Fall Birding, Part 2

(Continued from last week’s post about the Colorado Field Ornithologists’ (CFO) 2014 convention.)

Yellowlegs_JacksonLakeSP-CO_LAH_2104Leading up to the CFO convention, which happened over Labor Day weekend, forecasters were calling for weather in the high 90s. It was a delightful surprise to discover that their predictions were wrong. Instead of sweltering under the hot prairie sun, we enjoyed days in the low 80s, with scattered clouds (and one rapidly-moving thunderstorm). What a relief to be focused on the birds instead of the heat!

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Fall Birding

Vesper Sparrow_RamahSWA-CO_LAH_1899-001Imagine that every bird you see is brown. Little brown jobs. Big brown jobs. Streaky, plain, identical. They’re no longer in their bright (and easily identified) breeding duds. Rather, they’re playing hard to see—and hard to identify.

Now imagine that they’re all far, far away—at the water’s edge on the far side of the reservoir, waaay out in the field, sitting on that distant fence rail—and if you try to sneak up for a closer look, they fly away.

And finally, imagine that an entire summer’s worth of baby birds have all left their nests and joined the crowd, sporting their juvenile plumage.

Got it? That’s the downside challenge of fall birding.

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Eagle Days 2011

gyrfalcon_lakepueblosp_lah_5104-1I’ve learned the lesson once again. If you stay home, you won’t get any photos. If you go out, you may still come up empty handed—or you just might be surprised.

The forecast was for snow and cold, but Lake Pueblo State Park was celebrating their 15th Annual Eagle Days. We couldn’t miss that! So I layered a jacket over a sweatshirt over a thin turtle-necked top over long underwear, piled about 30 pounds of camera gear into my pick-up, threw in a ham sandwich, hat, gloves, binos, field guide, and notepad, and headed south.

As I drove through the quiet early morning streets, I eyed the clouds boiling over the mountains to the west. I figured that the odds for getting photos worth keeping were pretty low but at least I’d enjoy the day with some birding friends.

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