Fledgling Summer

If eggs are beautifully wrapped gifts with beguiling potential and naked hatchlings are the unsightly presents precious to the giver but not necessarily the giftee, by the time nestlings have put on fluffy down and are begging for food with wide, brightly colored gapes, most recipients would consider them at least acceptable, if not downright attractive offerings.

Once fledglings leave the nest and learn the ins and outs of being birds, it would take an uninterested or hardened soul not to feel at least a smidgen of sympathy for the remarkable creatures that have transmutated from yolk to feathered beings capable (or almost capable) of flight.

Nature’s predictable (which does not equal uninteresting) patterns have the ability to anchor and ground us in what are otherwise unsettling and unsettled times. It is with gratitude that I received this summer’s fledgling gifts, and with gratitude that I am sharing them with you.

Red-winged Blackbird–very recently fledged

Killdeer–very recently fledged (but already trying out those wings!)

Spotted Sandpiper siblings–recently fledged

Wild Turkey–recently fledged

Bullock’s Oriole–still has its sweet baby face, but already takes care of itself

American Robin–already quite independent, though usually with one of the parents nearby

Say’s Phoebe–fairly grown-up already

PS: The featured photo above shows three fledged Barn Swallows perched on a branch, already capable of flight, but still quite happy to be fed by their parents.


DNA testing is revolutionizing our understanding of the relatedness between different species. Among the avifauna, one of the surprises has been the discovery that falcons are close relatives of parrots and share a common ancestry with songbirds. This is one of the reasons you will find falcons next to parrots in your printed bird guide (at least if it’s of recent vintage), instead of next to hawks, those other diurnal birds of prey whom they resemble most.

Falcons tend to be smaller than hawks, have more slender and pointed wings, and more rounded faces. They are swift predators that mostly capture their prey on the wing. Sadly, their diet consists mainly of other birds. They reach impressive velocities, with the Peregrine Falcon able to plummet out of the sky at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Of the nearly 40 global falcon species, and the 7 that occur in North America, I’m still hoping to make the acquaintance of a Crested Caracara, Gyrfalcon, and Aplomado Falcon in the wild (I have seen one of the latter as a captive bird). The 4 species I enjoy semi-regularly in Colorado are the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon. I hope you will, too.

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Here Comes The Sun

Among our migratory birds, one of the more color- and cheerful representatives is the Western Tanager. As the name implies, it does not typically frequent the eastern part of the Americas, but from its winter quarters in Central America or Mexico journeys to US states and Canadian provinces west of the Great Plains, where it raises its brood in coniferous and mixed forests at elevations of up to 10,000 feet.

Even though tanagers are chiefly insectivorous, their diet also includes berries. This partial sweet tooth is responsible for their appearance at feeders supplied with oranges and grape jelly. For the first time this year, these foods have been part of our offerings and have been well received—by more than the species in question. While tanagers and similarly brilliant birds were replenishing their fat stores for a few weeks following their northbound travels, flickers and flashes of color fluttered regularly through our yard.

As is frequently the case in the avian universe, males are more flamboyant. The understated females are outfeathered by their mates with their bright yellow bodies and orange to red heads. Interestingly, in contrast to other species whose orangeness results from dietary carotenoids, Western Tanagers absorb the rarer pigment rhodoxanthin from certain insects. Often described as flame-colored, for me they evoke the shades of the sky during sunrise—as if from the black of night emerge the lemon, peach, and apricot hues of a new dawn.

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To learn more about Western Tanagers, and to hear their vocalizations, please follow the link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:


Spring Migration

May of 2020 has gone down in my personal record book as the birdiest month ever—186 different avian species enriched and enlivened my spring beyond the wildest expectations. This number included both resident as well as migratory birds, both birds previously known to me, as well as a few new ones—lifers, as we birders like to call them.

Spring migration, this mind-blowing phenomenon in which countless birds leave their wintering grounds and make their way to their summer breeding grounds, is highly awaited and greatly appreciated each year. Simplistically stated, most migratory birds that wing their way to or through Colorado follow a trajectory that begins either in the southern US, Mexico, Central or South America and terminates at destinations north of here. In some instances, at destinations far north. Certain shorebirds, the Semipalmated Sandpiper among them (which happened to be one of my eight life birds), travels all the way from South America to northern Canada or Alaska, a trip that covers 1,900 to 2,500 miles. Incidentally, the longest recorded journey, that of some Arctic Terns, spans an unbelievable 10,000+ miles, from Antarctica to Alaska. And these distances will be traveled not once, but twice a year!

From the tiniest hummingbirds to substantial raptors, from muted sparrows to brilliant orioles, from monosyllabic gnatcatchers to virtuoso grosbeaks, from the expected species to those who were blown off course, all varieties have overcome impossible odds and have accomplished incredible feats by the time they arrive here. Some only make a stopover in the Pikes Peak region, others bless us with their company all summer long. I can’t fathom the multifarious elements that have converged by the time I see them, but I’m humbled by and grateful for their presence.

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So This Was April

As this month is drawing to a close, I am, again, musing about its changeability. From record low to record high temperatures, from snow- and rainfalls to wind- and thunderstorms, Colorado Springs has seen it all. Whereas the first spring flowers were welcomed warmly, they paid for their precocity with their lives. Our daffodils and hyacinths did not recover, nor did the beautiful blossoms of the ornamental trees. Fruit orchards on Colorado’s Western Slope were assailed by frost at their most vulnerable, leading to distressing losses of the future harvest.

Während sich der April dem Ende zuneigt, sinne ich wiederum seiner Wechselhaftigkeit nach. Von Kälte- bis Hitzerekorden, von Schnee und Regen bis hin zu Wind und Donner, haben wir in Colorado Springs alles erlebt. Auch wenn die ersten Frühlingsblüten warm willkommen geheißen wurden, bezahlten sie für ihre Frühreife mit ihrem Leben. Weder die Osterglocken noch die Hyazinthen überlebten, ebenso wenig wie die wunderschönen Blüten der Zierbäume. Obstplantagen in den westlichen Gefilden Colorados wurden während der anfälligsten Phase von Frost angegriffen, was in verheerenden Ernteverlusten resultieren wird.

Nature is in a state of flux. While grasses are greening and bushes are beginning to don an emerald veil, trees are still mostly leafless. This is perhaps not unusual, but I seem more conscious of it these days. And more impatient for progress. Anticipation turns me insomniac, makes me look forward to each new morning, and enables me to experience many a rose-fingered dawn.

Die Natur ist im Wandel begriffen. Auch wenn die Gräser langsam grünen und die Sträucher sich einen grünlichen Schleier anlegen, sind die meisten Bäume noch blattlos. Obwohl das nicht ungewöhnlich ist, bin ich mir der Tatsache dieser Tage eher bewußt. Und warte ungeduldig auf Fortschritt. Meine Erwartungen rauben mir den Schlaf, lassen mich auf die Dämmerung warten und haben es mir ermöglicht, wiederholt die rosenfingrige Morgenröte zu erleben.

Birds are migrating in the northern hemisphere (and I assume in the southern, too). Almost every day brings new arrivals from the south, many of them clad in gorgeous breeding plumage, to better impress their future mates. Even the first hummingbirds have survived their incredible journey from Mexico. Our resident birds, too, are alive with spring fever: dancing, strutting turkeys, and mallard drakes nearly drowning their ladies during lovemaking. Robins begin to twitter in utter darkness, gradually to be joined by additional songsters, until the entire ether resounds with the glorious notes of the morning chorus.

Der Vogelzug auf der nördlichen Halbkugel ist im Gange, bzw. im Fluge (das gilt wahrscheinlich auch für die Südhalbkugel). Fast jeder Tag bringt Neuankömmlinge aus dem Süden, von denen viele ihr Prachtgewand tragen, um ihre zukünftigen Partner zu beeindrucken. Sogar die ersten Kolibris haben ihre unglaubliche Reise aus Mexiko hinter sich gebracht. Unsere Standortvögel verleihen ihren Frühlingsgefühlen Ausdruck: Hier sind die tanzenden, stolzierenden Truhähne, und da die Stockentenerpel, die ihre Damen beim Liebespiel fast ertränken. Drosseln zwitschern bereits wenn es noch stockdunkel ist, doch nach und nach schließen sich ihnen weitere Sänger an, bis der gesamte Äther mit den herrlichen Noten des Morgenchors widerhallt.

Spring is advancing at its own, good pace, and while the last months have been a time of stagnation for many humans, I hope that external doesn’t necessarily equal internal stagnation. Personally, having ingested countless words from books and no fewer impressions from the natural world, I feel the need to properly digest my diet, to ruminate and not yet regurgitate. Coupled with the desire to spend time away from the screen, this has made me decide to go on hiatus from blogging for a while. My friends, I trust that May will bring more changes for the better for all of us. Until we meet again I wish you good health and a positive outlook.

Während der Frühling seinem eigenen, weisen Rhythmus folgt und viele Fortschritte mit sich bringt, ist dies eine Zeit der Stagnation für zahlreiche Menschen. Doch ich hoffe, daß eine äußerliche Stagnation nicht unbedingt einer innerlichen gleich kommt. Nachdem ich persönlich in den vergangenen Monaten zahllose Worte aus Büchern und nicht weniger Impressionen aus der natürlichen Welt verschlungen habe, habe ich das Bedürfnis, meine Diät gut zu verdauen und wiederzukäuen, und sie nicht sofort wiederzugeben. Nebst dem Wunsch, weniger Zeit am Bildschirm zu verbringen, hat mich das dazu veranlaßt, mir eine Auszeit vom Bloggen zu nehmen. Meine Freunde, ich vertraue darauf, daß der Mai in vieler Hinsicht für uns alle besser wird. Bis zum „Wiedersehen“ wünsche ich Euch gute Gesundheit und Zuversicht.

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Zum Vergrößern, das Bild bitte anklicken. Um den Titel zu lesen, mit der Maus darüber schweben.