Monday, May 27, 2019

New Places, New Blessed Little Animal Faces!

I think I see more doves than any other bird in Wyoming, but I really haven't had a chance to get out of the house and look--it's been snowing since I moved in around the end of February! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I don't know how to say this anymore--it was a shocking, painful year. I lost family members, most of my animal pack (I still have all four bunnies) and was forced to sell my house and move after having to replace the roof three times due to freak hailstorms in Colorado. 

So, this blog has traveled from my house in Texas, to New Mexico, back to my home state of Colorado, and now I am in Cheyenne, Wyoming! 

Yep, I'm in Cheyenne! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There is plenty to see here, too. My yard is filled with squirrels--always popular on this blog--and doves, finches, there's a few hawks who have territories nearby (I keep my chihuahua, Emma, inside!) Canadian Geese, of course, and I'm just getting started here!

I photographed these two birds in my neighborhood. They gather in large flocks, but are a bit shy. I thought they were starlings, but now I'm not sure. If you know, please leave a comment! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

One of the first things I noticed about Wyoming is the amount of Pronghorn Antelope. My neighbors are fond of saying, "There's more antelope in Wyoming than people!" That could be true. Wyoming is among the largest states in the country (I checked five different websites and they all gave different answers. Sigh. I know it's big country here, though!) However, it also has the fourth lowest population...and plenty of antelope. 

Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The first trip I made with my truck full of boxes I was stopped on the road near my home by two baby antelope meandering in front of my truck. The vehicles behind me couldn't see the little critters, it was rush hour traffic, and people were getting angry. I didn't know what to do, so I called the local police. The dispatcher told me not to do anything, just sit in my truck and wait because, if I wave my arms or try to coax them out of the road they will run into traffic. It's apparently the law--you call the police and they take care of the animals roaming down the middle of the street. Fine with me! 

This may be a pregnant female, but I'm not an expert. I photographed this Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne around February. Apparently, the Air Force base is a popular hangout for Pronghorn Antelope. Photograph by Darla Sue Dollman.

The moving process--buying, selling, packing, etc.--took over a year, which is another reason this blog has been a bit quiet, in addition to the grieving process. I chose Wyoming because it's so close to my home state of Colorado--Cheyenne is, I think, five minutes from the Colorado border. 

I've noticed this buffalo silhouette outside Cheyenne for years and thought it was a symbol of our Great American West. It's actually hiding cell phone towers, lol! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Not surprisingly, the weather here is nearly the same as what I encountered at my former home in Greeley, Colorado--wild and crazy! The first week I was here my furnace broke down. Thankfully, I was forced to stay with a friend in Colorado because there was one blizzard after another. I had already moved my house plants and lost all but a few of them. My four foot rosemary is now a bonsai. I finally had a new furnace installed and what happens? A Bombocyclone! That's right--a snow cyclone on land. That was an experience! 

The Bombocyclone was insane! I'll write more on this on my Wild West Weather blog. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Just when we thought it was finally over, another storm hit. Ten inches of sloppy, heavy snow. It was so heavy that when I woke up at four in the morning to check on my trees I noticed one was bent over completely and touching the ground. I was certain it would snap in half before I could hit the snow off with a broom, and the snow kept coming. Like everyone else, I already had plants in the ground and covered them with clay pots when I heard about this last snow storm--five days ago--and surprisingly, all of the plants lived! 

Last week's snowstorm. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

So the snow started to slow down, the birds appeared, the trees were blooming, and I discovered I have a hummingbird living in a tree in my yard! I was prepared. I had a feeder. I filled it up and ran out to the covered porch, hung it on a hook, and she is a happy bird! 

Like squirrels, I seem to attract these little birds. This was our "house Hummingbird" when we lived at Carter Lake in Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The hummingbird feeder is still beneath the covered porch because now we are in hail/tornado season. 

I was shopping with my granddaughter in Greeley, Colorado, when we walked outside and realized the clouds were rotating madly! We made it to safety and I prepared to drive back to Cheyenne. I checked the weather, and it was fine in Cheyenne. It was NOT fine at the border between Wyoming and Colorado! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

We've had tornadoes, funnel clouds, watches, warnings, and massive amounts of hail for the past week. I hope that the next time I check in I'll be able to share more photos of little critters because right now, everyone is taking cover! I was writing these past few lines and the house shook with thunder! It's back!!!

Another snowstorm? No, this is HAIL!! This is actually my back porch, and there's so much hail that when I walked to the garage to check on the rabbits I left footprints on the porch! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.










Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado

Cormorant at Greeley's Veteran's Park in Sherwood. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

My two oldest grandchildren and I had a wonderful surprise while visitng the park recently. None of us had ever seen a Cormorant before other than in pictures, and there was five or six of them in the lake! There are approximately 40 species of cormorants, and we were blessed to have a small flock at Bittersweet, our local park in Greeley, Colorado. 

When I first saw them drifting across the lake I thought they were the strangest gathering of ducks I'd ever seen. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them as "gangly" and "prehistoric looking," and I'd say that's an accurate description. 

I was watching them from a distance, so I still thought they were ducks. It wasn't until one flew into a nearby tree that I realized they were not ducks at all. The flight into the tree was odd, as well. The bird chose a tall three with then branches that bent beneath its weight and swung back and forth in the breeze. If I was a bird that size I would have chosen a much larger, sturdier branch, but this bird was perfectly content to sit at the very top of this thin-branched tree, perhaps because it provided the bird with a better view of the neighborhood. 

Cormorant. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Judging from the photos, I believe these birds were Double-Crested Cormorants. They have a wingspan of approximately 3 1/2 feet--not quite the width of a hawk or eagle, which may explain why I thought they were ducks in spite of their size. 

They looked dark. Actually, I thought they were large, black birds. When one flew into a tree and I was able to see it up close I realized it was actually wearing some fine, fancy feathers! It had orange on its face, too, and shimmering blue eyes. 

Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It's possible they were looking for a nesting spot. It is that time of year! Cormorants also have an interesting home life. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Double-crested Cormorants often build their nests where they can reach direct sunlight. When the chicks break out of their eggs, the parents provide them with shade and a cool drink of wather that they pour from their own mouths into the mouths of their chicks. Then, when the chicks are big enough to leave home, they hang out in groups, like little cormorant chick cliques, but they always return home for dinner, though. 

Cormorant taking off across the water. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Sources: 

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

Love Lies Bleeding, I was also told it is called Bleeding Heart. It's one of the first flowers to start blooming beside my backyard pond and hangs over the stream, flowers dripping into the water.  

In Colorado the last snow comes anytime between April and even the first of June, so it's difficult to say when spring starts and summer begins. I usually go by the temperature. It's been in the high 90s this past week, so I think we can safely say we skipped spring and went straight into summer! 

I've missed my wisteria from Texas so very much and talk about the flowers so often that when I took my 12 year old granddaughter, Layla, flower shopping this spring she recognized them on sight. I now have three large, healthy vines on my sun porch waiting to be planted. I may try to grow one on the sun porch, see if I can create a jungle atmosphere. 

And June is here. My birthday month, and the birthday month that I share with one of my grandsons who calls me his "Birthday Buddy" It's a great honor to be remembered by a young child who first shared his "big day" with you when he was a year old. I still remember that warm afternoon by the pool in Texas, watching him splash in the water, later returning to the river near our home. It was like a dream, like a song. Summertime, and the living is easy. Hush, little baby don't you cry. 

And as the weather gets hot the babies come out of their nests. Our local momma squirrel was once again blessed by God with twin males. They chase each other around the large tree in my front yard for hours. It's great fun to watch. 

The peanut eaters. There's always some controversy over squirrels. I wish people could understand that all of God's creatures have a role to play, but listening to the complains, one sometimes wonders if humans believe the earth was created only for them. Sometimes, it's best not to listen. 


Pansies. Photos by Darla Sue Dollman. 

My grandchildren call these "Happy Face Flowers." I have one granddaughter in my collection of grandchildren and these are her favorites. It's already getting too hot for them, though. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And the warm, summer colors are already making their appearance, preparing for the bright Fourth of July red white and blue arrangements. I've thought of planting a Fourth of July garden before, but I like the natural arrangements best. 

Whie Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Scarlet Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Blue Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Purple Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

White Iris in the Rain. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The surprise blessing in our neighborhood this year and such a wonderful gift from God was the wide variety and abundance of iris blooms. It's been spectacular, and they're still going. My neighbors and I have been exchanging gifts of flowers for months now--flowers are best when shared. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman\
Two of my favorite colors. 'Feel free to share with us if you know the name of this flower. I have a wide variety of colors growing alongside my backyard pond.

Blue Iris in bloom. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Another view of the many blue iris in our neighborhood. This beauty made its appearance next to my mailbox--as I said, flowers are best when shared! 










Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Black-Billed Magpies, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and Woodpeckers in Colorado

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It was a lovely Easter weekend. I spent hours watching the children search for eggs on the large property of a family member, but I also had the opportunity to watch the spring birds hovering around her porch, seeking snacks and singing songs. 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a magpie. It was at Carter Lake in Colorado. There was a family of them, and the father was feeding one of the children, practically sticking his entire head inside the youngster's mouth. I was fascinated. When my granddaughter, Layla, saw the Black-Billed Magpie fly overhead on Easter she was ecstatic. I knew I would have to wait, patiently, for the bird to return so I could take a photograph for Layla, and the bird not only returned, but posed for the photograph! 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

This handsome fella has a beautiful tail, but it's so long it's difficult to see. It reminded me of the Scissor-Tail Flycatchers I used to try so hard to photograph in Texas (they are a bit shy). Flycatcher's have tails so long that the have to land on thin branches or wires. The older the bird, the longer the tail. They are called the Birds of Paradise of Texas. I would say the same of our Magpies! 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There were many beautiful birds hopping around the porch on Easter and they were surprisingly comfortable with the large flock of children running around! There was about a dozen Dark-Eyed Juncos fluttering around the porch. They were slate-colored and quite lovely. 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

In Oregon there are Dark-Eyed Juncos with black heads and brown bodies, but in Colorado we have the slate-colored Dark-Eyed Juncos. Both are in the sparrow family. They have white outer tail feathers that are very attractive when they're in flight. 

Dark-Eyed Junco cracking a seed in its beak. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Juncos like forest areas, and we were in a forested area on Easter. The Dark-Eyed Junco also builds its nest on or near the ground, which explains why the photos show them on piles of pine needles. They are also friendly with many other bird species. The Juncos were hopping about with the woodpecker moving freely through their flock--I saw none of the aggression that is so prevelant in some bird species like Cardinals and Hummingbirds. 

This lovely creature was photographed in Drake, Colorado on Easter. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live in Greeley, Colorado, in a highly-populated area near busy streets and noisy shopping centers, so I am always surprised by the large number of beautiful creatures that I see every day. There is at least two woodpeckers living in the trees near my home, and I can hear them every time I step outside, tap, tap, tapping on the trees. To me, a country girl trapped in a city home, the sound is not at all irritating. It is like music to my soul.

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had the opportunity to photograph a woodpecker up-close over the Easter weekend while visiting family in Drake, Colorado. There was two of them hopping around trees near the porch where I was sitting. One appeared to be looking for food, while the other was busy drillling a hole in a tree.  

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The exact identity of this beauty still alludes me. I thought I was photographing a red-headed woodpecker, but the red, as you can see, is only in a band across the back of its head, which could mean it is a White-Headed Woodpecker. These birds also hang out in the forest, but nest in holes in dead trees. The tapping of a woodpecker does not have one meaning. It sometimes means the bird is creating a home in a hollow tree, but it is also the way the male and female communicate with each other during mating season, and their communication style when incubating their eggs, a task they take on equally. 

The view from Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was a snowstorm just a few days earlier, so it was a cool morning and everyone was bundled up in coats and hats for the Easter Egg hunts, but the birds didn't seem to mind the cold. They are ready for spring! 


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mute Swans in Greeley, Colorado

I believe we have a pair of Mute Swans at the Bittersweet Park lake in Greeley, Colorado. I've been walking the trail around the park six times a week for over two years now and this is the first time I've seen them. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I walk the trail at the park near my home five to six times a week. It is rather exciting--the park is filled, daily, with hundreds of Canadian Geese; squirrels; hawks; red-winged blackbirds perched on the cattails; children walking home from school; walkers; runners; parents pushing baby strollers; children on the playground and neighbors of all ages playing basketball. 



A small gathering of Canadian Geese at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Hawk watching my chihuahua from a tree at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I wrote about this park before--it is one of the most beautiful neighborhood parks I've had the pleasure of visiting. Besides the many neighbors who use the park and the never-ending sound of laughing, giggling children, there is a surprising amount of wildlife in the park and great views of the sunrise and sunset. 

 A parting glance at Bittersweet Park in the evening. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The park also has a heart-wrenching memorial to Weld County Veterans that is absolutely beautiful. I believe it is important to honor our heroes. In addition to the Veteran's Memorial there is also a memorial to officers who died in the line of duty in Weld County. 

'
Veteran's Memorial at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And, as I stated at the beginning (apologies for the digression, but I felt I had to set the scene) as a recent added attraction we now have two Mute Swans, and what appears to be two baby cygnets. 

Mute Swans (feel free to correct my identification) at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
All photos by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I was surprised when I first saw them. I've never seen them at the park before, and as you can imagine I use the park often, walking the trails nearly every day. My neighbors told me they've never seen the swans. But I was walking the park with my granddaughter a few weeks ago and there they were!

The evening I first saw the swans it was near dusk, which is why some of the photos have a colored tint to the water and on the birds, but they are always just gorgeous. Such graceful creatures.  

Okay, this is not a swan, but she's mentioned in my story. My chihuahua puppy, Emma adores children and attracts a lot of attention when we take her for walks, but she is surprisingly well-behaved for a puppy. Even though she can't do much damage at only four pounds, she is always walked on a leash. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The evening we first saw the swans my granddaughter had my chihuahua puppy, Emma, and Emma was attracting more attention than the swans, running up to strangers, rolling onto her back, begging for belly rubs. My granddaughter tried to tell me there were swans in the lake, but I was busy trying to retrieve the dog who was literally rolling around the shoulders of a runner who stopped to pick her up and say hello.

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park Lake, Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

"Grandma, did you hear me?" Layla asked. "Yes, I told her. You said he's sending a text." Where on earth that came from I have no idea. The man standing before me finally managed to unhinge Emma, who was climbing all over his shoulders like a chihuahua coat collar, and hand her back to me, then he pointed at the lake and laughed as he told me Layla had actually said there were swans nearby. 

"They arrived a few weeks ago," he said. "Everyone in the neighborhood is talking about them." He pointed at the water. I followed my granddaughter down to the water's edge and sure enough, there was two large Mute Swans and two babies following behind. 

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Swans are a somewhat rare sighting in Northern Colorado. I tried to do some research and found a news article stating that a black swan was spotted in 2008 near Loveland, and swans have also been seen in Boulder and Longmont, but they're generally found in lakes and ponds at hotels where they were purchased for display. I've asked many people about the swans, including quite a few lifelong residents of Greeley, and they said they could not remember ever seeing swans in Greeley, and never at Bittersweet Park. 

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Mute Swans are large birds, considered among the largest waterfowl, slightly smaller than the popular Trumpeter Swans. I think they are lovely. They have a wingspread of up to 7.9 feet. The males weigh around 26 pounds and the females weigh 20 pounds. Males are identied from females by a knob on their bills. Mute Swans are also a protected species in most states, but for some strange reason, they are considered an invasive species in Michigan!

Bottoms up! Two swans fishing in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Fossils of swans have been found in four states in the U.S.--California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon--and their ancestry is believed to be at least 6000 years old. Mute Swans are also thought to be most closely related to Black Swans of Australia.

I believe these may be their babies based on the curve of their long necks. Photo taken at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado by Darla Sue Dollman.

Baby Mute Swans are called Cygnets, and they are a gray color until they reach maturity at around a year old. It is shocking to watch their speed of travel--the babies can cross the lake in a matter of minutes. Surprisingly, they reach mature size at around three months old, but retain their gray feathers until they are closer to a year.

Mute Swans lay four to ten eggs and it's possible these swans are carrying more on their back, but I walk this park nearly every day and have only seen two.

The back of a parent swan is flat like a boat. Their wings rise up like doors on hinges and the babies climb onto their backs, then the adult lowers its wing, protecting the babies from rain, hail, cold, and the view of predators so they can sleep.

Hawk at Bittersweet Park picking at a bird wing. I don't think it killed the bird, which appears to be considerably larger than the hawk. It most likely scavenged the remains after dogs attacked the bird. Photo taken in Greeley, Colorado by Darla Sue Dollman. 

 Sadly, many people bring dogs to this park without leashes (I am all for dog-walking and enjoy seeing the many dogs at the park, but unleashed dogs kill the wildlife) and I have found feathers near the water's edge. I've also seen hawks that appeared to be cleaning up after a kill. I took a walk around the park this afternoon and couldn't see the swans, but the cattail patch has grown huge over the past few years. I have prayed for their safety and the safety of their young ones, hoping they are resting safely and peacefully in the cattails.

Mute Swans in their nest at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Mute Swans build their nest at the water's edge and these swans are too close to the walking trail for my comfort, but they are large birds and hopefully will be safe.

Mute Swan at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am a little concerned about this bird. I've seen it with its leg raised in the air a few times now and will call the wildlife rehabilitation center in a nearby county to see if they can check it out and make sure it wasn't injured by other animals. If you go back to the photo showing the two swans fishing you can see that one of them appears to be holding one leg at an odd angle behind it when it is upside down in the water. That's what happens when people walk their dogs without leashes!

Mute Swan at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The swans are beautiful and I hope that local residents respect their great beauty and help protect them. They mate for life and return to the same nest every year, even though they migrate, so they will be a lovely addition to this gorgeous neighborhood park in Northern Colorado.