given tree.  This one looks like it might have found itself perhaps a muskrat to dine on. 500_4073-EditIt’s so fascinating to observe them as they tear it up in the process of devouring it.500_4086-EditYes, the Tetons are beautiful in any season, but there’s something about the “silence” that the winter season allows that makes it one of my favorites.  🙂_DSC4660-Edit-EditThanks Jen for taking this image of Tom and I enjoying the moment during this fabulous trip to the Tetons!IMG_6673Next Up:  More burrowing owls from 2017 … believe it or not.  Can’t get enough of those special friends of mine.  🙂

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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From Fruita to Loma

During the winter “that wasn’t”, we would often head out locally to some of our favorite areas to look for wildlife … mammals and birds.  One of our most visited treks is the trip between us and Highline Lake State Park in Loma.  The usual 13 mile trip can often take hours … because of all of the stopping along the way.  🙂  Such as for cuties like this ….500_1660The domestic sheep herd is moved around the rural farmlands to assist with the grazing of the land.  I never know where they’re going to turn up.  I just loved this darker one in the middle of all of those white sheep.  I guess it had to be different.  LOL500_1635This one was probably one of my favorite ones … I just love the way that the fencing was perfectly framing its face … plus that grassy nose.500_1648-EditOf course, along the way, we needed to stop for this herd of deer, mainly does, with a few buck sprinkled in. all traveling through a field, when it begain to lightly snow.500_1537One of the usuals in the area is the Northern flicker, which is actually a woodpecker, as you can tell from its beak.  I find them so incredibly beautiful with their black speckled bodies and touches of red.500_1262Another usual woodpecker is the downy woodpecker or the hairy woodpecker.  They look quite similar, except for the length of their beaks, with the hairy woodpecker’s being  longer.500_0934However the biggest stars in the area are the bald eagles.  We see them in all sorts of ages … juvenile to mature.  I find them quite interesting and I’ve always found the juvenile ones, with their mottled feathers, a favorite.500_1328500_0853Though not as abundant in the winter, the golden eagles are also soaring about and perched on the buttes and mesas.500_1977Looking at the feather coloration patterns, especially in the tail feathers, as well as the size of the beaks, it’s generally easy to tell the difference between the two.500_1300Yep, there are few things as randomly patterned as a juvenile bald eagle.  🙂500_1291500_1288Always lurking in our parks, rural farmlands, city downtowns, and even my backyard, the Cooper’s hawks keep a keen eye out for prey.500_1747And then there are the juncos … lots and lots of them.  Each season has such varied birding, that’s for sure, and I’m learning the ropes as they say.500_1432Next Up:  Wild horses of Wyoming

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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February Birds

During the winter in Western Colorado, there are many bird species to photograph.  One of my favorites are the sandhill cranes.  Contrary to the sandhills of Florida, these cranes are primarily transient to the area … and not normally breeding in the immediate area.  We tend to see them by the hundreds, even thousands, in the town of Delta.500_0995There’s something quite special with the sandhill cranes … so long-legged, long necked, and big body, they tend to get a lot of attention when they’re spotted.  That’s even before their calling out as the fly by in pairs, small groups, or in formation overhead.  Though I’m not great at recognizing bird calls or songs, they’re so distinctive that even I know that one immediately.500_1008500_1030500_1043Though Townsend’s solitaire are year-round residents of western Colorado, they sure do look pretty in the winter’s sky and snow.500_1157Plus they are quite inquisitve and give you lots of fun looks.  🙂500_1193Mountain bluebirds are ever-present as well.  Love it when they, like this beautiful male, perch themselves atop trees and give us an unobstructed views.500_0763Closer to home, there are so many American kestrels.  Usually perched on posts or wires, they survey the area around them for the identification of prey.  500_0033Once prey is spotted, they launch into a dive in the general area … or fly out and hover over the land, waiting for the precise moment to score a quite bite.  500_0035500_0040Of course, one of my favorite raptors which I have been thrilled to see almost daily in our rural area are the golden eagles.  I remember my first golden eagle spotting in Denali NP (AK) … I was happy to see them from a distance like this.  Their underwings are quite easily identified during those months when the golden and the bald eagles, including the immature bald eagles, share the same landscape.500_0183-EditNow here in CO, the usual golden eagle sighting, though never a boring or mundane sighting, are more from a distance like this … well, of course, this is cropped somewhat, but you get the picture.  LOL500_0450I know that I’ve shared some of my domestic sheep images, but I truly can’t get enough of these animals.  Guess this one thinks it’s a head above the rest.  😉500_0568Even closer to home, in fact in our back yard, we often find Cooper’s hawks cruising by the “buffet line”, otherwise known as the bird feeders.  They’re pretty keen to its visits by the Cooper’s, but it sure tries to score.500_0668It will perch on our perimeter fence until the right moment, then launch for the buzz by.500_0669Love that I can view this happening in my own back yard … and then across the street to the farmlands when it blends in quickly.500_0670-Edit-EditOn a rare snowy day, our feeders are visited daily by a variety of local birds, ever vigilent for the next fly by.  850_0438I hope that you enjoy my local birds as much as I do.  🙂

Next Up:  A day in the park

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

Winter Raptor Visitors

During the winter, western Colorado is home to many raptors.  Some are residents … some just passing through.  All are fascinating to watch as they go about their business.  The Grand Valley Audubon Society hosts what they refer to as “Tomacanbac” field trips.  It’s sort of a play on words … for the field trip actually originates in Grand Junction and goes to Mack, CO and back.  😉

One of the most prominent raptors soaring through the skies in the winter are the bald eagles.  On an given day, you can look up and find them at various different ages.  One day Tom and I actually visited a local park and found 14 bald eagles!  No overlaps either … we could physically see all 14 at the same time!  Love it.DSC_2488When we’re not seeing bald eagles, it’s the golden eagle which steal the show.  While the balds hang out mostly near the water areas, the golden can be seen perched on top of poles, bluffs, mesas, and of course, soaring in the skies.  DSC_3164In south Florida, our main staple raptor was the red-shouldered hawk.  Not here … in CO it’s pretty much the red-tailed hawk.  They seem to be everywhere.

What a thrill it was to witness an altercation between the golden eagle and a red-tailed hawk, who incidentally was the aggressor.  As the golden was soaring by, out of nowhere came the red-tailed hawk, all ready to get up in the golden’s face.DSC_3157As the red-tail got closer, the golden simply turned to get a glance at it.DSC_3158It changed it’s direction slightly, as if to brush the red-tail off a bit, but it was relentless in its pursuit and kept attacking the golden.  DSC_3159DSC_3160Eventually, the red-tail hawk and the golden eagle parted ways without too much contact, but it’s always so impressive when the smaller raptor attacks the larger, more powerful one.DSC_3016On the other end of the size spectrum is the American kestrel.  It’s also quite common out here, often seen in the farm lands on just about every block.  DSC_3196Other hawks such as the ferruginous hawk are a thrill to see.DSC_3261A personal favorite of mine are the northern harriers … especially the males, know as the “gray ghost” for obvious reason, which are easily distinguished from the darker reddish brown females.  They say you see females to male in ratios of about 4 to 1, but not on these days … they were seen more like 1 to 3 … males rule!DSC_3205One of the coolest, and most cooperative, sightings during the two trips I attended was this one … it remained a big question as to its identity.  Some thought sharp-shinned, while others thought Cooper’s hawk.  After our leader sent these in to the experts, it was determined to be a 1st year Cooper’s hawk.  What a gorgeous and very tolerant bird.500_3405This hawk practically seemed to be working it for the camera … as it it were dropping clues along the way.  LOL500_3370-Edit-EditAnother great sighting was this one … the prairie falcon.  To me, it looks a bit like a larger version of the kestrel, with a single eye stripe.  Since this day, Tom and I have seen them in various locales … always a thrill to observe and photograph.500_3510A bit off subject, we often find these slying about in the overhead skies.  Apparently, these guys land at GJ airport, where they re-fuel, and then make their way to Colorado Springs.DSC_3166So, basically you  never know what you’re going to find in the overhead skies.  Often, it doesn’t even matter if it “should” be there or not.  Can anyone remember when Jacksonville, FL had a visit paid by a SNOWY OWL?  True story.  🙂

Next up:  Other local fun

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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