Saturday, June 30, 2012

Getting Back to Normal

Life is beginning to return to some semblance of normal. The skies are mostly blue and the smell of smoke is almost gone. I can see the outline of the mountains - but my former clear views are still obstructed by a smoky haze. It's just as well because when it does clear, the view of the charred foothills is heart-breaking.

Tens of thousands of Colorado Springs residents are still misplaced - but more and more are getting to return home to empty the spoiled food from refrigerators and access the smoke and water damage. But they are the lucky ones. Too many people won't get to go home for a very, very long time. It's been quite a week.

We are getting a new roof! The hail storm in early June damaged our cedar shake roof beyond repair. Once again, our wonderful insurance company (The Hartford) is stepping up to the plate and will pay to replace it. 

Yesterday we sat outside on the patio, counting our blessings and watched 5 Black-capped Chickadees play in the yard. They are the cutest little birds!

We also had a visit from this handsome Red-shafted Northern Flicker.

I still have a few pictures from our trip to Yellowstone to post - but it's too nice a day to sit indoors so they will have to wait.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire

I like to post pictures of beautiful things, but here in Colorado Springs Mother Nature has dealt us a lousy hand and we are dealing with a catastrophic wild fire. 

Saturday, June 23, 2:30 p.m.
From Palmer Park shortly after the fire started

3:00 p.m.
from Coronado High School 

6:30 p.m.
from our backyard

From our backyard - those are not clouds, that is the fire.

Sunday, June 24, 7:00 a.m.
from Palmer Park
Smoke & Haze

from Coronado High School
Watching the fire grow

Monday, June 25
taken from Centennial and Fillmore
Pyrocumulus Cloud

Tuesday, June 26, 2:30 p.m.
from Coronado High School
Media Central

C-130 Maffs (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System)

Coronado High School was media central
5:00 p.m.
taken in front of our house

5:30 the firestorm moved in
taken from Colorado Springs Gulf Club and UCCS

8:00 p.m.
taken in front of our house

We currently have 1000 firefighters in the field. The fire has burned many homes in the Mountain Shadows and Peregrine areas high in the foothills and covers over 15,000 acres. Over 32,000 people are displaced. The fire is within 1 mile of the Air Force Academy. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yellowstone Birds

 There are over 300 species of birds in Yellowstone. I had the official list and expected to spend time looking for them all but with only a couple of days in the park - dedicated birding didn't happen. Most of the time we were in the car driving the figure 8 inside the 3-thousand square mile area. There are lots of stops, lookouts, picnic areas, short walks and photo opportunities but many of the hiking trails away from populated areas were closed because of bear activity.

Western Tanager
This was the first year we didn't have migrating Western Tanagers in our backyard, so I was thrilled to see them in Wyoming.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager
This handsome, hungry guy was posing for me along the side of the road where we had stopped to check out a bear sighting. 

It's common in the park to see a gathering of people where wildlife has been spotted. As we were hiking back to see yet another beautiful mountain stream vista, several tripods and cameras with ridiculous lenses were set up along the walkway. We assumed the friendly English visitors were looking at the far-away hills for wolves, but they had their cameras aimed at a small hole in a large tree stump not a dozen feet from the path where a Williamson's Sapsucker had a nest. Hearing that, I joined the long wait for the birds to make an appearance.

Williamson's Sapsucker (female)
The female was inside the nest. When she left, we knew it wouldn't be long before the male appeared. The female looks very different from the male.

Williamson's Sapsucker (male)

Soon, the colorful male appeared. He landed on the back of the stump and quickly walked around to the side so I could get a great look at his colors - black and white with a bright yellow belly and red chin.

Williamson's Sapsucker
 I wish my picture was clearer but I was focused on the hole in the tree.

Williamson's Sapsucker
 His back is not as interesting. This was a Life Bird for both Bill and me.

Canada Geese
 We saw lots of Canada Geese along Lake Yellowstone.

Barrow's Goldeneye
 Our first day in the Park was extremely windy - so windy that trees blew over closing roads until they could be cleared. The lake was so choppy that many of the ducks were hugging the shoreline. It was very difficult to get decent pictures. We have Common Goldeneye Ducks here in Colorado, but this was my first sighting of a Barrow's Goldeneye.

Cliff Swallow
 I don't think I've ever seen as many Swallows as I saw this trip; Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows and Cliff Swallows. They are impossible to photograph in flight so I was glad to have some pose in their nests.

Cliff Swallow
 These mud nests were lined up on the back-side of one of the clean, well-stocked rest rooms that are abundant throughout the Park.

Violet-green Swallows
Dark-eyed Junco
Green-winged Teal
 All of the many, many ducks were far away so pictures were challenging - especially in the wind. We saw 3 kinds of Teal - Cinnamon, Blue-winged and Green-winged.

Red-breasted Merganser
 And we saw lots and lots of Mergansers with their unique profiles.

Lesser Scaup
 I hope I have these Scaup identifications correct!

Greater Scaup
Red-winged Blackbird
I was surprised to see so much water in the Park - lakes, ponds, streams, rivers - water everywhere. And where there is water, there are Red-winged Blackbirds.