Live. Bird. Recharge. Repeat.

Selfie on the Trail

Aaaaahh. So nice to be back!

The simple pleasure of mountain hiking and birding for me is just what this girl needs to continue the home stretch with the school at home and the Spring Marathon that is the yard for the next few weeks. The kids were contented to stay back in Texas with their cousins, so Mr. and Mrs. Dirt could hit the trail.

Our days off and get-aways are typically the kind that take us far from crowds, driven to rather than flown, remote, quiet, and peaceful. We tend to seek places out-of-doors where the road is less traveled and the likelihood of wildlife encounters will be maximized. We did this way back in the 90’s when we were still only friends, and now that the days of babies are behind us, we can enjoy what we do with kids who can carry their own stuff and trudge (and whine) along behind us. Or not.

Trail buddies for life, you might say.

Scenery for the Eyes, For the Soul

For the past three years, the area around Colorado Springs, Colorado is where we romp. Only a day-and-a-half’s drive from Houston — not much when you consider that most of it is getting out of Texas — and with several small towns in the area, there is rarely a shortage of some place to hike or something to do if hiking is not possible.

We choose hiking. Lots and lots of hiking. Every day. Rain or shine.

Phantom Canyon Drive

Phantom Canyon Trail – 4-Wheel-Drive
Recommended!

Through the Mountain

Through the Mountain We Go

Beautiful!

Caution: No Room for Passing Cars

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods (Sunny)

Overcast Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods (Overcast)

Enjoying the View

Mueller State Park – Wide Open Spaces

Boulder Outcropping

Mueller State Park – Rock Outcrop

Meadow and Mountains

Mueller State Park – Grassy Goodness

11-mile Canyon Road

11-mile Canyon Road

Purple Mountains Majesty

Purple Mountain’s Majesty

The Hunt for the American Dipper

As with previous trips out west, the Birding Holy Grail would be the American Dipper, a smallish understated bird with a big personality. We found him — or, rather, he found us — on our last day. The weather was not the best for hiking, and we knew that we would only see him near a roaring rapid, with only one that was a bit of a drive from us. You see, this bird is only one of 5 species of its kind in the world, a swimming bird that prefers foraging under raging water, seen only as he emerges to get some air. He’s a tricky dude to spot, never mind that he blends in quite well with water and rocks.

On our last day, we choose a place within an hour’s drive of our hotel where we were sure (and hoped) to spot him. It was crisp and cold hiking along the rapids. When we got a few hundred yards from the truck, Scott hiked back to retrieve it. That left me alone in the canyon by the rapids, and all I could think was that I’d suddenly become cougar bait. My eyes and ears shifted to the area above and behind me, just in case.

Suddenly, I heard someone singing in the distance in the rapids. It was him! A speck to my naked eyes, he was just discernible with field lenses. As Scott approached with my camera bag, I hurriedly changed lenses. He let me walk to within yards of him for a beautiful, chatty portrait.

American Dipper

The American Dipper, Serenading Me

Ha! Check that box.

Wildlife in Colorado

The birds, in usual fashion, were very compliant with us; it’s as if they knew we were coming just to see them (we were!). We added just over 30 new species to our list in just a week, many varieties of which would not have seen at all (they don’t come to Texas). It pays to do a little homework before hand.

The winter residents were out in numbers, and even some of the spring birds were beginning to show for the season. We didn’t get all that we wanted, but they all did their part in keeping our eyes and ears busy — the very point of the exercise.

Birding is for the whole body.  It heightens the senses and clears the head of useless stuff that can wait until we get home.

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub Jay

Magpie and Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon — seen only when the hounding
magpies alerted his presence

Gray Jay

Gray Jay

Black-billed Magpie Couple

Nesting Pair of Magpies

Ribbon Snake

Hello, Mr. Serpent! Good Morning.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee (a first!)

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird – Singing

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Groundhog

No worries, Mr. Gopher.
I’ll be done in a minute.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark – Must Everyone Sing?

Pronghorn

American Pronghorn

And there are many others, but I won’t crowd them in this post. If you want to see any of them, just click where they’re linked. You will be taken to the photograph in DirtNKids’ SmugMug.

No Place Like Home

Even if we do live in a decidedly less mountain-y, more suburban, concrete-laden environment, there’s something rejuvenating about sleeping in a bed and house that has all your smells and comforts. It’s just…HOME.

Upon return, the yard is bursting with greeeeen! Spring has most certainly arrived, and I immediately set into tidying up the neglected flower beds and veggie garden, stealing even more leaves from my neighbors (as they tidy up their yards too).

It’s so nice to be getting my nails dirty again.

The birds in our yard continue to taunt me and interrupt me from what I’m doing in the yard. Scott’s keen ear heard the Cedar Waxwings on a walk at sunset, so I came back with my camera hoping they’d still be there.  They were.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings

Perhaps it’s time to invest in a pair of binoculars that are both water-resistant and dirt proof. I’m gonna need ’em.

2015 Birding Year Count:  135

To view the entire album in hi-res sizable views, go to
DirtNKids Colorado Springs SmugMug Album.
None of the photos have been post-processed.

What did you do for your Spring Break?

23 thoughts on “Live. Bird. Recharge. Repeat.

  1. It’s nice to see some of my favorite destinations in your post. I feel lucky not to have to drive a day and a half to get to them. My birding group just spent all morning at Garden of the Gods and it was beautiful! I am glad you got to see dippers again, they are really special. Am envious about the Cedar Waxwings, it will likely take a while before they arrive in Colorado.

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    1. I thought you’d recognize some of the scenes. Mueller and GoG is why we return to Co Springs when we can — and now 11 mile Reservoir SP as well. I think we will be camping more next time. Thanks for coming by!

      PS – so incredible that we ran into one another. Small small world indeed. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, no worries, my new friend! My bet is on us getting together in the near future. Cheers!

        PS – went back to Mueller. Not disappointed!! Posts coming for sure, but check out the latest eBird for the Hotspot. Such an awesome birding day, Tanja. 😀

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      1. We have given that quite a bit of thought. What’s lacking in the Out West is that little nagging thing called income. The hook has been set, though!

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  2. Looks absolutely stunning! I think maybe I will put my shorts on, stand in the snow with my husband and dream we are in such a beautiful place too! Maybe then spring and the birds will come a bit quicker 🙂 Thanks for sharing the great pictures – I may have to add this to the list of places I’d like to visit one day!

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    1. It is a great spot to go for us since it doesn’t require flying to get there (yuck). The mornings would start in the 20’s and we would shed layers through the hike — up to the 70’s with the sunshine. So fabulous!

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  3. The bird and mountain photos are spectacular! Love the gopher photo, too! Glad to hear you had a good trip. We worked for Spring Break, but with daughter out of school, it was nice not to have to rush to anything at night.

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Julie! I too like the gopher. He was more animated than a still photo would allow.

      I also enjoy the staycations, which is what we did last year while we hosted the cousins. You’re right about enjoying the break from the frenzy! I hope you’re still enjoying your job.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My spring break was spent working longer hours. DH spent his (he’s in school, so an actual spring break)…staying home with an angry feverish kiddo. I’m glad you got to escape and had such a marvelous time! I miss the mountains when it’s been too long (and it’s been too long). Thank you for sharing the photos with which to whet my appetite. That gray jay is quite lovely.
    We had our own gathering of cedar wax wings on an evening walk a week or so ago. I thought of you.

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    1. Aw bummer about the sick kiddo. With four, we almost always spent vacay time at home because of one sick kid. I sure hope she’s better now.

      Pretty soon you’ll be taking walks with field lenses around your neck too! That gray jay was quite interested with me; he very nearly landed on my head once. Thanks for coming by, PlumDirt!

      Like

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