Is that a Northwestern Crow?

DumasBaySanctuary-WA_LAH_9606

I spent Thanksgiving week in the Pacific Northwest, visiting family (granddaughters!) and friends. Somehow, in the midst of tickles and snuggles, craft projects, and a delicious turkey dinner, I managed to squeeze in an hour of birding—and it wasn’t even raining.

Since we were in Federal Way for lunch that day, we headed for the tiny Dumas Bay Sanctuary. And I do mean tiny. If you walk north along the narrow beach, you quickly run into signs warning of private property. And if you head south instead, the park boundary markers stop you after only a few yards. At least the birds have permission to trespass, and we birders have binoculars.

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Shrikes? Yikes!

Loggerhead Shrike_JacksonLakeSP-CO_LAH_2024How would you like to be stalked, captured, then shaken so hard that your neck breaks—and then impaled onto a spike and left to age like a side of beef before finally being torn apart and eaten? That sounds like material suitable for a Halloween thriller. Yet, that’s your likely fate if you’re a mouse or lizard unlucky enough to catch the eye of a shrike. Shrikes are ferocious predators. It’s a good thing for us that they’re only about as big as an American Robin.

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In Memory of Motswari

Eurasian Griffon Vulture_CheyenneMtnZoo-CO_LAH_5320Colorado Springs gets a lot of hail. Anyone who has lived here very long knows that hail is part of life. But in the 25 years we’ve called Colorado home, we’ve never seen a summer like this one. Three times in the past three months, the south end of town has been pummeled by huge hailstones— softball-sized cannonballs from the clouds that demolished anything in their path. Gardens, cars, roofs, windows—the damage is devastating.

Sadly, the most recent storm also injured dozens of people, some seriously enough to be hospitalized, and killed five animals at the renowned  Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Today’s memorial post is dedicated to Cape Vulture (aka Cape Griffon) Motswari, an ambassador for her species and for vultures worldwide. Continue reading “In Memory of Motswari”

A Tale of Two Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee_Wenatchee-WA_LAH_3690While Black-capped Chickadees are familiar birds over the northern half of North America, Mountain Chickadees are a western specialty. True to their name, they care found at higher elevations from the Rockies westward to the Sierras and Cascades, and as far north as the Yukon.

Mountain Chickadees are also selective about their habitat, preferring to hang out in conifer forests. This is why we enjoyed them at our last house, where we were surrounded by ponderosa pines. Our current home is in a new neighborhood lacking mature trees. Hoping our old friends would still come and visit, we included two fairly large Austrian pines and a dwarfed cultivar of a limber pine, (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’) in our new landscape. It took three years, but the birds are finally here.

Mountain Chickadee_BlkForestCO_20100324_LAH_1145

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Little Brown Jobs

House Wren_ManitouLake-CO_LAH_4169Would you like your bedroom to be infested with spiders? I can’t count the nights I’ve spent wide awake in bed. staring at a suspicious black blob on the ceiling (I’m rather nearsighted without my glasses). Was it a spider? Should I turn on the light? It might move if I take my eyes off it to find my glasses. What if it is a spider? Is it going to fall on me in the middle of the night?

You can tell I don’t appreciate spiders in my bedroom. It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not a House Wren.

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Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_9089You’re out in the yard enjoying the garden, or lying in bed in the stillness of the night, when you hear them. It’s a unique sound, a resonant, nasal honking, sounding much like a high flying traffic jam. I may be challenged when it comes to distinguishing warblers or sparrows by their calls, but Sandhill Cranes are so distinctive, even I recognize them as they fly by. Summer is over, and the cranes are heading south. Since I’m in Colorado, their destination is likely Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in central New Mexico, although they range as far south as Mexico and Cuba, and as far west as Siberia.

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