Welcoming Juncos

dark-eyed-junco_lavetaco_20100320_lah_0458nefI just added bird #19 to my yard list. That may not sound like very many, but we only moved into our new house in May, and we had no landscaping until August. Birds are rarely attracted to bare dirt!

Not surprisingly, #19 was a Dark-eyed Junco. Vertical migrants, Juncos spend the summer up in the mountains, nesting in the conifers, and descend to lower elevations for the winter. At 7,100 feet , our house barely qualifies as a lower elevation; the park up the road, a mere 200 feet higher, hosts juncos all year.

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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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