I’m trying not to forget how to shoot landscape photos. Although lately I’ve been focusing on wildlife photography, I still love capturing the amazing scenery these adventures lead me through. After a long hot day in the sun at Colorado National Monument it was relaxing to watch the light fade in the canyons and the sky turn from blue to pink to violet.
Just back from the Western Slope and crittering at Colorado National Monument. The warming weather is bringing out the small mammals including white-tailed prairie dogs, rock squirrels, hopi chipmunks, desert cottontails, and white-tailed antelope squirrels, all of which we saw during our trip. I was after a better photo of a hopi chipmunk, in which I succeeded, as well as a photograph of a white-tailed antelope squirrel, in which I did not. We briefly saw some antelope squirrels during our last day there but it was already late and they did not return from their burrows. That’s a bit frustrating but I’ll know where to look when I am able to return.
One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was coming across a band of desert bighorn ewes with two young lambs. I found out at the visitor’s center that they were born in late February, which makes them almost a month old. You could tell they were still trying to figure everything out, nursing from mother but also eating grass and sagebrush. I think the most impressive bit was watching them pick their way up a steep rock face just like the grown ups. These are things bighorns need to learn fast in order to survive.
The desert bighorns at Colorado National Monument are descendents of sheep transplanted from Arizona, Utah, and Nevada in 1979. These animals are generally smaller and paler in color than Rocky Mountain bighorns. Keep your eyes open as you drive through the park, especially around Balanced Rock, and you just might spot these desert dwelling sheep.
Lastly, my apologies for being so slow to approve comments on my recent posts. I’ve been getting tons of spam and seperating the wheat from the chaff can be a real chore. I always enjoy hearing from you and will try to do better!
Motion activated trail cameras are one of my secret weapons. These little devices are relatively cheap, simple to set up, and on the job around the clock. The best part is downloading the photos. It’s like opening a treasure chest or a scratch off lottery ticket – you never know what you are going to find!
I have been accumulating a growing army of these devices and have them deployed all over the Front Range. I’ve been naming them after the dwaves in The Hobbit; Kili, Fili, Oin, Gloin, and so on. That’s so I can keep track of which photos came from which cameras.
I’m going to try and get in the habit of posting my best photos from the cameras every Tuesday. I’ll kick it off with one of my very favorites – a Bobcat!
I recently took a trip to the Western Slope to try and find the wild horses of the Little Bookcliffs. The Little Bookcliffs Herd Management area is located just northeast of Grand Junction. There are approximately 110-120 horses roaming the 30,261 acres of shrubland and canyons of the Little Bookcliffs. The horses are mostly decendents of horses that escaped from early miners and ranchers.
I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to actually find horses, but following the best information I could gather I decided to focus my efforts in an area called Coal Canyon. I was fortunate to find a band of horses there two days in a row.
Photographing the horses turned out to be really fun. They definitely behaved differently then your average domestic pasture pony. This time of year probably isn’t the best conditions for photographing them – their thick winter coats were muddy and scruffy and the plant life was mostly dead and unattractive. I’m already planning to return in a few months when things green up and the horses are sporting their sleek summer coats. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll even get to see some foals!
“Find the prey, find the predator“. That has been one of my mantras while working on photographing bobcats and other elusive species. Bobcats are generally doing one of three things; eating, sleeping, and something else I won’t get into right now. If you want to see them you need to meet them at the dinner table. I’ve been seeing cottontails daily at Bobcat Ridge and often snap a photo as a consolation prize when my bobcat efforts don’t pay out.
There are three different species of cottontail in Colorado; mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii), desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), and eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). I’m pretty sure I have photographed all three species as part of the critter project, but they have proven to be one of the more difficult identification challenges. They are typically identified by range and elevation but ear length can also be used to make the call. Desert cottontails typically have longer ears that are full of capillaries to disseminate heat whereas mountain cottontails have shorter ears to reduce heat loss and frostbite.
My best guess is that this individual is a mountain cottontail.
I spent the better part of the morning tracking a bobcat. I was able to follow its tracks for about a mile before losing the trail. Along the way I found at least two places the animal had scent marked and a couple of spots of blood that I can’t completely explain (was it carrying dinner home?). It’s thrilling following in the footsteps of wild cats and it challenged my tracking skills at several points. The bobcat preferred to step on exposed rock or bare ground whenever possible, leaving no footprints for me to follow.