I don’t go to many birding festivals. They cost money and they attract crowds. I’m not a big fan of crowds. But I make an exception every year for the Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival, held right here in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. In fact, not only do I go to the festival, I’m a volunteer.
You’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.
A visit to tropical Australia has been at the top of my bucket list since I was 13. As we headed north on the Cook Highway, I was sure I was about to encounter a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There’s a reason UNESCO has designated this area as a World Heritage site. (Actually, there are four reasons, including geology, “exceptional natural beauty,” “superlative natural phenomena,” and the presence of endangered species.)
That’s a pretty impressive reputation. Would the Daintree live up to my expectations?
(This post continues my series on birding in Australia; choose “Birding Trips” in the Category box at right to see my previous posts.)
The strip of coastline between Sydney and Brisbane is full of national parks. With some notable exceptions, Australian national parks are not as developed as the ones in the U.S., and could better be compared to our national forests. While Australia is similar in size to the United States, much of it is desert. There is a lot of pressure to develop the arable land along the coast, and the national parks play an essential role in preserving the natural environment. They also provide plenty of opportunities to pull off the road and look for birds. Using a combination of Australian birding sites and eBird lists, we picked a fairly random assortment of likely looking destinations and headed in their direction. Continue reading
There are many places to look for birds in the Pikes Peak region. Take a hike around a mountain lake. Stroll around a mountain lake looking and listening for returning summer residents. Enjoy a hike in the aromatic junipers and scrub oaks of a foothill riparian area. Go higher in elevation and see what birds call the montane forests their home.
Ducks a few feet from my lens. Snow Geese, Canada (and Cackling?) Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, all hanging out together. Beautiful weather. No crowds. And best of all, a new bird for my life list! The day I recently spent at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex was about as perfect as a bird photographer’s day can be.
The refuge complex has many locations along the Sacramento River and in the surrounding valley. I had time for two stops, at Colusa NWR and Sacramento NWR. (It took me a while to figure out that Sacramento NWR is part of the Sacramento NWR complex. Talk about confusing!)
With my recent weekend in the mountains still fresh in my mind, I was eager to return to the San Luis Valley, in south-central Colorado, to look for more birds. The conference field trips had been crowded, and I figured that ditching the entourage should help me get closer views, and hopefully photographs, of the birds we’d seen the previous weekend. And it just so happened that Pete and I had scheduled a date day. How convenient.