Saturday, January 7, 2012

Raptor Morning !

Jamie and I had been following the rare bird reports on CO Birds for several Golden-Crowned Sparrows and a few Snowy Owls. We had driven all the way down to Aurora Reservoir last weekend to try and see the Snowy, but no luck. On the way home that day we stopped by Red Rocks, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Golden-Crowned. And although we didnt catch the sparrow, we did get to see 4 of the 15 races that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says exist. Here's an excerpt from their All About Birds website :
"Regional Differences

There is a huge range of geographic variation in the Dark-eyed Junco. Among the 15 described races, six forms are easily recognizable in the field and five used to be considered separate species until the 1980s. A field guide is the best place to look for complete illustration of ranges and plumages, but in general there are two widespread forms of the Dark-eyed Junco: “slate-colored” junco of the eastern United States and most of Canada, which is smooth gray above; and “Oregon” junco, found across much of the western U.S., with a dark hood, warm brown back and rufous flanks. Other more restricted variations include the slate-colored-like “white-winged” and Oregon-like “pink-sided” juncos of the Rockies and western Great Plains; and the Yellow-eyed Junco-like “red-backed” and “gray-headed” juncos of the Southwest."

We saw the basic Slate-colored ( all we ever saw back east....loved those little guys ! ),the Pink-sided, Grey-headed and the Oregon. A Spotted Towhee joined them now and then at the feeder behind the Trading Post, along with a Song Sparrow and House Finches and of course House Sparrows. A few Scrub Jays, apparent residents of the area, came and went...looking huge next to all the tiny finches and sparrows.

On our way out to the location described for the Snowy this morning we spotted a Northern Harrier, several American Kestrels and a few Red-Tailed Hawks. We scanned the cropped fields in every direction as we got closer to Harvest Drive, and suddenly, there it was...the Snowy Owl...WAY off, standing on a patch of snow in an open area of a dark green, very short cultivated grass/crop of some kind. Jamie set the scope up and brought s/he into ! What a beauty ! And so far from home. We chatted with some of the other birders for a few minutes and then headed over to nearby Barr Lake State Park. And there, out on the mostly frozen lake were at least 21 Bald eagles !!! Most of the were juveniles in various stages of plumage...looked like all the years were represented, including a few adults. Most were standing about on the ice, some flying, and some perching in the trees surrounding the lake. some gulls and ducks were floating in the small open water area, with the eagles walking about on the edges. It was cold...27 degrees, but no wind. But still...our mesh-topped summer running shoes were not match ! And is it that the fingers can get SO cold ???? All in all a really great morning ! Unfortunately I never took my camera out...I would have had to take my gloves off....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Boulder, Colorado !

Click on the picture to better see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the far distance. I'm at St. Vrains State Park taking this picture, a few weeks back. It's about 20 miles east and a few miles north of Boulder. Saw 5 American White Pelicans ( what a sight to see them take off from the water ! ), a platform nest of Osprey with 3 big fledglings, many many swallows ( VG, Tree, Barn, Cliff), Western Kingbirds and several other species. There was a big stand of milkweed near the water that was in full bloom, but no Monarch activity. I need to go back there and see if there is now.
We've been here for almost two months now, and it's felt like coming home from the very beginning. The Western climate really appeals to my early years in California, and the geology is not only spectacular to look at, it also shapes the weather and plant and animal life.

We arrived in Boulder with our two cats, Sam and Tomsky, May 30th. The kitties endured being pressed into tiny cat carriers and stuffed under the seats in front of our feet, for the 3 hour plane ride. We stayed three nights at the Boulder Outlook Hotel. Sam's carrier had to be taken apart for him to get out of it..he'd snagged a claw on the padding I put in there for him. A "single stream recycling" cardboard box provided by the hotel to drop our recyclables into became Sam's spot to pass two days and nights in deep ( comatose ? ) sleep, getting out only to drink a little and use the litterbox. He rallied on the third day and decided to join the rest of us. Yeh ! Hang in there , Sam ! Tomsky spent hours at the big window that faced the dog exercise area, watching people and dogs go by.
Jamie and I set out right away, exploring the town ( and birding ! ) and getting ready to move into the great house he rented for us only a mile or so from Scot and Terry. The PODS arrived as scheduled, my car showed up on the transport, delivered without incident :) Jamie spent a few days ( after working all day ) unloading the PODS. Scot and Terry's youngest son, Byron, came over one day and lent a strong back and some fun. My stupid back doesnt allow me to lift much weight, so I mostly unpacked and sorted things as they came in.
Each day we go for walks, bike rides and/or hikes in the surrounding area or get in the Prius and head up to the mountains, or out to the foothills, hogbacks, mesas, grasslands, plains or flatirons to poke around. Downtown and the farmer's market is just a quick bike ride away. It is so easy to live here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Awesome Day

Wow. A gorgeous Spring morning just got better and better as the sun moved across the sky. An hour and a half of home yoga with sun streaming thru the east window got me warmed up.
A cleaning crew came and got this house cleaner than its been in 12 years in 2 hours ! Why have I resisted for so long ?

I spent some time in the basement getting the slab roller unearthed and the kiln spiffed up...someone is coming by to have a look at it tomorrow and possibly buy it. I am happy to move on. I feel the pull of printmaking again. So simple and direct. And watercolors. And just drawing. Why have I strayed ?

I sat out in the new flower bed ( new as of 2010 ) and pulled a few weeds and just absorbed being in the garden. Had not done that in months and months. A big garden spider ( some fort of wolf spider ) emerged from a hole, its legs looking exactly like teeny tiny threads of incredibly fragile twigs.
Wild violets are blooming. Spring Beauties are blooming. May Apples are up, but not blooming yet. Cutleaf Toothwort and Service Berry ( Shadbush ) are in full feather though. The Spicebush doesnt seem to be putting on quite the show as last year , when they lit up a section of the woods on Rickard road with their tiny yellow flowers. Back in our garden, the Moonbeam and American dream coreopsis are emerging, as are the Echinacea and the Rudbeckia Maxima. The Peonies are up a good twelve inches now. Daffodils are extra bright this year it seems !

I went for a walk and saw a Brown Creeper for the first time in several years. I finally saw a Field Sparrow this season! I'd been hearing them, but could not lay eyes on them !

When i got home I steamed up some bok choy to go with my leftover zuke/kalamata olive fritatta and some mac n cheeze. Yum yum. A smallish chunk of banana cake rounded it all off. And a few Dandies marshmallows.

Yesterday was cool and rainy most of the day, perfect apparently, for the rubbery looking orange fungus pictured here.

I think the neighbor's Chimney Swifts may be back...I'll have to check again tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My 55th B-Day and a Move

Today I turned 55. Double nickel as my hubby would say :)
Big changes happening. We are moving from Northern Virginia ( Lovettsville ) to Boulder, Colorado, for at least a few years. We will rent out our house here, and just rent in Boulder. My brother Scot and his wife and family all live in Colorado. My mother and another brother lives in AZ, and yet another brother and his family lives in Southern California. We are excited about the change, but it's also a little intimidating ....starting a new life in another town. I love our neighbors here. I will really miss the everyday rhythms of the seasons on this spot of the planet, but Colorado will have it's own.
The birding will be very different. But the geology will be awesome !
Just wanted to "check in " and start blogging again...I miss it.
Two books arrived in the mail today, for my birthday...the new Crossley ID Guide, and Zen Birding. The Crossley Guide is the next step in the evolution of bird guides...the author and photographer has combined many positions and proximity shots of birds and even placed them in typical scenery, all on one page, along with a map for each bird. Fantastic ! It weighs in at 3lbs. 13oz, so we won't be taking in the field, but it will be great in the car or back at the house, cabin or cottage. Sally, Laureen and I will give it a workout while up in Point Pelee, Canada, next month !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bird Love

Man, I love birding. Nothing is as absorbing and rewarding as being out there, catching glimpses of birds in the air, in the trees or on the ground. The rewards are ephemeral...nothing you can keep (unless you have made the effort to photograph )
and what sightings you get can often be hard-won.
I spent most of yesterday counting birds with Bruce and Helen, and Helen's daughter, Holly. We were covering a small sector of Loudoun County, Va. for the 111th Audubon Christmas Bird Count. It was a little cold, but not too started out around 25, but shot up to 50 by 2:00. Patchy snow here and there. No wind to speak of. And lots of bright sunshine. Considering that most of the east coast had just endured a massive snowstorm, that left up to 30" in some areas of New Jersey, and 18" in Boston...we were actually very lucky! Our highlights included getting a good long look at a hovering Sharpie and seeing a flock of 15+ Northern Flickers going over an Osage Orange tree for what we werent sure, but something in or on the tree was very attractive to the Flickers and a small troop of Titmice. We stopped about 10 feet away and watched for a good five minutes.
Collecting information for scientists to use for projects like this Occurrence Map put together by eBird is such a privilege :)
The Christmas Bird Counts in our area are organized by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, which itself is a crucial organization striving to, among many issues, educate the public about the importance of wild places for wildlife and people.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hmmmm.... in last post I was gushing about the raised beds we had set up ( did I thank my sister-in-law for helping me clear out the Fenced Garden?....I don't think I did ! ), and here I am having a Chickpea-of-the-Sea sandwich on rye with a small salad's worth of the last of the lettuce on it ! I picked it all this morning. We are expecting high temperatures, and it was wanting to bolt. I gave some to a neighbor, will give some to Dad, and will still have a lot. Jamie is in Brussels at the moment ( just called to say he's still alive after the Brussels 20k race ! ) , but when he gets home, he'll love the big salads we'll have for a week or so, till the lettuce ' turns' in the fridge. the picture here is of a sandwich I made a few weeks back with more CoftheP, sprouted lentils and tiny thinnings from the beets. Even that small, you can taste their sweetness.
I planted out around 65 milkweed seedlings...some as thin as threads. Some milkweed is coming up from last year...from wintered-over tubers ( rhizomes ? ). I think that is Swamp Milkweed. I've bee pulling up the Balloon Milkweed seedligns that are everywhere....I grew those last year. The Monarchs loved them, plants and blooms. They bloomed all the way up till a hard frost. But they are not native to our area, and I'm trying to plant only natives now, to help local species. I wish that I had been cued into this years ago...! The second anniversary of my brother Bill's passing is coming up June 2nd. All the Milkweeds got planted in his garden. AND, I think I may have seen a Monarch this morning !!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Year and Raised Beds

Yikes ! Almost a year since the last post !!! I don't know how that is possible...I think of this blog often. The plants, bugs and animals that enter my life... I make mental blog entries , but then apparently never actually type the words.
Time to reconnect !
And we are starting this new year out with a re-invigorated veggie garden, including two new 4x8 foot raised beds, 12" deep. Jamie built the beds from old 2x6's and some plastic raised-bed corner thingys we've had for years ( I think I got them at a yard sale )but had never really used )that hold the boards in place. These beds will be for all the greens, lettuces, beets, carrots and a few herbs. I'm just finishing up some arugula, collards, chard and kale a very generous neighbor gave me at the end of last year's growing season. I blanched and froze the greens in batches so that I could easily add a servings worth of the super nutritious leaves to what ever I wanted. They've been used all Winter in soups, stews, over rice, quinoa and even rolled into burritos. The tomatoes and peppers will go in the ground , in the old hen yard, behind the hen house, after we till in some extra leaf mold and kelp meal.
Stink bugs kept us company all Winter, only occasionally going off and confirming that yes, they can stink...quite a bit! But for the most part, they tried to stay out of the way and were gentle reminders of the abundance of insect life.