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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Glorious Colorado!

Last fall, Tom and I ventured out on an exploratory trip out to Colorado … more on that in a later blog.  In 2015, during the fall, we visited the Asheville, NC area just in time for the fall colors and we were hoping to get the same out west.  Fall colors are much like the weather in south Florida … if you don’t like what you have right now, just wait a few or travel just a bit down the road (or in the case of CO, change your elevation) and you’ll most likely find what you’re looking for.  We decided to meet up woth a friend in the Snowmass area, which wasn’t far from our base in CO.  The colors along the road couldn’t have been much prettier._dsc1252After our arrival at Snowmass Village and a wonderful dinner with friends, we grabbed a few winks before our alarm went off at 2 am, indicating that it was time to get ready for our adventure to Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness Area .. for some astro photography.  It was fabulous out there with the stars and the Milky Way out, but it was a bit cloudy at times, which challenged me in capturing the MW the way I had envisioned. _dsc7792Either way it was a fun time … freezing my butt off!  We stayed there until the sun came up.  Once the sunrise time was near, the place was filling up quite quickly.  Before I knew it, we looked like the combat fisherman I see on the Russian River in Alaska fishing for salmon.  LOL.  However challenging it was to not get other photographers in my shots, it was still worth it.  I mean, who could blame anyone for being out there for the sunrise show, right?_dsc1135Tom and I then returned to Snowmass and I took a walk around town – with my camera of course._dsc1153There’s something so special to me about aspen trees, especially in the fall when their golden leaves begin falling and collect on the green grass below._dsc1160We were headed towards our base in Grand Junction, but decided to take the long way home, which is incidently the more adventurous way.  The scenery was spectacular along our drive.  The fall colors were just beginning to emerge in the lower elevations._dsc1187_dsc1192_dsc1210In the higher elevations, the stands of aspens, cottonwoods, and other trees shooting up towards the sky were undeniably beautiful.  This was truly “God’s Country”, as they say._dsc1254Along Highway 133 we came across the Redstone Coke Oven Historic District, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Enough said … Tom had to stop and learn about the area.  These coke ovens were built at the end of the 19th century by Colorado Fuel & Iron.  The town purchased the land in the early 2000’s in an effort to preserve the history and actually restored 4 of them to their original appearance.img_1993img_1990It was hard to push ourselves down the road on our journey to Grand Junction with such beautiful sights to see along the way.  But rest assured, there are many beautiful places to visit and experience in Colorado.  🙂img_1999Next Up:  Join us up on the Colorado National Monument

© 2017 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2012 Review: PART 3 – Brown Bears of the Kenai Peninsula & Katmai

Of course, our sights were also focused on our return to Alaska – our 6th annual trip!  This time we visited with our good friends, Todd & Susan, who were experiencing Alaska for their first time.  Really made it fun to see and hear their thoughts on a place that has become so near and dear to us over the years.  We spent about a week on the Kenai Peninsula – visiting with the Russian River bears (always a thrill), eagle watching in Homer, walking Bishops Beach near Home Spit,

Hanging on to the prize

Hanging on to the prize

Like a child playing in their bathtub

Like a child playing in their bathtub

Out on the Russian River

Out on the Russian River – photo courtesy of Todd Stein

and of course, spending some time with the coastal brown bears in Katmai NP.  This year, we spent time at Kuliak Bay, where we were treated to numerous bears, including some sows and their adorable cubs.  What a sight these cubs were, as they scurried by us, not sure of what we were or what we were doing in their world.

Spring cub is not too sure about us

Spring cub is not too sure about us

Salmon fishing at the falls

Salmon fishing at the falls

Chasing down the river towards us (after the salmon, of course)

Chasing down the river towards us (after the salmon, of course)

Retreating into the tall grasses to rest

Retreating into the tall grasses to rest

No matter how many times we visit Katmai NP, it’s never the same.  We have been fortunate to visit new locations within the vast Katmai landscape each year and 2012 was no different.  We even got to spend some time with crew members of the BBC film crew shooting a documentary in the area.

... missed ....

… missed ….

The skillful fisherman

The skillful fisherman

The flight over to Katmai is always a treat for the eyes, but this year we were treated to an incredible fly-over of the glacial landscape and mountains of the coastal areas and a bit of the interior of Katmai – on an amazingly beautiful day.  I can’t thank Jon enough for that added bonus thrill for us!

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What an incredible place!  Make it a destination for yourself one day!

Stay tuned for more of the 2012 year in review!