Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Favorite Photos of '13

I feel like I have been slacking on the blog the last few days. Oh, I have been reading about your adventures and musings, commenting along the way, fretting all the while about what I could write.You all have such good ideas and interesting points of view both on life and from your camera lens. There certainly isn't much going on around here. The country is in the grips of what the meteorologists are calling the polar something or other. We have 0 and below 0 temps and some snow, but it is winter. It is supposed to be cold. We want snow for the moisture that it contains. We want the snow in January when it is supposed to snow, not in April when we want sweet showers for those gorgeous May flowers. The general consensus seems to be that January is a rather bland month. What happens in January? We start to yearn for the garden. The seed companies know that, so they start sending out their wish books. We salivate and ooooh and ahhhh over the the gorgeous plant material and begin making our garden plans months in advance. When we aren't pining away for our garden, we are getting our desk in order for the new year as we begin thinking about the dreaded preparation for Apirl 15, tax day.

January, blah as it may be, does have a bit to offer, here at least: the Denver National Western Stock Show,  a huge stock show with rodeo and horse shows and many other attractions comes to town for two weeks. I have not been in years and I thought perhaps we should take the grand kids this year. It is always brutally cold for the event, and the stockmen like it so that their livestock don't get too hot. After all, they bring their winter coats with them, except for the show horses.

So, wondering what to write about, I have just gone through a year's worth of iPhotos for inspiration. What started out to be a simple little project of finding favorite photos of 2013 has turned into a major photo extravaganza, so I think I will work with themes. I should get a couple of good posts out of what I gleaned from my photo library.

Theme One: Birds of The Garden Spot: We have a variety of birds here in Northern Colorado which we feed. We get the usuals year round: English sparrows, house finches, grackles, starlings, doves, robins, and a number of different hawks that prey on other birds, mice, voles, and I suppose our sweet little wild cottontails. So when I see migrating birds feasting at the bird feeders, I grab the camera.

I took this photo out of my bathroom window. While not a particularly pleasant subject, it does represent daily life at the Garden Spot, a natural predator, the little Sparrow hawk takes its meal.

We think this is a Swainson's hawk and he is the reason why the hens are not allowed to free range when we cannot keep a watchful eye on them. The hawks are here year round. They hunt the pastures for mice and occasionally they will catch a sparrow or even one of the plentiful and pesty ring necked doves.

Flickers are frequent visitors to the feeders and the birdbath, heated in the winter. They are colorful, but thankfully we have a brick home with metal soffit or they would be terrible pests.

We have both the hairy woodpecker and the downy woodpecker, sometime hard to tell them apart. The hairy woodpecker is larger with a more pointed head. The males both have the red spot on the back of their head and the females are plain, so the best way is to look at the size of the beak and the head.

Downy Male

Here is a Mountain Chickadee pecking away at bargain suet. We also have nuthatches, but while not rare in Colorado, they seem to be hard to spot here at the Garden Spot. We have had glimpses of the pygmy nuthatch on the old Russian olive that we cut down.

Blue Jays spend a lot of time at the feeders. Their favorite are the shelled peanuts. If you feed them unsalted shelled peanuts, in the Spring you will find where they stashed their peanuts by the empty peanut shells left behind. They are characters, often imitating other birds. Once one finds the feeder filled, he will call in his friends and family.

While not seen at the Garden Spot, my Bird Review would not be complete without the swans of Bittersweet Park in Greeley photographed on a very cold March afternoon. They did not come back this year. I was quite disappointed.

We do not have the Northern Cardinal in Colorado, although there have been rare sightings. So when we vacationed in Texas, my goal was to get a photo. They are easy enough to spot--bright red flashes flying through the air from one live oak to another,  and we can hear them, but to photograph one in the wild, oh wow.

 In this second photo, the male was feeding at a deer feeder on the ranch that we visited where the owners regularly feed the deer--not to hunt them, but just watch them eat.

A certain herald of spring, Goldfinches are a favorite and plentiful here at the Garden Spot. They come in pairs to feeders filled with niger thistle seeds and they enjoy the bird bath, as well. They are easy and fun to photograph, as well as entertaining as they sing their spring song. They are not too skittish when they see me approach the patio door to photograph them.

The evening grosbeak, both male and female, hang around all summer long. Over the years I have photographed three different varieties at the old house where we had small water garden that attracted all sorts of migrating birds: the rose breasted grosbeak, quite rare for these part and the blue grosbeak, also not frequently seen.

Humming birds are plentiful here, too, and such fun to photograph.

Next to the cardinal, photographing a male lazuli bunting was another "I can't believe it" moment. They usually come in pairs, both males and if we look really close and pay attention we may see the females, a dull brown. We also will have another  blue bird, the indigo bunting, that comes around some years. I have seen them once here at the Garden Spot. They are just passing through to the mountains.

Another photo goal is to photograph the owls here that I never see, but often hear. We have two varieties, the barn owl and the great horned owls that we hear at night. There is a pair in the area, but they are very hard find, perhaps because I just do not know where to look for them.

To photograph the birds, I use a Canon Rebel, 12 pixel DSL with a a 70mm to 300mm telephoto lens. Most of the photos are taken from my back door off the patio, a safe distance that the does not seem to startle the birds. Some are calm enough that they don't mind movement, others are quite skittish and leave at slightest bit of motion. In the spring there will be a plethora of warblers that migrate from South America. Once we get our main water feature built with the running waterfall, the birds will come. Can't wait. They will be attracted by the sound of running water. The Garden Spot will be the destination spot for the all of the birds migrating through on their way to the Colorado Rocky Mountains or even the Canadian Rockies. 

Next: Colorado Wildlife through my lens. 

See you soon.


  1. Denver of the east, a small area north of Charlotte, called Denver, North Carolina. We have many of the same birds, but I have not seen the grosbeak. He looks as if he is peering right at the camera with a big personality. Also the lazuli is certainly not seen in these parts. Nice post. I look forward to the Colorado Wildlife through my Lens.

  2. You get such an amazing crowd of birds...I can only dream of seeing most of them.

    Oh, and your comments always make me laugh...no wonder.


  3. Hi Ann! LOVELY bird photos! Wow! I hope you are warming up!
    By the way, I would LOVE to come up and see you for tea and antiquing. Let's plan a summer outing. Then you can come down here and see me for tea and a walk!

  4. Quite a lot of different birds. Especially hummingbirds, lazuli buntings, grossbeaks and cardinals are interesting. The little sparrow hawk just looks cute on his pole.

  5. You have a lot of the same birds that we have. Wonderful photos of them all.

  6. A nice review of the birds in your backyard. It is tough to see the circle of life in action but we have to stand by and let it happen.

  7. You write beautifully and sharing your photo album of these magnificent birds is a real treat. Many of these do not visit here. My feeders and birdbaths are overflowing with little song sparrow, bluebirds, towhees, small finches and of course the resident mockingbirds and scrub-jays. It so wonderful to have these beauties for us to enjoy and knowing that soon the snow in your area will melt away giving life to all that it has protected and nourished in this cold winter. We have unbelievably warm weather coming next week, again, and I am wishing for some rain for my gardens.

    Wrap yourself up with a cozy blanket and enjoy those photo albums and a good cup of tea and those fabulous seed catalogs.. Spring will be here...

  8. Don't feel bad about your blog being quiet, it is winter, after all. I've noticed a lot of garden blogs are quiet about now. I'm guilty too, so I decided to add more homemaking posts to my blog. After all, now that I'm not working, homemaking is my specialty, while waiting for the garden to come back.

  9. You are so lucky to have such a variety of birds - excellent photos.