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Category: Nature

Don’t forget that this weekend is The Great Backyard Bird Count! It started today and goes through Monday. Just spend 15 minutes observing and identifying birds and enter them at the GBBC.

We saw Dark-Eyed Juncos (Slate), Mountain Chickadees, Stellar Jays, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins in the half hour we watched today.

Satori and I took a hike in our big backyard today – James Peak Wilderness area. I knew there’d be flowers in bloom, so we stocked up our sketch pads and some water and hiked in for about an hour. (If we kept going we’d be on the other side of the Great Divide.) We haven’t studied wildflowers yet, but when we do, I’m sure we’ll do it quite thoroughly. Mama’s already planning some of that out!

It was a little windy at times, and I didn’t bring a tripod, but I did snap shots of every flower we passed. Here are some that turned out okay.

Golden Banner (Thermopsis montana) were everywhere.

The Colorado State Flower – Rocky Mountain Columbine or Colorado Columbine (Aquilega coerulea).

These Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum) thrived wherever the ground was muddy. Tiny little flowers, we almost missed them.

We found a boulder meadow, selected a nice flat rock and sketched flowers.

I swear she could’ve spent all day here!

In the meantime, Mama took her camera and walked along the meadow fringes.

More Columbines…

Time to head home! Mom was getting a little dizzy from constantly bending over to take all the flower photos.

Chiming Bells on our way out…

Now that we are more familiar with our birds, it is very obvious when a rare-to-our-backyard bird visits us. This is a Black-headed Grosbeak. Look at that big (gros) beak!  A male and female pair were at our birdfeeder over the weekend. Next time I will try to get a better picture, this was taken from inside my kitchen, through a window and into our forest.

And of course I couldn’t resist this pretty little girl…

So I’ve had this nature journal laying around. It isn’t the easiest to find, so I wanted to wait until Satori was ready to write in it. She begged to have it and finally I relented and gave it to her. I’m so glad I did!

She works on it every day. She’s adapted her handwriting to fit in its tiny spaces obviously made for older children/adults. She talks about her own children and how one day they will read it, and in her journal entries, she writes about this. She’s so super proud of her book.

Here is her very first entry, on the American Robin. You can click on the photos to see larger images.

The Robin one is hard to decipher, but it goes like this (spelling and grammar mostly corrected):

Robins have the most pretty colors in the world. It is bright brown and some dark red on the belly and gray feet. They like to be on the ground in Wisconsin. They like to eat worms. They have a beautiful voice and they fly out to get out of danger. They have long beaks and their beaks are sharp. When Robins need to warm up they fluff up their wings. They build their nest with horse hair and man hair and mud which warms the eggs up and the eggs have their mom to warm them up too with her nice furry coat.

When you see robins that means it is spring. Robins are not one of the smartest birds in the world but they are kinda smart and they nest in branches that you can’t reach them. If they nest in little trees you can reach the branches.

Robins build their nest with mud. Their eggs are blue…

Here’s one she finished last week about the King Bird.

My favorite part is this:

Kingbirds do an amazing thing. Here is what they do. When they (see a hawk) they would just get into a fight. Isn’t that amazing? Kingbirds have a yellow belly. It has a red patch on the top of the crest, black tail, and a dirty gray breast. They have a sharp bill, brown wings with a little bit of white. It likes to sit on telephone wires… has gray legs and a light blue back, white throat. (….)

Ask your mom to show you a picture of a kingbird. There’s a teeny bit of blue on the wing, the rest is brown just like I just told you. Black pupils… curved stripes in the tail. Sound goes like this – kip song, kip song, kip song.

Ask your mom to teach you about birds. You will learn about so many birds. I learned a lot of bird. Soon you will be an ornithologist and you will love being that kind of person. When you grow up, teach your children and soon they will write about birds too. When you’re seven you should read this book to your mom and dad. They will be so surprised that they will buy you a present. When you’re nine you start to make your own breakfast. I started when I was five.

The past few weeks were for the birds… Satori and I went on several hikes and went birdwatching. We have put out new bird feeders on our deck. We’re going to start to watch The Life of Birds DVD from Netflix soon… Last week we added some bird books to our library. The only bird identification books I had before this month was specific Colorado bird field guides. So I picked out a nice selection of books that should help me learn more. Mama got some for herself…

as did Satori…

I had stumbled across this very cool WhatBird Make-a-Guide (MAG) feature that allows you to print out your own bird books. After trying a few demo books that were emailed instantly (limited to 5 birds each), I then got a 3-month subscription ($9.95) for as many books as I wish, and can add 900 birds each. I added these pages to Satori’s Bird Book journal, and also used this to create my own flashcards. To do this, I chose their 6×9 inch 2 pages per bird book. Once I noticed that the odd pages had full pictures of the bird, I knew it would be a cinch to create my cards. I printed out only the odd pages, 4 pages per printed page, and pages 4-85. I then cut out each bird photo, and laminated 5 photos per page.

I ended up with 25 pages of birds!

I then cut them, rounded off their corners, punched a hole in the upper left corner, and now they are all held together by this handy ring. The below collection are the birds Satori has studied so far in her Burgess Bird book.

The ones we haven’t studied yet are in their own ring.

Here is a side view so you can see how many birds we have to learn yet! There’s approximately 100 birds covered in our book.

We also have had our kitchen computer set to Phoebe the Hummingbird and Molly the Barn Owl web cams. Both were due to have their eggs hatch this week. Unfortunately, poor Phoebe’s eggs were not viable. We had been watching these two eggs for a few days… One looked like it had a peck hole in it, but there had been no movement for a long time.

Then yesterday, all of a sudden Phoeoe went on defense mode, whirring about. Soon, the culprit showed his face, a monster Godzilla lizard! (Actually, he was probably a very small lizard, these eggs are the size of peas or tic-tacs.) Phoebe successfully drove him off until he fell off the branch. Sadly, the second she returned to her nest, she used her beak to flip one of the eggs out of the nest. People were saying it wasn’t viable anyway and its smell attracted the lizard.

And today, people are all saying the second egg is not viable. Phoebe left her nest alone most of last night and is leaving it for too long a period.  The color doesn’t look like there is a bird growing in it (or so people say). So this was a tragic but enlightening view of a life of a hummingbird.

So now our interest turns to Molly, the barn owl with her five eggs. This morning we listened to a live discussion with the owner and a 4th grade class. We learned that he put out this owl box two years ago, and it cost him about $4500 to get it all set. Then they had to wait… and wait… Only after a windstorm this January of 2010 did Molly and McGee (the male) make the box their home. The owners were ecstatic! The eggs were laid a month ago and the first is due to hatch probably within the next 24 hours.

Does anyone know what the heck these eggs are? We were walking around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park today and I promised I’d try to find salamanders for Satori (she’s fascinated with them)… I turned over a rock and found these dotted eggs! (Click for larger detail.)

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Anyway, we had a wonderful day spent with my Aunt Marge! We drove all around the flatlands, foothills and finally mountain area.

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It was a beautiful day, with many yellow Aspens, and gorgeous scenery. Can’t wait to drive further west in Colorado this weekend!