Spring is Coming — Promise

It has been a long cold hard winter along the Front Range of Colorado. We have gotten enough snow in February to wipe out the incipient drought we were headed into, which is a good thing. But it came at the cost of a snowstorm every couple of days. That was hard.

We’re not out of winter yet — March and April are typically our snowiest months in Colorado.

But as the dogs and I went for our morning walk, we also found the first signs that spring is on the way.

Male Northern Flicker — red-shafted variety. Only males have the red stripe on the jaw.

As we walked, we heard the “eh-eh-eh-eh-eh” call of a male Northern Flicker trying out his mating call.

Male Spotted Towhee looking for seeds in the snow.

Further on, we found a Spotted Towhee by his “cha-cha-chaaa” call. Like the flicker, his calls right now are just warm-ups. He quickly dropped down to the snow to hunt for seeds.

Hearing these guys practice their mating calls cheered me up. And as we walked home through the cold, the sun broke through the clouds, promising a sunny day.

Birds coming back

We’ve been following the Bald Eagles at Fort St. Vrain power plant closely this spring. But other birds are showing up, too.

Male Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees scratch in the soil for insects. But in the spring, you can hear the males calling “tche-tche-tche-cheee!”as they perch on the tips of trees. (https://amylaw.blog/2014/06/02/spotted-towhee/)

Chickadee gathering hair from an old suet feeder.

A pair of black-capped chickadees spent the winter in the neighborhood. It looks like they might nest here this summer, too. Actually, we’ve had chickadees around for a couple of years. https://amylaw.blog/2018/05/03/a-little-housekeeping/

Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the railing of a fence in the yard of the people behind us. They keep chickens and have cotton-tailed rabbits living under the porch.

Last fall there was a Red-Tailed Hawk cruising through the neighborhood. https://amylaw.blog/2018/12/13/red-tailed-hawk/

I don’t know for sure that this is the same bird, but as I pointed out last fall, it is a little unusual for them to be hunting in the semi-wooded suburbs.

And this bird is hunting. Another neighbor said that he came out to get the morning paper, and it was ripping up a rabbit it had caught in his front yard. He said it didn’t fly off as he approached, so he decided to get the paper later.

Today I heard a Crow burbling as it flew fast overhead. It joined another to harass the Red-tail, at times almost driving it into the ground.

With all that drama going on overhead, I almost missed the ringing zipping sound of a Broadtailed Hummingbird heading west into the mountains. https://amylaw.blog/2018/05/09/summer-cant-be-far-away/

I always wonder what they eat this early in the spring. https://amylaw.blog/2017/05/18/hummers-in-snowstorm/And then I go make up some sugar water to put in the feeders for them.

Spring Knocking at the Door

They may be having bomb cyclones in the East.winter storm riley. They may be getting feet of snow in the West. Winter Storm Quinn Pounding the West But in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, for better or for worse, Spring is knocking at the door.

How do I know that Spring is on it’s way? As I walked the dogs this morning, the air smelled, well, spring-y — wet and peaty.

The birds are beginning to sing. I heard the “wicka wicka wicka” of northern flickers.

northern flicker-1_edited-1.JPG

And the “chi chi chi chaaa” of spotted sided towhees.Spotted towhee in Gambel oak-07_edited-1.jpg

Not to seem ungrateful, but we could use a little helping of the storms to either side of us.

Spotted Towhee

I love to wake up to the sound of birds singing. The “twup tewerp” of robins, the trills of house finches, the hyena-like call of Northern flickers. But in the past few years, I’ve started to hear a new sound in the mornings: “Cha cha cha che e e e ! Cha cha cha che e e e!” It took me a long time to find the owner of this song, and then I realized it was in the shrubs next to me. And when I realized that, I realized that Spotted Towhees were all over the neighborhood.

Spotted towhee in Gambel oak-07_edited-1 According to Cornell’s Birds of North America website http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/263/articles/introduction, Spotted Towhees breed in the plains, mountain shrub and lower elevations of the mountains, scratching for insects and seeds in the litter. When staking their claim to territory, though, they perch in the upper branches of a shrub and sing. A nice addition to the dawn chorus.Singing spotted towhee_edited-1