Monthly Archives: December 2022

December 31, 2022

From the Bear Creek Greenbelt, a study of light through three pictures of the same Great Horned Owl taken in the space of about ten minutes.

A few minutes before the dawn:

Great Horned Owl

Just after the dawn:

Great Horned Owl

Thirty seconds later:

Great Horned Owl

At the pond that never freezes there was a great collection of white-cheeked geese–mostly Canada Geese, but also Cackling Geese, numbering at least one hundred altogether.  A nice surprise was a handful of American Wigeons.

American Wigeon

Later in the morning I joined a Denver Field Ornithologists field trip, led by David Suddjian, to South Platte Park.  Most of the waterfowl–Greater Scaups, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, etc.–were too far for me to photograph well.  Consolation prizes:

Red-tailed Hawk

Song Sparrow

December 29, 2022

Eight inches of snow fell overnight.  I headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt at 4:40 a.m., the temperature 31 degrees and wind calm.  Right away I saw two coyotes in a field just behind my neighborhood.  I also saw deer tracks.  Here’s Bear Creek:

Canada Geese

I walked west along the creek and spotted a beaver in the water.  Here’s the pond that never freezes, true to its name:

Mallards and Canada Geese

Another view of Bear Creek:

Bear Creek

December 28, 2022

Today I took an early lunch walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, starting at the Stone House and heading east, before the weather turned cloudy and cold (several inches of snow are expected overnight).

It was partly sunny and calm and cool, but not cold.  Here’s a female Belted Kingfisher perched above Bear Creek:

Belted Kingfisher

Near the beaver dam along Bear Creek there was a collection of ducks:  Mallards, three male Common Goldeneyes, one male Bufflehead, one male Ring-necked Duck, and four Hooded Mergansers.  

I also spotted both Great Horned Owls roosting in their usual cottonwood.  Here’s one, its face turned away.

Great Horned Owl

Farther to the west, and not far from the construction going on at the underpass at Estes an immature Hooded Merganser stepped out of the creek to preen.

Hooded Merganser (immature male)

Hooded Merganser (immature male)

December 26, 2022

Today I joined a Denver Field Ornithologists field trip, led by David Suddjian, to Centennial Park (in Englewood), Bowles Grove Park, and a neighborhood in the Columbine Valley.  For me the highlight was seeing a Brown Creeper, my very first sighting this year:

Brown Creeper

In the afternoon I walked in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  At the pond that never freezes I saw two immature male Hooded Mergansers–maybe the two I saw yesterday a little farther east in Bear Creek?

Hooded Mergansers (immature males)

Also in that pond there were two adult male Hoodies and one adult female:

Hooded Merganser (female)

As I was walking back into my neighborhood, I heard a Townsend’s Solitaire calling.  I followed its call until I found it perched on a fence next to a few juniper trees.

Townsend’s Solitaire

December 25, 2022

I went to the Bear Creek Greenbelt this morning a little before dawn.  The first bird that I heard–at exactly 7:00 a.m.–was a Belted Kingfisher.  Nearly forty minutes I captured a picture of her:

Belted Kingfisher

Also before dawn I saw a Great Blue Heron hunting in Bear Creek.  Here’s a picture taken about 10 minutes before the dawn:

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a roosting Great Horned Owl (it had just wakened to do a bit of preening):

Great Horned Owl

Two Red-tailed Hawks on top of the loudspeaker:

Red-tailed Hawks (banded female on right)

At the pond that never freezes I saw my first Wood Ducks there this season:

Wood Ducks with Canada Goose (I think) sporting white eyebrows

Back at Bear Creek I saw a couple of immature, male Hooded Mergansers:

Hooded Merganser (immature male)

Hooded Merganser (immature male)

And here’s a Common Goldeneye:

Common Goldeneye (female) with Mallard (female) for scale

December 22, 2022

Yesterday around sunset very cold weather blew in, bringing with it three inches of snow and temperatures that dropped into the minus teens.

Today I took an early lunch break and walked in the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  The temperature was -10 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind was calm, and the sky was sunny.

I saw dozens of American Robins, including this fluffed-out individual:

American Robin

The robins were eating berries that have been ignored by all birds these past few months.  Maybe the cold made them palatable or maybe it was the best food the robins could find?

American Robin

I also saw three Cedar Waxwings.  Here’s one:

Cedar Waxwing

The pond that never freezes continued to live up to its name.  It hosted six Hooded Mergansers, seven Canada Geese, one Common Goldeneye (female), and 52 Mallards.  Here’s a Canada Goose coming in for a landing:

Canada Goose

Postscript:  Yesterday I had occasion to drive along the northern edge of the Bear Creek Greenbelt, along Yale Ave. between Kipling St. and Estes.  A bird perched on a road sign sallied forth in a circle and returned to the same sign.  I swung the car off the road, parked, and leapt out.  It was a Say’s Phoebe!  I did not have my camera with me, and my iPhone did the bird no justice.  Later, I learned that there’s a very small, but regular, population of Say’s Phoebes that spend the winter in Jefferson County.