The Birds, Wildlife, & Stars of the Mesa

One of our favorite places to go not too far from our home base is the grand Mesa Wilderness.  It’s only about 1/2 hr to the exit off I-70, then about another 1/2 hr all of the way to the top.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of fun stuff from the canyon floor to the Mesa vista to see … to the contrary, there are subjects to see all along the way.  On this couple of days in late spring, I thought I would share some fun images.

I was speaking to someone today about birds that you see in one locale (i.e. state) that you don’t in another … such birds are what I call “ho hum” birds … the ones that are quite plentiful.  See, when i lived in south Florida, I loved to see white-crowned sparrows, since I didn’t see them all of the time … or hardly there at all.  Here we see them pretty much all over … and in all stages.

500_4923Then there’s the pine siskin … a never seen (usually) bird in south Florida, but another uite common bird in the western Colorado geography.  I have been having a great time photographing them.500_4733500_4749The western kingbird is a beautiful flycatcher, which is common here and known to winter in south Florida … that doesn’t mean that I’ve photographed one there … for I wasn’t known for my knowledge of “non-raptor” birds.  LOL850_4386Some birds which migrate through Florida during migration, actually spend their summers here in Colorado … such as the beautiful yellow warbler.  500_4840During the summer, they nest here and that’s when my skills as a bird ID’er really get challenged … fledglings are seemingly everywhere.500_4770I absolutely love the yellow-dumped or Audubon’s warblers.  They have the most striking combination of black, gray, and white, with a sprinkling of beautiful yellow as well (this is the male).

500_5064Speaking of beautiful … the lazuli bunting summers here as well and it’s quite a thrill for me to see it when I’m out and about.  I was fortunate even to get a few who visited my back yard feeder.500_5354Singing birds are such fun to encounter as well.500_5506Not only do we have western kingbirds, but we also have eastern kingbirds (OK, truth be told I THINK that this is an image of one … but even if it isn’t, we do have them).850_4167Of course, my favorite of all types of birds are the ones in the raptor heading.  All kinds of raptors … from hawks to owls to eagles to falcons and everything in between.  Prairie falcons are quite fascinating raptors in the falcon family.  We never had them in Florida, so I’ve learned a lot about them lately.  It nests on cliffs and can often be found there or searching for prey on the prairies.850_4268850_4319The most common raptor we have is the red-tailed hawk.  Contrary to belief not all red-tailed hawks actually have red tails, but you can be pretty sure if you see a red tail, that’s what it is.  Other clues are things like belly bands and patterns on the back of the birds when perched.850_4096Wait a minute … now that’s not a raptor or even a bird.  Actually when up on the Mesa, Tom enjoys flying his RC glider sailplanes.  LOL.  It’s always fun to hear people talking about it when they see it flying about.850_4345Of course, the Mesa is not only birds.  In fact, there are lots of wildlife species up there too.  There are smaller animals such as the squirrels and the chipmunks … which have been quite habituated.850_4352500_4055850_4356850_4370Several times we’ve also encountered some nice healthy-looking coyote.  It always amazing me how they freeze their action when spotted until they assess that you’re not a threat … at which time they go about their normal day and hunting.850_4157Then there are yellow-bellied marmot and in the late spring, there are lots of them.  Both adults and their young can be found scurrying about.  Of course, the interactions of the young are simply fabulous to observe.  Sometimes their play fighting takes on quite the realistic look.  LOL500_5587-EditLike pika, young marmot gather up grasses and run their payload into the cracks and crevices of the rock piles they live in.500_5836-EditThen there’s the nighttime skies over the Grand Mesa.  Trust me, it gets pretty dark up there and it’s fabulous to take in some astro photography up there.  If not, you can still enjoy the millions of stars and the Milky Way as it rises over the night sky.  The perfect way to end the day … or I should say night … on the Mesa.850_4473-EditNext Up:  A favorite Colorado pastime in the autumn

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Advertisements

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

Colorado’s Highline Lake State Park

Colorado State Parks consists of 42 individual parks which highlight the natural beauty and outdoor adventure experiences of Colorado, giving the public much to be proud of and lots of recreational opportunities.  Highline Lake State Park in Loma is one of the closest to us … just a mere 13 rural miles.  Needless to say, we go there a lot.

As the name implies, the park consists of two lakes, Highline Lake and Mesa Lake.  Recreational opportunities include boating, SUP’ing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even mountain biking.  Tom rides the trails out there … Debbie goes out to explore and photograph nature … all is good!

DSC_2381Birding is big there too.  In the summer and fall, many birds use the lakes for feeding, such as the terns, eagles, osprey, etc.DSC_2251DSC_2238Western meadowlarks can also be seen buzzing around the landscape.DSC_2281In mid-September, you can already begin to see some of the early seasonal changes in the landscape._DSC2969_DSC2979-EditEven the bunny rabbits seem to be out enjoying the beautiful days.DSC_2325Sometimes, when the water level is just right, shorebirds run up and down the shoreline.  This killdeer and its mate are quite noisy as they nervously run about, trying to avoid the camera’s lens.DSC_2387No one can miss it when the yellowlegs fly in … as their announcement is loud.  LOL.  Once landed though, I don’t think he liked the spot, so it left soon afterwards.DSC_2367The short-billed dowitcher didn’t seem to mind my presence and wasn’t shy in approaching me since that’s where it wanted to feed.DSC_2485The detail in its feathers were incredibly fascinating and the light played in its eye.DSC_2436Hanging out with it was this semi-palmated sandpiper … seemingly going left when the dowitcher went left and right when it went right.  I guess it figured it was safer that way perhaps or maybe playing clean up.DSC_2480Either way, it sure was equally beautiful, especially when its image was reflected on the surface of the water below.DSC_2498As I mentioned, perhaps they were hanging around together for safety, as the red-tailed hawks were numerous and quite actively flying overhead.DSC_5801-EditDSC_5815Of course, on the softer side of things, the northern flicker woodpecker also calls the trees within the park home.  Usually for me woodpeckers seem to run me in circles around trees, as they run in circles around them too foraging insects.  However, on this day at least, this flicker gave me a bit of a break and sat still and alert for a brief few seconds.  Thanks!DSC_5865-Edit-2As the month rambled on, the colors began to emerge and it was actually quite breathtaking._DSC0267The only thing that was prettier that the actual view from afar of the seasonal color changes was that of its reflection.  It made the vision and joy twice as nice!_DSC0270-Edit-Edit-EditEspecially when you zoom in and get more of the details of the view.  This is how I like to remember the lakefront of Highline Lake.  I wish I could keep it looking like this forever._DSC3321-EditI waited for this one to get into the reflection of the golden trees … just also wished it would have been closer.  I guess you can’t have everything, but at this moment, it seemed like it was enough.  🙂DSC_6127I hope that you enjoyed getting to “know” Highline Lake State Park too.  More to come from this park on a later blog, so stay tune.

Next up:  It’s all so Grand, in the Tetons that is  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Nothing Like Young Burrowing Owls

Having a feeling that we might not be living full time in Florida next year, I made sure that I had “quality time” with my burrowing friends … the owls.  Each year, the burrows and owls are often different and this year, nothing could have been more true.  Like all wildlife, some owls are more “social” and required more personal space than others.  In Florida, they are protected and the state mandates a safe viewing distance … that being said, the best rule of thumb after that is careful observation of the owl and watching for signs of distress or changes in behavior.

Other differences easily noted are the varied eye colors.  Usually I see the normal yellow and some with darker brownish eyes, but this year it seemed that there were all the colors in between as well.  This adult had those greenish brown eyes and his mate had yellow eyes.DSC_0120This little owlet was one of their babies (of 2) and as you can clearly see, it possessed those traditional yellow eyes, as did its sibling.  These owls run a tidy ship and are frequently clearing out the opening to the burrow … sending lots of sand into the face and eyes of an onlooker.DSC_0147Even with just 2 babies, one is almost always clearly braver, or more inquisitive, than the other.  Before long, you know exactly which one you’re dealing with.DSC_0253Owls are predators and possess sharp pointed beaks and claws, along with feet that are quite strong.  Some are better hunters than others and it isn’t long before the little ones try to join in one the fun.DSC_0301The first feathers of the young owlets begin to be overtaken by more mature ones.DSC_0413While the feathers change, those big bright eyes never do.  🙂  Wonder what it’s so intent on spying in the air?  Let’s see….DSC_0454So it’s a hawk flying overhead and I as well get nervous.  Though I’ve seen it (and hope that I never will), they have been known to swoop on it and grab young birds, including these owlets.  Usually the parents are quite aware and send an instantaneous alert for everyone to go into the burrow.DSC_2254Owls can be fascinating to observe and I’ve spent many mornings or afternoons (or both) with them.  I just love it when the ruffle up their feathers … usually preceded or proceeded by a bow and a poop.DSC_0781By far, a favorite time of mine is when the little ones first discover their feet and claws.  You can literally see their wheels turning as they investigate them … they pick them up, open them, close them, sometimes even turn them upside down and eventually put them down again.  Often, they do it repeatedly.  Reminds me of our own young when they discover their toes.  🙂DSC_0472Feeding ones mate and the hungry family is a never-ending task.  Crickets or beetles are often consumed.DSC_1071Sometimes frogs are on the daily assortment and this one was obviously caught earlier and cached for the right moment.DSC_0854Lizards aren’t safe from them either.  Often the male will taken them into the burrow for its mate, even if there are no babies apparent yet.  Young ones don’t emerge from the burrow for at least 10 days, so it might be that she’s attending to them … or the eggs.DSC_1107Super special is when they’re both up and they transfer the delicacy from one to the other.  It reminds me of a Lady and the Tramp moment … only with a frog instead of a strand of spaghetti.  🙂DSC_2506I think that owls get bored easily … for sometimes they just declare “war” on anything they can get their claws on.DSC_0621At this particular site, there are others present, like these resident monk parakeets.  They’re quite beautiful and noisy when they fly by.  This one was busy grabbing twigs to reinforce or build its nest.DSC_2907Sometimes people want to know which are the babies versus the adults.  Of course, when they’re both out, it’s generally easy to ID them by size.  However, there’s another dead giveaway … well except for those “hair plug” head feathers.  If you notice the adult (in the back) had a pattern to its feathers throughout its belly, while the baby doesn’t have the striations yet.  I call this the Kahlua look (OK, maybe that’s too much info … LOL).DSC_1301These young owlets are nothing if not curious … and they display all sorts of head angles when they’re trying to figure something out.DSC_3132Of course, the family unit shot is highly desired, but just like our own group shots, it’s difficult to get them all cooperate at the same time … let alone smile.  🙂DSC_1348When the kids are safe in the burrow, the parents take a few moments for themselves with some mutual grooming and “canoodling”  (OK, so I guess that’s a made up word).DSC_2673Not sure what was going on here, but this male must have been in trouble and offering some sort of peace offering to its mate.  “OK, will you forgive me if I share this mouse with you?”DSC_3858“If not, I’ll just eat it myself”.DSC_3979From an early age the owlets learn to recognize threats from above.DSC_0214This time, a red-tailed hawk.  DSC_3370No worry though from this parent … no alarm call for cover … just a stare down.  I wonder why?DSC_1266Owls have much better eyesight than humans and upon careful inspection in the viewfinder, I see why.  See, this red-tailed hawk already has snatched a poor unfortunate baby bird for its dinner.  (OK, I secretly hate this side of nature, but hawks have to eat too.)DSC_3370-2So the socializing above the burrow continues.  Dad soon takes flight not far from where I was photographing and I wondered why.DSC_3243I noticed that before long it flew, with great difficulty, back to the burrow.  Then I saw it … it had a bird of its own.  To this day, I’ve never seen one with a bird before.   I guess owls have to eat too. (no, not again) DSC_3566So my next favorite time with these young owlets is when they learn to use their wings to make short flights around the burrow.  This one was quite happy and worked hard to impress its sibling and dad.DSC_3686-Edit“Look what I can do!”DSC_3685-EditDSC_3687-EditDSC_3692Meanwhile at another burrow, the youngs ones were just beginning to emerge.  This time, both parents were yellow-eyed and the babies ran the gambit of eye color.  There was some discrepancy about this burrow too, as some say the pair might have changed after the new ones were hatched.DSC_2602DSC_4079So, that’s this installment of the burrowing owls of south Florida for 2017.  Lots more images to share, so stay tuned.  I mean, how could you not with these eyes?  🙂DSC_2756Next up:  A return to the wetlands

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com