It appears that you are currently using Ad Blocking software. What are the consequences? Click here to learn more.
Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Carpenter Ranch

June 16th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Print This Post Print This Post

The challenge of visiting one of the top nature preserves in the Steamboat Springs area appeared at first to be overwhelming. The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch is a working cattle ranch that is open to the public for only a few hours each year. For just three and one-months from May 15 to September 1 the facilities are open for three days a week for three hours each. Even worse, those three hours, from 9 a.m. until noon, are hardly ideal for either photography or birding. Except for the hours right after sunrise and before sunset, sunlight is otherwise generally too harsh for photography. Birds and animals are also less active except at the beginning and end of each day.

I went there anyway. The Audubon Society recognizes the Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch and nearby Yampa River Preserve as an Important Birding Area, the only IBA in that county. People have seen nearly 150 species of birds there.

After visiting the Nature Conservancy’s Yampa River Preserve, which is three miles closer to Steamboat Springs, where I was staying, I arrived at Carpenter Ranch at 9 a.m. on my first full day’s visit to the area. I was intent on doing my best under the circumstances.

I wandered around the preserve for the full three hours without seeing another visitor. The trail took me through the more than 900 acres of the ranch, most of it in its natural condition and along the Yampa River. I saw a variety of birds, but I didn’t get any special photos.

Back at ranch headquarters I mentioned my concerns to Betsy Blakeslee, the Carpenter Ranch Outreach Manager for the Nature Conservancy. She told me that visitors could come to the ranch at other times if they called her in advance. I replied that I would like to return two days later at sunrise, which was fine with her.

Betsy told me that I could also let others know to contact her at to make similar arrangements. If you do, be sure to ask her for a trail map, because otherwise finding the trail won’t be easy.

I did return two days later at sunrise. This time I went with Marveen, my friend who had invited me to visit her in Steamboat Springs.

Marveen Carefully Crosses a Floating Bridge over a Creek at Carpenter Ranch

Marveen Carefully Crosses a Floating Bridge over a Creek at Carpenter Ranch

Click on the picture above to enlarge

We found many more birds than I had found on my earlier trip. But finding the nests of two species of birds was most exciting for both of us, even though these birds are so common that we had seen lots of them over the years.

The Black-billed Magpie, a member of the crow family, is one of the most photogenic birds. It is especially noteworthy for being one of only four North American songbirds whose tail makes up half or more of its total body length.

My First Magpie Photo that Captures its Blue Eyes and Blue Wing Bars

My First Magpie Photo that Captures its Blue Eyes and Blue Wing Bars

Click on the picture above to enlarge
This Magpie Chick Begs for Food

This Magpie Chick Begs for Food

Click on the picture above to enlarge

We would not have found the other nest if we hadn’t hiked beyond the end of the trail by mistake. Neither Marveen or I would ever admit to getting lost, but eventually the minimal trail petered out entirely. We weren’t lost, because we could see the river to the north. And near the bank we found several Tree Swallows. They were flying in and out of a nest in, not surprisingly, a tree.

This Male Tree Swallow Leaves the Nest

This Male Tree Swallow Leaves the Nest

Click on the picture above to enlarge
This Female or Juvenile Tree Swallow Couldn't Figure Out How to Get the Sticks into the Nest

This Female or Juvenile Tree Swallow Couldn't Figure Out How to Get the Sticks into the Nest

Click on the picture above to enlarge

While I was watching the swallow nest, I turned around and noticed a bird that I knew I had never seen before.

Nancy, a Nearby Rancher, Birder, and Friend of Betsy, Later Identified This as a Gray Catbird

Nancy, a Nearby Rancher, Birder, and Friend of Betsy, Later Identified This as a Gray Catbird

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Only half an hour after turning back did we see a small sign that pointed to the trail. Another half hour later just as we returned to the start of the trail we saw another bird that I had never seen before. And this one was much more colorful.

A Violet-Green Swallow Sits in the Sun

A Violet-Green Swallow Sits in the Sun

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Visiting Carpenter Ranch was challenging. But the rewards made it worth the return.

Share

Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pwt Tatum // Sep 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Wonderful photographs! Seems like a great place to go wandering and taking photos. I read the book Nothing Daunted and am very interested in the Carpenter Ranch, too.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Sep 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Dear Pat,

    Thank you. And that is a very interesting book about living way out there then.

    David

Leave a Comment