Western Wild

Dave Showalter's Conservation Photography Weblog



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  • Climate, Prairie

    Colorado Flood

    September 26, 2013 | Permalink | 2 Comments


    Flooded home outside of Sterling, Colorado on 9/16/13.

    We needed the moisture when it started raining. By the time it stopped, the damage was incalculable, access to Front Range canyons shut off, 200 people missing, towns and businesses closed. The town of Lyons won’t be habitable for six months after Saint Vrain Creek wreaked havoc when it exploded from the canyon. Unable to make photos in the canyons close to home, I headed east to photograph the flood as it crested on the South Platte River in Sterling, a wall of water marching east to Nebraska and the Missouri River. Most of my images show water flowing where it isn’t supposed to be, this image included; but here the residents appear to be snagging belongings in the swollen river, depositing them in plastic bags. It will take some time to calculate the financial loss, human and environmental impact long after the media leaves this story for the next one.

  • Prairie

    Snake Dance

    July 24, 2013 | Permalink | 2 Comments
    rattlesnake, prairie

    Western Rattlesnake : Prints Available

    Stan warned us all to watch for snakes. Half an hour later, I found myself with a pissed off, coiled rattlesnake (like the one pictured here) between my legs. He gave no warning and I wasn’t watching for snakes as I was told, just walking around, looking around. The sound of the snake triggered a visceral fear and the response was some sort of hillbilly jig and a leap that may have broken a long jump record. I’m pretty sure the snake nailed my boot and I know I’m very lucky considering the nearest hospital was probably an hour away. I was working at TNC’s Phantom Canyon Preserve a couple of weeks ago with the Platte Basin Timelapse team. We were installing some new timelapse cameras in the canyon and a couple of GoPros underwater. Cool stuff. Thanks to volunteer Stan Woodring for the warning – next time I’ll pay attention. I promise.

  • From The Vault, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR


    June 3, 2013 | Permalink | 2 Comments


    Burrowing Owl Chicks in Early Morning Light. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO

    Just stumbling upon this image made me smile today, so I thought I’d share it here. During the frenzied activity of a prairie summer, one can expect to see burrowing owl chicks popping from prairie dog burrows in mid to late June. I made this image of burrowing owl chicks from a portable blind just after sunrise on a June, 2005 morning. The yawning chick expressed my thoughts perfectly.

  • Prairie

    Bluebird Day

    April 18, 2013 | Permalink | 6 Comments


    Eastern Bluuebird Males In Spring Snow, Jefferson County, Colorado

    While walking Abby the labby yesterday, we came upon a big flock of eastern bluebirds who were unconcerned with us, maybe because of the miserable conditions. After our walk, I went back with my big lens and just kneeled in the snow, watching the birds fly and land all around me. They’re so colorful and animated – I could also see some with tail feathers hanging out of a horizontal hollow cottonwood branch. Birds flew in and out of the cavity, which I though held three of four of them, until 20 or 30 burst out at once. I suspect they were just huddling for warmth between sorties to gather a few seeds to make it through the storm.

  • Prairie

    April Showers

    April 16, 2013 | Permalink | 6 Comments


    Spring snow blankets ponderosa savannah in Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

    Holy cow! Yesterday’s snowstorm teased us most of the day, then dumped all afternoon and into the evening. Here on the west side of the metro area we received 10 inches or so. So, this morning I ventured out to a local open space near the Flatirons to make a few images, just fun stuff. Although this storm won’t be a drought ender, we’ll take what we can get.


    The local elk herd is usually around 40-50 animals, but it swelled to 100 or so with deep snow pushing them down from the foothills. Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

  • From The Vault, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

    Prairie Song

    March 19, 2013 | Permalink | 3 Comments
    western meadowlark, prairie

    Singing Western Meadowlark : Prints Available

     Western meadowlarks are often seen singing from perches above prairie grass - yucca, mulleins, and fenceposts. While sitting in a blind waiting for burrowing owls to emerge, this nearby meadowlark was singing his head off. I opened a window slowly and saw that he was standing in the grass just a few feet away, He didn't care about the shutter firing, maybe because he was making so much beautiful noise. 

  • Prairie

    Welcome Twenty-thirteen!

    January 1, 2013 | Permalink | Post a Comment

    The first sunrise of the new year squeezes through a gap in the clouds to light the Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado

    Partly because we could have the gargantuan vegetarian breakfast at Turley’s, we headed out with Abby the labby for a walk below the Flatirons to welcome in the new year. A simple study of a place that we love.

  • From The Vault, Prairie

    Ocean Of Grass

    December 14, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment
    comanche national grassland, timpas

    Ocean Of Grass : Prints Available

     Gazing across open spring grassland in the Timpas, or northern unit of Comanche National Grassland, I recalled stories about an ocean of grass. Early settlers compared the waving grass to the sea and often became disoriented on the open Great Plains. The Timpas Unit of the grassland is south of LaJunta and easily accessed.

    “As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea… There was so much motion in it, the whole country seemed somehow to be running.”
    Willa Cather

  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR


    November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Post a Comment

    Mule Deer Buck Exhibiting Flehmen Behavior During Autumn Rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

    Flehman: (fley-muhn)

    noun Animal Behavior .
    a behavioral response of many male mammals, especially deer, antelope, and other artiodactyls, consisting of lip curling and head raising after sniffing a female’s urine.
    Definition courtesy of dictionary.com

  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

    Mule Deer Rut

    November 13, 2012 | Permalink | 2 Comments

    A large mule deer buck rouses a specific female during the autumn rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado.

    The autumn mule deer rut (mating season) action has begun at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, with bucks competing for the attention of does. I was out one evening last week and located a herd of five bucks and ten or so does. It’s interesting to watch smaller bucks follow does, tasting the air for estrus, and thinking they’ll get a chance to mate until a much larger buck emerges from tall grass and takes over. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR is renowned for big bucks; and although their numbers are down from historical populations, there are some very large deer at RMA. The rut will continue into December, generally peaking before Thanksgiving. In early December, you can observe larger groups of deer, often a single, big buck with harem. Take the auto tour route and be prepared to photograph from your open car window. I often travel with a 400mm lens ready to shoot.

    A large mule deer buck pauses to look at the photographer while following a doe during autumn rut. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado.

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