This morning was cold–12 degrees!–when we took the dog for a pre-dawn walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. Canada geese were bunched together in the pond that never freezes.
I took a walk at the lunch hour. Most of Bear Creek was frozen or icy, and there wasn’t a muskrat or duck to be seen. At the pond that never freezes, a few dozen mallards had supplanted the Canada geese.
Along the Bear Creek Trail I saw several house finches eating berries:
House finch (female)
House finch (male)
I was thinking that it was an uneventful walk until I crossed the bridge on my way back home, and happened to look back at the beaver dam. A winter wren!
A tiny bird with a jaunty tail, it flew to the north bank of Bear Creek. This was the best I could manage:
An inch of snow fell overnight, and early this morning the world was blanketed with snow and moonlight. The full moon shone in the northwest sky. The temperature was in the upper 20s, no wind. On our walk we saw coyote tracks from our neighborhood down into the Bear Creek Greenbelt. We saw more coyote tracks in the woods, where a pair of coyotes had trotted alongside each other. At the pond that never freezes a few dozen Canada geese were huddled for protection. East of there, we began to see beaver slide/drag marks in the snow. We followed the beaver’s trail to the edge of Bear Creek, and then we saw the beaver itself! It had slid in just upstream of a beaver dam. It began swimming upstream and then it walked up a rocky waterfall area toward the bridge. We followed it as it swam beneath the bridge, climbed up over the big beaver dam, and swam into the beaver pool.
After work we took the dog for another walk in the greenbelt. We got the feeling of deja vu . . .
Great blue heron
Nearby an American robin was eating berries:
Today the temperature hovered around 32 degrees all day and it snowed lightly off and on. After work, we took a walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. It was snowing very lightly, but with no wind. Despite the mild conditions, we saw only a couple of other people out. However, we did see two birds that we don’t often see.
In the cottonwoods that a birder friend of mine calls “the raccoon condos” we spotted a merlin. The light was dim, and we weren’t positive that’s what we saw until we got home and downloaded (and processed) pictures. The quality was just good enough to make the ID, but not good enough to post.
On the other hand, I got a fairly clear shot of a swamp sparrow:
And a nice grouping of four male ring-necked ducks in the pond that never freezes:
We also saw at least three muskrats in the beaver pond next to the bridge. Now that the muskrats are making themselves visible again, we’re thinking that the mink we saw last weekend might have moved to a different stretch of the creek.
Today we saw 21 species of birds in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, including a Steller’s jay and a spotted towhee. At the feeders on our back deck we saw three additional species of birds that we didn’t see in the greenbelt: bushtits, American goldfinches (two), and a mountain chickadee.
Here are a few of the birds we saw in the greenbelt:
Ring-necked duck (female)
We also saw several muskrats, including this one:
A red-tailed hawk keeping watch over the neighborhood this afternoon:
This Christmas morning we saw two healthy coyotes from our back deck. Then we spotted a third that was suffering from mange. The two healthy ones kept their distance from the third.
On our walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we got a good look at this great blue heron:
Great blue heron
Great blue heron
On our walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt this morning we spotted an American Dipper again.
Later in the morning another birder and I explored Chatfield State Park. We saw a wonderful abundance of birds. In waterfowl: American coots, hooded mergansers, common mergansers, American wigeons, green-winged teals, mallards, Canada geese, buffleheads, and wood ducks. In song birds: black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, a yellow-rumped warbler, an American pipit, and a pine warbler. Plus red-tailed hawks and rusty blackbirds. In mammal life, we saw a couple of coyotes and three mule deer.
Green-winged teal (female)
Green-winged teal (male)
This afternoon on our walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we saw two muskrats–one near the beaver lodge upstream of the dam by the bridge and one downstream of the dam.
There were approximately 100 mallards in “the pond that never freezes,” along with a pair of gadwalls and three pairs of hooded mergansers.
Again, we headed out to walk the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt just before dawn, and again we saw a mink by the beaver dam:
At “the pond that never freezes” we were surprised to find only three mallards and four hooded mergansers.
However, when we took another walk in the early afternoon, there were several dozen mallards in the pond, as well as nine hooded mergansers. Here’s a young/transitional male:
We walked along Bear Creek to Wadsworth and back. The pond next to Stone House is still iced up. It warmed up today from the past few days, getting into the high 40s, but it was cloudy and a little windy. We saw several dozen mallards in the stretch of Bear Creek from Estes to Wadsworth, as well as a single gadwall.
But the highlight of the walk was the number of raptors. We saw four red-tailed hawks, an immature Cooper’s hawk, and an American kestrel. One of the red-tailed hawks was a juvenile Harlan’s.
Just before dawn we headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt for a walk with the dog. It was still, clear, and cold (14 degrees). At the beaver dam by the bridge, we saw a mink for the first time!
Mink in front of the dam by the bridge (look how iced up Bear Creek is!)
Mink peeking out from the dam
The mink slipped into a watery hole in the ice and disappeared.
Determined to take a picture of the dozens of waterfowl we’ve been seeing in “the pond that never freezes,” I brought my wide-angle lens with me this morning. Unfortunately, the waterfowl decided not to cooperate:
The pond that never freezes
Both ends of the pond are iced up. Still, there’s open water here, unlike the pond next to Stone House. In addition to the mallards, there was a pair of gadwalls, as well as four common goldeneyes (all female—probably the ones we’ve been seeing) and the ring-necked duck from yesterday.
Ring-necked duck (female)
We walked for an hour and a half. The mercury had edged up four degrees–to 18 degrees–when we got back home.