After spending a few days in relatively warm Austin (40, overcast, rain), it was nice to get back to the dry, sunny, cold Laramie. Sunday was my first day home and we went up to Pole Mountain to run or hike. There were a few clouds, but it was a bright day and not much wind. The trail I took, Headquarters, is a point to point trail, but there are several places where other trails join or intersect so you don’t have to hike the whole way. My plan was to hike out about 45 minutes to a place where the trail comes to the top of a ridge and the trees thin out and then take another trail back to the truck. From that spot, on clear days like Sunday, you can see the front range with Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker in the distance to the south. If you move your line of sight a bit to the west the mountains of the Rawah Wilderness poke their white heads up above Boulder Ridge. Further west is the seemingly solitary Jelm and then the Snowies are almost directly west of this vantage. The altitude at that spot is about 8800 feet so it’s no surprise you can see a ways.
It was late afternoon as I was standing there taking in the view. The sun was about a foot above the horizon. The slanting light was bright and clear. As I looked, a flock of birds flew up in front of me. At first I thought they were just misc. brown birds. I watched them roil through the sky in that wonderful way flocks of birds have. How do they fly like that and not smash into one another?
As they flew, over and behind me, I noticed that they were not just misc. brown birds. They were larger than sparrows and had a different look than starlings.
The flock of about 50 or 60 birds landed in a dead pine tree about 20 yards behind where I stood. Since I was between them and the sun, they seemed to be in a spotlight. I could clearly see their plumage and markings. I knew they were waxwings of some kind. The only kind I was familiar with were cedar waxwings. However, these birds had a rufous patch on the bottom of their tails. When I got home and looked them up, it turned out that they were Bohemian waxwings. I kicked myself for not bringing the camera along. As I took a step to leave, they all flew out of the tree.