This past week I tried someplace new to me for photographing bighorn sheep. As I arrived, off in the distance on the side of a cliff and straight into the sun, I saw the unmistakable form of a ram. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few quick shots, this being one of them. I really like his silhouette and the hint of light on the side of the cliff. I got many more shots that day at closer range and with “proper” exposure but this one is kind of cool.
Certainly, these guys’ agility is legendary and if you have ever seen them scale or descend the side of a cliff, you know that well. Needless to say, that means they can handle a four-foot-high chain link fence with ease. This big guy hopped the fence a few times while I was watching him, all with absolute ease – no run up, no effort – just up and over. Pretty impressive to say the least.
With warm weather on the Colorado Front Range, yesterday was a perfect day for spending time with these awesome creatures.
While the bighorn rut is just starting to heat up, action was pretty light unfortunately. However, I did manage some nice poses from them.
This handsome fellow was trailing a bunch of ewes and lambs and had them largely to himself. Some younger rams were in the area as well, but none that matched the stature of this guy.
There are three subspecies of bighorn sheep with the Rocky Mountain variety like this one being the largest. These guys can weigh over 300 pounds with their horns alone weighing 30 pounds! Here in Colorado, they are our state animal and are incorporated into the logo for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
As we flip the calendar to September, my mind starts thinking of all the fun, fall action to come.
Ungulates like elk, moose, deer and bighorn sheep will each be starting their rut and mating season will be in full swing. The testosterone of the boys will be raging and fights will be brewing. It truly is one of the most fun times to photograph wildlife in Colorado.
This image harkens back to November 1 of last year when the bighorn were taking their turn at wooing the ladies. Unfortunately on this day they weren’t much into head-butting but this handsome fellow was definitely “feeling the vibe” and rushing to catch up to the nearby ewes.
It has been a while since I have shared any pics of the Centennial State’s official animal so here is one going back to November.
That was the height of the rut and I was really hoping to see some serious head-butting but the guys were on their best behavior, instead opting to just eat and occasionally chase the girls rather than fight. It was a gorgeous fall day though and while the action was light, it was no less fun.
One last “top shots” video recapping my 2020 photo year. Today, I look back at some of the mammals that I photographed. From the tiny American pika to the massive moose, I was fortunate to spend time with some pretty amazing creatures. Two new animals that I had never photographed were highlights including a suburban bobcat family and the wild #horses of Sand Wash Basin. All images taken here in Colorado.
A wildlife version of Elf on the Shelf? 😉
While observing a few bighorn sheep rams, I kept hearing the bleating of another somewhere in the distance. A friend finally spotted the big boy, way up high on the side of the canyon wall across the river.
It stopped its decent briefly, surveying the situation below, seeming to debate whether it was going to come challenge the other rams or not. It did indeed come down, cross the river, and meet up with his buddies.
Unfortunately there were no big battles on this day but it was still a nice outing with lots of captures of Colorado’s official state animal.
Ah, yes, love is in the air this time of year for many ungulates, including bighorn sheep. The males are keen on keeping watch on the females and checking to see which ones might be ready for a bit of “action.”
Here, one big fellow flares his nostrils and sniffs a group of ewes, trying to determine if any are in estrus.
With a successful mating, there is a six-month gestation and the ewes will give birth in May to one lamb. On rare occasions, they have two.
Let’s call this Sheep Sunday and feature this handsome fellow.
He was following some ewes in the canyon last weekend and clearly looking for love. Bighorn sheep are Colorado’s official state animal and, in my opinion, a very fitting one to have chosen.
Like the terrain and the original inhabitants and settlers of the Centennial State, they are tough, rugged and strong. Rams can push toward 300 pounds and are impressively powerful.
For this image, I did a conversion to black and white which helps to really highlight the fine details of this guy’s awesome eyes, horns and fur.
Those dang, kids!
Watching the bighorn sheep this past weekend was fun, as always. I followed a few rams as they worked their way down the canyon toward a herd of ewes and kids. While the adult males engaged the females, looking for love, the kids were left unsupervised and became very rambunctious.
I was focused on the adults when suddenly, a half dozen kids came bounding down the mountain and up the road right at me! I quickly ran to the side to get out of the way, snapping pictures as I went. I figured if I was going to get run over, I might as well document the event. 😉
In the end, any collision was avoided as the young ones ran right by and back up the side chasing each other. The fun and joy they seemed to be having running and playing was heart-warming and a great thing to see.