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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Fall Spectacles‏

October 3rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

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Now that the Naked Pumpkin Run is history, we have only two major fall spectacles here. Diana and I enjoyed both of them Saturday.

We haven’t seen Halloween runners on Pearl Street Mall wearing nothing but pumpkins on their heads since 2008. Far out events like this had led friends and foes alike to call us “the People’s Republic of Boulder” and “25 square miles surrounded by reality.” But Boulder is becoming more sedate.

Still, nothing can rob us of our enjoyment of two harbingers of birth and death, the ruminant mating season and the falling of the leaves. This year both spectacles reached their peak in early October and we took full advantage of them by getting to Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise yesterday.

The annual elk rut and the turning of the aspens coincided because the trees were late this year. It wasn’t their fault. But one of the warmest and driest Septembers on record delayed the spectacle until now.

We also received a bonus of birds, both common and uncommon. We often see magpies here, but never before was its very long iridescent blue and green-black tail so apparent.

A Black-billed Magpie

A Black-billed Magpie

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The uncommon bird that Diana and I saw yesterday was the wild turkey. While they live in almost every state, I had seen them in Colorado only twice before. Diana and I were lucky enough to get within a few feet of three wild turkeys yesterday.

One of the Wild Turkeys We Saw Saturday

One of the Wild Turkeys We Saw Saturday

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However, the  big show of the season at Rocky Mountain National Park is the annual elk rut. Triggered by the shorter days of fall, the elk rut includes posturing, sparring, and bugling, which is a loud series of vocalizations that establishes dominance over other males and attracts females. Humans find the bugling eerie and surprisingly high-pitched for such a large animal. If you never had the opportunity to hear an bull elk bugle, be sure to listen to this NPR clip.

You Can See the Steam of the Breath of This Bull Elk as He Bugles

You Can See the Steam of the Breath of This Bull Elk as He Bugles

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Two Bulls Posturing

Two Bulls Posturing

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Not as dramatic as the elk rut, but more beautiful is the turning of the aspens. The leaves of these wonderful trees change in this season from green to yellow and then to orange before they fall. Even the elk appreciate the aspens, since these animals rely on aspen bark for sustenance when snow covers the grass during winter.

Aspen Yellow and Gold

Aspen Yellow and Gold

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And below you can see diagonal rows of turning aspens that enrich most of the hillside between Hallett Peak on the left and Flattop Mountain on the right. Here on Saturday most of the aspens had turned to yellow and only a small patch near the left of this photograph have gone to gold. So unless heavy winds come our way, we may be lucky enough to see even more beauty this fall season. I plan to return this week to Rocky Mountain National Park in search of that beauty.

Aspen Hillside from the Storm Pass Trail

Aspen Hillside from the Storm Pass Trail

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Natasha // Nov 18, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Beautiful photos! Where did you see the magpie? I saw the same magpie in south-eastern Europe, and it’s very uncommon here also, especially in november.
    Best regards!

  • 2 David Mendosa // Nov 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Dear Natasha,

    Thank you! I saw that magpie in Rocky Mountain National Park, here in Colorado. Magpies are actually quite common in Colorado.

    Best regards,

    David

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