Birder Heaven: Laguna Atascosa NWR

lagunaatascosanwr-tx_lah_3293Did you hear? There’s a Golden-crowned Warbler at Fontera! And there’s a Rose-throated Becard at Estero Llano… and an Anna’s Hummingbird at Sabal Palms, a Rufous Hummingbird at Estero… a Crimson-collared Grosbeak at Fontera… a Black-vented Oriole at Bentsen…

Birding the Rio Grande valley is like nowhere I’ve ever been. You could spend your entire trip chasing rarities from site to site. I overheard one man commenting that he’d seen four rare birds in one day. Where else can you do that?

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Fall Photo Fail

lion_zoo-idahofalls-id_lah_8928In an attempt to improve my skills, I’ve signed up for a Wildlife Photography class at our neighboring community college. I have starry-eyed visions of rutting elk, growing grizzlies and other impressively large mammals adorning the paneled walls of our family room, not to mention the pages of Outdoor Photographer or National Geographic.

Our first assignment is to take four photographs of wildlife (defined as including insects, but excluding naked party-goers). I spent all week on this. What have I got to show so far?

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Three Times Trouble

skunk-home-birdfeeders-8sept2005-lah-071I love living outside the city limits, but sometimes sharing our five acres with nature can have its challenges. I currently maintain seven bird feeders and a bird bath. Not only do we have lots of birds, but the availability of food and water brings in some unintended visitors as well.

I was attending a meeting at the nature center when my cell phone vibrated. Seeing it was Pete, I quickly excused myself and answered his call.

“Hi sweetie, what’s up?”
“I have a problem. How do I get a skunk out of the garage?”

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Don’t Feed the Animals!

rmnp-co_rmnp-co_lah_2124

The large sign was front and center, but no one seemed able to read it. The scenic turnout was crowded with retirees, young couples, and other tourists. Chipmunks scampered over the rocks, gorging on Fritos, sunflower seeds, and bits of doughnut. Clark’s Nutcrackers swooped down to nab the handouts before the rodents could grab them. There was even a bird perched hopefully on the sign. What do you mean, “Please, don’t feed the animals”?

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Preserve Wetlands—Buy a Duck Stamp!

2003 CO Duck Stamp c Cynthie FisherThe purchase of a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, more simply known as a “Duck Stamp,” is one of the best ways you can promote wetlands conservation. Since its inception in 1934 as a federal license for hunting migratory waterfowl, this program has generated over $670,000,000 that has been used to purchase or lease 5.2 million acres of waterfowl habitat that is now included in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The stamps are only $15, and 98% of that is used for habitat preservation! With a decline in the number of hunters, it is more important than ever that conservationists, and especially birders, purchase Duck Stamps. As a bonus, having the current year’s stamp allows you free access to any National Wildlife Refuge, many of which now charge admission fees.

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The Birds and the Bears

Grizzly Bear_DenverZoo_LAH_1488Last week’s news story about a local woman’s encounter with a bear while out walking prompted me to consider the responsibility we have in preventing this sort of event, which resulted in the death of the bear.

In most cases, bears approach humans because they associate us with food. As one who delights in feeding birds, I’m very aware that what I intend for the birds may also be relished by bears. While bear sightings in my neighborhood are very rare, many neighborhoods along the Front Range extend into bear habitat. We would do well to take precautions.

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