Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Colors in the High Country

Fall comes early to Colorado. By mid-September, the Aspens are in full color - yellow. When I lived back East, the trees displayed every color in the rainbow - but here in Colorado, the main color is yellow with a little orange and a few reds thrown in to keep it interesting. The yellows are beautiful against the greens of the ever-present Pine trees. Sometimes the ground cover is as colorful as the trees.

We decided this was a cute fixer-upper. I wonder when it was built or who lived there - on the high plains between mountain ranges.

Way down behind the cabin, we saw a lake with lots of ducks. It was private property, so I had to take my pictures from the side of the road.

Several of the ducks flew overhead - and I assume they are Teal - but that's only a guess.

Looking over at the side of the lake, we spotted a large white bird (the one on the right in the picture). I thought it was an American Avocet, but I could not confirm that until I got home and looked closely at my pictures; I did and it is. He has his winter plumage. Last time I saw an Avocet (April, 2009) he had a rust-colored head, typical of Spring breeding colors.

But the bird on the left, which I never saw until I cropped the image, is still a mystery - Dowitcher? Yellowlegs? Godwit?

Further up the road by Cottonwood Lake, we could see the full splendor of the colors. We drove past the lake and up, up, up.

This shot was taken just past the campground - near where we stopped for a delightful picnic lunch.

It was somewhat smoggy from the wildfires burning near Boulder - so our pictures are not as crisp and clear as we would have liked.

The air was clearer the further up we climbed.

Timberline! We couldn't drive much further because the dirt road we were traveling on became too dangerous, so we turned around and drove back down the mountain, past the lake and into the town of Buena Vista.

The deer in town are practically tame and we see them munching on lawns, shrubs and fruit trees almost every time we visit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Yesterday, Bill and I took a beautiful drive up into the mountains to see the Fall colors. On the way home we drove through Bighorn Sheep Canyon (Route 50 between Salida and Canon City) and Bill spotted a herd of sheep on the other side of the Arkansas River.

There were about a dozen sheep in the group: one large male ram, several breeding female ewes and younger offspring that were probably born last Spring.

We parked the car and I climbed up on some rocks to watch them and take pictures. They were quite a distance away, but we both got some decent shots.

While we watched, they headed west along the train tracks.

Every once in a while, they would stop, look over to the road and check out the traffic.

After awhile, they turned and headed up the hill. I have lots of pictures of their backsides. Seeing these majestic animals was a real treat!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another Day, Another 500 Pictures

This morning, Bill and I were out of the house by 6:15 am - heading for Palmer Park to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful.

Later in the day we headed down to Fountain Valley Nature Center.

The nature trails wind around a meadow and a couple of lakes with beautiful views of Pikes Peak.

We usually see some interesting ducks by the island in the middle of the lake.

Mature Cattails are a sure indication that Fall is almost here.

A large flock of geese flew over while we were strolling around, enjoying the beautiful day. I, of course, had my new camera - so I was busy taking hundreds of pictures, trying many of the settings. This picture (and about 30 more just like it) was taken on the sports setting - the camera just clicks away taking 3-4 shots per second. I only took about 25 pictures - but came home with almost 500!!!

The new camera has 18 megapixels so I am able to crop images quite a bit. Here I cropped out a single goose from the flock as they flew by.

But this was the real reason I wanted to go to the Nature Center - baby Barn Swallows. These four little cuties are just about ready to fledge.

This is one of the babies trying out his wings. I was hoping to see him on his maiden voyage - but he wanted to stick around a little longer and wait for mom to bring some goodies.

As soon as mom is near - they all open wide and yell "feed ME, ME, ME!"

While I was taking pictures, a group of children stopped to see what I was looking at. They were every bit as cute as the birds.

The children watched while momma swallow fed her babies.

I'm sure it was delicious.

As she turned to find more bugs to feed the baby birds, the children got on their school bus and headed back to class.

I love my new camera!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Camera!

I finally did it - I broke down and bought the camera that I have been looking at for months - a Canon Rebel T2i digital SLR. It came in a bundle with an 18-55 mm IS (image stabilizer) lens and a 70-300 mm IS lens. I took my first pictures today.

My first decent picture - one of our hummingbirds. Please click on the image and check out the detail - many, many times better than my old Nikon.

I was even able to catch her in mid-flight - something I've never been able to do before. Check out those tiny feet. She is able to stand but cannot walk.

During our early morning hike today, I took about a hundred pictures of chickadees. This one is a Black-capped Chickadee.

And this one, with a white stripe over his eye, is a Mountain Chickadee.

Even the common Grackle looks better! I have a lot to learn about my new toy, but already I wonder why it took me so long to make the change from a point-and-shoot to an SLR.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Kind of Bird!

After returning from my visit with daughter Pamela and her family, Bill told me he had a surprise planned for Labor Day weekend. He wouldn't tell me what we were doing - but promised that I wouldn't be disappointed. I was instructed to bring a bathing suit, change of clothes, hiking boots, $100 cash, casino cards, binoculars and my camera. I made lots of guesses - white water rafting, hiking in Mueller State Park, Cripple Creek, etc., but Bill remained mute.

On Saturday morning, we stopped to pick up Bill's daughter, Laura and her husband, Tim. Tim drove saying we were going to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. I knew that was not the surprise. We headed towards Canon City and Tim pulled off where the sign pointed to Sky Diving Adventures - telling me this was the surprise. I told them to have fun - but I wasn't getting out of the car. I knew Laura wasn't either. Tim laughed and turned around, heading west on Route 50 along the Arkansas River towards the white water rafting launch point - but they told me rafting season was closed so that was not the surprise either. By this time I had a hunch where we were going.

Sure enough, we were going on a helicopter tour of the Royal Gorge! Now this was not a calm ride looking at the pretty views - this was a real ADVENTURE. Imagine the scariest roller coaster ride you've ever been on and multiply it by 100 - that was our ride!

We took off and headed to the canyon. Tim sat up front with the pilot; Bill, Laura and I sat in the back.

This was going to be fun! I had no idea what was coming.

Bill sat across from me.

Laura, beside me, was all smiles.

Wow, the views are great.

The pilot asked if we were ready...

...and suddenly he banked hard to the right and dove into the canyon!

This was the view as we plunged towards the river. My stomach was in my mouth. It was terrifying!

After we leveled out we could see rafts on the river below.

It was gorgeous - but we knew we had to pull up before we got to the suspension bridge that goes over the Royal Gorge.

And pull up we did!

The bridge was just ahead.

What a view!

I thought it would be fun to fly under the bridge - but I'm sure that's not possible.

I don't know how the pilot knew which gauge was which - maybe he didn't! After crossing the bridge, we turned and headed back. On the way he asked if we wanted to take one more dip into the canyon - which we did. What a thrill!

Bill and I had a great time! Thank you, Bill, for the best surprise EVER!

And thanks to Laura and Tim for sharing this adventure with us! You guys are so much more than family - you are great friends.

After our ride, we headed to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo where we ate corn dogs and curly fries.

Labor Day weekend in Colorado Springs just wouldn't be the same without a visit to the Hot Air Balloon Festival at Memorial Park. Early in the day, almost a hundred balloons take to the sky. This picture was taken at night during the "glow." Too cool! Today, Labor Day we are going to a float fly and barbecue. I should have more neat pics to share tomorrow.