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Barr Lake on a cold winter day… Today (January 9, 2022)

January 9, 2022

House sparrows, waiting for their turn at a birdfeeder. Barr Lake State Park, January 9, 2022

His name was Brian, tall, lean, walking with good posture, some gray in his hair but not much. His binoculars pretty much gave him away as “a birder” (ie, someone who enjoys watching birds). And that he was. At some point we stopped to talk. Immediately I knew that he knew what he was talking about and not just about birds. He could identify them by their sounds (which I cannot) and he had an eye for them. Mine isn’t bad actually, but his is better.

I had seen a hawk fly by over the lake (Barr Lake) but all I knew was that it wasn’t a red tail. He was pretty sure it was a “rough-legged” described in great detail. I was unfamiliar with that species. As we were talking a bevy of American goldfinches, a dozen or so, flew to a nearby bush and began pecking at the seeds. “It’s an invasive plant” Brian commented, “and the birds will spread its seeds far and wide. Then he showed me a goldfinch nest and spent a good ten minutes explaining to me how delicate, fragile it was, yet strong.

We continued to talk.

I had pointed out Long’s Peak to Nancy. The family farm in Lyons was located just below it. Looking up and seeing that mountain often when visiting “Stone Bridge Farm” as it was and is still called always nearly took my breath away and… it reminded me of our wedding reception which was held in a cow pasture with Long’s Peak towering above us.

Had I even climbed it, he asked. No, not me, I’m afraid of heights but I did poke around the base several times before it got too steep for me.

Brian had, but when he got to the summit there was a group of people with cell phones taking “selfies” and talking on the phone to friends far and wide. It ruined the atmosphere for him. Even on the top of Longs Peak people cannot get away from their cellphones, technology. Then he went on to tell me what the summits were like on a number of other Colorado “14-ers” (that is to say Rocky Mountains more than 14000 ft in altitude). I told him Nancy’s brother David had climbed Longs’ and if I remember correctly several other “14-ers”.

It turned out that Brian is a retired wildlife biologist, retired from 25 years with the Denver Zoo where he specialized in caring for the reptile collection, his specialty – the world and behavior of rattlesnakes. He asked how it was that I was interested in birds. I told him that after I retired I was looking for a hobby – or an interest perhaps is more accurate – where I might learn about something I knew nothing about and birds came to mind, how yes, I try to learn about their behavior, to identify them but I was not interested in becoming some kind of expert, only to enjoy them, connect to another group of living things with which I share the planet and that my interest in them was probably a result of having taught Evolution for 35  or more years, with birds being one of the prime examples of easily identifiable speciation, etc.

We didn’t share phone numbers or other contact information nor did I get his last name but as he walked off he said “Do you come here often? Maybe we’ll meet again.” “I hope so,” I answered… and I do.

I very much enjoy being around people like Brian, whose connection to Nature is literally part and parcel of their being, who know it like, frankly I never will, but who like to, in a selfless and generous fashion, share their understanding with a city boy like myself but do so without the arrogance and competitiveness I often run into. Others like Brian at Barr Lake ..

Because of a bum knee, I haven’t been out walking, hiking in the hills or on the plains of Colorado. It was cold today. The car thermometer read 28 degrees when we pulled into Barr Lake State Park and there was a good deal of ice and snow on the paths, making walking, even for those with no knee problem, problematic. The key to the weather though was that the wind was down and that made the cold more tolerable. After a while I hardly notice it.

A fine afternoon.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Arnie Voigt permalink
    January 9, 2022 8:40 pm

    Neat! Thanks, Rob!


  2. Phil Jones permalink
    January 9, 2022 8:57 pm

    Didn’t know about yr knee. Hope it’s not too painful. My problem is my right hip. It made me give up jogging a little over a year ago, but at least I can power-walk thsee days with no pain. I usually go out in the morning for a little over an hour and walk around a small nearby lake. Always some Canada geese. Frequenetly mallards and crows. Very occasionally a seagull who got blown inland in a storm. Like your walk, goldfinches, but also the ubiquitous sparrows. To weeks ago even a red fox. Years ago there were deer, but the suburbs have kept growing around here so no more deer. BTW i wish I could share your optimistic belief that some socio-economic plan could improve Tunisia’s basic sitution in any really signifiant way…..Happy New Year…..Phil

    • January 9, 2022 9:58 pm

      Good to hear from you Phil. Come visit… We can exchange your good knee for my good hip and have a fine time. Really doesn’t matter the time of year hear. Robbie

  3. Paula M Wentworth Dailey permalink
    January 10, 2022 5:21 am

    Great encounter! I have been both Brian and Rob! I love to share what I know.

  4. Rafael Humberto Mojica permalink
    January 19, 2022 10:26 am

    Nice to hear from you early enough when we can still say Happy New Year, Rob. I enjoyed your piece on your visit to Barr Lake a lot. Many years back when still living in Denver we visited there to see the pelicans that we had read about in The Rocky Mountain News, then still existing. We didn’t see any of pelicans but still we enjoyed our visit there. Even if we like Michigan and our life has been good here, we still miss Colorado and we have been back there a couple of times, our last time was in the summer of 2019. As for birds, yes our feather friends are perhaps the only ones fortunate with Covid around for these two long years, with many people increasing their interest in them. January has been a very cold month here and my trips to the feeding trays in the back yard are frequent, but I have to say that my bird knowledge is limited. I do have my favorite ones, the American robin and crows. The robin marks the arrival of spring -for us a kind of rebirth- after our long winters, and I enjoy the sight of a crow chasing out their foes hawk and falcon high in the sky.

    Again, I enjoyed your story. I do read too your reports on the Middle East but I abstain from comments because I can not pretend that I have current knowledge of the issues in that part of the world, except what I get from the established media, which by the way is very different from what we get in your blog. Your blog keeps me cautious of what comes on my other ear.

    Wishing you and your family health and happiness,

    Rafael Humberto Mojica

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