By a conservative estimate, I’ve walked 15,000 miles in and around Cary and Fox River Grove over the past 18 years. And while most of my walks in Colorado will be more interesting than most of my walks in Illinois, still there is a bit of sad reflection as I take my final few walks.
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Route 115 west of Fort Carson — Colorado Springs, Colorado
One of the interesting things about the hobby of birding is that occasionally, you can add a bird to your list while sitting at home hundreds of miles from the nearest individual of the new species. It’s happened to me a couple times before, and it just happened again. The Western Scrub-Jay has been split into two species now known as California Scrub-Jay and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. I spotted my lifer Western Scrub-Jay (now my lifer California Scrub-Jay) in San Diego back in 2001. I spotted another Western Scrub-Jay, which would now be a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, along Route 115 in southern Colorado Springs the next year. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but as of this past summer (and a few minutes ago when I discovered the update), that bird became lifer 474.
The two new species only overlap in range in a small area in Nevada, so there is no chance either of my lifer scrub-jays is misidentified. This is why it’s important to keep records.
I also saw a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay when I visited Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs in 2012. From the photo I took, it’s evident that the bird saw me too.
And just to round things off — on my recent trip, I went for a hike at Garden of the Gods with Tim and Young Chase and Sally and saw yet another Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. I only had my phone, so I didn’t get a photo of the bird, but I did take a picture of the scrub it was in.
At the Wick house in Aurora.
Chloe and Molly
Everyone else (except me)
After dinner, we kept our annual Thanksgiving tradition — watching Elf.
While our wives were inside the candle outlet store buying huge baskets of stuff, Nate and I wandered about and made fun of stuff. When even that got old, we went outside, rescued Ande and the Red Chair from the cars, and took some photos.
I’m pretty sure I don’t fully grasp the details, but somehow the two inches of snow on Thursday caused a hour flight delay on Friday evening for ice removal. This gave me two full and glorious hours to wander about the Colorado Springs Airport — which consists in its entirety of one 200-yard long terminal with maybe 10 gates. I bought a tasteless sandwich at Quiznos and then paced back and forth down the terminal to get in some walking. And I took these photos.
My flights to Denver and from Denver to Chicago were uneventful. Beth picked me up and took me to her place where Sally met us and brought me home. We arrived around 12:30 am.
I stayed with Tim and Young Chase for the two weeks while I was in Colorado Springs. Both of them work at CBS. Tim saw my little red chair and remembered one he had in his garage that he inherited from his father.
My team at work (from l. to r.) — Maddie, Cheryl, Cynthia (the boss), and René. They took this photo on Thursday morning before the snow hit. It was about 35° at the time.
Palmer Lake is a small community in the foothills north of Colorado Springs. Tim and Young took us up there as part of our tour of the area.
We parked and walked down to the shore just as a local fisherman pulled a fish out of the lake. When I asked what kind it was, he said Rainbow Trout. Then I warned him that he was about to get one of the strangest requests he’d ever gotten. Here is the result.
His name was Tony and he was a very nice guy. As you can see, he got a kick out of the whole thing.
Sally flew out on Friday. I picked her up in Denver. We spent Saturday touring houses around Colorado Springs with Nolan Burt, a realtor who used to work at CBS. On Sunday Morning we went with Tim and Young to Woodmen Valley Chapel and heard a very good sermon on Philippians that included a reference to Spinal Tap.
After church, we went to Garden of the Gods. This was my third visit, although Sally had never been there. Three things that have been true of all my visits:
- It was beautiful.
- It was crowded.
- I saw a Prairie Falcon.
Sally was happy to discover that rattlesnakes aren’t allowed on the trails.
We interrupted our visit for and excellent lunch at Savelli’s Pizza in Manitou Springs and for an auto tour of that freaky community. The pizza was good enough that I told Tim and Young that we were going to steal their tradition when people come visit us.
Back at Garden of the Gods, Tim parked and we walked the short trail to the Siamese Twins.
This family, the Masons, watched me as I clambered over the rocks taking Red Chair photos. When the dad asked me about it and expressed approval, I handed him the chair and got this shot.
On our way back through the park, we happened upon a small herd of Mule Deer right along the road. There was a large buck out of decent cellphone camera range, but this doe was much closer.
My new office as I drove up on my first day.
My office. It isn’t on a window, but as I sit at my desk, I can see out a nearby window.
That pine tree is one of many in a narrow strip next to the building. It’s owned by the state or federal government as a protected habitat for Preble’s Jumping Mouse. A lot of locals are skeptical about the need for this, but I’d much rather look out my window at trees than a Home Depot parking lot. So I say, “Yea for the mouse.”
On the other side of the room, the windows look out on Pikes Peak. I took a photo out that window every morning as I arrived and posted them on Facebook on Friday like this.
Tuesday — the “cloudy” day.
I started a list of birds seen from CBS property. I think I had seven species by the time I went back to Illinois after my two weeks. Magpies, Blue Jays and Red-shafted Flickers in particular seem to like to hang out by, and on, the building.
For the first week and a half of my visit, the weather was unseasonably warm. Wednesday of the second week got up to 75°, a 112-year high. And then there was Thursday.
It was 29° out on Friday morning when I left for work. I braced for the cold, but there was no wind and little humidity and it actually felt warmer than 40° with humidity in Chicago. I was fine with just a spring jacket.
There was still much daylight left, and the prospect of holing up in a basement still did not appeal. On my way back to the Chase’s house, I turned off on several side roads to explore.
The Front Range from Monument.
I was wondering if Colorado Springs got sunsets, what with the mountains and all. I think they may be less frequent because there are generally fewer clouds. But when the clouds are there … I took this photo from the parking lot of Jimmy John’s where I went for supper.
There was really only one other night of impressive sunsets while I was out there. That was the night I drove to the Denver Airport to pick up Sally. I shot these out the window of the Volvo as I was driving 80 mph on I-25.
Most other nights looked about like this.