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Features

  • On Thursday morning, May 15, the birds at Evergreen Lake were awakened by the robust, rollicking song, “bob-o-link, bob-o-link, spink, spank, spink.” Words cannot do justice to the jubilant, bubbling sound of the bobolink. It is a loud explosion of exuberant joy, sung during migration and heard even more once they are on their breeding grounds. They sing on the wing, flying horizontally above the grasses in the fields where they nest.

  • One of the fondest memories of my childhood is that of the chipping sparrows that nested every year among the orange rose-like flowers of the vine that grew on a trellis between the window and the door to the cow barn. This location was subject to considerable traffic, as both people and farm equipment passed within a few feet of it frequently. The nest was about 5 feet up in the vine, just high enough that my mother had to lift me up to see the greenish-blue eggs with their purple-black markings.

  • I have received many inquiries lately about the Rocky Mountain pine beetle and whether or not I thought we were going to lose all our ponderosa pines, whether we should spray and with what, and, the real panic question, will we lose all our forests?

  • Spring is here, in all its glory. It is our most extravagant season. Each day spring flaunts something new to dazzle your eye, titillate your nose, send your spirits soaring and boggle your mind with splendor.

  • April is such a promising month. This year it has been an exceptional month, with very little snow and some truly summery weather. Many birds are streaming northward, and with the lake free of ice, waterfowl and shorebirds are arriving daily.

    Sunday, April 20, brought a broad-tailed hummingbird back to our yard and six white-faced glossy ibis to Evergreen Lake. Tuesday, April 22, brought the first chipping sparrow returning to our feeder. Wednesday, April 23, brought white-crowned sparrows, yellow-headed blackbirds and yellow-rumped warbles stopping on their way north.

  • Once more, fickle April had lulled us into believing spring had arrived with 80-degree temperatures, only to have our face slapped with soggy snow the next day.

    Tuesday, April 15, was unbelievably warm for the date, and its 80-degree temps brought two reports of broad-tailed hummingbirds. The first came from Inga Brennan on Lookout Mountain and the second from Sherman Wing in Indian Hills. On Wednesday, April 16, Rune and Trisha Toffte phoned to say they had a hummer at their feeder in Kittredge just before the big chill brought hummingbird activity to a standstill.

  • Last Wednesday was fairly warm and spring-like during the morning hours. However, as is so often the case, it foretold of snow to come.

    The lake has been slowly opening. An ever-widening inlet and a delicate curve of open shallow water along the north shore and between the inlet and the Lake House have made every day seem more spring like, even though it refroze every night. For a few nights now, it hasn’t frozen, so the warm days accomplished a bit more melt. This was enough to tip the Rotary club barrel into the lake, which made many people happy.

  • “Zeet, zeet, zeet, buzzy trill.” I stop to listen. Yes, it is the first song sparrow I’ve heard this spring! The three bright, clean starting notes, followed by a rapid jumble of short notes, is a loud announcement by a male song sparrow that he is claiming about an acre of local real estate as his nesting territory.

  • Some time ago, I mentioned the Eurasian collared dove, Streptopelia decaocto, and said it was becoming more common in Colorado. This beautiful dove has only recently become a part of the Colorado avifauna.

  • A few warm days this week have finally made it seem a bit like spring. There is a good bit of clear ground showing; only the deep drifts remain — a welcome change from all white. Although we are being promised more snow in a day or two, we at least know there is hope.

    I have a bouquet of daffodils on the living room table, from the supermarket gardens, but nevertheless they are bright sunshine yellow and sweet smelling. They give me hope that the daffodils in my yard will bloom someday soon.

  • Early spring is one of the best times to listen for owls. I have written in the past about some of our small owls but not for some time about the little screech owl. Screech owls are most commonly found along stream courses where they nest in old cavities in large cottonwoods and willows. They measure about 8 inches in height, which is only about the size of a robin, but, like all owls, they sit more upright and have fluffy feathers that make them appear larger.

  • For many years when winter visitors to Colorado called us to inquire about where they could see rosy-finches, we would either take them or send them to the top of Squaw Mountain to visit the Swanlunds.

    When we were faced with this request recently, we didn’t know a really “sure spot” to send these visitors.

  • Last week I mentioned that our friend Margie Wing had called to report the first mountain bluebirds had returned to Indian Hills on Tuesday, Feb. 12. For lack of space, I said there would be more about them this week. Little did I know that would be the last conversation I would have with Margie. After a brief, courageous fight with cancer, Margie left this world on Friday, Feb. 15. I hope she is surrounded with bluebirds, hearing their soft, sweet warbling song.

  • Our friend Karel Buckley brought us an article recently from the New York Times on littering that was especially concerned with the use of plastic shopping bags. It contained some very pertinent information and reminded me of the early days of recycling here in Colorado.

  • What happened to the January thaw? Something I have always looked forward to just didn’t happen this year.

  • Usually cold and wintry, February is made bearable by the first signs of spring — nothing as showy as the first daffodil in bloom, but still good, dependable signs of spring.

  • Several times each winter, we receive phone calls from someone who has just seen a “large beautiful bird” at their feeder, which they have never seen before. They describe the bird, and I say, “Yes, that’s a northern flicker.” To which their usual reply is, “Oh no, it’s not a flicker; I see them around all summer, but they are not this big or here in the winter.”

  • For some time now, the birds at our feeders have been nervous, flying into the prickly thickness of a nearby blue spruce or darting into the lilac bushes every time anything moves in the yard or even inside the window. Such behavior, especially in cold, snowy weather, can mean only one thing. There is a predator of some kind working in the area. But what kind? That is the question.

  • Ames Rau called us last Sunday to say that he had been down at Bear Creek Lake Park, where he had witnessed a red-tailed hawk refurbishing its nest. It may seem odd that any birds are preparing to nest when we are experiencing well below freezing temperatures and several inches of snow cover the ground, but it is a common practice for the large resident hawks and owls to do so.

  • January arrived like a lion, with cold, blustery weather. The TV weathermen are promising five days of

    warmer weather, which will be most welcome. I am ready for some warmer weather, and I presume the wild creatures are, too.