Lost Birds

Eurasian Wigeon, Cañon City, Colorado

The chatter on Facebook caught my attention—a Magnificent Frigatebird had been seen and photographed at Cherry Creek State Park, and a Bohemian Waxwing was hanging out across town at Hudson Gardens. While I ponder the wisdom of driving over an hour each way to chase these out-of-place birds, especially with snow in the forecast, I have to wonder—how did they end up here in the first place? The frigatebird is a tropical species—I’ve seen them in Central America and the Caribbean—while Bohemian Waxwings typically hang out in the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere, and are considered to be rare for the Denver area.

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Choose Chokeberries

We have an often-damp low spot at one end of our lawn. This summer the xeric fernbush that I planted there five years ago finally showed its displeasure by up and dying. Now I’m looking to fill the gap with a medium-sized shrub that thrives in Colorado’s climate and soils, offers three (if not four) season interest, and attracts birds. After a bit of research I’ve settled on the perfect candidate—the chokeberry.

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Perennials for High(er) pH

A visit to the Pacific Northwest makes me pine for acid-loving plants—Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons, to name a few. But I live here in Colorado, where the soil is often highly alkaline. Our pH runs over 8, much too high for many landscape plants popular in Oregon, Washington, and other areas with high rainfall and acidic soil.

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A Hidden Garden Near Seattle

I just spent a couple of weeks in Western Washington. While most of my time was filled with giggling granddaughters, a good friend and I managed to sneak away to visit a tiny gem of a botanic garden, one I’d never heard of in spite of our frequent visits to the area. Located in a quiet neighborhood in Federal Way, just north of Tacoma, PowellsWood is well worth a stop. (It’s also conveniently close to one of my favorite Indian restaurants, East India Grill. But I digress… )

I’m thankful that I can call Colorado home, as there’s no place I’d rather live, but my second choice would  definitely be Washington. I don’t mind clouds and rain, and all that water, plus a relatively benign climate, results in gardens that can only be described as stunning. PowellsWood is no exception.

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Leaves of Gold

Rhus typhina_Staghorn Sumac_DBG_LAH_0350r

When we think of adding warm shades to our garden—yellow and orange, gold, lime and chartreuse—we immediately start listing flowers. But it’s time to think beyond the blooms and consider the leaves. Foliage comes in a variety of warm tones, and the color lasts all season—or longer. We don’t need to wait for fall; many of these plants make spectacular focal points in the landscape all summer long.

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ID-ing Tan Shorebirds

Western Sandpipers_ShorelinePark-MtnView-CA_LAH_8921

We’re gearing up for a long-awaited road trip to Washington state. I can’t wait to see the grandkids (and their parents) and, since we’re driving, of course I can’t pass up the opportunity to bird somewhere that isn’t home.

We had wanted to go this past spring, but we all know how that turned out. I don’t often get the opportunity to bird the coasts, so I was eager to finally see shorebirds heading north in their easy-to-ID breeding plumage. Now, all those birds have morphed into migrants heading the other way in drab white and tan. Still, we’ve included several days at wildlife refuges known for vast numbers of migrating sandpipers, and in the meantime, I’m brushing up on my sandpiper ID skills.

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