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Shaking it up for Snowy Owl Sunday!

What an absolutely treat to spend not one but two evenings with this Arctic visitor recently. This guy has become quite a local celebrity as it has spent the last few weeks hanging out in a suburban area northwest of Denver. Despite multiple attempts, it wasn’t until Thursday and Friday that I was able to get some good pics of him.

On this evening, the fluffy, white owl was hanging out on a home’s roof. He spent much of the time sleeping and occasionally preening. Here, he gives a big shake showing just how thick a Snowy Owl’s plumage is – something that is needed in its normal home of the Arctic.

It is rare for Snowy Owls to come this far south to Colorado but this year there have been at least five different ones spotted in the Centennial State. The types of events that bring them here are called an irruption and while it isn’t perfectly clear what causes them, it is believed that a very successful summer breeding season results in an over-population of young owls in the Arctic. As a result, many head south in the winter in search of food.

I’ll have many more pics of this guy to share in the coming days. If you’re interested in a print of one of the images, be sure to let me know.

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Turkey Vulture comes in for a landing

They might not be pretty but I love these big guys and while I have captured many pics of them, a recent photo shoot let me get closer to them than before. This particular vulture is a captive bird, unable to be released in the wild due to having been ‘imprinted’ by humans.

We see Turkey Vultures here in Colorado during the summer. You will often spot them soaring high in the sky in large groups – appropriately called a ‘wake’ – looking for their next meal. They feed on carrion they find lying around dead like rabbits, prairie dogs and such and are believed to be able to smell the dead animals up to a mile away. Their role of garbage man helps to prevent the spread of disease from carcasses.

Taken at Nature’s Educators in Sedalia, Colorado. More of my pics of Turkey Vultures here.

A Turkey Vulture comes in for a landing.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Turkey Vulture comes in for a landing. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Turkey Vulture comes in for a landing.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Turkey Vulture comes in for a landing. (© Tony’s Takes)

Bald Eagle yoga?

Yoga is all the craze now and even the raptors are getting into it. 😉 I happened across this handsome fellow a couple of weeks ago on my way home from work. I’m guessing it had been sitting perched for quite a while on this pole as before it left, it went through a rather extensive stretching routine including this pose where it stood on one leg and extended its wings and other leg. Kind of amusing to see.

A Bald Eagle stretches while perched on a pole in Adams County, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Bald Eagle stretches while perched on a pole in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

One very cute, very small, very fast Owl

Check out this little dude! Arktos is an Eastern Screech Owl, a fairly common but rarely seen type of owl. I personally have never seen one before the day of this photo shoot and now I know why – they are tiny! Making finding them even more difficult is the fact that they typically nest in tree cavities and as you can tell by its coloring, it would blend in quite well with one.

Arktos is a captive bird, owned by Nature’s Educators, a non-profit wildlife education group. His parents were unable to care for him and his brother and as a result, the owlets became human imprinted when hand-raised and could not be released into the wild.

I was absolutely amazed at how fast this little guy could fly. It made getting an in-flight capture very, very challenging to say the least.

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive).  (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive). (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive).  (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive). (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive).  (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl in flight (captive). (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl poses (captive).  (© Tony’s Takes)

An Eastern Screech Owl poses (captive). (© Tony’s Takes)

Amber grasses at sunrise

This was on an extremely cold December morning on Colorado’s Great Plains. I was at Jackson Lake State Park primarily in search of eagles but as the sun began to crest the horizon and cast its golden light, I couldn’t help but divert and capture the scene.

A light frost had coated the grass helping to make it really shimmer. I then used a bit of a photographic ‘trick’ then allowed me to turn that rising sun into a bursting light.

This really is a cool technique and very easy for those that want to try. Simply stop your shot down as much as possible – something like f/22. The result is the ‘starburst’ effect you see here. It works best if the sun is somewhat obscured like through grass or leaves on a tree.

More of my landscape images here.

A starburst of the rising sun behind grasses on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A starburst of the rising sun behind grasses on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Golden Eagle gets its portrait taken

Such an absolutely stunning raptor! I’ve been quite close to a Golden in the wild before and their size is something that is hard to appreciate if you haven’t been near one. However, this past weekend I took part in an event that let me get within just a few feet of one and, well, wow!

A local wildlife photographer group arranged for a visit with Nature’s Educators, a non-profit group that does public outreach events to educate the public on wildlife. Most of the animals in the group’s care cannot be released into the wild for a variety of reasons. Such is the case with Tempest.

This 34-year-old eagle was illegally taken from her nest as a hatching by someone who thought she would make a good pet. That of course did not work out and due to it having been ‘imprinted’ by humans, she could not be released into the wild. To say she is stunning would be an understatement.

The event gave me an opportunity to try out my latest lens, a Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 G2 and as you can see, the results were quite impressive! The lens captured the extraordinary detail of this bird and opening it up to f2.8 really helped blow out the background and ensure it wasn’t a distraction.

Close-up portrait of Tempest, a captive Golden Eagle.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Close-up portrait of Tempest, a captive Golden Eagle. (© Tony’s Takes)

Close-up portrait of Tempest, a captive Golden Eagle.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Close-up portrait of Tempest, a captive Golden Eagle. (© Tony’s Takes)

American White Pelican glides with ease

Whew! I’m not sure where the last few days have gone but they were a whirlwind! Between home improvement projects and a raptor photo shoot (pics to come) I haven’t been able to catch a breath.

So, here is one I randomly grabbed from my archives. Taken back in July at Jackson Lake State Park, Colorado. These huge, seasonal visitors to the state make great photo subjects and are my wife’s favorite so when they are around, I am given no choice but to take pictures. 😉

An American White Pelican glides over the waters of a lake on Colorado's plains.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An American White Pelican glides over the waters of a lake on Colorado’s plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Guardian of the feeder

Going back to August when we were camping in Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado. We had put out our hummingbird feeders and were enjoying watching the little birds come by and grab a drink. This one though seemed to think the feeders belonged to it and it alone. It would perch in the nearby bushes and the second another hummingbird approached it would chase it off. Lots of fun to watch but with as fast as they move, not easy to keep up with.

A Hummingbird keeps close watch on a nearby feeder, ready to chase away any intruders.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Hummingbird keeps close watch on a nearby feeder, ready to chase away any intruders. (© Tony’s Takes)

Rare Snowy Owl pays a visit to suburbs of Denver

This guy (or gal) has caused quite a stir over the last couple of weeks. It was spotted right before Christmas northeast of Denver in a suburban park and lake area. Of course, once word got out, bird watchers and photographers soon descended. It is very rare for a Snowy Owl to come this far south so it wasn’t surprising to see the interest.

I have spent multiple days out there looking for it but on only one did I have any luck. It had nestled in among some tall grasses so I was never able to get a clear capture of the beautiful creature and the distance was hefty so these images are quite cropped.

At the end of my time with it, it did take off to an area further from the group that had gathered. By then the long shadows signifying the end of day had descended and the light was minimal so my flight shots were not good at all. Even if the pics aren’t the greatest, it was a treat to get to see this.

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Other-worldly clouds at sunset

Winter sunsets and sunrises here in Colorado are oftentimes pretty darned amazing. For the late day shows, we oftentimes have wave clouds and lenticular clouds above. These almost alien looking clouds look cool any time but throw in the colored rays of the setting sun and the view is jaw-dropping. Such was the case this past Friday evening. From my home I don’t have a clear view to the west so instead I zoomed in and focused on some of the more interesting shapes.

Stunning lenticular clouds at sunset along the Colorado Front Range.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Stunning lenticular clouds at sunset along the Colorado Front Range. (© Tony’s Takes)

Stunning lenticular clouds at sunset along the Colorado Front Range.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Stunning lenticular clouds at sunset along the Colorado Front Range. (© Tony’s Takes)

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