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Outdoors

  • Think about planting a garden to ward off winter doldrums

    Today is a very spring-like day, with high winds and temperatures in the high 40s. It’s not spring, but it is giving me spring fever. This is the kind of day on which my husband Bill used to say, “Let’s drive down to the Rio Grande Valley for a few day so of early spring birding.”

  • Goldfinches in winter plumage a pleasure to find

    A pleasant surprise this past week was a letter to the Canyon Courier with photos enclosed of some American goldfinches at a feeder. The photos were taken by Bud and Sandy Madigan at their home feeder in the Upper Bear Creek area. The photos helped me identify the birds.

  • Time to choose from the variety of Christmas trees

    Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, where are you? It is a real delight to live in an area where our slopes are decorated with Christmas trees all year. Locally, the evergreens that cover our hillsides are mainly ponderosa pine. These trees are beautiful at most any season, but I am especially fond of them in spring when new growth tips their branches and in winter when they are flocked with snow or frost. The soughing of the wind through their branches in a summer wind can’t be equaled by any other pine, and an old ponderosa pine is magnificent in its towering grandeur.

  • Elegant waxwings grace winter landscape

    Many people complain to me that they find winter birding dull because there are no pretty birds around.
    True, the winter residents at most feeders, pine siskins, chickadees, nuthatches, hairy and down woodpeckers, house sparrows, house finches, and the various forms of the dark-eyed junco are mostly gray, brown, and black-and-white birds. Not very exciting or colorful, but they are still interesting.

  • Invasion of the destructive dwarf mistletoe

    Editor’s Note: Sylvia’s column will reappear next week. This column is reprinted from Dec. 10, 2008.

    Christmas is not far away, and as we do our shopping and baking, our thoughts turn to Christmas decorations. In England and in our Eastern states, mistletoe is an important part of Christmas. The mistletoe common throughout the South grows mainly on oaks. It forms huge clumps or balls, and the whole plant generally is cut from the tree. The sprigs with the white berries are usually sold for Christmas decorating.

  • Wild turkeys not very abundant in the foothills

    I well remember the first wild turkey I ever saw. I was birding in Alleghany State Park with a friend, Kay McCann, and she said, “Let’s walk down this trail to the river. About a week ago, someone saw a wild turkey near here.” We went down the trail and sure enough, on the far bank of the river were two wild turkeys getting a drink. We froze in our tracks, and the big birds continued to drink.

  • Surf scoter a rare sight at Evergreen Lake

    Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 1 and 2, Loie Evans identified an immature surf scoter on Evergreen Lake. No matter how good a birder you are or how sure you are of your identification, it is always a good idea to have at least one other person see and identify a rare bird.

  • First snowflakes herald the promise of a beautiful winter

    When I was in fifth grade, we were required to learn a poem and present it before our class. The poem I chose to learn and recite was the one printed below.

    The First Snowfall
    The snow had begun in the gloaming,
    And busily all the night
    Had been heaping field and highway
    With a silence deep and white.
    Every pine and fir and hemlock
    Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
    And the poorest twig on the elm tree
    Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
    From sheds new-roofed with Carrara

  • Solitaires stay around and stake out territories all winter

    The first Townsend’s solitaire that I ever saw was shortly after we moved to Colorado in April 1965. I was looking around our new yard and saw a strange gray bird just across the road, clinging to a giant mullein stalk in the open valley above Little Cub Creek. I watched it digging insects out of the dead mullein stalk and thought how often I had seen downy woodpeckers acting in the same manner.

  • Solitaires stay around and stake out territories all winter

    The first Townsend’s solitaire that I ever saw was shortly after we moved to Colorado in April 1965. I was looking around our new yard and saw a strange gray bird just across the road, clinging to a giant mullein stalk in the open valley above Little Cub Creek. I watched it digging insects out of the dead mullein stalk and thought how often I had seen downy woodpeckers acting in the same manner.