Sheep, Deer, & Views … Western CO

So, I think that this blog was going to be about the San Juan Mountains and surrounding areas, but oh well, I changed my mind.  LOL.  I thought that instead I would share more images of the area landscapes and wildlife in my more immediate area.  Are we good with that?  🙂

From our windows, we have amazing views of the Colorado National Monument.  The wonderful red rock formations are stunning, especially after a rainfall or when the sunlight is hitting it just right and illuminating the rocks.  So many colors, like painted rocks or striations in the layers.  Just really peaceful and beautiful.

DSC_8052-EditFor me, the desert bighorn sheep are always the highlight of my visit and it’s always a dreat day when I do.  On this day, we ran across a gathering of the ladies.  I’m always so impressed with how naturally they act when we encounter them.DSC_7677-EditNo different than other wildlife, they’re eyes engage me and their thoughts are a mystery to me that I always try, though never will, to figure out.  🙂DSC_7693-EditDSC_7605-Edit-EditWhile the close up views of their faces are always fascinating, so are the more natural ones where the sheep may not even know I’m watching.  DSC_7657-Edit-EditLots of mule deer are always present and I really enjoy photographing them as well.  This handsome buck posed nicely for me … in the midst of the wilderness.  Often they fear onlookers, and perhaps with good reason, but if you remain still, they almost seem to enjoy an impromptu photo session.  LOLDSC_7876Fun to see the younger generation being mentored by their elders.DSC_7752Speaking of “being schooled” … how about this sequence of this beautiful buck showing how to properly jump the fence.  DSC_7739DSC_7741DSC_7742We watched the entire group make the jump successfully.  So fun to observe and photograph.  Then we came across this really handsome buck … staring us down.  There goes that eye contact again.  After some time, he went on with his foraging on the landscape, which really pleased us.DSC_7979Back on the Monument, we came across a whole herd of desert bighorn sheep.  They are a subspecies of the bighorn sheep usually associated with the mountainous areas, but as one would expect, living in a desert primarily, they are a bit smaller in size.  However, I’m sure that everyone would agree that they’re equally as cute.DSC_8358-Edit-EditThis particular male was in charge of this group of lovely ladies.  Aren’t their eyes so amazing?  They have excellent eyesight, capable of viewing a predator over a mile away, and their eyes also help in guiding them on the rocky cliffs from which they live.DSC_8223Here’s a shot of just a few of them within the herd.  The adult male in the forefront center is keenly watching us.DSC_8155Of all of the desert bighorn sheep ewes up there, this particular one is always easy to identify and fun to photograph.  She’s missing one of her horns, which unfortunately don’t grow back.  But you can’t tell me that she doesn’t look quite happy!  🙂DSC_8435Sometimes, try as you may, you don’t find them.  Sometimes you can spot them through your binoculars or hear them in the distance.  Then sometimes, you just can’t seem to get away them … or pass them … like when they’re causing a “bighorn jam” in the middle of the narrow winded round.  It’s OK, I could watch them forever it seems.DSC_8313Yes, the beauty of the Colorado National Monument red rock formations is a sight to see, whether you take it in up close and personal like this … or when you wake up and see it out of your bedroom window … it’s all beautiful and all good.  🙂DSC_8057-EditHope that you enjoyed the blog and have gained an appreciation of the beauty of western Colorado … just minutes from Utah.

Next Up:  More around town sightings … you just never know what you’ll see

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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My World That Surrounds Me

In late fall/early winter, the Grand Valley area of western Colorado plays host to a variety of migrating birds.  Of course, one of my favorites are the sandhill cranes.  It’s not unusual to see groups of 1,000 or more in the early morning or pre-dusk hours, as they roost in the farmlands.  Mostly we see adults, though sometimes you get a few teenagers.

DSC_6171-Edit-2Whenever I see sandhill cranes, I’m immediately taken back to one of my first encounters of fields of them, back at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, AK.  There’s few sights or sounds as beautiful as congregating and celebrating sandhills.  Don’t even get me going as to how fabulous they are when courting.  🙂DSC_6223-Edit-Edit-2Home in Colorado now, I’ve had my share of “new” birds.  Now this doesn’t mean that these birds are “lifers” for me, but to have them share my immediate surroundings, has been a thrill.  One of them that I take great joy in viewing is the Steller’s Jay.  Such attitude it seems to possess with that fancy crested ‘do … I always stop to grab a shot or two when I see them.DSC_6503-Edit-2DSC_6516-2Often hanging out with the jays are the Clark’s Nutcrackers … also in the jay family, they’re quite social and beautiful as well.DSC_6384-2DSC_6413-2To say that I’ve seen my fair share of the Canada Goose is an understatement.  Some days it seems as though every field or body of water is filled with them.  I’ve delighted in watching and yes, hearing them as they arrive to any given lake or such.  Calling out, organizing themselves in that V-formation that they’re known for, as well as performing acrobatic maneuvers as they approach their landing … it’s all been fascinating to be part of.DSC_7463-Edit-Edit-2Now perhaps I’ve seen snow geese before, but if I did I probably didn’t realize what they were.  The snow goose has been a thrill to observe as well, though for the most part, I’ve found them to be a bit frustrating to photograph at a close proximity.  LOL.  Oh well, I’m sure that they don’t care.DSC_8480-2One day, though, they treated me to some nice captures.  Just wished that they spread themselves out a bit. DSC_8500-Edit-Edit-2I just loved the way they swam about, walked the shoreline, preened themselves, and took floating naps on the waters surface.  So very beautiful they were._DSC3771-Edit-2Not a stranger to me was the pied-billed grebes which I see regularly in Colorado as well as I did in Florida.DSC_8671-2When the white-crowned sparrow is in the area, you cannot ignore or mistake its song, movement, or sight.  Though I’ve seen them in FL occasionally, they seem to be everyday sightings here.  DSC_8694-Edit-Edit-2The Western scrub jay, which is now referred to as the Woodhouse’s scrub jay, is another bird that I’ve taken a delight to.  This particular one was taken on a very cold day, so it was a bit fluffed up, resembling more of a mountain bluebird!  LOLDSC_8843-Edit-2Now all of these birds already shared doesn’t mean that there aren’t any 4-legged wildlife out in the area.  How about this one?  Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful (or handsome) coyotes I had ever seen.  ❤DSC_8740-2One last look back at me before it trotted off into the wilderness.  Loved it!DSC_8745-2Cousins to the bighorn sheep, only a smaller version, the desert bighorn sheep are always a fun way to spend a day.  By now, the females have most likely dropped their young, so this shot reminds me that I need to return to the scene to check things out again.DSC_9072-2Of course this area is home to many herds of mule deer.  This particular guy had one of the most fascinating, though quite odd, set of antlers.  Has anyone ever seen anything like that before?  I mean, within the mule deer?DSC_6298-2About an hour or so east of Fruita is the town of Rifle, CO, home to Rifle Falls State Park.  Rifle Falls is a triple waterfall amidst the natural stone formations found in the area.  So unique and quite a thrill to photograph when the frost forms on the accompanying rocks and vegetation._DSC3697-2_DSC3699-2So, I hope that you enjoyed a peek into the beauty that surrounds me in western Colorado.  As I now enter a 3rd season here, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  🙂

Next Up:  The San Juan Mountains

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Can You Ever Tire Of The Tetons?

One of the many reasons why we wanted to move out west, was to be closer to the wilderness areas of the west that we love so much.  After we got a bit “settled in” (which incidentally is still a work in progresss), we decided it was time to head out west and north a bit.  We made the 7 hr drive to Jackson … and Grand Teton National Park in WY.

Of course, the ride out when you’re traveling out somewhere is always part of the journey.  Since we had never driven from Fruita to Jackson, it was all fresh and new to us.  One of the most interesting and quite beautiful places that we traveled through was Flaming Gorge Reservoir and recreation areas.  It connects to the Flaming Gorge Dam and is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.  Even on this very overcast day in the early fall, it was spectacular.

_DSC2985-Edit_DSC2997-EditEn route to Pinedale, WY, which was our stopping point for the night, we encountered lots of wildlife nearby.  A herd of pronghorn antelope ladies were spotted just off in the distance … and as you can see they spotted us too.DSC_2732Of course, their male counterpart was nearby and overseeing his harem, which I’m sure he worked hard to gather.  To me, pronghorn are such interesting looking creatures, with their fancy horns and all … like crowns on their heads.  LOLDSC_2760Of course, deer were numerous and looking to establish harems of ladies of their own.DSC_2831To my surprise, we also encountered wild horses.  We only spotted two in the near vicinity, but they sure were majestic looking.  Is it just me, or is there something super special about them?DSC_2884The next morning we ventured into Grand Teton NP, met up my good friend Jen, and first made our way to the Jenny Lake area, including some of the outlying places as well.  It was such a fabulous, sunny day, and the perfect temperature as well._DSC9884About that time, we met up with some friends, Phil & Rodney, who were unexpectedly in Yellowstone NP and bummed that they didn’t get good views of the Tetons when they were there just a few days earlier.  Nothing that a quick phone call couldn’t fix … and soon we were meeting up with them at the iconic Oxbow Bend.  I mean, views like this were well worth the drive back, don’t you think?  _DSC0013-Edit-Edit_DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditAfter spending some time there, drooling about the views, we all decided to go try to find  some bears.  After all, I had been in a bit of a “bear drought” lately and eager to find some.  We encountered a grizzly boar grazing in the brush and had him to ourselves for a few minutes before others spotted the action.  While it was exciting to find and photograph him … as it kept grazing with its head DOWN, not UP.  LOLDSC_3385Then it was time to find some other gems on this gorgeous autumn day.  Before long, the clouds started forming low and the results were amazing._DSC0042-EditThe next day, we came across lots of wildlife … including the distant but quite beautiful view of a bull elk walking away from us.  It was OK with me because, I mean, how beautiful was this view, with the fog and moody sky in the distance?  I was thrilled.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, a highlight for us, was finding this feisty red fox … pretty much almost to ourselves!  This fox worked the sage brush so hard, digging away at it roots, as it hunted for little squirrels and such.  It never stopped even … like the Everyready Bunny it was.  So entertaining.  I did have one problem … too much lens!  Good problem, I know!DSC_3500-Edit-2Oh, they say the eyes have it and that was never so true as this guy (or gal).  They had me in a trance!  LOLDSC_3502-Edit-EditWell, whatever it found and munched just before this shot, must have been good, as it licked its chops.DSC_3574Bison are always a welcomed sighting when in the Tetons.  I think we caught this group during Siesta Time.  LOL_DSC3184-Edit At one point though, we found ourselves in our car quite close to a few that were quite ready to engage in some fighting.  I was amazed at how powerful they were and amused at how when two dominant bison were sparring, there was usually another (the “ref”?) nearby observing them._DSC3156Of course, no bison photo op is never complete without the shot of the tongue sticking out … whether up its nose or not.  DSC_3668Lots of pronghorn antelope were present and gathered up in harems, which the male protected at all costs.DSC_3706We watched as several times the male chased away other males trying to get a few recruits within his harem.  This guy would have none of that!DSC_3730The mule deer bucks were gathered up together in the wet field, as the weather changed quite a bit between day one and two.DSC_4712DSC_4050DSC_4415More bull elk were coming out, but it was weird because we heard very little bugling, which I was a bit disappointed about.  Still, to witness these big guys roaming in the wilderness was exciting.DSC_3456On the third day, it began to snow a little, then quite a lot … those big giant snowflakes … and it gave the area a whole new look.  Gorgeous!_DSC0143-EditWhile I was quite thrilled with the unexpected snowfall, I don’t think this belted kingfisher was as pleased.  Poor thing was spotted on a ramp to the water and looked quite cold.DSC_5296Snow falling adds so much to an image in the Tetons, I think.  We encountered several bull moose and a female with a juvenile with her, as they made some fast time crossing the landscape and off into the mass of autumn-kissed trees they went.DSC_5408-EditWell, until next time when we return in early spring, I’ll leave everyone with that last look that I got from the active red fox … so cute … I can never resist an image of an animal walking away.  DSC_3619Hope that you enjoyed sharing our autumn trip to the Tetons with us.  It should be noted that in 2017, the fall colors never really arrived, and most of it was unseasonably late.  You just never know.  🙂  Thanks so much to Jen, Phil, and Rodney for sharing our fun with us.  It’s always better with friends!

Next up:  The Colorado Verson of Autumn

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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

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