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: