Photo Gallery and Blog 2013

Screech Owl
In January, I learned of this screech owl that liked to hang out in a tree hole right by a bike trail in Fort Collins. After several trips only to see an empty hole, one afternoon the owl was there. It ignored all the walkers, runners, bikers, and dogs on the bike trail. Several curious pedestrians stopped but some could not see it in spite of my directions and pointing because the patterns on its feathers blend into the tree background. The only problem with this site is that is faces northeast so it does not get any direct sunlight in the winter and photos are rather dull without highlights or shadows.

In mid March, the rising sun has moved far enough north to light this spot in the morning, providing a nice portrait.

White Pelicans
It's mid April and the pelicans have returned. I saw a large flock of them on a pond when I was biking on the Poudre trail, some very close to the trail. When I came back later with my camera, the pelicans were far away of course. But these four flew in to join them, making several passes overhead. They are really big when the fly right over your head.

Blue Heron and Bluebird
We're having a great winter this spring. After yet another April snowstorm, I went back to the same pond as last week. The pelicans were gone, but this great blue heron was standing there, posing for me. (It appears to be the rare subspecies, the one-legged great blue heron.)

Nearby there were three mountain bluebirds hanging out in the bushes. They migrate through here on their way to the mountains for the summer. This one seemed perfectly content to let me take its photo. It has a weird crossed bill and I don't know what's the story with that.

Great Horned Owlets
It's mid May and the great horned owl chicks are getting bigger at several nests around town. The prominent roadside nest site draws a cadre of owl lovers who watch the chicks far up in the treetops. The fuzzy owlets are growing fast, big enough to have feathers but not big enough to fly yet. They walk around on the branches near their nest while the adult owl snoozes nearby.

Prairie Dog Pups
Prairie dog pups appear in early June. The Poudre bike trail passes by this colony and I saw the pups as I rode past. It seemed like they should be easy to photograph since they were close to the trail and ignored the bikes. But no, when I was there on foot with a camera, they ran away and hid for a while. Dog gone it!

Snowy Egret
There is a nice open space park in Lakewood with a big pond and wetlands. Early in the morning I went there to see what kind of long-legged birds I could find. At first I only saw a few killdeer but then I saw a half dozen snowy egrets scattered around the edge of the pond. Each one was slowly working its way along the shoreline, searching for food. I picked a spot on the edge of a shallow area of the pond with good light, knelt down behind my camera, and waited. After a while several egrets slowly came my way. Sometimes they waded stealthily through the shallow water and sometimes they ran and splashed. After fifteen long minutes of squatting on the muddy shoreline, my feet were begging for mercy but two egrets were finally in range. They walked around in the shallow water, hunting for breakfast and completely ignoring me. Of course I took lots of photos while they wandered around before me. Thank goodness for autofocus. Depending on their position, sometimes I got a reflection of green vegetation and sometimes it was blue sky. These guys came close. These photos are all full frame.

Lazy Marmot
The life of a marmot seems pretty easy. You sit on a pile of rocks and enjoy the scenery. When you get tired of that, you lay down, take a big yawn and a nap.

There seems to be a shortage of birds this year. Usually I see lots of swallows constantly flying, bluebirds sitting on roadside fences or signs but this year I didn't see those at all. I did find two cooperative sapsuckers to photograph, a red-naped and a Williamson's. (I bet you can figure out which is which.) Both were dutifully bringing beakfuls of tasty ants to the chicks in their nests.

A parody of the age-old tongue-twister about woodchucks "How much sap could a sapsucker suck if a sapsucker could suck sap?" alludes to the inherent naming misnomer--they don't suck sap. They drill shallow holes in tree bark and then lap up the sap that collects there.

Even if the birds were not cooperating, there were plenty of wildflowers to photograph.
Sego Lily
Bee Balm

Black-eyed Susan

Union Pacific Steam Engine
This is the last steam engine Union Pacific railroad bought back in 1944, the time railroading went diesel. Rather than junk it for scrap, they saved and maintained it. Now it is based in Cheyenne and used for special excursions, like the annual trip to Denver for Cheyenne Frontier Days.

This is bigger than it looks. Those four big driving wheels are 80 inches diameter, taller than a person. For the Frontier Days trip, it runs on the track parallel to Hwy 85 through Greeley, the same track used by regular trains. It is really easy to drive over there, pick some convenient photogenic spot, and wait for the train to come. Its distinctive moaning whistle can be heard long before it is visible. It is cool to see a real live historic steam engine like this blasting down the track just like it used to be. You had better absorb the experience rapidly because it goes by surprisingly fast, about 60 mph. You have about three seconds to get photos. It takes a high shutter speed to stop a speeding train in its tracks.

Sleepy Screech Owl
It has been a strange autumn. Normally there would be photos of majestic bull elk or yellow aspen leaves in this spot. This year the September floods wiped out easy access to RMNP, and then the government shutdown closed the park at the peak of the elk rut. This is the first year in decades that I missed that autumn ritual of elk watching.

This sleepy screech owl was just trying to snooze through the day, hiding amongst the remaining leaves of an oak tree in downtown Fort Collins. Some pesky songbirds were intent on harassing it which attracted attention.

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