Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Forecast: Snow

Does in snow near Carter Lake, Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'm certain we reached temperatures below zero last night up here by the lake. I was up off and on throughout the night adding firewood to the wood burning stove--it was just so cold! I lived in Colorado 43 years before moving to Texas then New Mexico. I remember, as a child, wondering what the birds and animals do when it's cold outside. Apparently, they do just fine. This handsome buck was lying in a snow bank covered in snow when I drove back up the mountain this afternoon and he seemed perfectly comfortable. 

Doe in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This is unusually cold weather for this time of year in Colorado, but my neighbors warned me it was coming a few months ago. They said they could tell by the behavior of the wildlife that it would be a cold, early winter. Apparently, they were right! 

Does in snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think it would be a bit stressful being a deer or elk because they are prey animals--they are vegetarians and do not prey on other animals, but spend their lives looking over their shoulder, trying to keep themselves and their families safe. Humans can be prey animals, too. This can be a dangerous world and I know I've spent far too many years as a prey animal, allowing others to take advantage of me, depending on people to protect me when I know I cannot trust them. When I saw that buck lying in the snow I slowly held my camera to my eye and took his photograph, but when I took the shot I remember thinking--wishing, really--that he should stand up and run because that camera could just as easily have been a gun. He was too trusting. 

Buck and Doe in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I can't really explain why this bothered me, but it did. I sensed that I could have taken a few steps closer to get even better photos, but I didn't want these lovely creatures to feel comfortable around me because humans prey on others and I wanted these animals to fear me. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This isn't really a hunting area. Not many people live in the valley and it's empty during the off-season when the lake freezes and the snow falls, but I hear gun shots all the time when my neighbors stand outside their homes and practice. I don't know why the deer and elk come to this valley seeking shelter and safety, but I pray they find it. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It was cold and windy this afternoon and I almost skipped the firewood run, concerned for my safety on the icy roads. The water moved in strong waves across the lake, but I was fascinated by what looked like clouds coming up from the water, straight up into the air then moving sideways across the road and into the surrounding fields. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've always found it interesting how a change in season can create a change in mood in a place such as a field or a lake. A few months earlier I photographed this same piece of land and it looked peaceful, warm, full of life. Now it looks dangerous and foreboding, and considering the forecast of below zero nighttime temperatures and snow that will continue throughout the week I suppose the lake is dangerous right now. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

And yet, there are also times when the darkness and the cold create scenes of great beauty. Colors do not clash in nature, they compliment each other. Humans and animals do both--clash and compliment, especially in relationships. Scenery such as this can be a great metaphor for life.

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

By the time I arrived at my little dome-shaped house it was even darker and colder, but the tiny flock of birds outside my house was still busy searching for the seeds I left out earlier. 

Chubby Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

As I watched the tiny birds flying back and forth from beneath my porch it occurred to me that every house I've lived in has had a flock of birds. In Texas it was a mixed flock, but mostly Cardinals and White-Winged Doves. In New Mexico the shrub beside my house was filled with House Sparrows and a variety of Finches. This summer we had Magpies and White-Winged Doves, House Sparrows and Finches.

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

but the Dark-Eyed Juncos arrived late in the fall and they seem to have settled in, living beneath my porch at night where it is warm and safe and sitting in the trees in the daytime, often fluffing up their feathers to keep warm like the one in the photo above. 

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'm enjoying these little creatures. They are not particularly noisy like House Sparrows, but they are playful, chasing each other around the porch and trees. They seem a bit friendlier, too. I walk past them often on my way to the barn or my truck and they will sit on the fence and stare at me. 

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am not a snow-sports person, but I do love the snow. I love how it looks when it is fresh, untouched, and when it is still falling. I love the quiet, the peaceful feeling that comes over me when I gaze out my window at a flock of birds sitting very still on tree branches as the snow falls around them. 

Dark-Eyed Juncos. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live alone now, but I am not lonely. I feel blessed by the peace and magnificent beauty of this place and I know I will be happy here. 

Sagebrush in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Blizzard, Elk, Mountains at Dusk

I believe this is a Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo taken by Darla Sue Dollman in Berthoud, CO.

They are lovely little creatures, playful and quick. I believe they are Dark-Eyed Juncos. We had a few of them in our yard in Texas, but never as many as this! They are everywhere in the valley in the mountains near Carter Lake in Colorado.

Battling the blizzard. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had to sneak up on this one because the snowfall was so heavy I could not see past my back porch. It is partially brown and its eyes are so dark it is difficult to see them. 

Dark-Eyed Juncos in Feeder. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Oh, but they are so much fun to watch! They chase each other through the snow and fly between the slats on the back porch. They sit in small groups on my fence, in the two trees that shade my back porch, and when it is not snowing they gather on the roof of the barn. 

Dark-Eyed Junco on tree branch. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I hope they find shelter tonight. I turned my canoe on its side in the barn and there are numerous bird houses outside, but I've seen them flying out from beneath the porch and suspect they are finding shelter there for now. 

Napping in a field near Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I spotted these three beauties in a field in Loveland, Colorado last night on my way home from buying firewood. 

Elk sunbathing in Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think they are elk, but their antlers look unfamiliar to me. It's difficult to tell when they're lying down! There are many hunting ranches in Texas with animals imported from around the world and killed for sport. Sometimes they escape and it's hard to tell the natives from the fortunate escapees. This is Colorado, though, and I do not believe there are hunting ranches in this area. There are many wildlife rescue facilities, though! 

Elk in Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Elk within city limits can be controversial at times. Tourists and visitors don't always understand that these are not pets, they are wild animals and can be dangerous.

Near Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I took this photo on the way home last night. It was terribly windy and all of the bird feeders were knocked down from the trees. My welcome mats were scattered as far as the dirt road leading to my home. The wind gusts were 45 to 60 mph. Colorado is known for its fierce winds. In fact, Longs Peak holds the record in Colorado for a wind gust of 201 mph that occurred during the winter of 1981, a particularly fierce winter as I recall. Boulder, which is only about half an hour's drive from my home is also one of the windiest cities in the US with wind gusts clocked at 147 mph in 1971.

Near Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I could tell it would be cold today when I looked at the mountains last night. The sky was filled with thin, wispy clouds and it looked like there were fast winds in the higher elevations. The mountains had a purple tint and already looked cold.

Luminescence in the clouds above Lake Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It's going to be a chilly winter, but I'm prepared. I've lived in Colorado most of my life and whenever I leave I am homesick. When I lived in Texas and drove home to visit family, as I passed through the Sangre de Christos and into the Colorado Rocky Mountains the sight always brought tears to my eyes. Such magnificent beauty! 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Colorado: Home at Last

Deer standing by the road near Carter Lake in Berthoud, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am home. I've now been in Colorado a little over two weeks, spending most of my time unpacking and exploring my new home with my two oldest grandchildren. The house is dome-shaped and reminds me of the house in the movie Tangled--I would love to paint pictures of suns, moons, stars, trees and animals on the triangle-shapes walls. For the moment, though, my energy is all spent on organization and exploring.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was thrilled to discover the neighborhood hawk that lives near my daughter's home is still on his same perch a few blocks from her street. Unfortunately someone is building a subdivision behind my granddaughter's school and I suspect that is where his habitat is, but they are at the base of a mountain so perhaps he has already moved his home to a safer place. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I have a barn, and I will need it to complete my dream of raising goats and chickens because there is a mountain lion that has built its den on one of the two mountainsides that line this valley. The valley is packed with deer, rabbits, prairie dogs, and just about every type of bird and bug you can imagine. The deer at the top of the page was crossing the dirt road when I came home with my grandchildren one evening.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am intrigued by these orange birds, who seem to be intrigued by me. They flock to the trees when I am planting seeds and bulbs in the backyard and chatter like children, but I can rarely see them as they generally like to hide among the leaves.

Butterfly Moth. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The Butterfly Moth is a regular visitor. It likes to sit on the screen door in the cool morning hours, disappears when the sun shines down on the top of the house, then returns at some point in the evening. I'm not sure why it likes our screen so much, but I'm fairly certain it is the same Butterfly Moth returning night after night.

Carter Lake in Berthoud, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The grandchildren and I walked down to Carter Lake this afternoon for a picnic. We played in the water, which is very deep and cold from spring run-off so we didn't do much more than stand on the rocks on the water's edge. I can't wait to get my canoe up here, or a sailboat. The lake is perfect for sailing.

One of my garden visitors. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was planting sunflowers this afternoon when I heard the sound of pounding feet. I know most of my neighbors already and quite a few of them walk early in the morning, but this sounded like running so I assumed it was animals.

I slowly turned around and the running stopped. I found myself facing two young deer with fuzz still on their antlers. I was told there are no squirrels because the mountain lion eats them, but I have plenty of corn that I will now set out for the deer. Unfortunately, they had wandered into a neighbor's pasture by the time I grabbed my camera, but I did manage to get a few photos of the pair. I also took a great picture of the neighborhood Turkey Vulture flying past my house!

The neighborhood Turkey Vulture. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It's been cool and breezy since I came here, except inside where it is hot in the daytime and cool at night, typical of Colorado. At last, I am home.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Colorado, Here I Come!

Horsetooth Mountain, one of the most famous landmarks in Northern Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Just a short note to let you know I am moving, which explains the long delay in posts--selling, buying, and moving to another state is a time-consuming process, but by the end of the week I will be living in a small town in Northern Colorado

I will be living closer to my family and friends and where I also attended and taught at the local universities. I lived in Colorado most of my life. I love Colorado and I am fascinated by its wildlife, landscape, weather and history. If you notice a change in my posts, a few more focusing on Pronghorn Antelope; hawks; American Bald Eagles, and the wild and crazy weather of Colorado, now you know why! You've seen them before when I visit my family. You will see more. 
I'm going home. 

If you study a particular topic regarding the little creatures of Colorado that you'd like to suggest, or if you would like to guest blog or trade guest blogs, please contact me at

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roadrunner Revisited: Local Couple Fetching Dinner

Roadrunner in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Shortly after I posted on roadrunners my husband and I were driving down our street and spotted a roadrunner couple hunting for food. This time of year they most likely have a small brood waiting in their nest for some food. (Actually, by the time I post this they are probably teaching their three to six babies how to hunt.

Roadrunner behind tall grass in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As I discussed before, I refer to the roadrunner as a "humane" hunter because it captures its prey so quickly the creature doesn't even know what happened, then it smacks the head of its prey on the ground, killing it instantly or at least knocking it unconscious before eating it.

In this picture you see the Roadrunner leaping from a wall to catch a bug. This is how its wings and tail appear from behind. They can fly, but generally only fly short distances to escape a predator or catch prey. They can leap six feet in the air to capture hummingbirds. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners eat just about anything, including scorpions, which we greatly appreciated when we lived in Texas as we had a horrible infestation of Tree Bark Scorpions in our house. I often found two or more each day scampering across the floor and our last night in the house before moving to New Mexico, one climbed into my pajamas and stung me four times. Although I knew they were hunting our precious lizards and hummingbirds, as well, Roadrunners were always a welcome sight around our home. Here in New Mexico I generally see them eating lizards and small birds, like finches and sparrows. 

Roadrunner siting on brick wall with lizard in its mouth. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

On this day, both the male and female Roadrunner were lucky--they both caught a lizard within minutes of each other. In New Mexico they seem more comfortable with people so they did not run off when they saw me taking their picture. In fact, this one seemed to be posing with his catch. 

In this photo you can see the Roadrunners beautiful green tail. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After years of drought we did have severe flooding in the Rio Grande Valley this past year, which I think is why we have so many baby lizards, swallowtails, baby house finches, swallows and sparrows, and bees. Oddly, we've also been swarmed with tan camo-colored grasshoppers. I generally associate grasshoppers with drought. The grasshopper timing is perfect for the birds, though, as they have plenty to eat! 

I like this photo (so I saved it for last) because it shows the magnificent colors of the Roadrunner. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Roadrunner: Beep Beep!

Our neighborhood Roadrunner. He's a funny little critter, bold and ambitious. He often jumps the wall, runs right behind me, snags a bird and leaps back over the wall before the dogs and I even have a chance to think of moving. I suspect he is a teenager, hides out in the arroyos in the morning playing chicken with his friends. "I'll bet I can run past all four dogs in that yard over the wall and snag a sparrow!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This post is dedicated to my grandson, Timothy Jack. He's a bit young to have a favorite animal, so I chose one that I thought would make him laugh, since T.J. is always smiling!

I fell in love with Roadrunners the first time I saw one standing in front of our house looking for lizards. It moved its head slowly, carefully, as if it was trying to be invisible through lack of movement, but everyone in the front of the house knew he was there--it was completely silent. Not even a flit of a hummingbird--Road Runners can leap six feet in the air and catch a hummingbird in mid-flight. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque. New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Suddenly it darted straight forward, literally with lightning speed, and snagged an anole lizard off the front of our house. Just as quickly, the bird slammed the lizard's head onto the cement, killing it instantly. 

Roadrunner in New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I call Roadfunners "humane Hunters." It must be terrifying to find yourself in the beak of a predator knowing you're about to be eaten, but Roadrunners are not into torture. They quickly release their prey from that misery with a swift smack on the head. 

This bird likes to meet my husband for lunch. He knows when my husband has his break and shows up in the parking lot begging for scraps. Roadrunners are opportunistic eaters and apparently enjoyed peanut butter and jelly. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners are in the Cuckoo family. There are two kinds, the Greater Roadrunner and Lesser Roadrunner. The Greater Road Runner lives in the American Southwest. The Lesser Roadrunner can be found in Mexico and Central America. The Roadrunner (Geococcyx) is also known as a Chaparral Bird and a Chaparral Cock. 

Roadrunner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Roadrunners can "can outrace a human [they've been clocked at 20 mph], kill a rattlesnake, and thrive in the harsh landscapes of the Desert Southwest." I've seen them do all of these things, although I've also noticed that the Roadrunners that came out of the forest near our home in Texas were much more shy than the Roadrunners living near our home in New Mexico. 

Road runner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

One day, a few years back, I was having a garage sale and it was packed! Most of the shoppers were in my driveway. I was talking to a neighbor when we suddenly noticed everyone was stepping back and to the side and laughing. That's when I saw the Roadrunner strolling between the shoppers, looking for food. He must have thought it was a party! 

Roadrunner stopping by the garage sale in Rio Rancho New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Our neighborhood Roadrunner also enjoys sitting in my shrub. He resembles a child hiding his head under a pillow with his bottom sticking up in the air shouting "You can't see me!" 

Roadrunner hiding in the shrub beside our house. He is surprisingly successful at snagging small birds and I have no idea why as he is clearly seen! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Yes, he is very obvious when he sits in our shrub! Lol! 

Roadrunner hiding in our shrub. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think the best experience we had with roadrunners was one spring in Texas when our house roadrunner showed up in the forest section in front of our house with his mate and a juvenile. They were teaching the baby to hunt, and they were diligent, firm, cautious--they will fly, but prefer to sprint to avoid predators, and do this well. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

 They moved slowly so the baby could keep up and this gave me the perfect opportunity to study them. I watched them from the window, admiring their fancy head dress, long legs and strong feet, and their beak that resembles that of the curve-billed thrashers that live in our yard here in New Mexico. I could see a patch behind each eye with shades of blue and red. Most of the time their tails were closed, but once the smaller bird opened its tail that had white tips.

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This spoiled little creature lives next to a chiropractor's office and the employees in the building bring snacks every day for his brood. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners live year round in the same place where they breed and raise their young, so when I speak possessively of these birds, there is a reason. It really is "the neighborhood bird" or "my backyard bird." They have an elaborate courtship display of dipping and bowing, then mate for life. They build their nests on a platform of sticks on a low tree or cactus. They have two to six eggs in a clutch and take turns keeping them warm. Their young leave the nest at two to three weeks old for hunting lessons. Watching that hunting lesson was one of the greatest animal experiences I had in Texas. The parents were so loving and careful. They are beautiful creatures. 

Road Runner in Kingsland, Texas saying "Adios!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. I think what surprises me the most, now that I've finished this post, is I still have dozens of photos to choose from, which is amazing considering they run at 20 mph! Lol! 

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge R is for Roadrunner!