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

Owls Here & There

A few years ago, Tom & I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, where we photographed a  great horned owl nest.  I remember it like it was yesterday … the owl was snuggly situated into the nest, which was swaying in the breeze.  I delighted in seeing it … though it pretty much remained motionless.  So when we returned to RMNP, Tom’s first comments to me were “We should go find that owls nest”, to which I thought he was crazy that we could ever remember exactly where it was.

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However, after just a few moments, he did just do that!  (How in the world do guys do that?!)

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Sure enough, the female great horned owl was situated in the nest, but this time (several weeks later than the last time we visited), she was sitting high.  I wondered if she might have some eggs or even better, some babies under there.  Trying to do everything possible to not attract a circus of on-lookers, I set up my tripod a bit out of the way from the local traffic.

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Before long, I could see that she had at least one baby owlet in the nest with her.  It was real young too, as evidenced by its fuzzy white appearance.

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It would snuggle up to her every now and then and almost seem to get up on its tippytoes to peer over the confines of the nest.  I was in heaven!

Over the course of the several days that we watched her and what turned out to be at least 2 babies, we never did see the male, though we did one night observe her leaving the nest.

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I feared for the worse … could it be that something happened to the male?  If so, how would she feed herself and her young?  Other photographers and observers in the area said that they hadn’t seen the dad either.  Yet I saw a smorgasbord of nutritious offerings  within the nest … the remnants of a northern flicker, a somewhat intact bunny rabbit – perhaps even two of them.  Something must be helping this poor mom out.

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Sensing my concern and knowing that he was going to have to deal with my distress about where the dad is, Tom went off into the woods looking for “signs” of the dad’s presence.  See, we recently had a lot of experienced tracking owls in our mango tree at home, as we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls and their 3 young owlets (more on that in a later post).  He was gone for quite some time, but surprised me with his findings when he returned.  The first thing that he asked was whether the female had just left the nest within the last few minutes.  When I replied that it hadn’t, he assured me that he had then indeed just witnessed the male flying from a nearby tree when he approached it.  At that same site, he found numerous poops and pellets on the ground.  Of course, being the curious soul that he is, he discovered partial bones and fur from a recent meal, along with an entire intact skull of an unfortunate victim, which served as “dinner”.  Yes, all was deemed good, knowing that the owl kingdom was intact itself!  I sure was relieved.  🙂

In addition to that particular nest, we also found another one in town, but this one wasn’t nesting in a tree, but in a rocky ledge of a “natural wall” inside town.

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Now this one was much more difficult for me to photograph, especially since Tom didn’t want me setting up my tripod and camera/lens at the site, trying also not to attract a crowd.  So there I was … in our rental car, all crammed up with my camera, 500 mm lens, and teleconverter … in all sorts of positions, trying to get the shot.

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This particular one was almost impossible to determine if it had a baby owlet already or not, as the cavity was toward the wall and we were unsure of how far it went back.  We never did see any young … yet, though we did witness it dining on a local delicacy of some poor unfortunate grayish bird, as evidenced nicely in its beak.

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For those of you who know me personally … know that I absolutely adore ALL owls … barred, barn, great gray, screech, burrowing, snowy, and of course, the great horned owls as well.  So it’s safe to say that I ended my trip with a huge smile on my face.

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Future blogs will feature some of the other wonderful places that we visited on this most recent trip.  Keep your eye on the lookout for the next post.

 

© 2014  TNWA Photography

Rocky Mountain High … in Colorado

Where does the time go???

Just a short 5 weeks ago, Tom & I took a quick trip out to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  We had so many places that we wanted to go … so many things that we wanted to see … and so much that we wanted to experience.  It truly was the syndrome that we’re all so painfully aware of – “not enough time in the day” … or in this trip’s case, not enough time in the night as well.

This blog post will cover many of the sightings and experiences that we encountered within Rocky Mountain National Park, which was actually, the last place that we visited on the trip.  After spending time with a variety of landscape locations, I found myself chasing “MLB”s  (aka Miscellaneous Little Birds) and even lizards … anything to get in touch with wildlife again.  🙂

When we arrived into the Estes Park area and immediately noticed evidence of last years flood, which so devastated it, as well as many of the surrounding roads and communities. Out of respect to those affected, no images will be shared of the destruction.  Much work has been done, though it continues to evolve.  All in all, the communities truly seemed to bond over their misfortune.

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Try as we might, we failed to find the usual bighorn sheep that normally call the Big Thompson Canyon area their home.  We did however, encounter several groups of bighorns in Estes Park itself.  Sometimes they were out grazing the landscape …

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… other times they were simply resting and digesting.

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Since we were there in the “slow season”, many of the area accommodations were either closed or had limited business, so often the sheep made their hang-out in normally human-populated areas.  Just loved this shot, where the local magpies shared the grooming duties.

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Iconic to RMNP itself are the elk who live there.  I remember clearly how excited I was when I first caught a glimpse of my first elk in the wild, many years ago (not saying how many to protect my dignity – LOL), within the boundaries of RMNP.  Though the bulls had already dropped their antlers, they had already begun to sport their new nubs and before long, they will be displaying their racks again.

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In addition, we saw numerous packs of mule deer, but according to the locals, they have been declining in numbers in the area.  Even saw a bear! … well, sort of.  🙂

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There was also a variety of bird sightings … a sampling of hawks were spotted over the vast landscape – some returning methodically to nearby nests, though we couldn’t document the status of any babies in the nests.

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One of my favorite local birds for RMNP is the Steller’s Jay.  Got to love a bird with all of that beautiful blue and black colors, trademark markings, and that spunk of a hairdo!  LOL.

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One evening, as we were driving along the park road, which was obviously closed for the winter still for a direct route through the park, we encountered this turkey just wandering the road.  It was quite humorous as we kept catching up with it, but tried to give it the “right of way”.  Over the course of the next few days, we ran into numerous flocks (if you call it that) of turkeys and could hear them calling out relentlessly.

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Of course, there were plenty of geese to go around also.

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We probably spent the most time with the great horned owls, and their young, and that will be the focus of the next blog post.  Watch for it!

In the meanwhile, I leave you with “some advice from an elk” (as seen on a local poster):

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© 2014  TNWA Photography