Do you have a “happy place” you return to time and again?
I have several, a circumstance I’m extremely grateful for. One of the places I have written about more than once, is Fountain Creek Regional Park. Situated in Fountain, a town just south of Colorado Springs, and along Fountain Creek, our major regional stream, it harbors a riparian corridor, a series of ponds with associated wetlands, stands of mainly cottonwood trees, and small patches of grassland, thereby providing habitat to a wide range of creatures.
By visiting year-round, I experience the changing seasons and concurrent changes in flora and fauna. Drought-stricken as we are, every bit of precipitation is appreciated, and a light snowfall at the end of November brought a first inkling of winter.
The park is home to Fountain Creek Nature Center, a striking structure whose attractive and informative interior displays educate about regional geography, history, and ecology, and whose staff and volunteers teach young and old about nature’s central, wonderful, and indispensable workings through lectures, workshops, and camps. El Paso County at present has a second nature center at Bear Creek Canyon near the foothills, and the plans for a third are being drawn up for the north end of the county, where much of the region’s growth is taking place.
From the Nature Center’s west-facing deck, the start of many of my visits, one’s gaze travels across a couple of ponds before it is inevitably drawn to Colorado’s Front Range in general, and Pikes Peak in particular, a scene I have captured in photo after photo, and did again in the featured image above. The same arresting view is provided from the inside of the building, thanks to its generous windows.
I always spend some time inspecting the site’s bird feeders and seeing a pair of gorgeous Cassin’s Finches there for the first time recently made me very happy. They spend most of the year high in the mountains but often grace us lowlanders with their presence during wintertime. These finches are slightly larger than our ubiquitous House Finches, have stronger beaks, and show more pronounced markings on their plumage. I have always admired men bold enough to wear pink, and my admiration extends to male Cassin’s Finches for the same reason.
To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.
Besides being an eBird hotspot, with 280 reported species thus far, the park’s environment accommodates other animals, including rabbits, squirrels, porcupines, White-tailed Deer, and bobcats. While I regularly see the former species, the latter has been elusive, even though entire families have been raised here, a fact I know from other visitors’ pictures. One of these days . . .
While this late in the year much of the vegetation has gone dormant, Artist Nature takes no breaks but creates endlessly on. Resorting to more muted hues for her paintings in general, on occasion she dips her brush into the pot with the magic substance that transforms the world into an icy, crystal-laden, sparkling alternate universe whose beauty is ephemeral and evanescent and which, consequently, is enjoyed and appreciated even more.