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

A Passion & Cuteness Alert

Everyone knows that I LOVE BEARS of all types.  Most people know that I ADORE OWLS of all types.  Not sure if everyone knows how much MY HEART MELTS FOR CRANES … but it does, especially sandhill cranes and their young.  🙂  So when I learned about a loving pair of SHCs that were raising a newborn, I knew what I had to do … that was to jump in my car and drive up to my next photography shoot, starring this young colt.  I was so excited and left so quickly that I forgot my ID, my wallet, and had no money, debit, or credit card on me.  Not even a red cent was in my car.  No biggie, right?  Just turn around and pick it up, right?  Well, I was already about an hour or so north when I realized it and it was about 4:30 AM!  Would I even have enough gas to get me home?  Quick thinking, I called and prayed that Tom would answer the phone.  Yes!  Poor Tom was sleeping and probably in mid-dream when I abruptly woke him up and off to the rescue he went, as we coordinated our progress and met at the precise location where we would both intersect on the road.  So, big time THANKS to Tom … not only my sherpa (though on this day, he was relieved of duty), but also my courier.  He’s absolutely the BEST!

Now, back to these cranes…. when I arrived fashionably late, to meet up with Jess and Michael, there it was … the Birthday Boy … 1 Week Old!  The lone offspring to this beautiful pair.  It was resting on the grass as mom and day were foraging.

_DSC7895As they would make their way to better “bug locations”, so too went the little colt, which Jess nicknamed Uno._DSC8187As wonderful as it was to see the little one exploring its new home, it was also fascinating to hear the parents calling out in a duet of unison calls.  I become desperate to “imprint” their song into my memory bank._DSC8190Of course, all of this louding calling out was puzzling little Uno and I don’t think he knew what to make of it.  (Note:  I have no idea if Uno is a male or female, but I will call it a “he” for now)._DSC8206Bugs … It’s What’s For Dinner.  🙂  The pair took turns finding some tasty morsels to share with Uno.  It wasn’t an easy feat to feed him either as he would repeatedly refuse or drop it.  The parents would have to mash it up a bit more and offer it to him numerous times before it finally ate it._DSC8215We tried to get down low as we photographed this little cutie.  It was quite alert to its surroundings and stayed pretty close to mom and dad._DSC7960It was a virtual smorgasbord of bugs too, which we could quickly see Uno had a few favorites._DSC8084All of this feeding and catching up made poor Uno tired … sometimes a nap ensued, while other times Uno just gave in to a good stretch of its still developing wings._DSC7977It’s so amazing the body size to foot size ratio of these guys.  Often those big feet would get tangled up in the grasses and brush and over Uno would go.  LOL_DSC8025Thank goodness I brought along 2 camera bodies because sometimes they got really close to us.  They really didn’t seem to mind us, as we sat still for the most part, though sometimes we got up, giving them their freedom to roam wherever they pleased._DSC8441Is this just not the cutest face ever?_DSC8395As if that sweet face wasn’t enough, sometimes Uno would wander into the pretty wildflowers in the area and really offer a great shot._DSC8293Now where in the world is this guy going?  When they get up their energy and run, I can’t contain myself and begin to laugh, making shooting a bit difficult._DSC8330Oh, it’s that big, juicy worm, which mom or dad dropped in front of Uno._DSC8454As you can see, those worms were definitely a hit!_DSC8471Yes, I’ve mentioned before that I’m a self-proclaimed “CRANIAC”.  How could anyone not love them?  I mean, they were even blessed with that red heart, so identifiable, on the top of their heads.  🙂_DSC7896Being the only child, I would expect that Uno would grow up quickly.  I sure hope that Uno grows up to be a big beautiful crane … and I can only hope to be reunited one day with him, perhaps photographing its own offspring._DSC7999Well, got to go …. thanks for the memories Uno!_DSC8144

Next Up:  More photography and stories in the area between Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography