Photo Gallery and Blog 2011

Western Grebes
Western Grebes are these handsome, black and white water birds with bright red eyeballs. There are quite a few of them hanging out at Windsor Lake now. They are fun to watch. They have an elaborate courtship ritual where a pair swims slowly side by side, taking turns dipping their neck. Sometimes they both jump up and go running across the water together.. Most of the time they swim around on the surface, then suddenly dive under the water. They stay down several minutes as they look for a fish. You never know where one will pop up. A few times one popped up right in front of me, and I took its photo.

Tiger Salamander
No I didn't have to swim around in some slimy swamp to get these photos. This little critter lives in my basement window well. It only comes out on wet evenings. On one rainy night, I just opened the window and took its picture. I think it looks funny with that huge smile.

There is a large beaver colony near RMNP. These beavers are fairly tolerant of people so it is easy to spend hours watching them. Some of them seem smaller than the others, so I'm guessing they are last year's babies. Most of the time they swim around with just their eyes and nose above water. They eat a lot—bark, leaves, branches. I watched one methodically consume the bark from a newly chewed-off branch. It pulled a strip of bark off the branch, then very slowly slid it into its mouth as it rapidly took tiny little bites. The munching sound was clearly audible. It's nature's wood chipper.

Photographing them is pretty tough. They only come out in the evenings, when the light is fairly dim. A f/2.8 lens is great for this, however, the depth of field is about one inch, so most of the image will be somewhat out of focus. It is easy to crank the ISO up to 400 or 800 and get the shutter speed back up to triple digits without sacrificing much quality. Even so, many photos suffered from motion blur, because these are busy beavers.

One evening I got to watch this beaver chew through a tree. The whole process took about one hour.
She had a good start on the notch when I arrived.
She gnawed on the tree intently, often pausing to take a very brief swim.
Gotta get that top part too.

When the tree first cracked, she jumped away, but then returned.
Almost there. The chips were flying.
But it didn't fall over, because it was supported by other trees. She said "dam."

Late June is always the time for cavity-nesting birds. This year I was lucky enough to find a cooperative Western Bluebird. In RMNP, they are less common than mountain bluebirds. Western bluebirds are very colorful with their deep blue and orange plumage. The time to take photos is when the adults are gathering bugs to feed their chicks.

The sharpness and resolution of this digital equipment is impressive. The third photo is a small section cropped from the middle image. You can see the expression on that bug's face, and it doesn't look happy. You wouldn't be happy either if you were about to become bird food.

I didn't forget about mountain bluebirds. One particularly photogenic nest site was active again this year. The bird didn't come in very often but he liked to pose for me when he did.

Hummingbird Nest
I was thrilled to find a hummingbird nest this year. They are not easy to find. This one was in the same spot as a nest two years ago, on a sheltered aspen branch. The nest is about as big as a half dollar, constructed of lichens, moss, and spider web. The female hummingbird handles all the nesting duties with no help from the male. She builds the nest, lays and incubates the two eggs, and feeds the chicks.
The chicks spend about three weeks in the nest. Halfway through, their feathers start to develop.
Mom feeds the chicks by sticking her long beak down the chick's throat and regurgitating nectar and bugs.
After another week, the chicks' feathers have developed. Their beaks have gotten longer too. They clammor to be fed when Mom arrives.
Mom carefully feeds both chicks in turn. Feeding sessions are quick, less than a minute, at 20-45 minute intervals. Waiting is really boring for the photographer!
The chicks practice beating their wings while hanging onto the nest with their feet. They are nearly as big as the adult already.
Sometimes Mom rests on a nearby branch for a few seconds before buzzing off to gather more food. (Here is a close crop of this same photo.)

Bull Elk
The elk rut occurred in late September as always. The biggest bulls gather harems of cows and defend them from other bulls. At the peak of the rut, the sounds of constant bugling fills the meadows. The photographers hope this primal display of machismo occurs close to the road. The weather was very pleasant again this year, almost too darn nice. A little snow would add some variety to the typical "brown elk on brown grass" photos.

Next Year     Home     Last Year