Dorian isn’t the first hurricane to pound the Caribbean, although she was definitely one of the biggest. Now she has churned her way through the Bahamas—dumping four feet of rain in some places—and along the southeastern coast of the U.S., causing tremendous flooding, demolishing buildings, and taking lives. Pete and I visited South Carolina and Florida last winter, and we’ve sailed the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. Birds were everywhere. Now, I think of all those birds struggling to survive in the midst of those 150+ mph winds, and I wonder—how do such fragile creatures survive a hurricane?
Continue reading “Blown Away—Birds and Hurricanes”
The bee balm (Monarda) and mint hyssop (Agastache) won’t bloom until mid-summer, and the flowers on my California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) appear even later. Yet, despite the lack of these hummingbird favorites, the birds are on the move, heading north to nest. While I like to think that I’m aiding their survival, I know they will do fine without me. Still, I’m hustling to fill and hang my feeders. It isn’t that the birds need me—I need them!
Continue reading “The Hummers are Coming!”
You’re out in the yard enjoying the garden, or lying in bed in the stillness of the night, when you hear them. It’s a unique sound, a resonant, nasal honking, sounding much like a high flying traffic jam. I may be challenged when it comes to distinguishing warblers or sparrows by their calls, but Sandhill Cranes are so distinctive, even I recognize them as they fly by. Summer is over, and the cranes are heading south. Since I’m in Colorado, their destination is likely Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in central New Mexico, although they range as far south as Mexico and Cuba, and as far west as Siberia.
Continue reading “Sandhill Cranes”
Usually, Colorado’s seasons have little to do with the calendar. This may be the vernal equinox, but we still expect snow and it’s way too early to plant those tender flowers and veggies. After gardening in California for years, I’ve mostly adapted to the challenge here, but from March through mid-May I would drag around the house feeling frustrated that I couldn’t plant anything the least bit frost-tender.
Then I started birding—and to the birds, March means spring! As a birder, there’s plenty of activity to keep me glued to my binoculars.
Continue reading “It’s Spring!”
Want some great birding in northern Utah? I recently discovered a real gem—the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It’s located on the northeast corner of the Great Salt Lake, just northwest of Ogden off I-15/I-84. The day I visited—midweek in early April—I almost had the place to myself. It was just me and plenty of birds! (Don’t confuse this place with Bear Lake NWR, in Idaho, which is also well worth a visit.) Continue reading “Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge”
… catches the bird. While it’s not wise to be an early worm, being an early birder pays off. You’ll see more birds than those who sleep in and, if you’re a bird photographer, you’ll have better light to capture them by.
I was once again reminded of this during a couple of back-to-back visits to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, in south-central Colorado.
Continue reading “The Early Birder…”
When does migration bring new birds to Colorado? I’ve been pondering that question ever since I started birding. As a gardener with years of experience, I know when to plant each crop or flower. I know that 70° afternoons can be followed by 3° nights. Yes, April is like that—don’t be fooled.
But migration varies from species to species, and even sometimes from year to year. Instead of learning when to set out a dozen veggie varieties, I have to become familiar with the timing of hundreds of birds. For the most part, that’s still a huge mystery to me.
Continue reading “What Time Should I Expect You?”
How 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. Continue reading “Caliope Hummingbirds”
The sun is starting to color the eastern sky, although it won’t appear over the horizon for almost another hour. Flocks of songbirds that have been flying all night finally give in to the overwhelming need for food and rest before resuming their northward migration.
While most sensible people are still in bed, a team of dedicated volunteers is already hard at work. They’re bird banders. Capturing, measuring, tagging and releasing wild birds provides researchers with unique opportunities for study.
Continue reading “Bracelets for the Birds”
It’s time for the changing of the guard. Rough-legged Hawks are on their way to the northern edge of the continent to breed and raise their young in the 24-hour summer sunshine. At the same time, Swainson’s Hawks are on their way back from Argentina in search of an endless summer.
Swainson’s Hawks were the first hawks I learned to identify as a fledgling birder. The dark-dark-light pattern of perched birds is easy to remember—dark head and chest, white belly. Plus, the russet cowl is distinctive. Smaller than other Colorado Buteos, their tiny feet allow them to perch on wires whereas other Buteos prefer trees and telephone poles. A friend described the white over their beak as their “searchlight” and the mnemonic stuck. And finally, no other American hawk has pale coverts with dark flight feathers. A soaring bird is instantly recognizable.
Continue reading “The Return of the Swainson’s Hawks”