Today I joined a Denver Field Ornithologists trip, led by David Suddjian, that focused on waterfowl in the greater southwest Denver area.
However, a young Northern Harrier stole the limelight early on:
At Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms we got good views of a male Mexican Duck:
Mexican Duck and Mallard (both male)
On the morning walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt my better half and I saw a flock of Bushtits. It’s very difficult to get a shot of one staying still out in the open!
Later in the morning I birded with a friend of mine at Main Reservoir. We didn’t see the rarities du jour there, such as a Barrow’s Goldeneye and a Northern Parula, but we did see a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet . . . in addition to plentiful waterfowl (Canada Geese, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, and American Coots) and the usual suspects (Black-capped Chickadees, Song Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos).
Afterwards we stopped at another pond, just a bit smaller. My friend, a keen observer, pointed out this Cackling Goose with eyebrows:
There were a dozen or more Redheads, who, like the American Coots, had to watch out for the circling American Wigeons who were seeking to steal a meal.
Here’s a Ring-necked Duck:
At the smaller pond we did not see the Greater White-fronted Goose that has been there recently.
Sometimes you get the crawdaddy:
Hooded Merganser (female) with crawfish
Sometimes the crawdaddy gets you:
Crawfish with Hooded Merganser (female)
This morning my better half and I walked over to the horseshoe pond next to the Stone House in the Bear Creek Greenbelt. We saw dozens of Canada Geese, several Mallards, several Hooded Mergansers, and almost twenty Northern Shovelers (all tucked up asleep on the water), but the thing that made our jaws drop was a squirrel that swam across the pond. How is it that neither of us–given all our years in Florida with numerous lakes, ponds, and creeks, not to mention squirrels–had ever seen a squirrel swim?
In the afternoon I checked out the tiny pond west of Estes.
On an early lunch walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt I heard Bushtits several minutes before I spotted the flock, which was moving west in the trees along the paved trail. The birds were trilling very softly. Once I finally put eyes on a few individuals, they made an alarm call, much louder than the trills, a sound the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Western North America calls a dzit series. It lasted just a couple of seconds. Then the entire flock flew out of the trees at once–instead of moving singly from tree to tree, following each other, as they do when they are foraging–and alighted quickly in trees just to the west.
The day was cool and overcast, and no good would result from my photographing tiny gray birds in gray trees against a gray sky.
So I photographed something else gray, a diminutive fox squirrel I’ve seen several times in that part of the greenbelt. Like its brethern, it is fairly wary of humans, but it is markedly smaller.
Tonight we had our first snowfall of the season, with less than half an inch accumulating. This year Denver has broken its record for the latest measurable snowfall.
Today in our back yard a Spotted Towhee was rustling around fallen leaves from the green ash tree. Meanwhile, a Dark-eyed Junco took up a perch on the back fence:
The weather has been so mild that for the third afternoon in a row we rode our mountain bikes to Bear Creek Lake Park. Today we spotted an eight-point mule deer west of Mt. Carbon. A little further west we saw a doe.
As it often is these days, a Red-tailed Hawk was perched high in a tree not far from the parking lot where the boat ramp is. And as we were blasting down a singletrack descent on the east side of the dam I spotted an American Kestrel perched in a tree just before the trail crosses the paved road. We circled back on the road to get a better look. In the last couple of weeks we’ve twice seen a Black-billed Magpie harassing a kestrel in that area. Still, it must have good hunting grounds in that area because we’ve been seeing a kestrel around the dam for the past couple of years.
On an early lunch walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt I spotted a silent Cooper’s Hawk perched in a tree:
Here’s Manky Mallard:
Here’s a disheveled-looking Song Sparrow:
We found the American Dipper again in the Bear Creek Greenbelt!
My favorite pair of Mallards (Green Bill and Mottled Bill) wasn’t far away:
At the pond that never freezes this female Belted Kingfisher held sway:
Just east of the pond that never freezes my better half and I had the good fortune of spotting a Townsend’s Solitaire, first of the season for us in the greenbelt.
Later in the morning I went to Cooley Lake to see the migratory raft of Common Mergansers that appears annually there for just a few days. Access is limited: I could view the lake, peering through a chain link fence, only from the southern end. The Common Mergansers, some three hundred of them, were energetically diving at the far northern end. They were accompanied by Ring-billed Gulls, roughly a third less in number. One definitely needs a scope to even discern these birds.
On the southern end, where I was stationed, a few American Coots and Hooded Mergansers gathered, yet they were still too far for a decent photograph. Finally, a Pied-billed Grebe obliged by venturing a little closer.
This morning I joined a bird walk at South Platte Park put on by Evergreen Audubon and led by Ed Furlong. Most of the birds were too far away to be photographed well (it was definitely a spotting scope sort of day), but here are two that drew closer:
The highlight of the day was seeing nine Bald Eagles soaring together overhead. Two pairs were engaging in courtship behavior, including a stunning cartwheel display.
On my walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt a dozen Bushtits materialized around me to glean insects from the trees. A Red-tailed Hawk flew over, and they all sounded the same alarm at once.
Here’s one hanging around:
Here are the two Mallards (Green Bill and Mottled Bill) that forage as American Dippers do:
At the tiny pond at the intersection of Yale and Estes I saw a male Ring-necked Duck and a female Northern Shoveler. Here’s the latter:
Here’s what Bear Creek looks like these days, as seen looking west from the footbridge between Estes and Kipling in the Bear Creek Greenbelt:
I saw the green-billed Mallard again today, who obliged in showing off its breast and wings:
Here’s another Mallard with a mottled bill: