Small but Mighty— The Northern Saw-whet Owl Small but Mighty— The Northern Saw-whet Owl The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small owl (a mere eight inches tall) with a streaked chest and a distinctive white V stretching above its eyes—a winsome and (if you’re a little mammal) ferocious owl. With a chunky body, stubby tail,…

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Happy as a Lark…Believe Me

A cloudy, blustery, cold December day at the foot of the Colorado Rockies and the three of us were doing the Christmas Bird Count. As my husband drove slowly, our friend sat in the front seat scouring the landscape for likely places to check for birds. Opposite a stubble-covered farm field, he hollered, “STOP!”  “Seriously?…

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The Hermit Thrush

For five years, my husband and I covered a Breeding Bird Survey route in Colorado’s high country. One morning during breeding season, starting ½ hour before dawn on a 24.5-mile stretch of road, we stopped the car every half mile for three minutes to count all the birds we saw or heard (mostly heard). Some…

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Well Worth the Search— Lewis’s Woodpecker What bird climbs trees like a woodpecker but feeds mostly by acrobatically sallying forth from a perch or circling high in the air to catch flying insects? What chops up acorns and other nuts, stores them the crevices of tree bark, and guards them all winter—at times, having stand-offs…

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The Northern Shoveler

As a medium-sized duck, the Northern Shoveler seems just too small for its preposterously large, flat, broad-tipped bill. A paint pallet on webbed feet, the male’s breeding plumage (September through May) borders on gaudy, with his bright white chest, rusty sides, and green head. Note especially the gleaming white chest. Only one other non-diving (also…

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The Western Bluebird— Carrying the Sky Above and Reflecting the Earth Below At the wildlife rehabilitation center, I grabbed a dish of fresh mealworms and headed to an outdoor aviary.There, 11 hand-raised fledgling Western Bluebird orphans were honing their flying and foraging skills before release back into the wild. As I stepped into the aviary,…

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American Pipit-a wonderful and rare find… Five years ago, rain loomed in the forecast for our first Oceanside/Carlsbad/Vista Christmas Bird Count.  My rain gear and waterproof binoculars stood at the ready in the car.  I asked others in our group what fun or interesting birds we might see. All agreed on the huge flock of…

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Metallica—The Allen’s Hummingbird

Living in Colorado, we had a pretty easy time identifying the four common hummingbird species. Sounds like a cricket flying by, showing bright red throat feathers?  Broad-tailed. Slender, dark-headed with no rufous or buffiness anywhere?  Black-chinned. So tiny that it has to stretch to reach the feeder port from the perch?  Definitely Calliope. A shock…

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Nature’s Path Back

Wildfire and wildlife—what’s the first image that comes to your mind?  I’m 7 years old, sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching the fire scene in the Disney animated classic Bambi.  Birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, our protagonist deer all flee through scorching embers, swirling smoke, and crashing, flaming branches.  That scene seemed to last for…

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Hummingbird Feeders

Feeding hummingbirds can be simple and inexpensive.  Here’s a time- and hummer-tested recipe. Use a 1-to-4 ratio of white table sugar to water (for example, ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water).  Don’t use honey, brown sugar, organic cane sugar, artificial sweeteners—just table sugar. Heat the water in the microwave; in my microwave,…

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