Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

WHEN: 16 Aug 2017, 07:15
WHERE: Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, Colorado, USA

Another work trip, this time to Denver, Colorado. I had spotted this place on the map on a previous visit to Denver and decided it would be good to visit if I could squeeze it in before my business meeting. Jet-lag played in my favor and I was up bright and early ready to catch the sunrise. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal has a great 11 mile driving route around the refuge which takes approximately 1 hour to drive (depending on how much you stop).

First up within a mile of starting the drive I spotted small group of deer enjoying their breakfast. What immediately stood out to me was how used to seeing cars the wildlife was, and how unafraid they were. These deer seemed to only move on because they had their own agenda.

Summer Stag Colorado

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F6.7, ISO 1600, 1/160 sec.

Further up the road more deer, this time I was treated to a young fawn testing out it’s legs. The doe watched on as the fawn proceeded to jump around for at least 15 minutes, at times coming very close to my hire car. This was a fantastic photographic opportunity which I struggled to capitalise on. Note to self, I must practice more on fast moving unpredictable subjects. The shot below represents one of the few in focus well composed images. Thankfully the sun had risen enough to provide light for fast shutter speeds, turns out 1/800th sec. is pretty borderline for deer moving as fast as this fawn was.

Bouncy Fawn

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 500, 1/800 sec.

 Next stop gave me my 1st close up Kingfisher photograph. I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting to capture a North American kingfisher, but he was very accommodating. I am assuming it is a he as I am not sure how to tell the gender of anything but our European variety.

North American Kingfisher

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 1600, 1/60 sec.

The birds then arrived thick and fast, on the same corner as the kingfisher I saw this scruffy looking Amerian Kestrel. Probably an adolescent bird from the disheveled appearance.

American Kestrel

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 500, 1/800 sec.

 The bird checklist continued with a turtle dove (pretty uncommon in the UK but plenty in the US). Then the raptors were out in force, obligingly the local hawks seemed to like using the fence posts near the road to plan their next hunt from. This Swainsons Hawk allowed me to drive practically alongside before posing for me.

Swainsons Hawk

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F10, ISO 500, 1/1250 sec.

The same was true for a Red Tailed Hawk, who even treated me to a little flying and a reminder that I need more birds in flight practice. The hawk also spent a fair bit of time searching around in the grass at the side of the road, looking for worms and lizards to eat.

Red Tailed Hawk - Take Off

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 200, 1/800 sec.

One of the animals the wildlife refuge is well known for is the Bison, I was unfortunately running short of time to get to my meeting when I got to the area they seemed to be occupying. I had hoped to capture an image which showed the sheer scale of these majestic animals. The beasts however seemed determined to hide their faces and I came away with very few images worth sharing. Here’s one of the better ones.

Bison

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 500, 1/640 sec.

Finally what visit to the prairies would be complete without a ruff tuff looking prairie dog. Easy to photograph and very photogenic, this one is exhibiting his best get off my mound pose as he objected to the proximity of me in my hire car.

Prairie Dog

Nikon D500, Nikon 300mm F4 PF + TC-17E II at 500mm (750mm equiv.) – F8, ISO 500, 1/1600 sec.

I can safely say a very productive early morning on the prairies. I made my meeting in plenty of time and will be sure to visit the refuge if I am ever in Denver for more than a quick trip again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *