Rosyfinch Ramblings
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June 2010
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Colorado Rockies Reunion
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, NM & SW US, Grandchildren
Posted by: Ken @ 9:15 am

On the occasion of our 50th Wedding Anniversary, Mary Lou and I have just completed an exciting two weeks of travel out west. Our trip began with a family reunion at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.

This platter was a gift from our oldest daughter, her husband and her son and daughter-in-law, who is expecting our first great-grandchild in October. It is positioned to reflect the snow-capped Rocky Mountains outside the window of our cabin:

Anniversary Platter 20100615

All eight of our grandchildren and two of our children and spouses spent most of the first week in adjacent cabins at this beautiful retreat. Our oldest daughter and her husband had driven only as far as Colorado Springs when they received news of the sudden and unexpected death of his younger brother. Only about 2 hours away, they had to turn around and drive back to Arizona. Despite this sad news, we all spent long days filled with day camp for the kids, trail rides, sightseeing, plus lots of visiting together and and eating too much.

On the day of our arrival it rained all morning, with episodes of thunder and hail, and the mountaintops received a fresh coating of snow. By afternoon the weather turned deligtful, and we enjoyed mild sunny days and cool nights at 8500 feet elevation.

The view from our cabin the next morning:

Mountains 20100615

For six days, we existed without TV, cell phones and the Internet (though weak Wi-Fi hotspots were available in a few places around the YMCA compound and within the Village of Estes Park).

The fireplace was a wonderful substitute for a boob tube:

Fireplace 20100614

All of us, especially the children, enjoyed watching the wildlife. Serious birding had low priority, but it always finds a place in our schedule, no matter where we are. Early each morning, after igniting some logs in the fireplace, before most of the others were out of bed, I was able to squeeze in a little birding, mostly from the wrap-around porch of our cabin. The morning air was filled with the songs of Green-tailed Towhees, Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Juncos. Pygmy Nuthatches foraged in the pines. Mountain Bluebirds sang weakly from the treetops. Elk and Mule Deer often appeared just outside our door.

We felt we were celebrating a second reunion, with many bird species
that were so familiar in our former home in the mountains of New Mexico. (Click on photos for more views).

Pygmy Nuthatch:

Pygmy Nuthatch 4-20100614

Green-tailed Towhee:

Green-tailed Towhee 5-20100615

This Chipping Sparrow perched on the porch railing:

Chipping Sparrow 2-20100615

The juncos sported reddish brown “saddles,” and were quite tame:

Dark-eyed Junco 20100614

Several pairs of Mountain Bluebirds occupied territories around our cabin:

Mountain Bluebird 20100614

Common Ravens croaked from rooftops and utility poles:

Common  Raven 20100614

Black-billed Magpies, more brightly plumaged than their raven relatives, were on the alert for food scraps around the administration buildings:

Black-billed Magpie 20100614

Naturally, the children liked to watch the furry creatures, such as this young bull Elk that approached an adjacent cabin:

Elk 2-20100614

Mule Deer were abundant…

Deer Running 20100614

…as were Wyoming Ground Squirrels…

Wyoming Ground Squirrel 20100614

…and chipmunks:

Chipmunk 20100614

Early the first morning, I caught a glimpse of a Coyote as it stalked in the forest behind our cabin:

Coyote 2-20100615

Overview of the main campus of the YMCA of the Rockies, as the clouds lifted on our first afternoon:

First Day Clearing up 20100614

All five of our granddaughters posed in back of the “YMCA” statues:

YMCA all 5 Granddaughters

CLICK HERE for continuation of our trip
from Colorado to New Mexico and then California
Summer resident birds return to the Illinois prairie
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 9:24 pm

Mary Lou and I had time for one final bird walk before our trip to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary with all our children and grandkids (plus a great-grandson in the womb!).

Once again, before departing from Illinois, we searched for Henslow’s Sparrows at Nelson Lake/Dick Young Forest Preserve in Kane County, Illinois. We failed to hear a single “Ch-Leep” song along the path that climbs the hill where at least four pairs nested last spring. As I mentioned, it may be that the controlled burns have fragmented the former territory of this threatened species. They prefer to nest deep in the center of favorable habitat, which generally means a prairie that was burned between 2 to 5 years previously. They wait for the ground litter to build up, but will abandon an area where there are many emerging shrubs and saplings and too great an accumulation of dried grasses on the prairie floor. Then again, maybe they have moved to less accessible areas, away from the foot paths

We were pleased to find that many Grasshopper Sparrows had returned from the south; some ran across the path in front of us:

Grasshopper Sparrow 20100607

Note the proportionally long legs of this sparrow:

Grasshopper Sparrow 2-20100607

This Grasshopper Sparrow posed on a dried mullein stalk:

Grasshopper Sparrow 3-20100607

The numerous American Goldfinches also extracted seeds from the stalks:

American Goldfinch 20100607

I never fail to be impressed by the exuberant vocalization of the Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow 20100607

Dicksissels have returned to the prairie:

Dicksissel 2-20100607

There must have been over twenty singing male Dicksissels along the first mile of the north path through the grassland. The amount and pattern of the males’ black and yellow breast markings varies quite a bit:

Dicksissel 6-20100607

They are one of my favorite birds. This one landed briefly on the path, and I caught it just as it was ready to fly off:

Dicksissel 20100607

I loved this Dicksissel’s pose and the color:

Dicksissel 4-20100607

Sedge Wrens were singing in the tall grass. This one was interacting with another– I was not sure whether it was an aggressive display or perhaps part of a courtship or pair bonding ritual:

Sedge Wren 20100607

These little wrens can be difficult to photograph, as they are so active. With patience, I may catch one on an exposed perch:

Sedge Wren 3-20100607

Just after I took the above shot, the Sedge Wren launched into flight:

Sedge Wren liftoff 20100607

We first heard, then spotted two Willow Flycatchers.

Willow Flycatcher 3-20100610

I caught this one during the second syllable of its “Fitz-Byew” song:

Willow Flycatcher 2-20100610

Capturing this Great Crested Flycatcher in flight involved just dumb luck:

Great Crested Flycatcher 20100610

Here it roosts in a rather distant treetop:

Great Crested Flycatcher 3-20100610

The severe backlighting washed out most of the rufous color on the Great Crested Flycatcher’s wings and tail:

Great Crested Flycatcher 2-20100610

Yellow Warblers were fairly abundant in the trees along the south side of the Preserve, but they have a habit of hiding behind the leaves:

Yellow Warbler 20100610

This Yellow Warbler briefly perched out in the open:

Yellow Warbler 3-20100610