Some days are a slog
each step a muddy struggle
bull-headed or not
This Red-winged Blackbird and Mourning Dove shared a tree as the sun went down on our first day of camping in Moby, the Great White campervan, in late April. We were walking around Lake Hasty (John Martin Reservoir State Park) at the end of a lovely day when I spotted them.
We receive many doves (Mourning and Eurasian-collared) here at our backyard feeder, but Red-winged Blackbird sightings are more rare. I have childhood memories of them singing their beautiful song as they perched on cattails along the train tracks.
I’m posting this picture to commemorate the end of our camping season. Yesterday we unloaded Moby in preparation for a trip to the shop to have a pop-top installed. Next year, we’ll be able to stand up inside. Can’t wait to get back out there to bask in the glories of the natural world.
I sometimes hoard photos I especially love, waiting for The Perfect Moment to post here. I’ve been holding onto this Rocky Mountain Bee Plant photo for over two months.
At the time I took this picture, I didn’t know what I was looking at. We’d driven past many of these plants alongside the road as we headed to a camping destination in August and I made a note to photograph them on the return trip. When I saw a patch of them as we drove home, I somewhat quickly veered to a little driveway off the road, and parked. Seeing the flowers up close, I was overcome by their beauty and photographed them from different angles. I can still feel my smile of delight. Several vehicles roared past, horns blowing as passengers happy-waved. I wasn’t the only Rocky Mountain Bee Plant fan.
So why share this treasured photo today? It’s the start of a new week and I’m buoyed by good feelings as I finish up revisions on my manuscript. Also, it’s my sister’s birthday.
Here’s to beautiful discoveries that sometimes bloom in the ditches!
I’d just gotten on the gravel road leading away from Cataract Lake Campground when a pair of enormous ears poked up from behind a shrub. I stopped Moby (our great white campervan) and handed the camera to Zippy in the passenger seat. By the time he had it up, another set of ears had joined the first and then the two mule deer kindly stepped out into the open.
They very calmly watched us and seemed prepared to do so for as long as we wanted to sit there. We bade them a good day and continued our drive back home, smiles on our faces.
One pup one adult
one chill the other bonkers
My handsome fella and his dog. Two happy campers.
Happy happy birthday to you, Zippy! 🎂 🎉
Here’s wishing for many more such outings (minus the 🦟🦟).
Tracy and Emma Jean-Jean
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.
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:
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.
From All About Birds (text below + recordings from New Mexico):
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.
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. 🙂
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:
The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We’re headed out for our first camping trip of the year and this is what it looks like outside:
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!
disappearance of water
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