A Visit to Castlewood Canyon S.P.

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Not to stay home on a gorgeous Saturday morning, I joined our Audubon chapter field trip to Castlewood Canyon State Park, located on the Palmer Divide between Colorado Springs and Denver. At elevations between 6,200 and 6,600 feet, the park includes ponderosa forest, dry shrubland, high prairie, and riparian areas. This diversity allows for plenty of birds, a colorful array of wildflowers, plus some pretty impressive scenery. Our loop trail along the canyon rim, down to (and across) Cherry Creek and through the riparian willows, then back up to the parking lot clocked in at 3.2 miles, but you could easily add some side trips. Continue reading “A Visit to Castlewood Canyon S.P.”

Free Expert Advice

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Nature is an excellent gardener. Take a walk through any pristine boonies and you’ll be amazed at the beauty of what grows untended. I’d never consider combining flowers in shades of fuchsia, orange, yellow, and blue, but when nature does it, we stand in awe. Ferns tucked alongside waterfalls, acres of wildflowers, pink Oxalis carpeting the ground under towering redwoods—it’s all stunning.

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Where Did All the Flowers Go?

Aquilegia_Colorado Columbine_Emerald Valley-EPCo-CO_LAH_5416rWhere did the wildflowers go? It was the end of June, and we were making our annual pilgrimage along  the trail through Emerald Valley, on the slopes of Pikes Peak. This time we weren’t just looking for birds, but for blooms and bugs as well—in fact, the birds were the least of our priorities. There were bugs, especially as the day warmed, and we saw some excellent birds, but where were the flowers?

Emerald Valley usually has a wide assortment of wildflower species, including many of my favorites—Colorado Columbine, Shooting Stars, various Penstemons, and three species of orchid. This year, columbines were in short supply, the only Shooting Stars were creekside in the moist soil, and I didn’t see a single clematis blossom.

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Blooms, Bugs, and Birds

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What do you do when you run out of birds to see? With around 10,000 different species, that may seem like a silly question. Who could ever see them all? Most of us will never have the prospect of traveling to every part of the globe looking for birds. Continue reading “Blooms, Bugs, and Birds”

Rocky Mountain Nature-ing

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Where do you go birding in the middle of the summer? With highs at home well into the 90s, Pete, our friend Debbie, and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park for four days of cooler temperatures in a spectacular setting.

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Wildflower Hike, part 2

Dodecatheon pulchellum_Shootingstar_Emerald Valley-EPC-CO_LAH_3597If you’ve just joined us, we’ve been taking a hike to look at some early summer wildflowers. See last week’s post for plants along the dry, sunny trail.

We wake from our unintended nap, eager to continue on our hike. After a couple of miles, we finally reach the stream we’ve been hearing. The trail steadily gains in elevation as we move upstream, and we find ourselves breathing a bit harder. The plants here are more adapted to partial shade, and thrive in damp conditions.

The first flowers we notice are a scattering of Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum). May’s rain has resulted in a profusion of their delicate blooms, and they grow in the saturated stream-side soil.

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A Virtual Wildflower Hike

Penstemon sp.
Penstemon sp.

The soggy May we endured may have been dismal and frustrating, but now we’re reaping the rewards of all that rain. As the sun has come out and the weather has warmed, we’ve been gifted with an abundance of wildflowers. This is the perfect time of year for a wildflower walk. Let’s take a hike up the mountain and see what we can find.

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Like Dragonflies? Visit Bitter Lake NWR!

Widow Dragonfly_BitterLakeNWR-NM_LAH_9472-001I had never encountered so many dragonflies, both in sheer numbers and incredible variety. Birders speak of “hotspots”—places where birds tend to congregate. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico, is clearly a dragonfly hotspot.

red Dragonfly_BitterLakeNWR-NM_LAH_9302-001 Continue reading “Like Dragonflies? Visit Bitter Lake NWR!”

Mid-Summer Abundance

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July is not the best time to go birding. The sweat drips from under your floppy hat and smears the view through your binos, and there’s a puddle soaking your shirt under your sling/backpack/fanny pack. It’s a challenge just carrying enough water to stay hydrated.

The birds aren’t cooperating, either. Most of the males have stopped singing now that they have their mates and their territories. Soon they’ll be molting out of their breeding plumage into something much duller and harder to identify. Some are already thinking about heading south, although they won’t actually leave town for a few more weeks.

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Birds—and Butterflies and Blooms, too!

aquilegia-caerulea_blue-columbine_emeraldvalley-co_lah_2992-revSummer birding can be somewhat unproductive, but that doesn’t mean you should stay home in front of the air conditioning. So what if the birds are busy nesting and raising young? Birds aren’t the only attraction in the great outdoors.

I recently took part in a field trip led by several naturalists. Among them, they had combined expertise in birds, butterflies, and blooms. What a great combination. When the birds were busy, we turned our binoculars on the colorful butterflies fluttering around us. When the butterflies were scarce, we  focused on the drifts of wildflowers along the trail. With so many fascinating subjects to examine, there wasn’t a dull moment to be had.

Continue reading “Birds—and Butterflies and Blooms, too!”