Beaks

Rhinoceros Hornbill @DenverZoo 20090527 LAH 238r

We have hands. Birds have beaks. Have you ever noticed how useful a beak is? While lacking our manual dexterity, birds have no problem securing their dinners and stuffing said meal down the gullets of their young. Beaks are used to manipulate objects and preen ragged feathers. Some birds use their beaks to impress potential mates, or to scare away intruders. Beaks can even be used as weapons. Have you ever tried to steal an egg from under an irritated hen?

Beaks are also useful to birders, as their size, shape, and color are all helpful when it comes to identifying bird species. In fact, the more attention I pay to birds’ beaks, the better birder I become.

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Enigmatic Empids

ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_8746

It was a fruitful trip out to Chico Basin Ranch, east of Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and one of the best birding spots in the country. With fall migration in full swing, we ticked off well over 50 birds, including a Common Nighthawk, which I tend to miss as they match the branch they’re sitting on, and both Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos—good birds for Colorado. There’s nothing like birding with a very experienced guide, and John Drummond definitely qualifies. I learn so much when he leads a trip.

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Manitou Lake Revisited

Manitou Lake Sunrise

Some days just seem perfect. The sky was intense blue, without a single cloud in sight. Temperatures? The mid-70s. Crowds? For the first hour or two, we had the entire place to ourselves. A light breeze stirred a few leaves, birds chirped in the willows, and squirrels chattered from the pine branches overhead. I was so glad we’d chosen to spend the morning at Manitou Lake.

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Blown Away—Birds and Hurricanes

Hurricane_Dorian_(peak_intensity),_September_1,_1240Z

Palm Warbler_CapeCoral-FL_LAH_5520Dorian isn’t the first hurricane to pound the Caribbean, although she was definitely one of the biggest. Now she has churned her way through the Bahamas—dumping four feet of rain in some places—and along the southeastern coast of the U.S., causing tremendous flooding, demolishing buildings, and taking lives. Pete and I visited South Carolina and Florida last winter, and we’ve sailed the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. Birds were everywhere. Now, I think of all those birds struggling to survive in the midst of those 150+ mph winds, and I wonder—how do such fragile creatures survive a hurricane?

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