Category Archives: Uncategorized

September 18, 2020

A couple of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are still hitting the nectar feeder on our back deck.  This one, unlike the one I photographed yesterday, has a full set of feathers:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

A split second later:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

After work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  A Belted Kingfisher taunted us down the length of Bear Creek.  Mallards have returned to the creek; we saw three sets of a dozen or more.  The males are regaining their breeding plumage.  Near the beaver dam a mixed flock of several hundred Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds flew in.  They didn’t bother this Black-crowned Night Heron in the least:

Black-crowned Night Heron

September 17, 2020

This morning I went out to Barr Lake State Park to watch a program put on about the banding station, which is run by the Rocky Mountain Bird Conservancy.

I was a few minutes early.  Here’s Barr Lake, draped by the haze of the wildfires:

Barr Lake

I didn’t have much time to look for birds before the program started.  I saw just a couple:

Spotted Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

Then I walked down to the birding station.  Meredith McBurney, assisted by volunteers including Diane White and Charlies Chase, conducted the program.  There were six of us visitors for the 9:00 a.m. time slot:  a family of four (a young woman with two young children, home-schooled and impeccably behaved, and her father-in-law, visiting from Sarasota), a volunteer from years past, and me.  At the banding station, there were benches for visitors and several tables set up underneath a mesh sun shade.  Volunteers had made a circuit around the mist nets, some twenty of them, and had brought back birds in colorful bags:

Fresh catches from the mist nets

Meredith would take one of the bags and bring forth the bird within:

Meredith reaching into one of the larger bags

Spotted Towhee

In this case, it was a Spotted Towhee, a “recap,” or recapture.   That is, the bird had been previously banded just a day earlier.  Meredith would identify the bird for another volunteer doing the recording and give the number of the net it was caught in.   Then, if it hadn’t already been banded, she would band it and read off the band number.  Then she would take measurements, weigh the bird, and check how much fat it had by blowing on the feathers of its belly.

Examining the bird

Finally, she would select a visitor to release the bird.  She let the two young children release the first two birds she’d banded:  a Wilson’s Warbler and an Orange-crowned Warbler, each of which had weighed only seven to eight grams and which were fairly calm.   For the release of the Spotted Towhee, which weighed several times as much as the warblers and which had bitten her several times, probably piqued from being captured a second time in about as many days, she selected me.  She asked me to cup my hands, and then she placed the bird, on its back, in my hands.  The bird, disoriented in this position, didn’t move.  Then Meredith asked me to jiggle my hands gently.  The bird righted itself and flew off.

Here is Meredith with an Orange-crowned Warbler:

Orange-crowned Warbler

With a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow:

White-crowned Sparrow

With a Townsend’s Warbler:

Townsend’s Warbler

As Meredith was banding the birds, a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk flew by.  Volunteer Charlie Chase explained that the juvenile Swainson’s Hawks liked to patrol the nearby ditch, which was dry, for mice.  Soon they would migrating to Argentina to spend our winter.

Then the family and I got to accompany Charlie Chase as he made a circuit of the mist nets, which is done no less than every thirty minutes.

As we made the circuit, we saw several birds had been caught, including this Orange-crowned Warbler, which Charlie delicately worked free from the net

Orange-crowned Warbler

Working free a Wilson’s Warbler:

Wilson’s Warbler

Working free a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s):

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Holding a Swainson’s Thrush he had just worked free:

Swainson’s Thrush

After he worked each bird free, he deposited it into one of the colorful bags and gave it to one of us adults to carry.  Before I knew it, the program was done, and the 10:00 a.m. crowd (of six masked visitors) was learning how the banding station worked.  A last look at Barr Lake before I left:

Once I got back home, I checked the back deck for hummers.  Before long, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird showed up.  As shown below, it’s growing back a few feathers:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

There were also two White-crowned Sparrows in the back yard, the first time I’ve seen them in our yard.  Here’s one:

White-crowned Sparrow

 

 

September 16, 2020

The smoke and haze are back.  Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are still here, and I’m still working on getting a good shot!

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

In the afternoon after work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  We saw a couple of dozen Mallards, and a Gadwall pair, in Bear Creek.  In the pond north of Bear Creek we saw the two diving Mallards.  On the way back home, we saw a couple of Mallards just east of the beaver dam:

Mallards

September 15, 2020

Broad-winged Hummingbirds are still coming to the nectar feeder on our back deck.  Some of them allow close approach.  I’ve put my 50-mm prime lens on, which means I need to be between 12 and 18 inches away from the hummer when I shoot.  I’m still working on a tack-sharp, aesthetically pleasing photo with the wings frozen (shutter speed at 1/4000 or higher).  In the meantime . . . two out of three:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

A Chipping Sparrow is still hanging out in the back yard, as is a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Today the nuthatch nearly impaled me on its way to the sunflower feeder.

After work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  At the pond north of Bear Creek we watched two Mallards dive:

Mallards Diving

September 13, 2020

This morning on our walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we heard and saw several Gray Catbirds and Black-capped Chickadees.  Plus we spotted this Cooper’s Hawk:

Cooper’s Hawk

Back at home, a Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay passed through the back yard yesterday.  This morning we’ve had the usuals–House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Flickers. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, and White-breasted Nuthatches–as well as several dozen Common Grackles, a few American Goldfinches, and a Chipping Sparrow.

Chipping Sparrow

Later in the morning we rode our mountain bikes to Bear Creek Lake Park.  The most notable thing we saw there was a four-foot bull snake, the first we’ve seen all year.

At end of day we took the dog for another walk in the greenbelt.  This Black-crowned Night Heron was just a few feet off the trail, at the edge of Bear Creek, and staying so still that almost nobody noticed it.

Black-crowned Night Heron

September 11, 2020

It’s the first beautiful morning of this work week:  the sky is clear and sunny, the snow is gone, and the temperature is in the 50s.  I walked to the little pond at the corner of Estes and Yale.  I almost didn’t recognize it:  the trees around it have been cut down, apparently as part of the Russian olive tree mitigation project.  This includes the big tree where I spotted the juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron the other day.  The adult Black-crowned Night Heron, who always used to sit within the shadows of that big tree, found a more exposed spot to perch this morning.  No hawks or Belted Kingfishers.  Several Mallards were dabbling in the pond.

Black-crowned Night Heron

While walking home, I spotted this fluffed-out Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow

At the pond north of Bear Creek, I watched two Mallards repeatedly dive–for up to two full seconds.   After each one came up with a crawfish, it would dart to the far edge of the pond and gobble down the crawfish under cover of the reeds.  The blue speculum was visible on both.

At home several hummingbirds–including a male Black-chinned Hummingbird–are still enjoying the nectar feeder.  Now that the skies have cleared, the foothills are visible off to the west.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

September 10, 2020

After work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  In Bear Creek, just west of the dam, we saw a manky Mallard, for the first time in a while:

Mallard (front) and manky Mallard

And then we saw waterfowl we hadn’t seen before in Bear Creek:

Blue-winged Teals

For comparison, here are Mallards and Blue-winged Teals together:

Two Mallards (the larger ducks) and three Blue-winged Teals

September 9, 2020

After a hot Labor Day weekend (temps in the 90s) marred by smoke, haze, and ash from the Cameron Peak fire, yesterday the high temperature was in the mid 30s.  Snow began falling in the afternoon and continued into the evening.  This is the scene from our back deck at dawn this morning:

Field behind our back yard

A couple of hours after dawn, I saw a Broad-tailed Hummingbird at the feeder:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

September 6, 2020

This morning we took the dog for a walk to the small pond at Estes and Yale in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  My better half immediately spotted the Black-crowned Night Heron in its usual spot in the tree across from us.  Then I spotted movement in the tree just above and to the right of the Black-crowned Night Heron.  Neither of us had binoculars and neither of us could tell what it was.  I snapped a couple of pictures, my viewfinder fogging up with my breath.  All I could tell from the LED screen was that it was a largish bird whose back half had brown feathers with white spots.

On the way back home we cut through the prairie dog field, and I spotted the small flock of Clay-colored Sparrows, a Vesper among them.  Up on the loudspeaker we spotted our resident Red-tailed Hawks:

Red-tailed Hawks (female is on the left)

These two birds, who successfully reared two chicks this spring, have a close bond.  They frequently alight within a couple of feet of each other, and it’s a joy to watch them soaring together in the sky.

Back at home I downloaded my pictures.  When I zoomed in on one image I could see–in addition to  the brown feathers with white spots–a streaky head and orange eyes.  It was  a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.  My better half exclaimed, “No wonder we always see the Black-crowned Night Heron there!”

A short time later, we rode our mountain bikes to Bear Creek Lake Park.  We saw a Cooper’s Hawk (probably not a Sharp-shinned, though it appeared on the smallish side) sitting atop a snag where American Kestrels like to hang out.  An American Kestrel was flying around the snag, calling “Klee!  Klee!  Klee!”  Eventually the hawk had enough and flew off.

This afternoon, after a reprieve of a few days, smoke from the wildfires settled back into the greenbelt.  The sunny day grew hazy and the smell of smoke was strong.  Ash collected on the cushions of our patio furniture.

About two hours before sunset I spotted a Great Horned Owl sitting on a wood fence on the far side of the field behind our house.  Blue Jays and Black-billed Magpies were harassing it.  Prairie dogs and rabbits dotted the field.  Because of the distance–maybe a hundred yards–and the haze and the fading sun, getting a sharp picture was difficult.

Great Horned Owl and Black-billed Magpie

An hour and a half later, the Blue Jays and the Black-billed Magpies were gone, as were the prairie dogs, but the owl was still sitting on the fence post.  Three rabbits were feeding in the field in front of it.  At almost exactly sunset, the owl flew off.

Here’s a snapshot of the weather forecast for the next ten days:

 

 

 

September 4, 2020

This morning a flock of Bushtits stopped by our yard.

Bushtit (female)

Bushtit (male)

We still have about three Broad-tailed Hummingbirds that are hitting the nectar feeder and generally chasing each other around.

Late in the afternoon we sat on the back deck and watched the Broad-tailed hummers.  House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees abounded.  A Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay showed up at the sunflower feeder–first time we’ve ever seen one in our back yard.  A Red-breasted Nuthatch alighted on one of our aspen trees, briefly.  And then a male Black-chinned Hummingbird graced us with its presence.  It sat at the top of one of the aspens.  I got off about six shots, one of which, although not in focus, showed its purple gorget at the base of its black chin.

Black-chinned Hummingbird