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Features

  • From beneath the wide brim of his cowboy hat, Ted Brown seeks out his quarry on the hillsides.

    His discriminating eye spots a plant that could be an oxeye daisy — not an unattractive plant, but one that is a threat to native species in the high country.

    On a recent afternoon in the fields behind Clear Creek High School, Brown is seeking the eradication of a specific weed: the common mullein, or Verbascum thapsus.

    Brown’s employees spray the mullein, whose brown stalks stick up from hillsides like Roman spears.


  • The Twin Tunnels appear key to the future of growth in the Interstate 70 corridor today, just as they were more than 60 years ago.

  • Two weeks ago, I wrote about the tree and violet-green swallows that nest in this area. They are the swallows that have dark blue-black backs and white under parts as they flash by.
    There are other swallows that nest regularly in the area and that are also present in the big flocks of swallows that gather on utility lines before they depart for the South. There are four other swallows that are in this group that everyone can easily see in mixed flocks. The bank and rough-winged swallows are easily seen as different for they have brown backs and white under parts.

  • With its Victorian charm and mining heritage, Silver Plume became the perfect setting for two books — one historical fiction and the other a ghost story — from different writers. The authors are visiting the county to promote their books and do readings over the next couple of weeks.

    A historical tale

    Veteran author Marianne Mitchell of Arizona decided to set her most recent book, “A Promise Made,” in Silver Plume after trying to unravel her own family mystery.

  •  As summer wanes, more and more young birds are at the feeders. It is great to see so many of the regular species apparently doing well. There is one whose presence I miss in the yard. For some unknown reason, the violet-green swallows did not return this spring.

  •  One of the most prominent and therefore most asked-about birds at Evergreen Lake is the double-crested cormorant. 

    This big bird often is seen sitting on the dam or on the sandbar that accumulates at the inlet. They are big black birds that people cannot fail to see, especially when they have their wings spread out to dry.

    Depending upon the current taxonomy, there are 27 or more species in the world but only one that is commonly found in inland areas. Cormorants are found worldwide along ocean coasts. 

  • Idaho Springs’ mining history made a reappearance on July 19 when a sinkhole caused by an abandoned mining tunnel under the road appeared in the left eastbound lane of Interstate 70 near the Hidden Valley exit.

    What started as a foot-long hole in the asphalt grew to more than 12 feet deep and 10 feet wide. Colorado Department of Transportation crews closed part of I-70 as they worked through the night to fill it.

    “Hopefully nothing else crops up,” said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson.

  •  A phone call from a reader of this column on Thursday, July 12, brought some exciting news. The call was from Susan Pellegrini, who lives out Brook Forest Drive. She was calling to tell me she had seen her first rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder. It was an adult male, not all that unusual in itself, but it was the date that excited me.

  •  The past two weeks have been interesting with the usual influx of young animals that occurs every year in July. It also ushered in a very dramatic temperature change.

    The dry high 90s were suddenly changed into crashing thunderstorms and cooler temperatures. Daytime temperatures dropped into the 70s, and nights suddenly required a blanket or two, which is much more normal for the foothills area. I was especially relieved by the cooler weather for the high temperatures seemed to weigh heavily upon me in my old age.

  • The frogs definitely were hopping Saturday in Empire — all 120 of them.
    That’s how many amphibians were sold to participants at Empire’s resurrected Frog Rodeo at Minton Park. This year, the demand was so great that the number of would-be participants outnumbered the available frogs.

  • Another question from a reader this week asked how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Any of you who have read this column regularly recall that I wrote some time ago that I had given up trying to outsmart the squirrels.
    However, here are a few general ideas on how to combat these furry robbers of birdseed. Some things have worked fairly well for me. My feeders are all on pulleys that keep them well above the ground and away from the supporting pole. The pole I use is a piece of 21/2 inch galvanized water pipe.

  • Another question from a reader this week asked how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Any of you who have read this column regularly recall that I wrote some time ago that I had given up trying to outsmart the squirrels.
    However, here are a few general ideas on how to combat these furry robbers of birdseed. Some things have worked fairly well for me. My feeders are all on pulleys that keep them well above the ground and away from the supporting pole. The pole I use is a piece of 21/2 inch galvanized water pipe.

  • Aspiring author Kathy Lynn Harris noticed a year ago that it seemed like everybody on airplanes was using e-readers and not reading print books anymore.

     

    So the Clear Creek resident decided it was time to give up the dream of finding a traditional publisher and publish her novel, "Blue Straggler," the digital way.

  • Now on his fourth pair of running shoes, Ethan Bennett reached Idaho Springs on June 17 on his road trip from New York City to San Francisco.
    The trick, he discovered, is that each pair — while officially good for only 300 miles — can be coaxed to yield 600 miles. That sort of trick has been a metaphor for the tenacity Bennett, 23, has shown as he runs across the country. He will reach the West Coast on July 29 when he finishes the San Francisco Marathon and a total of 3,289 miles.

  • A chorus of picks digging in the earth and the occasional sound of steel scraping stone accompanied the nearly 40 volunteers working just west of Empire on June 1 to build a historic trail for people with disabilities.
    Partners for Access to the Woods is a nonprofit that specializes in opening public lands to the disabled. The trail, in part designed by students from the Colorado School of Mines, is both wheelchair accessible and designed for the blind, PAW director Carol Hunter said.

  • June 8, 15, 22, 29
    The Oh My Gawd Rodeo features bulls, broncs, ropers, racers and mutton bustin’. The rodeo will begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays at the Kiefer Arena. Take Interstate 70 to Idaho Springs, then take the frontage road west. Adults, $10; kids ages 10 to 17, $5; children under 10 admitted free. For entry information, call 303-622-9745.

    June 11

  • June is here with all her green profusion. In terms of weather, June is probably the best month of the year. It’s not too hot and not too cold with enough spring moisture to maintain her greenness. June comes pretty close to perfection. The burst of new growth has turned everything green and lush, and many wildflowers are in bloom.

  • Ninety-four years ago in France, Ralph Wilkins, an infantryman from Idaho Springs, became the first local resident to die in World War I.

  • The little brown house wren has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. They always nested in a box in our yard on the farm where I grew up, and they were common nesting birds in most every yard in the village.

  • Reprinted from May 27, 2009

    Just as in years past, the summer folk have arrived in Evergreen. It used to be families that arrived as soon as school was out, and there were cabins to be opened, bed linens to be aired out and meals to be prepared during the last of May or early June. Now it is summer birds that still arrived during the last or May or early June.
    The summer birds have territories to locate, songs to sing to warn others to stay out of those territories, mates to court and nests to build. Soon they will have young to feed.