A Year For Birds

Introductory Photo - Singing Junco - courtesy of David Slaughter.

It seems every season at Elk Lake is punctuated by some particularly twist. This has been the year for birds and wildflowers. Thus in my next few posts I hope to share some of my sightings (and those shared by a kind guest and friend) of the birds and flowers which have brightened our lives this spring and summer.

I do not know whether to credit the wet spring, or a stiff wind which blew them off course, or maybe I am just seeing them for the first time. Whatever the reason, I have spotted several birds around the resort which I have never seen before - at least not right here. Some I have seen in other locations in the valley. Some I have never seen here at all (although I know they are all at least rare visitors).

Not that seeing something 'unique' is all that unusual at Elk Lake. Every year I find a new flower or new bird. Every year I see something I missed on previous hikes. Every year there are birds or animals seen in places we do not expect to see them. Thus I am sure these sightings are not as unusual as they seem. Nonetheless they struck me as worthy of note.

Early in the season I shared with you our 'blackbird on steriods'

Yes, A Common Grackle - but not so common in these parts! I also shared a photo of a little visitor which excited at least a few of our Audubon folks

The illusive Ruby Crowned Kinglet is a bird which is not as 'common' as some and had yet to be seen (at least by me) around the resort. Another more common bird which was an uncommon sight at the Lodge this year

A 'common' Goldfinch.

While common in some areas, these little birds had never graced us with their presence - until late May. Then, whether stopping for a rest during the less than friendly weather or just taking the scenic route, my finch socks were suddenly overloaded with these colorful birds for two days. Then, like a dream, they were gone. During the same period, another visitor, seen occasionally in the valley but very rarely at the Lodge showed up (and brought his mate).

While Black-Headed Grosbeaks are supposed to be common in our area, they are not as commonly seen as one might think.

This was only the second time I'd seen one at the lodge, and the first time I'd seen a pair. This photo, captured by one of our generous guests, David Slaughter, is much better than my own. I am so glad he was willing to share!

Another bird species I commonly see on my spring walks are grouse. Commonly see and commonly photograph are often two entirely different things. However, one late spring hike produced photo opportunities for both 'common' varieties

The Ruffed Grouse seem to hang out in the draws.

While the Blue Grouse tend to prefer the ridges.

My next feathered friend is not such an uncommon sight. Yet I have found them illusive and quite camera shy. As a result, this photo is less than what I'd hoped and yet it at least proves he came for a visit.

While Western Tanagers are seen occassionally, my next find are not only less common around Elk Lake (I've only seen them on Elk Lake Road in the spring. Always in the same spot. Always gone in a few days never to be seen (in our area) again for the season). Thus when I spotted this pair along the road (making quite a racket, too), I took advantage of the opportunity.

Long Billed Curlews are not known for standing around posing for photos. When I spotted a few downy heads bobbing in the grass, I understood why this pair posed so nicely!

There are more photos I want to share, but for now I will close with what I consider my 'best' bird photo opportunity of the season!

Not only are Great Grey Owls HUGE! Not only are they majestic and magnificent and a marvelous specimen of the owl family - they are also unusual and unique! Thus when this one landed in a tree not 30 feet off the side of the road to Hidden Lake I was absolutely thrilled.

So much to share. So little time! You can bet I'll be back with more stories and photos to share.

Lady of the Lake


mm said...

Dear Lady of the Lake,

I'm going to have to come back to your blog and the history of the Centennial Vally and the Elk Lake Lodge many times. You see I too have fallen in love with the area.

I'm an avian photographer as is my friend Ron Dudley and we have visted the Red Rock Lakes Refuge twice since mid-June of this year, camping at the lower lake.

I enjoyed reading the history of the valley and the lodge, then clicked on the link to your blog. I am glad I did.

The wildness, quiet, and solitude is enchanting. The birds and wildlife are delightful. We have had some incredible opportunities with Short-eared Owls and other birds on our trips there.

We haven't as of yet gone up the road to the lodge, perhaps on our next visit.

Mia McPherson

Steve Kirk said...

Do people come to your place to go birding?