It’s easy to be taken in by the catalog photos. Acres of daffodils, blooming cheerily in the sunshine. Vibrant crocuses popping up through the melting snow. Tulips—so many kinds, so many colors! Surely, if I would just order these bulbs, my spring garden will look just like the pictures.
You’re cruising through one of our national parks when you come across a traffic jam. Cars are pulled to the side, their occupants pointing at… something. More people are darting between vehicles, cameras in hand. What in the world has caught their attention? Bears? Elk?
As birders, our goal when going birding is to see—birds! We may or may not have a target species we’re seeking, but a trip is generally rated as a success or a dud by the number of species we see. Rarities are a bonus.
But there’s another part of birding we might overlook. Just being out in the field means we have a shot at seeing other aspects of nature. Wildflowers and insects (especially butterflies and dragonflies) are garnering much attention these days, and for good reason. They’re just as interesting as birds, and more of a challenge. (Have you ever tried ID-ing a moth or beetle?)
When most plants are finishing up for the season, Staghorn Sumac is just coming into its prime. During the growing season, the plant’s sturdy brown stems support leaves a foot or more in length, with many 4-inch leaflets, all grass-green. But in the fall, its brilliant red-orange fall foliage sets the landscape on fire.
Tropical vines with huge, brilliantly colored flowers don’t normally grow in Colorado, but Trumpet Vine is an enjoyable exception. A vigorous grower, Trumpet Vine can reach 30 feet, with dark green compound leaves that drop in fall to reveal the vine’s light brown papery bark. From mid-summer to frost, three-inch long vase-shaped flowers of fiery orange-red grow in clusters of four or more. In fall, hundreds of papery seeds develop in five-inch long capsules.