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

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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 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

 

 

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

500_2533DSC_0479-2

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 ….

_DSC4648-4

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

A Day That I Will Never Forget

OK, a few posts ago, I shared with you some images and stories about the wildlife opportunities that we encountered this winter in the Tetons.  I now want to re-visit those memories and add one more MAJOR chapter to that book.

_DSC4866-EditSo as many times as I’ve visited the Tetons, or other similar wilderness places for that matter, there’s always been a few things that I had never had the opportunity to photograph.  No, I’m not talking about the bears (which I obviously wouldn’t easily find in the midst of winter) … or even the wolves (which I have seen from afar, but I’ve photographed other places) … or even a bobcat/lynx (which I’ve also photographed in other fabulous parks).  What would be considered to be the “holy grail” to a wildlife photographer?  OK, perhaps the wolverine … but I didn’t see that!  Next to that, I’ve always wanted to see a mountain lion, right?

Well, on this trip, my dream came true … for we witnessed a MOUNTAIN LION sighting!  It was not a close one, by any stretch, but it was nonetheless a sighting!  Though it was about 600 yards away, we could actually see it through the 500mm lens + cropped sensor + major cropping on the image.  This huge male had been sighted on an elk kill and had seemingly taken up residence under the tree where it was cached.

500_6023-EditWe planted ourselves in a position to be able to observe the cat as it maneuvered itself in different locations, but never far from the guarded carcass.  It was definitely one of the coolest things that I had ever witnessed in nature.  To think that this sighting was so far away and yet so viewable blew my mind!  It was not known whether the lion had actually taken down the elk or simply stumbled across it, but this was so incredible that to me, it didn’t even matter.  I really didn’t even think that it could get any better than this, right?  I mean, the onlookers included wildlife biologists that were clearly moved by what they were even witnessing.500_5778-EditOn our second day of observing the cat, we noticed that it appeared to be walking away from the kill.  We all thought that perhaps the “fun” was over … at least for a bit.  As it was retreating into the landscape, Tom noticed that it was back on the kill.  What?  How could that be?500_6091-EditThe cat appeared to be aggressively tearing apart the carcass as if it hadn’t been exposed to it previously.  That’s when onlookers started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  It was actually a 2nd MOUNTAIN LION … a female this time.500_6067-EditIt wasn’t until I got home and reviewed my TONS of images (no joke … but who could blame me?) that I found a series of frames showing the female arriving to the scene and the male relinquishing the kill to her!500_6054She was quite beautiful too and she would pause momentarily during consuming the carcass and would look around her.  By now, I was pinching myself to be sure that this was really happening and that I wasn’t just having a fantastic dream.  It hurt, so I wasn’t dreaming and I was thrilled beyond belief.  By now, I might add, almost everyone in attendance was either crying (inside or out) or on the verge of crying … it was just way too special.  In the words of some of the biologists on hand, it was something that they had only read about or seen on film … never witnessed firsthand.500_6153-EditIn careful observation, through going frame by frame through my images, I noticed also the precise moment that the male actually returned to the scene.  It was apparent that the lioness had noticed him as well.  If you’re having a hard time seeing them in the image … let me help.  She’s actually under the tree at the carcass and he placed himself in the trees in the upper right hand corner.  Hope that helps.500_6351-EditOne last fine tooth comb look through the frames and I spotted this … both of them retreating into the wilderness separately, yet obviously together.  Again, look towards the bottom third of the frame … her about 1/3 from the left side (harder to see) and him towards the right of the frame.  Do you see it?500_6383-EditYes, it was an UNREAL day for this wildlife photographer!  A once in a million (or even more) opportunity.  Though I’m quite aware that these images are far from “wall hangers”, they hold the most prominent space in my heart and in my mind.  Sometimes, it’s not just about the image gained on paper … but rather the one etched in your soul.  Remember:  It’s a journey in the experience … not just a one-time image.  Yep, it was one of those experiences that no one can take away.  Not just seeing a mountain lion, but 2 … not just seeing it walk about, but witnessing it on a kill, sharing the kill with a female … and then leaving the scene together.  I do believe that we were witnessing some MOUNTAIN LION romance as well.  I truly do.  I went home feeling so unbelievably blessed to have been so fortunate.  ❤

Thanks so much to Tom, and our good friends Jen and Travis, for sharing this encounter with us … and of course to all of the others who were present as well and shared your scopes and behavioral knowledge with us.  We are truly bonded forever by this mind-blowing experience.  🙂IMG_6676

Before I forget, I wanted to share one lesson that I learned by this encounter … ALWAYS keep shooting … for I would have missed so much of the sequence of events, which aided in telling the story … or at least confirming it.  🙂

Next Up:  Can you say “Baaa”?

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com            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

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

Winter Wildlife In The Tetons

A favorite location to visit in the winter, spring, and autumn is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Late this winter, we did just that … made the now 7 hr drive into Jackson, WY, which is one of the gateways into the park.  The week before it received several feet of snowfall, so we knew that we would be treated to perfect winter landscapes.  🙂IMG_6598We spent a total of 4 days there and were treated to an incredible sampling of wildlife (including birds) sightings and photo opportunities, as well as amazing sunny skies for landscapes.

On this trip, we met up with our good friends, Jen & Travis, and it wasn’t long before the first wildlife was spotted … a “winterized” lone coyote.  By “winterized” I mean that it possessed very thick fur and it was quite healthy looking as well.  As the coyote tried to make his way through the deep snow, a raven came along to harass it a bit.500_2797The bighorn sheep were seemingly everywhere along the cliffs and mountainside.  As per usual, the rams seemed to be grouped together and relaxing in the sun.500_4165-Edit-EditThe ewes were more active … in full swing of grazing … and made great portrait images a pleasure as they paused every now and then.850_0736In addition to the usual mule deer, we were also treated to some of the white-tailed deer as well.  Sporting much smaller ears and white under their tails, they possessed such sweet faces and expressions.500_4281Moose were plentiful as well.  Seemed like all of the wildlife was quite happy with the sunshine … especially after the winter storm from the week earlier.  500_4370A moose cow and its calf made their way across the road and into the wilderness right in front of us.500_3341-EditA photographer’s dream happened when we spotted a gathering of moose near the Teton Range landscape.  As we waited it out, they eventually positioned themselves perfectly in the foreground and away we snapped images.  We were thrilled!_DSC4788-Edit-Edit-EditWhile Jen and I got images similar to those above, Tom & Travis waited patiently in the vehicle.  This bull, sporting simply winter nubs, decided to approach the truck and pay them a visit.  They took this image from inside looking out with their cell phone.IMG_1832Ever have a mid-day moment when the action begins to slow down?  Well we did, so we decided to grab a quite bite.  As we prepared our sandwiches we wished for something cool to come along.  As I brought my sandwich to my mouth, I see this handsome ram making its way towards us through the deep snow.500_4722Sandwiches down, we grabbed our gear and took images as he politely obliged us by giving us some pauses and poses.  What a thrill for us, as he never altered his path much and gave us some close views.  🙂500_4770Later we ventured outside of the Tetons and went to search for mountain goats nearby.  Of course, one must stop for scenery captures along the way.  It was such a picture perfect day!_DSC4742-Edit-EditYep, there they were … though being in the sun for the better part of the day, the snow had melted off, making the scene a bit less than ideal.  Such gorgeous thick creamy white coats they possessed.500_6886As they skillfully navigated the boulders and cliffs, this one took the time to take care of an itch that was clearly getting to it.  LOL500_5159Of course my favorite images are when they reach an outcropping when they have little else to do but pose for the lens.  500_5065-EditOne day we found the moose down by the water which always makes for fun shots.500_6684500_6698.jpgSo it was quite the successful trip of wildlife viewing … moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, coyote … to name a few (quite sure that I’m missing something).  However, nothing could have prepared us for what we witnessed on our 2nd and 3rd day.  Stay tuned …. and check back in a a few blog posts.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  :-O  Until then, I’ll leave you with another landscape from the picturesque Tetons!_DSC4864

Next Up:  The birds of the Tetons

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

 

Neighboring Birds Just Outside

Since moving to Colorado, I have learned a lot about hawks.  I’ve learned that not every hawk is a red-shouldered hawk … in fact, out in CO, it’s highly unlikely that any of them would be.  🙂  However, one thing that’s for sure is that all of them are quite remarkable and beautiful.DSC_2522While I thought that Florida had a lot of eagles, there are plenty of them here as well.  The biggest difference is that here in CO, we have bald eagles, but we also have golden eagles, which I have found completely fascinating!DSC_2502We also have Cooper’s hawks, in addition to sharp-shinned hawks, which are both smaller hawk species … the type that are likely to hang out in your yard looking for some unsuspecting birds.DSC_2681While in Florida we had eastern screech owls, here we have western screech owls.  They are just as beautiful to hear late in the dark of night and even to witness as they peek out of their cavity or owl box dwelling on cold days as they sun themselves.  We have so many western screech owls out here … that on the Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count day, the 15-mile circle from Grand Junction, we found 93 of them … the highest in the nation!DSC_2554-EditSometimes the wildlife is right outside your window, as was in this case.  This beautiful sharp-shinned hawk was poised right outside my window standing on our rain gutter downspout._DSC4581We have a variety of woodpeckers and I was quite delighted when I found this gal at a nearby state park.DSC_2436The rivers are full of a variety of ducks and other water birds … some residents and some migratory.  These common merganser ladies are fairly common and often found in the company of other waterfowl.DSC_2679The views ain’t too bad either … as evidenced by this shot of the Book Cliff Mountains … only only of the mountains in our distance, of which we also have the Grand Mesa and the Colorado National Monument.DSC_0001-Edit-EditSome nights you can see pairs of predator birds, such as these two bald eagles or great horned owls, as they roost in the early evening.  DSC_3279-Edit-EditOf course, the sunsets can be quite colorful and very relaxing as well.  Ahhh!DSC_0017Yes, western Colorado is quite a magnificent place to call home and is close to many other equally fascinating locales.  Yep, we love it here.  🙂

Next Up:  Let’s go search for raptors!

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

A Salt Lake City “Layover” Vacation ;-)

What’s one to do when you travel through Salt Lake City, Utah on your way back home?  Well, spend an additional day or two and get out and see the sights while you’re there.  I mean, it’s sort of like 2 vacations!  😉

The first day we spent was a rainy, cold, and cloudy day at Antelope Island, just outside of SLC.  These bison didn’t seem to mind though, and in fact, I think that they rather enjoyed it.  One of them was jumping and kicking as it ran across the landscape.

IMG_6172That night the rain turned into snow and we woke up to a winter wonderland, which I totally appreciated after feeling like I got cheated out of my winter.  🙂IMG_6202The next morning, we came across this frisky skunk running through the frozen field.  Believe it or not, it was my very FIRST LIVE skunk I’ve ever seen in the wild.  So though the images are far from the greatest, I was quite excited.  Let’s just say, the bar for a better shot was set low.  LOLDSC_2120DSC_2132Lots of raptors were out scouting the area for some dining pleasure.  Several of them were the American Kestrel … such a beautiful bird.DSC_2156DSC_1989With the weather clearing in the distance, the views of the snow kissed landscape were incredibly beautiful.IMG_6213IMG_6216By now, most of you who regularly read the blog know that I have a slight infatuation with Northern Harriers.  Maybe it’s because they have that “owl disc” face and I absolutely adore owls.DSC_2305A great blue heron graced us as well as it glided by us … so lovely against the mountain backdrop.DSC_2263Probably my favorite for the day though was this absolutely stunning rough-legged hawk.  We encountered it numerous times, which was just fine with me.  DSC_2343It’s so amazing to me that a raptor of this size could so delicately land and perch on such a small branch.DSC_2358It surveyed the landscape for perhaps some small critters making their way through the snow.  I love how their leg feathers cover all the way down to their feet.DSC_2377Alas, the time was right for the chase to begin as it launched into the air and towards its hunt and prey.  Just look at those awesome wings and markings.DSC_2404So graceful in flight and quite quiet as well in the silence of the winter … off it went.DSC_2408However, there were lots more of the northern harriers passing through and while they generally are not the most cooperative subjects for photography … some may even find them frustrating and annoying for the way they appear to dodge the lens… but this lady gave me a pretty good pass by.DSC_2307Absolutely stunning to me as it flew by us … with the backdrop of the snowy mountains and the frozen grasses beneath it … it was the perfect send off for us.DSC_2425Of course, one of the best sightings was that of the elusive Jen Hall, who was gracious enough to come down to SLC and spend the day with us.  IMG_6226

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

Let’s Go Get Some More Mountain Goats!

During our first year living in Colorado, we were able to visit Mt. Evan Wilderness Area two times … in search of those amazing mountain goats that reside there.  The visits did not disappoint.  Honestly, even if they did, the trip up the mountain is so spectacular that all wouldn’t have been lost.  With views like this at almost every corner of the paved, but  no guard rails road, I have to keep reminding Tom to keep his eyes firmly on the road ahead.  Similar to the road up Pikes Peak, this adventure up is not for the faint at heart.  :-O

Reaching the summit at 14,271′ high … I believe this is the true meaning of Rocky Mountain High!  Don’t try to run out and jump for joy, especially for us ex-flatlanders.  The air is thin, the wind is strong, and generally the temperatures are cold.

IMG_4747The real stars of the trek to the summit (or at least near the top) are the mountain goats which reside there.  This time our trip was in very early September … just a week or so before the road closes for the season.DSC_1632If you’re lucky, the goats can be found congregating near or at the top … if you’re even luckier, you can photograph them with many of the Colorado mountain peaks in the background._DSC2492On this particular day, there was an entire gang up there! 🙂_DSC2500Of course, the stars for me anyways are always the young ones … with their energy, curiosity, and endless antics always a pleasure to photograph.  Like many other species of wildlife, I could watch them all day … laughing almost the entire time as they romp around._DSC2541Clearly everyone wanted to be the king of the boulder at this moment._DSC2526There generally isn’t room for all of them, so staking your claim to the preferred spot is essential.DSC_1789Sometimes a form of “intimidation” is employed to get one of them to move … LOL.DSC_1754Sometimes one simply gets head butted off!  DSC_1707Learning to navigate the steep, rocky terrain is essential to a young one’s survival … and these guys start off young!DSC_1833Once I settle in from my fear of witnessing one of them mistakingly falling off the ledges, I can’t help but feel a bit of envy at their lives.  I mean, can you just imagine climbing out to a ledge, laying down, and getting these kinds of views?  OK, maybe if you’re like me and afraid of heights, you might not ever be able to relax, but this otherwise would seriously be a zen or namaste moment.DSC_1992The young mountain goats are quite fascinated with the human visitors that come by to observe and photograph them._DSC2742When they’re not playing with the others, the young generally follow the adults around instinctually.DSC_1924Gosh, I wish that I could visit with and photograph these fabulous mountain goats all year long, but in reality the mountains are totally covered and the road inaccessible for most of the year.DSC_1852One last look at them before we begin our descent.  Such an amazing visit.DSC_1842-EditOf course, there’s much more to see along the way down … lots of lakes, mountain views, perhaps some elk, bighorn sheep, pika …IMG_4749… and of course, a friendly marmot or two to bid you adieu and remind you to “Come back soon”.  🙂_DSC2829Hope that you enjoyed your virtual trip up to the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area in CO.  Yep, I think I like living out here.IMG_4744Next Up:  Let’s try our luck with some birding and such in Utah!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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