It can't get much more spectacular than the nearly four hour hike through the mountains I did today, with two new lifer birds joining my list. The first was the mountain chickadee, a perky, active bird of high pine forests that is much like its more familiar cousin, the black capped chickadee. Easily distinguishable by the bold white eyebrow that the black capped variation lacks, the mountain chickadee is still a beautiful and feisty bird that I was thrilled to see. That was at the beginning of the hike, which eventually led to the stunning Stewart Falls waterfall cascade.
On the return hike I again spotted the mountain chickadees flitting through the same area of trees, and when I was raising my binoculars to watch them once more I commented to my husband that what I really wanted to see was a nuthatch, a type of bird completely lacking from my life list. To my surprise, however, it wasn't just mountain chickadees flitting in the pines this time - they were joined by at least two red-breasted nuthatches. Ask and ye shall receive! Not only could I observe them quite well, but their distinctive "henk-henk-henk" call couldn't have been clearer.
In addition to these fabulous new lifers, the walk yielded some other great sightings...
- Steller's Jay - Calling through the woods and pecking furiously at the pines.
- Red Tailed Hawk - A dark morph soaring over the mountainside, as well as a clear, vibrant call.
- American Robins - Pecking away at berries in a high mountain grassland clearing.
- Black Capped Chickadees - Toiling away in the grasses and aspens as they flitted for food, though one brave little bird posed beautifully for a moment.
Chipmunks and squirrels rounded out the sightings, though there were other unidentified birds that continually taunted me both with their calls and with brief glimpses too quick for confirmations.
Thus ends a beautiful fall weekend; I'm already looking forward to next weekend, when we'll likely scout a different location and who knows what we may find.
These fall birding tips can help you make the most of this season's birds!