It’s the season of the muskrat. On nearly every walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt these days, we spot several muskrats (and, in contrast, we see almost no beavers, though we see their handiwork and on our early morning walks we see their wet tracks across the Bear Creek Trail).
In (small) bird life, we can usually count on seeing at least a couple of Song Sparrows in the greenbelt. In (large) bird life, we almost always see Black-billed Magpies and American Crows. And we usually see at least one Red-tailed Hawk.
At midday we rode our path bikes through Bear Creek Lake Park Park. The one notable sighting was an American Kestrel, who was kiting in a field near the south boundary of the park. We also saw several Buffleheads, diving and surfacing as one, in a pond next to the Homestead Golf Course.
This morning I caught a glimpse of a Mountain Chickadee in our back yard again:
And I saw in the prairie dog field behind our back yard a Mountain Bluebird:
After work we went to Belmar Park to see the waterfowl, hundreds of them. Canada Geese, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, Gadwalls, Buffleheads, and Lesser Scaups. We also saw a Red-tailed Hawk, a couple of Ring-billed Gulls, a Great Blue Heron, and a few Song Sparrows.
Here’s a bird new to our back yard:
Yesterday it snowed all day and the temperature didn’t get out of the teens. The snow finally tapered off mid-morning today, and the temperature soared into the very low 20s. But the sun came out! We’ve had a steady stream of customers to the feeders: House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Bushtits. Plus the odd Spotted Towhee and Dark-eyed Juncos looking for dropped morsels on the ground.
After work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. We saw a number of Song Sparrows and Mallards, as well as a handful of muskrats. Here’s one of them west of the beaver dam (where the City of Lakewood has now installed a second beaver deceiver, even bulkier and uglier than the first):
East of the beaver dam on a pebbly beach we saw a pair of Hermit Thrushes and a Dark-eyed Junco:
Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided)
And we saw a pair of Wilson’s Snipes foraging in a ditch that leads to Bear Creek:
This morning, after it warmed up to above freezing, I walked over to the pond by Stone House in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. Juvenile White-crowned Sparrows have claimed the trees closest to the intersection of Estes and Yale. Here are two:
White-crowned Sparrows (juveniles)
I didn’t see any Hooded Mergansers on the pond, but I did see dozens of Canada Geese, a couple of Gadwalls, a Belted Kingfisher, and three Northern Shovelers, including this one:
Just before dawn I spotted a bobcat, a youngish male, crouched beside a prairie dog hole in the field behind our back yard. After a bit, a couple of Black-billed Magpies showed up, announced the bobcat’s presence to the world, and started harassing it.
Bobcat with Black-billed Magpie
The magpies, whose number swelled to fifteen, eventually flew off. Then, on the other side of the field, a prairie dog popped out of its hole and began giving warning barks. The bobcat ran over:
The prairie dog wisely retreated. Quiet returned to the field. The bobcat set up watch next to the prairie dog hole. A few minutes later:
Bobcat crouched beside prairie dog hole
The bobcat got to its feet and stalked out of the field toward the Bear Creek Greenbelt, pausing to do a quick snap roll:
And in backyard birds news . . . I put the feeders back up. Black-capped Chickadees were the first to return, followed closely by House Finches, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Dark-eyed Juncos (first of the season). This morning we saw both Gray-headed Juncos and Oregon Juncos, in the early morning only.
We’ve often noted that Black-capped Chickadees visit the sunflower feeder one at a time. But House Finches will mob it. White-breasted Nuthatches tolerate each other’s presence at the feeder, as do Red-breasted Nuthatches.
It was 39 degrees, breezy, and misting when my better half and I set off for a walk with the dog this morning in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. All was quiet along Bear Creek. At the pond north of the creek we saw a male Hooded Merganser keeping close to a pair of Mallards.
We headed over to the pond by Stone House. Just before we got there, we saw three juvenile White-crowned Sparrows in a small tree. At the pond we saw five Hooded Mergansers (three females and two males), a Bufflehead pair (first of season), two pairs of Northern Shovelers, and a dozen or so Mallards. I also saw a Song Sparrow at the pond’s edge.
We followed Bear Creek down to Wadsworth. The banks were littered with American Robins, mixed with Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings. We watched a muskrat sit on the bank and chew on leaves. As we headed back west, we saw a Belted Kingfisher near where the big dam used to be.
An hour and a half later, when we returned home at 10:00 a.m., it was still 39 degrees, breezy, and misting.
Towards sunset, I headed out again to the pond by Stone House. It was now in the mid 40s, clear with calm wind. I saw a few juvenile White-crowned Sparrows with one Song Sparrow. I saw three Hooded Merganser pairs–no sign of the superfluous males.
And on the walk back home, I spotted this Great Horned Owl, whose right eye it kept in a squint, perched above the Bear Creek Trail:
Great Horned Owl
This morning we headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt at civil twilight, roughly a half hour before sunrise. It was beautiful and quiet. After the sun rose, I wandered alone around the pond next to Stone House. I saw two pairs of Hooded Mergansers, a Great Blue Heron, three Northern Shovelers, a Gadwall, a few dozen Mallards, a dozen Canada Geese, a Belted Kingfisher, two Double-crested Cormorants, several juvenile White-crowned Sparrows, and a couple of House Finches.
Great Blue Heron
Hooded Merganser (male)
White-crowned Sparrow (juvenile)
I was back at the pond not too long before sunset. This time I saw ten Hooded Mergansers (seven males and three famales), as well as the three Northern Shovelers I’d seen this morning–and a couple of dozen Mallards, one pair of which exhibited mating behavior. I’d seen this the other day at Bear Creek. I’ve read that it’s typical for Mallards pair up at this time of year, but the breeding season doesn’t start until late winter.
Hooded Merganser (female)
And for those who like prairie dogs:
After work we took the dog for a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt and I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk. Another dark morph . . . or Harlan’s?
On a late afternoon walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk just off the Bear Creek Trail:
Red-tailed Hawk (either juvenile dark morph or juvenile Harlan’s)