Following the near 15″ snowfall we had in Fort Collins earlier this week, I took a trip up into Rocky Mountain National Park to see what the state of the park was. The sun had melted most of the snow in Fort Collins over the last couple of days and to my surprise their wasn’t much snow left in the lower parts of the park either. All the pictures here are from Moraine Park. A friend and I (Steve) were returning down into Moraine Park from a drive up to Bear Lake (where there is still substantial snow! Also, be forewarned that this road is under construction and is dirt for about half of it.). Upon entering Moraine Park we spotted four Coyotes running together. Being caught with my 24-70 lens on the body of the D4, I hurriedly stopped and ran to the back of the truck and threw my 300 mm, f2.8 on.
By this time the Coyotes were moving quickly through the trees left to right. I took several shots, but only managed to capture no more than three of them in the lens at a time. Steve said that they seemed to be chasing (or at least spooked) several Mule Deer that were now further up on one of the hills. As you can see the coyotes still look healthy in the winter coats. A lesson here was re-learned. While at a Moose Peterson workshop in Yellowstone back in 2009 I observed that he always drove through the park with a his camera attached to a long lens on his lap!
A little further along the road that goes down into Moraine Park there were 30-40 Elk spread out over a couple hundred yards. Unlike the coyotes, these animals looked like it had been a long winter. They appeared to have begun the process of loosing their winter coats (along with their winter fat stores)
. Hopefully with the snow melting they will be able to fatten up. A few of the Elk had a few riding buddies. A couple of Magpies were hopping from back to back on some of the Elk. They appeared to eating bugs from around the necks. But, to be honest, this is just a guess on my part as I was unable to actually see this occur.
If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a Magpie on the closest elk. On the way out of the park we stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Steve noticed a Mountain Bluebird near the parking lot. There have been a number of reports this week that large numbers of them had been found dead following the snow storm in the Fort Collins area. One of the possible reasons was that many of these birds had just arrived in the area with depleted fat reserves from their migration. The record cold temperatures during the day and half storm may have been too much for birds and were unable to keep themselves warm. So, this Bluebird was a welcome sight.