2birdfeature #9: Tiny, but not shy

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Perhaps one of the best mornings I have experienced, an unhurried sunrise made up of what must have been the feathers of millions of flamingos and tanagers. Early June. Just north of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Right near a tiny town called Goose Arm which, at its peak population in 1921, had 76 total residents.

Almost as a sign of good faith, minutes after I lost cell reception, a Willow Ptarmigan ambled across the road in front of my headlights. I drove around the belly of the lake to the upper end where my survey sites were located and hiked down to the lip of the shore to begin working. I was hoping for an early morning Olive-sided Flycatcher but the lake presented me with this little fellow instead.


A minute little warbler; an indispensable part of the summer woodlands of Canada. Quick and flitting from tree to tree but unmistakable with his bold stripes and stocky build. The Black-and-white Warbler is a relentless hunter of tiny insects and spiders and a brave migrator that winters in Central and South America.

Upon completion of my lower surveys, I headed back up to the road where I met a jolly, if not sluggardly, band of "mopes." Nicknamed by Newfoundlanders for their tendency to loiter in driveways and at feeders, seemingly unfazed and brazen in the face of human pursuit, Pine Grosbeaks are a common bird in the forests of Newfoundland.







Pine Grosbeaks (also called Pine Rosefinch) are a large, long-tailed finch with conical, hook-tipped bills. They inhabit forests comprised of larch, spruce, cedar and fir. They eat seeds, buds, shoots and small fruits but will occasionally take a grasshopper or a handful of aphids. Though they do migrate in some parts of the world, the Pine Grosbeaks in Newfoundland are largely year-round residents.

If you are in Newfoundland and you want a pseudo-hermit type camping trip at a beautiful lake (that the Newfies have deemed a pond), this is the place for you. I saw moose here and loads of songbirds. I hear it's not bad for fishing either.

We're migrating south, back to FL for Wednesday's blog! See you then!


Over the mountains again

There's nothing like the hot, dry Colorado sun to melt the ice out of your bones after a long Newfoundland winter. I recently journeyed across the state starting in Conifer, CO and ending in my hometown of Hotchkiss, CO. It was wonderful to show someone around who had never seen the western slope of Colorado before because it opened my eyes to many details that I had missed altogether or had taken for granted. My home state is as beautiful as she ever was with only a few notable changes: a couple new bends in my favorite creek on the planet (Currecanti Creek), some rather scary changes with the mountain pine beetle in the lodgepole pine forests and, of course, some other plants are legal now that certainly weren't before. 20140623-DSCN2179

This is Buffalo Mountain near Silverthorne, CO in Summit County. The dead trees (brown in the foreground and grey-blue on the side of the mountain) are all "beetle kill". On the bright side though, there's still a lot of snow at this elevation and there are even snow drifts present about 4,000 feet lower. This year marks a spike in precipitation for Colorado which will help to prolong irrigation and hopefully battle the cycle that consists of trees killed by beetles, drought and ultimately, the pathogen that is fire.


Here's a cloud-burst falling on the mountains beyond Lake Dillon between Dillon and Keystone, CO.

Now for the main event:


Before I bring this guy into focus, I want you to take a good hard look at those colors. This is a favorite high elevation bird of mine, the Steller's Jay. This jay takes the grey from the Grey Jay and the blue from the Blue Jay and packages it all neatly into one little bird. Dunk the head into some black paint and there you have it. These birds are omnivorous (berries and bugs) so when you see a tiny flock of them like I did, you know that they have found a plentiful food source. Otherwise, they mostly hang out in pairs. The Steller's Jays in the following pictures were all observed at Sapphire Point on Swan Mountain above Lake Dillon.









This is Swan Mountain:


See if you can spot a Least Chipmunk or Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel in the next picture.


I'll give you a hint on the squirrel:


They're very friendly in this part of the world.


Here's the Least Chipmunk having a snack:


This is just one tiny finger of Lake Dillon:


Perfect habitat for Canada Geese and gulls to hang out.



Moving over to Garfield County, check out this Purple Finch seen from the balcony of my hotel room at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs.


Glenwood Springs, CO sits below Red Mountain (below) and is very near one of Colorado's most iconic peaks, Mount Sopris.


Near Glenwood Springs is an incredible hike up to Hanging Lake. It takes about 1-1.5 hours (if you're moving quickly) to get to the top of the trail where the lake is. In that hour, you gain 1,000 feet of elevation so the hike is straight uphill. Dippers and Black Swifts make the stream along the trail and the canyon walls their home. I wish I had pictures of those birds but I have failed you. All I have is this snap of a whistle pig (Yellow-bellied Marmot).


Here's the lake and its life blood, the spouting rock waterfalls.





With a much abbreviated in-between, I ended up on River Ridge Farm in Hotchkiss, CO where I grew up. This place is as classic to me as this House Sparrow is.


And as I have mentioned before, a trip home is not complete for me without a Western Meadowlark.


BONUS ROUND: Wild Turkeys seen on a drive through Barrow Mesa.




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Re: How far do you go?

Wonderful post that I'm happy to share. And there is something very important here. We must remember that loving nature (whether that be in the form of photography, hunting/fishing, hiking/camping, etc.) means taking good care of it so that it may thrive and future generations may also enjoy it. My Dad was always the guy that took a pack full of trash out of the forest with him when he went. This is the kind of attitude everyone should take up. And sometimes leaving it better than when you arrived means leaving it alone.

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