My Not-So-Secret Spot - Fruitgrower's Reservoir

You know what they say, "One gal's irrigation source is another gal's birding paradise." Right? Anyway. Fruitgrower's Reservoir, or Hart's Basin, is probably my favorite place to bird on the western slope of Colorado. If you're my mom or some other long-time subscriber, you know that I have posted about Hart's Basin before: Hart's Basin (Part One) and Hart's Basin (Part Dos). As I mentioned, Fruitgrower's Reservoir is a hot spot for the Sandhill Crane migration. In fact so many cranes stop into this area that the nearby town of Eckert has a yearly celebration called Eckert Crane Days.  What else is Eckert known for? Orchards. Many many fruit orchards.

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And this is the reservoir. It is a long skinny body of water with many surrounding wetlands and pasture.

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As for the birding part of the trip, it was one of the best times I've had. I took my Granny, another lover of birds and photography, and we made our way around the reservoir looking for cranes. We were slightly early, so we only saw the first arrivals but we did see a few.

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Sandhill Cranes, standing tall, can reach a height of about 4 feet (or 120 cm). At this height they only weigh about 8 pounds. These cranes, at their cleanest, are light grey all over their bodies. The brown tinge you see--which deepens as spring turns into summer--is a mud stain.

The photo below will throw you for a loop. Check out my bird chimera! The head of a Great Blue Heron and the body of a Sandhill Crane. What are the odds?!

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Actually, this Great Blue Heron was kind of stealing the show for a while with his majestic poses. Or maybe it's just that I really love herons.

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The most common water bird at the reservoir on this day was, without a doubt, the Canada Goose.

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In many of these photos you can see heat waves in the background. It was actually quite warm and sunny. I appreciated this very much coming from wintry Newfoundland.

To finish off the water birds, we must take a look at these American Coots. Again, looks like a duck but is not a duck. This guy has enormous lobed feet rather than the classic duck feet that you're picturing in your head. Also, a very short tail.

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Much like the Western Meadowlark (don't worry, we'll get to him), the American Kestrel is a bird that I associate with home. I see them every time I visit and I think they are perhaps, the most underrated falcon of all time. Look at this beautiful male.

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And if ever there comes a trip when I return home to Colorado and fail to see a Western Meadowlark, I shall be quite disappointed.

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A quick note before I post: WordPress experienced some sort of glitch and has removed photos from many of my old posts, ugh. I hope to have everything fixed soon (hopefully in the next week). Thanks!

Sincerely,

The Management ;)

La Manche Provincial Park

La Manche Provincial Park - Newfoundland Please enjoy these photos from La Manche Provincial Park taken last fall. La Manche is ~50 km south of St. John's, where I live. "La manche" means "the sleeve" in French and the park is named so for the sleeve-shaped harbour pictured above. As with most other harbours in Newfoundland, La Manche was a fishing community. It was settled by an Englishman in 1840 and remained a small, active community for over 100 years. The people of the village decided to resettle elsewhere in 1966 after a huge storm decimated their houses, boats and even the iconic suspension bridge--now rebuilt--that runs across the harbour. Today you can see many old foundations and signs of people who once lived there. They lived a true outport life with no doctor nor minister to speak of.

The park possesses one of the most intriguing sections of the East Coast Trail. I've hiked it at least 3 times in the 4 years I've lived here. Also, La Manche has one of the Avalon Peninsula's best swimming holes. This detail cannot be overlooked in a place where most water is frigid and salty.

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Mussels in La Manche Provincial Park - Newfoundland

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Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus) - La Manche Provincial Park, NL

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The Snowy Owl of Salmonier

In 1973, a group of forward thinking people began to build this boardwalk through the Newfoundland forest. 20140901-DSCN2643

By 1978 the boardwalk snaked through almost 100 acres of spruce and firs, flirting with the Salmonier River and its surrounding wetlands at every turn. This was the year that Salmonier Nature Park was opened to the public. The original developers imagined a nature walk, a true Newfoundland experience, that showcased native species in a manner that mimicked organic life. It was to be the opposite of a zoo. Simple fences that were but a blink away from moose, foxes, eagles, and martens, among other creatures.

In the summer, the humid woods are an amphitheater for the thumping mating calls of frogs and the laughing of Canada Geese. Run-off from the snow rakes itself through the blueberry bushes and into fens lush with cattails. The change of season from summer to autumn is marked by a color metamorphosis of the fox pelage and by a fine sheet of frost coating the boardwalk in the early hours of the day. This is my favorite time to visit.

One of the primary goals of the park was to minimize the isolation between people, especially youth, and nature. I have watched my students, many of them born on the island, marvel at the woods that they came from and all the life that the trees keep concealed.

For me, the first part of the walk is the truest to my perception of the island. Through a gate into a scarcely enclosed space, the boardwalk winds across a thinly wooded section of grass. This is the home of the park's well-fed Snowy Owl. Part of the intrigue of seeing a Snowy Owl is that you always remember just what you were thinking when you spotted it. It is a startling symbol of a moment that belongs to you.

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I saw my first Snowy Owl perched in an Aspen tree growing from the bank of the North Fork of the Gunnison River in Colorado. It was a fledgling owl covered in brand new feathers and it was motionless. I recall the steam rising from slowly churning water and the jagged edges of ice jutting a foot out from the shoreline. I remember thinking that the bird looked like it didn't belong and then reconsidering and deciding that maybe I didn't. It was 5:30 in the morning and I was with my father. I can imagine the sting of the cold in my gloves from slipping with a duck decoy and dipping my hand into the river.

The owl gives the park somewhere to land in people's memories. It provides a connection between the rock and the folks that have lived here for generations. Now 40,000 people visit per year from many parts of the world to experience this and keep a Newfoundland moment for themselves. The full-figured female Snowy Owl at Salmonier Nature Park is among my most highly recommended Newfoundland birds. More than anything though, I recommend walking straight into the nearest woods and finding something hidden in the trees.