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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2016 Review… The “Far”

As with most years, many photographic opportunities presented themselves, not just in my home state of Florida, but the west was well represented in 2016.  Like the previous year end review post, I will focus primarily on the “new”.

Of course, there are a few images that never grow old, such as the frosty face of a bison fighting for survival in the harsh winters of the west.

_DSC6231-2Though I tend to forget sometimes the landscapes that lay before me, I tried to focus on them a bit in 2016._DSC4055There’s something magical about the iconic image of a beautiful red fox making its way across the snowy landscape …_DSC5569… though unique fox sightings such as this are quite beautiful and intriguing as well.  Never have I seen a setting like this one before._DSC5495It’s always fun to find a couple of coyotes in the snow as well, but it’s not everyday that you see this.  I know that to the casual viewer this looks like 2 coyotes standing there looking at us, which I suppose it was, but what makes this one so special is that they weren’t standing there being cooperative subjects by chance … they were tied after mating.  Once again, I’ve never seen anything like that before … and believe it or not, it was captured on Valentine’s Day.  🙂_DSC6495Another lifer for me was the elusive saw whet owl.  It had long been a dream of mine and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of joy when I got this one._DSC6977Sporting some nice red earrings and a necklace (i.e. tag and collar), my first mountain goats in the snow images were thrilling and a great bar to capture more natural ones in the future, though I do love the fluffy snow in this one._DSC7104This snowy day made photography a bit difficult, but I like most, still tried.  This group of elk in winter were getting tight as a group of either coyote or wolves were moving in on them. _dsc4122Speaking of wolves, I haven’t gotten a great shot of any wolves, outside of Denali NP in Alaska, before and still haven’t, but this is my first of that black wolf that calls Yellowstone home._DSC9812While I have lots of bison shots, this was the first year that I got out in the spring to capture those “red dogs”, who couldn’t be any cuter._DSC0192_DSC9570-2Predators can come in different forms and species, but the instinct to seek refuge is all the same.  Here I photographed a black bear cub who obediently climbed high (really high) to the top of a tree, while mom spotted a boar in the area.DSC_2910Speaking of things that I’ve NEVER experienced before was this aggressive protective behavior exhibited by this dusky grouse.  Though it played coy allowing images, it clearly felt threatened by some (especially women) and it ended with an entertaining, yet scary, encounter with Mr. Flashy Eyebrows, which incidentally change colors too.  LOL_DSC9981Usual sightings of beavers for me have been swimming around in the ponds, usually in the dusk hours, affording little opportunity for me to capture a great shot.  That changed in 2016 when this cooperative beaver exited the pond and sat, in the midst of flowers, on the bank and groomed itself for quite some time.  I was thrilled.DSC_4173-2Who wouldn’t want to have a lunch date with an incredible golden eagle? … Well, except the one being served as dinner.  I sat in awe as it devoured its dinner on the banks of the river, not far from where I was sitting.DSC_4697-2A first for me too was this ADORABLE little pronghorn antelope, that had to be less than one day old.  Nature is an amazing thing because this baby was so skilled at running and kept up with mom right from the get-go.DSC_2714In Florida, we have red-winged blackbirds, but out west they have these beautiful yellow-headed blackbirds.  Though a different species, their song is equally as distinct and lovely.
DSC_1400A definite goal of mine for 2016 was to get that iconic shot of the red-necked grebes swimming with their babies on their backs.  While I didn’t get that, I did manage to get not only the Western grebes, but an image of them offering the fish as part of their courtship behavior.DSC_1726Cuteness alert!  2015 I may have gotten my very first long-eared owls, but how about this?  It’s a long-eared baby owlet!  My heart melted the instant that our eyes met.DSC_21972016 was spent also on some landscape shooting … here from Steptoe Butte in the iconic Palouse …_DSC0513-HDR… and also from the Colorado National Monument, which overlooks the town of Grand Junction, CO._dsc1370-hdrIn what had to be one of the craziest shoots of 2016, was that very, very early morning at Maroon Bells in Colorado.  It was freezing when we started shooting some astro images in the wee hours, but continued to get colder as the sun began to rise.  That was my first time there … crazy, crazy, crazy the number of photographers congregating there!_dsc1135Fall in Colorado is a special treat.  The clouds, the mountains, the leaves … all jaw-dropping._dsc1577-hdrOf course, the golden leaf dropping aspens are always a favorite of mine, both on the ground …_dsc1160… as well as looking up towards the heavens._dsc7922Courtesy of Hurricane Matthew, which re-routed us from our return home, this bull elk chest deep in the lake was a new one for me too.dsc_8342The mule deer, also sporting their racks, were organizing as well.dsc_8998Yes, our time spent out west in 2016 was fascinating and full of firsts and new behavioral images.  Noticeably absent, in both this blog and in my heart, was Alaska.  It would have been our 10th consecutive year, but it wasn’t to be in 2016.  That only means that something super special must be in store for us there in 2017.  Can’t wait to find out!dsc_1673Thanks so much for our friends who participated in the fun during the year, including Jen & Travis, Amy & Scott, Rebecca, Jay, Phil, and Rick … we really appreciated sharing the good times with you guys.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip down 2016 memory lane.  There’s one more segment to 2016 left though … hmm, what could it be?

Next Up:  Proud as a peacock moments

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Two Amazing Wildlife Encounters & Rainbows :-)

You never know that you’re going to find when in Yellowstone National Park during the springtime.  Fresh off my dusky grouse encounter from the day before, we had another encounter, which was a first for me … a beaver.  Normally I get images of a beaver swimming around in the water.  Usually it’s at dusk, so the light is not great.  When they’re swimming around, it’s usually just the face.  Not this day.  Sure, it was making its way through the water, but then something magical happened.  It swan to and climbed upon the shore.DSC_4140-2It even turned around for us and posed in front of some beautiful yellow wildflowers.  It began to groom itself … dipping its front feet into the pond and then pouring it over its head and then seemingly wringing its head and face.DSC_4166-2Then it began scratching on its belly. DSC_4173-2It clearly developed an itch at some point as it began to scratch itself in the front with its right paw and simultaneously on its back with its left paw.  As I was photographing it, I couldn’t help but want to reach out and give it an assist.  LOLDSC_4220-2Even got the back feet involved in the scratching.DSC_4449-2This beaver sure wanted the attention of all of the cameras focused on him/her.  After some time of photographing, we decided that we had enough and moved on to other subjects.DSC_4411-2Every time I spot a rainbow, I know that it’s a special sighting… and this one was a truly spectacular one.  I just loved the way that it was so brightly illuminated all of the way to the ground.  Just makes you want to venture over to look for the “pot of gold”._DSC0302-2Winding down on our last day before leaving the Yellowstone area, we had to of course take one last trip through Lamar Valley.  At some point, I noticed this enormous bird swoop by.  Stop the car!  I got out and ventured towards I saw it flying, not being sure of what it was.  I walked down the embankment a bit and decided to sit down and calmly check things out.  As I scanned the landscape, I initially saw nothing … then there it was … a gorgeous golden eagle.DSC_4659-2I couldn’t believe it when it spotted me and just continued on having its lunch of some type of ground critter.  DSC_4662-2It tugged at the unfortunate prey and pulled it apart.DSC_4697-2A magpie came in and tried to be an uninvited dinner guest, but the golden would have nothing to do with that.  It stood up tall, spread it wings (with its 6-8 foot wingspan) and chased down the magpie, who quickly “peaced out”.DSC_4728-2After most of its lunch was consumed, it quickly launched itself into the air, which in itself was impressive to witness.DSC_4766-2DSC_4768-2DSC_4769-2Eventually it flew onto the hillside on the other side.  Gosh, it was one of the most beautiful birds that I had ever seen.  Reminded me a bit of an immature back eagle, but with its size, there was no mistaking it!DSC_4797-2At the end of our day … and our Yellowstone trip, there it was.  That gorgeous rainbow re-appeared, but this time I could compose it such that you couldn’t mistake where we were when it graced us._DSC0298-2As we drove through the town of Gardiner, MT, it provided us one last special treat.  In fact, if you look closely it was a double rainbow.  A perfect ending to a perfect trip.  Good sightings, varied wildlife, lots of firsts (including my first tick … don’t ask, it could be a blog in itself … yikes!), and the company of great friends and laughable moments that are still fresh in my mind.  Life is good!_DSC0290-2

Hope that everyone enjoyed our images, stories, and memories from springtime in Yellowstone NP.  I know that we’ll be repeating this one again soon.

Next Up:  Let’s head up to the Palouse

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com