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

Broad-tailed Hummmingbirds

September 28th, 2014 · No Comments

Hummingbirds have been the hardest birds for me to photograph in flight. Even at a feeder, they move so fast that I need luck to get good shots. In nature they are even more of a challenge for a photographer.

But after a flock of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds discovered blue sage growing in Sanitas Valley, everything changed. My friend and fellow nature photographer, Rich Wolf, discovered the hummers there and told me about them.

He suggested that I “might want to get your glass [my lens] out to the bottom of the Sanitas Valley Trail (right off of West Mapleton). The Salvia azurea [blue sage] are attracting a flock of hummingbirds.”

I took his suggestion as soon as I could. In fact, I was so anxious that I got there about 6:45 a.m., far too early. Although sunrise was at 6:27, the sun didn’t hit the flowers where the hummingbirds were feeding until 7:32. I took the opportunity to hike up the trail a bit, which was a good thing, because I hadn’t been there for years.

Hummingbirds Love Blue Sage

Hummingbirds Love Blue Sage

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Barr Lake

September 27th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Sharon and I took advantage of a sunny and warm morning to visit ​Barr Lake State Park​. It’s out on the prairie 35 miles east of Boulder.

An 8.8 mile trail circles the large lake. We hiked several miles of the trail on the east side of the lake north and south of the nature center.

​Three Great Blue Herons Patrol the Lake's Edge

Three Great Blue Herons Patrol the Lake's Edge

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Meditating in Crestone

September 26th, 2014 · 2 Comments

I went to Crestone solely to meditate. But the beauty I found there prompted me to take some photos too.

The opportunity to have six days of silent meditation drew me back to Crestone for the second straight year. Offered by the Insight Meditation Community of Colorado and led by David Chernikoff (who also usually leads my Tuesday evening sangha), this was a special kind of retreat. We were a small group of 11 yogis, and except for opening and closing ceremonies ​,​ we meditated in our own individual hermitages when we ​weren’t doing walking meditation.

We were guests of Nada Hermitage, the Colorado branch of the Spiritual Life Institute, a community of men and women living a communal life according to the primitive Carmelite ideal. One priest and two lay women live the contemplative life there and share that life with others, whatever their faith. The Spiritual Life Institute is a Roman Catholic ecumenical community with roots in the Carmelite tradition.

In Crestone it’s not unusual for a Buddhist retreat to take place in a Roman Catholic hermitage. Crestone is the largest intentional interfaith community in North America and perhaps the world. At least 22 spiritual centers and networks are now located here.

The spiritual community that has grown up just south of Crestone owes more to one couple than to everyone else. Maurice Strong is an environmentally conscious Canadian businessman specializing in oil and mineral resources and a former diplomat representing Canada as under-secretary general of the United Nations. In 1978 Strong came to ​ have​ the controlling interest the Arizona-Colorado Land and Cattle Company, which owned a large portion of the original Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4, a square some 12.5 miles on each side. The company created the Baca Grande, a subdivision originally platted for about 10,000 lots on 200,000 acres of land. Happily, ​sales lagged and ​it failed. But then Strong and his Danish-born wife Hanne visited the development and fell in love with it.

In 1978 ​”​a stranger appeared at my door and introduced himself as Glenn Anderson,” Hanne Strong recalled in 2008. “I did not know that many people throughout the Valley knew of Glen [sic] as the local mystic and prophet. The first words he uttered were ​’​I have been waiting for you to arrive.​’”​ He told her that he had predicted in the 1960 ​’​​​ ​​s that a foreigner would come here and build an international religious center. ​”​This is what you’ve come to Crestone to do.​”​

And that ​’​s precisely what she did after hearing his prophesy. Hanne and Maurice Strong began granting parcels of land to spiritual groups. The Nada Hermitage was one of the first three benefactors of a grant of land from the Strongs.

The hermitage sits at 8,000 feet directly below some of the highest peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

A Bridge Connects the Chapel and the Agape Library of the Nada Hermitage

A Bridge Connects the Chapel and the Agape Library of the Nada Hermitage

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Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

August 19th, 2014 · No Comments

The Denver metro area in summer is not the most obvious place to go birding. But Sharon and I went there anyway this Sunday morning.

The Wheat Ridge Greenbelt is one of just a dozen birding hotspots in the metro area that Hugh Kingery includes in his valuable guide to more than 180 premier birding sites in Birding Colorado (Morris Book Publishing, 2007). And this greenbelt is one of the closest of all these places to the state capitol building in downtown Denver, just 8 miles from the city’s skyscrapers.

About 30,000 people live in the Wheat Ridge suburb of Denver. Birds live here too along the greenbelt formed by Clear Creek. The greenbelt runs for more than four miles through Wheat Ridge, and its heart is Prospect Park, which I have visited time and again.

The time of year is as unlikely for birding as this suburban place. Spring and fall migrations offer better prospects. May is the best month, when 131 species are commonly seen, according to Audubon Birds Pro, one of my iPad apps. September comes in second with 120 species, followed by June with 107 and August with 102.

But Prospect Park is a special place, an island of natural beauty formed by the creek, four lakes, and many big old trees. Likewise, this is a special summer. Both Sharon and I are staying the season here in part because it has been so beautiful: generally sunny, calm, and not too hot. Particularly when we hit the trail at sunrise, as we did this morning and do on most of our hikes, we have been blessed with cool weather.

We made a loop walk through the park. We passed Prospect Lake as we drove in and out, stopping to see Snowy Egrets both times. On our way in, the egrets flew off skittishly as soon as I slowly open the car door. We waited until we finished our hike in hopes of seeing them again on Prospect Lake.

Not until we hit the trail along Clear Creek did I capture an image of a bird. The creek was running as clear as its name promises. The flow was down from my last previous visit when it was rushing so fast that I saw no birds on it. But even this time few birds besides Mallards were on the creek. This was one exception:

​A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

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A few minutes later Sharon spotted this tiny raptor in a tree.

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Dragonflies

August 16th, 2014 · 5 Comments

This morning I walked around Tantra Lake at sunrise and again at 11 in search of one of the thinest birds I have ever seen. I saw it there yesterday but I didn’t have my camera with me and wasn’t able to identify it after an extensive search through my field guides and apps. That thin bird may have been starving or a mutation or, possibly like me, following a very low-carb diet.

In any case it was probably eating elsewhere this morning. But on my late morning walk in the hot sun many dragonflies were flying on the lake, occasionally ​resting on the stalks of plants growing at the edge.

Dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, of which about 5,900 species are known. They are insects as beautiful and interesting as butterflies, although much less studied. We have 348 species of dragonflies and damselflies in the Western U.S. and Canada.

Dragonflies are some of the fastest insects in the world and have the finest vision of any insect. They are especially good at identifying movement, which makes them difficult to photograph at close range. But this morning they repeatedly came back to the stalks of three plants, so I plopped myself down next to the stalks and waited.

This is what I saw:

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Louisville’s North Open Space

August 12th, 2014 · 2 Comments

It’s a rare day when I hike on a Boulder County trail that I hadn’t seen before. I figure that I am well on my way to having hiked just about every mile of the county’s trails.

But at sunrise this morning I was on a trail in the City of Louisville’s North Open Space that I hadn’t even known existed until Sharon told me about it. She had discovered it a few days earlier and took me there.

The trailhead near South Boulder Road and Washington Avenue is five miles due east of my apartment. The best map of the open space that I have been able to find is this online Parks, Open Space & Trails Map.

North Open Space itself is just 37 acres, but it adjoins the 45 acres of Louisville’s Callahan Open Space and Lafayette’s smaller Nyland Open Space, which together form a large natural island within suburban development.

During much of our hike we were out of sight of suburbia. But we started out along an irrigation ditch below some large homes up the hill to the south. There we saw an unusual collection of birds on the roof of one of those homes. A Northern Flicker and an American Kestrel were the first to arrive.

​A Blue Jay Joins the Party

A Blue Jay Joins the Party

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We saw several species of flowers as well as of birds.

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Lake Isabelle

August 10th, 2014 · No Comments

This Friday morning was as nearly perfect as it gets in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. To make the 4.2 mile round-trip hike to Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness my hiking buddy Sharon and I chose the day based on the weather prediction, and it turned out to be spot on.

We made sure to get to the trailhead at 6 a.m., when the day was still cool at 42 degrees, although it warmed up later to the mid-60s. We had almost full sun all morning and, best of all, essentially no wind. We had never seen it so calm in these mountains.

​Lake Isabelle, Sharon, Isabelle Glacier, and Shoshoni Peak​

Lake Isabelle, Sharon, Isabelle Glacier, and Shoshoni Peak

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Our destination was Lake Isabelle, which sits at 10,868 feet right below Isabelle Glacier. In 1904 a Boulder engineer, Fred Fair, discovered Isabelle Glacier, which University of Colorado Professor Junius Henderson named for Fair’s first wife, Frances Isabel Fair.

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Moose

July 18th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Sometimes getting up at 4 a.m. can be worth the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep. It was today.

Sharon is back from her trip to northern California. She suggested that we meet at her home in central Boulder at 5 a.m. to drive up to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area for a hike around Long Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We did. This is one of my favorite places to hike, but it’s so high in the Rockies that trails aren’t free from snow until late July, and I hadn’t been there since July 2012.

This morning was sunny, warming up from about 50° to the mid-50s by the time we left the wilderness. I needed the down jacket that I wore.

But first as we approached Brainard Lake, the central one of the five major lakes in the area, we noticed a half dozen cars stopped on the road. We knew that this meant only one thing: moose in the willows.

We jumped out and started shooting. The time was just after 6 a.m. The moose were close and mostly unobstructed by vegetation. With the early morning light was at our backs, it couldn’t have been better.

​The Moose Is the One on the Right

The Moose Is the One on the Right

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We kept on photographing the moose for an hour and one-half. First it was three older males eating a delicious breakfast of fresh willow shoots. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also eat the willow bark whenever they have a headache, since it’s the natural source of salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).

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A Great Blue Heron Visits

July 11th, 2014 · 1 Comment

This morning when I set out to walk around the lake in front of my apartment, I only wanted to experience nature and to get a little physical activity. But then I spotted a Great Blue Heron patiently standing at the far side of the lake.

Hoping that the heron would continue to stalk fish where it stood, I rushed back to my apartment and grabbed my camera. I was lucky.

​The Heron Hadn't Moved

The Heron Hadn't Moved

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Walden and Sawhill Ponds

July 5th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Boulder County’s Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat and the city-managed Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve are two of the best places for birds and for birding around here. Fortunately, they are right next to each other just a couple of miles east of the city.

I often hike one or the other of these parks. I experienced both of them early on Independence Day, and Sharon joined me there.

​South Boulder Peak and Green Mountain from Sawhill Ponds

South Boulder Peak and Green Mountain from Sawhill Ponds

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A few days earlier in the late afternoon I had hiked Sawhill Ponds alone. That day I saw only common birds, albeit in interesting activity or good light.

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