Category Archives: Ground squirrel

August 22, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

St. Elmo Hummingbird Feeder

St. Elmo Hummingbird Feeder

Day Trip to Saint Elmo, Pronghorns and Bighorn Sheep

Love the feeder hangers at the general store in the ghost town of St. Elmo, if I weren’t homeless, I’d have to find some of these to hang around my house.

St. Elmo General Store

St. Elmo General Store

Other than the general store, there really isn’t all that much to see in St. Elmo, though I did get a kick out of the assortment of rodents being fed in the fallen down remnants of a building across the street from the general store.

St. Elmo Feeding Area

St. Elmo Feeding Area

Two kinds of ground squirrel, least chipmunks, pine siskins, and  juncos, all gorging on sunflower seeds.

White Rock Mountains

White Rock Mountains

On the road up to St. Elmo, I passed these white rock mountains, quite stunning set against the Colorado blue sky.

White Rock Mountains

White Rock Mountains

White Rock Mountains

White Rock Mountains

Along the Back Road to Leadville

Along the Back Road to Leadville

Rather than drive the main highway from my campsite at Lakeview, I found a “shortcut” that went up and over the hills and then paralleled the highway as it made it’s way to Leadville. I drove this road several times after seeing pronghorns in the distance one morning.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Finally, one afternoon I ran into the herd moving at a fast clip along the ridge between the dirt road and the highway.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

The lone male takes up a guard position in the rear and drives his harem toward a new grazing area.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

So fortunate to catch them as they stopped atop this ridge gazing back at me, before disappearing down the hill.

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

On my last early morning trip up to Independence Pass, I came across a small band of bighorn ewes with a solitary lamb, kind enough to pose for a couple shots before slowly grazing up the side of the mountain.

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

I broke camp at Lakeview and drove 6 miles south to spend one night at the Clear Creek Reservoir dispensed camping area before heading north to Estes Park for a couple weeks of exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Being more than a little concerned about the motorhome’s ability to climb the 8 mile grade on I-70 up to the Eisenhower Tunnel, I managed to find a shop in Buena Vista that could take me in to have the ignition wires and spark plugs replaced. For the last month or so, I could feel the engine sputtering a bit under heavy load and realized that I definitely was experiencing a loss of power. Anyone familiar with the Workhorse Vortex 8.1L engine would recognize the probable cause of this power loss … this is the fourth set of wires and plugs I have had done in 65,000 miles. A couple years ago, I finally had the Workhorse recommended fix for this installed, a pair of 3 inch fresh air lines that direct cool air up and back to the rear of the engine. I had hoped that would cure the problem, but obviously it did not, though it possibly did extend the time interval between having to replace ignition wires and spark plugs.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

August 12, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

A Day Trip Over Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Yet another wonderful blue sky Colorado day so I was up early and headed south to travel the road over Cottonwood Pass.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Early Morning Fishermen

Early Morning Fishermen

In my Colorado Benchmark Atlas, I noticed a note on the map showing a Mountain Goat Viewing Area down a side road off the road to the pass, so I ventured down that-away. The viewing area was on the opposite side of the road from this small lake, dotted with early morning fisherman.

A Pair of Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels

A Pair of Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels

Now there certainly was some very mountain “goaty” looking terrain down the road, but the only wildlife I encountered were these two ground squirrels. I spent quite a bit of time scanning the vertical cliffs above the road with my binos, but did not find any goats.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

As was the case with my trip over Independence Pass a couple of days ago, the scenery along the road was nothing short of breathtaking.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

The road is paved all the way to the pass  ( elevation 12,126′ ) from the east side and turns into a fairly wide, pretty much great gravel road down the west side. There are some switchbacks on the west side and short sections of washboarded surface, but all in all, a good gravel road, as witnessed by the number of large 5th wheels and motorhomes traversing the route to Taylor Park Reservoir.

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

I wonder if this scenery eventually gets taken for granted by folks that live here?

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Taylor Reservoir From Cottonwood Pass

Taylor Reservoir From Cottonwood Pass

This is a distant shot of Taylor Park Reservoir where there are two campgrounds, a primitive one at the north end with 6 or 7 nice flat level pull throughs for large rigs, and a nice more developed large campground at the south end that had many sites with utilities and several were large enough for big rigs.

At the reservoir, I turned around and retraced my steps back home, a yet another gorgeous trip through the mountains of Colorado.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

August 11, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

The Blue Cup Returns to Action

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Being unable to locate any wildlife on the roads here in the mountains of Colorado, to get my wildlife fix, I was forced to dig out the old blue metal coffee cup and lure in what wildlife I could find here at the campsite.

By right clicking on any image, you should an option to view a larger, shaper image in a new window or tab.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

A little on the ” Blue Cup ” can be found in this older post, from my campsite in Pagosa Springs, where I first captured a couple of chipmunks trying to gain sole possession of a source of food.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Here at the Lakeview Campground, I have Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, at least three of them, in addition to about eight Least Chipmunks, and a flock of Juncos all competing peacefully for bounty contained in the cup and scattered around it on my picnic table.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels and Least Chipmunks

Whereas the two chipmunks back at Pagosa Springs aggressively would drive the other away, here everyone seems willing to share the bounty. I have seen no aggression between species or individuals of the same species. Even the Juncos would hop right into the midst of feeding chipmunks to grab their fair share of seeds.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

I started shooting at mid day and experimented with a couple of different backgrounds ….

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

… but wasn’t really pleased with the results.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

So, bright and early the next morning, I moved my setup to the other end of the picnic table and waited for the sun to poke it’s head over the mountain to the east, and found the perfect background … the shadows of the surrounding pines.

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

There are times when there are as many as five little chipmunks all gathered around the cup chowing down, or waiting to get a spot inside the cup where the real goldmine of seeds is located.

Least Chipmunks and Junco

Least Chipmunks and Junco

Two or three Juncos will quite often come in to share the feast. They appear to have no fear of hopping right in amongst the chipmunks or the much larger squirrels.

Junco and Least Chipmunks

Junco and Least Chipmunks

The wonderful lighting conditions only last for an hour or so until the sun gets high enough to start throwing some bright areas into the background, so I have to wait another day to get more shots with this dark background. I’m afraid you haven’t seen the last of these little guys .. they continue to just crack me up.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

July 31, 2015, Teklanika CG inside Denali NP

Bull Caribou Resting

Bull Caribou Resting

First Impressions

Yesterday, I first stopped at the Riley Campground along the Park Road to visit their dump station and fill up with fresh drinking water. There is a very nice three station setup there along with dumpsters. My day started rather poorly here as my sewer compartment door wouldn’t open so I was forced to get down on the wet sewerage covered pavement and crawl under the motorhome to loosen the door catch to finally get it open.

I next headed to the Visitor Center Parking Lot where you are allowed to park your toad and tow dolly for your stay at Teklanika since you are not allowed to bring them into the park. Discovering that I had a strong Verizon signal at the Visitors Center, I checked up on last minute emails and decided I would do a last minute blog post, so went to download some images from a card … and in my haste, bent a prong in the card reader, making it unusable for downloading images, just as I was getting ready to enter the park. Panic began to set in.

I went into the Visitors center and asked one of the nice folks there if there was a camera shop or any place in Denali that might have a card reader for sale. Fortunately, it turns out there was a place in Denali, just north of the Park that did have a card reader ( unfortunately, an $18 card reader happens to go for $70 there, but at least I now do have one for downloading the many images I hope to get inside the park ). OK, so now I am finally ready to enter the park and drive the 29 miles into Teklanika. Cue the storm clouds, I am ready to go.

Of course, as soon as I turned onto the Park Road, the skies opened up and it poured all the way in to the campground. No way to see any wildlife along the way, and I got the motorhome just caked solid with mud.

Teklanika Campground

Arrived at Teklanika and settled into Site 15. Sites are not too bad, sort of close but not as bad as other places. Lots of spruce trees between sites, but with overhead clear for solar, assuming that the sun will shine again someday. Needless to say, this far inside the park, there is no Verizon coverage ( or any other, I imagine ).  All the sites have a flat gravel pad with fire ring and picnic table. You are in the woods so there is no view, but it is only a short walk to the Teklanika River. Unfortunately I forgot to take any shots of the campground.

Through the Bus Windshield

Through the Bus Windshield

First Bus Trip Into the Park

You are not allowed to drive your private vehicle past the 14 mile mark of the Park Road, all transportation beyond there to the end of the Park Road 85 miles in is by a Park Shuttle Bus. These green buses leave the Vistors Center starting at 5:30 AM and buses leave there every half hour throughout the day. These same buses stop to pick up passengers at the Teklanika CG and there is nice bus shelter there to protect you while you wait, in case of inclement weather. One of the supposed advantages of staying at Teklanika CG is something called the TEK Pass for the shuttle buses. You see, all passengers on the buses pay a fee to ride each day, ranging from $27 to $52 depending on how far into the park the bus goes. If you have a Tek Pass, you just pay one $35 fee and then can ride every day for no additional charge.  You are not, however, allowed to ride the bus back out of the park, unless you want to have to purchase another ticket to get back in to Teklanika. I was told the first bus out in the morning was usually never full and so that worked out well for me since I am up early and this also happens to be the best time to get wildlife.

So on Day One I waited for the Wonder Lake bus, the first one in the morning arriving at Teklanika at 6:30 AM. Six others from the campground were getting on here also and the bus was all but full already. No window seats open but I got seated next to a woman who grudgedly moved over a bit to make room for me. At the first rest stop, when she reboarded, she fortunately went and sat with her husband, so I did end up with a window seat after all. But this crowded bus first thing in the morning is kind of distressing to me. Being all but a hermit, crowded conditions like this make me uncomfortable to start with. Plus, if you are not seated by the window, it becomes very difficult to get any chance at a decent photo when, and if, the bus encounters wildlife along the way. And, even if you do end up by a window, if the bus is full, and another adult is parked next to, or, in reality, on top of you ( remember, these are school buses, designed to seat school children, not full sized adults ), then there still is really no way to hope to get any decent shots since there is no room to move or turn to shoot with a medium to long camera lens. I never even bothered to bring my 600mm lens ( that is what I most often could have used because of the distance the animals usually were from the bus ).

On our way into the park, our driver flew past many potentially great landscapes on the way towards Sable Pass. Now, I understand that they have a schedule to maintain and everyone would rather stop for wildlife sightings than for landscape shots, but it really hurt this photographer to see so many wonderful photo opps go flying by. Lots of fireweed along the road and some nice patches on the hillsides with the sun poking through dense cloud cover and sometimes rain. The muddy road threw mud on the windows until it was all but impossible to see out. Fortunately, at the Toklat rest stop, there were squeegees and pails of water for window washing, as there were at most of the rest stops, self service though. Unfortunately, it only took a few miles down the road until they were covered once again.

Collared Wolf

Collared Wolf

We did encounter this lone collared wolf, a very rare sighting ( though certainly no great photo ) according to our driver. She explained that one could expect to see a bear or caribou almost every time out, a moose once every other time out, but a wolf only once every 20 times out.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Polychrome Pass Colors

Polychrome Pass Colors

Clouds concealed the usually brilliantly multicolored Polychrome Pass. One should be forewarned that if you are at all queasy about heights, you may not want to travel this road, as the narrow road barely clings to the steep side of the mountain and there is a 700 foot drop to the river below. At times, especially in the rear of the bus, you feel like you are hovering in air over that 700 foot drop. I might mention, there are no guard rails along the road. I suppose I should also mention, there have never been buses disappearing over the edge either.

Distant Grizzly

Distant Grizzly

Distant Grizzly and Cubs

Distant Grizzly and Cubs

The bears today were always far too distant to get any decent shots, just dots on the valley floor or up on a hillside, and with a full bus, if you were seated on the wrong side away from the bears, you were out of luck anyway. These two images were taken with my 400mm lens and they were probably half a mile away..

No Mountain Today

No Mountain Today

The wonderful rest stop at Eielson would be great for Mount McKinley shots on a clear day but no mountain was visible today. In an encouraging sign, there were bits of blue sky starting to show while we were there. From Eielson to Wonder Lake and back was about a three hour trip with out any wildlife sightings, a common occurrence according to our driver. Other than if one liked to pick blueberries at Wonder Lake, to me there really is no reason to go past Eielson after making one trip all the way out to see Wonder Lake.

Artic Ground Squirrel

Artic Ground Squirrel

Eielson is a great spot to get up close to these cute little guys, the bottom of the food chain in Denali, the Arctic Ground Squirrel.

Artic Ground Squirrel

Artic Ground Squirrel

On our return trip we did encounter a couple of caribou bulls relatively close to the road and stopped for a couple of shots.

Young Bull Caribou

Young Bull Caribou

Caribou Portrait

Caribou Portrait

Bull Caribou Resting

Bull Caribou Resting

Getting back to the campground around 3:30 made the total bus time a pretty long eight and a half hours. Our driver Wendy Hester, was entertaining to listen to along the way. But the full bus made me very uncomfortable, packed in like sardines. With so many wonderful photo opportunities bypasssed and no wildlife anywhere near the road, plus the normal rain and cloud cover, this turned out to be a rather sad trip through some absolutely wonderful country.

But the weather calls for some slowly improving weather in the next few days, so if I can get a seat on the bus, things may start to look up soon.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !