Mt. Evans, Revisited

Yellow-bellied Marmots_MtEvans-CO_LAH_5999

Here in Colorado, when it’s hot out on the plains, we head to the mountains. And there’s no better mountain to head to than Mt. Evans. No hiking required, unless you want to reach the 14,265 foot peak, and even that is only a quarter mile up a series of switchbacks from the summit parking lot. And while the view from the top is worth the effort, most of the really good stuff is on the way there. It’s a good metaphor for life.

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Critters in Trees

Birders_BrettGrayRanch-CO_LAH_1888Birders spend a lot of time looking in trees. Of course, we’re hoping to see birds, and often we do. But birds aren’t the only animals that live in trees. And, while I get a thrill spotting a less-than-common bird among the branches, I also get rather excited when it’s a less-than-common mammal—or other creature.

fox-squirrel_dbg_10200118_lah_7185Besides the birds, what do I see in trees? Squirrels! It’s a rare birding trip when we don’t spot at least a couple of squirrels, and typically there are plenty more. Here in the Colorado Springs area, by far the most common species is the Eastern fox squirrel, which some idiot nostalgic person from the East introduced to Colorado during the 1940s. Fox squirrels spend their time sneaking around urban yards, emptying bird feeders and chewing up grill covers and the fabric cushions of our patio furniture.

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A Rocky Mountain Interlude

We were gone this weekend for our 39th anniversary, so I didn’t get a chance to write a new post about birds and birding, my normal Monday topic. Instead, I want to share some photos from our trip.

We stayed in Kremmling, a very small town nestled between Steamboat Springs to the west and the continental divide to the east. After packing up on Sunday morning, we decided to head home to Colorado Springs via one of our favorite national parks, Rocky Mountain.

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Rescuing Baby Birds

White-crowned Sparrow juv_GuanellaPass-CO_LAH_0017Nesting season is upon us, and baby birds are everywhere. Some are cute, some are downright ugly, but all are endearing. Isn’t nature wonderful?

But sometimes, it seems as if Mother Nature has a problem. Not all baby birds survive to adulthood. Being caring individuals, when we see a youngster in trouble, our first inclination is to help. We’re hardwired to care for young animals, and our compassion kicks in. But once we’ve gathered up that forlorn ball of fluff, what do we do next?

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Happy Mother’s Day

These photos are my Mother’s Day card to mothers, wanna-be mothers, and those who have (or had) mothers. Where would we be without you?

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Mama American Coot and her colorful offspring. Monte Vista NWR, Colorado
Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia
Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia

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Birding the Sacramento Valley

SacramentoNWR-CA_LAH_2056Ducks a few feet from my lens. Snow Geese, Canada (and Cackling?) Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, all hanging out together. Beautiful weather. No crowds. And best of all, a new bird for my life list! The day I recently spent at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex was about as perfect as a bird photographer’s day can be.

The refuge complex has many locations along the Sacramento River and in the surrounding valley. I had time for two stops, at Colusa NWR and Sacramento NWR. (It took me a while to figure out that Sacramento NWR is part of the Sacramento NWR complex. Talk about confusing!)

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Starting Over

12175 Howells Rd viewI miss my birds. Until a month ago, we lived on almost five acres outside of town, with huge Ponderosa pine trees and a two-acre field. My yard list numbered over 60 species. I could stand at the kitchen window and watch three species of hummingbird at the feeder hanging from the eaves, and enjoy the antics of the Bluejays, Steller’s Jays, and Scrub Jays as they competed with the magpies for peanuts left on our balcony railing.

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Photos Make Special Gifts

LAH_3950Today it’s time for my once-a-year photography promotion. Does someone on your gift list go wild for wildlife or bonkers for birds? Do they laud landscapes? Are they passionate about plants? How about giving them  a photo expressing their special interest?

You can visit my online store at mountain-plover.com, view my line of blank greeting cards here, or contact me directly for prints of any of my photos that appear anywhere on this blog. (Note that prints not in stock will take a few extra days.)

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National Wildlife (and people) Refuges

Cattle_Egrets_NoxubeeNWR-MS_20090618_LAH_3978A few years back I wrote an article about the Duck Stamp, formerly known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. (I like “duck stamp” a lot better!) Hunters need to buy the stamp to hunt ducks, and the money goes to purchase and maintain ducky sorts of habitats, with lots of water, good cover, and nice slimy plants to munch. You may know these places as National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs).

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Cover Your Pipes!

I prefer to write my own posts, but when I saw this article from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds, I had to share it with you. I had no idea that open pipes were such a hazard to birds and other wildlife!

Death by Pipe: Birds in Crisis

Bird carcasses recovered from mining claim pipes in Searchlight, NV. Photo: Christy Klinger, Nevada Dept. of Wildlife.
Bird carcasses recovered from mining claim pipes in Searchlight, NV. Photo: Christy Klinger, Nevada Dept. of Wildlife

Trapped in a small space, unable to move, with no food or water, slowing dying of stress, starvation, or dehydration; most of us can’t imagine a less appealing end. Unfortunately, this is the reality for hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of birds and other animals each year. Recent inspection of open or uncapped pipes has uncovered a grisly secret: countless bird and other animal carcasses collecting inside. Open or uncapped vertical pipes pose a very real hazard to wildlife, especially birds.

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