Tag Archives: Colorado

Video of Rare Ice Age Tree in Boulder

While learning about all things conservation in Boulder, I was told about a special type of tree that grows in one spot here. The paper birch is a species of tree that has grown here since the time of the last Ice Age. They are rare in the West. Boulder represents the southernmost population of the tree west of Nebraska.

Actually seeing them is like stumbling upon a secret. So I made this quick little video to show you what they look like and some of the cool things about them.

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Video of Rare Ice Age Tree, posted with vodpod

What I’ve learned is that there are amazing things right in my backyard. I bet there are in yours too.

What’s special about your local nature?

Send in some photos, put up your YouTube clip or even send a few words, and I’d be happy to share it on Nature Files. I bet you won’t have to look very far.

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Sagebrush Ecosystem: Rising from an ancient sea

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Sagebrush country, it kind of makes you itchy and scratchy just looking at it. This is a place where every footstep crackles, and there are no forests to shelter under. You’d never realize that where you’re standing used to lie at the bottom of the ocean.

Look to your feet, the rocks and soil, and you’ll quickly see otherwise. Rocks crumble away revealing more fossil than straight rock. The remains of the ancients run thick through this ground, giving rise to a new ecosystem remarkable for its hardiness and coveted for its carbon.

Here, the faint lemony fragrance of the sage floats in on the breeze. Antelope bolt for the hills, and theĀ  “drip-thoink” calls of male sage grouse echo across the dawn as they try to win the hearts, or at leastĀ  reproductive rights, of their ladies.

Nearby Craig, Colo., boasts the largest coal-fired power plant in the state with a 1,304 megawatt capacity. Open pit coal mines and natural gas development serve as a backdrop to rolling hay fields and seemingly endless expanses of sagebrush.

The sagebrush is not endless however. It’s shrinking faster than people know it exists. So here’s my attempt to give it some props. Even if it’s difficult to stand before the sagebrush sea in awe like you would Yosemite and Yellowstone, you can’t help but respect the wilderness that insists on living there.

This isn’t your fluffy, lush Walden Pond wilderness. This is your crawl from a dried up seabed, live where others can’t sort of wild. You fall asleep to shorts and t-shirt kind of weather and wake to 50mph winds and blizzard kind of havoc. But if you have the guts to stop your car and venture out for awhile, you’ll understand that this place fights for every moment of its existence, and it kicks ass.


Backcountry trek to study Rocky Mountain National Park fish introductions

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At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have to say that I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I work as the science writer for CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. My job doesn’t stop at writing about science. Being a photographer and multimedia producer play equal parts.

In this instance, I got to hit the trail with Jimmy McCutchan and Tommy Detmer, a couple of CIRES scientists studying the effects of fish introductions on formerly fishless lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fish were introduced to support fly fishing from the 1800s until the 1960s. Now the National Park Service is working with CIRES to find out what’s happened to those lakes, knowledge that may help guide future management.

Their study also isn’t a bad way to work a little fly fishing into your science.

You can learn more about CIRES science at cires.colorado.edu, or check out the CIRESvideos channel on YouTube.com.

 


Photo Tour: Autumn at Sawhill Ponds

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For you naturephiles out there, there’s nothing like finding that local wildlife hotspot you can explore whenever the fancy takes you. For me, that place is Sawhill Ponds, a series of 18 reclaimed gravel pits that now support a wealth of interconnected habitats from meadow to woodlands and marshes. This busy microcosm offers more than a peaceful place to take a walk, no matter the season. There is an abundance of wildlife to enjoy, including owls, coyotes, waterfowl and frogs, and it’s all within a stone’s throw of downtown Boulder, Colo.

These images are part of a project documenting this wildlife refuge and its inhabitants through the year. Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for Sawhill Ponds: Winter.


Milky Way or Bust: Give Light Pollution the Brush-off

The Milky Way as seen from Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

The Milky Way as seen from Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

With the prevalence of light pollution even in smaller towns, it’s not often that I’m privy to star-filled nights. But when my partner and I took a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park, I had to give it a try. Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States, is known as an excellent place for star viewing. If you’re planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in the next couple weeks, it’s worth missing dinner to see a sky like this. The road should be open until mid-October, or until bad weather hits, whichever comes first. So take some hot chocolate, and enjoy the view.

Got any tips for star photography? Would love to hear them.


Lady bug swarm turns Green Mountain red

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Lady bugs unite! When a friend of mine posted some photos she took while on a hike on Boulder’s Green Mountain, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw entire tree trunks covered in red. The red was lady bugs, a mass gathering of a gardener’s best friend, as they search for mates and prepare to hibernate for the winter. Now this was something I had to see for myself.

Of course, not everyone can make the hike to Green Mountain, but hopefully you can live a little vicariously through this slide show, and learn a little something new about this “cuter” member of bug-dom.

There are more than 400 species of lady bugs, (or as they’re more officially known ladybird beetles), in North America. This year has been an unusual one for lots of natural phenomena in Colorado — a wet, cool summer has led to an endless green summer and multitudes of wildflowers — and this year’s lady bug gathering is no exception. Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks estimates that this could be a record-setting year for the annual swarm.

Besides the slideshow, I’ve made a little list of interesting lady bug facts you might not know.

  • They’re cannibals.
    • at least during their larval stage. Researchers recently discovered lady bug babies hatch and eat their siblings. Don’t get too disillusioned. They grow out of it.
  • They don’t change their spots.
    • Some people think you can tell the beetle’s age by the number of its spots, but according to the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, you keep what you’re born with when it comes to the dots.
  • They “play dead.”
    • If an adult ladybug feels threatened it will fall down and “die,” or let off a foul yellow ooze from its leg joints that most animals won’t want to eat, (University of Arizona)

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