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. I 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.Further 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.A 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.At 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. LOLThese 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.True 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.Of 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!A 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.The 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).Always 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.Near 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.The 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.Yes, 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. 🙂As 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.Next Up: Back to the wetlands of Florida
© 2017 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography