The Winter That “Wasn’t” :-)

This week, the blog post will be short & sweet … just like our first winter in Colorado was.  LOL.  I’m serious … if you blinked your eye, you might just have missed it!  At first I thought it was just me, but even seasoned locals said that this was the mildest winter they had ever experienced.  For the girl from south Florida, who craved some winter snow and chill, well, it just figured.

What I found so weird though was how erratic the snow pattern was, even when it did snow.  See, one day we were up on the Monument and I looked down on the valley … east and west.  I could see all of this “white” cover to the extreme west.  It looked like snow, but we have minerals out here in the soil which sometimes look like snow.  We decided to check it out.

As we appraoched Loma, just west of Fruita, we could see that it was in fact snowfall … and a beautiful snow cover it was.  Making it even more fun was our viewing of these amazing sheep which were running through the snowy landscape.

DSC_9507DSC_9516We arrived at Highline Lake State Park in Loma, CO and found not just the bare trees of winter, but the landscape was covered in probably 4 or so inches of snow as well.  This was th winter scene that I expected._DSC3928-EditThe bluffs covered in snow was beautifully mirrored on the surface of the lake as well._DSC3934-Edit-EditThe Book Cliff mountains off in the distance were crisp and clear. _DSC3938The views almost reminded me of Florida … if the snowy landscape had just been sand on the beach or around a lake.  It was so beautiful with the glistening of the snow and icicles all around.  For a few hours, I didn’t feel “cheated” of my winter.  After all, I knew that in the high desert landscape I now call home, wouldn’t afford tons of snow … but I never expected what I got._DSC3947-EditEven as we drove home from the park, we noticed that the snowfall stopped about a mile or two from our home.  Dang … looks like we’re going have to move a few miles west.  LOL.  I’m not sure why any of this surprised me.  See in Florida, it can be raining in your front yard and not in your back yard … so snowfall would be no different.

Soon, we were greeted by the songbirds in the bare trees, like this wonderful western meadowlark.  Both beautiful … but gosh, I sure hope I get some more snow next year.  🙂

DSC_9596Next Up:  Maybe there will be more snow out in Lake Tahoe … we’ll see.

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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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

Mesa County Exploring

As many of you know, we recently bought a home in Colorado.  So, it’s only fitting to share some images from some of our early days in town … whether still scoping a home  or after we moved out.

No one can talk about western slope and forgo the mentioning of the Colorado National Monument.   “The Monument” is a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) made up of canyons  etched in the sandstone and granite red rock formations.   One enters the park either through the east (Grand Junction) or the west (Fruita) and drives along the 14-mile high desert road, which features amazing landscapes like these._DSC2900-EditWhile some of the views overlook the valley floor below, some illustrate the grandeur of the landscape and the unique formations it possesses._DSC2905-Edit_DSC2237The Monument is home to a variety of trees, plants, insects, reptiles, birds and of course mammal wildlife, such as my favorite desert bighorn sheep.  We often find them grazing on the landscape and have even seen them congregating together and participating in some early sparing.  Believe it or not, when they ram heads, it echoes throughout the canyon.DSC_9501-EditViews from the pullouts are varied by the turn, by the season, by the time of day, and the weather.  So far, no day has been the same as another._DSC2156Even the birds have been different for me.  DSC_4436Of course, familiar bird “friends” also have shown up … like the osprey and bald eagles.DSC_4331A bit more surprising for me to see is the great blue herons also flying around.  They’re not on every corner like they are in Florida, but they’re also not unusual to see.  DSC_4357While out and about one morning, I heard a familiar sound … a meadowlark … but a western meadowlark.DSC_0416-Edit-EditNot to be confused with the horned lark, which was a new bird for me.DSC_0431Often seen are the rabbits which roam about and the prairie dogs which are seemingly everywhere.DSC_0403Yep, this is my new home … somewhere … out there … under that rainbow._DSC2201Next up:  More burrowing owls … so cute I can’t stay away (or forget)  🙂

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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

http://www.tnwaphotography.com