There are always eyes reflecting back in the beam of my headlamp. Usually, it is deer or elk, their silhouettes looking vaguely alien because of their large ears. Other times, it is a Common Poorwill that sits on the trail, eyes reflecting red, and flutters up in a panic when I walk too close. A handful of times it has been a bear, that crashes away through the undergrowth once it catches a whiff of this unwashed field tech and vanishes astonishingly quickly for an animal so large…
You know the old phrase: Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over. Over the two years that I’ve now been in the San Luis Valley (SLV) of Colorado, I’ve heard a lot of stories that recall that phrase. Stories of family members who no longer speak due to disagreements irrigation strategies, landowners who’ve been shot by trespassers hoping to steal water under cover of night, ranchers on their fifth year of a water court case due to a neighbor dispute. This story, however, is not one of those.
I stop what I’m doing for a moment and look up to watch a pair of circling Red-tailed Hawks. They’re smugly indifferent to my work, but their presence makes it go a little faster all the same. With the Western Meadowlarks, Lark Buntings, and Cassin’s Sparrows as a soundtrack, it’s a simply beautiful day to be outside.
We were almost down to our camp when I noticed two beautifully round orbs staring at us from behind a bush. We both froze in our places while we racked our brains on what to do. It did not take long to draw from what we had learned in our training,
Flowers are blooming, birds are singing and kids are learning! The Environmental Learning Center (ELC) at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies has become a place of respite and refueling for both people and nature. Situated on the northwest shore of Barr Lake State Park where the cottonwoods grow tall is our outdoor learning center that provides a unique space for all people to visit and learn about the local ecosystem and all it has to offer.
Mindful birding is a powerful practice that combines the joys of birdwatching with the benefits of mindfulness. Exposure to nature is linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even an increase in empathy and cooperation.
One of my favorite quotes by Aldo Leopold in his book, A Sand County Almanac. A classic read for any upcoming wildlife biologist, nature-lover, or outdoors person. This quote reminds me of the well-known saying “leave it better than you found it”. A saying that had been engrained in me ever since I was just a kid playing in the river behind my house. I am fortunate that I grew up as an “outdoor kid”.
The first time meeting a bull I thought there should be much more care taken. We parked the pick-up in the two-lane adjacent to the white mound napping and chewing his cud. He didn’t move or glace our way as we approached. I walked equal to the rancher; if he was going in, I was, too.
On Sunday, March 13th, I saw my first Mountain Bluebird of the year. He was coming off the south fence of the northwestern pasture. He launched, dipped, then propelled making it to the opposite side to watch me travel on, my car having done more to move him than the cows, or even the coyotes could manage.
By my students’ calculations, we had spent over 50 hours trying to capture this particular Flammulated Owl, dating back two summers. Make no mistake—there have been many challenging owls to capture over the course of this 40-year demographic study, but this owl had drawn extra attention from the nine students working with me that summer, with its Houdini-esque tactics for evading capture at a nest cavity high in a quaking aspen.