Friday, July 29, 2016

High Country high fliers: birds delight in the northern Rockies

A lazuli bunting graces us with his presence and a lovely song each morning at High Chaparral.

A wren feeds her young as we watch quietly. In a day or two, they'll be gone.

"Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable..."

-- Mary Oliver, "A Thousand Mornings"


A red tail hawk watches rabbits below, from a dying cottonwood tree.
I'M SITTING at our summertime desk, high in the Rocky Mountains, with the windows cracked and the doors half-open so I can watch the gold finches at the feeder. A lazuli bunting just had a snack.  I can hear a woodpecker pecking away at his favorite aspen tree -- the one with a few ant-infested branches!
Enroute to exercise class this morning, I saw a red tail hawk high in a cottonwood, already shed of its leaves. I was running late, but I stopped the car to watch him dive- bomb a small unlucky critter then whisk him away to feed the family.
This woodpecker likes sumac and aspen trees, especially
if they have insects, but here he tries his luck on a phone pole.
NOTHING makes me happier than watching and listening to the birds during our few weeks stay at our gorgeous High Chaparral high in the Montana Rockies.
The variety of sounds and songs from our feathered friends astonishes me.  Plaintive, flirting, melancholy, joyous -- I try to imitate the songs and sing them back.  So far, I've been answered several times, poor imposter though I am. That's always a thrill.
A ruby throated hummingbird  is poised midair near the feeder.
We know the birds won't always be here, that they are visitors, their presence temporary.  The only one I've seen all twelve months of the year is the faithful chickadee.  He can withstand Montana's bitterly cold winters, and he manages to liven up the winter woods with his pretty song. (He is one of my most faithful "responders" when I whistle my howdy-do back to him.)

THE HUMMINGBIRDS are the most exquisite of our visitors. The ruby-throated looks as if he's going out for the evening, in his scarlet red "cravat" and stylish white shirt and green suit. We have three kinds of hummers here -- the rufous with his rust-colored cape, and the tiny caliope, the smallest bird on the continent. Because they are various sizes, we have several feeders, lest the larger rufous hog the food source.
Wherever you are on the planet, remember what my grandmother told me many moons ago:  "Keep a song in your heart, listen for the birds. Feed them. When they are gone from Earth, we won't be far behind."

The Nevada City cabins in the Nevada City Hotel are rustic, nestled
against the mountains and near Virginia City. They are dog friendly.  

NEXT UP: It's a Montana road trip, and we're exploring Virginia City and Nevada City, with a train ride, fire truck history tour, a jaunt to the onetime rich gold fields and a stay in a rustic cabin where, yes, dogs are welcome! All that and more, including two lively performances: the racy Brewery Follies and the Virginia City Players, celebrating its 75th season! Remember to explore, learn and live. 


  1. Alaska Audubon AficionadosJuly 30, 2016 at 6:58 AM

    Oh, that Mary Oliver poem says it all.....and beautiful prose, pretty pictures. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

  2. Oklahoma TravelersJuly 30, 2016 at 1:01 PM

    Lovely piece, wise grandmother.

  3. So glad you are getting to enjoy your Montana home. I didn't know there were three kinds if hummingbirds. I thought they were all the tiny ones. Do we have the others in the East, I wonder. Lovely pictures. Lovely prose.

  4. We "birds of a feather" Truly ENJOY the seasonal "concerts" from whereiscookie. This latest blog, about Montana nature and birds, our backyard ticket! Priceless. Thank you, Cookie and Keller, for the wise words & picturesque bird views....with hugs from "GG".

  5. Delightful bird homage. Tweet, tweet.