12 toes

On a recent hike that took us through a long stretch of a recently burnt forest we heard the sound of a woodpecker pecking away in search of a meal. When we finally got close enough we were surprised and rewarded with a male American Three-toed Woodpecker drilling away.

The American Three-toed Woodpecker’s small stature is deceptive. One study of its musculature and skeleton revealed that this woodpecker can deliver especially powerful blows. It’s been suggested this is due to the evolutionary loss of the fourth toe—an unusual trait shared only by the Eurasian Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers. With only three toes, these species may be able to lean farther away from the tree and thereby hit the tree harder than other woodpeckers, all of which have four toes.


While we were watching this guy drill away it became clear that there must be another individual out of sight on the other side of the tree given as we heard drumming even when this male was holding still and within a few minutes a female emerged from the hidden side of the tree.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are much more numerous in disturbed forests than in mature green forest, so look for them in bark beetle outbreaks, recently burned areas (up through about 8 years after a wildfire), and other places with dead and dying trees. 


There was only a short moment when both the female and male were visible in the viewfinder together but they do make a mine pair and 4 legs with three toes each well…that’s twelve toes.

Time With Chip

Spending a little time with Chip. This summer a Chipmunk family seems to have made a home nearby and we were happy to spend some time observing them feeding, playing and just hanging out doing what Chipmunks do.

Play was on the menu this afternoon under the shade of an old Douglas Fir.

After expending all the energy a quick snack of Service Berry was in order. Better save a few for winter.

We all know what follows a big meal. Yes, a little afternoon snooze. Who wouldn’t like that on s sultry summer afternoon.

Have a wonderful and happy weekend.

Another Small Bouquet

Another small bouquet freshly picked and delivered just in time to usher in another week. It ’s hard to believe but The last week in July already. My oh my how time does fly.

Wishing you a great week.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Firecracker Penstemon, Yellow Columbine and a lovely pinkish painted Brush.

Chipping Sparrow: Spizella passerina

It wouldn’t seem like summer without the sounds of the Chipping Sparrows echoing through the trees in our area. A beautiful little sparrow with their rufous crown. We see the Chipping Sparrow foraging on branches, jumping around on the ground and hopping about in the both pine and deciduous tress each summer.

More often than not a hike through the forest in July is accompanied by their song echoing through the woods. A song we thoroughly enjoy.

So here’s to the Chipping Sparrow a widespread, modest and wonderful summer companion.

Song Sparrow: Melospiza melodia

Given the enormous variety of regional differences it took a few looks and luckily photographs, to be certain this indeed was a Song Sparrow. And what a fine looking Song Sparrow it was.

For quite some time this birds perched upon a thorny branch of a small shrub. Moving back and forth and allowing us a nice long look during which were were able to inch ever closer.

After a few minutes this bird moved just a few yards away to a shrub containing leaves. While it was the same bird the image seemed to take on a different feeling. From pure blue sky and thorny shrub to a fresh field of green.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Young and old

Just a couple of weeks ago the wild roses along the road were in full bloom and evening light made them oh so appealing. Yet just a few steps away were older rose bushes rose-hips still attached and full of cobwebs.

As we walked this road the pattern seems to repeat young and old, new and old over and over again.

A fine study in contrast yet none really exists.

A Small Bouquet

With summer chugging along at breakneck speed a small bouquet of wildflowers, picked via camera, from a recent mornings walk feels a fitting way to start another week.

oh, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. They just don’t last that long.

Lupine, Wild Rose, Arrowleaf-Balsamroot and Sticky Geranium.

Lark Sparrow

At least there is one sparrow that is always easy for us to identify.

The Lark Sparrow.

This large sparrow may be brown, but its harlequin facial pattern and white tail spots make it a standout among sparrows. Males sing a melodious jumble of churrs, buzzes, and trills reminiscent of an Old World lark. Their courtship is also unusual, involving a hopping and crouching display unlike other sparrows. Lark Sparrows occur in the West and the Great Plains in prairies, grasslands, and pastures with scattered shrubs. In winter, look for them in small flocks in brushy areas.


Getting a nice long look at Lark Sparrows always makes the long drive out to visit to the grasslands and prairies complete.

However on a more serious note, prairie and grassland birds and their habitats are perhaps the most threatened birds and ecosystems in North America. A recent article in Forbes, yes Forbes, brings this problem to light and how one major bird conservation group is working to address it.


While we regularly see and hear the brightly colored male Lazuli Bunting singing his somewhat squeaky song from the tops of bushes and trees at the edge of open fields we see and have had the opportunity to photograph the female only on rare occasion. Softly colored with a light cinnamon breast the female was quietly hanging out in dense foliage listening as a nearby male sang his heart out.

The beauty of the Lazuli Bunting did not escape the early naturalist who named it Passerina amoena, meaning beautiful sparrow.


While it was indeed named beautiful sparrow the Lazuli Bunting is actually in the family Cardinaliadae being more related to Cardinals or Grossbeaks.

It was indeed our lucky morning as another female peeks out from a thick tangle of shrub with her best man nearby.

And just for fun, one more shot of the male perched nearby in a cottonwood tree.

And by the way… isn’t Lazuli a fun word to say?