Of all the birds that I've met and felt that I knew, the Raven is at the very top of the list. I've meet this bird during the Nevada years in numerous towns, along the California coast, at Borrego Springs, Calif., along a dry Nevada wash, and sitting in the trees at my Delta home.
How pretty! A lovely pink-purple flower and I have it all to myself. I kneel down and pluck a single blossom.
I hear the wind ... it's strong. According to the newscast, this is supposed to be a windy day. Sounds like it! As I pull the comforter up close, my mind wanders.
There are about 10 cranes along the northeast pond. Just standing there. No movement. Gray shapes.
About four feet tall with a wingspan of six feet (Sibley guide says 46" tall and a wingspan of 77"). Weight at about 10 pounds with the male larger than the female. In any book, the sandhill crane is a large bird!
It's always such fun! I look forward all year long for the cranes to return. I know that they will, but my, the days without cranes seem so long!
Snow. Well, I know that they need it in the high country and we'll need it in the low country come summer.
The phone rings, and it's a fun call for me. Vera Schultz has read my column about the spotted towhee and she had three towhees at her feeder.
It has grown dark and the moonlight is bright. My mind wanders to the pair of owls that sang at this time.
I remember riding my little pony and listening to his hooves rustling through the cottonwood leaves. And later there was a real horse ... a sorrel mare named Cindy, I was a bit older by then, so Cindy and I rode wherever we wanted (almost).
I gaze out the dining room window. A bird shape glides from our cottonwood tree and lands in the neighbor's pasture.
The highway's dry and the scenery is magnificent! We've passed Montrose and ahead the San Juan mountains, gleam bright white against the clear blue sky.
How long ago? I don't really remember. I know it was in the Nevada-years and the local Audubon Society had received word about the "rufous- sided towhee" in Arizona.
I take a deep breath. Enjoying the scent of these native trees. When we came to this area, I wanted native trees because they would withstand the drought. When we first planted them, we watered well and they became established.
Long ago, when Martha Mohan and I went to the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival in Olympia, Wash., I saw for the first time in my life sea scoters. There were three of them, and I had a difficult time figuring them out.
Monday -- As we pull in, our headlights are bright against the garage door ... I miss the long days of summer! Overcast and damp and I'm ready for spring but winter isn't even here yet.
And I believe that winter is really here ... It has been gray all day and I can still see the last snow on Craig's Crest.
Jimmy Vela came calling today -- with a "peace offering," and we ate the whole thing! I remember telling him that I didn't really like zucchini, but we would try his zucchini bread.
It was delicious! Didn't taste at all like zucchini!
It's late September 2010 and it's clouding up again. I hope the rain holds off a while. I've come down Slaughter Grade from Cedaredge to drive on Ward Creek Road.
Another gray day. It does seem like they are becoming common! I wish that the sun would shine! As we come down Cory Grade, just north of the Gunnison River, I'm watching for Virgin's Bower.
There is fresh snow on the crest. And it triggers a host of memories. I remember seeing the random pattern of the snow on the black rocks as it slowly melted.
Since the Festival at Steamboat Springs, it seems that all I think about is travel. And so I think of the marvelous trip to Aransas to the Whooping Crane Festival.
The last column that I wrote was about George Archibald. Now, after the festival at Steamboat Springs, I need to write another column about George. He was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada.
George Archibald is the keynote speaker of this year's Yampa Valley Crane Festival, of course!
I'm at a loss to begin!
It's that time again, and I can hardly wait! The Yampa Valley Crane Festival begins on Thursday, Aug. 31, and continues until Sept 3. There are scheduled events to fit most anyone's tastes and there are shuttles to take you there -- all of it in Steamboat Springs.
How time flies! It seems like yesterday when I led a group on this flower walk. But it was really years ago.
Well, the time has arrived. And hummingbird warfare has begun. The black-chinned was here but now he's gone and the rufous has come back ... again.
I'm at home again, and I'm reliving my recent trip to the San Juan mountains. What a glorious trip it was! Flowers, flowers, flowers.
Our driver stops and we all gasp. What incredible beauty lies before us! Every color, every shape is here before us -- red tones of paintbrush, the purple hues of Colorado columbine, brilliant yellows of mountain sunflower, the unmistakable whites of bistort and globes flower.
What a delightful fragrance... and it's just as pretty as it is sweet! And as I gaze at this lovely Desert Sweet, I again realize that it only took 20 years to grow taller than I am.
What was that? Orange . . . sort of. No, I think it was yellow. The bird flies up into the cottonwood.
And here is my plant, Curly Dock. It's an alien weed from Eurasia that has become naturalized throughout the North American continent except for the extreme northern regions of Canada.
The landscape looks poorly -- rather like the 'dobes! There were some birds at Hart's Basin.
What a lovely bunch of weeds! They line the roadways on my right. I pull off the road onto the widened gravel area and stop.
What's in a name? Very often, our identity. Imagine Cedaredge being Juniper-edge, or Cedar City being Juniper City. How about Cedar Avenue being Juniper Avenue?
I certainly enjoyed lunch with my friend, Barbara. And now I'm driving along Tongue Creek Road because there's so much less traffic here than on Highway 65 and I can look at the landscape. There's not much to see except for the Dobe' Daisies.
Gray again. Light gray sky, dark gray sky, and angry-looking gray clouds everywhere.
I have seen prairie falcon on many occasions, but I've never seen one so bedraggled! Or so annoyed. Poor thing.
I can hear them calling. I see them in the clouds above -- when they aren't there! And I know that I will continue to hear them.
There's still plenty of snow on Grand Mesa and Craig Crest is still a brilliant white. How I long for summer!
What a pretty little bird! And I've never met one! That would be a treat for me, but the range maps show that he lives out of our range (more's the pity).
And here it is -- March already! And cranes! I can't get enough of them! And they are cooperating. As I gaze out of our dining room window, I know there are cranes at the reservoir. And I am happy!
It is that time of year, and the Crane Hotline will be up and running on March 1. Our Greater Sandhills of the Rocky Mountain Population will soon pass through Hart's Basin Reservoir (also known as Fruitgrowers Reservoir).
It was at the end of July or was it in early August . . . I don't quite remember, doesn't matter anyhow. The Vela's had kindly invited me down to their place to see the fledgling barn swallows. What a treat!
Blue sky! It's hard to believe, but it is blue sky! I revel in the warmth of the sun coming through the car windows!
It's still trying to snow ... I can't see Jeff's (our neighbor to the south) or Sharla's (our neighbor to the north). But yesterday I had a glimpse of the San Juan Mountains (at least there were angry clouds where I knew those mountains were!)
How grand! The sky is blue (yes, a few clouds are around but I'm ignoring them). The sky is bright! And Terri just told us that there are "thousands" of cranes at the Escalante area! And the sky is blue!
On leaving Delta, we took 1600 Road, then turned onto the Trap Club Road and followed it past the landfill. As we neared the junction with North Road, I began to carefully note the roadside vegetation.
This is the first serious snow that we've had -- I wish it would go away! I never liked the cold or the snow, but it means water for us in the summer so I'll just have to put up with it. But I can't go anywhere. So I'll just think about my birds.
No snow today -- clear sky without a single cloud, and I always wonder, "How long will this last!" But after yesterday's storm, this change is most welcome!
The little birds are very busy in our ornamental pear tree. There was plenty of blossom last spring and our little tree was the prettiest we've ever seen it.
Another gray day. But the wind is not blowing. As we pull into the driveway, there is bird motion to our left . . . and there go two doves.
As we sit at the dining room table, I admire the new snow on Grand Mesa, even though I can't see it all because the clouds are very lazy on this November morning. In the pasture across the road, I count five horses . . . there were six last night. Wait . . . watch . . . oh, there it is!
I am hoping to find the wild turkeys that I found a few years ago along this backroad. They were "new birds" for me then because they were named "wild turkeys."
The weekend before Thanksgiving was always reserved for my Bosque trip. I made hotel reservations in Socorro and since the town isn't large, rooms were sometimes difficult to find.
My cattails are in full "seed dispersal mode" and I delight in watching them. I drove up to the top of the hill east of Hart's Basin where I could see a bit of water at the far end of the reservoir. It's low, but I've seen it lower!
Perhaps you will recall my column of Sept. 6 about cattails. Or perhaps you'll remember the photo below and that I mentioned that I hadn't seen a cattail like that. Well, now I've been more observant!
I'm driving up this familiar back road, named Hulteen Road, and again I wonder about that name. The adjacent fields lie fallow, the sunlight is bright after the recent days of storm and I can see snow on the Grand Mesa. Summer's over.
Our neighbor's flag droops upon its pole. The roadside grasses are unmoving. But the leaves on our cottonwoods do their fluttering dance in the invisible breeze.
Here comes one . . . a swift flash of blue is all I can see. I know that it was a scrub jay because Dave Gallinat called me to say that they were eating everything in sight.
Just past the Cory Store, Allen and I can look down on the fields along Tongue Creek. Big hay-rolls stand in the stubble fields contrasting with the gray-tan of the 'dobie badlands beyond.
It seems like it was only yesterday that I was driving along this road on my way to Palisade to connect with Karen. We were headed for the Colorado Fish & Wildlife Commission hearing to speak in opposition to the proposed hunting of our greater sandhill cranes.
The water at Hart's Basin has gone down, but slowly, and it was very high this year. So, surprisingly the upper bed of cattails is still in bloom!
My, but it's nice to be home again. I was writing about my shorebird trip to the state of Washington that included the varied thrush and the backyard chestnut-backed chickadee, the Caspian tern and the fantastic Harlequin duck. It was a marvelous time! Memories for a lifetime!
I was writing about my shorebird trip to the state of Washington, but Linda Croft's Century Plant came into bloom ... spectacular! So now I'm resuming the Washington trip.
Well, I'm back home with a column that just won't wait! I was writing about my shorebird trip to the state of Washington, but the Century Plant at my friend's home in Cedaredge is in bloom -- spectacular!
And here we are, walking along a boardwalk with lots of other birders. And it's starting to rain again (I think this is part of the local scene).
How strange it all seems! I know that it's morning, but everything looks hazy . . . fog?
I know that this is not going to sit well with our leader, but I want to experience this rain forest - alone! We are running late (very late) and the group is going to walk up to the fen to see the Pitcher Plants.
There are, or were, three wasp nests along the front eaves of our home. Or rather, they were being built.
They're everywhere! Scattered through the unmown field, along the ditch bank, and all along the edge of the highways -- Mountain Puffballs! The dandelion seed heads are so very small in comparison, for these are about four inches in diameter, much larger than the flowers that preceded them.
Great Blue Heron
There he goes again ... flying toward the Grand Mesa. I've often wondered, is he flying homeward? Is he out to raid someone's fish pond? Or has he eaten already and just headed for his roost?
This bird appears regularly and I always wonder.
Along this familiar stretch of road there were clumps of Jim Hill Mustard last week. And here they are, still in full bloom!
The phone just rang ... it was Jim Wallace, our most-reliable craniac. He said there are cranes at Hart's Basin. He said that there are 10.
The Grand Mesa is vanishing ... the clouds are moving in from the west and I can barely see Crag Crest. Now it's gone, too. And the mesa is all gray -- again!
I'm looking out of our front window ... And here's Lewis. I usually call this bird "Lewis" although know that it is properly, Lewis' Woodpecker.
Yes. Five separate petals and lots of stamens: That fits the rose family. And most of the lovely blossoming fruit trees in our area fit that description, too. Luckily, our delightful blossoming trees have not been frostbitten. Yet.
I pull off of N Road into the widened area where the Black Canyon Audubon sign depicts our shorebirds. They've already begun to arrive: pelican and ibis, avocets and godwits.
It's that time again! Purple mustard is everywhere! I am tired of writing about weeds, but this one is too abundant to ignore.
There's a bird shadow across our driveway ... fairly large, so a hawk or a raven. And now there's the bird, landing in the west cottonwood tree. It settles in and the yellowing leaves flutter down.
We're sitting here looking at the Grand Mesa with its storm clouds and swirling winds. But our greening lawn and the pasture across the road are bright with sunlight.
What a difference a day makes! Yesterday there were cranes, cranes and more cranes. Today nothing. I can usually hear them calling from our back porch.
And the time is NOW! As I admire Peter's photo, my mind races back to the spring of 2015, and then to all the springs before.
During the first weeks of March these familiar birds begin arriving in our area. Keep your eyes and ears open and you might see or hear them.
Another gray day. I enjoy the view of the Grand Mesa from our dining room window but this morning the view is discouraging ... gray, gray, and more gray!
The second day of February was "Groundhog Day." I've wondered for years about the groundhog and I just found www.stormfax.com/ghog.htm so now I know a bit more! Since this common rodent hibernates for the winter, its appearance indicates spring (well, sometimes).
Another day of snow. I keep thinking of Mesquite, Nevada!
I am weary of winter and it's only the middle of January! I could see the Grand Mesa yesterday but this morning it's only a mass-mess of clouds.
Allen says, "Quick ...look at the pasture elm ... big bird!" I snatch the binoculars from the dining room table -- Big Bird!
The top of Grand Mesa has vanished -- again. I stepped out the back door a few minutes ago and that was far enough to know it is cold outside!
But of course, it really isn't -- winter's only just begun. The Winter Solstice is the 21st of December which marks the shortest day of our year in the Northern Hemisphere, and we think of it as "winter."
Over a year ago, I wrote a column on mistletoe. In my mind's eye, I was walking through an oak woodland in Wisconsin.
Today the sky is clear ... what a nice change! It's been gray day after day, but it isn't warmer.
I've been watching the horses and sheep in the pasture across the road. It's a lovely day, doesn't look like November at all.
As we come through our driveway, we note that the Mahonia berries have darkened from red to ruby-red. The orange Pyrancantha berries seem brighter ... or is it that the landscape has become darker ... more gray than tawny?
Another "nothing" bush. But it's been a favorite of mine for years. We planted some right by the entrance to our yard a few years ago -- and found that I'm allergic to it!
Where are the Cranes?
I wish I knew! The senior biologist for our Rocky Mountain Flock of Greater Sandhill Cranes, Rod Drewien, shared with me that the number of cranes at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge was much lower than it has been in the past.
I'm driving along this county road that I've dubbed the "low road." It runs down this valley, paralleling Highway 65 that goes from Cedaredge to Delta.
When we came to the Delta region, Allen and I wondered what the Grand Mesa might look like without the golden aspen leaves. During the past few days, I've watched the patches of aspen gold fade into aspen gray.
If it sounds like a crow and walks like a crow, it's probably a crow. Well ... it might be a raven.
We turn off of Highway 65 onto Myers Road. There's a lovely home right at the corner and just beyond it is a driveway into an adjacent field.
There's plenty of bird activity in our tall cottonwoods. We have our Lewis' woodpeckers as usual, with lots of display flights, drilling and calling. But no nesting behavior.
What a summer this has been! Fairly cool with lots of rain showers and fast growing weeds. There is still lots to see scattered along North Road and here is one of my favorites!
A flash of blue across the road ahead of me. Too large to be a bluebird ... maybe Steller's Jay? That's likely, since I'm driving along Highway 65 on top of the Grand Mesa, so I'm at the right elevation.
And here he is! I've been keeping a close eye on our trumpet vine waiting to see our rufous hummingbird. Our usual hummers are the black-chin with the broad-tailed and the tiny calliope (the smallest of the small at 2 1/2 inches long) at higher elevations as on the Grand Mesa.
This is another cloudy August day. I'd like more sun, thank you! But the weather will be what the weather will be.
I always find this drive exciting. We left Eckert (elevation about 6,000 feet) and now we're on top of Grand Mesa (elevation over 10,000 feet).
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