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

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The Winter That “Wasn’t” :-)

This week, the blog post will be short & sweet … just like our first winter in Colorado was.  LOL.  I’m serious … if you blinked your eye, you might just have missed it!  At first I thought it was just me, but even seasoned locals said that this was the mildest winter they had ever experienced.  For the girl from south Florida, who craved some winter snow and chill, well, it just figured.

What I found so weird though was how erratic the snow pattern was, even when it did snow.  See, one day we were up on the Monument and I looked down on the valley … east and west.  I could see all of this “white” cover to the extreme west.  It looked like snow, but we have minerals out here in the soil which sometimes look like snow.  We decided to check it out.

As we appraoched Loma, just west of Fruita, we could see that it was in fact snowfall … and a beautiful snow cover it was.  Making it even more fun was our viewing of these amazing sheep which were running through the snowy landscape.

DSC_9507DSC_9516We arrived at Highline Lake State Park in Loma, CO and found not just the bare trees of winter, but the landscape was covered in probably 4 or so inches of snow as well.  This was th winter scene that I expected._DSC3928-EditThe bluffs covered in snow was beautifully mirrored on the surface of the lake as well._DSC3934-Edit-EditThe Book Cliff mountains off in the distance were crisp and clear. _DSC3938The views almost reminded me of Florida … if the snowy landscape had just been sand on the beach or around a lake.  It was so beautiful with the glistening of the snow and icicles all around.  For a few hours, I didn’t feel “cheated” of my winter.  After all, I knew that in the high desert landscape I now call home, wouldn’t afford tons of snow … but I never expected what I got._DSC3947-EditEven as we drove home from the park, we noticed that the snowfall stopped about a mile or two from our home.  Dang … looks like we’re going have to move a few miles west.  LOL.  I’m not sure why any of this surprised me.  See in Florida, it can be raining in your front yard and not in your back yard … so snowfall would be no different.

Soon, we were greeted by the songbirds in the bare trees, like this wonderful western meadowlark.  Both beautiful … but gosh, I sure hope I get some more snow next year.  🙂

DSC_9596Next Up:  Maybe there will be more snow out in Lake Tahoe … we’ll see.

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Arrival of Autumn

Well, this was my first autumn season in Colorado … and already it’s not exactly a “normal” one.  Seems that they leaves didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to be changing already.  Sure, the aspens might have started, but they sure have a long way to go.

_DSC2881It’s OK because that means there’s more time for the wildlife to forage on the nutritious environment, which will be available to them longer.DSC_2221Even the birds seem to be enjoying the mild autumn.DSC_2219So one day in October, we headed up to the San Juan Mountains for some fall colors … hopefully anyways.  On our way we stopped outside of Ridgway and met up with a few friendly birds.DSC_2100Mountain bluebirds have become a favorite “new” bird of mine.  So very pretty, a bit social (at least to me), and such a beautiful calls they make.  They migrate vertically, which means migrate down in elevation from the higher mountains to the lower valley areas when winter comes.  They dine primarily on insects and hunt from overhead for them.DSC_2193Western bluebirds are also a new one for me to have in my neighboring area.  They are declining in population, or at least are threatened to, by nest competition from the starlings.  So beautiful.DSC_2201DSC_2218Finally, in the upper elevations, we see the fall colors starting to emerge.  Usually it begins with the aspen leaves changing to a golden color.  _DSC0256-EditOrange and burnt orange colors are next to appear._DSC0184-Edit-EditAs we reach the higher elevations, the fall color explosion begins to really emerge.  When I got to this point on our drive, I requested that the car be stopped so that I can get out and see it more clearly.  THIS is one of the reasons that I wanted to move to Colorado!_DSC0192-Edit-Edit-EditEvery turn in the road was virtual eye candy in the landscape and left me hungry for what was around the next corner._DSC0198-Edit-EditThis area is well know to those John Wayne fans out there, as the area was featured in his movies.  Cathedral Peak in the San Juan Mountains outside the town of Ridgway. _DSC0247-Edit-EditJust when I don’t believe that it can get much nicer, another vantage point yields this … incredible beauty, with an explosion of fall colors and varied landscapes and trees, with those unmistakeable San Juan Mountains in the distance.  My heart skips a beat._DSC0217-Edit-Edit_DSC0232 Yes, it was such a magical day out there, so it only seems appropriate to end this blog post with a rainbow … actually a double one … it was just that beautiful!_DSC2892

Next Up:  Let’s go to Utah!

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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

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!