Trumpet Vine – Campsis radicans

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.


Caliope Hummingbirds


calliope-hummingbird_blkforest-co_lah_6692How can a bird be that tiny? And how can anything that tiny have that much stamina?

I’ve been sitting at my dining room table watching the Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds compete for the feeders hanging outside the window when I notice a third species, even smaller than the pugnacious Rufous male hogging the sugar water. It’s our annual visit of the Calliope Hummingbirds! With a length of only 3.25 inches, and a body weighing in at one tenth of an ounce, the Calliope is the smallest bird in the North American bird area. (more…)

Incredible Hummingbird Video


It seems that everyone loves hummingbirds. Their tiny size, incredible gymnastic feats, and bright colors are enough to win over even the most apathetic bird-ignorer. (Is that the opposite of a bird watcher?)

PBS, through the design and construction of a special camera, has made a documentary about these amazing birds that slows their life down to mere human speed. I was astonished at what I learned.

I missed this video when it first came out last year. Maybe you did too. So instead of writing my own article for today, here are two links, one to the full-length video and one that shows how the filming was accomplished:

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air
Behind the Scenes of “Hummingbirds”

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

epilobium-california-fuschia_xg_090720_lah_7368Also known as Garrett’s Firechalice and Garrett’s California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum* is a spectacular plant for the fall garden, no matter what you call it. Flaming orange-red flowers from early July until frost make California Fuchsia a focal point in any xeric garden. Low-growing mounds of narrow, grey-green leaves spread two feet wide. The brilliant blossoms are a hummingbird magnet, giving them yet another common name, “Hummingbird Trumpet.” Plants look especially nice in front of contrasting companions such as dark junipers, purple asters, or silvery Artemisias.


Family Birds

broad-tail-hummingbird-on-nest_bcnc_lah_6418If Spring brings courting birds, claiming territories and wooing mates with beautiful songs, July is the month of nestlings. Nature, in her efforts to reproduce herself, takes advantage of the abundance of food produced by a fruitful summer. A recent trip to the southwest parts of El Paso county (Colorado) confirmed that this has been a fruitful summer indeed. Everywhere we looked yielded an abundance of hungry nestlings and frenetic parents trying to keep up with the demand for food.

Our first stop, at Bear Creek county park, took us to a patient Broad-tailed Hummingbird, sitting dutifully on her nest. While the branch was over our heads—too high for a peek into the tiny cup-like nest—we guessed that the eggs hadn’t hatched yet. Perhaps this was a second attempt to reproduce, somewhat late in the season.


Rufous Hummingbirds: August Fireworks

plh_6895rLike animated jewelry, the bright copper hummingbirds have been rocketing through our yard for the past few weeks. I’m constantly amazed at how something that small can go that fast. Rufous Hummingbirds are our special treat this time of year. In spring they migrate northward along the Pacific flyway, making the enormous trek from Mexico to Oregon, Idaho, or even all the way to southern Alaska, in order to nest and raise their young. Now that they’re empty nesters, it’s time for the return trip.

Some Rufous hummers go home the way they came, flying through California. Others head for the Rockies. No one knows why—maybe they just want a change of scenery. The upshot of their wanderlust is that those of us who live in Colorado get a late summer fireworks display. Starting in mid-July and running until Labor Day, these feisty birds dominate the feeders.


Broad-tailed Hummingbirds


Is that a hummingbird nest? I had to look carefully to find the tiny cup nestled among the ponderosa branches. Sure enough—a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird stared pointedly back at me, as she dutifully sat on what I could only assume were a couple of pea-sized eggs.

What really impressed me was the way the secretive bird had camouflaged her home. Lichens grew on the tree branches, and covered the outer surface of the nest. It looked like just one more bump on the bark, although with a diminutive bird sitting on top.