Up to the Pines

Along the Colorado Front Range, ponderosa pine woodlands cloak sunny slopes of the foothills and lower mountains, generally from elevations of 6500 to 9000 feet.  These large, aromatic conifers tend to form open "parklands" which appeal to humans and wildlife alike.  Douglas fir and Colorado blue spruce grow on the cooler, north-facing slopes, forming dense tracts of forest.

This morning, I visited Mt. Falcon Park, west of Denver, one of the better locations to explore this Montane Forest ecosystem.  American crows, Steller's jays, black-billed magpies and northern flickers were most conspicuous, their raucous calls echoing across the Park, while pygmy nuthatches and those ubiquitous American robins were the most abundant avian residents.  Other sightings included western and mountain bluebirds, Townsend's solitaires, hairy woodpeckers, pine siskins, dark-eyed juncos (the gray-headed race), mountain chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches.

Abert's squirrels, closely associated with ponderosa pine woodlands, inhabit Mt. Falcon Park, as do Colorado chipmunks and golden-mantled ground squirrels.  Mule deer are abundant in this life zone and, today, I encountered a small herd of elk along the entry road, not yet headed for their summer range in the higher mountains.