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Pheasant
You don't see this every day (at least I don't) -- a pheasant who isn't camera shy. On the rare occasion I see a pheasant near a country road, he will run away as soon as I stop the car. But this guy was hanging out on the edge of town, near a ditch and some cattails. Over the course of an hour, he wandered around the grass, searching for bits to eat, and coming up quite close at times. I was waiting inside my car with the big lens pointed out the passenger-side window, which is my favorite technique for photographing wary subjects. This pheasant spent most of his time searching for food and very little time posing for photos, but I managed to get a few photos when he was startled by a prairie dog.

City Foxes II

I was pleasantly surprised to find another red fox family in the same den hole where I had photographed them last year. This den was in a very urban location near lots of retail stores and busy roads in southern Fort Collins. It was featured on the front page of the local newspaper and briefly on the TV news, so it was no big secret and there was always a stream of fox watchers.

This year's fox was more difficult to photograph than last year's. Last year, the mother fox kept her kits much closer together and near the tree, whereas this year's family was scattered all over the area and usually in a non-photogenic concrete culvert. Consequently, several kits wandered out in the road and became fatalities. Last year's family was on a tight schedule, up at 6:30 AM and back in the hole at 8AM. This family would not even appear until 8AM or later. However, this year's family was about two weeks earlier in the year, so all the weeds hadn't grown up as high.

In any case, the kits were always great fun to watch. Sometimes they played with each other, rolling and biting. This looks great on video but is extraordinarily difficult to photograph with a still camera because you usually don't see their faces. Sometimes they played with their food. You might think these foxes would have a hard time finding food in a city, but these kits were well fed with rabbits, ducks, mice, and squirrels.

This handy entertainment lasted until early May, when we had four days of cold rain, and the foxes disappeared. When it starts raining and you're living in a culvert, it's time to leave. I just hope they come back next year.


Great Horned Owl
This great horned owl nested in the Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. The nest was high in a pine tree, so it was not very easy to see the chicks. But with some careful inspection of the nearby trees, the adult owls could be found, sleeping. Each evening it was snoozing in a different tree.

You have to wonder just what the owl thought about all the commotion. When it chose this nest site back in March or April, the campground was deserted and quiet. But now it is swarming with people. The nice quiet neighborhood has really deteriorated.

Consider that owls have wonderfully sensitive hearing, such that they can detect a mouse rustling under some grass on the ground. I wondered how it could sleep through the racket in the campground now. It seemed to have no trouble ignoring the diesel trucks, slamming doors, screaming kids, barking dogs, generators, and such. It just sat there peacefully until dusk, when it attended to its parental duties.


Mountain Bluebirds
Summer is the time for bird photos. I got these mountain bluebird photos one day before the chicks fledged. There were sounds of flapping wings coming from the tree, and occasionally the chicks would peek from the hole. Typically I don't see bluebird chicks in the nest until they are within a day of fledging.

Bluebirds have nested in this same hole for several years and I have photographed them part of the times. Some years the adults were too skittish to come to their nest with a person nearby, so I had to forego photos that year. Other years, the adults were totally comfortable with a person there, and I got some photos.

I really like this ponderosa pine tree with its nice orange bark, compared to a bland gray aspen trunk. However, this hole is located on the south side of the tree so the morning sun does not illuminate it at all. Therefore flashes have to be used, in this case, two small units. The birds didn't seem to care about that either. Several times the adults perched on the flash equipment and preened. I like those tolerant subjects.


Bighorn Rams
I like to take an evening trip up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park whenever possible. Evenings are much better than midday because the light is much nicer and the tourist traffic is way down. Rock Cut is my favorite spot, mostly for the jagged rocks that can be used to frame Longs Peak at sunset. I have been there at Rock Cut many evenings, hoping for that perfect sunset photo with just the right amount of clouds behind the peak.

This particular evening, several bighorn rams paid a fortuitous visit. It is unusual to see bighorn at all, because they are not particularly numerous. In all my trips up there, I have only seen them a couple times, and those were down in a ravine and far away.

But this evening, there were five rams hanging out among the highest rocks above Rock Cut. As the sun was setting, they stood up and walked around a bit to survey the visitors. There was a big nasty dark rain cloud behind them to add drama to the photos.

So this is obviously a case of dumb luck--just being there at the right time. You can debate the Nikon-vs-Canon question forever, but the answer is 'which ever one you have with you'.


Bull Elk
It's the first day of autumn and the elk rut is in full swing. This big fella was one of several large bulls in the Horseshoe Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Horseshoe Park is a reliable location to see the elk during the rut, and sure enough, there was a lot of action. Several times, this big 6x6 bull had to chase away an inquisitive 5x6 bull, and crossed over this little hill each time, giving a fleeting photo opportunity. Just a bit of green and blue in the background instead of boring brown grass greatly improves the photo.

As a consequence of the layout of the park's roads relative to the elk's favorite meadows, most of the locations are backlit. So this opportunity was doubly photogenic, since this herd of elk was east of the road and nicely front-lit this particular afternoon, instead of their usual position on the west. A day later they were back to their old tricks, hiding amongst the shadows of the trees. Once again, a case of perseverance and dedication, that is, dumb luck.


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