The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Lemonade Never Tasted So Good

In October, we really don’t as a rule worry too much about tropical storms or hurricanes in Florida.  Sure, it’s still technically hurricane season until the end of November, but our peak is usually July, August, and September … at least according to this “almost native Floridian”‘s recollection.  So, when we realized that a potential Cat.4-5 hurricane by the name of Matthew was lurking around Florida a few days earlier, we became concerned.  We were thankful that south Florida was pretty much spared from the wrath of the storm, so when our flight allowed us to check in, we thought we were in the clear.  WRONG … by the time we checked in online to the time we checked into our hotel, a few short hours from Denver, we received the text message … FLIGHT CANCELLED.  Yep, lemons thrown our way.

I felt especially terrible because my daughter and her husband had just left for backpacking in Europe and we were charged with taking care of our grandchildren … doggy ones.  🙂  Luckily, we were in the midst also of sights like these …dsc_7985dsc_7997So with those lemons, we decided to make the proverbial “lemonade”.  We altered our plans (after all, a friend of theirs was battening down the hatches until we got home and all flights into Florida were cancelled) and chose to not sweat it out and swing by Rocky Mountain NP with our newly gained freedom.  OK, truth be told, it probably did involve some “sweating it out”, but you get the gist, right?

I hadn’t been to Estes Park in probably 2 years and this was pretty crowded for me.img_2151After we left the hustle and bustle of town and got into the park itself, it was much better.  Right off the bat, we came across a gang of wild turkey.  I believe that there were mature and juveniles within the group.dsc_8005Of course, everyone knows that October in RMNP is synonymous with the elk rut, so my hopes were high.  Can you imagine how excited I was when I came across this handsome bull down by the lakeside … keeping a keen eye on his harem.dsc_8218It was really cool to get images of him standing almost chest deep in the water.  Of course, when he bugled from there as well, it was well over the top for me.  NOTHING compares to the sound of a bull elk’s bugle!dsc_8342He really was quite the handsome lad and quite cooperative with his poses.  I have a feeling that he’s used to the camera lens.  🙂dsc_8404Of course, during the rut, the bull elk have more on their minds than eating, but that didn’t stop the ladies from getting their fill on the nearby vegetation.dsc_8432A very tender moment to me was when he went nose to nose with one of his gals.  I wondered if she was his favorite … only just kidding.  LOLdsc_8556Instead of eating the vegetation, he would use the bushes to scratch himself.dsc_8593The girls in his harem were about 15, which I thought was a pretty good size.  While most of the rut was over, the mating had yet to begin.dsc_8715Yep, this bull sure knew how to work the camera.  Never have I gotten them in the water during rut like that.  I was thrilled.dsc_8795Sunsets are always a thrill and this place didn’t disappoint.  I just loved how the colors were so mixed, yet oh so beautiful._dsc1775Out at dinner one night, I happened to notice this sign … it warmed my heart to know that some people and places do everything in their ability to protect the bears from being labelled as a “problem bear” secondary to actually “problem people” who don’t exercise common sense.  (I’ll now exit my soapbox)img_2159This time of the year, the mule deer were also out in force and sporting nice racks too.  Such sweet, sweet faces.dsc_9030dsc_9331These guys were out for a little bit of jostling around as well.dsc_9191Now this bull elk, shown from afar so that you can actually see how many gals he had in his harem … 24 in all!!!  Crazy to imagine how busy he was going to be in the near future.  LOL.  We even saw one of them actually try to mate him!  Guess she was getting close to being ready.  😉_dsc1818So in the end, we got home a night later, got to go the Rocky Mountain NP, arrived to Jacksonville to pick up the grand doggies, and safely drove home.  Yep, lemonade never tasted so good!_dsc1813Next Up:  How about some birding?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com