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Outdoors

  • Summer rains bring colorful wildflowers to the foothills

    Late June and early July are probably the most beautiful time of year in the mountains. Rain has finally come in enough quantity to restore life to the foothills and everything is lush green.

    It is so green that you might think you are in Ireland. The grasses are green, the trees are green, kinnikinnick is green, our whole immediate world is green with blue sky overhead, and around every twist of a road or trail you are greeted by a splash of color from wildflowers.

  • Great blue herons are not uncommon in foothills

    A reader of this column sent me a message via the Canyon Courier this past week, saying she had seen a great blue heron along North Turkey Creek and was wondering if that was unusual. Yes, it is a bit unusual this early in the season.

  • July brings wildflowers above tree line

    June has been a wonderful month, so green, so fresh after the cold winter, it seemed almost magical. Now, July lies ahead with warmer weather, dusty roads and skyrockets in bloom for the Fourth of July.

  • Bird migration studies provide fascinating information

    I have been re-reading the new book, “Songbird Journeys” by Miyoko Chu. Since I read it the first time and mostly late at night, I didn’t retain some of its wonderful information.

    So I am finding it most informative the second time around. Many of you have written or called me with questions about bird migration, so I had planned to write such an article for some time.

  • Ponderosa pines brighten the spring mountain scenery

    It is not unusual in the mountains to have winter finally give way to summer with hardly a day of spring in between. The mountains are never more beautiful than they are in June.
    It seems like everything turns green overnight from grassy meadows to new aspen leaves; even the new growth on pines, spruces and Douglas fir are green. The ponderosa pines that have appeared almost black all winter are washed clean by the spring rains and new growth is starting at every branch tip. They suddenly appear to be alive and they are in bloom.

  • Hummingbirds make an appearance at area feeders

    In last week’s column, I promised to write about hummingbirds this week. To old-timers, I apologize for one more article about hummingbirds, but I receive more phone calls about hummingbirds than any other bird and most of these callers say, “I know you have written about hummingbirds before, but I didn’t save the article, so I need you to write about them again.” The most frequent request is the formula for making syrup to feed hummingbirds.

  • Beloved chipping sparrows arrive early to area

    One of the most beloved birds across America is the little chipping sparrow. This little red-capped sparrow probably lived in or along the edge of natural openings in the forest, such as along streams and lakeshores or along the edge of natural clearings where trees had blown down or died from old age or other reasons.
    Then when human beings started to make small clearings in the forest for their homes, towns and agriculture, the chipping sparrows found more habitat available and began to increase in numbers. Almost everyone seemed to have a pair nesting in their backyard.

  • Anything can happen during magical month of May

    When I think of terns, I usually think of ocean shores, but there is one beautiful little tern that is found across the United States and Canada on small fresh water inland ponds, especially on prairie sloughs: the black tern.

  • Late and large straggler: Pelican returns to Evergreen Lake

    Spring has been up to her fickle tricks again with a wet soggy snow last Wednesday, May 11, followed by an overcast day on Thursday, May 12. By late afternoon, she had apparently had enough of her sulking and cleared off to a partly blue sky and some very welcome sunshine.
    My friend Loie Evans had taken me into town for a doctor’s appointment, and as we were headed home up Bear Creek Canyon, she was telling me all the interesting migrants she had seen on Wednesday at Evergreen Lake in the snow. As she ended an amazing list, she added, “But no pelicans.”

  • Spring birds make their appearance right on time

    Spring has finally arrived with days hovering around 70 degrees and nights only just freezing. Here in the foothills, I don’t trust the night temperatures until after June 1, and even then we have a frost occasionally. Most of our summer birds arrive during the first week of May, and many of them came in as usual last week.