Can You Ever Tire Of The Tetons?

One of the many reasons why we wanted to move out west, was to be closer to the wilderness areas of the west that we love so much.  After we got a bit “settled in” (which incidentally is still a work in progresss), we decided it was time to head out west and north a bit.  We made the 7 hr drive to Jackson … and Grand Teton National Park in WY.

Of course, the ride out when you’re traveling out somewhere is always part of the journey.  Since we had never driven from Fruita to Jackson, it was all fresh and new to us.  One of the most interesting and quite beautiful places that we traveled through was Flaming Gorge Reservoir and recreation areas.  It connects to the Flaming Gorge Dam and is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.  Even on this very overcast day in the early fall, it was spectacular.

_DSC2985-Edit_DSC2997-EditEn route to Pinedale, WY, which was our stopping point for the night, we encountered lots of wildlife nearby.  A herd of pronghorn antelope ladies were spotted just off in the distance … and as you can see they spotted us too.DSC_2732Of course, their male counterpart was nearby and overseeing his harem, which I’m sure he worked hard to gather.  To me, pronghorn are such interesting looking creatures, with their fancy horns and all … like crowns on their heads.  LOLDSC_2760Of course, deer were numerous and looking to establish harems of ladies of their own.DSC_2831To my surprise, we also encountered wild horses.  We only spotted two in the near vicinity, but they sure were majestic looking.  Is it just me, or is there something super special about them?DSC_2884The next morning we ventured into Grand Teton NP, met up my good friend Jen, and first made our way to the Jenny Lake area, including some of the outlying places as well.  It was such a fabulous, sunny day, and the perfect temperature as well._DSC9884About that time, we met up with some friends, Phil & Rodney, who were unexpectedly in Yellowstone NP and bummed that they didn’t get good views of the Tetons when they were there just a few days earlier.  Nothing that a quick phone call couldn’t fix … and soon we were meeting up with them at the iconic Oxbow Bend.  I mean, views like this were well worth the drive back, don’t you think?  _DSC0013-Edit-Edit_DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditAfter spending some time there, drooling about the views, we all decided to go try to find  some bears.  After all, I had been in a bit of a “bear drought” lately and eager to find some.  We encountered a grizzly boar grazing in the brush and had him to ourselves for a few minutes before others spotted the action.  While it was exciting to find and photograph him … as it kept grazing with its head DOWN, not UP.  LOLDSC_3385Then it was time to find some other gems on this gorgeous autumn day.  Before long, the clouds started forming low and the results were amazing._DSC0042-EditThe next day, we came across lots of wildlife … including the distant but quite beautiful view of a bull elk walking away from us.  It was OK with me because, I mean, how beautiful was this view, with the fog and moody sky in the distance?  I was thrilled.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, a highlight for us, was finding this feisty red fox … pretty much almost to ourselves!  This fox worked the sage brush so hard, digging away at it roots, as it hunted for little squirrels and such.  It never stopped even … like the Everyready Bunny it was.  So entertaining.  I did have one problem … too much lens!  Good problem, I know!DSC_3500-Edit-2Oh, they say the eyes have it and that was never so true as this guy (or gal).  They had me in a trance!  LOLDSC_3502-Edit-EditWell, whatever it found and munched just before this shot, must have been good, as it licked its chops.DSC_3574Bison are always a welcomed sighting when in the Tetons.  I think we caught this group during Siesta Time.  LOL_DSC3184-Edit At one point though, we found ourselves in our car quite close to a few that were quite ready to engage in some fighting.  I was amazed at how powerful they were and amused at how when two dominant bison were sparring, there was usually another (the “ref”?) nearby observing them._DSC3156Of course, no bison photo op is never complete without the shot of the tongue sticking out … whether up its nose or not.  DSC_3668Lots of pronghorn antelope were present and gathered up in harems, which the male protected at all costs.DSC_3706We watched as several times the male chased away other males trying to get a few recruits within his harem.  This guy would have none of that!DSC_3730The mule deer bucks were gathered up together in the wet field, as the weather changed quite a bit between day one and two.DSC_4712DSC_4050DSC_4415More bull elk were coming out, but it was weird because we heard very little bugling, which I was a bit disappointed about.  Still, to witness these big guys roaming in the wilderness was exciting.DSC_3456On the third day, it began to snow a little, then quite a lot … those big giant snowflakes … and it gave the area a whole new look.  Gorgeous!_DSC0143-EditWhile I was quite thrilled with the unexpected snowfall, I don’t think this belted kingfisher was as pleased.  Poor thing was spotted on a ramp to the water and looked quite cold.DSC_5296Snow falling adds so much to an image in the Tetons, I think.  We encountered several bull moose and a female with a juvenile with her, as they made some fast time crossing the landscape and off into the mass of autumn-kissed trees they went.DSC_5408-EditWell, until next time when we return in early spring, I’ll leave everyone with that last look that I got from the active red fox … so cute … I can never resist an image of an animal walking away.  DSC_3619Hope that you enjoyed sharing our autumn trip to the Tetons with us.  It should be noted that in 2017, the fall colors never really arrived, and most of it was unseasonably late.  You just never know.  🙂  Thanks so much to Jen, Phil, and Rodney for sharing our fun with us.  It’s always better with friends!

Next up:  The Colorado Verson of Autumn

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Colorado’s Highline Lake State Park

Colorado State Parks consists of 42 individual parks which highlight the natural beauty and outdoor adventure experiences of Colorado, giving the public much to be proud of and lots of recreational opportunities.  Highline Lake State Park in Loma is one of the closest to us … just a mere 13 rural miles.  Needless to say, we go there a lot.

As the name implies, the park consists of two lakes, Highline Lake and Mesa Lake.  Recreational opportunities include boating, SUP’ing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even mountain biking.  Tom rides the trails out there … Debbie goes out to explore and photograph nature … all is good!

DSC_2381Birding is big there too.  In the summer and fall, many birds use the lakes for feeding, such as the terns, eagles, osprey, etc.DSC_2251DSC_2238Western meadowlarks can also be seen buzzing around the landscape.DSC_2281In mid-September, you can already begin to see some of the early seasonal changes in the landscape._DSC2969_DSC2979-EditEven the bunny rabbits seem to be out enjoying the beautiful days.DSC_2325Sometimes, when the water level is just right, shorebirds run up and down the shoreline.  This killdeer and its mate are quite noisy as they nervously run about, trying to avoid the camera’s lens.DSC_2387No one can miss it when the yellowlegs fly in … as their announcement is loud.  LOL.  Once landed though, I don’t think he liked the spot, so it left soon afterwards.DSC_2367The short-billed dowitcher didn’t seem to mind my presence and wasn’t shy in approaching me since that’s where it wanted to feed.DSC_2485The detail in its feathers were incredibly fascinating and the light played in its eye.DSC_2436Hanging out with it was this semi-palmated sandpiper … seemingly going left when the dowitcher went left and right when it went right.  I guess it figured it was safer that way perhaps or maybe playing clean up.DSC_2480Either way, it sure was equally beautiful, especially when its image was reflected on the surface of the water below.DSC_2498As I mentioned, perhaps they were hanging around together for safety, as the red-tailed hawks were numerous and quite actively flying overhead.DSC_5801-EditDSC_5815Of course, on the softer side of things, the northern flicker woodpecker also calls the trees within the park home.  Usually for me woodpeckers seem to run me in circles around trees, as they run in circles around them too foraging insects.  However, on this day at least, this flicker gave me a bit of a break and sat still and alert for a brief few seconds.  Thanks!DSC_5865-Edit-2As the month rambled on, the colors began to emerge and it was actually quite breathtaking._DSC0267The only thing that was prettier that the actual view from afar of the seasonal color changes was that of its reflection.  It made the vision and joy twice as nice!_DSC0270-Edit-Edit-EditEspecially when you zoom in and get more of the details of the view.  This is how I like to remember the lakefront of Highline Lake.  I wish I could keep it looking like this forever._DSC3321-EditI waited for this one to get into the reflection of the golden trees … just also wished it would have been closer.  I guess you can’t have everything, but at this moment, it seemed like it was enough.  🙂DSC_6127I hope that you enjoyed getting to “know” Highline Lake State Park too.  More to come from this park on a later blog, so stay tune.

Next up:  It’s all so Grand, in the Tetons that is  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Third Times A Charm … Mt. Evans

Practically no sooner that we unpacked the moving trucks … well, at least the first photography out of area trip we made … was to go to Mt. Evans for my mountain goat encounter that I had been denied a few years before.  See, the road to the top is only open a limited amount of time and the last time I tried to make the trip to the top, I could go no further than the Echo Lake Lodge, 15 miles from my desired destination.

So off we went from Fruita, CO at around 3:00 am … to the town of Idaho Springs.  We were treated to a wonderful sunrise along the way.  I considered it a taste of things to come.

IMG_4604Once arriving at Idaho Springs, we drove to Echo Lake Lodge, where we then drove the 15-mile Mt. Evans Scenic Byway.  The sunrise began to reveal the beauty of the landscape along the way.IMG_4605Summit Lake is an amazing recreational location along the way and a place for many to hike the wilderness area and explore some of which it has to offer.  For us, on this morning, I was on a mission … to the top!IMG_4608The roads are, as they say, “not for the faint of heart”.  In some areas there are sheer cliff drop offs of unfathomable heights.  Poor Tom was getting strict orders to keep his eyes on the road for those sections.  LOL.  Other areas were more gentle and could allow for a bit of sightseeing along the way.IMG_4609Finally, we reached the top and I held my breathe … will I find what I was looking for?  Yes!  There it was … my first sighting of a mountain goat at the summit of Mt. Evans … 14,264 feet high.IMG_4614IMG_4623When we got out we found some of the younger goats climbing around the structure, in and around the stairs.  My heart went pitter-patter, then began to skip a beat.  How incredibly adorable!DSC_0440-Edit-EditOf course the adults were always around and watching the whereabouts of the young ones.DSC_0506But that sweet innocent looking face of the young kids were by far the sweetest I’ve seen. Just like other young, they possess such curiosity … as well as a playful nature.DSC_0532The mountain goats weren’t just frolicking around the structure shown above, but they were also out navigating the boulders of rocky terrain … being such excellent climbers.DSC_0555-Edit-EditA few of the older ones were collared, which isn’t the best for photography, but monitoring of their behavior and whereabouts is sometimes a necessity.DSC_0559On the other side of the summit, they began to make their way into the grassy landscape for foraging of food.DSC_0633The family unit sticks closely together.  Also of note in this image, is that the adult goat has all but lost its winter coat.  Just a small patch remains in random places.  DSC_0658DSC_0682After spending time with the mountain goats, we decided to head down … slowly … and enjoy some of the other sightings that the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area has to offer.  Yes, the air was thin up there, quite crisp, and invigorating.IMG_4618

We soon found some pika up there as they were sunning a bit, but mainly foraging the vegetation.  For them, it won’t be long before winter arrives, even when the calendar reads “summer”.
DSC_0728Yellow-bellied marmot also make their home up there and can often be seen sunning themselves as well.DSC_0766-Edit-EditBut the real stars of the adventure were the mountain goats.DSC_0931No sighting was more heart-warming than the kids with their moms.  ❤DSC_0547A herd of elk was also spotted as they migrated.  Bighorn sheep also call the area home, though on this day we didn’t see any.DSC_0924The beauty of the area is undeniable.  I wish that we had more time to spend there and rest assured we will in future visits.  We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.IMG_4627Of course, we stopped at the Echo Lake Lodge for a quick break and to celebrate our day. We treated ourselves to lunch, including these amazing Macaroni & Cheese tots.  Yum Yum!  IMG_4628We did return to Mt. Evans one more time before the road closed for the rest of the year. More on that visit in a future post.

Next up:  More sights and stories from closer to home

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Owls, Owls, Everywhere

One of my favorite things to photograph in Florida are the burrowing owls.  Quite tiny, but quite social in their behavior they can entertain the viewer for hours!  Usually I stick close to home, but in 2017, I ventured out to a few new locations to photograph these cuties.  So join me as I share another set of images.  🙂

When I first arrived to this particular location, the sun was already up for a bit and the owls were quite active.  On these few days, I was treated to both the yellow and dark eyed babies.  Though yellow eyes are the most traditional, both are photogenic to me.

DSC_4413-EditDSC_5072At these burrows, there were some still in the burrows, not quite ready for “prime time”, but there were plenty of babies to keep me happy as well.  You can tell the babies by their feathers on their belly … so downy looking and creamy, they remind me of a nice drink of Kahlua!  LOL.  They are also very downy towards their legs, which remind me of petticoats or bloomers.DSC_4893They might be a bit more jumpier too and seemingly always on alert.  They scurry from burrow entrances, of which there can commonly be 2 or 3 … though sometimes simply one.DSC_4878They seem to be quite intrigued by each other and often seem to challenge each other … in a playful way, of course.DSC_4625Curiosity is never more evident than when they are quite young.  Always poking around at things they, like our own young, seem to get into everything!  I feel sometimes like I can sense their mind wheels turning as they process this world outside of the burrow, where they usually spend their first few weeks.DSC_4862Quite demanding for the attention of their mom and dad, I know that they’re looked upon as “annoying” from time to time.  Running over to an adult is common.  Squeaking and pecking at the adult is I’m sure their way of trying to communicate their needs…. Food … Comfort … Attention!DSC_4817Early on the parents will catch food for the young owls and assist in feeding them.  After some time, they still hunt for them, but they encourage independence by allowing the siblings to tear up and consume their food on their own.DSC_4813Nothing gets by these little buggers wither!  They kept constant vigil to everything going on around them.  Of course, that will serve them well as they grow up and ready for their life on their ownDSC_4980But until then, they seek more attention, food, grooming, play, etc. from their parents.DSC_4843DSC_4830Then there’s more staring down something … a sibling, an ant, a bee, an airplane, a piece of trash … doesn’t matter, they’re all of interest to this little owl.DSC_5006Of all of the entertaining things that these little ones do, NOTHING is more entertaining that the “head tilt” maneuver that they perform.  Sometimes it’s just a little one … sometimes it’s the full tilt …sometimes the body bends with it as well.  LOL.  DSC_4482Life at the burrow can be a bit boring I presume …. 😉DSC_4952Testing of the wings is another fun time while observing them.  Of course, it’s all about baby steps, but they all learn to take flight at their own pace … and in their own way.  DSC_4653Looks like this guy is ready to go … just like me.  Hope that you enjoyed the burrowing owls of Florida.  While we do have them out in Colorado, they’re not full time residents and therefore, they’re a bit more shy and secretive.  Hope to find them out there one day.

Next Up:  Let’s meet up high in the mountains

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

My Backyard In Fruita

As most of you might know, we made a big life-altering decision last year.  After MANY years of living in south Florida (trust me … many, many years), Tom and I decided to move to Colorado, after many trips traveled to locations that we were considering and even more trips to Colorado to find our “new home”.  Once settled in, I started noticing the bird life that we had abundantly around us.DSC_9576DSC_9590Some were adult birds, but there were young ones too, being tended to by their parents.DSC_9896Of course, the bird bath (which to my delight was solar powered) was a hot spot, or should I say a cool spot for the birds for drinking and bathing purposes.  It was so much fun to look out our dining room window to watch the goings-on.DSC_9866DSC_0343Of course, my personal favorite were the hummingbirds.  Though there were hummingbirds in Florida, I personally never had much experience with them, so to see them right outside my window was a thrill.DSC_9846-EditDSC_9913DSC_9926DSC_0020So, in the beginning, we would only see one hummingbird at a time, but then several showed up.  I guess the word got out … LOL.  The real fun started when they would compete for the feeder, so we went out and bought another, foolishly thinking that 2 would solve the problem.DSC_9979I learned quite quickly that hummingbirds can be quite the territorial little birds.  I think that I could have had a dozen feeders and they still would have squabbled!  LOLDSC_0359No I am by no means an expert photographer of hummingbirds, but I sure was challenged by their speed, and the fact that my feeder locations were in shade quite a bit of the day.  In 2018, I’ll have to find a better spot.  My mom was also quite thrilled by them and would be quite concerned if she didn’t see them for an hour or so.DSC_0367Of course, where there are lots of predators in the general area as well.  A few times, we watched nervously as hawks (though not this one) would fly in the nearby trees, wait patiently for an opportune moment, then buzz the feeder.  Every time it was unsuccessful, though I’m sure that wasn’t always the case.DSC_0240-EditNot far from us, we found sunflowers!DSC_0160Lots and lots of sunflowers and learned that sunflower blooms don’t always face towards the sun, which is something that I had always thought.  Every day when I would drive home I would drive by them and they would produce an instantaneous smile.DSC_0106-EditWhether it was the group as a whole … or a single one … it didn’t seem to matter.  Like a smile … they seemed so infectious to me in making me happy.  🙂DSC_0177-EditNow that the summer has past, along with the fall, I’ve noticed a new variety of birds at the feeder … of course, that will be the subject of a future blog post.DSC_0365Hope that you enjoyed them as much as we have.

Next up:  How about another dose of owls?

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Reflecting 2017

Oh no … say it isn’t so … how in the world can it be 2018 already?DSC_59992017 was a year that just flew by in my opinion.  It was a year of life-changing events, full of excitement and uncertainty … but being the adventurous souls that we are, both Tom & I were up for the challenge.  Allow me to take a few moments to look back at some of our memories of 2017.IMG_3589The birds in Florida start the new year off already “in the mood” … with lots of nest building, courtship, and mating going on early on.  There’s something so very beautiful and endearing about the great blue herons at this time._DSC8566Before long, no matter the species, the new years hatchlings begin to emerge.  Nothing to me is cuter that the sandhill crane colts when only days old, especially when they climb aboard the backs of their parents for the ultimate featherbed slumber.  🙂_DSC9356-EditBlack-necked stilt babies are amost equally adorable and ready to forage on their own within hours of hatching.  That doesn’t mean that the parents can rest … far from it … their job is endless in keeping predators away from these little cuties as the begin to roam within the sandy shores and reeds of the wetlands.DSC_1923However, for me, the real stars for months of entertainment pleasure are the burrowing owls, especially when they first emerge from their burrows … all bright eyed, innocent, and exceptionally curious … they just don’t come any cuter.DSC_6282Though I tend to photograph them almost daily, they still grow up quite quickly and begin to fly about to nearby trees.DSC_0449Of course, no burrowing owl season is complete without captures of the “head tilt” that they are famous for.  LOL.DSC_6413During our time in Florida, we were fortunate to have our daughter and son-in-law, as well as our two granddoggies come visit us.  IMG_4224During 2016 and early 2017, Tom and I traveled out west to Colorado often looking for a home … perhaps a second home or not … where we could relocate to.  While south Florida is a fabulous place to be and affords much like the beaches and warm weather, Tom and I have always enjoyed the mountains, colder weather, and we were looking for less crowds and a sense of community._DSC2044-EditSo, at the end of July, Tom and several of his friends (thanks guys) loaded up the truck and off they went … go west, young man, as they say … all of the way to Colorado.IMG_4281On July 31st, my mom, her husband, my cat Buffy, and I all boarded our flight to Grand Junction airport and let’s just say that I was a ton nervous.  Safely arriving in GJT, we were picked up by Tom and driven to our new home in Fruita, CO.  IMG_4863In between unpacking what seemed like endless boxes (and truth be told they’re not all unloaded yet – yikes), I found the time to photograph different bird species in my own backyard.DSC_9576DSC_9590My mom was totally infatuated with the hummingbirds … OK, so was I … as they provided endless hours of entertainment as they flew in, and fought occasionally, at our feeders.DSC_9846Tom and I would also spend hours up on the Colorado National Monument looking for birds and wildlife, but also enjoying the spectacular views.  Being that the Monument is only 4 miles from our home, we still venture over there regularly._DSC2201-EditNow, I had always wanted to visit Mt. Evans for the mountain goats and in 2017, I finally got to realize my dream to visit there, actually get up to the top, and see them frolicking around.  See, on two previous trips, I was unable to even try due to road closures.  They are simply amazing to photograph there … in that thin, cold air too I might add._DSC2541In late September/early October, we met up with some friends and visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  This year, the leaves didn’t follow the calendar precisely, but when the views are this spectacular … who cares!  The Tetons are one of those places that you could just sit and get lost in your senses, sights, thoughts, you name it.  _DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, the Tetons are also synonymous with wildlife sightings … sometimes your sightings capture the essence of the environment and habitat as well.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditThe fall colors did finally arrive in mid-October, so off we went to one of my favorite places so far, the San Juan Mountains.  The colors and views, as seen from Owl Creek Ridge, were simply breathtaking.  _DSC0217-Edit-EditNearby to Fruita is Highline Lake State Park, which also cooperated nicely with the fall transitional colors._DSC3321-EditHighline Lake SP also offers mountain biking trails, so when my daughter and her hubby came out to see us, they were shown the ropes on the trails by Tom, who totally enjoys the cycling (mountain and road) out here.IMG_5167Kelli has quite the adventurous spirit, so she took off on random dirt trails and enjoyed the view with her dog, Ridley, looking down upon the Colorado River.IMG_5371They came back and spent Thanksgiving holidays with us and knew exactly where they wanted to visit.  Yep, you guessed it, the San Juan Mountains and the town of Ouray.  We took the 4-wheel drive trails and found vast wilderness areas where the dogs could run free and play in snow patches._DSC3358It really is so beautiful out in these mountains.IMG_6689During late November through February or so, the nearby town of Delta hosts thousands of sandhill cranes.  It reminded me our days in Fairbanks watching them in huge flocks by Creamers Field.  When they fly in, overhead, or when they take off, there’s no mistaking the calls of the sandhill cranes.  It’s an instantaneous smile generator for me.  🙂DSC_7074Of course, that’s not all that congregates in the masses near Delta.  Snow geese also arrive, as well as more Canadian geese than you can imagine!DSC_8500-Edit-EditDriving around in the backcountry, you can also find many species of wildlife, such as the mule deer, elk, moose, desert bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and if you’re really lucky, the elusive mountain lion.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in 2018.DSC_7979In December, we met up with our good friend and headed to Moab, UT, which is just less than 90 minutes away.  He showed us phenomenal landscapes, accessed by high clearance 4WD vehicles.  The beauty of this area just simply can’t be ignored … and the view go on and on.  I know that we will be seeing a lot of Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and the La Sal Mountains.  🙂_DSC3385-Edit_DSC3445-EditGo about 75 miles in the other direction and you land in Rifle, CO, which is where this triple waterfall can be found.
_DSC3732-EditThen one day, it finally happened, we got SNOW.  OK, so it wasn’t the 3-6 inches that we were expecting, but it was SNOW.  Later we found out that just a mile or so to the west of us, they got much more than we did.  Hopefully, we’ll get it next time.  Remember, I’m a Florida girl that loves the snow and cold.  I know, let’s see what I think next year.  LOLIMG_5837The winter views at Highline Lake SP were simply breathtaking to me._DSC3934-Edit-EditFinally Christmas arrived … and I was a bit sad … for it was my first Christmas ever without spending it with my daughter.  She was tied up being short staffed at work and couldn’t break away.  That’s OK, we’re planning on a Tahoe break with her and her hubby in January.IMG_5716On a side note, I was quite thrilled when one of my images won 2nd Place in the Defenders of Wildlife Photo Contest (Wild Lands Division) …IMG_4239… and I found out that one of my other images was honored with being the cover image for the 2017-2018 16-month calendar for Defenders of Wildlife also.  They do some amazing work, so I was quite pleased.IMG_4241Well, that pretty much does it for 2017.  That being said, I bid adieu to 2017.  It was a rollercoaster year for sure, but one that blazes the trail for an exciting ride ahead.  Remember, with each new year, is a new chapter to be written by you … make it a good one!  From all of us to you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!IMG_5455Next Up:  Close to home

© 2018  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Florida Farewell

Before I take a look back at 2017 as a whole, I wanted to take the time to share some images and thoughts from my last photography outing with some of my Florida friends prior to us heading out to Colorado.

In July, Tom & I took a break from packing, boxing, and cleaning our south Florida home and made plans with a group of my friends for what would be my “farewell shoot” in 2017 from Florida.  My good friend Annette asked me where I wanted to meet up or what I wanted to photograph.  Hmmm … I wanted owls … barn owls I told her.  That being said, we made plans to meet up in Belle Glade, which is located in western Palm Beach County.    I was quite excited!

When we arrived, I ran out of the car without my gear of course, to give out some hugs to everyone only to have a BOBCAT run across the ditch right next to where we were assembling!  Dang … not one of us had our cameras out.  Reminded me of how many years ago, we all watched a bald eagle come out of nowhere and pick up a fish from the lake, right next to us.  Haha.  You think I would have learned.  However, after the excitement of the bobcat we all settled in and found a yellow-crowned night heron sitting quietly in the bushes.

DSC_8719After not immediately finding a barn owl, we decided to explore the nearby waters.  Amost immediately a tern made a splashdown on the surface.DSC_8749It then proceeded to fly away to the other side … guess it was something that we said, perhaps.DSC_9006

There were many black-necked stilts present … of varying ages … and the parents made sure that we knew they were there by calling our presence out.DSC_8794It was a community of stilts and they were in the water, on the shore, and in the air.  Many of them were going about gathering up their young. DSC_8852I have always loved the black-necked stilts.  I find them quite elegant in their stature and in their movements and as parents, they are top notch.  Love the red eye on this female.DSC_8867-Edit-EditAs I mentioned, they were quite active.DSC_8874Their young were foraging about in the shallows of the water, quite independently I might add.  Such little fluff balls for sure.  🙂  And check out those long feet!DSC_8924Sometimes they were congregated together … all set up in a row.DSC_9114We even found a few out in the grasses.DSC_9180Along the gravel road, as we traveled about, we came across what turned out to be common nighthawks.  From far away, we couldn’t tell what they were, but upon closer inspection, it was easily identifiable.  Such a beautiful bird and one that I had never photographed before, I was quite thrilled with this encounter.DSC_9102A few of them stayed on the roadside, but others flew erratically about, darting around us and eventually returning to the original spot.  I’m not sure, but I think that they had a few young ones with them, which possibly weren’t as skilled in their flight.DSC_8977-EditTom has always seen many of these on some of the “hills” of south Florida when he would fly his RC gliders, but not me.  I read a bit about them and one of the things that I found most fascinating is that they have been known to consume as many as 500 mosquitoes in a single day!  I say, let’s have  lots of these birds around … not being a fan of mosquitoes myself.DSC_9158So by now, many of you might be wondering … did you ever find the barn owls?  Of course we did!  And of course, this was mainly the view that I was afforded … LOL.  I was amazed at their size when spotted so close up.DSC_9205At one point, we spotted a hawk up in a tree (red-shouldered, I believe) as it scouted around for its next meal.  I love the look of intensity in its eye … combined with that sharp beak … you know that it means business.DSC_9259It eventually found its way to the top of the tree, and flew away after some prey.DSC_9272Upon closer inspection … Look who else was in the tree …. another beautiful barn owl!  I wonder if the hawk knew that the owl was there.  I think that the owl knew because the owl kept its eye on the hawk until its departure.  DSC_9327So in the end, yes, I did in fact get my barn owls, amongst other birds and even that bobcat sighting.  As fascinating as all of that, it was really the presence of my dear friends that made the day most special.  Thanks so much to Annette, Connie, Donnie, Ivan, and Rob for being part of Tom and I having such a wonderful day out in Belle Glade.  Thanks to Rob for taking our commemorative shot … especially with the bonus barn owl in the shed window  ;-).  Great day, fun times, amazing friends.  Until we all meet again.
IMG_0355 webFunny story too … and true one … is that when we gathered for the group shot, we wanted it to be in the shade since it was so hot and humid.  There was this giant tree to our left side and we thought that it would be a perfect spot for an owl to hang out and so we inspected it for a few moments.  No owl … or so we thought.  In fact, a barn owl flew out of the tree as we were setting up for this shot!  I think he wanted to say goodbye to me too.  ❤

Next up:  A look back at 2017 … it was a roller coaster one to say the least.

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Back to Mesa County

First of all, sorry for the long hiatus from the blog posts … 2 months to be exact!  How in the world was that even possible?  I can’t even say that I had a good excuse.  I think I was just running on overdrive for some time and I have to admit, I’m having challenges in keeping focused.  Not much is the same routine since we moved out to Colorado.  Not that we have any regrets at all, far from it in fact, just working through the adjustments.

That being said, let’s head back up to the Colorado National Monument, which is precisely 4 miles from our home.  We like to head up there every now and then because the views are spectacular._DSC2900-EditOf course, besides the valley views, I always hope to find some of the desert bighorn sheep which reside there.  Desert bighorns are a smaller subspecies of the Rocky Mountain bighorns, though I’m not sure I would know the difference without them standing next to each other.  We’ve been pretty fortunate with our sightings of these beautiful animals.DSC_9468Sometimes we find them just off the roadside (as in the above above), but not always.  It’s always fun when they investigate us as much as we do them.  DSC_9497They are quite intriguing to me … as they have such big beautiful brown eyes, which stare intently while I’m photographing.  Usually, they just stand still, except for continuing to chew on some recently grazed edibles … and they stare … and stare … and stare some more.  LOLDSC_9501-EditOf course, the Monument and other areas are also filled with their fair share of rabbits.  In fact, we find them grazing in our yard most mornings.DSC_0403Predators, such as hawks are quite common as well.  While in Florida, our most predominant hawk was the red-shouldered hawk, but in CO you won’t find any of those.  What you will find predominantly are red-tailed hawks.  DSC_0240-EditSongbirds, such as the western meadowlark are commonly seen along the sides of the lesser traveled roads ….DSC_0416-Edit-Edit… as well as the horned larks.DSC_0431On day during the summer, we were out and about in the area and came across a small field of beautiful sunflowers.  Of course, I had to check them out and grab a few photographs.DSC_0106-EditDSC_0127DSC_0177-EditDSC_0164-EditYep, the area has lots to offer … hiking, biking, photography, you name it.  So many places to get lost (well hopefully not lost – LOL) and off the beaten track for some solitude and “alone with nature” time._DSC2905-EditCan’t believe that it’s almost the 365th day of 2017!  Where does the time go?  I guess it’s true …. time flies when you’re having fun!  As we approach a brand new year – 2018 – I want to wish everyone best wishes for that new year … and adventure, health, happiness, and love.

Next Up:  From my final Florida shoot in 2017.

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Whole Lot Of Babies Going On

Springtime in the south Florida wetlands mean lots of activity in the natural rookeries.  Of course some bird unions happen earlier than others, so while some of the this year’s young is older than others … and some are still waiting for their new arrivals.DSC_3414But before long, even this green heron couple sees the fruits of their efforts in courtship, nest building, mating, incubating and protecting … as finally their babies hatch successfully and emerge for all of us to see.DSC_5167OK, so most birds are quite ugly (by normal standards) when they’re first emerged and yes, they go through that awkward stage as they grow up.  However, these little ones are so absolutely adorable (at least to me).DSC_5248All of those downy feathers, peach fuzz, and those faces … LOLDSC_5172Before long however, they will become competitive for their parents attention and more importantly their food.  Such cuteness though.  DSC_5168This parent-to-be black-necked stilt sits down on 4 eggs which are just waiting their own special introduction to the world.DSC_1047It must not be far away either … judging with how many times the parents got up and turned those speckled eggs frantically.  Such amazing parents, the black-necked stilts take turns tending to the nest, which is out in the open and made up of twigs, sticks, and small branches on the ground.DSC_1032They are such protective parents when before and after their young are born … always patrolling the shoreline for potential threats like alligators.DSC_2578Alas, the four little ones are introduced to the world, or more specifically the wetlands.  From birth, the little ones are expected to forage for themselves, so off they go.DSC_2631DSC_2768DSC_2516For protection, and I would expect for companionship, they tend to congregate together.DSC_1923When threats enter the area, they get a quick escort out of harms way.  I find it so funny how such a small, dainty-like bird can command so much respect to make a great blue heron fly away.DSC_2598After a few days, they begin to venture further away in their search for food.  They also have almost doubled their size.  Their cuteness factor doubled too.  🙂DSC_5588DSC_5652When they are ready for a rest, they run over to their mom and insert themselves into her underbelly feathers.  It’s funny to look at because all that you can see is their little legs hanging down.DSC_3336Looks like this “teenager” tri-colored heron just noticed its parent flying in nearby.  That usually means food.DSC_5999I give all of the credit in the world to these poor parents when it comes to feeding their offspring.  They run over and literally grab the parents beak … and neck … and face … in their attempt to get food NOW!  DSC_6024It’s not just the tri-colored herons, it’s almost all of the birds too, as evidenced by this great egret.  If I was a bird parent and my “children” treated me like that, I’m not sure I could keep going back!  LOLDSC_2737Of course when they return without food, the young ones just become loud and very alert … like these young cattle egret.DSC_6076Then there’s the sweet ducklings and this parent looks to have more than she can handle.  They’re generally community nesters, so perhaps she’s taking others out for a swim as well.  DSC_4812Such is the life in the wetlands during breeding season.  Another year, another brood.  Lots of memories and of course … lots of babies.

Next Up:  Back in Colorado

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Nothing Like Young Burrowing Owls

Having a feeling that we might not be living full time in Florida next year, I made sure that I had “quality time” with my burrowing friends … the owls.  Each year, the burrows and owls are often different and this year, nothing could have been more true.  Like all wildlife, some owls are more “social” and required more personal space than others.  In Florida, they are protected and the state mandates a safe viewing distance … that being said, the best rule of thumb after that is careful observation of the owl and watching for signs of distress or changes in behavior.

Other differences easily noted are the varied eye colors.  Usually I see the normal yellow and some with darker brownish eyes, but this year it seemed that there were all the colors in between as well.  This adult had those greenish brown eyes and his mate had yellow eyes.DSC_0120This little owlet was one of their babies (of 2) and as you can clearly see, it possessed those traditional yellow eyes, as did its sibling.  These owls run a tidy ship and are frequently clearing out the opening to the burrow … sending lots of sand into the face and eyes of an onlooker.DSC_0147Even with just 2 babies, one is almost always clearly braver, or more inquisitive, than the other.  Before long, you know exactly which one you’re dealing with.DSC_0253Owls are predators and possess sharp pointed beaks and claws, along with feet that are quite strong.  Some are better hunters than others and it isn’t long before the little ones try to join in one the fun.DSC_0301The first feathers of the young owlets begin to be overtaken by more mature ones.DSC_0413While the feathers change, those big bright eyes never do.  🙂  Wonder what it’s so intent on spying in the air?  Let’s see….DSC_0454So it’s a hawk flying overhead and I as well get nervous.  Though I’ve seen it (and hope that I never will), they have been known to swoop on it and grab young birds, including these owlets.  Usually the parents are quite aware and send an instantaneous alert for everyone to go into the burrow.DSC_2254Owls can be fascinating to observe and I’ve spent many mornings or afternoons (or both) with them.  I just love it when the ruffle up their feathers … usually preceded or proceeded by a bow and a poop.DSC_0781By far, a favorite time of mine is when the little ones first discover their feet and claws.  You can literally see their wheels turning as they investigate them … they pick them up, open them, close them, sometimes even turn them upside down and eventually put them down again.  Often, they do it repeatedly.  Reminds me of our own young when they discover their toes.  🙂DSC_0472Feeding ones mate and the hungry family is a never-ending task.  Crickets or beetles are often consumed.DSC_1071Sometimes frogs are on the daily assortment and this one was obviously caught earlier and cached for the right moment.DSC_0854Lizards aren’t safe from them either.  Often the male will taken them into the burrow for its mate, even if there are no babies apparent yet.  Young ones don’t emerge from the burrow for at least 10 days, so it might be that she’s attending to them … or the eggs.DSC_1107Super special is when they’re both up and they transfer the delicacy from one to the other.  It reminds me of a Lady and the Tramp moment … only with a frog instead of a strand of spaghetti.  🙂DSC_2506I think that owls get bored easily … for sometimes they just declare “war” on anything they can get their claws on.DSC_0621At this particular site, there are others present, like these resident monk parakeets.  They’re quite beautiful and noisy when they fly by.  This one was busy grabbing twigs to reinforce or build its nest.DSC_2907Sometimes people want to know which are the babies versus the adults.  Of course, when they’re both out, it’s generally easy to ID them by size.  However, there’s another dead giveaway … well except for those “hair plug” head feathers.  If you notice the adult (in the back) had a pattern to its feathers throughout its belly, while the baby doesn’t have the striations yet.  I call this the Kahlua look (OK, maybe that’s too much info … LOL).DSC_1301These young owlets are nothing if not curious … and they display all sorts of head angles when they’re trying to figure something out.DSC_3132Of course, the family unit shot is highly desired, but just like our own group shots, it’s difficult to get them all cooperate at the same time … let alone smile.  🙂DSC_1348When the kids are safe in the burrow, the parents take a few moments for themselves with some mutual grooming and “canoodling”  (OK, so I guess that’s a made up word).DSC_2673Not sure what was going on here, but this male must have been in trouble and offering some sort of peace offering to its mate.  “OK, will you forgive me if I share this mouse with you?”DSC_3858“If not, I’ll just eat it myself”.DSC_3979From an early age the owlets learn to recognize threats from above.DSC_0214This time, a red-tailed hawk.  DSC_3370No worry though from this parent … no alarm call for cover … just a stare down.  I wonder why?DSC_1266Owls have much better eyesight than humans and upon careful inspection in the viewfinder, I see why.  See, this red-tailed hawk already has snatched a poor unfortunate baby bird for its dinner.  (OK, I secretly hate this side of nature, but hawks have to eat too.)DSC_3370-2So the socializing above the burrow continues.  Dad soon takes flight not far from where I was photographing and I wondered why.DSC_3243I noticed that before long it flew, with great difficulty, back to the burrow.  Then I saw it … it had a bird of its own.  To this day, I’ve never seen one with a bird before.   I guess owls have to eat too. (no, not again) DSC_3566So my next favorite time with these young owlets is when they learn to use their wings to make short flights around the burrow.  This one was quite happy and worked hard to impress its sibling and dad.DSC_3686-Edit“Look what I can do!”DSC_3685-EditDSC_3687-EditDSC_3692Meanwhile at another burrow, the youngs ones were just beginning to emerge.  This time, both parents were yellow-eyed and the babies ran the gambit of eye color.  There was some discrepancy about this burrow too, as some say the pair might have changed after the new ones were hatched.DSC_2602DSC_4079So, that’s this installment of the burrowing owls of south Florida for 2017.  Lots more images to share, so stay tuned.  I mean, how could you not with these eyes?  🙂DSC_2756Next up:  A return to the wetlands

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com