Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Roses

Today was an ugly, drab & drizzly, cloudy & chilly day. Bill's mother, sister, Terry and family joined us for a delicious lunch - but we had to eat inside, and even had a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off the cold, damp air.

Between rain drops (more of a light mist actually) Terry went outside to see our roses. She called me outside and said to bring my camera.

The mist had transformed the roses into exotic, shimmering living pieces of art. They almost look artificial - but I have not enhanced these pictures - just cropped them a bit.

The rain drops highlighted the colors.

Even the leaves were beautiful.

Please click on any of these images to see a larger picture.

What a beautiful yellow - especially against the green leaves in the background.

After our company left and headed back to Denver, we took a short drive to Falcon and Peyton - east of the city. This beautiful Swainson's Hawk was sitting on a fence post on the side of the road.

I wanted him to turn around so I could get his beautiful rusty-colored breast in the picture - but he did not cooperate.

Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skys are not cloudy all day.

This is the antelope from the song we all sang as children. When my sister came to visit in 2007, she saw antelope for the first time. This is what she wrote in her blog:

"the herd I saw at the side of the road were antelope (as in deer and antelope play). For some strange reason, it never occurred to me that there was an actual animal called an antelope. Don’t know what I was thinking!!"

As the sun was setting, I went out to again check my beautiful roses. This picture was taken with a flash.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colorado is Beautiful!

Yesterday, Bill and I went for a hike at Red Rock Canyon Open Space. It was a beautiful sunny day. The temperature was perfect.

Parks and Open Spaces here in Colorado get lots of use. We passed other hikers, dog-walkers, bikers, horse-back riders and resident wildlife.

At the top of the ridge, Bill stopped to enjoy the view. We had gone off the path to locate a geocache and our GPS led us to this beautiful spot.

We have no idea what this plant is - but it surely is unusual - in a very cool way.

We only hiked a couple of hours before heading back to the homestead. I had laundry to do and Bill wanted to cut the grass before the afternoon rains arrived.

Just two pictures of humming-birds today - so bear with me; I can't help myself. This is a female Broad-tailed Humming-bird. I'm very pleased with the detail on this shot.

This must be her boyfriend - the original redneck. It looks like he needs to fatten-up a bit before heading to Mexico.

We do not see as many males at the feeders as we do females and juveniles. The youngsters of both genders look like the females.

Today, after Bill returned from the flying field, we headed over to Palmer Park. I wanted to hike the Templeton Trail - that circles around the north side of the park. It is one of the more advanced trails.

I love walking in this section of the park. The views are spectacular and the rock formations are magnifi-cent.

There was a parade and celebration downtown to welcome home the troops. While we were hiking we saw several different kinds of planes flying overhead. Some were restored military planes from WWII. This is a huge Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane that flew right over us. The wingspan of the C-17 is 170 feet and it is 174 feet long.

We have a new volunteer in the garden. This sunflower is just opening. One of the birds must have dropped a seed from the feeders.

The skies are darkening and I hear thunder in the distance. The afternoon storms are beginning.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Coffee, Conversation and an Unusual Encounter

This morning I met my very good friend, Nancy, at Einsteins for coffee and chit-chat. Nancy and I always have a great time and the clock spins when we get together. We talked about everything from the death of Ted Kennedy and health insurance to children, grandchildren, sisters, husbands and girlfriends (ours, not theirs!).

During the conver-sation, I looked out the window and saw this most beautiful parrot sitting on the railing outside the coffee shop. I went out to investigate and take a picture with my phone camera - when the police arrived. I thought he was going to arrest the bird for loitering but he just wanted to make sure the bird was with someone and not an escapee from the local zoo.

The owner was inside the coffee shop - but came out to rescue his bird - who apparently comes to the shop on a regular basis - and calmly waits outside while his owner gets coffee and a sandwich.

The owner asked if I wanted to hold him and, of course, I said yes! Nancy took my phone and took the pictures. I told the bird he was beautiful and was rewarded with kisses - much to my delight.

Now, having the picture on my phone and getting it into my computer was a challange! I had no idea you could send a picture to an e-mail address! I learned something new.

My afternoon was no where as exciting or enjoyable. Today I had my annual mammogram.

Red-tailed Hawk

While visiting friends in Alamosa over the weekend, I stopped to take this picture of a Red-tailed Hawk perching on top of a pole. Red-tailed are the most common of the hawks I see in Colorado. They are large birds - 19 to 25 inches long with a wing span that can be up to 4 feet. Their colors ranges from dark brown to nearly all white.

Yesterday, during a short hike in Palmer Park, I found this rock. It looks like any other rock in the park except......

It's hollow! Just perfect to hide a micro-cache inside. The cache container is a small stainless steel pill box that I covered with camouflage colored duck tape. Inside the container is a piece of paper for people to log their visit with name and date.

One of our other caches, Leverite, is inside a similar rock that we found at Pulpet Rock Park. I can't believe I've found two hollow rocks! There must be a geological explanation - maybe it's a geode gone bad.

Since this is our second hollow rock find, Bill wants to take it to Florida and place it there. I'm afraid the Colorado rock will look out of place in Florida - but I guess we'll see.

Five weeks from today Bill and I along with our new pet rock leave for a two week road trip visiting friends in Missouri and Kansas and family in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland on our way to our winter home in Fort Myers. I'm especially looking forward to seeing my four grandsons along the way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

All Hummingbirds

I just can't seem to get enough pictures of our little feathered visitors! First, because they are so much fun to watch and, second, because I have a camera that actually will take decent pictures!

This is a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird. The female Broad-tailed and the female Black-chinned look similar but the Black-chinned is slightly smaller at just a smidgen under 4 inches. I love the way her back shines emerald green with touches of orange in the sun. The male Broad-tailed have a bright red throat patch (gorget) while the male Black-chinned have (surprise, surprise) black throats.

Look at her tongue! They need long tongues to get nectar from flowers or from our feeders. I was just lucky to get this shot! She is sitting on the perch of a faux birdhouse we have near the feeders.

Notice something missing in this shot? It looks like she has no wings! They move so fast, the camera doesn't even see them.

This is the bully - Ms. Rufous Hummingbird. She rules the feeders!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pueblo Reservoir

After a very nice visit and lunch at Red Lobster with Kyle, Bill's oldest grandson, we went to the Pueblo Reservoir. They have an R/C runway so Bill flew his plane - which he had conveniently put in the trunk of the car before we left home. After a short flight, the wind picked up, so he landed his plane and we drove around the park. It was hot in Pueblo - probably 10 degrees hotter than Colorado Springs.

Just look at this cute little bunny rabbit. It was small enough that I could have held it in the palm of my hand. We don't see too many rabbits here in town so this was a delightful encounter. I hope he stays away from the hawks and the coyotes and doesn't become the main course at a future outdoor dinner party.

We saw several Northern Mocking-birds. They have white patches on their wings that you can see when they fly (or "display" during mating and when hunting for insects) and a long tail that is often pointing upwards. We didn't hear him sing, but they are known to mimic other birds.

Here he is again on the ground near a puddle. It looked like he was doing a broken wing impression to scare us away - but that's what a Killdeer does - not a Mockingbird!

In the fall, Scaled Quail gather in coveys of 50 or more birds that feed and roost together.

We saw a large family scurrying around and running to hide among the Yucca.

The Prairie Dogs were everywhere! I was hoping we would see a Burrowing Owl near the burrows, but we didn't. Guess I'll have to wait to see them again in Cape Coral.

This might look like a squirrel, but it's a marmot. The bird is, of course, a European Starling.

Down by the reservoir, behind the dam, we saw several different ducks, a couple of gulls (probably California Gulls) and this huge Great Blue Heron. Most of the Colorado herons migrate to more southern states, Mexico, Central and South America, but some stay all year around. They remind me of Florida - but, then again, everything this time of year as the days get shorter and the temperatures fall, reminds me of Florida.

Bill and I are toying with the idea of buying a place in Ocala, Florida - north of Orlando. The community of Top of the World (TOTW) has a very active RC model airplane club which appeals to Bill. I have mixed feelings. The ocean is over an hour away and since it is northern Florida, it is colder. On the plus side, it is a gated community with tons of other activities, hiking trails, nature preserves, a couple of pools, restaurants and entertainment. You can get everywhere by golfcart and prices for resale properties are down 40% from a few years ago. It's near Walt Disney World - but not Sanibel or the Everglades. It's a Retirement Community. I feel so old.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Couple of Birds and a Little Nostalgia

The sun came out yesterday for a short time so Bill and I headed to the park. I wanted to locate a trail that I could see on the trail map but that I have never, to my knowledge, hiked. I took the GPS so I could track our walk and compare it to the trail map. The GPS also tells us exactly how far we have walked and we can reverse the route if we get lost. Well, even with the maps and our high-teck GPS, we never found the trail - but we had a great walk anyway!

Just being together, outdoors in the park, enjoying the beautiful views, flowers and wildlife is a privilege, one that I appreciate more and more as I get older. The busier I am, the healthier I eat, and the more exercise I get - the better I feel. Now if I could just shed a few pounds.....

We continue to enjoy the young fledglings both here at home and on the trail. I assume from the incomplete coloring that this House Finch is a younger male.

This Western Scrub Jay still has his baby feathers and is just starting to get his azure-blue coloring. These are gorgeous birds but, like other jays, are loud and obnoxious.

While we were looking up in the trees for birds, we saw this chipmunk out on a limb. I don't know why it surprised me to see him up in a tree - but it did.

This bush must be especially hearty (or stubborn) growing on this dry, rocky out-cropping. It's stunted size reminded us of a Bonsai tree.

After our hike we made our almost daily trip to the grocery store and got caught in a severe storm. We had to sit in the car in the parking lot as the hail pelted the car and everything around us. While we were shopping, we could hear it pouring outside - so we took our time and it stopped as quickly as it started. Back at the house, we checked the rain gauge and it was dry. We found out later that two tornadoes had touched down just west of here. You gotta love the weather here in Colorado!

Today, Bill and I are meeting his oldest grandson at Red Lobster for lunch. He has been working there all summer, waiting tables to earn money for college expenses. He starts next week.

I remember my first day of college - U of P Dental Hygiene School, 40th and Spruce in Philadelphia. I had a full scholarship because daddy was a professor at Penn, teaching zoology to pre-med students. I lived at home, so I drove my brand new 1964 Corvair Monza (maroon with black interior and a three speed on the floor) everyday into the city. I picked up a classmate, Ginger, on the way. She helped pay for gas - which was 25 cents a gallon for Esso Plus. It will be more complicated - and expensive - for Kyle - but I know he'll do great and have the time of his life. We wish him the very best!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Visit With Paula and Louis

Our good friends Louis and Paula came up from their home in the San Luis Valley to spend a night with us before picking up their son at the airport - here from Virginia for a 2 week vacation.

Louis and Paula enjoy the outdoors so we took them hiking in Palmer Park and introduced them to our newest hobby of geocaching.

First, we hiked on the north side of the park, climbing up to the Templeton and Edna May Bennett Nature Trails where we placed our newest cache Hambone. You can see it in this picture - can't you?

After that we gave them the GPS and let them locate one of our other caches Leverite. It is high on the bluffs near our house. They finally found it - after Louis picked it up and put it down again not realizing what it was. Both Hambone and Leverite are micro (very small) containers camouflaged inside items from nature we found on the ground in the park. The container has only a small log to sign your name and date of your visit.

Next weekend we are driving down to Alamosa with friends, Moe and Shirley, to see the progress on Louie and Paula's new house. Louie is doing all of the construction - including the doors and cabinets - and Paula is working on the garden. They have a greenhouse, pond, huge workshop, detached multi-level garage and a brand new wine cellar. Louis designed and built the rotating solar panels that provide energy for the house and the complicated system that stores and purifies their water. They are growing fruit (including oranges and bananas!) tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beans, corn, peas, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and herbs & spices. They hope to one day be completely self sufficient - but I hope they will always need friends.

Yesterday, we took two of the grandkids to sports practice at their school in Hanover - about an hour southeast of here - out in the prairie. I usually don't take pictures of birds on barbed wire fences or telephone poles - but I wanted to try and identify some birds we do not have here in town.

This, I believe, is a Lark Sparrow. I think they are beautiful birds - but then again, I love them all.

I have trouble telling the difference between a Western Kingbird (which is what I THINK this is) and a Says Phoebe. Please e-mail with corrections on this or any other bird I post!

Hawks are the most difficult for me. Many types have highly variable plumage - from light to dark and they are usually too far away for good pictures. This one, I believe, is a common Red-tailed Hawk.

Swainson's Hawks have three main color variants. This one looks like the more common light morph.

We saw this lone duck standing by a puddle of muddy water. Bill correctly identified it as a Gadwall.

The wildflowers are still beautiful. We passed field after field of these wild sunflowers smiling and nodding their heads in the gentle breezes.

Off to the north, a severe thunder-storm was brewing but the sun was still shinning on the happy yellow flowers.

Our weather has been unseasonably cool and damp with lots of afternoon storms. North and east of here, there has been wind, hail and even a tornado or two. Today is dreary and cold with a good chance of rain - not a good day to hike.

We are beginning to get itchy and are planning our return to Florida in October. Bill is anxious to get back to the Cape Coral RC Hawks flying field and I miss the ocean, seashells and tropical birds - not to mention the community pool and all of our new friends.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Our backyard is small but private. We both love to garden so we have lots of flowers.

The ponds are surrounded with ornamental grasses, hand-picked stones and flowering ground coverings. The bird food court is near the ponds. We can watch the birds and listen to the waterfalls while sitting on the back patio - where we spend a good deal of time.

Bill built Das Bloomin Haus a couple of years ago. It doubles as a potting shed and a playhouse for the grandkids. The stained glass window is the top half of an old front door that we saw for sale down the road several years ago. They wanted $100 for it. Bill offered them $20 and asked them to deliver it.

This structure is Das Kookin Haus home of the Benford - Bill's famous grill. Usually the smoker is behind the haus, but Bill smoked a turkey and a chicken for company earlier in the week and, if I'm lucky, he will make some of his delicious baby back ribs this weekend.

One of our humming-birds has taken up residence on the weather-vane atop Das Kookin Haus. From this vantage point he can survey his territory and chase off any interlopers that dare to invade.

I was shooting a series of pictures when he decided to do what looks like either an advanced yoga position or something from The Exorcist. Show off!

His feathers are still ruffled from standing on his head but he's keeping a sharp eye out for other hummers who might dare to think they can get a drink at the feeders.

Each time he runs off another bird he returns to his perch. This time he's headed north.

And this time he seems to be contradict-ing the weathervane - you go your way and I'll go mine.

This shot reminds me of the illustration of Snoopy looking up and kicking his feet with glee.

Thank goodness for digital cameras because I took pictures in the yard all morning - and didn't run out of film.

Our roses were beautiful earlier in the summer, took a short rest and are now starting to come back. This one reminds me of the wonderful Peace Roses my mother grew when I was a child.

I think the Pansies are my favorite because they are beautiful all summer and some of them come back year after year. I've even had them blooming in the snow.

We have several different colors of Vining Petunias. These are in a hanging basket on the patio.

We planted a couple of different kinds of Daisy-like plants by the ponds. Hopefully, they will come back next year.

The colors look nice by the red rocks around the ponds. We are trying to plant more perennials and fewer annuals - or do I have them backwards?

This is a volunteer. We have lots of volunteers in the yard - flowers that grow spontaneous-ly. Maybe a bird dropped the seeds - or maybe at one time we had some growing in one of the flower pots. We don't know - we just enjoy.