Monthly Archives: March 2021

March 31, 2021

Tight on time, I zipped in and out of the Bear Creek Greenbelt after work.  I saw one male Cinnamon Teal.  And since love is in the air (or, actually, the water), I saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers exchange a cloacal kiss.  Here’s the male afterward:

Hooded Merganser

March 30, 2021

Snow fell overnight.  Early this morning, when snow was still falling steadily, my better half and I took the dog for an abbreviated walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  We saw several coyote tracks, as well as a raccoon that was clinging to the side of a tree.

In the afternoon, after the temperature had increased by 10 degrees and the snow had stopped falling, I took another walk in the greenbelt.  The Red-tailed Hawk was sitting on the nest by Yale:

Red-tailed Hawk

Otherwise, the walk was uneventful until the very end, when I spotted three Wood Ducks and a Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser hybrid.  Four days ago, the hybrid was reported at Main Reservoir.

Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser hybrid

Wood Duck (male)

Wood Duck (female)

Wood Ducks and the hybrid

March 28, 2021

Another morning walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, another female Mallard up high in a nest (thanks go to my spotter, aka my better half):


Different tree, different Mallard?  The behavior is unusual to us.

Here’s a female Hooded Merganser at the pond that never freezes:

Hooded Merganser

Song Sparrows continue to be conspicuous:

Song Sparrow

On the other hand, the Swamp Sparrow (a rarity in this area) I’ve been seeing over the past several weeks has been anything but conspicuous.  We spotted it again in a reedy, marshy area, but taking a good photograph proved elusive.

March 27, 2021

This morning in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we saw at least a couple of pairs each of Red-tailed Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks.  Here’s a female Cooper’s Hawk:

Cooper’s Hawk

My better half spotted a female Mallard up in a tree:


Mallards don’t nest in trees.  But maybe she found it was a good place to broadcast her quacking.

Also this morning from our back deck I spotted the first Turkey Vulture of the season soaring over the greenbelt.  My first thought:  oh, it’s a Turkey Vulture.  My second thought:  oh, hang on, this isn’t Florida.  We haven’t seen Turkey Vultures here all winter!

We walked again in the afternoon.  A Great Horned Owl is continuing in the same spot we’ve been seeing it.  It’s so difficult to see from the trail–you have to look toward the south, into the sun so that everything is backlit, and the owl sits close to the cottonwood and blends in.   The shot below has been brightened a bit so that the owl stands out:

Great Horned Owl

My better half and I were also treated to some mating behavior by a pair of American Kestrels.   The cloacal kiss was just a second or two.  Here they are afterward (male on right):

American Kestrels

I saw the pair again a little later perched by the pond at Stone House.   In this shot, the female has just left her perch:

American Kestrels

I went out to look for the Harris’s Sparrow and I found instead a little girl, maybe five or six years old, who was walking with a bearded man who was perhaps her father.  She showed me the caterpillar she held in her hand.  I asked her if it was going to stay a caterpillar its whole life.  “Yes,” she said.  “And then it becomes a butterfly.”  She added it would also become a chrysalis and hang upside down.  I looked up at the man.  “This kid is knocking me out.”

At one corner of the pond next to Stone House a couple of turtles were sunning themselves.  The one on the right is a red-eared slider (red mark behind eye and higher dome than that of western painted) and the one on the left is a western painted turtle (no red mark behind eye, and a hint of red on body and shell).


Finally, the Northern Shrike is still in its hunting grounds at the prairie dog field just west of Estes:

Northern Shrike

March 26, 2021

After work we walked the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  From afar we saw the Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the nest at Yale, and the male perched in a nearby tree.  Closer to home we saw the Cinnamon Teal pair:

Cinnamon Teal

March 25, 2021

After work my better half and I took a walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  Just west of the footbridge/beaver dam, there were Mallards, the pair of Cinnamon Teal, a male Wood Duck, and a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  Here’s the male Cinnamon Teal:

Cinnamon Teal

We wandered east of Estes.  Props to my better half for spotting this Great Horned Owl:

Great Horned Owl

March 24, 2021

This morning it was still snowing lightly after overnight snowfall.  After work I took a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.   At the waterfall area I saw a muskrat:


East of the waterfall area I saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  Both of them were diving for fish.  Here’s the female with one:

Hooded Mergansers

A closer look at the female:

Hooded Merganser

I also saw the pair of Cinnamon Teal.  Here’s the male:

Cinnamon Teal

I ran into a friend who was walking back from the Stone House pond, where she’d seen a Double-crested Cormorant, which have recently returned to the area.  Cormorants are distributed worldwide, and in Japan the species is known as ウミウ (umiu).

My friend taught me the Japanese words for a few more common birds:  カササギ (kasasagi) is magpie, カケス (kakesu) is jay, as in Blue Jay, and カラス (karasu) is crow.

March 21, 2021

I spent the whole morning in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  An acquaintance and I watched a female Cooper’s Hawk continue construction on the new nest:

Cooper’s Hawk

Here she is out of the nest:

Cooper’s Hawk

Thanks to a gentleman who kindly pointed it out, I finally saw the Great Horned Owl people have been reporting:

Great Horned Owl

Here’s the Northern Shrike who has been patronizing the prairie dog town immediately west of Estes:

Northern Shrike

Nearby a singing Red-winged Blackbird made a picture:

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-tailed Hawk nest along Yale is occupied again:

Red-tailed Hawk

The male nearby, as always:

Red-tailed Hawk

I spotted two Killdeer, the first of the season:


I talked with a couple who were mystified by this manky Mallard:

Manky Mallard

Last but not least, here’s the motley Mallard:


March 20, 2021

This morning my better half and I took a longish walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, mostly on the east side of Estes.  A photographer named Tony pointed out a pair of Wood Ducks in the trees a little east of the pedestrian bridge.  We looked for the Harris’s Sparrow, but did not find it.  On the other hand, we did see a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the woods on the north side of the creek not too far west of Wadsworth.

While walking back home, I inadvertently flushed a bird along the north side of Bear Creek east of the footbridge–something I must have done half a dozen times over the past few months but have never been able to identify which bird it was.  This time I watched it fly off and alight on the other side of the creek.  I snapped a few shots, but could see no bird through the viewfinder.  Once I got back home and began processing the pictures, at first I could see no bird in the shots I took.  Then I finally spotted a Wilson’s Snipe, hiding in the reeds.  My goal:  to one day, perhaps from the other side of the creek, approach the spot where I’ve flushed the snipe and not have it flush.

In the afternoon, I walked alone in Bear Creek Lake Park.  At least one of the three Great Horned Owl nests we watched last year is being used this year:

Great Horned Owl

The Red-tailed Hawk nest along the northern edge of the Bear Creek Greenbelt is also being used again, but I’m not sure it’s the resident female.  The head looks a little darker, and, of course, I couldn’t see if she was banded.

A Bald Eagle was on the nest at Marston Lake:

Bald Eagle

I stopped by the Bear Creek Greenbelt again to see if I could spot the Harris’s Sparrow.  I found it foraging on the ground with House Finches:

Harris’s Sparrow