Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Huerfano River Valley

Bill and I try to take at least one trip each summer to hike in the Huerfano River Valley on the backside of Mount Blanca. This year, Bill, his daughter Laura, hubby Tim and I headed out at o'dark-thirty on Saturday morning. After stopping for breakfast at George's Drive Inn Restaurant in Walsenburg, we headed up the very bumpy road to the trail head. Did I mention it was BUMPY?

This is the view from the meadow which is about a mile down the trail. Each year this hike gets a little harder for me. The altitude is about 11,000 feet and now that we are spending more time in Florida - we can really feel it! I have not made it back to the headwaters of the river in a couple of years. Laura & Tim went ahead without us while we took our time, enjoyed the scenery, looked for birds and rested between every couple of steps.

The Columbines were just starting to bloom. Blue Columbines are the Colorado State Flower.

We didn't see many birds - just a couple of Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warblers, chickadees, juncos and the usual crows and vultures.

Tim and Laura treated us to their always fun company and a gourmet picnic after the hike. All-in-all, a great day in the mountains. We are already talking about next year.

Back at home, the yard is looking pretty good.

The "Kookin Haus" gets a lot of use in the summer months.

Let me tell you about these beautiful yellow flowers and the garden around the blue bird bath. It looked terrible the last couple of years - we couldn't get anything to grow but weeds. Last year we had had enough so Bill sprayed the area with weed killer - the kind that leaves the ground completely barren for a year. We were going to take the garden out - or start over from scratch. This year when we returned home it was FULL of flowers - the flowers we had not seen in several years. I guess they didn't like competing with the weeds! 

Bill likes to fly his float plane - but I think we need a larger pond!

This is the "Bloomin Haus" in the corner of the yard. The window is part of a front door we bought from a neighbor and the red door was added last year to keep the raccoons out.

Another of the gardens - full of wildflowers.

Even the Potentilla is prettier than usual.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wildflower Walk in Palmer Park

...and a couple of birds too! It was a beautiful morning - temps in the 60's, gentle breeze. It was a little hazy - smoke from wildfires in Arizona - but not terrible. Bill was looking for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak - but had to settle for this Black-headed Grosbeak.

The very common Towhees were everywhere.

We walked the Yucca Trail and the wildflowers were in full bloom.

The female Black-headed Grosbeak was not far from the male.

Bill calls these sunflowers.

and these he calls Indian paint Brush.

Neither of us know what these are.

The Yucca are everywhere. Even in full bloom, I don't think they are very pretty.

These lovely purple flowers are common. They smell like a kind of onion.

Wild Roses?

You can see the haze blocks a crisp, clear view of the Peak.

This fuzzy wonder was about 3-inches across.

The Yucca flowers are pink before they open...

...and white after.

More sunflowers.

This Black-billed Magpie was waiting for us back in the parking lot.

Nice walk - thanks Bill!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Red-tailed Hawk

We have had a Red-tailed Hawk in the area recently. Here he is with a Grackle that he plucked from the yard behind ours.

Bill was directed to the nesting area about a 1/8 mile north of us in a fellow RC flyers backyard.

The pictures aren't very good, but you can see at least one juvenile. Both adults were present.

In other news, Bill joined a new RC club about 20 minutes east of Colorado Springs so he's off to the prairie flying early most mornings. I'm still working on my Super Mario quilt, playing Mah Jongg every Wednesday and last Thursday, I hosted 11 other women for a rousing game of Bunko. We have several visits upcoming - my son and an old friend of Bill's later this month and my daughter & youngest grandson in July. We try to get out birding 2 or 3 times a week. Family, friends, cooking, shopping and yard work fill in the cracks. Did I mention house work? No, I didn't. There might be a reason for that.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Prairie Life - Mobbing and Mating

You don't have to go very far east of Colorado Springs to see the landscape change dramatically - from mountain foothills with trees, bushes and flowers to wide open prairie with sagebrush and tumbleweed.

This is hawk habitat! On a recent drive near Peyton, CO we saw lots of tumbleweed and lots of hawks. This one is a Swainson's Hawk.

Last time I posted a picture of a Swainson's in flight someone commented that he had pretty armpits. Yes they are, Lisa!

A Loggerhead Shrike is often described as a songbird that acts like a hawk.

This is a pair of Lark Sparrows. We watched them for sometime. The male mounted the female over and over and over again.

Here they are resting between bouts.

Finally she had had enough and flew away.

Pictured is an activity called "mobbing" where a smaller bird goes after a larger bird - usually a predator - to drive it away from its territory, food source or nesting area. The smaller bird is a Northern Mockingbird and the larger bird is a Swainson's Hawk.

The Mockingbird kept pecking the hawk - over and over.

Here he comes again!

It almost looks like they are trying to mate.

We still have at least one pair of Cedar Waxwings that come into the yard to feed. I'm hoping we'll see babies in the future!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fountain Creek Nature Center

It's always a nice walk at Fountain Creek. If we get to see some birds - all the better!

There are always lots of Barn Swallows flying around the Visitor's Center.

The Red-winged Blackbirds are certainly noisy!

This one had me stumped - but I've decided it is a female Yellow Warbler. What a cute little face!

The Yellow Warbler from the back.

I think I take this bunny's picture every time we visit.

This woodpecker really caught our eye because she was so big - much larger than a Downy. It must be a Hairy Woodpecker.

Another view.

No sooner did we tentatively identify the Hairy when we spotted this Downy so we could compare the two. I was amazed at the difference in size - a good 3 inches.

The White-breasted Nuthatches are cute little energetic birds.

I love listening to the House Wrens. They may be plain birds - but they sure can sing!

Lots of Phoebes hunting for insects.

A female Mallard and her babies.

So cute!

We saw other creatures including this unidentified butterfly....

...and this small lizard.

Another look at the House Wren. I wonder what she is pondering.

Back at the homestead, I decided I'd better take some pictures of the yard. We are having storms almost every afternoon with threats of hail and tornadoes. A good hail storm and these flowers would be done. Bill says he hopes these pics are not the "before."

We like to keep the yard somewhat rustic as it draws more birds.

We are seeing more House Finches than anything else these days. Yesterday, I saw only one Cedar Waxwing - so the major influx has ended. We are seeing a couple of Lesser Goldfinches - but certainly not the quantity we've had some years. But we keep looking!