While Chuck is enjoying Alaska with his family, I spent last week enjoying the Colorado Rockies with mine. We stayed in a cabin near Arapaho National Forest at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. To us flatlanders, it was quite a change. Our windows looked out on countless trees and several mountains, and we took short walks to nearby lakes.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds zipped around the cabin constantly. Most of the time, they were too fast to get a good look at, but their wings make a metallic trilling sound, so I always knew when they were around. I eventually got great views of a male perched at the top of a tree, of two different females that perched almost within arm's reach of me, and of another male as it fed from red wildflowers.
The change of scenery was even more dramatic when we drove up to the top of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in North America. As we took curve after curve to the 14,240-foot summit, we passed the tree line and entered an arctic-like tundra environment, where I saw Mountain Bluebirds, White-throated Swifts, and American Pipits. We also spotted mountain goats, including the herd above.
On our last full day, we toured Rocky Mountain National Park. The views were magnificent, but I only saw a few birds. In the photo at right, my daughters Grace and Megan mug for the camera on a chilly mountainside while their dad goes on a fruitless search for ptarmigan.
I found most of the week's great birds not at Mount Evans or at Rocky Mountain National Park but right around our cabin, including Mountain Chickadee, Bullock's Oriole, Red-naped Sapsucker, Rock Wren, Black-headed Grosbeak, Pygmy Nuthatch, and the Gray-headed form of Dark-eyed Junco, a striking gray bird with a rust-colored back. It was a memorable trip, and one I wouldn't mind taking again. — M.M.