Friday, August 24, 2012

Great Blue Heron - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Great Blue Heron" Colored Pencil

Near the edge of a small pond, a Great Blue Heron remains motionless. It waits patiently for a chance to strike at its unsuspecting prey. I was excited to discover this large bird spear-fishing at Buchanan Ponds. It was like meeting up with an old, familiar friend. As a kid living in Western Nebraska the Great Blue was a common sight during our excursions on the North Platte River. If we interrupted its hunting foray, the irritated bird would let out a loud croak and then fly away to a more secluded area.

This large heron’s plummage is an elegant blue-gray. Indigo and ultramarine accents on the back and wings glisten in the summer sun. The long, sinuous neck is slightly reddish and a beautiful white stripe is flecked with a black pattern. A white head is capped with deep blue and the bright yellow eyes have a dark outline. The sharp, yellow bill is a lethal weapon.

Although the Great Blue Heron is common in North America, I didn’t realize their range extended so high into the mountains. I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise because the local wetlands are a perfect natural habitat. I’ve noticed this bird hunting in small ponds and wading around Evergreen Lake. I’ve also seen them flying gracefully above Bear Creek.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Three Rivers - An Essence of Ebb and Flow

I'm drawn to water - lakes, ponds, waterfalls and especially rivers. Being near a still lake or reservoir has a peaceful, calming effect. I prefer rivers because they have an essence of ebb and flow. A wild river sculpts the land and is always changing. It's dynamic, constantly seeking a new course to carve its bed and flooding its banks to deposit fresh silt. A riverine landscape improves the scenery and offers the chance to study a wide variety of plants and wildlife.

Throughout human history rivers have been the scene of important milestones. They have been crucial in determining political boundaries and defending countries. Most major cities of the world are situated on the banks of rivers. A river can be a great source of abundance or catastrophic destruction. As a result, people have developed ways to manage and control rivers to make them more useful and less disruptive to human activity.

This summer we visited three rivers. The Rio Grande near Alamosa, Colorado, the Yampa in Steamboat, Colorado and the North Platte at Bridgeport, Nebraska. Each of these rivers have their own distinct personality. To really understand a river, you need to experience the water in some way by wading, swimming or just splashing around. Rafting, canoeing and kayaking are other great ways to get a feel for the power and beauty of moving water. I'm not so sure man's "taming" and exploitation of America's great rivers was the correct thing to do in the long run but it's something we have to live with. I still always enjoy my time spent on the river.

The Rio Grande River near Alamosa, Colorado
The Rio Grande is a stately, classic looking river. Narrow and deep with grassy banks and purple water, this river winds its way through a remote desert valley. Exotic birds like the Sandhill Crane, American Avocet and the White-Faced Ibis add an elegant touch.

The Yampa River in Steamboat, Colorado
The Yampa is a struggling, drought-stricken river. Clear and shallow with rocky banks and cold, blue water, this river meanders through a high mountain valley. Swallows skim the water surface and add some life to the quiet, somber atmosphere.

The North Platte at Bridgeport, Nebraska
The North Platte is a lazy, easy-going river. Wide and waist-deep with sandy banks and warm, brown water, this river flows peacefully through an agricultural valley. Impressive large birds like the Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle inhabit this, my hometown river.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fantastic Red Fox - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Red Fox" Colored Pencil

Foregoing the comfort of a den, this red fox has chosen to sleep in the open on a bed of sticks and grass. The long, bushy tail wrapped around his nose acts as a warm cover. His red-orange coat is contrasted against the soft, blue-green background. In some corners of the world, the red fox is reviled and hunted as a pest. Not here, we find them friendly and their always entertaining behavior fun to watch.

The resourceful red fox has adapted well to human environments and is now geographically widespread. From farms to suburbs, to the interior of big cities, its range has actually increased alongside human expansion. Usually nocturnal, we see them here at any time during the day.

The kits are playful and seem more curious than frightened of people. The adults use creative hunting tactics that employ exceptional cunning and trickery. If strategy doesn't work then spinning, jumping and pouncing appear to be very successful. Because of their elegant coloring and high intelligence, the fox has attained legendary status in this area. Yes, the Fantastic Red Fox is one of my favorites and so is the movie.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mountain Lion - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Mountain Lion" Colored Pencil

Reclining lazily on a rock ledge, a contented Mountain Lion basks in the warm summer sun. It's interesting how much it resembles, in both pose and manner, a domestic house cat. But don't let its graceful nature fool you, this long, sleek feline is a fearsome hunter. The Cougar is probably the most dominant predator prowling the Colorado Rockies. It inhabits the Montane Zone staying close to its favorite food source, the Mule Deer.

This king of the mountain beasts is beautifully robed in golden ochres and warm brown tones with a bleached underside. The face is remarkable, featuring various colors including a pink nose and vivid, green eyes. Dark black trims the muzzle and the always expressive ears. The black tipped tail is outrageously long and the paws are huge.

I've never been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these elusive cats in the wild but I know they're around. Wherever there is an abundant supply of deer, a Mountain Lion is sure to follow. When I'm out on the trails before sunrise it's a little scary knowing that a lion could be lurking in the shadows or waiting in ambush. I believe the Mountain Lion is naturally reclusive but as human development continues to expand into their territory, encounters are certain to become more common.