Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting Just Desserts

Proud American Robin says, "I can hold my head high, 'cause I did the right thing when no one was looking"

On one of my very first birding walks in the fall of '08 I bumped into a local birder named Eric. We have crossed paths several times since then, but on that early trip he was one of the first active members of the birding community that I had met. As we checked the habitat around Plaster Reservoir in Broomfield his ability to locate and identify birds began to shed light on just how little I knew, and how much there was out there that I had not been experiencing. The most memorable such case was his asking if I had seen the Green-tailed Towhee in the Russian Olives we were scanning. I replied that I had, added it to my list, and on we went. Later when I was at home and reviewing some of my pictures I checked through the only guide I had at the time, "Peterson's Guide to the Birds of Western North America". As I flipped through I came to the entry for the Green-tailed Towhee, and I was instantly sure that I hadn't seen that bird. At the time I had in all good conscience thought that I knew which bird he was talking about, and that it was a Green-tailed Towhee. After I realized my mistake I adjusted my list, already knowing that marking off a bird I wasn't sure of would take away some of the reward when I actually did see and identify it at some later point.
A year and a half later the bird and I finally crossed paths once again; the species not the individual - of course.

This time I spotted it as I stood on the deck looking out behind the Beaver Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park. I was looking through my camera's eyepiece - I didn't have my bins in the visitor center - but even at a distance I was confident that this was one of my long sought after targets. I honestly don't know how I missed it for all of last year. They are fairly common, at least for others, but this was my first. Let me confirm that the wait was completely worthwhile.
On a side note, if you are a local, or ever happen to visit RMNP be sure not to overlook the deck off the back of the visitor center. The wrap-around walkway raises you up into the Ponderosas and seems to keep the birds in the area comfortable as humans watch their activity.

One of the best way's to observe wildlife is in the company of children. The large herds of Elk that had descended into town with the snow were all fascinating to the eyes of a three year old.

At least pawing through snow must not be too bad when there is new sprouting grass and vegetation below.

To a child, referring to such a beast as "Antler" rather than Elk just makes sense I guess. To an adult, getting to watch a couple of males meander down the sidewalk as you crawl along shooting out the window of a vehicle was pretty cool as well.

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