Haystack Rock, in Cannon Beach, Oregon, is well-known as a nesting site for the Tufted Puffin. According to eBird, the puffins are in residence from late spring through mid-August. I’ve been there many times, but always in the winter months when the birds were feeding out to sea. Now we were finally going to be there on a summer day—August 23. That was cutting it awfully close, but the trip involved too many scheduled meetings and couldn’t be moved. I’d just have to wait and hope for the best.
Sometimes you can wait for hours, poke into thorny bushes, hike through snake-infested fields, get tired and dusty, become overheated or risk frostbite—and never find the rare bird you’ve come to see. And other times, you park the car, climb out, look for the crowd with binoculars and floppy hats, and know you’ve hit the jackpot. On Saturday, my friend and I were blessed to not only see the rarity, but to get up close and personal.
There’s a rhythm to birding in Colorado. At this time of year, many birders head to the mountains for the cooler temperatures and gorgeous scenery. Seasonal campgrounds and picnic spots that are inaccessible during the winter are currently full of wildflowers and nesting alpine birds, not to mention people hiking, fishing, or simply hanging around relaxing. While I love seeing people out enjoying nature, at times, the more popular spots get too crowded.
Birding is better with friends. For one, it’s more productive, as more eyes mean more birds spotted. I’m not an expert (by any means!) at birding by ear, but I know people who are. And sadly, a woman birding alone always has to take personal safety into consideration. Besides, birding with friends is definitely more fun!
Do you love Easter egg hunts? How about Pokemon Go? Or perhaps you’re into geocaching. If any of these sounds like fun, then you might look into birding. It’s all these rolled into one, with time outside in the fresh air and sunshine, the thrill of discovery, and a bit of nerdy science thrown in for good measure. You never know what you’re going to find.
This past weekend, a friend and I revisited our local county park and nature center. We’ve both been there dozens of times, and pretty much know what to expect. I’d enjoy the morning just for the chance to take a walk in the riparian corridor along Fountain Creek, but it’s the added hope of discovery that makes every visit interesting. And now that migration has started, my anticipation is higher than ever.
The view out my window on a recent morning was solid white. I was looking at four inches of what the weather folks called “it may or may not snow, and surely there won’t be much accumulation.” Schools were on a delay, temperatures hovered in the mid-teens, and visibility was nil. Yup, I wouldn’t be driving anywhere to go birding that day.
One of my goals for this year is to spend more time outside, birding and taking pictures of birds. So with that in mind, I headed to the county park and nature center south of town. I’ve been birding there many times. When I was just starting out, I frequently encountered species new to me. Now, after more than 15 years, I’m just happy to see birds—any birds—and hopefully get a decent photo or two. I figure I can always improve on what I’ve already taken.
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.
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.