Happy Great Backyard Bird Count! Since I currently have approximately $37 to make it through the rest of the month, I have refrained from buying bird feeders for my new abode in Colorado, but I am counting with the best of them and the weekend certainly lived up to the “Great” part of the name. I did get outside to do a bit of exploring this weekend, and all week the House Finches and Flickers continued serenading the neighborhood with their never-ending symphonies. I’ve been here for just over a month now and I am loving every second of it. I hadn’t really intended to keep up this whole blogging thing, but when I think of birding quips while I’m out on my own I realize the only really appropriate forum for them is a blog (we can’t have my Facebook getting too overrun with my hilarity now, can we?). Plus it’s a fun way to keep track of everything I’ve done without painstakingly writing it out in a journal, and I have no friends here so this blog is essentially my surrogate friend.
Every day I find a new reason to love Colorado and am continuously realizing just how active and wonderful the birding community is around here. I’m finally starting to get situated in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Biology Department. I have finally worked up the courage to use the grad student lounge without feeling like a giant poser and I do my work in my shared office with people who are WAY more legit than I am. I’m fairly certain every new grad student goes through the “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing” phase, so I’m just trying to tell myself that eventually it will fade and I will finally feel like a fully-fledged scientist. I’m taking three classes this semester, all of which are very quantitative. Embarrassingly enough, my hardest one is definitely my sophomore-level Linear Algebra class for which I’m not even getting credit. As hard as it is, I’m already seeing its applications in all of the scientific literature I’ve been reviewing to write my proposal.
Sometimes I get so excited while reading a paper about waterfowl ecology that I have to stop for a second and walk around. I think it might be an understatement to say that I am in love with this project and everything I’m learning while completing it. Over Spring break (which is in THREE WEEKS! How is that possible?) I’m heading down to my field site at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in southern Colorado to meet all of the refuge folks and take part in the Monte Vista Crane Festival. I’m so jazzed about getting to know the lay of the land and the people who manage it. The field season will be here before I know it and the amount of logistics I have to figure out before then is mind-boggling. Better go finish this episode of Bob’s Burgers…
Anyway, on to my half-hearted attempt at birding for the weekend. I woke up on Saturday morning (Valentine’s Day) after a night of wine-watching P.S. I Love You and skyping with some friends from back east with an obscene amount of energy considering the amount of wine I had recently imbibed. At 5:30 AM after attempting to fall back to sleep for about a half hour, I decided birding would be a more beneficial use of my time. I set off to Barr Lake State Park by Denver to see if I could relocate the Barn Owl that is fairly reliable in those parts (a heart-faced bird for a heart-filled day…gag me).
I hung around its nest box for about an hour and a half, searching every nook and cranny of the trees nearby with no luck. The joggers, birders, and lovestruck gallavanters arrived in force around 9 AM, so I decided to head over to Guanella Pass to find some White-Tailed Ptarmigan before heading home to take part in my own Valentine’s festivities later that afternoon. Little did I realize that Guanella Pass was a solid 2 hour drive from Barr Lake and another 2.5 hours from Fort Collins (i.e. home). I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful drives of my life, and had I not been battling time, I would have slowly meandered my way up the winding mountain pass. The hairpin turns got the best of me, however, and by the time I got back down to the bottom (having driven all the way to the top and immediately turning around sans ptarmigan because I was out of time) I feared my little car would soon become a vomitorium. I almost never get carsick, especially when I’m the one driving, so this experience was a novelty I do not wish to relive anytime soon.
I pulled over in the adorable town of Georgetown, Colorado and got some tea in the Dusty Rose Tea Room. While waiting for my tea to steep, I naturally bored the proprietor to death with birding stories and she whipped out a photo taken in town a few years back. She said nonchalantly, “you know, we had people coming in every day during that time saying they were searching for this little bird. I don’t know anything about birds but apparently it was pretty rare.” THIS was the photo she showed me:
Just a Rufous-Collared Sparrow, no big deal. I will most definitely be returning to this mecca of snow and tea, next time hopefully with more time for ptarmigans and some Dramamine. Although the day was relatively bird-less, I got to see some spectacular scenery and finish off the night with a Valentine’s viewing of Amelie at the local theater (complete with a wine/popcorn/chocolate deal). Now I am off to study for my very first Linear Algebra test this Thursday. Hopefully this blog will not become yet another distraction from my actual studies, but I do hope to update at least once a week (since I really only get to go birding on weekends anyway). Fare thee well.
P.S. I made a Bio page with my Instragram handle and my full name if you want to add me on Facebook. Just click on the little side bar thing at the top right of the page (it’s just three lines) and it’s on there. Feel free to follow/add me!