An Environmental Success Story

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

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

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

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Nothing Like Springtime In Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, is mainly situated in Wyoming, but also extends minimally into Montana and Idaho.  While I’ve visited Yellowstone many times in the winter, summer, or fall … I had never been there during the spring season.  Earlier this year, with the company of our good friends Jen and Travis, we decided to do just that.  I have always said that I feel Yellowstone is one of the most diverse of the national parks of the US.  I’ve often referred to it as the “Disneyland” of parks … with lakes, canyons, thermal grounds, hot springs, geysers, valleys, and of course, many species of wildlife.

In the spring, there are less crowds, milder temperatures, emerging grasslands, and wildlife, including the US National Mammal … the American Bison._DSC9334-2

During my winter visit to Yellowstone, I had almost no chance of finding a bear, for they were hibernating in their dens at that time.  So, being the bear fanatic that I am, they were high on my list to find and photograph.  It wasn’t long before we found them too.  However, these were mostly black bears for us on this trip.  This big one seemed to be enjoying its lunch of greens.  🙂DSC_2556Whether black bears or brown bears, the sighting and photograph is always so much more special when eye contact is made.DSC_2534Visiting in the springtime does have its unique advantages including getting to see the spring babies.  Believe it or not, but this was the first time that I had photographed the young “red dogs”.  They were just too cute!DSC_2671They would take advantage every time that they could find their mama standing still to nurse on them, all the while keeping its eye on us.  Have you ever seen a baby bison nurse?  Well, it may look all peaceful in this image, but it’s quite an ordeal.  The newbie nursing peacefully for a short time, then rams its head into its moms underside in order for the milk to come out better.  Tom would give a few sympathy pain expressions for the mom every time that the young ones punched.  LOLDSC_2618-2They call them red dogs due to the coloration they possess when they’re newborn.  Clearly not the traditional bison color._DSC9510-2It was adorable how closely they stayed to moms side most of the time.  The protection of the herd is critical for their survival._DSC9532-2Once in a while they would meet up with another young one in the herd and appear to greet each other … often followed up with some running around together and a few head wrestling moments._DSC9570-2When there are bison around, there are almost always some birds hitchhiking a ride or using their backs as a landing strip.  LOL.  Never did it seem to even phase the bison._DSC9601-2Though bison are the most abundant large mammal in the park, there are also many more species, including the pronghorn antelope.DSC_2588-2I don’t think that I need to tell you how much we squealed with delight when we spotted our first baby pronghorn of the day, which coincidentally, was our first and only.  It was a bit too early for the babies and we were so ecstatic that this momma had hers a bit earlier.  It was by far just the cutest thing ever … such a sweet adorable face, wobbly legs, and it could race around impressingly fast.DSC_2714The bighorn sheep ewes were also spotted on our first day.  OK, so they weren’t the most photogenic subjects I’ve ever shot, with their scruffy spring coat, but hey, we found them grazing on the hillside and they were posing, so why not?  DSC_2695-2OK, so back to some more black bears … this momma sow was spotted near the base of a tree, not far from us.  We wondered what was going on because she seemed so alert to her surroundings.DSC_2794Then we spotted her cub … way up at the top of a very tall tree.  I wish I took an image to show just how high up it was.  To me, it looked like one of those “witches broom” deformities in the tree, but alas, it was this adorable cub.DSC_2910The story went that there was a boar (or two) cruising around the area where the sow and her cub were grazing, so she sent her cub up.  At one point, we could see the boar in two different places, but couldn’t be sure if it was the same one.  I couldn’t believe the patience of the sow and cub and how skilled it was to remain there safely.  That’s about when it climbed up to literally the tip top….DSC_2968We readied our gear, knowing that it went up of course to come down.  Nope, that cub curled itself over the point of the tree top and remained for quite some more time.  This was all during some rainfall and windy conditions.  I was nervous for the little one, yet couldn’t look away.  After mom gave it the “all’s clear” call, it began its descent.DSC_2995It skillfully hung on to the tree circumference as it went down … slow and steady.DSC_3065Along the way, it would savor some insects for some extra nourishment, maybe even lick a few raindrops perhaps.DSC_3071Every so often a break was taken on a convenient branch.  The sow below was getting quite impatient and as it got within her “standing on her hind legs” grapse, she tugged on it and made the arrival on the ground and by her side a quicker one.  Such an adorable experience to witness.  Those bears have amazing instincts for survival.  A boar in the area would most likely try to mate with her and kill the cub in the process.  They were both safe and it was a great morning for sure.DSC_3084When we were visiting Yellowstone earlier this winter, we had so many coyote sightings (including one with them mating).  I was quite surprised that we didn’t see as many on this spring visit.  We did however have one at a very close range that was rolling around … and around … and around paying absolutely no attention to us as we photographed.
_DSC9436-2As I said, this coyote knew that we were there, but was preoccupied in what it was doing.  When it left the area, we walked over to figure out what it was rolling in and saw nothing.  Must have been simply marking its territory.  Such a cool experience._DSC9403Remember, I’m no expert birder, so when I saw this guy, I took images and asked for identification later.  We knew that it was a woodpecker by its behavior of incessant pecking, but didn’t know the species.  It turned out to be, as many of you might already know, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.  They lack the inner hind toe on each foot and breed further north than any other American woodpecker.  How fun to see._DSC9606-2While photographing the woodpecker who visited with us, we stumbled upon another visitor.  A gorgeous bull elk arrived and grazed on the hillside right next to us.  He already started growing its antlers, which were all covered in velvet.  He still was in the process of shedding his winter coat as well, so he looked a bit scruffy too._DSC9697-2_DSC9668-2Just before we exited the park on that day, we came across our first elk babies of the trip.  they were a bit higher than us on the hillside, so a great shot would have to wait for another day, but it was adorable to see them kiss nose to nose in a tender moment.  Got to love those spots too.  🙂DSC_3446

So our trip to Yellowstone NP in the spring was off to a great start.  Before I end this post, I wanted to share with everyone what I didn’t expect in May in Yellowstone … the weather that we were treated to.  We had weather that wasn’t that much different than our winter visit … rain, hail, sleet, clouds, and snow!  Hayden Valley couldn’t be accessed on several days because Dunraven Pass was closed due to snow and icy conditions.  (Note:  Please pardon these through the windshield images, but I wanted to share the wather shots)IMG_1085Of course, all we had to do was turn a corner and we had sunshine and blue skies as well.  Got to love the variety of weather conditions that we had.  🙂IMG_1086

Next up:  More from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Wetlands, Preserves, & Yards … Oh My!

Taking a break from the snowy conditions of the Alaskan arctic, let’s return to the warmer, more humid climate of southern Florida.  Sure we have beaches, sand, and sun … but we also have winter visitors … not just of the human kind, but also our bird friends come to visit for a bit.  Some also court, mate, and raise their young too.

When they arrive, they do so in their Sunday finest … all dolled up and ready to impress.  No other time do they possess such beautiful breeding colors and perform such elegant ways, designed to tantalize the ladies.  One of the best examples of undergoing a metamorphis as such are the cattle egret.  Once an “ordinary white bird”, they become striking with that red eye, multi-colored bright beak, exaggerated coloration, and that fabulous breeding plumage._DSC4777Not native to Florida, though becoming quite popular, is the swamp hen.  A bit similar in appearance to the purple gallinule, though its colors are muted and beak consists of less colors too.  Still they possess a bit of that iridescence in those feathers when the sun hits it just right._DSC4824Still one of the most elegant is the great egret._DSC4912Though not as entertaining, the grebes also possess that cuteness factor … especially when they’re all fluffed up._DSC4957In Florida, it’s not all birds that hang out in the wetlands and preserves.  Again, though not native, we get our fair share of iguanas.  I used to get quite upset seeing them, especially when they would hang out near the birds, but in reality, they’re more vegetarians and not necessarily after wildlife.  Also, look at how amazingly photogenic they are … so prehistoric-looking, so full of details and features that could be the subject of a macro lens setup as well.  We even get them in our yard!_DSC4937Other reptiles live in the wetlands too.  This poor snake, fighting for its life, after being snatched from the grasses by the great blue heron … one of the most skillful hunters of frogs, snakes, and fish alike._DSC0234It’s hard to miss the red cardinals when they’re around.  On this particular day, there was one female, as shown below ….._DSC2027… flying around with not just one, but two, male cardinals chasing it.  Clearly one of them was her favorite beau too.  Look at how rich this guys coloring is!  This was not enhanced via any processing color, but rather straight out of the camera._DSC2051It’s always a thrill to find the sora out and about looking for something to eat along the soggy landscape.  Usually the sighting doesn’t last too long, as it generally returns into the plants rather quickly._DSC2082Though I’m not much of a “small bird”er, even I can’t resist the pretty little ones when they finally stand still, in the open, and pose for me.  🙂_DSC8644The tri-colored herons are one of the most striking birds when in their breeding plumage.  That bright red eye, deep blue bill, the beautiful tuft of white feathers out the back of their head, and their beautiful body feathers make the photographer or observer stop and look. _DSC8563The dance of courtship that they, and other birds, perform is a treat to watch as well.  Preening one’s feathers, poking around at the tidy nest, and rhythmically moving up skyward, then down repeatedly … so amazing to watch!_DSC8568Speaking of beautiful show-offs, what better example of that is the peacock, with their extremely long feathers, all patterned with designs that look like eyes, as they drag them behind them like a bride with her wedding dress train.  Though this guys not quite excited enough to lift them in a display fashion, it’s still quite beautiful.  This guy was photographed while making his way through my friends front yard.  I have some chickens down the block who wander through my yard … this guy can come visit me too if he wants._DSC2255So these were just a few of the many avian visitors to south Florida.  As the breeding season is over, not all, but many leave the area.  Don’t blame them … it gets way too hot down here … I sometimes leave too.  🙂

Next Up:  Anyone want to go to Yellowstone NP in the winter?

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Nature in Florida

January in Florida doesn’t necessarily offer much to make you feel like it’s winter, except for the promise of birds to photograph.  One doesn’t have to travel far to partake in their beauty, especially when you wake up early to catch them in that early morning sweet light._DSC4487If you’re wondering where the birds are hanging out … all that you have to do is follow their path inflight.  This roseate spoonbill, of course, revealed their location._DSC4625To our surprise, we didn’t find just a few, but hundreds of birds foraging in the waters and even all lined up on the boardwalk handrails.  Not just spoonbills either … white pelicans, white herons, ibis, tri-colored heron, great blue herons … one big happy family._DSC4783Of course, the roseate spoonbills hold the most interest for everyone.  I mean, how could they not?  Flamingos, they are not, though you almost always hear someone mistake them as such.  All dressed up in the beginnings of their breeding plumage, with their reflections of varying degrees of pink and white effectively doubling their beauty into the waters below._DSC4604Perhaps it’s just me, but they seem to me to have such fun personalities.  This one seems to actually be smiling.  🙂_DSC4636A walk around the wetlands yields many other sightings, including this European starling, known for its aggressive behavior in bullying other cavity dwelling birds out of their home.  Until this day, I never noticed how their markings were so beautiful._DSC4900It’s always fun to watch the beautiful and skilled green heron hunt for dinner, or in this case, probably lunch.  The stillness of the water almost makes it for a “mirror, mirror, on the wall” moment._DSC4971Also delightful to witness were Mr. & Mrs Hooded Merganser, who went swimming on past us.  _DSC4510Off to another location, we find the brightly colored, unmistakeable, male cardinal, with its red crest and feathers contrasting beautifully with that green foliage in the background._DSC5023Its mate, while not as red or brightly colored, was not far away.  I just loved the way that it was hanging out in the palm fronds, keeping an eye on everything going on._DSC5246Where there are birds and outdoor feeders, of course there are other critters trying to take  advantage of an easy meal.  This brave squirrel was running up and down not wanting to miss anything.  I just hoped that it wouldn’t jump out at me … LOL._DSC5031Then came a visitor who was a bit more assertive in trying to get a hand out of food.  The raccoons have been know to approach humans (yes, a terrible lesson that humans have taught them, much like the squirrels) … I’ve had one in the past tap my bottom as I sat at a picnic table years ago, giving me a big hint of what it wanted.  Of course, I didn’t indulge.  _DSC5061This particular raccoon put on its cutest face while it begged and pleaded for something tasty.  Here it even looks like it was praying for something good.  🙂_DSC5176Before long it found where a secret stash of treat were hidden in the log.  BUSTED!_DSC5130One of the most beautifully colored birds with an array of colors like that from an artists palette is the painted bunting – male, that is._DSC5537Though the female is beautiful in her own right, she lacks the variety of colors.  If one didn’t know better, they would never even think that they were related to the male version.  Reminds me of the how different the red-winged blackbirds are – males versus females._DSC5340Alas though the males again look like when they were created, a child was asked to color it.  So very beautiful.  These birds are winter visitors here in south Florida and will eventually move on with their migratory plans._DSC5579Much less colorful, though also marked quite nicely, is the thrasher … love those specks on its breast._DSC5589Of course, there will be lots more wintering birds and those breeding and nesting opportunities and blog posts, so stay tuned.

Up Next:  More Polar Bears!!

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Soaring With Eagles

Taking a break from the polar bears … well pardon the pun, to a “polar” opposite subject … from bears to birds, of Florida, no less.

Am I the only one out there that has difficulty getting the camera in gear after a big photo trip?  Seems like every year after I return from Alaska, I cull and process my images for endless hours.  Combine that task with the holiday events that seem endless as well, once the last quarter of the year arrives and I guess it’s a bit overwhelming.  So this year in early January, I made it a priority to get out and see what my home state had to offer.

This little loggerhead shrike might look all sweet and fluffy, but it’s actually a fierce predator that has been known for executing its unfortunate prey by peircing them on the barb wire that often is readily available in its environment.  I remember one year we found one in the middle of a dirt road that we were driving on, dazed but alive, Tom rescued it from a certain untimely death.  I was a bit concerned that it would use its sharp beak to impale Tom’s hand, but it didn’t as Tom gently placed it in a bushy tree nearby, where its partner came over to it.  What an awesome feeling to know that we (actually Tom) did something good.  Yes, he’s always the one placing the crossing turtle on the side of the road it was traveling to … giving it a hand as well._DSC4199-2Many of our sightings were of Florida’s resident bald eagles, hence the “Soaring with Eagles” blog post title._DSC4215-2We photograph lots of bald eagles in Alaska during our travels, so I’m always quite a bit fascinated by them.  Everyone expects bald eagles in Alaska, or migratory ones in eastern Washington state or other known migratory paths.  Few know that Florida actually has the most bald eagles in the lower 48 states.  On top of that … ours are primarily residents, not just migratory. _DSC4438-2Whenever I’m traveling in my car from south Florida to the north, I can almost always count on spotting on them along the way, to which a “BALDIES!” scream comes out of me.  LOL._DSC4219-2Hard to believe that these iconic birds, our national bird and symbol, were once so endangered and their numbers were so few.  It’s an incredible story about recovery once restrictions and protections are implemented.  It makes the “doubters” of recovery efforts have difficulty defending that stance.  _DSC4366-2The earlier images were all adult bald eagles, which sport that iconic white head and white tail feathers.  The next two images show the bald eagles in their sub-adult phase, clearly lacking that fully white head and fully white tail.  In Florida, if someone tells you that they saw a golden eagle, it was probably a sub-adult baldie.

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I don’t know why, but I always find the sub-adult feathers quite fascinating and beautiful.  Of course, whether fully adult, sub-adult, or even young eaglets, their talons are always amazing and mesmerizing to me._DSC4394-2Probably my favorite thing about bald eagles is their call.  Once you hear it once, you’ll never forget it.  _DSC4266-2Of course, our time in the wilderness wasn’t just about the eagles … but also other birds, such as another favorite of mine, the sandhill cranes.  Flying over in (a sort of) V-formation is a thrill to witness and of course their bugling when in flight, in landing, in take-off, or in dance, sends a big smile across my face._DSC4207-2_DSC4243-2Sightings of eastern phoebe are also common along the way.  So cute, aren’t they?  They are also quite fascinating too.  Did you know that an eastern phoebe sings a perfect song without having to “practice” it?  Also, what was the first bird ever to be banded well over a century ago?  Yep, the eastern phoebe._DSC4392-2Now, how could a day be complete with a “coot convention” sighting?  LOL_DSC4345-2So overall, it was a fun weekend of birding in central Florida and of course, soaring with the eagles.  One more beauty to share._DSC4367-2Hope that everyone enjoyed the blog post.

Next up:  More local birding adventures … from Florida … it’s what’s for winter, after all.

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography

 

Homer-Bound

The Russian River Campground is an interesting place to stay when in Cooper Landing, Alaska.  It is home to the notorious “combat fly fishing” for salmon, trout, and other varieties.  It’s also a place where the photographers can find bears also fishing in those rivers.  While we did find brown bears again on this trip, it was only one afternoon, and we really wanted to say our goodbyes to them.  🙂  So we visited the river via the boardwalk for a final walk.  We took our time once we arrived at the confluence of the Russian River and the Kenai River, just down a bit of the ferry.
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It was a stunning morning and once again we were treated to the early morning sunlight peering through the trees along the boardwalk.  It was a bit cold this morning and foggy as well._DSC2970 We patiently sat down for awhile at the stairs and chatted with some of the fishermen.  We received various stories of theories as to where the bears were … none of which were authenticated nor pleasant.  I still hoped that they would return one last time for us.  In the meanwhile, a big group of common mergansers came by.  I was quite fascinated at their “team effort” in chasing down and beaching of some small minnows and smelt for their dining pleasure.  I had never witnessed it before!DSC_6022

The fireweed was still in bloom and had already reached the end of the stalk … meaning winter was simply about 6 weeks away.  It was only August 21st!_DSC3009

Harlequin ducks were also out and about in the Russian River.

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When we decided to make our way back on the boardwalk, we encountered this sighting, which usually means only one thing … bear(s)!  I eagerly made my way to their spotting._DSC3014 But it was for not, as it was simply a bald eagle that had flow in and the fishermen were simply admiring it and taking some cell phone shots as well.  Dang!DSC_6076 On the way towards Homer, we stopped a few times for photographs, but we were equally anxious to get there and check in with Beluga Air and Dave for our Katmai bear viewing the next day._DSC3042 It’s so beautiful to photograph the fireweed standing tall and proud in various fields.IMG_2901 _DSC5946 Once we arrived at our final destination for the evening, Homer, we ventured to the end of the “spit” and took in the beauty of Kachemak Bay and glaciers within the state park across the Cook Inlet waters.DSC_6159 IMG_2914We visited the Beluga Slough area, which is a “must do” annually, though we didn’t see the sandhill cranes like in years past.

_DSC3131 We also visited Bishop’s Beach and built our traditional cairn … in celebration of our upcoming wedding anniversary.  Each year we build this feature containing 1 stone for every year we’ve been together … plus 1 more for good luck … so this year it was a cairn of 19!  It wouldn’t be the same to not do it, though I’m wondering how much more stable we can make it during the next 5-10 years!  LOL_DSC3124

We then checked in for our bear trip which initiates the next day … weather permitting, as always.  Let’s hope for it to be a good morning.  🙂

Next up:  Katmai or bust ….

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

 

A Burrowing Owl Encore!

It’s been some time since the last burrowing owl post and there’s so many images from 2015, so I though that I would share a few more and give some final thoughts on them as well.

I just love it when they are perched on something which offers me an interesting background, especially when I can produce a bokeh which adds to the shot.  The blue sky is perfect when filtered through the leaves of a nearby tree.

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Though these are siblings, they have very different eye colors.  Both are quite beautiful.  the yellow ones are piercing when the sunlight casts itself on them just so, but the brownish yellow are so different that I find it hard to look away.  Either way, I love them both!

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Yes, they sure love to launch themselves into flight, as well as jumping around quite a bit.  I just LOVE when they focus on their landings … eyes on the prize and talons out ready for the grab.

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They run from burrow to burrow when they have more than one entrance to home.

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To me, the main thing that I want the owls to do while I’m photographing them is to act natural and do the things that owls do.  I don’t want them to be preoccupied by my presence.  I prefer to see the eyes, even if just caught through the feathers of its wings.

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A favorite activity for these owls was the “attack” and wrestling of each other … reminded me of a worldwide wrestling event.  LOL

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These burrowing owls are very social with each other and they “kiss”, groom, and “canoodle” each other quite often.  Looks so sweet.  🙂

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Of course, they shed their feathers on occasion, which totally becomes a favorite “toy” to play with.

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So is flying around the burrow, landing on perches, etc.  This year was unusual because in years past, I had seen the owls hunting a bit and feeding, but I saw none of that this year.  Of course, they were well fed and would expel their pellets (remnants of their undigested material) quite frequently.  🙂

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In this particular burrow, sometimes the perch became quite crowded!

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These owls are pretty much busy all day, and they get tired just like we do.  Like some people, some could almost fall asleep anywhere!  LOL

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Can’t wait to see what 2016 holds in regards to photographing the owls of south Florida!  I hope that you enjoyed them as much as I did.  🙂

Next Up:  Let’s go back to ALASKA!!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

It’s Not Just Red Rocks

While the Garden of the Gods exists primarily for the red rock formations that it features, there are other things that the visitor might visit the area for … such as flowers in the summer, the vast array of wildlife, and the outdoor activities that one might partake in, while in the midst of the beauty that surrounds and defines the park.

Wildflowers are something that I have always been fascinated with, though I rarely shoot.  Of course, as I was waiting for Tom to get ready for his mountain bike ride (remember this was Tom’s mountain bike adventure trip), I had to indulge.DSC_5754 DSC_5756 After shooting several of the wildflower collections, I heard Tom talking.  I found that he had made a new friend … a beautiful magpie that apparently wasn’t buying anything of what Tom was offering.  LOLDSC_5680 Off Tom went on his mountain bike ride, so I hiked around looking for more photo ops.  Didn’t take long before I saw this couple going by on their horses right next to me.  Hey, I want to do that!DSC_5681 Such a beautiful place to go for a morning ride, wouldn’t you agree?DSC_5707 Of course, the clouds were so cooperative this morning and fit in nicely in my landscape compositions.DSC_5716 DSC_5725 Of course, I had to shoot my favorite flower … the columbine … so very beautiful.DSC_5753 DSC_5756-2 OK, so it wasn’t just flowers.  There were great opportunities to shoot some wildlife as well.DSC_5739 We had the sweetest interaction with this bunny rabbit too.  It was feeding on the vegetation off the trails, but stopped and ran up the improvised trail.  Right in front of us it stopped, stared at us, then ….DSC_5657

….. immediately drop down onto its belly as it continued to stare at us.  We laughed so hard, as I had never seen a bunny do anything like that.  Usually, they run away as quickly as they can.

DSC_5666 DSC_5726 Again, the flowers were the big hit and provided added beauty to this already beautiful place.  We will always return when we’re in the area.DSC_5711

Next Up:  One word … BOURBON!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Guanella Pass … It’s All About Improvising :-)

Though this road trip was more about Tom and his cycling, there was one thing I wanted to do which was non-negotiable … I wanted to make a side trip to Mt. Evans for some mountain goat photography.  As promised, when we departed Grand Junction, CO, we began our way to Idaho Springs, CO.  We were excited too, as we were meeting up with an old friend of ours, Rick Louie.

The scenery along the way was simply spectacular!
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We were set to meet up at Echo Lake Lodge, a wonderful place that is located near the entrance to the Mt. Evans highway.  However, things changed along the way (more on that  in the next blog), so after we met at the lodge … we improvised.  🙂

Rick suggested that we drive to Georgetown, CO, then head up towards Guanella Pass, which is part of the Front Range west of Denver.  As we began our climb along the road, we found some bighorn sheep ewes and some young ones as well.  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen summer bighorns, as they were molting and appeared to be quite shabby looking.  Still, being the wildlife nut that I am, I began shooting them … right from the car window.  🙂

20150715-DSC_5085 We arrived at the parking lot up near the top and the skies showed signs of an impending storm brewing.  Nonetheless, the scenery couldn’t be beat and it was fabulous being up there.  In the distance, Mt. Bierstadt (14,060 ft) loomed.20150715-DSC_5462 It didn’t matter which orientation you faced in … beautiful all the way around.20150715-DSC_5465 Every so often, the sun poked through and cast it’s warm light upon the mountain range.20150715-DSC_5472 As we began to hike a bit, we couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous wildflowers that were still in bloom on the landscape.20150715-DSC_5478 As the wind blew around us, we also were serenaded by a bird singing somewhere near us.  Every so often, we could see something darting in and out of the brush, but it remained elusive for a bit.  Finally, we located it … a white-crowned sparrow … this time perched on top of the brush.  It was quite cooperative for the camera as well.20150715-DSC_5479 20150715-DSC_5482 We noticed a small lake in the middle of a nearby field and decided to check it out closer.  Come on, you’ve got to admit that the pathway towards the lake was quite inviting.  Glad that there was the boardwalk as well, as the earth was quite saturated in spots there.20150715-DSC_5484 20150715-DSC_5486 Again, the scenery and the wildflowers were beautiful and the setting was quite serene.  I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the sunlight or early morning.20150715-DSC_5087 20150715-DSC_5102 20150715-DSC_5507Thanks Rick for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet up with us.  Totally enjoyed shooting with you, whether it’s in the Canadian Rockies or up on Guanella Pass.  20150715-DSC_5483After, we went for a late bite to eat in Idaho Springs … and of course, continued to catch up.  Oh, we obviously got a bit silly in a mostly empty saloon too.  LOL

20150715-IMG_2795For anyone that might be interested, Rick also provide photography workshops in Colorado and surrounding areas, as well as portrait and wedding photography.  Check out his website at http://www.ricklouiephotography.com.

Next:  Our Mt. Evans adventure … and I do mean, adventure!

© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

 

The Early Bird Gets the Worm (& the sunrise, too)

What better way to start a new day than with a sunrise from Colorado National Monument!  After the amazing day I had yesterday, Amy was kind enough to agree to meeting up, very early, to situate ourselves up on the monument to capture the sunrise.  The clouds showed up as well, which only adds to the atmosphere of the shot.20150714-DSC_5272-HDROK, so there was a very light sprinkle along the way, but that only added a beautiful rainbow (stop looking … it’s not in this blog).  It was behind us and though I shot it, I was still so amazed at those deep colors emerging in the early morning’s light and subsequent sunrise.
20150714-DSC_5285-HDR Often, when the sun rises, the sunrise shooting is over, as the sun’s light gets too bright and harsh.  However, when the light get shrouded behind a cloud or mountain peak in the distance, it can be fabulous.  Love the sun burst on the horizon.20150714-DSC_5346-HDR 20150714-DSC_5351-HDR I was having so much fun just watching the changing colors in the sky, that I would find myself forgetting to click my shutter!  LOL20150714-DSC_5315-HDR 20150714-DSC_5436-HDR More rays of light shiny down on the city of Grand Junction.20150714-DSC_5381-HDR Of course, Colorado National Monument itself is quite fascinating in its varied terrain, red rock formations, green brush cover, and prominent textures.  We looked, but didn’t see the bighorn sheep that Tom & I ran into the night before.20150714-DSC_5448 We did however, see a whole colony of chukkars scurrying around on the rocky landscape.  It was fun to see them somewhere new … as I had first seen them earlier in the winter at Antelope Island SP in Utah for my first time.  They have the most interesting colors and features.20150714-DSC_4887We also toured a few areas near GJ, including an Audubon Nature Preserve (I hope I got that right Amy).  There I got to photograph several Western Kingbirds, perched and also flying around, on the area bushes.  I think it was a first sighting for me.
20150714-DSC_5013 Now, when speaking of amazing and interesting features, we also spotted a Gambel’s Quail perched nearby the road.  What a fancy looking thing too!  It simply sat there, observing us, as we photographed away.  Not one to do much flying, it did finally take a quick and short flight to the landscape below after some time.  Again, it was another first for me.  20150714-DSC_4980 One last bird for my “new” list, was this immature blue grosbeak.  I know that this is far from a stellar shot, but hey, it was a new one.  I have never taken the time to create my “life list” of birds seen, but after this trip and with lots more travel planned in my retirement from my “day job”, I might just start one now.  🙂20150714-DSC_5044The last 2 days of touring Grand Junction, with the “insider’s advantage” was made possible by my friend, Amy (“Happy Photographer” on Flickr – easy to see where she got that user name).  Thanks so much!  Can’t wait to come back!20150714-IMG_2777 No town visit is ever complete without a visit to their local sushi restaurant for a celebratory dinner, which didn’t disappoint either.  Yummy!20150714-IMG_2779Next up:  Idaho Springs, CO and another meet up with an old friend and photographer for some mountain goats and landscapes!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography