Where’s My Telephoto Lens

When I packed for our long hike on my last day in Colorado I was faced with deciding which camera and which lens(es) I should carry. In the end, I decided that I would carry the smaller camera with the wide-angle lens, and leave my 100-400mm lens at the house. After all, I wasn’t likely to see many birds, and, more importantly, I didn’t want to have to carry all that extra weight up the mountain.

Of course, we had barely arrived in the park when Jen spotted a large bull moose out in a meadow next to the road. If I had brought my 400mm lens, this would have been the best shot of a moose I had ever gotten.


On the other hand, since I had a hard time keeping up with the fourth grader climbing at this altitude I was grateful that I didn’t need a 400mm lens to capture shots of the lakes and surrounding mountains.


It would have taken me at least fourteen shots with my 400mm lens to stitch together a panorama like this.


We didn’t end up seeing the beautiful Aspen fall foliage that I had hoped to see, at least not on the hike, but these brilliant red leaves contrast beautifully with these granite rocks.


As much as I hated missing the shot of the moose, I probably made the right choice in which lens to bring along. Not only did I get some nice shots of the scenery, I captured shots of the family that will remind me of this hike for quite a while, long after all the aches and pains have disappeared.

The Elusive Blue Jay

During this visit to Colorado I noted that there had been several local sightings of Blue Jays, a bird I had never seen. Naturally, I keyed my birding adventures those three days to places where they had recently been sighted. Not unexpectedly, the closest I came to see a flash of blue feathers was a Great Blue Heron and a Belted Kingfisher, which I can easily find down the hill from me at home.

Resigned to not seeing a Blue Jay this visit, either, I went to the grandkids’ mile race on Thursday morning and took my camera to record their efforts. I had just finished photographing the final race and was sitting on a large rock waiting for the final awards when something raucous called to me from a large tree nearby.


It didn’t take but an instant to realize that since I had given up looking for the Blue Jay it had come looking for me, instead.

It even briefly glanced back to confirm I had seen it.


I had. I’d already walked around the other side of the tree and waited to see if it would appear.


In the end I think I got a shot of every side of the bird except from the classic angle


that best shows those tail feathers.


I might have eventually got that shot, too, but, being the dutiful grandfather that I am, I left the jay to its own devices when I heard the 5th-grade awards being announced. As it turned out, I ended up being on the wrong side to get a decent shot of Zoe getting her medal, but such is the luck of the casual photographer.

Of course, it didn’t help when I went online a few days later and saw that Shelley Powers (Burningbird) had posted a beautiful shot of a Blue Jay on her fountain before I could post my shots.

A Stark Beauty

On the second day the Webster kids were in class I went to the Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm, which is isolated from most of the urban growth found in Broomfield. Life is rugged here, and that ruggedness is reflected in the trees and grasslands.


I walked a long ways on the preserve without seeing many birds, though eventually I did see some of the raptors I had expected to see. This Red-Tailed Hawk flew from a distant tree over my head on the way to the next tree,


too far away to follow.

Perhaps the presence of this Sharp-Shinned Hawk


explained the scarcity of small birds.

It must have been nearly a mile away that I finally encountered this White-Crowned Sparrow,


followed by this strange little fellow.


I was pretty sure I’d never seen a bird quite like this one and it wasn’t until I got home and could check out my Stokes bird that I discovered that is the crown of a one year old White-Crowned Sparrow.

I was equally befuddled by this little guy hopping from branch to branch busily munching on what few leaves there still was on these plants.


I doubt I would have ever identified it if I hadn’t spotted this small flock of House Finches a little further down the trail.


Birding has led me to many unknown places in the last few years because it has taught me to find beauty in places I would surely have ignored before taking it up.

Flickers Everywhere

Turns out that getting back into the routine I had before my trip to Colorado has been a lot harder than usual. My biggest stumbling block came Monday night when I awoke with a 101-degree temperature. I ended up in Urgent Care this morning because my regular physician didn’t have any appointments open today. After two hours of processing, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with a packet of drugs. Hopefully, it’s a mild case because I seem to be getting a little better each day, with the possible exception of last night when I must have only managed about two hours of sleep between coughing bouts. So, it looks like it might be a little longer before I’m back to a regular schedule.

I think that if I had gotten some absolutely great birding shots on my Colorado trip that I could have forced myself to post an entry or two during the week, but, as it turned out, birding in Colorado this time of year is nearly as slow as birding in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. I’m pretty sure that this is the least number of birds/species I’ve seen there since I took up birding.

The highlight of the first day birding was the sighting of several Red-Shafted/Yellow-Shafted Flickers. This one was waiting on a post as I started my morning birding trip.


Since this doesn’t look like the kind of Flickers I see banging away on my tin chimney early in the morning, I’m assuming it was either a male Yellow Shafted Flicker or a hybrid. I’d need a lot more personal observations to make a positive identification.

The highlight of the morning walk was this “totem pole” of Flickers.


I assumed it must be family, though I’m not sure young Flickers look like this, but the Flickers in my neighborhood are way too territorial to flock together like this. Of course, you don’t find nearly as many anthills in Tacoma as I saw in my short walk along this creek.

That morning I saw Flickers everywhere I went,


but when I came back the next day when there was better light, there wasn’t a Flicker in sight.

Almost as surprising as the large number of Flickers was the scarcity of Magpies. In the same area where I’d previously seen several families of Magpies, I found a single Magpie in a distant tree.


It was a rather slow morning, but after a hectic weekend of soccer games it provided a nice break and some much-needed exercise.