Photo Gallery and Blog 2016

Burrowing Owls
It's late April and the burrowing owls are back. I'm glad to see them again. So far the two adults are just standing on the ground near a prairie dog hole or perched on a convenient fence post. Hopefully there will be some owlets pretty soon.
Sure enough, in early June, there is a whole family of owlets. Looks like there are eight chicks this time.
The owlets have barely lost that wispy fuzz on their heads and already almost as big as the adult. Their wing feathers are still short and they have no tail yet.
An owlet begs for food by biting the adult's face.
After a few more days, the owlet's wings have grown and it starts flapping and experimenting.
The owlet tries to fly by flapping and hopping, bouncing along the ground like a tennis ball with wings. It is comical to watch.
Before long, the owlets are flying like pros, landing on convenient perches like a fire hydrant or a fencepost amid sunflowers.

Pygmy Nuthatch
Pygmy nuthatches nest early in the season, several weeks before other cavity nesting birds. They are very fast and very acrobatic, often hanging upside down on the side of a tree as they search for bugs. I am always impressed how fast birds can find bugs.

Avocet and Chick
I like seeing avocets, graceful shorebirds with orange necks and long blue legs. In late June, the chicks appear. Just like its parents, it searches for food by probing around in the shallow water with its long beak. I just knelt on the shoreline and waited for the chick to come to me, and after a while it got very close. Following several hours of constant feeding, it walked up on the shore and sat down. Its legs fold backward like that because what appears to be its knees are actually its ankles.

Snowy Egret
This snowy egret was in the same area, not far from the avocet. Although more common in coastal states, there are some in Colorado too.
Snowy egrets stalk their prey in shallow water, sometimes moving slowly and stealthfully through the water and other times splashing and hopping about. When something looks good, they slam their head into the water and grab it. It's not clear what this egret nabbed from the pond but it must be edible.

Flicker Chicks
There was a red-shafted flicker nest in this old ponderosa pine tree. There were three chicks, two males with their characteristic red cheeks and one female. These chicks were very polite to each other. In other nests, the chicks fought each other to be in the hole opening, and squawked periodically for food. These ones took turns peering out and didn't make any noise. At this point they were nearly full grown already. They grow fast on a diet of regurgitated ants.

Mountain Bluebirds
I found two mountain bluebird nests in good locations for photos but unfortunately both nests ultimately failed. I saw typical incubation behavior--the male sitting on nearby branches, waiting, and the female spending most of her time in the nest hole. I managed to get a couple photos of the male during this time. This pattern is usually followed by intense feeding activity as both parents bring bugs to the nest. In this case, both nest sites were just abandoned.

Wild Turkeys
I have seen wild turkeys several times this year in Rocky Mtn National Park. They spend most of the time foraging in tall grass, and only occasionally stick their heads up for a quick photo. By September the babies (called poults) have grown quite a bit and look almost as ugly as the adults. They had better watch out--Thanksgiving is coming.

Elk Rut
Autumn is here so it's time for some bull elk photos.
I wouldn't want to meet this big guy in the willows.
At the peak of the rut in late September, the bulls bugle constantly, with only one thing on their minds.

Autumn Aspen
One morning, after looking for elk, I hiked the Bierstadt Lake trail. The hillside is covered with an expanse of aspen trees, and I saw this other photographer taking a photo of the view. I thought including the person made the photo more interesting than just another aspen shot. So did channel 4, who showed it during their weather segment. I don't know why they cropped the tops off the mountains.

Screech Owl
Obnoxious blue jays betrayed the presence of this little screech owl who was just minding its own business and trying to get some sleep in a tree in old town Fort Collins.

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