Twofer Tuesday: perching birds

We spent one night at Jackson Lake State Park in late May and were gifted with many bird sightings. This male Bullock’s Oriole patiently posed on  a post while I took photos, turning this way and that, allowing a complete view of his plumage.

There were several swallow species flying about and I took many photos of them in flight, none of which turned out well. This Barn Swallow was very considerate and graciously perched on a roof.

Later, as Zippy and I walked along a trail, we spotted a flash of red up ahead. He studied the bird through the binoculars and said, “Wow, it’s some really big red bird” and then passed the binoculars to me. I also briefly thought it was some unknown big, red species, and then my brain kicked in: we were looking at a House Finch, a species we see every single day in our yard. Yes, it was an unusually red male. But was it truly a large bird? No! It only appeared that way because of the binoculars. You know, that tool we use to help see things better via  magnification?

Birding. The gift that keeps on giving.

Mule Deer Monday

This fellow visited the campground at Rifle Falls State Park last week.

Photos by Zippy. August 6, 2021

Then a few minutes later, this female paid us a visit.

Have to say, these gentle creatures with their enormous ears, soft tawny fur,  and big brown eyes were much more welcome than the mosquitoes.

A sparrow in four acts

Last month we camped at Cow Creek South Campground along the shores of Green Mountain Reservoir. Apparently, it’s wonderful habitat for White-crowned Sparrows but not so much other species (I don’t remember seeing anything else). We heard and saw these dapper sparrows an awful lot and I was positive their lovely songs/calls would be forever bonded in my memory. Alas, I couldn’t tell you now what they sound like. But I loved listening to them and had a wonderful time photographing them.

My first attempt didn’t yield a great photo:

July 9, 2021

 

My next attempt yielded better lighting, but this one seemed determined to hide its identity.

A moment later, I was rewarded with a lovely shot.

This may or may not be the same bird, but it clearly had had enough of the paparazzi and fled my camera range.

 

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From All About Birds (text below + recordings from New Mexico):
SONGS
The song of the White-crowned Sparrow Is one of the most-studied sounds in all of animal behavior. Different subspecies across the country sing clearly different songs, but they’re all recognizable by the sweet, whistling introduction, a succession of jumbled whistles, and a buzz or trill near the end. Songs last 2-3 seconds. Females sing only rarely.

CALLS
White-crowned Sparrows have about 10 different calls. The most frequently heard include a sharp pink, lower-pitched than the White-throated Sparrow’s call. It’s usually made by males or as an alarm call near the nest. They also make a harsh, rasping call used by sparrows during altercations.
—————————————————–

Ah yes, now I remember: pink, pink.
I might not recognize the songs and calls next time, but I’m pretty confident I can identify this sparrow when I see it again. 🙂

 

Oh Be Joyful

We did end up going to Crested Butte last week and were blessed with rain almost the entire four-hour drive. That much-needed precipitation cleared the air of wildfire smoke and the drive over Cottonwood Pass was absolutely delicious. Green-green-green with a smattering of wildflowers.

We spent one of our nights at Oh Be Joyful Campground and hiked partway in on the Oh Be Joyful Trail. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

July 15, 2021

The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.

Zippy and Emma

The five-mile afternoon hike was balm for our souls. And after running three-plus miles that morning, we eagerly welcomed bedtime.

Especially the short-legged doggo who  could barely keep her eyes open after we returned to camp.

A truly joyous experience.

Twofer Tuesday: grackle edition

Common Grackle, Jackson Lake State Park. May 27, 2021

I spent several enjoyable minutes watching another grackle stride through the vegetation, snapping at insects it’d kicked up. While it was a very efficient process, it unfortunately didn’t seem to make a dent in the insect population.

A perfect maiden voyage

We returned yesterday evening from our trip to John Martin Reservoir State Park.  We had a glorious time and I highly recommend visiting this park. We spent zero time at the reservoir, but explored Lake Hasty which is below the dam and also hiked the Red Shin Trail. Yesterday morning I was up at 7:00 (quite early for me) and ran around the lake (and then again in reverse). The sun was shining as the geese honked and the ducks quacked and paddled. I grinned pretty much the whole three miles.

When we’d first arrived at tree-filled Lake Hasty Campground late afternoon on Wednesday, a couple Turkey Vultures casually flew overhead. Then my attention-deficit kicked in because there were SO MANY BIRD SOUNDS. I immediately got out my binoculars and Sibley, but as soon as I began to focus on one bird/sound I was distracted by another. After a while, I began feeling overwhelmed by my ignorance ** and Zippy suggested a walk around the lake. Good call. The light was incredible and I just drank it all in.

Lake Hasty

Tons of Cliff Swallows were swooping above the water and along the shoreline. I took loads of photos, many of which were photo-bombed by swallows.

Red-winged Blackbird & Mourning Dove plus fly-by Cliff Swallow

We eventually made our way back to the campsite as a few vultures floated overhead. Then I noticed something: vultures in the trees around our site. We watched in awe as one after another floated down and into the trees, their wings sounding like crinkling paper as they touched the branches.

I count eleven Turkey Vultures in this photo.

About twenty vultures roosted above us all night. We felt honored. The next evening, we returned from our lake excursion in time for me to set up the camera and tripod. We waited quietly. Two vultures settled into a tree next to us and then . . . nothing. About three minutes later, they took off. Guess they headed off to find out where the rest of the gang was roosting. Won’t lie, it was a disappointment. But expecting two nights of turkey vultures might be a bit greedy. Best to share the wealth.

** I spent the final morning focusing on birds — sights and sounds — without worrying about the camera, and made progress. I identified a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle variation) and felt immense satisfaction. I’m now going through my many poor quality photos of ducks on the water, seeing if there’s enough detail for identifications. I’ve found a Horned Grebe and a Blue-winged Teal. Woot!

Inauspicious beginning

We’re headed out for our first camping trip of the year and this is what it looks like outside:

April 28, 2021

The good news? We’re headed to another part of Colorado (John Martin Reservoir State Park) where the high will be an acceptable 59 degrees. Cloudy, but warm enough. And maybe that cloud cover will make for better bird photos. We shall see.

The other good news? Even though it’ll get down to 39 degrees tonight, we’ll be toasty (we hope) in this work-in-progess:

This is our maiden voyage in Moby, the cargo van we’re converting to a campervan. I’m excited to hit the road!

Infinite storm of beauty

Uncompahgre National Forest, July 30, 2019.

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.  ~ John Muir

Tree songs

Bockman Campground, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.  ~ John Muir

Nostalgia

State Forest State Park.              June 12, 2019.

June 2019 seems like a lifetime ago (hell, February 2020 already feels like historical fiction), and I just spent time looking through photos from one of last summer’s camping/hiking trips. I remember how hot it was in the Bockman Campground when the sun rose in the sky and how happy our doggo was every time we came upon a patch of snow during our 8-mile hike. I remember waking up to a moose grazing next to our tent. I remember photographing this old building, thinking that with a little fixing up, it might make a nice place to spend my days.

We didn’t camp this summer. We’ve only hiked in the nearby open space. Until this country gets its collective act together, it seems I’ll have to make do with memories.

Deciding to act

After meeting with my critique group, I’m tweaking some plot lines and revising my opening chapters. I’m struggling today because I’m not 100% confident about how to change one plot line. I keep telling myself to make a decision and write it out, and that if it doesn’t work, I can write it again another way. But I want to be “right” the first time; I don’t want to write it again.

Tenacious wildflowers in Uncompahre National Forest. July 30, 2019.

And so I sit, paralyzed by indecision.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.  ~  Amelia Earhart

This is my public statement: I’m going to act. I will make a plot decision and keep writing. And I will prevail in these revisions because there’s one thing I can say with 100% confidence: I am tenacious.