I'm fortunate to live in a place that is scenic and full of wildlife at the edge of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Various critters come and visit me in my own backyard as I live at the edge of a forested area in the town of Nederland. And areas near me such as Rocky Mountain National Park specialize in some of the most iconic Colorado wildlife. I've gathered a number of photos over the years of these animals, so I decided to throw a bunch up here just for hoots since they are already processed and ready to go. So this is a collection of photos with very little effort toward explanation ... a picture "book," so to speak. So put your iPad on your coffee table while you're scrolling through it to simulate a coffee table book, haha.
And if you want to come try to meet these critters yourself, remember you can come stay with me! Go here to book: Cozy & Quiet Guest Studio.
Here are some of the wonderful visitors I've had literally in my own yard. I keep a camera by the kitchen door, where most of the wildlife comes through. My cat, Trixy, is often the one who spies the wildlife in the window, and I can always tell from her demeanor when she has spotted something special. Other times I just happen to look out the window myself or be standing on my balcony at the right time.
One of the most exciting visitors to me are the bears, but I've only ever gotten a couple photos of them.
We've been blessed with several awesome bobcat sightings. I get particularly excited over these and have even jumped out of bed in my pajamas and run out in my socks to try to catch a shot of one (alerted to its presence in the yard by Trixy). Our dear kitty, Mister, absolutely loved the forest and within an hour of his passing Over The Rainbow Bridge, a bobcat appeared in the yard and stayed for a very long time. I'm somewhat convinced that Mister's soul passed into the bobcat and that he's roaming his beloved forest freely.
I was also pretty excited about the proximity of this visitor one winter's morning, just a stone's throw from my balcony: a great horned owl.
In the last decade, the moose population around Nederland has increased dramatically. Although I love to see them in the yard, it's not really all good news, for they strip the bark off the aspen trees and as is the way in the delicate balance of nature, a change in one animal's population can affect the entire local ecosystem in a chain reaction. I still get excited when they visit me, though. The most exciting encounter with moose was the year a mama brought her brand new baby twins into the yard to hang out. Who knew how cute baby moose are!?
A different mom and baby more recently in the forest adjacent to the house.
Here is a different mother with an older calf. You can see in the second photo how they eat the bark off the aspen.
An assortment of a few of the other mooses who have visited the yard.
This guy came trotting by me while I was photographing flowers at nearby Long Lake. This is at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, about 30 minutes from Nederland and one of my favorite lakes to see wildflowers at.
One of the more rare friends we've had is the silver fox we named, "Blacky," for reasons I'm sure you cannot imagine. He was very friendly, I never fed him or anything, but probably other locals did, hence his habitual close contact, coming right up to the steps of our balcony and even hanging out with our cat, Mister.
The most common visitor we have, though, are deer. Some people are uninterested in them due to their ubiquity in the area, and maybe I don't stop to look when they are elsewhere, but I always enjoy seeing them in my own yard. Except when they eat my tulips. My favorite deer is a sweet girl I've named Black Brow. Another astoundingly original name, I think you can figure out why ... she's the one on the right.
And of course my favorite sightings are of the little spotted fawns. These twins were very young when mom deposited them in the yard while she foraged in the forest.
Some more babies and moms and families .....
And a nice assortment of bucks come through also.
And lately (about 2021+) we've also been getting elk in the yard!
I was rather surprised to see a flock of turkeys in the yard one day! They have come through several times in winter now, constantly moving across the snow nibbling whatever grasses are poking up. They seldom stop long enough for a picture.
The beginning of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is about an hour away from me to the south. Mount Evans road is the highest paved road in North America, topping out at 14,250 feet above sea level. It's the easiest way to summit a fourteener, you don't have to hike! You are treated to amazing views, but the road, in my estimation, is scary as heck! It's not a nail-biting drive, though, because you can't reach your nails when your hands are white-knuckle glued to the steering wheel ... very, very narrow road with no guard rails along sheer cliffs traversing bare hillsides above timberline, so you would roll for ages if you fell over the edge. Not to discourage you from going; you should certainly check it out once, just fair warning.
There are a lot of pretty views around here, so in spite of their spectacularity at Mount Evans, I wouldn't be so motivated to drive up there for that reason, owing to the road. I am, however, motivated to see the darling baby mountain goats that populate the top of the mountain. I don't know where else to see them. The mountain goats aren't actually native to this area, they were introduced in the mid-20th century. Like the increased moose population, this growing population also affects the ecosystem, particularly the tundra grasses they live on, affecting the other creatures who rely on it for food. But it's hard to be mad at them when you're sitting hanging out with them; they're super fun to watch. Here's a big batch of photos I took over two days, one day cold and overcast with very flat light, and the other a glorious morning with bright blue skies.
About 45 minutes to the north of me lies Rocky Mountain National Park -- a lovely treasure that I'm fortunate to have so nearby. In summer, I like to drive up Trail Ridge Road (the highest continuously paved road in America, linking the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake) to the souvenir shop and cafe just on the other side of the summit for lunch. RMNP is perhaps best known for its elk population. In summer they hang out high on the tundra, and in fall and winter they stay in the valleys. Although Trail Ridge Road is closed in winter, it's a great time to see the elk because of how they concentrate in the valleys.
I'm not much of a bird person, so I know very little about the avian life around me and I don't take many photos. However, one can't help but be impressed by the magnificent bald eagle! Spotted this beauty while kayaking on Dillon Lake, about an hour and a half west of me. And also a beautiful falcon. Not the most crisp shots, but you get the idea!
In 2020 we got some new birds at our house that we'd never seen before. Apparently they live in the area but for some reason just moved into our yard -- the red crossbill. Their beaks are crossed as an adaption to better dig into the pinecones that are one of their primary food sources. They seemed to be building a nest, but I never saw any babies.
I only recently found out that we have great blue herons in Colorado. Somebody even spotted one here in Nederland recently. But these guys below I found down on the flatlands just east of Boulder, about 45 minutes from me, at a little collection of ponds called Walden Ponds. Quite impressive birds.
I saw this sweet little bird on my balcony and took a photo and then had to ask in my local nature Facebook group what is was! It's a junco.
The littlest creature I love in the Rocky Mountains is the American pika. Darling critters, maybe the size of a small gerbil or large hamster. They live in rock piles and rock falls in the high elevations (higher than Nederland). They make little nests in the rocks with grasses they gather in a frenzy all summer. They can be difficult to spot, but their calls are easy to hear, so when you hear one, just stop and look around. Look how big their paws are to help them scamper around the rocks.
Marmots are another common furry member of Club Rodentia who populate the higher elevations. I photographed these guys in Rocky Mountain National Park. They love to lie in the sun on the rocks or, unfortunately, on the pavement when there are roads in their neighborhood. You can see that they eat well and their thick fur allows them to live year-round in the cold, high elevations.
The Abert's squirrel is my favorite type of squirrel in the area. I like their tall tufted ears and black coats. They're a bit smaller than the brown squirrels. We have a couple living at our house and I enjoy watching them scamper around the balcony and trees. We had left some over-ripe oranges outside one day on the balcony, meaning to take them to the compost bin, but this Abert's got to them first.
There is, of course, much more wildlife existing here, but you've gotten a Colorado safari of some of the common species. We have coyotes who sometimes come through the forest in a pack and their howling fills the air. We have mountain lions in my town, too, though they are rarely sighted. Sadly, though, it is not uncommon for several pet dogs to become casualties each year to a mountain lion's appetite. In 2022 I finally saw one on our property! Our backyard game cam captured this perfectly posed lion at night. It is definitely the most thrilling photo I have of our yard even though I personally didn't take it!