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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Flower Power

Whatever disheartening sadness and unspeakable tragedies May and June might have held, those are not the only realities, thank goodness. The recent months also brought lengthening days with copious sunshine, alongside the reappearance of myriad plants and animals. This new or renewing life in nature’s multiple sphere’s affords gratuitous and gratifying glimpses for those of us fortunate enough to be able to experience them, and an escape from the chaos and cacophony that is the man-made world. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a master escapist.

To immerse myself in my natural surroundings, to observe their mysterious goings-on, to drink deeply of their intricate shapes, shades, and scents equals happiness for this human heart. In the weeks to follow, I will acquaint you with Colorado’s spring arrivals, from flora to fauna. Today’s post shows a selection of the wildflowers which have been gracing the plains and foothills that stretch toward the Rocky Mountains. By harnessing the essence of earth, water, and sun, they fulfill many purposes while also beautifying their realm. Their presence serves as a powerful and encouraging reminder that some natural cycles are—still—intact. And whether you have witnessed vernal exuberance or autumnal maturing, I hope you, too, have found your own precious moments of bliss.

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There will be no German versions of my posts in the foreseeable future.

In absehbarer Zeit wird es keine deutsche Version meiner Blogbeiträge geben. Ich bitte um Verständnis.

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.

Bluebirds Of Happiness

Long before I had ever heard the titular expression, I was able to relate to its sentiment. If you have ever had a flock of bluebirds descend upon you, with their ethereal color and soft vocalizations, like messengers from a more gentle and beautiful realm, you will, too. And we are not alone. Chinese, European, and Native American folklore assigned special meanings to a variety of blue birds, perhaps associating their cerulean to celestial color and, thereby, to heaven.

While blue birds have engendered tender feelings through the ages and across the miles, we might have Belgian playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature, Maurice Maeterlinck, to thank for popularizing them in his 1908 play, “The Blue Bird.” Ever since “bluebirds of happiness” has been the theme of many a song and film, and the association has lodged itself in the collective psyche.

Lange bevor mir der Ausdruck „blaue Vögel des Glücks“ bekannt war, konnte ich den innewohnenden Gedanken nachvollziehen. Wenn Dir jemals eine Schar dieser blauen Vögel mit ihren ätherischen Farben und zarten Stimmen erschienen ist, kannst Du das auch. Und wir sind nicht allein. Chinesische, europäische und uramerikanische Folklore maßen einer ganzen Reihe blauer Vögel besondere Bedeutung bei, was vielleicht damit zusammenhängt, daß ihre blaue Farbe mit dem Himmel in Verbindung gebracht wurden.

Auch wenn blaue Vögel über lange Jahre und manche Meilen hinweg zarte Gefühle hervorriefen, haben wir vielleicht dem belgischen Bühnenautor und Literaturnobelpreisträger Maurice Maeterlinck für ihren Ruhm zu danken, da er sie 1908 in seinem Bühnenspiel „Der blaue Vogel“ popularisierte. Seither wurde der Ausdruck „Blaue Vögel des Glücks“ in zahlreichen Liedern und Filmen thematisiert, und die Assoziation hat sich in unserer kollektiven Psyche verankert.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)/Berghüttensänger

There are myriad blue birds, but true bluebirds (genus Sialia) exist only in North and Central America. All three species, Mountain, Western, and Eastern Bluebirds belong to the thrush family (Turdidae), like the well-known American Robins. The former two are typically found along and west of the Rocky Mountains, the latter east of them. As Colorado Springs straddles their ranges, all three species of bluebirds can be encountered and enjoyed here. A reflection of the high esteem in which they are held, September 24 has been declared National Bluebird Day. Unless one lives in areas where they occur year-round, the arrival of bluebirds denotes the end of winter and beginning of spring, and symbolizes hope and renewal.

Es gibt unzählige Arten blauer Vögel, aber die wahren “Bluebirds” (Hüttensänger auf Deutsch, womit sich die Schwierigkeit dieser Übersetzung zeigt, weil sie im Deutschen keinen Sinn ergibt), existieren nur in Nord- und Mittelamerika. Alle drei Arten gehören zu der Familie der Drosseln (Turdidae). Die Berghüttensänger und Blaukehlsänger kommen normalerweise entlang sowie westlich der Rocky Mountains vor, die Rotkehlsänger östlich der Bergkette. Da sich Colorado Springs über beide Lebensräume erstreckt, sind hier Begegnungen mit allen dreien möglich. Die Vögel werden so hoch geschätzt, daß der 24. September zu ihrem Gedenktag erklärt wurde. Es sei denn, jemand lebt in Gegenden, wo sie das ganze Jahr über auftreten, kennzeichnet die Ankuft der „Bluebirds“ das Ende des Winters und den Frühlingsbeginn und symbolisiert somit Hoffnung und Erneuerung.

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)/Blaukehlhüttensänger

While it’s true that most of us need cheering up during the best of times, all of us could do with a few extra flickers of hope and renewal at present. Particularly those among us suffering from chronic illness, or anxiety and depression. It is to you in particular that I dedicate this post: Whatever it is that feeds your soul, I wish you precious moments with your very own harbingers of happiness.

Es ist wohl wahr, daß die meisten von uns selbst in den besten Zeiten Ermunterung brauchen. Gerade zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt können wir alle von einer extra Portion Hoffnung und Erneuerung profitieren. Und insbesondere diejenigen unter uns, die unter chronischen Krankheiten oder Angststörungen und Depressionen leiden. Besonders Dir ist dieser Beitrag gewidmet: Was immer Deine Seele erfüllt, mögen Dir besondere Momente mit Deinen eigenen Glücksboten gewährt sein.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)/Rothkehlhüttensänger