Winter Raptor Visitors

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

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

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

Next up:  Other local fun

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

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Exploring The Carson Valley Area

I had never visited the Carson Valley area before, well except for the hot air balloon that we took several years back over the Lake Tahoe area.  But I don’t think that really counted.  When I had the opportunity to do so in early 2018, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew that it would be an adventure.  One thing that I didn’t expect was the scant amount of snow on the ground.  I guess everything has its cycles.  However, the scenery was beautiful … so vast and open.

_DSC4553-EditWhile the landscapes were endless and varied, it was the wildlife that I primarily focused on.  Came across this beautiful buck foraging on the winter’s landscape … minus the snow and all.  😉DSC_0831Like I said, the landscapes were amazing and quite different than I expected.  Of course, our weather was quite threatening and the images projected that moodiness.  Looking across Washoe Lake was incredibly beautiful and the sounds of nature were all around us._DSC4568-Edit-Edit-2Found this Cooper’s hawk in the bare trees, right next to where I set up for that above image.  It cooperated for a bit, then had enough, and flew across the lake.DSC_0902Raptors were seemingly everywhere!  In the beginning we seemed to be scouting out the ever-present red-tailed hawks.  Their ID is generally quite obvious and they were hunting the fields.DSC_1520Then swooped in my favorite non-owl raptor … the northern harrier … not just any northern harrier, but the male, aka the “gray ghost”.  I don’t know what it is, but I find them so fascinating!DSC_1530While the adult male is gray in color, the female and juveniles are more of a brown color.  Their usually ID is that white strip on their rump, topside.DSC_1749At one point, we heard a hawk giving non-ending screams as it approached closer to where we were shooting from, which incidentally was our vehicle, on a day that had easily 40 mph wind gusts relentlessly blowing my long lens around!  DSC_1572As it flew overhead, we identified it as a ferruginous hawk.  Such a gorgeous raptor as well.  🙂DSC_1639As we were headed out to a park in the area for some owls, we did a double-take on something that we spotted out in the field.  After scoping it, we realized it was a mature golden eagle and it was feeding on what appeared to be a coyote relatively fresh kill.  Golden eagles have a wingspan of about 72-96 inches!  Now that’s one big bird!!DSC_1847We also spotted this lovely coyote working the field along the river.  It kept a keen eye on us, as I’m sure that they’re not always welcomed on the farms.  Looked quite big and healthy.DSC_1443Then out of nowhere … I saw them… wild horses.  I was quite excited and began to take REALLY far away images.  We drove out more closely to them, but still a respectable distance … after all, I wanted them to not feel threatened and act naturally.  To my surprise they came closer …DSC_0949… and closer ….DSC_0934… and closer.  I just loved it!  I also loved all of the sticks, feathers, and such in this horse’s mane.  We stared at each other for a bit … I wondered what it was thinking.DSC_1223Then a younger one came up.  By now it had begun to rain slightly and the winds picked up again.  How adorable is this young one?  So free, so natural.DSC_1289It met up with one of the mature horses and nuzzled it a bit…. Right in front of us, I might add!  A few snorts and vocalizations were overheard from this close distance, as we had the car turned off the whole time.DSC_1340These two were quite interested in us and approached our car.  By now, I was a bit unsure of how they might react and Tom had his finger on the automatic window.  They were so incredibly beautiful!DSC_1246After staring at us for a bit, they turned and retreated back to where they came from.  I would imagine that they visit the lake across the street often because when we were there, we saw evidence of such.  LOL.  DSC_1368That was pretty much an overall memory of our time out there.  It’s definitely an area that I want to re-visit one day.  Loved it.  ❤

Next Up:  Back to fun times in Colorado … and meeting a new “friend”.

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com