Saturday, February 24, 2018

American Robin - A Cold Weather Inhabitant

American Robin

The American Robin has become so common that his classical beauty is often overlooked and his mere presence taken for granted. By the end of February, males of this species show up here looking to establish territory.

The identity of this Proclaimer of Spring is unmistakable with his bursting, brick-red chest, gray-brown back, charcoal head and pale throat with dark streaks. The bird’s sharp eyes are ringed with white and the yellow bill is tipped with black.

He prefers to nest up high in the bough of a healthy ponderosa pine but he spends most of his day scampering about the meadow searching for insects and earthworms. While on the ground, he’s ever cautious as he keeps a wary eye out for any approaching birds of prey.

He is an industrious bird that is first to rise in the morning and last to roost in the evening all the while singing a cheerful song. During the summer, his nightly lullaby serenades the forest dwellers with a peaceful melody.

There are a few hardy individuals who attempt to overwinter here. Somehow these cold weather inhabitants survive by plucking berries from shrubs and trees while hydrating from tiny slivers of open water.

He’s more tempestuous than the suburban stereotype his personality invokes. When romping around in Colorado’s wild backcountry, though, there is something comforting about catching a glimpse of this familiar fellow when straying so far from home.

The American Robin is common

They show up in late February

Proclaimer of Spring

A bursting, brick-red chest

A gray-brown back and charcoal head

Scampering about the meadow

An industrious bird

They serenade the forest to sleep

Some attempt to overwinter here

Somehow they survive

A suburban stereotype

Something comforting about this fellow

Saturday, February 17, 2018

La Plata Peak - Watercolor

"La Plata Peak" Watercolor

At this time of year during the dark days of winter, dreams are filled with idyllic images of the picturesque high country. The presence of a monochrome landscape is replaced by a sleepy vision of vibrant color.

Majestic, purple peaks are robed in slopes of fresh green and they loom above a sliver of shimmering, blue lake. Stretched across the page, an indigo forest of fragrant pine is a beautiful buffer zone.

The immediate foreground is an alpine meadow filled with an absolute riot of dazzling wildflowers. It’s hard to imagine now but in just a few months, this impossibly-summery scene will become a virtual reality.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Grazing Horses, Nebraska - Colored Pencil

"Grazing Horses, Nebraska" Colored Pencil

“Through art we can change the world.” ~ #twitterartexhibit

It’s a warm summer day in Bridgeport, Nebraska and a pair of horses is grazing peacefully in a prairie paradise. The grasses carpeting this Garden of Eden are a patchwork quilt of verdant colors.

A few cottonwood trees are topped with a full canopy of dense foliage, casting blue shadows that offer some cool relief from the oppressive heat. Hopefully the gathering of bulbous clouds will result in an afternoon rain shower.

Colored pencil is applied over a stipple-textured paper, portraying a fleeting impression of this pastoral scene. Flecks of white paper show through even the darkest passages, creating a pointillistic effect that sparkles with light.

The optimism expressed by this picture is derived from the beauty of the two animals on display. An Appaloosa and a Red Dunn Quarterhorse, they reveal a perfect harmony that can only be found when immersed in nature.

During this digital age, the world has become much smaller. People can connect internationally with a single touch of the keypad. There seems to be an insane lust for speed, technology and profit.

Despite the demands of a modern lifestyle, we must continue to search for a healthy balance between the artificial and the organic. Working with an animal naturally can therapeutically restore your sanity because it requires patience, trust and sympathy.

Grazing Horses, Nebraska is my contribution to the upcoming Twitter Art Exhibit: Canberra, Australia. This unique event is an international exhibition of original postcard art benefiting Pegasus Riding for the Disabled of the ACT Inc.       

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled of the ACT Inc. provides horse facilitated therapy programs and activities for people living with a disability. Their vision is a world that sees the ability in people with a disability and they are the only Riding for the Disabled Centre in the Canberra region.

Pegasus ACT provides over 2000 sessions a year to more than 100 people living with a disability. They provide mounted (riding) and unmounted programs, Hippotherapy (physiotherapy on horseback), school holiday, garden and early intervention goal-based programs – all according to ability and need.

All proceeds from sales will support Pegasus ACT’s horse facilitated therapy programs that are developed in collaboration with qualified coaches, therapists and families.

Twitter Art Exhibit: Canberra, Australia is the eighth installment of this open international exhibition of handmade postcard art for charity, donated by artists from around the world.

Social media plays a major role in the Twitter Art Exhibit. It is their intention to tweet, share and promote contributing artists to thank them for their participation, and to make this event a success for all involved.

The event will be highly publicized and well attended by art buyers and enthusiasts, members of the press, local artists and the TAE community.

For more information, please check out this link: #twitterartexhibit

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dillon Reservoir - Centerpiece of Summit County

Snowy Dillon Reservoir

In 1883, during the height of Colorado’s gold rush, the town of Dillon was established at the confluence of three remarkable rivers. Ten Mile Creek, the Snake and the Blue came together, creating a natural finger lake in a basin of unsurpassed beauty.

After the mines played out, Dillon’s population dwindled while other towns in the area began to thrive thanks to the booming ski industry. Denver’s population exploded and folks in that dusty, old cowtown were thirsting for more fresh water.

The Denver Water Board came up with an idea to dam the Blue River and divert water via an underground pipeline dug through the Continental Divide. The board acquired the land and water rights needed to construct the reservoir while residents and businesses were notified that they must sell and leave by September 15, 1961.

The earth-filled dam was completed in 1963 and it sends water gushing from the Blue River Basin through the 23.3 mile Harold D. Roberts Tunnel into the South Platte River which then flows right through Denver. A few buildings were flooded but most of the Dillon townsite and its cemetery was relocated to the northeast edge of the reservoir.

Today the sparkling lake is the centerpiece of Summit County and it’s a fluid hub for almost any outdoor, recreational activity you can imagine. Hordes of people flock to this destination looking to hike, climb, bike, boat, fish, ski, snowmobile and bird watch.

The setting for such excursions is absolutely spectacular as gigantic, snow-capped peaks surround the broad valley. The scenery is gorgeous any time of the year but it’s especially dramatic when experienced during changing weather conditions.

Tremendous snowstorms lay siege to this area as dense clouds become socked into the basin, filtering out most of the light. The surreal atmosphere spawns a fantastic landscape of mountains and water that you’ve probably only seen in a dream.

It’s during such dreary times that one can find solitude along the shores of this magnificent preserve. I’ve spent hours exploring and photographing this special place and I hope to find more time in the future to enjoy everything this park has to offer.

Unsurpassed beauty

The sparkling lake is a centerpiece

A fluid hub for outdoor recreation

People flock to this destination

Snow-capped peaks

A broad valley

Gorgeous scenery

Changing weather conditions

Tremendous snowstorms lay siege

A surreal atmosphere

A fantastic landscape of mountains and water

Snowy solitude

A special place to explore

Find more time in the future

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Winter's Arrival - A Shocked Landscape

Winter's arrival

After a month of unseasonably warm weather, a ferocious blizzard last Sunday proclaimed winter’s arrival. The snow fell as fast as the temperature dropped, coating the shocked landscape in sparkling crystals.

A misty atmosphere shrouded the mountains in a palette of monochrome color. With the absence of light, aerial perspective was exaggerated as scattered pine trees seemed to recede and disappear into the distance.

The morning after, clear skies sent bitterly cold air seeping into aching bones. Breaking trail through deep drifts while trudging through the frozen wilderness was an almost impossible endeavor.

The worst part about being out during that frigid sunrise was the howling wind that unleashed a ruthless beatdown. A tremendous gale force was funneled down into the valley taking your breath away.

Granules of powdered snow sprinkled across the meadow were shaped in writhing patterns that resembled the shifting sands of a great, white desert. Sharp pebbles of ice spattered my face producing tears that made it difficult to distinguish any progress gained.

After the turnaround with the wind at my back, the gradual descent over unstable terrain quickened to a faster pace. A cautious approach with respect to the harrowing elements prevented any problems from occurring at the finish.

Experiencing the full fury of an awesome storm by placing one’s self in duress is the only way to truly understand the mountains' merciless nature. I must say, though, I was pretty content to get back into a cozy home and spend the rest of the day watching Netflix.

A ferocious blizzard

Coated in crystals

Monochrome mountain landscape

Scattered pine trees

A frozen wilderness

Snow sprinkled across the meadow

Understanding the mountains

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Abundant Wildlife - A Mild Winter

Hooded Merganser at Crown Hill Lake

On a warm, winter day at Crown Hill Park in Wheat Ridge, Colorado there was abundant wildlife to watch. The inconspicuous refuge is embedded into the outskirts of a bustling, urban corridor.

Upon entering the preserve, a coyote was seen pouncing for voles in the wide swath of grassland that encircles the main lake. The stealthy predator was a beautiful canine that has adapted well to life in the big city.

Out of the sky, a steady stream of Canada Geese made a noisy landing at the surface’s icy edge. Some of them slid into the open water where they floated freely while others stayed on shore and tucked their beaks into a wing, taking a quick nap.

On that Saturday morning a strange looking bird was a surprise visitor that appeared suddenly onto the scene. I was lucky to observe a group of hooded mergansers, four males and one female, fishing in the frigid reservoir.

Such striking birds, the males sported white crests that were fanned out in all their glory while the female flaunted an outrageous tuft of orange head-feathers. They kept submerging under the water only to reappear a few moments later, croaking like chorus frogs the whole time.

Around the next bend, I saw four northern shovelers gleaning the water’s surface for tiny, edible organisms. Their species has developed an enormous, scooped bill that allows them to strain their favorite foods from the shallow wetlands.

On land an eastern fox squirrel was out and about searching for something to eat during such a fine morning. Wary of strangers, he scampered up a barren tree and from a secure niche glared down at me with an annoyed scorn.

Just as I was preparing to depart, a few emanating ripples caught my attention, leading me to believe that there was another creature present. I peaked through some tangled brush and glimpsed a foraging muskrat but as soon as he detected me, he was off in a splash.

Even though it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave because I wanted to discover what else might be out there. The last thing I saw was a kestrel perched high in the woods and sitting perfectly still while watching over a field of wilted grasses.

I undertook the journey with low expectations because I usually don’t see much activity during January as it’s always been too cold. This year, however, it’s completely different with the temperatures being so warm.

Sometimes when Nature doesn’t appear to act the way she’s supposed to, it fills me with great concern. On that day I tried not to worry about the changing climate and instead - I just enjoyed the nice weather.

Crown Hill Lake

Hunting for voles

A beautiful canine

Canada goose at the icy edge

Floating freely

Hooded mergansers

White-crested male and an orange-crested female

Northern shovelers gleaning for food

An enormous, scooped bill

Fox squirrel out and about

Glaring with scorn