Barr Lake State Park – Colorado

On Saturday, April 28, we decided to visit one of Colorado’s state parks.  Specifically, Barr Lake State Park.

Barr Lake State Park map

Barr Lake is one of three state parks within an hour and a half of where we live, and we have not visited them in the six years that we have lived here.  The other two are the Rocky Mountains Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and that Jackson Lake State Park.

As a point of interest, it should be noted that since I do not have the use of my right arm,  I am using Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is a speech to text program.  I am sitting here with headphones and a  mike and I am speaking the words that are being written.  I should also note that while this is an incredible tool, it isn’t particularly adapted to someone who stutters, and I do have to make some corrections by hand.   I should also point out that I don’t particularly type very well with my left hand, and that I might miss some things.  Anyway, to continue . . .

Barr Lake State park is at exit 21 of I-76, just Northeast of Denver. Very nice setting, and lots of stuff to see.
Barr Lake State park is at exit 21 of I-76, just Northeast of Denver. Very nice setting, and lots of stuff to see.

The original plan was to visit both Barr Lake and Jackson Lake state parks.  The two parks are within an hour of each other, and are both along I – 76, just north east of Denver.  The Rocky Mountains Arsenal refuge is actually closer, and much larger than the other two combined.  Unfortunately, the majority of it is only accessible via a bus tour for which you need reservations.  As of this writing, they are taking reservations for June.  Off particular interest to me are Burrowing Owls that inhabit the refuge.  We’ll plan a visit after my recovery.

the views from the path are spectacular.
the views from the path are spectacular.

We hate driving through Denver.  We used to take the E – 470 bypass, but now it costs about $18-$20 to go through it, and it’s just a tad too steep a price to pay to avoid mingling with idiots.

Luckily, the traffic this particular Saturday morning was not too bad.  We arrived at the park in a fairly good mood, and the only thing marring the arrival was the realization I left my hat at home, we forgot our walking sticks, had no sun-block or bug spray, and were not sure about what we should wear.   When we got there, a stiff breeze was blowing and it was pretty chilly, but it was supposed to get fairly warm, especially with no clouds in the sky.

We felt like these guys – American Coots
We felt like these guys – American Coots

I bought a goofy looking hat, and we started off on the 9 mile loop that goes around the lake.  Mind you, we were not planning to go all the way around.  Our interest was to walk on the preserve-half of the park to try and see the following; the nesting owls, the nesting eagles, the nesting ospreys, the white pelicans, and any other winged denizens of the Park willing to pose for us (me).

aside the path that circles the lake, there are also boardwalks that go onto it
Aside the path that circles the lake, there are also boardwalks that go onto it
The rare "B-B" tree, loved by boys of all ages
The rare “B-B” tree, loved by boys of all ages
Did you ever wonder where centipedes come from?  This is the Rocky Mountains Brown Centipede Tree.  Once they turn, these fall to the ground and scurry off.
Did you ever wonder where centipedes come from? This is the Rocky Mountains Brown Centipede Tree. Once they turn, these fall to the ground and scurry off.

Okay I’ll stop doing that.

This is honeysuckle . . . there were two plants about 70 feet apart, and they smelled up the whole area.
This is honeysuckle . . . there were two plants about 70 feet apart, and they smelled up the whole area.
There are many marshy areas around the lake.  It's the perfect habitat for Canadian geese as well as other waterfowls.
There are many marshy areas around the lake. It’s the perfect habitat for Canadian geese as well as other waterfowls.
The locals appear to be very friendly, and this little guy kept trying to follow us.  We gave him the slip
The locals appear to be very friendly, and this little guy kept trying to follow us. We gave him the slip
This rabbit was sitting just to the edge of the path.  I would never have noticed them except he moved.
This rabbit was sitting just to the edge of the path. I would never have noticed him, except he moved.

This guy was very small, and totally unconcerned with our presence a scant few feet from him.  He just went about his way, doing rabbit stuff as I snapped away with the camera.

This ranks as one of the better pictures from the excursion.
This ranks as one of the better pictures from the excursion. He started to scratch his nose and I caught him in mid-stroke.
As I said, he was unconcerned with me snapping pictures.  There's lots more in the SmugMug album.
As I said, he was unconcerned with me snapping pictures. There’s lots more in the SmugMug album.
But it was not just the birds and the animals, the shoreline was interesting as well.
But it was not just the birds and the animals; the shoreline was interesting as well.
For instance,  this particular root system caught my eye.
For instance, this particular root system caught my eye.
And of course, always the background of the lake.  Those are some of the white pelicans which unfortunately, never swam close.
And of course, always the background of the lake. Those are some of the white pelicans I was interested in, which unfortunately never swam close.
This is a Western Grebe that played hide and seek with me.  Whenever he saw me raised camera, he dove.  However, I did manage a couple of shots.
This is a Western Grebe that played hide and seek with me. Whenever he saw me raised camera, he dove. However, I did manage a couple of shots.
this is a Swainson's Hawk flying overhead
this is a Swainson’s Hawk flying overhead

If one looks at the map at the beginning of the post, one can see there is a walkway to a gazebo well onto the lake.  The following shots were taken from the boardwalk leading to that gazebo.  I should point out, we were quite a ways away, as you cannot get close to Eagles nests.   Essentially, I’m shooting across the lake, and the boardwalk is not the most stable of platforms.  Neither was the gazebo.  Any movement along the boardwalk jostled the tripod and resulted in many a blurred pictures.  The great distance also limited the clarity of the pictures, especially since it was over water and the sun was evaporating it.  Nevertheless, the nesting Bald Eagles.

The setting was nice.  Wish I could've gotten better pictures.
The setting was nice. Wish I could’ve gotten better pictures.
These look good as they are, but if one zooms in, they don't look very clear or sharp.
These look good as they are, but if one zooms in, they don’t look very clear or sharp.
Just to the east of the eagle nest, some seagulls and pelican's were resting.
Just to the east of the eagle nest, some seagulls and pelican’s were resting.
At one point, one of the Eagles flew off.  After playing with various settings and zooms, I determined I wasn't going to get any better pictures, and I turned my eyes to other things.
At one point, one of the Eagles flew off. After playing with various settings and zooms, I determined I wasn’t going to get any better pictures, and I turned my eyes to other things.
. . . look to the left .  . .
. . . look to the left . . .
. . . look to their right . . .
. . . look to their right . . .
. . . Dive!! Dive!! Dive!!
. . . Dive!! Dive!! Dive!!

It is a very scenic lake . . .

The view from the gazebo.
The view from the gazebo.

Walking back to shore on the boardwalk, I noticed a couple of very rare specimen . . .

 . . . the Dreaded Rhinoceros Forest Pyranha . . .  Very Dangerous!!
. . . the Dreaded Rhinoceros Forest Pyranha . . . Very Dangerous!!
. . . and Great Horned Unicorn Forest Whale.
. . . and Great Horned Unicorn Forest Whale.
Both were playing very still, trying to pass as a dead tree trunk. Ha! . . . I spotted them right away!
Both were laying very still, trying to pass as a dead tree trunk. Ha! . . . I spotted them right away!
a picture of the boardwalk leading to the gazebo on the little island in the middle of the lake
a picture of the boardwalk leading to the gazebo on the little island in the middle of the lake
himanother rare picture, this time of the unknown Mayan calendar, which predicts absolutely nothing with regards to the coming end of the world
another rare picture, this time of the Unknown Mayan calendar, which predicts absolutely nothing with regards to the coming end of the world.
as we rounded a corner of the trail, we saw this great blue Heron in the Denver & Hudson canal that follows the lake for a portion before branching off.
As we rounded a corner of the trail, we saw this great blue Heron in the Denver & Hudson canal that follows the lake for a portion before branching off.
he was backlit, and a long ways away.
he was backlit, and a long ways away.
We stopped, butunfortunately, the couple ahead of us just kept on walking, in the heron flew off.
We stopped, but unfortunately, the couple ahead of us just kept on walking, and the heron flew off.
again, because it was far away, and I was shooting hand held, these are not the best of pictures.
again, because it was far away, and I was shooting hand held, these are not the best of pictures.
However, I am reasonably pleased with the setting and with the reflection of the bird in flight on the water.
However, I am reasonably pleased with the setting and with the reflection of the bird in flight on the water.

The Rangers had told us the location of a Great Horned Owl nest, but warned us that the foliage would make it difficult to see.  The spot was marked by a red ribbon on the three branch by the side of the trail.  There were four of us trying to locate the birds and nest, and the other couple left after about 5 min.   It took me another 5 min. to realize that what look like a piece of broken three branch was actually an owl sleeping.

It looks obvious here, but keep in mind this is zoomed in quite a bit, and the exposure was adjusted so that everything is a little lighter.  We were maybe 100 feet away, and the owls were maybe another 30 feet up, under a dense canopy.
It looks obvious here, but keep in mind this is zoomed in quite a bit, and the exposure was adjusted so that everything is a little lighter. We were maybe 100 feet away, and the owls were maybe another 30 feet up, under a dense canopy.
I should've snapped the picture showing what a look-alike with the naked eye.  Much more difficult to see.
I should’ve snapped the picture showing what it looked like with the naked eye. Much more difficult to see.
I was also frustrated by a small twig, right in front of the owl, which the camera insisted on focusing on preventing me from getting a good, sharp picture of the owl
I was also frustrated by a small twig, right in front of the owl, which the camera insisted on focusing on preventing me from getting a good, sharp picture of the owl

This owl looked like it was sleeping, and at no time while we were there did I notice it opening its eyes.  However . . .

. . . Melisa noticed another foul little bit farther up to tree . . .
. . . Melisa noticed another owl a little bit farther up to tree . . .
. . . This one was not sleeping . . .
. . . This one was not sleeping . . .
It did not look particularly friendly.
It did not look particularly friendly.

There there are many more pictures of the owls in the SmugMug gallery, but as they did not move much, they are mostly the same shots where I attempt to get better resolution.

After a while we continued with our walk.  As it got very warm, and we were overdressed, we decided to head back to the car, and toward the Osprey nest.

Hello!!
Hello!!

This is the West Colorado Gopher Snake http://bit.ly/aqcZeX).  Some people, including the the person at the visitors center at the park, erroneously call it a Bull Snake . . . but they are wrong, at least as far as my research indicates.

This snake was right at the edge of the footpath, and the lady ahead of us almost stepped on it.
This snake was right at the edge of the footpath, and the lady ahead of us almost stepped on it.
Normally I would have snapped hundreds of photos, but as we were hot, and were still interested in seeing the Ospreys, I limited myself to just a few.
Normally I would have snapped hundreds of photos, but as we were hot, and were still interested in seeing the Ospreys, I limited myself to just a few.
 . . . a couple of interesting things on this photo . . .
. . . a couple of interesting things on this photo . . .

First, there is the pelican.  Second, you can see a rather large fish halfway out of the water just above the pelican.  Whatever they were, they were jumping all over the lake and they’re not small.  Big splashes whenever they jumped.  And third, in the back you can see the store where corporations buy the politicians who do their bidding.

Finally, here we are at the Osprey's nest.
Finally, here we are at the Osprey’s nest.

The shot above is after its mate went off to hunt.  The SmugMug gallery has many more shots, probably too many, but it does tell a narrative of the time we were there.  I’ll only include a few shots here that I found interesting.   

One bad thing happened while we were there . . . I mounted the 80-400mm lens on the camera, mounted the camera onto the tripod, and then wanted to hang my camera bag on the tripod to help stabilize it in the wind.  

In a first for me, I did not zip up the camera bag prior to removing it from my shoulder. My $1600 70-200 mm lens flopped onto the gravel of the path.  It is now the very first all my lenses which is not in pristine condition.  It is the only one of the 10 or 12 lenses I have with any marking on it indicating someone has used it, or in this case abused it.  I was not happy, but all the useful lessons in life are hard ones.

 As I waited for the Osprey to come back, I missed two Swainson’s Hawks circling above and then slowly dropping to their nest less than 60-70 feet from us.  I also missed a number of pelicans who were gathering just behind us flying in circles. At one point there must’ve been over 20 circling right over my shoulder . . . And me waiting for the Osprey to come back.

after a while, I move the camera to snap a picture of the Swainson's Hawk in its nest
after a while, I moved the camera to snap a picture of the Swainson’s Hawk in its nest
one of the Hawks had already flown off, and the other one sat there looking at me, probably not happy with my presence.
one of the Hawks had already flown off, and the other one sat there looking at me, probably not happy with my presence.
Unfortunately, with all the moving around, I ended up with a fuzzy picture of the Osprey coming back to the nest with a fish on its talons.
Unfortunately, with all the moving around, I ended up with a fuzzy picture of the Osprey coming back to the nest with a fish on its talons.

Not only that, but guess who has an expensive camera that can take moving pictures, but who did not remember to shoot a movie?  Oh well, I did get some nice sequences of the one Osprey sharing the fish with the one in the nest, the one in the nest hopping out to eat the fish, while its mate replaced it in egg-sitting duty.

. . . here you go . .  .
. . . here you go . . .
Yummy . . .
Yummy . . .

Another sequence that would have been great as a movie is of the Osprey hopping back on to the nest after finishing its meal.

Ready . . .
Ready . . .
. . . up . . .
. . . up . . .
. . . control the wind . . .
. . . control the wind . . .
. . . show off a bit . . . (my favorite shot)
. . . show off a bit . . . (my favorite shot)
. . . prepare for landing . . .
. . . prepare for landing . . .
. . . Touchdown!! . . .
. . . Touchdown!! . . .
Docked!
Docked!

We waited a little longer to see if it would fly off again for more hunting, but after another 20 min. or so, we decided to pack it in.

On the way back to the car, I had to snap a picture of this thing and the ant that was all over it.

 . . . normally I make up some clever name, incredibly witty, and insanely amusing . . .
. . . normally I make up some clever name, incredibly witty, and insanely amusing . . .
. . . but in this case I really wanted to know what this thing was . . .
. . . but in this case I really wanted to know what this thing was . . .

. . . and I ended up spending close to one hour searching the Internet for something that looked like it . . . It’s a wild cucumber.  At least that’s the best that I could figure out; if anyone knows any different, please let me know.

By the time we got back to the car, it was too late to think about Jackson Lake State Park.  For one, we would not have been able to do it justice.  The plan, once I recover from my surgery, is to go back and visit each of the other two, and then repeat as often as necessary to get thoroughly tired of the places . . . something I think might take a number of years to occur.

I hope you enjoyed the journey I shared as much as I enjoyed sharing it.  As always, thank you for reading my stuff.

Note: Please forgive any misspellings and other errors as sometimes the program cannot understand my weird accent, stuttering, and mumbled words, and I probably missed them while proofing.

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