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!

Thankful Thursday: pal + pelican edition

I spent the afternoon with friend Laura at Barr Lake State Park which I’d never visited, despite living in Colorado for 24 years. It’s embarrassing, really. Tons o’ birds hang out there and I didn’t know about the park until Laura asked if I’d ever been there.

We remedied the situation today and it was a glorious three hours. I took gobs of photos, some of which I’ve already deleted. Many, though, make me smile.

American White Pelican

Throughout the afternoon, Laura wondered about the bump/horn on the pelicans’ bills. I finally took the time to pull out my little bird guide and then read this to Laura: Breeding adults also usually grown a flat fibrous plate in the middle of the upper mandible. The plate drops off after eggs have hatched.

Laura’s response: “But why? Why do they grow that?”

Well, I just did a little online research and still have no idea why breeding adults temporarily grow what appears to be enormous warts on their bills. However, that lack of knowledge in no way detracts from my gratitude for walking and talking with my friend on a beautiful, sunshine-y spring day in a bird wonderland.

Twofer Tuesday: tuckered hikers edition

Emma and I just returned from a sunny and warm excursion in the open space. We hiked up the mountain as fast as we could and then ran down. Well, we did some running. My short-legged companion doesn’t like the heat and slowed to a walk multiple times. At one point, she even did her signature “goin’ on strike” move.  She stopped and dug in to pull the leash taut, then flopped on her belly with pink tongue hanging out.

I’d already offered her water from my cupped hand when we were at the top of the mountain, which she refused. So when she was on her belly, I tried another approach: pouring water in front of her. Instead of lapping it with her tongue, she ignored it. Silly dog, refusing libation when hot and thirsty. Well, I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer and pried her jaws open to pour water in her mouth.

Worked like a charm! Emma got up and ran almost the entire way back to the street. Such a good doggo.

(Note: Zippy took the photo with the camera still set for shooting the Brown Creeper in low light even though Emma and I were in bright, bright light. I salvaged the photo via a filter. Artsy, no?)

Wild bouquet

Yesterday I felt optimistic and filled with anticipation of good things to come. Today? Those glorious feelings have already faded and I’m in need of a boost. So I went to my photo archives in search of wildflowers.

August 28, 2019

These are Parry’s Primrose, spotted while hiking to Square Top Lakes with friend and critique partner, Laura Perdew. That was a very good day and these lovely little flowers are a reminder there are more good days in my future.

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.

The party’s over

Typically, I attempt to photograph wildflowers so they are recognizable if not identifiable. But as I quickly scanned images from a year ago when I hiked to Square Top Lakes with Laura Perdew, this was the one that caught my eye.

August 28, 2019

What is it? An alpine aster, but I only know this because of the other flowers in the frame. This, though, was my favorite representation. The curled petals remind me of those rolled-up paper noisemakers that unfurl and then roll up again.

It seems the party’s over for this aster. But is this flower past its glory? Not to my eyes.

Thankful Thursday: memories edition

We’re still in lock-down mode here in Colorado as the wildfires continue to burn. Air quality is poor (although a bit better after a tiny rain episode yesterday) and I’m staying inside. Instead of walking Emma this morning, I opted for a hoop-dance session in the living room.

Horse Gulch Trail, Durango, CO. July 31, 2019

And rather than going on an actual hike, I’m reliving one from July of 2019 when Zippy, Emma, and I visited elder-son Wildebeest. I remember that hike. It was quite hot that day, but still very nice to be out and about in nature.

I’m looking forward to the day we can do it again.

Highlight reel

Emma the doggo and I walked on the trails this morning. At one point, as she snuffled at the many odors in the vegetation, something caught my eye. I got a brief glimpse of big ears and two eyes of a creature peering at me from behind a bush farther up the trail. We remained motionless, staring at one another. As my brain tried to process what I was seeing, I blinked, and the animal was gone. I’m pretty sure it was a coyote, although much smaller than this one.

By g’pa bill – Coyote Dad, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22832337

Emma didn’t even notice the coyote, but as we advanced up the trail her sniffing became even more urgent. I searched the surrounding area: no sign of what I’d seen. I could almost believe I imagined the whole thing, but every time I close my eyes I picture the fur, the intense eyes, and those enormous ears.

Definitely the highlight of my day.

You Are Here

Your mileage may vary, but today I find this perspective quite comforting:

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. ~ Carl Sagan

Rustler Gulch Trail. Crested Butte. July 26, 2018.

Enter this wild wood

Chiricauhua Mountains. May 14, 2019.

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature . . . .
~ William Cullen Bryant

(Note: After posting this, I realized it all felt very familiar. Probably because I’d posted the same words very recently.)