April 27, 2010
Today, Wendy and I spotted these birds in a little marsh on the side of US 280 near Alamosa, Colorado. Turns out that the birds we saw were White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi). They spend their winters from El Salvador to Louisiana, but right now, they're passing through Colorado and will continue further north as the weather warms.
April 26, 2010
Today, Wendy and I spotted these birds in a little marsh on the side of I-25 up near Loveland, Colorado. Turns out that the birds we saw were male Yellow-headed Blackbirds (Agelasticus thilius).
The Next Big Adventure
I picked up this 2007 Honda XR650L today. 1 down. 4 Up. Tops out at about 95 mph. Looks like it will be a pretty sweet little ride.
Now, I just have to figure out where to take it. Right now, the smart money is on Panama.
April 25, 2010
Above: Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). This hawk recently returned from a winter in Argentina, only to be slammed by an April snowstorm. Here, the snows have receded and he's hunting by hovering in place near Bear Creek Lake Park.
It was really wild to watch him hold his position. Basically, he put his nose into the wind, and just angled his tail and wings as the rapidly changing winds blew past him. He wasn't flapping his wings at all. Just bending them a bit now and again to adjust for the winds.
If you're gon'na do something you can't go halfway
I promised the girls I'd take them to Krispy Kreme this morning and Jen asked if they could go in their pajamas.
"Yeah, OK." I replied.
"Hang on, I gotta go get a stuffed animal," Jennifer replied.
"Does that make it OK to go in your pajamas? If you take a stuffed animal with you?"
"If you're gon'na do something you can't go halfway," she replied.
April 24, 2010
Great-horned Owlets - Day 37
Above: A single Great-horned owlet suffers through a late spring storm. Both owlets were in the nest, sans mom, but I couldn't get a decent shot of both of them together. They were standing facing roughly east, with their backs to the weather, as they were pelted by snow and rain.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 23rd, the owlets would be approximately 37-40 days old.
US 285 Reopens as Roadwork Continues
I went down and retrieve my truck and trailer today from the canyon on US 285 near Morrison, Colorado. They have US 285 reopened in both directions, but both southbound lanes are closed intermittently as they continue to clear debris from the shoulder.
They were able to reopen 285 last night by pushing the 60 ton boulder out of the roadbed using two John Deere 644 front-end loaders.
April 23, 2010
Enormous Boulder Shuts Down 285 Southbound
Jen and I were nearly killed in a massive rockslide on US Highway 285 today. At approx 5:50 p.m. MDT, this boulder nearly hit the truck about 4 vehicles in front of us. We were able to escape without injury, fortunately, but were trapped in the narrow canyon. We couldn't go forward, and we couldn't go back.
Fortunately, I was a boy scout, so I was prepared. I had extra gloves, ski bibs, hats, etc in the truck, so we got dressed in heaviest winter gear and hiked up the road a bit, past screaming police and authority figures, and Mark, my neighbor drove down and picked us up in his Audi.
My photo will be on Channel 9 news at 10:00 tonight. Also, they said it will be on their website: http://www.9news.com/
Update: Here's the link to their website where they used my image:
Update 2: They just ran my photo on 9 News at 9. :)
Update 3: They just ran my photo on 9 News at 10. :)
April 22, 2010
Junkers Ju 87 'Stuka' Divebomber
I told Jennifer that the Germans put sirens on the Stuka Divebombers just to scare the living h3ll out of the people they were bombing in WWII. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to share these little gems with her, but I do. The first time I ever heard this was listening to
Catherine's Molly's Pink Floyd album "The Wall". I'd listen to it and then push the needle back and listen to it over and over - the sound is intense - even if you don't know what the sound is, you get this sense of impending peril.
Once you learn to recognize the sound, you'll realize that the audio track is used all the time. You hear it on the Road Runner cartoons and on television shows whenever a plane goes into a dive. The sound is actually not made by the plane or the propeller, but by special "Jericho Trumpet" sirens attached to each wheel spat. Cruel.
I shot this photo of Jen's friend Tess the other day at school. I like the way it came out. Her eyes sort of remind me of the famous Steve McCurry photo of the girl in Afghanistan.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 36
Above: A single Great-horned owlet with mom.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 22ndth, the owlets would be approximately 36-39 days old.
Jen and I shot this bird as it hovered in the air near Bear Creek Lake Park. It was really wild to watch him hold his position. Basically, he put his nose into the wind, and just angled his tail and wings as the rapidly changing winds blew past him. He wasn't flapping his wings at all. Just bending them a bit now and again to adjust for the winds. At first, I thought it might be a Swainson's hawk, just returned from a winter in Argentina. But, as he got closer, I saw it was a mature Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) that wintered here in Morrison.
What I've noticed is that, now that the weather is warmer, the Red-tailed hawks are soaring more as they search the fields for food. Also, they're pushing up higher into the mountains as the temperatures rise. In the dead of winter, they just hunkered down in the trees, and spent much less time soaring over the fields. Probably partly because it was so cold, and partly because there wasn't as much food moving around on the ground.
Jen at Science Fair
April 20, 2010
Great-horned Owlets - Day 33
Above: Two Great-horned owlets with mom.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 19th, the owlets would be approximately 33-36 days old.
Above: Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) near Bear Creek Lake Park.
Mystery Albino Bird?
Wendy and I saw this bird flying around this morning. Have never seen anything like it up here before. Wendy thought it was someone's escaped pet. At first, I thought it was a white dove like they release from cages sometimes. I got a few quick overexposed shots of the bird as it circled. I brought up the "reds" in photoshop and it appears that the eye is red, which makes me think it has a color pigmentation problem, such as an albinism or leucism. It sort of looks to be shaped like a pigeon/dove, but I'm not really clear what it is.
Update: This is apparently just a white morph of the Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia), aka Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove.
Update 2: The red eye and pink feet do appear to indicate that this bird is an albino pigeon.
April 19, 2010
I caught Slinky in the live animal trap on Saturday and had to wash her down in tomato juice because the trap still reeks of skunk. Today, I got so tired of smelling the skunk that I had his remains cremated in situ. Hopefully we won't smell him any more.
April 18, 2010
Oh, to be young again...
Great-horned Owlets - Day 31
Above: Two Great-horned owlets sans mom..
It was warmer today, so mom took off and left the owlets to fend for themselves.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 17th, the owlets would be approximately 31-34 days old.
Above: American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) in Bear Creek near Morrison, Colorado.
Above: Jen spotted this bird flying over Costco yesterday. I stopped and got some shots, but didn't realize it was a Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni) until I got home and looked at the images on the computer. Here's my post at whatbird.com.
Update: These birds winter in Argentina and are just returning to Colorado for the summer.
April 16, 2010
Great-horned Owlets - Day 30
Above: Two Great-horned owlets with mom.
It was cooler today, so mom came back to help the owlets stay warm. They're large enough now that, on warm days, she leaves them alone. For some reason, the hawks leave them alone. I don't know why, really. I've seen hawks flying over the field and I'm sure they're aware of the nest. The only thing I can think is that the owls would put up a vicious fight at this point and the hawks don't want to risk attacking them.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 16th, the owlets would be approximately 30-33 days old.
I ran into a local guy shooting the owlets today named James Garrison. I've seen him down there before, and as it turns out, he's from Morrison also. He's shooting a Canon EOS 5D full-frame sensor with the Canon 100-400mm lens on a tripod with some sort of pistol grip head on it. I talked to him for a bit and he's a pretty cool guy. He has a website at http://www.jim3584.smugmug.com.
You can't be that stupid...
Jen and I saw this idiot this morning.
We have a male Mountain Bluebird out back and he sits all day in the top of a Ponderosa pine singing the most amazing song. I wish I could record it somehow. The song rises and falls and eventually, it repeats, but when he repeats it, it always changes somewhat so that he never seems to sing the refrain exactly the same.
I'm not sure how they choose a mate, but he's brought in a few different females. Or maybe it's the same one and she just can't make up her mind. But she shows up, and then he shows her the house. She goes in and looks around, and then she flies off.
I can't tell if she's building a nest or if she just can't make up her mind. I haven't seen her flying around with any sticks so far. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.
April 15, 2010
Above: Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus).
Great-horned Owlets - Day 29
Above: Two Great-horned owlets.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 15th, the owlets would be approximately 29-32 days old.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
I set the skunk trap again last night. Something went in the trap, got caught, and managed to bend the trap enough that he escaped by the time I checked it this morning. I'm not clear what was in it, but I had to use pliers and channel locks to bend it back into shape. It still smell like a skunk from the last one I caught.
April 14, 2010
Honda XR 400 Rides Again
Today, it was so nice that I rolled the XR 400 out of the barn. I've not ridden it since I got back from Mexico, apparently. So I put my license plate back on it, and cobbled the clutch back together. I broke my clutch handle last year somehow, and I replaced it with the front brake off of Jennifer's bicycle because I didn't feel like driving down the hill.
I poured some gas in it and started kicking it. I can never remember which way the choke is supposed to go. So I moved it up and down and kicked it until I was about to vomit. Eventually, it started and I took off down the hill.
I love riding the motorcycle. I have no doubt that it will be the death of me, but nothing makes me happier than being on that silly bike I swear.
It's cutting out a little on the top end...I'm not clear why. I stopped and filled it up with fresh gas and switched it off of reserve. So, it shouldn't be from bad gas, I don't think. Not sure what the deal is at this point.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 28
Above: Two Great-horned owlets.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 14th, the owlets would be approximately 28-31 days old.
When I was shooting today, I ran into a guy named Richard Seeley. He was shooting a Canon 7D, with the Canon 600mm f/4 lens and some generic teleconverter. He had the rig set up on a Wimberly mount and a generic carbon fiber tripod. He was shooting my setup as his backup frame (a Canon 50D w/ a Canon 100-400mm lens). He'd actually never seen the owls before, as he lives up in Summit county. I checked out his website at www.richardseeleyphotography.com. He's got some pretty decent shots out there.
Update: He was shooting a Canon 500mm f/4 with a Tamron 1.4x extender. He has a blog at www.richardseeleyphotography.wordpress.com. He's also a member of the Mile High Wildlife Photography Club which meets in Parker, monthly.
Red Bull Wing Walkers
Here's some Red Bull wing-walking insanity.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 26
Above: A Great-horned owlet.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 12th, the owlets would be approximately 26-29 days old.
I just saw this enormous brown bird fly through my yard (Morrison,CO) about 6 ft off the ground. I grabbed my camera out of the truck and ran outside barefoot across the pine cones. I was sure it was an enormous brown Golden Eagle from my 1/2 second glance. But when I got out back, all I saw was this bird flying around. I assume that it's the same bird I saw fly past my window. It looks to me to be a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).
Update: This is indeed a mature Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).
Update 2: These birds migrate, and they're only in Colorado from April through November. So, in all likelihood, this bird has just returned to Colorado from some place further south.
April 13, 2010
April 12, 2010
The Garden of the Gods
Yesterday Wendy and I took the girls down to Colorado Springs and ate a picnic lunch in the Garden of the Gods. They climbed around on the rocks and no one fell to an untimely death, which is a good thing.
April 11, 2010
Above: Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) in Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The One-Legged Swan at the Broadmoor
So we were down at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs today and they have a few swans on the lake there on the hotel grounds. The odd thing was that one of the swans appeared to have a leg growing out of the middle of his back. And when the swan swam, he was clearly swimming with only one foot. Like, he moved in the water in a series of discrete surges, as opposed to the way a duck would move by paddling both feet. He was clearly swimming with only one foot, which made me think about the age-old-addage of "does a 1-legged duck swim in circles?" Well, apparently not. For a swan, anyway, they seem to be able to swim in a straight line fairly well with only 1 foot.
So, we shot some photos of this, as it looked clearly deformed. What with a foot growing out of the middle of his back and all. He even moved it somewhat when he tried to swim. Very odd looking.
And then, I find this post which indicates that swans often swim with only one foot in the water and the other tucked under their wings, possibly to stay warm.
"It is normal for swans to swim with one leg tucked onto their back. People are often concerned that the leg is broken or deformed but the swan is perfectly fine."
"Swans will often stretch one of their legs whilst swimming and instead of putting it in the water, they will tuck it up onto their back."
"It has been suggested that this behaviour may play a role in helping to regulate the body temperature of the bird. The legs and feet are the only part of the swan not covered in feathers so the blood vessels are in closer contact with the air. The large surface area of the webbed foot makes it easier for heat to be transferred from the body to the air, cooling the swan. This heat exchange could also work the other way, with the feet absorbing heat from the air to warm the bird."
We saw this bird near Woodland Park today. The diamond-shaped tail indicates that this is a Common Raven (Corvus corax).
April 10, 2010
Coyote near Lionshead
Wendy spotted this coyote near Lionshead yesterday, so we stopped to snap a few pics.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 23
Above: Both Great-horned owlets sans mom.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 9th, the owlets would be approximately 23-26 days old.
Immature Red-tailed Hawk
Above: Immature Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) near Bear Creek Lake Park in Morrison, Colorado. The yellow eye in this image indicates an immature bird. Mature Red-tailed Hawks have a dark-brown eye.
Above: Male Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides).
The Mountain Bluebirds are back. I've seen a few flitting around the fields recently, but this is the first half-decent shot I've managed to snap of them this year. The colors of these birds is really hard to describe. But, imagine looking outside for 9 months and seeing nothing but snow and then one day, this guy shows up. The color on this bird has not been altered in any way. This the exact color of the bird as the camera captured it this morning.
April 8, 2010
Jen at Soccer Practice
Great-horned Owlets - Day 22
There is only one owlet in this photo, but there are two in the nest. The other owlet appears to be shy, and tends to hide beneath mom or in the bottom of the nest.
Above: Here's the rarely photographed reclusive sibling that hates to be in the spotlight. I found him on the back side of the nest, crouching down and peering out through the twigs. Hilarious.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 8th, the owlets would be approximately 22-25 days old.
April 7, 2010
This is what we got Timmy for his birthday. Hilarious.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 21
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 7th, the owlets would be approximately 21-24 days old.
Note that, in this image, for the first time, you can see the camouflage pattern of dark brown/buff stripes on the feathers, similar to the mother owl. So it appears the these owlets are rapidly progressing past the initial "down" feather stage.
Also, I only see one owlet in this photo. I'm not clear where the other owlet is. I can only assume he is beneath his mother's wing and is much more shy than his sibling.
Above: Today, I was fortunate enough to shoot a breeding pair of American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) in a tree near Morrison, Colorado. The male has blue/gray colored wings and is noticeably smaller than the female, as seen above.
Above: The female stuck around for a bit longer than the male, allowing me a slightly better photo of her.
We're getting hammered by snow again. It snowed all night and the plows haven't made a single pass so far as I can tell.
April 6, 2010
Great-horned Owlets - Day 20
Although the owlets are now old enough that their mother leaves them to hunt for food when the weather is nice, in this photo, the mother Great-horned owl is blocking her two owlets from strong winds as a nasty snowstorm pushes in from the west.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 6th, the owlets would be approximately 20-23 days old.
Mystery nest on bridge over Henry Fork of the Snake River
Mystery nest on bridge over Henry Fork of the Snake River near Idaho Falls, ID. I saw this nest on the way from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony National Sand Dunes. I would guess that it's an eagle's nest, but I'm not sure.
Update: It's an osprey nest.
Great-horned Owlets - Day 19
Wendy and I got back from Moab on Sunday and yesterday (Monday), I went down the hill to check on the owlet because I'd not seen him for a few days. What a difference a few days makes. Not only is he growing like a weed, but he now has a sister, apparently. I had no clue that there were two owlets.
Actually, I was always surprised that there was only one owlet, as this would be an unusually small clutch size. (There are normally 2-3, I believe.)
But still, I was floored when I looked through the lens and saw two enormous owlets. I say they're brother and sister, but I have no clue what sex they are.
For the first time this year, both parents were absent from the nest. I believe that, at this point, the chicks are able to stay warm on their own. It was much warmer yesterday (about 58 °F), and they both have grown a significant amount of down/feathers.
Additionally, leaving the nest unattended frees up both parents to hunt for food for the baby owls. Needless to say, they appear to be well fed.
My best estimate as to when the owlets were born is March 14-17, meaning that in this photo taken April 5th, the owlets would be approximately 19-22 days old.
Insane Custom 4wd Vehicle in Idaho
April 5, 2010
Wendy and I ended up without the kids for Spring Break, so we decided to run out to Moab and kick around a bit. A 40 car pileup closed Vail Pass in both directions, so we detoured through Leadville, but we made it out there and hiked into Canyonlands National Park and checked out Newspaper Rock and Corona Arch saw the "Needles" for the first time.
She used to live in Aspen back before everything went crazy and her iPod is full of tunes from the 70's that I've not heard in forever and a day. I never listen to the radio and most of those old songs I'd pretty much forgotten about and it was fun rolling along and reminiscing. We had a lot of fun.
Here's a brief slideshow of some of the thousands of photos I shot on the trip to Moab. Note that many of these images are from other towns along the way, including, but not limited to Palisades, Rifle, Grand Junction, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Vail.
The images were all captured on one of the following:
- Canon EOS 50D with a Canon L-series image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM) with ET-83C hood and a Canon EF 1.4x Extender II.
- Canon EOS 40D with an image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM).
The images are compiled into a 19 Meg (3:45) Adobe Flash slideshow(2010_moab.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (2010_moab.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
The soundtrack is "Spooky" by The Atlanta Rhythym Section. Lyrics in the extended entry.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
Juvenile Bald Eagle in Glenwood Springs, CO
Here's a bird Wendy and I saw near Glenwood Springs yesterday. I'm not clear what it is. She thought it was a vulture. I thought it might be a hawk.
Update: This is a juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
Update 2: The bird is molting, which accounts for his shabby appearance.
April 4, 2010
Say's Phoebe in Moab
We saw this bird in Moab. I'm not clear what it is.
Update: The bird is a Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya).
Madness in Moab - Easter Jeep Safari
Wendy and I just returned from a crazy-cool trip to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari weekend. I never knew there were that many jeeps and that many police on the planet.
I'd say that 90-95% of the guys there are just there to have fun and not get too wild. But about 5-10% of them are clearly insane. At night, they're out drinking and racing - like something straight out of Hollywood Knights.
As for the police, there were just more police than can be imagined. Utah state troopers. Moab city cops in Dodge Chargers. Grand County deputies. An ad-hoc San Juan County substation. Forest rangers. Just more authority than could ever be described. The place was crawling with cops.
We almost got into an accident when a guy did a U-turn in the middle of the road, with all four wheels barking, and nearly hit us pretty-much head-on.
Probably, I would have to say that I wouldn't ever go back to Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari because it's just too crazy. We actually bugged out about a day early and crashed in Aspen for the night just to get away from all of the lunacy.
Aside from the 'Madness in Moab', Wendy and I had a way cool trip. We really took our time getting back, stopping in Rifle, Palisades, Aspen, and Silverthorne on the way back.