West Coast Expedition Day 2 – Off to California, Part One

Have you ever seen the sunrise over the Rockies?  If you haven’t,you are missing out on a lot.

I awoke at 5:30 at the mountain house on May 20th, easily early enough to be able to catch some great views of the sunrise over the mountains.  Our friend’s mountain house sits up high on a hill with no trees growing high enough to spoil the view of the mountains.  So basically, when standing on the front deck, you can see for miles, and within those miles, you have ridges, conifer-covered mountains, and snow-capped mountains.  It was beautiful.

Since I was not yet birding, I could really take time to absorb the lurid beauty of my surroundings.  As I stood there and watched and waited for something to happen, the mountains turned a deep pink color, like that of cotton candy that one would get at a baseball game.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me right away, so I was unable to get a photograph of this exquisite natural phenomenon until after the color died down a bit later on.

After all that excitement, I got dressed, ate breakfast, and was ready to depart, not yet for southern California , but to do some more Colorado birding.  Before departing to a birding location near the airport, I wanted to bird Pine once more.

Once again, I emerged from the warmth of the house and was greeted by the same crisp wintry air as the day before.  As I started off with both adults, all you could hear was the crunch of the brittle snow beneath our feet.  Then, as we followed the dirt road around Pine, you could hear the bird activity picking up.

We started to see branches shaking and hear birds calling; the overall atmosphere reverberating with birds.  We had Black-Chinned Hummingbirds zipping by, Mountain Chickadees flitting in the tops of pine trees, and a Chocolate Lab bounding towards us… uh oh!

One of my only fears are dogs bigger than me, especially fast ones.  This thing was sprinting towards us at full speed, and not slowing down, so our friend simply stepped towards the dog, and started talking to it in a soft, steady voice.  Sure enough, the dog was a teddy bear!  Anyway, I was wondering if this sort of talk would work on birds, if, say, you have a great closeup look at one, and you don’t want it to be spooked and fly.  If you talk to it like that, maybe it would stay.

We rounded a bend in the road, and came to the house of the “Creeper”.  There was even more activity at his stations than the day before.  This time, we got excellent views (did I mention that there was hardly a cloud in the sky?) of Mountain Chickadees, a Black-Capped Chickadee, and a couple of Evening Grosbeaks.  With those kinds of temptations, I couldn’t resist inching my way onto his property once again.

There was only a subtle difference between the dirt road and my location on the man’s property when Mr. Creeper came out his door once again.  I immediately hopped back onto the road.  Angry and hateful as ever, he stepped onto his snow, and, not approaching us any further, started to converse with us.

This is the actual conversation held between us and Creeper.  I recorded it on my phone.

Family friend: Hello!

Creeper: Why is that kid on my property with binoculars?!

Friend:  Well, this kid is a young birdwatcher!

Creeper: I don’t care if he is watching birds or not, it is illegal to trespass on someone else’s property.

Friend: Sir, he just saw some interesting birds at your –

Creeper: I tracked his footsteps all over my property yesterday *hence the name Creeper* (that was a lie. I ventured maybe ten feet max in two places on his property)

Friend: Well, we are sorry, and won’t bother you again.  Have a nice day.  Bye

Creeper:  Bye

So, you can see I had a pretty interesting experience today, and, to top it all off, an instant after the Creeper went back inside, a beautiful male Steller’s Jay came to a nearby ground feeder!  Lifer!

Clingin' to a tree

A poor picture of a Steller's Jay

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