I just returned from a trip to Colorado to visit with Jeanine. Chris, Becky, and Beth joined me on our Wild West adventure. Jeanine had suggested that this trip we should rent a cabin in the Rockies instead of staying in a hotel. It was a great idea that worked out well. We each had a private space and there was plenty of room for hanging out and playing SkipBo. We rented Aspen Creek cabin in the mountain town of Nathrop, the cabin was flanked on both sides by the high canyon walls of Chalk Creek Canyon. Jeanine’s boyfriend Christopher also joined us, I was pleased to get to meet him and spend time getting to know him better. I even think I might, just might have turned him on to the world of birding.
Jeanine sure did her research and she had mapped out a number of good birding spots for us to explore. I was a little bit concerned about my ability to hike the trails in search of new birds. With the recent diagnosis of severe arthritis in my knees, I was worried I might not be able to keep up with the others. But most of the areas Jeanine mapped out were easy walking paths, thou the high altitude still gave me problems. But it didn’t matter because our best sightings were Parking Lot Birds!
We spent a day exploring Colorado Springs, we went to an area called Garden of the Gods. It is an area of red rocks that have been shaped by the forces of nature into all different shapes, the area looks like a giant sculpture garden. Unfortunately, shortly after we arrived, a strong thunderstorm blew in with heavy rain and fierce winds. We retreated to the safety of the gift shop to wait out the storm. When the clouds cleared Becky and I went out onto the gift shop porch to sit and enjoy the cool rain-soaked air. Just as I sat down movement in the trees along the parking lot catches my eyes. I quickly grab my binoculars and scan the trees, and there he is a Western Scrub Jay! Yay a new bird for me!
I ran back into the gift shop looking for Chris & Beth to alert them to my great sighting but by the time they came out onto the porch the Western Scrub Jay was gone. We tried to locate the bird again but to no avail, he had left the area. As Becky reminds us often “birds fly”. But that sighting was just the first of other even better Parking Lot Birds we would see.
We spent a day exploring the small town of Salida. They were holding an Arts Festival with a parade of the Mud People, which was quite interesting. Jeanine brought us to a great restaurant along the river. We sat and watched as rafters and kayakers sped by trying to navigate the rapids. They all made it, no one fell in, but it did confirm to me that white water rafting was not something I wanted to try.
Before we got into town we stopped at a small park Jeanine had found along the river to look for birds. I pull the car into the parking space and before I even turn it off we get a sighting! There in front of us on the lower branches of a tree is a brilliant orange Bullocks Oriole! Not only do we get a great bird sighting but we got quite a show as the bird is dive bombing a squirrel and flying about the branches chattering loudly. That Oriole did not like that squirrel. Another great Parking Lot Bird sighting!
On another day we stopped for a picnic lunch in Buena Vista at a park. I pulled the car into a parking space and directly in front of us is a table under large willow trees next to the river. We settle down to eat. Suddenly I see a bird fly onto the tree trunk, it looks familiar but different. We pull out the bird guides and study the markings and confirm it is a Pygmy Nuthatch. Yet another Parking Lot Bird!
We traveled to the high altitude town of Leadville to take a train ride up into the mountains. At 10,151 feet, it was the highest town we visited. The train ride was fantastic! Boy did we climb higher and higher, at times the train seemed to be clinging to the side of the mountain I wondered how it stayed on the tracks. But the views were remarkable. Before we got on the train we stopped for a picnic lunch at Turquoise Lake, a beautiful high altitude lake surrounded by snow topped mountains. I pull the car into the parking spot, we unload our picnic gear and head for a table by the water. Then Beth catches sight of a dark bird landing on the side of a tree. We pull out the bird guides and confirm we just saw a Williamsons Sapsucker! Super cool sighting, yet again a Parking Lot Bird!
We saw a total of 36 different species of birds in Colorado. I saw 7 new birds to add to my life list, which now totals 307 species. We saw a number of birds just hanging around the cabin sitting on the deck. I added the Black Headed Grosbeak, Western Wood Peewee, and the Grey Flycatcher to my list. Beth also added the Green-tailed Towee and Mountain Blue Bird to her list. I was so worried about whether I was going to be able to keep up and explore the area for birds but it didn’t matter. We saw great sightings sitting on the deck, riding in the car and the best sightings of all were the Parking Lot Birds!
We enjoyed beautiful scenery, soaking in hot springs, shopping in interesting shops, eating together around the big table, playing SkipBo and just relaxing together. Deer wandered thru the cabin yard and as we sat on the deck with our morning coffee we were buzzed by Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. And we had great Parking Lot Bird sightings!
Happy Birding, Jane