Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Doudy Draw - How Have I Missed This Place?

Here's an old friend from my Nebraska trip, now seen in Colorado

Back in the mid-Nineties, when I was an undergrad and a new arrival in Colorado, one of my favorite drives was south on Highway 93 along the foothills in the late afternoon or evening.
It still is - for all the same reasons. As you drive along, hogbacks and mesas break the view eastward towards the cities of the Front Range. The setting sun will peak between the rock outcroppings of the Flatirons and foothills, and make a natural splendor of light and shadow. In addition, for stretches of that fantastic hilly and curvy ribbon of asphalt you can lose sight of all development, and picture just for an instant how the untouched splendor of the Rockies must have appeared 200 years ago.
You could say I like the scenery a "bit". Knowing all that it is amazing to me that until last night I had never had the inclination or desire to visit the Doudy Draw trailhead. I have hiked, biked, and driven all around the area, but had never jumped on one of the trails heading along or towards the foothills west of 93. Now I know - insane!

Hummingbirds look like they never quite bought into the idea of feathers over scales.

Finally the idea of migrants and a known Boulder hotspot made me pull into the lot on the left side of the street rather than the right, and BLAMMO, there I was. A nice trail runs along the South Boulder Creek valley, and eventually climbs along the ridge to offer occasional peaks through at the Flatirons and foothills to the north and west. With just a bit of haze it was spectacular.

A House Wren and its mate appeared to be busy carrying nesting materials to the back of a nearby tree.
Word on some of the Colorado Birding email lists is that the changes to the trail configuration at Doudy Draw have made it less appealing, and frankly I can see why. More of the trail has been shifted up the hillside and away from some great riparian habitat. However, even seeing that the older trail which is now blocked off looked much more favorable I am willing to accept the area as is. I look at the hilly trail before reaching the ideal habitat as a buffer between the dedicated and those looking for an immediate reward. After all, part of what has attracted me to doing this so often is the chance to find peace and calm, and an active relationship with Nature that had been missing from my life. Walking ten paces from a parking lot to a overlook, or worse, shooting frames from my car window is a necessary compromise at times, but it really can't compete with a good walk on a beautiful summer afternoon.
But, then again I have only been birding a few months, and had never been to the site before, so what do I know?

This Rock Wren knew that its place was on a rock.

Even with a more distanced trail the birding was still fantastic. I had new species for my lifetime list, the House and Rock Wrens pictured above, a Catbird, Western Bluebird, Yellow-Breasted Chat and Clay-Colored Sparrow all pictured, just not well enough for here! That was not all though, oh no. There was a whole family of species that I had been waiting to see all winter, Orioles. I don't recall ever having noticed an Oriole in Colorado, and only once as a kid in Minnesota. Last fall though I learned that the little hanging balls of fishing line or fiber you see on trees can be Oriole nests. As I have walked and observed through many habitats this winter I have seen the nests everywhere, an known that at some point I must find one of those colorful birds at the back of the guide.
Yesterday was that day:

May I present, the Bullock's Oriole!

All of the color of a finch or warbler, none of the tiny size issues. It was great fun to find and watch these colorful individuals, there were two that I saw. They act quite shy and elusive, but their brilliant yellow-orange plumage isn't very conducive to hiding in the thin spring growth. A bit frustrating when taking pictures to not often see the face, but more bearable when the comic value of bits of orange poking beyond both sides of the same thin branch is realized.

Great color, great location, great afternoon.

It was a bit of a milestone day on the counting side of things. I broke through 150 on my global lifelist, reached 130 in Colorado, and broke 100 in my first county, Boulder. I have learned so much through these early months, and can't wait to see where I am when I reach the one year anniversary. That will hopefully be many productive months from now, after the end of spring migration, a whole summer, and then a fall migration to boot. Good times and continued improving photographs ahead!

2009 Count: 136

Lifetime: 151

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