Facing another mild, sunny morning along the Colorado Front range, I headed to Deer Creek Canyon Park in the foothills of southwest Metro Denver. There I was greeted by cool, fresh air, the usual mix of wild residents and, for most of the visit, the joy of solitude.
As I hiked through a spectacular landscape of yucca-studded grasslands, Gambel's oak, mountain mahogany, junipers and scenic rock formations, I encountered scrub jays, Townsend's solitaires, rufous-sided towhees, ravens, canyon wrens and, of course, the ubiquitous chickadees, robins and juncos; mule deer were abundant and Colorado chipmunks scurried across the trail. At the top of the first ridge, which commands a magnificent view of the canyon and of rock formations to the east, I was rewarded by the sight of a golden eagle, soaring above the foothills that flank Deer Creek Canyon.
In another month, these permanent residents will be joined by black-headed grosbeaks, green-tailed towhees, Lazuli buntings, lesser goldfinches, blue-gray gnatcatchers, yellow-breasted chats, white-throated swifts, Virginia's warblers and other summer residents. Blue grouse will also return to this refuge during the warmer months, having spent the winter on higher mountain slopes, feasting on conifer needles and berries. Of course, I will also come back to welcome these seasonal residents to their summer home in Colorado.