“Ponderosa Winter” A winter morning in the ponderosa pine forest abover Boulder. Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, Colorado
Our winter on the Front Range shortgrass prairie was just little skiffs that quickly melted – until this week. Heavy snow in the mountains is no guarantee of snowfall for us, but this time everyone got their share. As you rise in elevation, the grassland around Boulder gives way to ponderosa savannah, a mix of tallgrass species and ponderosa pine forest. Just a little higher is all ponderosa forest and erratics, giant boulders carried on glaciers when the land was carved. I’ve visited this peaceful spot many times, each moment as unique as snowflakes, quiet on the edge of the city.
Winter mornings after fresh snow are a highlight on any prairie lovers calendar and yesterday was magical for me. Rocky Mountain Arsenal is an urban refuge gem, especially when the conditions are just right. Here’s a few images from yesterday, when it was one degree at sunrise: Continue reading “Frosty Prairie Morning”→
“Chutes and Ladders” Bison are moved through chutes while those working the roundup open and close doors from the walkways above the bison.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge conducted their annual bison roundup on Tuesday, the 17th. The bison herd, now at 86 animals, is rounded up, cajoled into chutes, and tested for a variety of things such as DNA, diseases, and contamination. It’s a facinating process to watch and in spite of the pros working the roundup, bison still go where they want to go. There’s a lot of bison psychology applied to moving a 1,500 pound wild animal through steel chutes and keeping them calm while taking blood, clipping hair, and extracting a piece of meat from their hind end. Other than a few bloody noses and a broken horn, everything went smoothly for the USFWS team.
“Roundup” Bison are pushed from a large holding pasture to a much smaller holding pen before entering the chutes. Bison like to stay in a group and can easily double back on whomever is trying to move them. They’re very athletic and can run at speeds over 30 mph. This pass caught about 35 bison, with a few breaking free to stay in the pasture awhile longer. The guy in the cherry picker basket is a National Geographic photographer.
“In Chute” Bison are moved into the first open chute in small groups.
“Bull Bison In The Hub” This 1,500 pound bull was extremely pissed off about being moved from a grassy pasture to this metal enclosure. The paddles are used to get the bison to move through a door and into one of the chutes. Three doors were open at one point and the bull pawed the ground, snorted, and kicked the sidewalls, but wouldn’t go through. He was allowed to go back into a bigger holding area to cool off.
“Bison Squeeze” There’s a lot of activity around the machine that holds the bison for blood, hair, and fat samples. Once a bison is in this squeeze machine, the sides are slowly closed in to apply pressure, the head secured to prevent injury, and the bison is processed in a few minutes. If they have a chip (rice-sized under skin) the chip is read to add data about the animal. If not, a chip is inserted while the bison is in this machine.
“Bison Head Secure” Some bison calm down in the machine, others fight the whole process, start to finish. For the latter, this guy goes in and turns the head, securing it with a rope. He holds the bison there until processing is complete and the animal is freed.
“Squeeze” This juvenile was held still by the steel bar until release in just a few minutes.
The RMA bison are now free to graze the winter grassland.
A curve on Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon gives a glimpse of the devastation from the September 2013 flood.
With so much devastation in the wake of our historic 1,000 year flood event in September, there are still many closed roads, standing water, and Front Range canyons are shut off, isolating rural communities. Fortunately, I was able to fly with LightHawk pilot John Feagin on September 30 to see first hand the scale of the flood around Greeley and the lower Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland. Two weeks later, and after the news organizations have moved on, Colorado has a very long way to go as we recover. These images support the Platte Basin Timelapse story of a river that matters far beyond our relatively small geographic area. Continue reading “Wake Of The Flood”→
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.
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.
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.
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.
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