What do you do when you run out of birds to see? With around 10,000 different species, that may seem like a silly question. Who could ever see them all? Most of us will never have the prospect of traveling to every part of the globe looking for birds.Those of us who don’t have unlimited time or funding have to make do with the birds that come to us, here in our own little corner of the world. Eventually, if we’re diligent, we find we’ve seen most of them. While we might be delighted by a visiting rarity, most of our trip lists begin to look very familiar. Mine tend to have the same species over and over—House Finch, Black-billed Magpie, Red-tailed Hawk, and so on.
Some people divide the world up into smaller parts, and keep North American lists, state lists, or even county lists. Colorado has 64 counties—the potential for 64 happy ticks off the species list. (Of course, not every species lives in every county, but that’s part of the challenge.) I started photographing birds. They’re only a “lifer” once, but there’s always the hope for a better photo. Others keep year lists.
I’ve recently spent time with several expert birders who, having seen every bird on the Colorado state list, and seeking further challenges, simply migrated to a different phylum. One is pursuing butterflies and moths. Another is learning the intricacies of grasshopper identification. And a third now trains his binoculars on dragonflies and damselflies. Having sampled all three of these insect orders, I readily admit they make birding look elementary.
While I plan on sticking with the birds for a while, it’s fun to occasionally point my camera in other directions. Last month I spent a day hiking in the local mountains, hunting for arthropods, wildflowers, and birds—in that order. Since the trail climbed from approximately 7,000 to 8,700 feet in elevation, we took it slowly going up, snapping photos and counting the Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchid blossoms (left). The day’s total: 216.
We didn’t ignore the birds, listing a Williamson’s Sapsucker, several Western Tanagers, and 18 other species, it was the flowers and insects that primarily captured our interest. The photos you see here are the result. I hope you enjoy them.
Photos, from top:
- Colorado Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea)
- Mystery insect, another to-be-identified insect, possible Long-horned Flower Beetles mating
- Common Ringlet, Wood Tiger Moth (Parasemia plantaginis), Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Variegated Fritillary
- Crab spider species, Tarnished Plant Bug
- Forget-me-not species?, Colorado Columbine again, Shooting Star (Dodecatheon sp.)