American Birding Podcast



5 Little Birds: The ABA Is Spared Damage In The Waldo Canyon Fire

Last week, I posted here about our experiences in the Waldo Canyon Wildfire that’s been burning in the mountains on the west flank of Colorado Springs since June 23rd. As I write this, it’s July 2nd and the fire is listed as 55% contained. All of us at the ABA are back in our homes and safe.

Though there were some terrible losses, including 2 people killed and nearly 350 houses burned, not to mention untold thousands of birds and other non-human animals killed or displaced, the overall impact was far, far less than it might have been. The outstanding efforts of fire fighters and the various agencies charged with dealing with this monster coupled with the weather, which backed off a bit on the extreme heat and low humidity that made the fire so hard to control initially, combined to spare the vast majority of Colorado Springs residents anything more than inconvenience and anxiety.

I mean no disrespect or lack of compassion to those who lost their houses or the 2 who lost their lives and their families. There was real human tragedy here.

But the far larger story is how many homes were saved and the almost unbelievably low rate of injury and death, considering the scale of this thing. And for that, all of us at the ABA are truly grateful.

Here are a couple of photographs, plus some links to others, that I hope will tell the story of how the last couple of days have looked and felt.

Waldo Fire 12 B

The tent city where many of the fire fighters slept. These men and women did their jobs (and always do) in conditions that few of us would be able to handle. We’re so grateful to them.
Waldo Fire 12 B 2

Last Tuesday, June 26th, Liz looks west from our apartment as the flames and smoke poured down the mountains.
Waldo Fire 12 B 2

The same view this morning, July 2nd.


Waldo Fire 12 B 1

Our guitars, paintings, and other objects precious and ordinary survived in fine shape.


Waldo Fire 12 B 2

Miraculously, all 5 baby Barn Swallows and both their parents who are nesting beside our front door survived brutal heat and smoke and are thriving!

So as you can see, Liz and I, as well as the rest of the ABA team, have an awful lot to be thankful for. I’m also quite thankful to those of you who commented here or on Facebook or by e-mail, sending your good thoughts and prayers for our safety.

One of those commenters suggested that I ought to play my guitar for the Barn Swallows. I haven’t subjected them to that, but I will say that there is one song I’ve been playing a lot, both on my guitars and in my head, since we’ve been able to go back home. I think of it every time I think of them and how pathetic and helpless they all looked in the thick smoke Tuesday afternoon compared with how vigorous they look now. The song’s deceptively simple lyrics repeat like a mantra, bringing me to a state of calm and gratitude that I hope radiates throughout this town and to all of you, too.

“Rise up this morning, smile with rising sun

Three little birds perched by my doorstep

Singing sweet songs with melodies pure and true

Singing, ‘this is my message to you.’

Don’t worry about a thing

‘Cause every little thing is gonna be alright

Don’t worry about a thing

Because every little thing is gonna be alright.”

–Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds”

I can’t quickly find a good video of Bob singing the song and I suppose none may exist. Here’s a clip of Tracy Chapman covering it at a Marley tribute concert.

There’s another song that’s been in heavy rotation on my own mental playlist of late. Inspired by a visit to Colorado Springs in 1893, the song has an undeniable grace and power. It’s the most fitting expression of gratitude I know for the for the beauty of this place and for the efforts of those who have worked to protect it.


Finally, the Denver Post published the two best sets of photos I’ve yet seen of the fire and its aftermath. And there’s an impressive time lapse video of the fire by Steve Moraco here, which clocks in at just over 16 minutes.

Things aren’t entirely secure yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done and some considerable healing that must take place. But I wanted to let you know that we’re doing fine and just how grateful we are.

Update: here’s a post, plus a short slide show, showing a family who did lose their house making their first steps toward recovering. Two things I found especially poignant: the way the backyard was nearly undamaged and the extent to which tending to their garden gave them comfort.