Colorado!

The family and I just got back from a nice and much needed summer vacation in Colorado. We were in the state for the better part of a week, but it took only seconds to recognize that Colorado is a very different place than Dallas/Fort Worth. Never mind the grandiose mountain views, just stepping out of the car into crisply cool weather under a clear blue sky was a hard clue to miss. A high temperature of 48 degrees in late June definitely means you ain’t in Texas anymore!

A mountain lake covered in ice late into June

This trip to the Rocky Mountains was meant to be a true vacation. Rest and relaxation was the order of the day. With that in mind, I purposely left my big-lensed Digital SLR camera at home, fully intending to limit the time I spent taking pictures. I did, however, covertly pack my trusty Canon SX70 just in case I came across one or two things I just couldn’t resist photographing.

Three battery packs and several hundred pictures later, I came home with the material I will share with you here in this article.

We observed a lot of wildlife in Colorado–both urban and otherwise. The experience was a little different than what I am used to, and there were some pleasant surprises. I tried to focus my picture taking on wildlife that is not found in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The set of photos that I got is certainly not comprehensive, but is illustrative. Please enjoy this abbreviated portfolio…

Mule Deer. Common in the city and in the country
The mulies were often very tolerant of the presence of observers
Desert Cottontail. A half dozen or so were on the grounds of our Denver Hotel
Black-billed Magpie. Nearly as common as grackles in Dallas/Fort Worth.
This picture doesn’t do this beautiful and colorful bird justice
Changing terrain reveals new wildlife
Bullock’s Oriole
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Bull Elk on the move
Elk
The Elk cows were spending their time at higher elevations
Elk on the meadow at Sheep Lake
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
We have American Pipits in the metroplex during winter.
They don’t look like this, however. This pipit is wearing his breeding plumage!
Bighorn Sheep. How many do you count?
Bighorn Sheep
Least Chipmunk
Moose
Browsing along a mountain creek
Rock Squirrels
Violet-green Swallow
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Marmot on the lookout
The marmots could sometimes be found using the roadside as a mineral lick
Pronghorn
A Pronghorn doe and her offspring
A Pika from the top of Pikes Peak

On the drive home, while the family dozed, or read, or iPhoned, I entertained myself by listening to music and watching for wildlife. I continued to see Mule Deer with some frequency as we were leaving Colorado Springs. Black-billed Magpies, Red-tailed Hawks, And Turkey Vultures were common in the sky. Just past Pueblo, Colorado I began to notice Pronghorn grazing the open plains on either side of the highway.

Crossing into New Mexico, we followed a route through a mountain pass complete with deer crossing, elk crossing, and bear crossing signs. Only a few mulies were observed during this part of the drive, despite a sharp lookout.

On the high plains immediately to the east of the mountains, I began to see Pronghorns again–lots of them. Some were alone, others were in small groups of three to five, and some were gathered into small herds of a dozen or more individuals. All in all, we must have observed well over a hundred Pronghorn along this stretch of Highway 87.

New Mexico Pronghorns

I spotted one more Pronghorn after we cross the state line into Texas, and then the long drought began. We were in Wise Count–almost back home–before I observed the next (and last) animal of note seen on our drive. It was a White-tailed Deer browsing the lush green vegetation in a culvert just off the highway.

Lesson learned. Colorado and Texas are definitely not the same… Here in the metroplex it is not always easy to notice and appreciate the natural beauty that is all around us. It can be more difficult to observe and record. But, that is part of what makes the pursuit so worthwhile–The Challenge. Wildlife and nature photographers have to work a little harder in North Texas than in other parts of the country–that is true. Still, for those of us who call this state home, the Texas love perseveres!

Texas as it appears from the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.
That’s it, there on the horizon