The Snowman Stampede is a 5K, 10K, and half marathon race held every February in Littleton, and this year it was held on the day of our bird walk at Hudson Gardens. Fortunately, we were mostly able to do the necessary dodging when required, and were not significantly impacted by the hundreds of runners.
Here at the end of February we are on the cusp of so many interesting bird activities. First, and foremost it appears that the same pair of Red-tailed Hawks that were around last breeding season have returned to the area. These guys tend to hang out just across the river from Hudson Gardens, and are remarkable because while one is our standard light-morph western Red-tail, the other is an intermediate, or rufous-morph, western Red-tail. The variety of plumages that Red-tailed Hawks exhibit is truly incredible. Without going into too much detail, just know that there are 12 sub-species of Red-tails each tending to have either a dark or light morph, with some intermediate colored birds, and then you have the different plumages exhibited by juveniles versus adults. It can be quite the smorgasbord for us birders, as well as quite confusing!
We are also commencing waterfowl spring migration which peaks towards the end of March (to be followed shortly thereafter in mid-April by the peak of shorebird migration). This is all by way of saying that we saw a good variety of geese and ducks (13 species). These guys are all in wonderful breeding plumage right now, and it’s a great show!
Other highlights included a few species that tend to be around throughout the winter, but one can never be guaranteed of seeing them: Killdeer, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This last is one of North America’s smallest songbirds wintering in a variety of habitats, and then here in Colorado breeding up in the Spruce-Fir Forest.
Finally, one other bird that can be here illusively in the winter is the Mountain Bluebird. We were fortunate to get several good looks at this outstanding fellow.
Thanks to those of you who braved the Snowman Stampede and the chilling winds that were with us almost all morning. And thanks to David Chernack for his excellent photos!
Chuck and David
Hudson Gardens, Feb 24, 2018
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) 37
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 358
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 31
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) 11
American Wigeon (Mareca americana) 7
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 83
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 6
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) 5
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) 1
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) 16
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 2
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) 7
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 6
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 2
American Coot (Fulica americana) 3
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 2
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 38
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 4
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 4
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) 6
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 5
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 2
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 1
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 8
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 6