Posts Tagged ‘western wood peewee’

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” — Wallace Stegner. 

Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

            Today would be the fourth time I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a place that because of its beauty and its history would never bore me. But today would be the first time I had visited this park since I had become addicted to bird watching.

A page from my journal.

So along with looking at the high mesa scenery and cliff dwellings, I was always on the lookout for birds. Of the 1,000 or so bird species found in North American, about 200 of them have been sighted in the park. I didn’t see too many of them, but it was still fun looking.

I enjoyed the 45-minute drive up to the top of the 8,600-foot mesa because of the scenic views as much as I enjoyed stopping at overviews of the cliff dwellings and the hike down to one of them, the Spruce Tree House. The cliff dwellings were used by those often called the Anasazi sometime after 650 and through the end of the 12th century. The occupants used a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans and squash to survive.

Before hiking down to the ancient dwellings, I spent 50 cents to purchase a guide to the site, which also identified the plants along the trail. While I enjoy the historical aspects of the places I visit, the truth is I enjoy the handiwork of nature even more.

And the highlight of this morning of sightseeing on the high mesa (perhaps because this wasn’t my first sight

Western wood peewee 

of the cliff dwellings) was seeing a western wood peewee for the first time. It was my second lifer for the trip. This peewee is a rather plain grayish-brownish bird five to six inches in size. Its most distinguishing feature is a peaked crown that gives a triangular shape to the bird’s head. The peewees belong to the flycatcher family, and like them can be seen sitting up tall and then flying out to catch a spotted insect, then flying back to the same perch.

It was this action that gave me a clue to the bird’s identification, followed by a close look at my bird field guide…. To be continued.

Bean Pat: Mesa Verde  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm   Check out the video about the park. 

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com




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Sunset at Lake Walcott -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “What a joy it is to feel the soft, spring earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll in riotous gladness.” Helen Keller
From Twin Falls, it was just 58 miles to Lake Walcott State Park, where I would spend the next seven weeks. I arrived in the early evening and found the campground full, except for my host site, where a thoughtful park ranger had blocked it off with sawhorses to keep it vacant for my expected arrival.

Broad-tailed hummingbird

After hooking up, Maggie and I took one of the park’s paved trails down to the lake where a pair of western grebes floated gracefully on the water. I would see this same pair almost every day I was at the park. On the walk back to the RV, I watched a magnificent sunset turn the clouds a rosy pink, at times framing a full moon.

I awoke the next morning to an orange and purple sunrise and three broad-tailed hummingbirds playing king of the  mountain at the hummingbird feeder I had put out when I hooked up. The sunrise, which changed in intensity and colors to accommodate the weather, and the hummingbirds, which some days numbered up to eight, joined my cream-laced coffee and e-mail check morning ritual. 

Sunrise at Lake Walcott -- Photo by Pat Bean

By the time Maggie, who sleeps in until at least 9 a.m., woke and demanded a walk, we took it beneath fluffy white clouds floating in a robin’s egg blue sky. Western kingbirds, robins and western peewees kept us company as we walked through the campground, and then beside the lake to watch the western grebes. 

How could I do anything but look forward to my next 49 days. If home is where the heart is, I was there.

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