Two evening hikes in the same week! The sunset and moonrise on the 7th were spectacular, the moon rising as a big orange-red ball on the flat horizon. We watched it from the lookout above the prairie dog town.
Our wildflower walk was eventful. A storm moved through just after we arrived, and the swallows were thick and acrobatic above the grass as the front approached. Most of the grasses are mature by now, and the biodiversity is far more evident than earlier in the season, when the range was dominated by cheatgrass seedheads. Primrose still were blooming in more protected areas, as were the globemallow. Scarlet gaura was easy to find and the blossoms were a deeper red around the prairie dog holes. Prairie coneflower, white prairie clover, and prairie pink, all warm-season flowers, were blooming. Annual wild buckwheat (umbrella plant) has grown into maturity. The prairie dogs have started their summer expansion projects, new mounds in the suburb to the South and East. We visited a protected pond and found cattail heads forming and the nearby currant berries nearly ripe. In the canyon, there was a lone sunflower under a pine tree (facing the wrong direction?), perhaps from a birdseed deposit? Resting under a sumac bush was a dragonfly, wings clear with large black stripes and body a brown-gray color. Perhaps a common whitetail (Libellula lydia)? As dragonflies are more common in marshy and wet areas, this was a good sign of the moisture we’ve received this spring.
Two exciting bird sightings for the evening. While in the canyon, we flushed a mourning dove that flew away with a classic broken-wing act. A look at the bush it flew from revealed two young doves in a nest, tucked in the branches of a bush and looking a lot like old gray pine cones (see photo, taken by Jenny Bales). We’ll try to avoid that area for another week or two. At the top of the canyon toward the end of the hike, there were four large birds roosting in the tops of the ponderosa. Three of them in a dead snag looked just like an old western photo of vultures, and the fourth kept a close watch on us walking just across the draw. We had some discussion of identity–turkey vultures or turkeys? They were roosting high up in the trees and were very dark, leading me to think turkey vultures. But after some research and the sighting of lots of turkeys in the area the next day, I think they were most likely turkeys.
And the sunset after the storm…wow!