Apr 182011

I do a lot of walking in the Colorado foothills, and I’ve seen a lot of chewed aspen. It still impresses me how the Elk chew this bark (the typical two teeth marks makes me think there must be a lot of buck teeth Elk out there.) How on earth do they digest that stuff? Crazily they even seem to enjoy it. In a snowy winter, I guess it is some of the better fare!

Today I came upon something new…

I entered this small aspen grove, and a number of the reasonably sized trees were downed. I didn’t figure out why, but with the winds and snows can be tough, so seemingly healthy trees were laying close to the ground. I found fresh tracks, a fresh bed, and significant signs of activity. These trees had been chewed, and chewed and chewed… from top to tail.

The Aspen Grove : downed trees

The Aspen Grove : downed trees

I’d never seen this much chew in one place. The trees must’ve been at the perfect height for a munch, and in a nice quiet, undisturbed location. The fresh tracks painted a picture of a single animal, and I imagined a solitary bull Elk spending the winter deep in these woods, finding this (perhaps literal) windfall.

Downed Aspen : chewed (a lot)

Downed Aspen : chewed (a lot)

It was a privilege to be in this place where a large animal had recently been spending it’s time. Eating, sleeping, chewing.

Nice virtual encounter…

Apr 162011

I couldn’t believe it. April 15th is my hummingbird arrival day, or has typically been for the last decade (plus or minus a day), and here I am sitting at a computer unprepared, not really even looking or listening. Yes, I put the main “hummingbird welcome mat” out two weeks ago, just in case, but I’d not gotten feeders near my office. What was I thinking? How would I see/hear the birds without them?

Hummers coming...

Folks who know me and live in Coal Creek Canyon know I typically report the first hummingbird of the season. I’ve done it for many years. It is not that I kid myself that others haven’t seen one, but more that I am the only one daft enough to broadcast it to the canyon. I do it primarily for fun (mine), but also with the more serious message of “clean those hummingbird feeders” (and get ready to enjoy the influx.)

The scouts (ahead of the pack) arrive first. One or two usually stop and rest here a day or so. They typically move on, and the masses arrive by the start of May, but they deserve to be noticed, noted as first of season and to grab a snack for the journey. The period between these visitors feel long, but knowing the gangs of little critters will be back soon enough is enough to keep me listening for the overhead buzz.

I get my feeders out early in the hopes of getting more than my fair share of birds who chose to make a territory here. I get my hummingbird sticks out at the same time, that this becomes a more mellow neighborhood.

Today, once alert to the need for HEO, I placed two feeders outside my office windows. The benefits of working from home include having a ‘corner office’, and so I positioned the feeder such that they aren’t visible to each other (through the room.) I placed a hummer stick high on the one, hoping to draw a male in to it (and so he’d not see the other.) For me, the females (who are likely working their small bodies hard enough to produce eggs and raise chicks) don’t needed the aggression from the males, and deserve to drink in peace. There is no science behind these sticks (there is about keeping multiple feeder out of sight from each other) but I do my best to keep feeders available for females to sneak to.

So … now I feel ready/able to encounter those scouts, to give them a new fresh snack from a clean feeder. They might be a day or so late due the foot of snow we just received, but if they do come (and don’t bypass us) then all the more reason to give them a warm welcome.

Are your humming bird feeders out? clean? fresh?

Apr 072011
White Breasted Nuthatch Nesting for 2011

White Breasted Nuthatch Nesting for 2011

Saturday the weather allowed some yard spring cleaning, and I noticed the White Breasted Nuthatch beginning it’s season’s work. The (at altitude) nesting season has begun…

I greatly admire this hard working bird, it seems to start earlier than all the other bird, work amazingly diligently to fledge it’s brood, even working (if memory serves) after other birds are done. If I’m in the yard, this bird is in the area, picking out bugs/grubs and hurrying back to the brood. A very industrious garden companion.

Right now we have 9 bird boxes (plus some now ‘squirrel homes’ left over from the previous home-owner) and hope to see mountain chickadee, house wren, tree swallows as well as the various birds that nest w/o boxes.

Hummingbird on Nest

A Hummingbird on Nest by @Margie

This year I am going to make an extra effort to find a hummingbird nest. I doubt I’ll get so lucky as to be able to photograph a hummingbird on the nest (as @Margie has here), but it would be a thrill even to see that wonderfully tiny structure.

It is great to have the nesting season started again.

Apr 032011


The most popular species observed this month:

Top Places

The top 10 places reporting observations.

Apr 022011

Today I did my first yard walk of the spring. Up here at 8K feet in Colorado our weather is that behind many folks, and the last big snows are finally melting (with it becoming increasingly hard to imagine new ones, but hoping anyway.)

The yard walk is a look around, a break from the work day but also a re-connect with what’s happening around. Are there turkey feathers to be found? Any fresh scat, or beds to review? Any interesting bird noises? Are the aspen budding? There are also a few daily chores…

Wildlife Garden Daily Chores

  • Check the bird water. Is it clean, is it full/fresh?
  • Check the bat box. Do we have occupants yet and/or today? Any guano below?
  • Check the bird feeder. Is it clean/full?
  • Upload the wildlife cameras. (okay, perhaps weekly)

Today though, there is also a little spring cleaning:

Wildlife Garden Spring Cleaning

  • Put out the insect theatre (we had solitary bees in here last year :)
  • Ensure any winter-only bird feeders are put away (from the bears/raccoons)
  • Ensure the bird boxes (emptied and opened over winter) are closed & ready for business
  • Put out the “welcome mat” hummingbird feeder…

Broad-tailed Hummingbird on a Hummer Stick

When to put out Hummingbird feeders?

I always put out a humming bird feeder on April 1st. No, not as a joke, as a welcome mat. I live on the side of a hill, the draw I’m next to is big/wide and often explored by eagles and other raptors. Not sure, but I feel it is a thoroughfare for the returning broad-tailed hummingbirds (hoping the smart scouts cross the saddle into this draw) and they notice the big red feeder welcome mat. Anyway, I believe in ‘claiming’ my share of the buzzing critters early, and letting them know this is a good spot to stay for the summer. Since I typically report the first hummingbird sightings for my canyon I’m either right (or just a little obsessed w/ these guys. :) [BTW: I take the feeder in at night so it doesn't freeeze.]

I hardly ever see a hummingbird before April 15th (tax day for some, hummer day for me) and then only a scout or two for a day or so. The full invasion doesn’t occur until March 1st. Still, from April 1st onwards I enjoy listening out for them.

Hummer Sticks

Opps, almost forgot the important & stress reducing hummer sticks. Be right back…

Apr 012011

Back in February, when things were cold and snowy, this season’s raptor watch began. Boulder County Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) organize closures and monitoring for a number for nesting species, and when I volunteered I was lucky enough to get Peregrines. I hardly knew that Peregrines were in Colorado, and now I get to watch them. Closely.

Peregrine Falcons by Andrew Baksh

Peregrine Falcons by Andrew Baksh @BirdingDude

Last year I watched a pair preen, feast on prey, mate, and ultimately fledge two chicks. Last week I heard a stoop (loud above my head.) This week I watched an unsuccessful stoop. I feel so privileged to be able to write those words. Peregrines are amazing creatures, and I am lucky to be able to get to know this species. The ‘scream’ of a Peregrine is now in my blood for life. :)

This week’s hike up to the birds was quiet. A belted kingfisher greeted me at the trail head. A few spotted towhee are back to claim the airwaves with their song. A small group of Scrub Jay were a nice bonus for the hike, as were the rafter of Turkey at the top.

Last week the millipedes were out in force on the trails, and this week they were joined by grasshoppers, wasps, butterflies and caterpillars. Luckily for them, the bluebirds have been, flocked, staged and moved on up into the mountains, but with these staples of the food chain here, the other birds will soon be back. Not here, not quite yet, but the Meadowlark are back in town. Bugs beware.

Here is to a nice long season, welcoming in both spring and summer, and to lots of Peregrines.

This summer (after the Peregrine chicks have fledged) I’ve signed up for the Bat Monitor program, and I’m excited at that opportunity. Volunteering is a great way to regularly get outdoors. Give it a try where you are.

Note: OSMP have granted permissions for me to write about my Falcon Watch experiences. I do NOT post locations nor timing details in an effort to preserve critter privacy.