It was my fault that there was a disturbance in the neighborhood last Thursday.

It was my fault that there was a disturbance in the neighborhood last Thursday. It all started when I walked down to get the paper with Duffy, the dog. Maybe if I had my camera with me things might have gotten even more disruptive.

Lately, I’ve taken to carrying my binoculars with me when I go for my morning and afternoon walks. I do this so that I can better see – and hopefully identify – the birds that I observe along the way. A number of times recently I’ve taken my camera and 100-400mm lens with me. At 400mm and with the 1.6x magnification factor of the Canon digital camera, I can obtain the equivalent of a 640mm telephoto lens. Blowing up the resulting image even larger often results in some fairly good photos which makes the bird identification much easier. I am by no means an expert at identifying birds with binoculars. If it is a bird that is fairly common and I am familiar with it, I can usually identify the bird. If it is not common or I am not familiar with the bird, I often struggle to observe and recall all of the field marks that might be necessary for a positive identification.

So, in Thursday’s refreshing morning air, as the Duffster and I sauntered along on Wildcat Road just after turning off of Oak Road, I observed a flash of bright red color. I had my binoculars with me and viewed a bird that instantly reminded me of East Africa’s Hunter’s Sunbird

Or a Scarlet-chested Sunbird

The bird had a bright red chest and black body and showed a flash of white when it flew. I only saw it for 5-10 seconds and then continued on. When I got back to the house and looked in Sibley’s Western Field Guide. The bird that came closest was a Painted Redstart, but it was not supposed to be seen in our area.

That afternoon I emailed Susan, the premier bird expert living in our area and told her what I saw and described the habitat and location. She got excited because it must have been a Painted Redstart and it is a rare bird for our area and Colorado in general.

Apparently, one had been seen in Mancos (about 30 miles West of here) three years ago in similar habitat. She asked if it would be okay to notify the statewide birder hot line and a few of the serious local birders (the types that have life lists that might include seasonal lists, county lists, state lists, country lists and world-wide lists).

I told her to hold off on the state notification and just tell a few of the locals. About a half-hour later, I headed for town to run an errand and encountered two birders walking along the road. When I returned home there were several cars parked along the road and more birders searching the area. Some of the neighbors went out and inquired what was going on. One thought that an elderly man must have been lost as it looked like he was wandering around aimlessly.

Late that afternoon Susan showed up. In the first half hour, she had identified a number of birds that I had never seen before on my walks. In the morning, Susan and her husband, Pete showed up. We all went out to look again. Later that morning, after meeting with a contractor, I went out and caught up with Susan. I showed her some similar habitat where I take my afternoon walks.

Susan was a great teacher, I learned a few new birds and with her help I was able to photograph a couple of birds I had not previously photographed: a Plumbeous Vireo and a Cordilleran Flycatcher.

Plumbeous Vireo, Vireo plumbeus, La Plata County, Colorado, USA, North AmericaPlumbeous Vireo, Vireo plumbeus, La Plata County, Colorado, USA, North America


Cordilleran Flycatcher 5149W1WMCordilleran Flycatcher 5147W1WM


Sadly – or maybe happily for the neighbors – no one has seen the bird again in the area.

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