Winter Runs Long in Colorado

Flight of Canada Geese

The Bomb Cyclone moved through the state this past week. As a result of yet another snow storm, I postponed my trip to Monte Vista for 7 days. I’ll be heading out on this upcoming Monday with the hope that the weather reports are accurate and the Sandhill Cranes are still alive and well, and in great numbers.

I did manage to get out on Friday along with my travel partner to practice our techniques for photographing large birds in cold weather.  Geese and Great Blue Heron, plus a few more ducks on a still frozen lake. My friend is an amateur photographer with great enthusiasm, but his skills get a little rusty so I’ve been working with him to dial in his mental game. It’s been paying off. I think he’ll do fine.

It isn’t like Colorado doesn’t get snow in mid-March. In fact, March is the most snowy month of the year here. The weather can’t be reasoned with, only understood and endured.

Endure we shall because Winter runs long in Colorado.

Out and About, Just Duck’n Around

The Arctic freeze has begun to break here in the Denver area.

A bit colder and more frozen than a typical year in the Central Rockies has contributed a great deal to my laziness.  Sooner or later the laws of physics will take hold and it will warm up.

Yesterday was a warm day and a friend of mine and I decided to go investigate the local lakes to see what waterfowl had migrated into the metropolitan area.  While we found plenty of frozen lakes, there was an obvious change of season in progress and with that change of season comes the normal migratory species of ducks.

Here is a quick look at a few of the ducks we found.

It was good practice too, as I’ve been lazy with the photography and this change of weather has allowed me to get my photographic eye back in tune with bird photography in preparation for my upcoming trip to Monte Vista.

These will all be uploaded to the stock photography catalogs, as duck photos do sell from time to time.

The day of exploration was also a good opportunity to grab lunch with a friend.

Mostly, we spent the day “Duck’n Around”

Common Goldeneye
Lesser Scaup Male
Lesser Scaup Female
Mallard Drake
Mallard Hen and Mallard Drake
Gadwall Male

Springtime in the Rockies

Greater sandhill cranes during their migration in Colorado.

Spring weather in Colorado can vary dramatically from year to year, month to month and even week to week. I’ve been planning to travel to Monte Vista for a few days following the annual Sandhill Crane Festival, as I normally do.

The reports I’ve been hearing from other photographers indicate the bird count this year is high.

The weather reports, however, have been less encouraging. The week of the 11th appears to be shifting to a pattern of cold and snow, which doesn’t make for good bird photography. Birds don’t like flying in bad weather. Mountains don’t look pretty under cloudy, dreary conditions.

End result, I’m pushing my trip off for a week. Instead of the 11th – 13th this year, I’ll be heading there around the 18th – 20th. Hopefully, the weather will have improved by then.

The bright side of all this is that traditionally the week starting March 15th seems to be the historical peak for the bird counts.

For those of you interested, there is a web site called eBird that keeps historical migration counts for all major bird species in North America. Here’s the table for Sandhill Cranes in Monte Vista.

Monte Vista Spring Migration Stats for Sandhill Cranes

Mark that website. There is a lot of information there concerning all bird species and if you are into birding or bird photography, you’ll find it quite useful.

Me, I just want to get a good few days of photography in without a bunch of problems. The up side to the delay is I can get out to the local spots for a little mind/camera tuning.

 

The Interloper

Great Blue Heron by Gary Gray
Great Blue Heron – Colorado (NIkon D810/200-500mm VR)

Spring is in full swing here in Colorado.

This morning’s weather was exceptional so I made my way to the tree in the lake shortly after sunrise this morning. It’s good to know and understand the light in the location you’ll be working. Though these birds are roosting in an open area, the sunrise light is actually obscured by trees and buildings for a wee bit on sunny mornings. No reason to rush.

Today, a new great blue heron showed up. When he arrived, he was quite surprised to see that all of the available nests in the trees on the island had been claimed. There are two nests with great blue heron in occupancy, with one mating pair in the most visible nest. The remaining nests are occupied by mating pairs of cormorants. This guy shows up thinking he’s found a spot, but the nesting cormorants would have nothing of it.

When the mating male heron left the nest to go stick hunting, this guy decided to make a pass at the now unattended female. He didn’t even bring her an offering of a stick. If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know her heart is not for the taking. She immediately gave this stick-less schmoozer the cold shoulder and a threatened him with a face or belly full of angry beak.

She’ll have none of the interloper.

Patience

Heron Photograph by Gary Gray
Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is what I refer to as an LST.  (Large, Slow Target)

As an LST, it’s easy to fall in to the trap of taking the easy shots. I fight that urge constantly and growing older doesn’t make success come easier.  No, it’s always better to try something a little different, to push the edges, to get a shot you don’t have.

There is a park near my house where the herons nest every year. You may have heard me refer to it as the tree in the lake. There are; however, three different lakes within a quarter mile circumference so I don’t always work from the most common and comfortable photographic vantage point.

On occasion, one or more of the nesting Herons will leave the nest for an extended visit to one of the other lakes.

Yesterday, I followed this Heron to a shallow area in the lake full of cat-tails and reeds. They sometimes hunt these waters for small fish, crayfish and other water critters

I’ve worked these birds in this location for many years but there are shots I have yet to get as things don’t occur when you want them to occur.

The real trick to wildlife photography.  Persistence and Patience