January 19, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Time Flying By in the Desert

Yesterday I renewed for another two week stay here in the desert, been here a month now and am accomplishing pretty much nothing! Reading a few books, watching the ever increasing number of finches, sparrows, and doves at my feeder, and doing a little painting.

Though there have been a few grey, cloudy days and even a little rain, the weather here just can’t be beat! Every night, for a month now, the temperature drops to around 50 degrees, then warms back up to the high 60’s or low 70’s during the day, a wonderfully moderate range that just suits me to a  ” T “. If I had to design the perfect climate for year round living ( for me, at least ), this last month would be it. Now that we are into the new year, I am aware the temps will slowly start to rise and I will eventually be forced to move on, but for now, this is just paradise for me.

Male White Crowned Sparrow
Male White Crowned Sparrow

I’ve attached a couple of small dead branches to the side of my tray feeder so I can get some closeup shots of the birds that come in to feed. This is a male White Crowned Sparrow, one of probably a dozen or more that visit each day.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

A male House Finch. if they weren’t so numerous, they would probably be thought of as a particularly handsome and colorful bird. probably a half dozen of these guys showed up at the tray feeder when I first put it out, now there are probably more than forty at the feeder and on the ground beneath it at any one time.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

It took a week or so for the first doves to show up, a single pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and 4 or 5 Mourning doves. Like the Finches, the Mourning dove numbers have increased daily and now there are a couple dozen feeding on the ground beneath the tray feeder.

Mockingbird Drinking
Mockingbird Drinking

Since I am in the desert, perhaps the most popular item added to the feeder tray is this old tuna can of water. I usually have to fill this at least twice a day.

Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel
Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

In addition to the birds attracted to a free meal, at least four of these Harris’s Antelope Squirrels have shown up to chow down on seeds scattered on the ground. They appear to peacefully coexist with the ground feeding birds and the birds show no sign of wariness, often feeding shoulder to shoulder with these small rodents.

And finally, last week, a small covey of California Quail discovered the seed beneath the feeder. So far they have been very uncooperative photography subjects so I will hopefully post some shots of these comical little birds next post.

Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window
Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window

This is the view from my dinette window where I can keep an eye on the tray feeder and it is through this window that all of the above photos were shot. As I mentioned in the last post, I have found a quiet, fairly isolated spot here at the Imperial Dam LTVA and that is definitely adding to my enjoyment of this really inexpensive spot to while away the winter. In addition to the exquisite weather, this particular spot is blessedly quiet and peaceful, no noisy neighbors, no vehicle traffic, no intrusive lights … hard to believe I could find a spot where I had nothing to complain about.

Adventures in Acrylics

Brown Pelican Acrylic
Brown Pelican Acrylic

I have finally found the inspiration to attempt to resume my painting efforts. Although I had a little success selling watercolors and oils at my art gallery back in New Hampshire, I had only sold one or two small acrylic paintings. I have to admit I just found the medium difficult to handle, thus I would always fall back to doing oils and WC’s.

But with no large, well ventilated art studio now that I am full timing, oils are kind of out of the question and I really want to try and figure out how to handle these very frustrating acrylics.

Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic
Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic

So I thought  I might post some ( rather sorry, kind of embarrassing ) progress shots of my venture into acrylics. My reasoning being this might force me to continue working on these paintings rather than give up in frustration as I normally would … and I am getting very frustrated at this point. But if I have a small audience waiting to see a finished painting, my sense of pride will force me to continue on until I achieve some kind of satisfactory result. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I will get to show you a couple of decent, completed, acrylic paintings.

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October 12, 2016 North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Sunrise Angel Point
Sunrise Angel Point

Another Spot Checked Off the Bucket List

Left Red Canyon Campground around 8 AM for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and after Just three or four hours on the road (with a stop in Kanab for groceries and gas), I arrived at the National Forest’s DeMotte CG and luckily someone was just leaving Site #4, a pull through with solar and satellite access ( no trees ). Absolutely no Verizon here and it’s a 20 mile trip to the North Rim, but the North Rim CG is reserve only and completely full, of course, and too tree covered to work for me, so DeMotte CG it is for my North Rim stay.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Up before dawn the next day and made it to the North Rim Lodge area just before sunrise.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Took a few shots from the pathway around the lodge as the sun slowly rose and gradually brought the temperature above freezing.

North Rim Lodge
North Rim Lodge
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim Foliage
North Rim Foliage
Angel Point Pathway
Angel Point Pathway

I then took the short trail out to Angel Point, again doing more than a little huffing and puffing on the short hills due to the elevation of close to 9,000 feet.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

I really had hoped to get some nice shots of the unique Kaibab Squirrel, a subspecies of the Albert Squirrel, found only on the North Rim. Unfortunately, I didn’t see all that many, and the few I did encounter were very camera shy.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

That bushy white tail is something else!

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Angel’s Window

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

On my last day here, I took the road out to the Cape Royal vista point and walked out to the ” Angel’s Window ” overlook.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Now don’t get me wrong here, but I have never been all that overwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I mean, yes, it is a geological wonder, but I have just never been completely awed by the vistas from either the South Rim or from the lodge area of the North Rim.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

From the Angel’s Window area, I have to admit that I was impressed. I spent close to two hours here, until after the sun had actually set, and it was spectacular! Here, I can see why folks are so inspired by the Grand Canyon.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

If the North Rim is on your bucket list, then make sure you take in sunset at the Angel’s Window, the Grand Canyon at it’s best.

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September 2, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Elk Cow and Alpenglow
Elk Cow and Alpenglow

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmots here in the higher elevations of the park are numerous and fairly unconcerned with humans approaching, so not a terribly challenging wildlife subject, but cute nonetheless.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

I get a kick out of how they seem to love sunbathing in the first of the sun’s rays each morning.

The Sentry
The Sentry

They live in small colonies and usually one will assume guard duties while others forage.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

High Country Elk

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk

I have gotten a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of elk shots over the past few days. They seem to be moving down from the mountaintops this week and I have run into several groups heading down to their winter feeding grounds in the valleys below.

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise

Four Elk CowsFour Elk Cows

Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem

I have seen several large, very large bulls, escorting their harems down the slopes. A few of them are probably the largest I have ever seen.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

A full 14 points on this guy! And that bugle was very, very loud. This shot was taken at very close range … from the safety of my car.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

Needless to say, one must be very alert to when driving around up here these days as the elk are needing to cross the roads on their way down to the valleys below.

Scratching Post
Scratching Post

That post he is scratching his head on is one of many that were just put out this week to guide the snow plows … guess that’s a sure sign summer is over.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Charge
Bull Elk Charge
Uh-oh!
Uh-oh!

These shots just above may look quite alarming, but they were taken with my 600mm lens, and although it may look like I was in imminent danger, I wasn’t, his charge was actually directed at one of his harem, not me.

Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

Early morning, before all the cars and people get up here, the bugling elk are something to hear. I arrive at the top just at daybreak when the elk are most active and am very glad that few people are ambitious enough to get on the road by 5:30 to catch all the action. As I am leaving the park at 10  or 11 in the morning, I pass long, long lines of cars at the entrance booths, usually a hundred or more, plus a steady bumper to bumper crowd all the way back to town.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Cow
Bull Elk and Cow
That Time of Year
That Time of Year
Bull Elk
Bull Elk

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August 30, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

A Beautiful Morning at the Top of the World

Up and out at 5:15 every morning lately, climbing the mountain road in the dark and arriving at the top just as the first rays of the morning sun start to light up the mountains. The cloudy, overcast skies of the past week broke today, producing some of the nicest weather since my arrival here … oh, and along with the nice break in the weather, i am finally finding the elk up high in the mountains.

Elk in the Valley
Elk in the Valley

The image above, and the one just below were taken at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. Behind the Center is a deep valley where the elk seem to gather in the very early morning. I have also seen four bull moose bed down there in the evening. It is a long way down.

Elk at the Bottom of the Valley
Elk at the Bottom of the Valley
Elk Herding Harem
Elk Herding Harem

There is a footpath and steps to the mountaintop from the parking lot at the Center. Seeing a bull elk pushing his harem up the mountain there, I decided I would climb to the top and perhaps be in position to get some nice shots. It is probably no more than 250  feet of elevation change from the parking lot to the top of the mountain, at a slope you can see in the images of the elk climbing.

Elk
Elk
Bull Elk and Part of His Harem
Bull Elk and Part of His Harem

I wanted to get to the top before the elk so I could get some shots of them with the sun to my back instead of shooting into the sun as these climbing images were shot.

The Harem
The Harem

But since this short climb was at 12,000 feet, I never did get ahead of the elk, since I had to stop and attempt to get my breath every 30 steps or so.

The Harem
The Harem

At the top, I did get this one image of the stragglers just making the summit, and staring at the photographer who was making all these gasping for air sounds.

Pika
Pika

Just a couple of more pika shots, taken while I waited in vain for a good shot of the long-tailed weasel.

Pika
Ouch!

I have no idea how this little guy can chomp down on this piece of what I am guessing is some sort of nettle.

Pika
That Has Got To Hurt

He made several trips down to the plant, ripped off a leaf and struggled with it back up to his den. Must be some kind of delicacy, since I can’t imagine that it would be used for bedding.

Pika Warning Call
Pika Warning Call

The shot above is of a pika letting out some kind of greeting ( ? ) or warning ( ? ) call.

Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel

Maybe letting others know the long-tailed weasel was in the vicinity. Not a very good shot of him, but the only one I got. I was unprepared for his appearance way down the hill and had my 70-200mm lens on for the close by pikas. By the time I changed to a longer lens, he was long gone.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

While I sit on the roadside wall taking pika shots, the yellow-bellied marmots quite often get very close, sometimes within just a few feet.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

What a Day!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

By 9 AM, I had to quit trying for animal shots and just concentrate on the magnificent clouds and mountains. I had been waiting for a week to finally get a morning like this.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

The clouds were just spectacular!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

As always, the camera just can’t quite capture the felling of space and distance, but today was truly something special up here at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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