Munching Moose Monday

Photograph of a moose feeding in a lake.
Shiras Bull Moose in a Colorado Mountain Lake

 

For a few years I was lucky enough to find a boat-load of moose hanging out in a particular lake in Northern Colorado. This was one of the first images I made after that discovery.

When moose find a good grassy bottom water hole, they munch like mad. The grass in his mouth and the water dripping from his head make for a perfect combination.

Moose activity is heating up. After the July 4th holiday, I begin working full swing. With any luck, I’ll find more moose in this lake this July and August.

 

Why Did The Moose Cross The Road?

Cow and calf strolling through the woods. Shiras Moose – Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

 

Life these days are about finding simple pleasures.

Earlier this week I ventured out to find the local moose at sunrise, as I normally do when I’m at the cabin. The primary activity lately has been from a couple of cows and their calves. There’s one cow that has twins and she keeps them fairly tucked away in the woods. Closer to the village, a mother and her single calf have been frequenting the woods near my place and it hasn’t been difficult to find them in short order.

Still sipping coffee, I made a quick run to the two areas I felt most likely to find the critters, and after about 10 minutes of poking around with no luck, I elected to go to a third location on the other side of the village in hopes they might be lingering in the open.

Much to my surprise, I’m driving along the road towards my place when I spot the obvious silhouette of the mother moose standing in the middle of the road at the intersection of my street and the main highway. She was standing in the road looking back over her shoulder off to my right at the side of the road where her calf was trying to get over a fence to join her.

Moose Cow and Calf crossing a highway.
Leading her calf across the road near my cabin.

I could almost hear her talking to the calf. “Come on, just jump over the fence and lets get going”  The calf was anxious and made it through the fence with little effort. Momma moose then proceeds across the road with calf in tow, into the field near my house, where they stop to browse the bushes for a quick breakfast snack.  I pulled off to the side of the dirt road leading to my cabin and sat and watched. The sun still wasn’t up but it was getting lighter by the moment. The dawn sunshine hit the field beyond the pair and began its slow creep toward the two. A few moments of browsing and they were done. Mother moose decided to take the calf into the woods in the direction of my cabin so I pulled the SUV off the roadside and drove on down the road running parallel to them. By now they had vanished into the woods. I know those woods quite well and there’s a marshy pond on the far side of the woods they were moving through so I figured I’d just drive on down the road to where that pond was and see if they were anywhere to be found.

As I crept along the dirt road near the pond, the two were coming through the woods directly towards me. I stopped and fired off a few frames from the Nikon D810 as they crested the small hill above the pond, almost directly in front of me.

Mother moose didn’t blink and eye and she led her calf right to me and across the road into the woods behind my cabin.  The end result, I got a good 30-40 minutes of early morning camera time in close proximity to these two lovely neighbors.

Why did the moose cross the road?

So I could get photos.

The Watering Hole

Moose calf at a watering hole near Red Feather Lakes, CO
Shiras Moose Calf – Red Feather Lakes

I’ve been photographing a moose cow and calf most of this Spring and early Summer in the area around the village. There’s a particular water-hole near the village where all manner of wild creatures come to slurp and it’s a good place to watch for activity.

It’s difficult for the moose to find good habitat east of the village, as the area begins transforming from mountain forest to open brush and range land. Moose will move through but they are seldom found in numbers. This makes the forest surrounding the village a good congregation point. The moose come in to the area, browse around. The cows and calves have a good range of feeding in a non hostile environment. The bulls are a different story. They seem to have more of a wandering spirit. They move into the area but seem to eventually move back to the higher country to the west where there is a lot more forest to explore.

The Youngsters Look Healthy

Moose photography by Gary Gray
Twin Moose Calves

More good fortune. Yesterday morning shortly after sunrise I came across a moose cow with twins. Mother moose wasn’t too concerned with my presence, however, the calves were quite curious. Embedded in a aspen grove, they were not exactly in the most photographic of spots but I managed a few frames. Turns out, I got this photo and a couple of others.

Moose twins are one of the more rare events to see in the wild. It takes quite a bit of energy for a female cow to birth and raise two babies, but this cow was in pretty good shape and the youngsters look healthy.

 

Mother and Child

Photograph of a nursing moose calf
Mother Moose Feeding Her Baby

I went out looking for moose around the village yesterday evening just before sunset.

Was fortunate enough to wind up on this pair, mother and child, moving along the edge of the woods near the cabin.

It’s rare that I find a perfect setup for a nursing calf. Last night was good.

Misty Moose

Shiras Moose in Colorado by Gary Gray
Two moose buddies hanging out in a lake.

This photo from 2014 was taken before sunrise in a Northern Colorado lake.

It’s rare to find two large bulls hanging out together in a good photographic situation. The light was quite low and flat, but moose are seldom found in perfect light. The mist wafting from the lake’s surface gives a nice feel to the shot.

I’m still amazed at the images I made using the old, defunct, Canon EOS 7D. An APS-C camera that was probably the best affordable wildlife camera on the market for several years. It wasn’t much use above ISO 1600. This shot was at ISO 3200, pushing the limits of the sensor but with a little post processing in DXO PhotoLab Pro, I managed to milk a little more out of the old camera.  The lens was a Canon 400mm prime with a 1.4x teleconverter. I don’t use teleconverters very often, they tend to degrade the image quality a bit but these guys were on the far side of the lake and getting a nice framing required it.  No complaints.

As the old saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Mooseaholic Monday

moose, wildlife, animal, photography, photographer, nature, water, grass, young, bull
Young bull moose walking through a pond.

Six Hundred photos for the opening of summer in Red Feather Lakes.

My first impression this year is that the moose are there and just waiting for me to find them. The few I found within a mile of my place prove that they are on the move looking for the best food.

Environmentally speaking, the Aspen trees have just greened up above 8,000 feet and most of the willows are sprouting fresh green shoots, which is what attracts these hungry ungulates.

I managed to get a full test in of the new kit. I’m shooting with the Nikon D810 using the 200-500mm VR and the Nikon D750  using the 70-200mm f4/VR. No complaints. I don’t have to swap lenses in the field. If I need wider angle, I have a D7200 the 24-120mm VR and a couple of fast & wide primes. I’ve been shooting in predawn light and both cameras handle it well.

I’ll probably take a few days of down time and edit shots. I’m looking forward to getting back out though. The summer is only starting.

Patience Pays Off

Bull moose wading through a pond in Northern ColoradoFresh moose.

Staking out a position and being patient paid off this morning.

I’ve been working a large pond near the cabin for years. I’ve seen moose poo, tracks and plenty of evidence they were frequenting the place, however, I’ve yet to find a photograph of any quality.

Today, the worm turned.

More Fresh Moose

Photograph of a mooseOne year old Shiras Bull Moose – Red Feather Lakes, CO

Memorial Day weekend and I am enjoying the excellent Spring weather here in Northern Colorado. The typical pattern is clear blue skies in the morning and scattered clouds in the afternoon. If it isn’t raining non-stop. Fortunately, here in Red Feathers we are not suffering from the mild to moderate drought the rest of the state is experiencing. And that means the forest fire situation up here shouldn’t be a major issue, but all it takes is one dumb camper to change that.

A moose calf is technically a baby moose who is still under the supervision of its mother. The Cow moose will keep the calve(s) with them until they birth a new calf. Sometimes yearly, sometimes not. Once a cow births a new calf, the older one is chased off to fend for his/her self.

This calf has just been cut loose by its mother. As moose go, this little guy isn’t very large. Another clue of its youth is the presence of buttons for antlers. More mature bulls will have more growth this time of year.

Still, he’s doing pretty good. He looks healthy and knows where to browse for food. With other bulls in the area, he’ll get his moose training on the job, just like all the others. If he can survive on his own for a year or two, he’ll be fine.

The weekend crowd is out in force today. Campers, hikers, weekenders are all gathered in and around the village to kick off summer in the high country. I tend to not try working on these holiday weekends or any weekend for that matter. I’ll be back out amongst the green trees and mountain lakes once the hub-bub has subsided.

Enjoy your weekend and please, be safe and happy.

May The Moose Be With You

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The moose are coming out of the high country and looking for food. Fortunately, some of the best moose eats are just up the road from me.

I found this fellow at dawn this morning. Curious at first, he decided to give me a little dance act, charging my SUV from 100 feet away he stopped and hopped around snorting at me and kicking his legs in the air.

The cabin is up and running and the moose are here. Life is good.