Saturday, October 21, 2017

American Kestrel - Heart over Height

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest and most widespread falcon. This pocket-sized bird of prey is extremely adaptable as she can be found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere from Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

The most colorful of all the raptors, she is distinguished by brown wings as opposed to the male’s beautiful slate blue. Perceiving her identity is practically unmistakable while she’s perched on a small pine scanning the grassland for her favorite food; grasshoppers.

She owes much of her success to a broad diet that includes almost any insect, lizards, snakes, mice and voles. She’s a ferocious predator that has the ability to take red squirrels and small birds especially sparrows while still on the wing.

She’s the fearless matriarch of a tight-knit group as both parents are equally active in rearing the young. Often, the whole family will go out on a hunting foray as it’s an effective way to teach the fledglings how to stalk prey.

American Kestrels nest in cavities but they lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings and other human-built structures.

With plenty of available resources, this sparrow hawk is a permanent resident of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is her home and she’ll spend her entire life here, flourishing happily even during the region’s cold and snowy winter.

Despite her small size, this little bird is a courageous warrior so don’t dismiss her diminutive nature. When it comes to the physical attributes necessary to survive in this crazy world, I’d take her heart over height any day.

The smallest and most widespread falcon

A colorful raptor

Scanning the grassland

A ferocious predator

A fearless matriarch

The sparrow hawk

A permanent resident

Flourishing happily

A courageous warrior

Heart over height

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bear Gulch - A Dragon's Den

Bear Gulch

Bear Gulch is a steep ravine knifing through the forested foothills of Genesee Park, Colorado. Once you enter into the forbidding chasm, a rocky trail goes downhill all the way.

Upon leaving the land of brilliant light, this seedy underworld is thick with thorny brush and tangled trees. A murky creek cascades quietly through the secluded gorge.

Further in, the trek heads down a slippery slope where every step must be taken with extreme caution. A misstep at this position could result in a fall filled with painful repercussions.

At the soggy bottom, water falls over black boulders and broken logs. The sun’s rays barely make it to the base of the canyon but where they do, autumn bushes glow with yellow when set against the somber shadows.

Closed in by rock and mud, the narrow crevasse is cold and damp. You’re separated from the sky and sunny topland but there’s still a bright side to being stuck inside this complicated scenery.

The consolation garnered from descending so far into the dark depths of this smoldering dragon’s den - there’s nowhere else to go but up.

Forested foothills

A seedy underworld

A murky creek

A slippery slope

Water falls over black boulders

A narrow crevasse

The sunny topland

Complicated scenery

A smoldering dragon's den

Nowhere else to go but up

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Butterflies and Bison - Beauty and the Beast

Painted Lady Butterflies

During a sunny Saturday while searching for the elusive Genesee bison, a seemingly insignificant insect stole the show. In one day, we must have seen a thousand painted lady butterflies perched on purple thistle and yellow rabbitbrush.

The painted lady prefers the warmer climate associated with the desert southwest and Mexico but after an especially wet winter, they have migrated north en masse. During the hurried return south this fall, their population has exploded.

Fueled by favorable weather conditions and abundant food, they are churning across the American landscape like a cloud of orange smoke. This rare phenomenon is one of nature’s great spectacles, containing an air of mystery and unparalleled beauty.

As for the beasts, we found the buffalo grazing peacefully on a steep hillside near the forest’s edge. At one time, more than a million of these impressive animals roamed without hinderance across the vast Great Plains.

With their numbers greatly reduced, the bison are now confined to public preserves or private ranches. On the other hand, the painted ladies are currently prospering as they can cover 100 miles per day while traveling freely across the entire continent.

These small creatures look fragile but they’re actually quite resilient as the race across our rugged foothills at nearly 30 miles per hour. They don’t have much time to waste because their brief lifespan only lasts for about fourteen days.

During their short existence on this earth, the painted lady butterflies flutter about with a joyful enthusiasm. When contemplating the impending future, take your cue from these fun-loving insects and always try to live your life to the fullest.

The Genesee Bison

Perched on a purple thistle

They've migrated en masse

The population has exploded

Unparalleled beauty

Grazing peacefully

An impressive animal

Painted ladies are prospering

They travel freely

They look fragile

They're quite resilient

They don't have time to waste

A joyful enthusiasm

Live life to the fullest

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cub Creek Park - A Quaint Woodland

Cub Creek Park

Drifting down out of Brook Forest, Cub Creek is a docile stream graced with a friendly disposition. Cut through a quaint woodland, the usually lively stream has been constrained to a trickle this time of year.

Sitting still in the crook of a wide s-curve, the shallow ravine is more like a reflecting pool than a restless torrent. The smooth pond of clear water mirrors the local arrangement with surprising clarity.

A discreet canyon covered with towering pine and spruce encompasses the winding waterway. While wandering along the wide rim, the setting sun's warm rays penetrate the forest's dark interior.

The quiet countryside is suffused with peaceful solitude so it's the perfect place to escape from a chaotic life. Adding to the ambiance, a solitary mule deer has secured a secluded break in the hillside where he grazes with a purpose.

Wishing this belt of paradise would never end, the excursion concludes at the tributary's terminus where it joins Bear Creek just above town. I'm already looking forward to a return to this wilderness where next time maybe I'll get lost and never be found.

A quaint woodland

A reflecting pool

Towering spruce and pine

A discreet canyon

The setting sun

A quiet countryside

Mule deer

I could get lost here

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Founders Trail - A Gradual Transition

Dispersing clouds over Bergen Peak

On an early morning in Colorado's Front Range foothills, Founders Trail was blurred in a haze of smokey fog. Dawn broke dark and cold because the sun's warm rays struggled to reach the earth's shrouded surface.

As the day progressed, a west wind was funneled through the pass, dispersing the clouds into tufts of transparent mist. The bleak atmosphere was fractured and translucent beams created a curious pattern of dark and light across the orange meadow.

With the low-lying areas swept clean, only the mountains were embroiled in a tussle with overcast weather. Big peaks braced for action as they pierced the gray blanket while crowning a landscape reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings.

Look closely and you'll see that Mother Nature is making slight changes that are fueled by the rhythm of shifting seasons. Autumn is approaching just as gradually as the last storm that has now receded.

About the same time that the cyan sky broke clear, bluebirds and butterflies appeared en masse during their remarkable migration. As far as the winged travelers are concerned, it's a worrisome transition - I hope they make it home safely.

Dawn broke dark and cold

Wind was funneled through the pass

The clouds were dispersed

Curious patterns of dark and light

An orange meadow

A Lord of the Rings landscape

Shifting seasons

Autumn is approaching gradually

A cyan sky broke clear

Bluebirds

and butterflies