Ups and Downs

One drawback of living at 7,100 feet is that spring drags its feet. I see the blue sky outside and assume warm sunshine to go with it. Yet, I step one foot out the door and my teeth start to chatter—as much because of the icy winds as the frigid temperatures. We may have two or more months of snow yet to endure, but I’m ready for spring. There’s only one solution.

Go down.

I can’t afford a plane ticket to Cancún, or even a road trip to San Diego, but I can drive to a (relatively) lower elevation. While the eastern states’ climate zones are determined by latitude, ours are determined by altitude. It’s amazing how much impact a couple thousand feet can have on the arrival of spring. Continue reading

Cool Birds

lah_6691Here in Colorado, it’s the hottest summer in anyone’s memory. I’ve had a major case of birding ennui, canceling trip after trip when the mercury topped 100⁰F. The birds are smart enough to nap during the heat of the day, and I’m learning from their example.

However, when our Audubon chapter scheduled a trip up 14,265 Mt. Evans, I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day you can beat the heat and have a chance at a lifer, all on the same trip.

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Mountaintop Birds

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My husband and I aren’t the only ones who escape the heat by fleeing to high altitudes. A number of bird species do the same thing. Instead of migrating to the arctic, they head for the hills.

I was a first-year birder, a mere fledgling. Our local Audubon chapter was offering a trip to the high country. Of course I signed up. Surely there were amazing birds to be seen at such rarefied heights. I was expecting something new and exciting— a Williamson’s Sapsucker, perhaps, or one of the rosy-finches. Maybe we’d even spot a well-camouflaged ptarmigan!

We piled out of the cars at the top of the first pass, and I raised my binoculars to scan the scattered patches of melting snow and dwarfed willows. There! What as that moving in that patch of wildflowers? It’s a… it’s a… robin? I came all the way up here to see a robin? I have plenty of robins in my yard, munching on my gooseberries and chokecherries!

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