Monday, January 30, 2006

The Dipper Revisited

Visiting the different wildlife refuges, we have learned that often you will see certain birds (or other animals) at the same area each time you visit or make the "rounds." Once we found the spot in the creek where the dipper was feeding, we saw him regularly there. And of course, we kept going back both to enjoy watching him and for me to try to get that award winning photo. The weather in Breckenridge this year was cold and snowy. I kept hoping for a day that would have just the right combination of sun angle or high light clouds. I wanted photos of the dipper with enough lighting for a sharp, crisp photo and with the lighting at my back so I was not shooting into the sun and fighting the silhouette effect. I had one more chance with better lighting. I put my teleconverter on and spent probably an hour moving upstream with the dipper. While these are not "prize winning" or commercial quality shots, I am pleased, because I got a set of intimate shots of a very shy creature. Plus I got the enjoyment of watching his antics. I was so surprised to see him disappear underneath the ice at the edges of the water. I even saw him go under an ice bridge and surface on the other side. Because I spent so many days watching and observing, I feel an affinity with this individual dipper. I find myself searching other icy creek beds hoping for a glimpse of another dipper.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Four Degress (Fahrenheit) Sunrise

We've had a lot of snow over the past several weeks. I've been checking the forecast to see if it is worth while to get up at sunrise and get out. Today looks promising. I wake up around 6:00 - check the sky - I can see stars . . . . a good sign. I check the temperature - 4 degrees - that's pretty cold.

Because of my arm, Henry is going out with me - I can manipulate the camera and the smaller tripod, but if I need my big lens and heavy tripod, I need help. So we throw our clothes - tons of layers for me, not so many for Henry - he just sits in the car working on his writing. For me, one layer of thermal underwear, wool socks, one long sleeved T-shirt, wool sweater, ski pants, wool hat, fancy mittens that allow my hand to stay warm, but have my fingers available to work with the camera, and my ski jacket. I wait until the last minute to put on the sweater and coat - too hot inside otherwise. And on my shoes go my YAKTRAX - a product that I just love. It is like little chains for my shoes. I don't slip anymore!

Next decision - where to go? I head for an overlook that has been productive recently. The sun is not up yet and the clouds over the mountains show promise for a spectacular sunrise. Only issue is there are also clouds to the east that may obscure the first light.

There it is - the first light on the mountain, but it is off in the distance, not lighting the clouds I had hoped for. Too far away and not bright enough for the magic I'm hoping for. Decision time . . . Yes, I'm going to move where I can be closer to the mountain peaks that are getting the sun.

So we head over to Hoosier Pass and I am hoping to still catch that early lighting. We get as far as Quandry Peak - yes, I like that blowing snow.

With two feet of snow in just the last few days, there is a lot of powder for the wind to blow. Sun looks good on it, too.

When we get to the top of the pass, I know it is going to be a good morning. Trees laden with snow, interesting weather on the peaks, the wind whipping up the fresh powder snow. Yes, it is cold, but, oh, how exciting and rewarding.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Dipper

Back when we were camping in our truck camper with the kids above Silverton, Colorado, we saw our first dipper.

We saw this cute bird that kept submerging himself in the icy cold, rushing waters of South Mineral Creek, jumping from rock to rock inbetween. He was easy to identify as a "dipper."

I've been trying to find good photographic spots around Breckenridge. (Yes, I know all of Breckenridge is scenic, but I've been trying to find magic, undiscovered places.)

I went up a road called Tiger Run and had found a creek that has areas with running, unfrozen water.

I'd been intrigued by the areas with running water surrounding rocks with caps of snow.

We've startled a beaver and watched him quickly dive out of site. One morning there was a mallard couple swimming and foraging. And we've consistently seen a dipper in this area.

I've had opportunites on three different days to photograph the dipper that frequents this area. None of the photos are competition quality. But I've had more fun watching. The first day he spent a lot of time running along the ice along the edge of the creek.

I had a lot of fun watching him fish one day. At the base of a beaver dam, I watched him catch a small fingerling trout. He bounced it on the ice until it quit wriggling and then swallowed it whole.

It is fun to watch him hop out of the water after he has been foraging on the bottom. Sure looks cold to me!

Today I watched him flip rocks searching for food underneath them. The fun ended when another dipper flew in. My dipper chirped and began to chase the intruder away. I saw him land some distance upstream. The visibility for viewing is not as good there. So I gave up for the day.

Because we know this dipper feeds here regularly, I will come by regularly in hopes that one day I'll get the right lighting, a good photogenic position, and perhaps even the catching of a fish! Whether I ever get an award winning photo of this cute creature, I get a lot of enjoyment spotting him and observing him.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I really love winter. I love snow and icicles and cold weather. I like walking in crunchy snow. I do NOT like walking on ice. There is a reason for this. One year when I was walking home from dinner with Thomas and Stephanie, I fell on a slippery porch on the east side of our River Mountain Condo. My head hit the brick floor with such a thud that the store worker in the stockroom came out to check on me. The kids insisted I go to the emergency room. No concussion, no problems the rest of the trip.

On another trip, Debra and I were walking in downtown Breckenridge - our last window shopping before leaving. My foot slipped out from underneath me and I landed on my back. When I got back to the condo garage, it was hurting bad enough, I started crying. Even though it was time to leave, we headed over to the emergency room. It was snowing out and I was the driver . . . .so he gave me one set of meds to take while driving and another one to take before I went to bed. By the next day it was much better.

On Thursday, we were headed over to a restaurant a couple of blocks from the condo. We've walked this stretch regularly the last few weeks. The parking lot looked like packed snow - which is pretty easy to walk in. The problem - underneath the two to three inches of snow was a layer of ice. When my foot started sliding, I tried to break my fall. But, of course, I landed flat on my back, shoulder hurting. Several people stopped to help, including a policeman. My first choice was to continue on to the restaurant, eat my lunch, and then go to the doctor.

The x-rays showed a possible tiny crack in my shoulder - the right arm just does not work very well. But at least I am not in pain, and each day it seems a little better. But, I suspect my skiing is over for this season.

Henry got me a pair of Yaktrax - like chains only for your shoes. I wore them for the first time today. Definitely better traction in the packed snow.

Do I still love a Colorado winter????? You betcha!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Catching Up

I had several things I had planned to blog over the last 3 weeks. Things have been busy . . . . . . So I am going back and posting - I should be caught up in a day or so . . . . . . So if you want to follow our adventures, take time to scroll down and catch up on the latest Melton adventures!