Eight years ago I moved from the Northeast to the Southeast in an attempt to escape the cold, snow-filled winters of the snow belt. Serendipity led me to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee and within a few months, I’d joined a group of some of the best birders in the U.S. I called myself the “Social Butterfly” of the group, usually snapping photos of folks with better cameras zooming in to get amazing shots of the birds themselves. As a Novice Birder, I took notes, flipped through guidebooks, listened to recorded vocalizations over and over in the car, and tried to position myself close to the leader’s shoulder so I could see and hear what they’d spotted and learned from the best.
Today I consider myself an Intermediate Birder – still below 300 on my life list and having to rely on field guides and other resources to confirm sightings. And, Western Birds add a whole new level to the game. Yet today I felt I’d finally morphed from Social Birder into Real Birder.
Part of the reason I became a full-time RVer was to spend more time in nature, birding, kayaking, hiking, etc. But I’d never really made a date to bird by myself before, except for around the yard or from the comfort of the front porch. When I’d discovered most of the state parks in the Denver, CO area were reserved for the remainder of this summer’s weekends, I located a private RV park close to Barr Lake State Park in Brighton, CO which is only 25 miles north of the city. And is known as a mecca for the birder in these parts.
Barr Lake State Park is a day-use park (no camping allowed) with long hours of access from 5 am to 10 pm. A Colorado State Park Permit is $7 a day or $70 per year. My $7 bought me three separate visits to the park within 24 hours as I went during the afternoon, later that day at dusk, and early the next day.
The Nature Center is one of the nicest I’ve seen with two rangers on duty who answered several of my birding questions and gave me a park bird list. Approximately 350 species have been observed in the park which encompasses 2,715 acres including a 1,900-acre reservoir that is teeming with catfish, waterfowl, and many other species. Half of the lake is accessible to hunters, fishermen, and boaters; and the other half is a nature sanctuary. The headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory is located at the North end of the park. Several duck blinds, boardwalks, and viewing scopes are positioned in prime viewing areas around the perimeter of the lake. The majestic Rocky Mountains, still snow-covered in spots, frame the Western view.
On my first two trips, I walked the dirt paths and boardwalks for about 1 ½ mile on either side of the entrance. Horseback riders and bicyclists are free to use the main paths. Today I returned early in the day, intent on walking the 3 miles out to the Bald eagle’s nesting area and getting back before my permit expired at noon. The trek was grand – with good looks at a soaring Bald eagle, a Swanson’s hawk, dozens of roosting American white pelicans, and half a dozen life birds in the 25 species I could identify. Western grebes dotted the lake, and a family of American coots scooted around the lily pads. Bullfrogs and catfish jumped and startled me a few times.
But the biggest thrills turned out to be my mammalian escorts – a cottontail rabbit (the one with its tail pinned on crooked) calmly made its way across the bridge leading to the trails, looking back over its shoulder as if to say “Are you coming or not?” Then, after nearly 6 miles of walking in the sun, making my way back to the parking lot, this whitetail deer gracefully entered the path in front of me, posed for pictures, then slowly walked ahead of me for about 50 feet before turning to face me once more. “I want to go past you, but don’t want to scare you” we both thought. Then the deer picked its way down the embankment of the canal/moat that surrounds the park and moved to the surrounding brush. It was a stellar day, and I hope to return to this area again to explore what Barr Lake State Park has to offer in simple pleasures.
Think: What simple pleasures have you missed doing lately?
Say: Choose a date to put aside exploring your passion, the sooner, the better. If you want to invite friends along, give them a time and day to plan on.
Do: Make a point of including the activities that bring you to live into your calendar. We need to refresh our Spirits just like we need to exercise our bodies and expand our ways of thinking.
Please: Share this post with three or more of your friends. If it has been helpful to you, it may be what someone else also needs to hear right now. Thank you!