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Plants of the Western Slope Jan. 31, 2018

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Photo by Bill Schmoker©

Cottonwood I

I gaze out the dining room window. A bird shape glides from our cottonwood tree and lands in the neighbor's pasture. The bird looks like it's foraging and then it returns to the cottonwood. And again I wonder, "How many times have I watched our pair of ravens do this?"

Or was it our Lewis's woodpecker that I saw? That special bird of ours draws a crowd every spring during Eckert Crane Days. But Lewis's is a bit different: it sits on power lines to snatch flying insects like a moth. Or it glides freely over the pasture across the road, apparently insect catching. The pair bond may be permanent and the male not only guards the nest and food hoard but incubates and broods at night. I've often seen several birds in the area, and wondered, "Are they young ones?" But a few years back, new folks moved into our neighborhood. I could never catch the owner-gun-dead bird together. More's the pity!

Or perhaps it was the orioles that we observed raising their young one and teaching it to feed from our trumpet vine -- but the young one tore the blossoms to shreds! With blossoms aplenty, the young bird's antics were humorous to watch. Or maybe it was the bald eagle that came to sit, contented, in our tree. Of course the starlings slept in the trees and I listened to them singing. They left in the morning and went foraging across the road in the pasture (and who knows where else).

Or maybe it was the crows. They passed us by in numbers of 20 or more, all flying in formation (more or less). The lovely white-crowned sparrows, the scrub jay and the juncos came to us each winter. They flew from the cottonwoods to the trumpet vine and then over to our small 'bosque.' One winter there was a brown creeper that gleaned the bark up the cottonwood, and then flew down to start at the bottom again. We had a white-breasted nuthatch that gleaned from the bark --always going downward.

Of course we've had the red-headed house finches and loads of house sparrows and plenty of other species fly by, but those days are gone.

On Monday, Jan. 22, they began taking down our trees. Not by choice, but by necessity.

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Surface Creek
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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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