Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adventure in the West

     I promised that I'd be back with some decent stuff to share, as I had ventured out to Colorado on July 14th so that my husband, two friends, and myself could volunteer on a trail crew for the Colorado Trail.
     Our journey began in Golden, Colorado, where we stayed with family and adjusted to an altitude of over 5,600' above sea level. We got a warm-up hike on table mountain and got a nice taste of the west, which very much included various micro brews!
     Golden, Colorado is best known for being the home of the Coors Brewing Company, but also it is where Buffalo Bill is buried, where the School of Mines is located, and boasts a lovely little downtown/main street area where you can (surprise) get delicious beers among the other  specialty shops.
     I brought the camera and binoculars on this trip to enjoy some of the local wildlife and vistas you just cannot get in New York.
     Enjoy the sights from our first day and a half in and around Golden, Colorado:
A female Broad-tailed hummingbird on the back patio. These little guys were always super busy buzzing about the nearby feeder provided by our Aunt and Uncle.
A mule deer doe among the thistles. The mule deer is larger than the white-tail deer of the east and boast a far daintier tail than that of the white-tails.
You can see how much smaller their tails are here. You also can see how large their ears are, for which they get their name, as mules have large, long ears.
Once known as the rufous-sided towhee, that species was split into the Eastern (what we have in NY) and the spotted, pictured above and seen in the west. His song was similar, but not quite the "drink-your-tea" of the Eastern towhee.
A western scrub jay flew in at the point where we turned to loop back around to home, as we were losing light and rattlesnakes were common among the trails and grasses in the area.
A nice view of the spotted towhee, super similar to the Eastern, but the spotting on the wing makes them distinctly different. Here is an Eastern towhee from NY for comparison.
A sunset over some low mountains to the west. I use the term "low mountains" because two days from there, I'd be in much higher elevations.
I woke up the next day, early, as I was still on Eastern time and took a short jaunt on the trails we had walked the night before. I am pretty sure this is a Say's Phoebe, like the Eastern Phoebe, this guy also darts out to catch insects on the wing from its perch Their bird benefits from human activity as they often use our structures for nesting.
The best time to walk was early and late in the day. Due to the dryness of the area and altitude. By day, temperatures can soar, and the sun, at all hours of the day can be destructive to exposed skin. Mornings and evenings were cool, especially in the shade. By the evening, long sleeves and pants are comfortable if you are outside.
A western kingbirds seems to be having some complications. At first, I thought this was a simple yawn, but I took a few shots and the next photo reveals something dietary...
A large seed or nut is expelled. Normally Western Kingbirds are insect eaters, flycatchers, capturing flying insects on the wing, much like the phoebe.But they will on occasion eat fruit, as this one seems to have done. Many birds will cough up undigestible matter, notably harks and owls, with their pellets.
The kingbirds were fairly common and had a very unique call that sounded more like a dog squeaky toy than bird, give a listen here.
A lovely surprise, a family of Bullock's Orioles!
Dad keeps watch over the area kids kids are in, stranding out among the blossoming and delicious thistles.
The kids practice foraging under dad's watch.
At first I brushed these off as house finches, but that longer, less conical bill pointed me in the direction of the similar Cassin's Finch.
An equally beautiful female Bullock's oriole. Her yellow contrasts beautifully to the purple thistles.
Not completely in focus, but I love her so much!
I took the same loop I traveled with my family the night before, and at the same pint to loop back, the Western Scrub Jay on cue, came back to his perch.
Another view of the Say's Phoebe from its fly catching perch.
Desert cottontails were common in the neighborhood, often running through the street, out of driveways and among lawns and street islands.
We did visit Denver and then drove back with a stop at Red Rocks Amphitheater. There was a concert, so we couldn't go in, but a pair of peregrine falcons put on a nice show in the air.

The pair blends in to the rocky cliffs beautifully, can you find them both?
The smaller male (above) stretches his talons out to the larger female below. Females are significantly larger than the males.

A nice side by side, showing how the male seems almost dwarfed by the female behind him.
American Goldfinches were common, but so were these lesser goldfinches!
They fed happily on the sunflowers growing in the garden out back.
One last look before we shut our eyes in prep for a trip out into the mountains for a few days.
I also picked this up in a Denver bookstore for $7, super excited to have this for the fall, when hawk watching happens...