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

Return from Steamboat Springs

June 24th, 2012 · 3 Comments

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The journey back home from Steamboat Springs didn’t go as planned. But it was still great for me.

At Rabbit Ears Pass, 22 miles southeast of Steamboat Springs, I crossed over the Continental Divide at 9,426 feet. Had my trip gone as planned, this would have been my only crossing of the Great Divide that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic. But to get back home I had to cross it two more times.

At Rabbit Ears Pass I stopped near the Dumont Lake State Wildlife Area to look for birds. I found one of my favorites there.

A Mountain Bluebird in the Mountains

A Mountain Bluebird in the Mountains

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Down from the mountains, I proceeded to North Park. Still pretty high above 8,000 feet, this sparsely settled basin is one of my favorite areas of Colorado. I especially love the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, so that was the first place in North Park I visited.

The Auto Tour Route in Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge

The Auto Tour Route in Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge

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My best bird sighting there was this hawk. But none of my field guides or iPad apps gave me a definitive identification. My iBird app tells me that in Colorado we have 11 of the 27 American species of hawks, kites, and eagles. I guessed that it was a dark morph of one of the five dark morph hawk species shown in The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. But none of them seemed to match.

The Hawk Rests on a Fence

The Hawk Rests on a Fence

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A Smaller Bird Chases the Hawk

A Smaller Bird Chases the Hawk

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The Hawk Out-flies the Smaller Bird

The Hawk Out-flies the Smaller Bird

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Since I couldn’t make the identification myself, I asked Jerry Liguori, who is the expert on hawks and wrote two books about them, Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight and Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors. He wrote me right back.

“It is an adult dark Swainson’s Hawk,” Jerry told me. “Note the dark flight feathers and banded tail with a broader sub-terminal band.” I was so pleased that I immediately bought both of his books.

The Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge is about 10 miles south of Walden, the only incorporated town in North Park. When I went there for breakfast, I saw a sign on the counter, “Cameron Pass is closed due to fire.” I had planned to go over the pass, because it provides the most convenient route between Walden and Fort Collins and on to Boulder.

But a fire in Poudre Canyon between Cameron Pass and Fort Collins had just started. As I write this photo essay two weeks later this High Park Fire has become the most destructive in the history of Colorado and is still not under control.

Instead, I continued home via the next shortest route, through Rocky Mountain National Park. This route crosses the Continental Divide two more times, over Willow Creek Pass at 9,621 feet and over Milner Pass at 10,758 feet. Although it is 75 miles longer, seeing moose in the park for the first time made it all worth while.

I saw all three kinds of moose: Three kinds, because male, female, and immature moose, like many birds, look awfully different.

The Cow Moose

The Cow Moose

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Her Moose Calf

Her Moose Calf

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A Young Bull Moose

A Young Bull Moose

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In this photo the bull moose looks close. He was just a few feet from me, but never showed any sign of aggression (neither did I). Still, having the branches between us gave me some comfort.

“Life is a journey, not a destination,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. My journey back from Steamboat Springs like my whole life has had some surprises. But what a trip!

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Posted in: Photography

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 winnie // Jun 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Mooses are not my favorite animal. They are homely and have a very bad disposition, especially if there are babies near by. You should not get so close to them.

  • 2 winnie // Jun 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Mooses are not my favorite animal. They are homely and have a very bad disposition, especially if there are babies near by. You should not get so close to them.

  • 3 David Mendosa // Jun 28, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Dear Winnie,

    I was only really close to that young bull moose that I wrote about at the end of the post (close to him and two other young bull moose that I didn’t photograph). I wasn’t really far from the moose cow and her calf. However, since I used a powerful telephoto lens it does look like I was awfully close!

    David

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