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An insane number of geese

I don’t post these pics because they are particularly great but rather because they show a pretty insane scene. I was out on a photo drive northeast of Denver, Colorado and had stopped to at a popular eagle spot. I was hearing a few shotgun shots, not unusual this time of year, when suddenly there was a massive eruption of Canada Geese (and a few Snow Geese) from the nearby fields.

There had to be thousands of them as they all took flight, making quite a ruckus as they did. These birds are not particularly well liked in this area as they make huge messes and their numbers can be overwhelming – as you can see – but it was kind of fun to see this.

Thousands of Canada Geese in flight over the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Thousands of Canada Geese in flight over the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Thousands of Canada Geese in flight over the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Thousands of Canada Geese in flight over the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Wary White-tailed Deer buck

Despite the fact I was sitting in my big, bright blue truck out in the open, this guy seemed a bit surprised to have walked right up to me. He had his head down, alternately grazing and keeping an eye on a nearby female off to the side. When he finally looked forward, he spotted me and had a bit of a “where did you come from” look. 😉

White-tailed Deer are North America’s smallest deer. They are very fleet-footed capable of speeds up to 30mph and able to leap as high as 10 feet and as far as 30 feet in a single bound.

A White-tailed Deer buck keeps watch on the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

A White-tailed Deer buck keeps watch on the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

Years ago I had a blog where I shared my thoughts on a number of topics, the military and veterans being prominent features.  I was going through that site today and came across this posting from Veterans Day 2009.  It seems to fit as well now as it did then and want to re-share it here.

Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony's Takes)

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony’s Takes)

We set aside Veterans Day to say ‘thank you’ to our veterans for their service and for the sacrifices they have made for us and our great nation.  Sometimes though, we forget exactly what veterans have done to deserve these thanks.

Veterans have served in God-forsaken hellholes from one end of the earth to the other.  They have roasted in 120+ degree heat in the Middle East, been drenched by unending rain in the jungles of Vietnam, and suffered frostbite in the bitter cold of the Ardennes Forest.

They have stood in lines dozens deep to eat, to see a doctor and even to use the bathroom.  They have labored for days with little or no sleep.  Men and women have launched dozens of bomb-laden aircraft from the deck of aircraft carriers in a matter of hours, stood watch over the DMZ in Korea where a state of war still exists and fought bloody battles for their very lives that lasted for days.

Sailors go months without seeing land, longing for the simple pleasure of setting foot on solid ground again.

Airmen load bombs well-aware of the harm they may cause but comforted by the knowledge their cause is just.

Soldiers spend weeks on missions where their only hot meal is an MRE eaten from their helmet, longing for some of their wife’s home cooking.

Coastguardsmen stand watch from the deck of a ship protecting a homeland unaware of the dangers lurking offshore.

Marines assault a beachhead running for their lives while watching their friends fall around them.

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony's Takes)

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony’s Takes)

Veterans have been separated from their friends and families for weeks, months and years.   They have missed birthdays, anniversaries, and the birth of their own children.  They have missed Christmas, the 4th of July, football games and even Veterans Day.

Our veterans have called home from a far off land and heard about the broken washer and the car that won’t start and been helpless to help their loved ones back home.  They have gotten the Red Cross message telling them about their dad dying unexpectedly and felt the anguish of having to choose between going home to honor him or staying in the field to fight with their comrades.  They have received ‘Dear John’ letters while on the other side of the world, crushing the one piece of home they were clinging to.

Veterans have returned home to a country which is foreign to them, a place that has seemingly moved on while they were stuck in time.  They have found children that hardly recognize them, spouses that grew accustomed to them not being around and friends and family that don’t understand them and cannot fathom what they have seen and done.

Some have returned home to tickertape parades and adoring crowds.  Others returned home only to be spat on and called despicable names.  Many return to no acknowledgement of what they have accomplished, no one there to simply say ‘welcome home.’

Veterans have struggled to return to a normal life, not even knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore.  Veterans throw themselves into their new lives with the same sense of honor, pride and dedication they served the country with.  Others still stand on a street corner and sleep under a bridge just looking for a helping hand while battling the demons that haunt their minds.  They go to Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts across the country in an effort to recapture some of the comradeship that was lost when they left the service.

They bear the scars of their service, some visible, some not.

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony's Takes)

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony’s Takes)

They have prosthetic legs to replace the ones blown off by an IED and a six inch scar across their belly where a German knife was plunged into it.  Some walk with a limp from a shattered ankle, can’t move an arm that is paralyzed or struggle to hear their grandchildren because of a bomb that exploded next to them ruining their hearing.

Veterans stand at attention and cry when the Star Spangled Banner is played, knowing the words by heart and the true meaning behind them.  Others though cannot watch fireworks on the 4th of July because the sight and sound frightens them and brings back memories they fight to bury and forget.

They break down when remembering holding their friend as he gasped his last breath on the battlefield.  They pray to God asking that He just make the images of the horrors they witnessed go away but knowing that they will return when they close their eyes.

When you think about what you are saying ‘thank you’ for, perhaps just think about some of these things that our veterans have done.  That simple act of saying ‘thank you’ takes on renewed meaning for you and will mean more to a veteran than he can ever say.

God bless you all, God bless the United States of America and God bless our veterans!

Flight of freedom in honor of Veterans Day

President John Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

A select few men and women have served in our nation’s armed forces and endured hardships that are impossible for others to imagine. They have done so with distinction and honor, preserving our freedom and shedding a light across the globe to help those in need. Today we honor them, remember them, and ensure that they will never be forgotten.

I thank all of my brothers and sisters in arms today for their service. It is an honor to have served this Great Nation with you and like you, I would do it again if called upon. God bless you all.

A Bald Eagle in flight in honor of Veterans Day. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Bald Eagle in flight in honor of Veterans Day. (© Tony’s Takes)

Osprey on the hunt

I happened across this pretty lady back in August in Grand County, Colorado. Her young ones had fledged so her and her mate were free to do as they pleased. On this morning, she was patrolling the waters of a nearby lake looking for breakfast.

These summer-season visitors to Colorado are some of my favorite raptors. They are gone from my area and have headed south to the Gulf Coast and South America for the winter.

Some Osprey will take on extraordinarily long migrations. One GPS-tracked bird flew 2,700 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to French Guiana, South America in 2008.

A female Osprey patrols the waters of a mountain lake in Grand County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Osprey patrols the waters of a mountain lake in Grand County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

“Mom! Do you really need to watch me do this?”

Absolutely a poor quality picture but one that makes me smile. Taken this past June during our visit to Grand Teton National Park. I was out for an early morning drive while the rest of my crew slept in and I came across this Grizzly Bear sow and her not-so-young cub. The pair was grazing in an open meadow when the young one decided it need to ‘go.’ It was heavily overcast and the sun had just come up so light was minimal and not great for photography but it was fun to see.

A Grizzly Bear sow and her cub in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Grizzly Bear sow and her cub in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (© Tony’s Takes)

“Ooh that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?”

Forgive me for borrowing a couple of lines from an old Lynyrd Skynyrd song but that is what came to mind when I saw this. 😉

This Bighorn Sheep ram was clearly in the mood and was non-stop chasing a ewe around the canyon. She was not showing any interest and at one point stopped running to relieve herself. The ram got a good whiff of it and made this face.

This is in fact a behavior called the flehmen response. Many mammals will do this, curling their lips, raising their head and inhaling deeply allowing them to get a better sampling of a particular smell that interests them – kind of like a human taking a big whiff to smell something.

A Bighorn Sheep ram displays the flehmen response after taking a whiff of a female. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Bighorn Sheep ram displays the flehmen response after taking a whiff of a female. (© Tony’s Takes)

The setting moon at sunrise

The setting moon at sunrise. A very pretty scene this past Saturday. As the sun rose in the east and cast its warming rays on the landscape, to the west, everything was aglow and a setting near-full moon dotted those beautiful blue skies. Taken at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

As the sunrise illuminates the landscape, the full moon sets in the west. (© Tony’s Takes)

As the sunrise illuminates the landscape, the full moon sets in the west. (© Tony’s Takes)

Hawk hunts backyard chickens

A very fun thing to see this past weekend although I didn’t get images of all the action. I spotted a gorgeous Cooper’s Hawk hanging out in a suburban park so naturally stopped to get a picture.

It flew off immediately toward some neighboring houses and I was going to give up until I hear some chickens making a huge ruckus. I walked toward the noise and see just over the short fence three chickens huddled up under a bush, clearly distraught. I knew then that hawk had to be there.

Sure enough, I see it standing in the yard, probably trying to figure out how it can enjoy a nice breakfast of poultry. Unfortunately when the Cooper’s Hawk saw me it hopped up into a tree, then decided it didn’t want witnesses to the slaughter it was contemplating and headed off. While I didn’t get any action shots, I did get some decent images of the raptor.

Interestingly enough, the term ‘chicken hawk’ actually refers to the Cooper’s Hawk. Apparently that is fitting.

A Cooper's Hawk keeps watch on some backyard chickens in the hopes of getting a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Cooper’s Hawk keeps watch on some backyard chickens in the hopes of getting a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Cooper's Hawk keeps watch on some backyard chickens in the hopes of getting a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Cooper’s Hawk keeps watch on some backyard chickens in the hopes of getting a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

“Come on! Let’s play!”

It was a lazy early fall day on the mountain for the Mountain Goat kids, well, at least for some of them. While most were quite content to just relax on the alpine tundra, one was feeling rambunctious and went around prodding the other kids to play. It never did work but it was cute watching it try to get the others moving. Here it went up and nosed another young one.

The terrain where this picture was taken undoubtedly looks much different now, two months later. Mount Evans is covered in snow and its summit is closed for the next seven months. I’ll be anxiously awaiting my chance to visit with this high altitude residents again.

Mount Goat kids play above timberline in the Colorado high country. (© Tony’s Takes)

Mount Goat kids play above timberline in the Colorado high country. (© Tony’s Takes)

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