Suburban Oasis for Nature Photographers

December 15th, 2009 in Nature & Wildlife

Like many nature photographers I dream of shooting exotic things in exotic places. Polar Bears sunning on an ice floe, geysers in Iceland, charging Cape Buffalo, you get the idea.  But also like most nature photographers I live in the real world; I live in suburban America.  Fortunately, I live in suburban Denver and have the Rocky Mountains, foothills and plains somewhat nearby.  Getting out to shoot “nature” is easier here I suppose than many other urban/suburban areas, but it is still a hassle fighting traffic congestion and having the time to escape everyday life for an hour of quality photography.

Great Horned OwlThe other night I saw a blurb on the local news about a mountain lion sighting in the middle of an upscale neighborhood in Golden, over near the foothills.  It started me thinking about the City “Open Space” just down the street from where I live and how much wildlife I see there on a regular basis. This open space is like many in suburban Denver, former ranch land that has been swallowed up by development, saved just in the nick of time by our City fathers.  It is not very big, probably 100 acres in all and it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, a golf course, a busy four lane street and a Mexican restaurant.  It is primarily open fields with a 2 acre farm pond, some wooded brushy areas and a few remaining cottonwoods, most dead from lack of water since the old ranch irrigation ditches are long gone.   I run my two dogs there almost daily and sometimes take my camera along. (I need to take it more often)

This little nondescript open space has provided some great photographic experiences over the years and now that I stop to think about it, the amount of nature photo ops here in the middle of suburbia is astounding.  As I’m writing this there is a bald eagle surveying the land high in one of the dead cottonwoods, sometimes there are two there in December and late February. Just this year alone I have seen: bats, snakes, great blue herons, night herons, cormorants, killdeer, flickers, wood ducks, white prairie pelicans, multiple species of hawks, great horned owls and numerous other birds I don’t have the skills to ID.  In the fields there are prairie dogs, which bring in the requisite foxes and coyotes.  One overly aggressive coyote in particular has run my dogs and I out of the open space on several occasions. If you’re in to insects in the spring the pond is home to towering swarms of midgeflies (not mosquitoes) and hundreds of iridescent dragonflies. Early summer brings multiple blooms of wildflowers, wetland plants and interesting weed species. And I have not even mentioned the fall foliage, spectacular sunsets and moon rises.

The point of all this is hopefully quite simple.  Sure it’s okay to lust after exotic locales.  But when you have an hour and really have that urge  to get out and shoot, Dorothy said it best; “there’s no place like home”.  Start in your own backyard, take a good look around, you’ll probably be surprised at what you see.


Leave a Reply