Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rainy Vail

Connie owns a time-share in Vail, usually the second week of June. For some reason, that week often seems to bring the last spit of winter to the valley. This year it was exceptionally cold and wet while we there for the weekend. Both rained and snowed a good part of the time. The condo is right along Gore Creek, which roars three stories below. The tops of several Lodgepole Pine, Spruce and Firs are level with the balcony. There were several Broad-tailed Hummers working a feeder on a nearby balcony and would occassionally rest in the trees. Also saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the trees.

During one of the infrequent and short sunny spells we walked up to the Betty Ford Wildflower Garden. What a great place. All kinds of flowers already in bloom. Spotted these Mountain Gentians, one of my favs. Once found an entire meadow of them up in Poplar Gulch near St. Elmo, Colorado. What a stunning blue!

During another very short sunny spell we took a short hike up the old highway on Vail Pass. Came across these White-crowned Sparrows in a meadow. And over across the meadow in a small tree was a Western Bluebird. Seems kind of high for Bluebirds but maybe not. It was chilly and it was starting to gropel on us. I think the birds were cold, too.

While walking spotted this Red Columbine. Not as spectacular as the blue version, but still a gorgeous flower.

Back at the condo, this small bird, I think some kind of a Flycatcher was trying to stay dry in a tall conifer. A White-crowned Sparros was singing in the top of that tree most of the time we were there. A Yellow-rumped Warbler was also working the grove out front.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who's That?

Connie wanted to go camping so we headed up the upper Arkansas. We go every year and try for our fav spot along the river. We were lucky this year - got it! Great spot. I think we got it this year cause the river was really running high - ROARING! Almost too loud. Runoff is happening really fast. Usually by this time of the summer the river rats have over-run all the good BLM spots along the river. It was really nice not having screaming rafters floating by every ten seconds, and buses careening down the road in clouds of dust. As far I'm concerned, the rafting industry turns my fav river into an amusement park most the summer. I say if you want to scream and yell and seek thrills, go to Elitch's. Leave the river to more peaceful use.

Wasn't real birdy. For one thing you could barely hear any bird song next to the river. I did hear a Yellow Warbler and found it going into the same bush over and over. Building a neat little nest right over the roaring water. The pair basically built it in a day. When I discovered it in the afternoon of our first day, it was just a wisp of very fine grass. We went for a bike ride into Buena Vista for our traditional corn dog at K's Dairy Delite, and in the four hours we were gone, they basically had it completed. By the next morning it was really looking finished. I sat real still maybe 15 feet away and shot a few frames with my 300+1.4f teleconverter on a monopod and hoped for the best. The female came in about every five to ten minutes with a few strands of grass and such. She didn't spend long working and was off again. A couple of times she would sit down on it and squirm around, like, "ohh, this is feeling about right."

While in town eating our corn dog lunch in the park, I noticed what I thought was a Robin sitting oddly on a telephone pole. Breast looked robin like red, but it looked more like a Woodpecker. Sure enough it was a male Lewis's. That wasn't robin red, it was pink! I've never gotten a great look at a Lewis's. Here this guy was living in the park. The next morning we broke camp and while I stalked the Lewis's, Connie read in the park. I found his hole. He'd go in for a quite awhile, then pop out with woodchips on his face. Once I made a drumming like noise, and he popped right out look like, "who is that out there"? Very handsome bird. Never did see a female. Don't know if she was on the nest, or he was just building a spec hole.

There was another curious song I've never heard way up in the Cottonwoods. Only saw a flash of it. Maybe a Vireo, I just couldn't tell. Small, greenish yellow. Very flitty.

Friday, June 4, 2010

East White Ranch in Early June

East White Ranch park is such a rich riparian birding environment. It's hard to go wrong there.

I'd heard reports of a Blue Grosbeak there, so I headed out there. No joy the first day, but this morning, there it was. Just for a second or two, but I got this shot.

Even late this winter on a warm day, I saw these black and red beetles out among the rocks. They must have had babies, cause today, there were masses of these little red beetles spread among the rocks. Saw some of the black and red parents running about, too. Didn't see any birds feasting on the bounty. I don't know what these bugs are.

There are always Bullock's Orioles at this location. Loudly chattering, and working the blossoms of the shrubs.

The mewing of Catbirds is also very evident. They have quite a repertoire, that's for sure. Kind of a dull gray bird, but very interesting.

There are a ton of Spotted Towhees out there. Got this one singing it's heart out at it's regular singing post.

Quite a few Lazuli Buntings as well. This one seems to favor the same singing post. What a gorgeous shade of blue on these birds.

Yellow Breasted Chats don't seem to be as abundant as in years past, but there's no mistaking their distinctive calls.

Finally a Lesser Goldfinch. I saw both American and Lesser Goldfinches there all winter. I wonder if these are the same birds I saw int he winter?