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.
It is said that bison can be moved – when they want to. American Bison, once nearly extirpated from the Great Plains, stand up to six feet tall and weigh as much as a ton (males). They are among the most impressive creatures on this continent. In the late 1800′s, few bison had survived the slaughter during Western expansion. From 1873 to 1889, six men captured 88 bison that remained on the North American plains. Charles “Buffalo” Jones, Frederic Dupree, Walking Coyote, Charles Goodnight, Charles Alloway and James McKay each had their own reasons for saving the disappearing species; some had an altruistic vision of saving bison from extinction while others saw possible business opportunities. Later, William Hornaday convinced Teddy Roosevelt to establish the American Bison Society in 1905 “for the permanent preservation and increase of the American bison.” Today, more than 400,000 bison graze public and private lands, contributing to the health of plains habitat that supports life in the West. Although bison dominate the Zapata landscape, a host of other creatures benefit from these nomadic grazers. And don’t be fooled, they may be a domestic herd, but they’re not domesticated. They go where they want to go, when they’re darn good and ready. (more…)
Frozen Garden Of The Gods and Pikes Peak in the “Top Take” section of Colorado Life Magazine.
We opened our new Colorado Life Magazine as soon as it arrived the other day and are thrilled to see my frozen Garden of The Gods image in the “Top Take” section of the magazine. Colorado Life is a brand new publication that captures the Colorado experience – interesting places, history, our active lifestyle – and they seek out Colorado’s top photographers. I’m a proud contributor and Colorado Life is already one of my favorte magazines. Check it out!
“Great Horned Owl Autumn Transition, Jefferson County, Colorado” I love the intensity of a great horned owl’s stare. Every one of them will look right through you, then slowly pivot their head, maybe even doze off for a bit. I was looking for the last golden leaves after a snowstorm when I spotted the dark form of this owl, a happy late October surprise.
The Telluride Valley Floor resident elk herd moves from open meadow to wetland on a golden October morning.
While we were in Telluride earlier this month, I spent some time on the Telluride Valley Floor, protected open space that extends west from town. The San Miguel River, fed by streams pouring off the San Juan Mountains, runs the length of the valley. Behind a gas station is a healthy Gunnison’s prairie dog colony, sandwiched between a wetland along the San Miguel River and a forested area that is home to a resident elk herd. With big lens on my shoulder, I walked into the conservation area and a whole new world opened before me. Migrating Western bluebirds perched on an old cattle fence and picked off insects in the prairie dog town, where endangered Gunnison’s P’dogs chirped a warning call to tell the community about an intruder. Surprisingly, a badger emerged in mid-afternoon sunshine, poking his head in prairie dog holes, looking for an easy meal. The town taxed itself $50 million to buy the Valley Floor, creating a conservation easement to protect the land in perpetuity. Is protecting a western valley for prairie dogs, elk, and recreation protectionism run amok or visionary brilliance? (more…)
This great horned owl is living the good life, with a spacious barn providing both shelter and perch to hunt for small mammals moving through prairie grass. I’ve seen him in daylight a few times, just yesterday here he was, hanging out in the mid-morning sun, sheltered from a ferocious wind. Courtship begins next month and he’ll have a good nesting site in the old barn. At 22″ tall, Bubo viginianus are by far our largest owl. They like rabbits and skunks, so it’s good to have them around, keeping both from overruning the earth. Imagine a world of skunks and thank a great horned owl.
I’m proud to announce that I’ll be presenting at Colorado State University Pueblo on October 25. The talk will focus on Colorado’s remarkably diverse shortgrass prairie and grassland conservation. I’ll present images from my Prairie Thunder book project, ongoing conservation outreach work, with both historical and new imagery. This free program is an All Pueblo Reads event. This year’s book is Plainsong by Kent Haruf – I plan to bring this excellent fictional novel to life. We hope to see you there!
Daniel, Wyoming resident Dave Willoughby stands on the South Rim access road to Noble Basin. Dave, with the Citizens For The Wyoming Range has been a staunch advocate for protection of Noble Basin in the Wyoming Range’s Upper Hoback region of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The news couldn’t have come at a better time. I received a call from the Trust For Public Lands last week and learned of a new agreement to purchase the PXP gas leases in Noble Basin for $8.75 Million. The “what would it take?” question on the mind of everyone advocating for this special place has been answered. The leases for 136 wells to be drilled over decades in the heart of a Greater Yellowstone wildlife superhighway cost nearly $9 million and will be retired in perpetuity. You and I, and any other adventuresome soul can enjoy this place for all time. More importantly, our grandkids and great-grandkids can one day appreciate a legacy of stewardship. There’s still work to be done because TPL needs to raise half of the money to complete the purchase. If you care about Yellowstone, the West, wildlife, our Western heritage, or just have a big heart, go here and make a donation. I believe the Noble Basin/Upper Hoback is one of the most critically important places in the West and this is something we can all celebrate. Thank you to the conservation heroes at TPL!
TPL, Citizens For The Wyoming Range, The Wilderness Society, Wyoming Outdoor Council and others have been involved in this fight that’s galvanized stakeholders throughout the region since the beginning. I’ve been a Wyoming Range activist for the last couple of years and have written about the threat here, here , here, here, here, here and elsewhere.
We just returned from a magnificent fall color trip to Kebler Pass in the West Elk Mountains and Telluride in the San Juan Mountains. Conditions varied greatly, from brilliant stands of gold and red to bare trees, stripped by storms a few days prior. Photographically, it was a completely different situation every day, and exhilarating to make images of the inevitable march towards winter. I hope you enjoy my photo essay – just click on more: (more…)