It was a wonderful day, if warm, that started with a meet at the town park and short caravan up to Old La Veta Pass where Stirling’s family has about 400 acres at 9000’. In addition to the beautiful property (and heavenly smells; I love Ponderosa Pine), we were treated to some local history of the area and the narrow-gauge railroad that went through it. It was ‘Up Top’ where several of us got ‘life birds’ including Polly, who managed to later identify a difficult sighting from photographs and confirmed us we’d seen a pair of Crossbills. It was also Polly who assisted me in seeing mine; the Green-tailed Towhee…a beautiful bird! And, why my little camera could not shoot the distance, I also saw my first Mountain Bluebirds; which obviously had babies nearby they wanted to feed but refused to show us where they had their nest.
American Coot, American Crow, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Black-billed Magpie, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-headed Grosbeak (who knew these guys eat Monarch Butterflies despite the toxic residue they hold from feeding on milkweed), Brewer's Black-bird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Bullock's Oriole (now called the Northern Oriole? ...I'll have to check that out) , Chipping Sparrow, Cinnamon Teal, Cliff Swallow, Clark's Nutcracker, Common Grackle, Common Nighthawk, Common Raven, Common Yellow-throat, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Dark-eyed Junco (the Gray-headed or 'red-backed' variety), Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird , Eurasian Collared-dove, European Starling, Evening Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Green-tailed Towhee, Hairy Wood-pecker, Hermit Thrush, House Sparrow, House Wren, Lesser Goldfinch (both Green- and Black-backed), Lewis's Wood-pecker (namesake account), Mountain Bluebird, Mountain Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker (both red-shafted and yellow-shafted), Pied-billed Grebe, Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill (pair), Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Rock Dove, Say's Phoebe, Spotted Towhee, Turkey Vulture, Violet-green Swallow, Warbling Vireo, Western Kingbird, Western Meadowlark, Western Scrub-Jay, Western Tanager, White-breasted Nuthatch, Wilson's Snipe, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler.
We also saw a lot of scat on the trail…but it wasn’t till we were giggling like school kids for our interest in scatology that I began taking pictures of it. The idea being; it’s educational. You can tell by the size of the Elk-scat that it had been eating quite a bit of grass; the leavings were more like cow-plops. Several had no idea coyote-scat would be so full of hair. I’ve noticed watching The Discovery Channel that many animals, especially big cats, often pluck the hair from kill before they eat it. Apparently not so with coyotes; they’re sort of like Owls in that regard; it just goes through ‘em.
Up Top we enjoyed the big trees, quiet meadows and wild flowers. I miss-identified the yellow pea-like plant, at first calling it Lupin. Turns out several similar plants are called False Lupin...so go figure. I've read some pea plants are called milk-pea, regardless of the color. Apparently the yellow might be Thermopsis rhombifolia or Thermopsis divaricarpa and the white; Lathyrus leucanthus. You can see the pea-pods in my photo.
We also saw some Creeping Mahonia, a holly-like plant, with tiny yellow flowers, also called Oregon Grape. Officially called Mahonia aquifolium, this is an evergreen plant I've purchased in Colorado and throughly enjoy its fall colors and ease of care. Just know: some Mahonia is creeping, some is dwarf and some is quite large. It's xeric and I've heard birds eat the berries, but never witnessed that. I think I'm going to have to learn more about wildflowers. And butterflies, too. I've included a little picture of one of the many little, blue butterflies we saw...I always called them Blue Skippers; they could be any common little blue butterfly. I don't like not knowing; check out these photos...how does one know?
By the way, while looking for some information on that yellow pea, I found another Coloradoian's blog. It's quite good! Check it out.
From there we returned to town for a picnic lunch at the park, where some folks had to leave us, and then to a couple local feeders (including moi) were we added more birds to our growing list. Jerry, who couldn’t make the walk, invited us to his yard anyway, where we enjoyed a shady spot by the river. He showed us a new woodpecker’s hole he’d discovered; great fun even if we didn’t see the occupant.
We left Jerry’s and headed to the Town Lakes where we saw the water birds and Polly managed to see a Hermit Thrush. Several heard the Yellow-rumped Warblers that frequent the shrubbery there. Then we followed along part of the Colorado Birding Trail to Wahatoya Valley piece, where we saw quite a few Black-billed Magpies, a Lewis’s Woodpecker and a couple Great Blue Heron.
A short visit to our local Raptor Center was lots of fun. Bob had had unexpected oral surgery and was pretty under-the-weather; but insisted on showing us the birds he keeps and is rehabilitating. He showed us a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), which he explained is a member of the buzzard family; who knew? He is certainly a wealth of information and his birds are beautiful. What a cool guy! Thanks again Bob!
Patrick, a new friend on the walk, was kind enough to send a couple photos of Bob's long-time partner in falconry, his Harris Hawk. Bob has been a falconer, which requires special licensing, since the age of eight. While the Harris Hawk is not the first bird Bob has trained to hunt, these two have been together a long time; she’s his baby! Thanks Pat, great shots!
The small band of birders left at the end of the day concluded the day on the deck and in the wooded yard of Polly and Paul’s home. That’s where one couple, experienced birders from Rocky Ford, saw the Black-chinned Hummer. Perfect way to end the day; on the way out I noticed a deer enjoying a special shady area. Funny.