Thursday, September 29, 2011

Colorado Birds

I was expecting to see more and different birds on our Colorado trip than we actually saw. We see many birds around our Tallahassee yard, neighborhood, town and surrounding countryside and I had assumed that it would be that way in Colorado. It was not the case. There were times when could hear birds that remained unseeen, but there was just not a lot of birds to be found. Here are what we saw:
Song Sparrows
Various Ducks, mostly mallards
Black vultures
Crows and, perhaps, ravens
We think we saw a golden eagle

We saw a few of these Western Tanagers around water. They were always solitary. Their colors are stunning.

 These magpies are common.

We thought they were so striking.

We were surprised to spot this bunch of white pelicans on a fresh-water, mountain lake. We knew that the white pelicans that we occasionally see in Florida, summer in Utah, but we had heard it was at the Great Salt Lakes out there. While we might see them in brackish water here, we have never seen them on a fresh-water lake.

Another surprise was coming upon a flock of large turkeys in the Rocky Mountain National Park one evening, which helps to explain the lack of quality in the pictures. They were also constantly moving. I don't think there were two that were the same color.

We had never seen a wild turkey with this coloring.

On the road to Maroon Bells, we came upon this mama grouse and her babies. We are pretty sure of this ID. I wanted it to be a ptarmigan, but I think it is a grouse. Either way, an unusual sight for us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Apparently, elk are quite abundant in Colorado. The roads are even equipped with these solar-lit warning signs. 

We were also interested in the escape ramps for wildlife that find themselves on the wrong side of the highway fence. We saw lots of these.

This huge sculpture in antler form adorns a lawn at the Betty Ford Garden in Vail.

This large skull and rack was atop a store.

The first elk we saw in Colorado was on our third day there. We went in the evening to the Rocky Mountain National Park, hoping to avoid human congestion and to see more wildlife. As we were leaving and it was getting dark, a cow was grazing quite near the entry gate.

If you gotta go, you gotta go.

The next day, we saw these guys enjoying the sun at a much higher altitude.

These elk were out enjoying the slopes. The young calves were running and sliding on the snow. 

There are lots of elk in the picture that were not on the snow.

If you click on the picture below, you can see the profile of elk with large racks against the cloudless blue sky.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Colorado is full of marmots! We saw the big fellows everywhere! (They are the size of large house cats.)

Out West, the name marmot refers to a large ground squirrel. In the East, it is an appropriate name for groundhogs, also called woodchucks. Marmots are found around the globe, especially in mountainous areas. I read that in 2010, Alaska  changed Groundhog Day to Marmot Day to recognize the number of marmots in the state.

Here is one on the very top of Mt. Evans-- 14,240 feet above sea level. Marmots bask to build brown fat that protects them from long and severely cold winters.

The fields around the Snow Mountain Ranch were full of their burrows.

Take a look in the window of the old building.

They were on the tundra in the alpine areas. Marmots are mostly vegetarian.

This one was unconcerned by all the attention it was getting.

The same one as above was on a ledge, licking the rock below us. We assume it was to obtain minerals.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I had not been home long from school one afternoon recently when B came to the backdoor and said, "Get your camera!"

That it was a snake, was not a surprise. That it was a young diamondback, was a big surprise. It is the first rattlesnake we have found on our property.

It was so young that is had no rattles nor even a button, just a black spot on the tip of its tail. It was only about 16 inches long. 

It was just beside the entrance to the garage when B spotted it.

Hose, hook and hiss: all have similar form here.

The following day, we came upon its sibling, dead in the road at the end of our block. Same length. Same black spot with no rattles. Hmmmm. Sssssssounds like a hatch.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skink's Got the Blues

We see a lot of these skinks, but this one had a tail dipped in pure cobalt.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Know You Are Not In Florida When...

You know you are not in Florida when the personal ATV's have tracks.

This is the weather---and it's July!

You pass an old gold mine by the highway.

Your B & B hosts post this helpful reminder,

and made a bench from snow skis,

and use ski boots for flower pots.

And here are further signs that you have left Florida, for sure.

And when you have been a week and have not seen a single reptile, you know you are not in Florida anymore.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kind of Creepy!

Coming down from Mt. Evans, we came around a curve and, there up the slope by a driveway, was this neat, full-sized covered-wagon.

A closer inspection revealed the wagon had a driver.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The German Test-driver

B and I had noticed the odd-looking car in the parking lot at the summit of Mt. Evans. B recognized that it was covered in plates to disguise it. When we stopped at a scenic overlook, the driver pulled in also. I asked him about his car. He said he and the car had flown from Germany for a test-drive through various conditions in the United States to record how the newest model was responding. He said it is an AMG-SL by Mercedes. This part of the test was for high altitudes.

We think we saw at least one other identical car on the mountain road. They did not get any racing competition from us!

I checked the website: it will sell for $190,000. I can think of a lot of things I would do with $190,000 before I would buy a car.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bristlecone Pines

On our next to last day in Colorado, we went to Mt. Evans. The drive up to the summit is not for the faint of heart or the weak of brakes.

We stopped at this visitors' center to see the Alpine gardens and the bristlecone pines that grow there. Want to  feel young? Go see the bristlecones! These trees are up to 2,000 years old, though the ones in California (a different subspecies) have lived to just under 5,000.

This tree is 800 years old.

Bristlecones can be identified by the tiny dots of sap on the needles.