Meyer Ranch, July 1, with Chuck Aid

Not a huge number of species this past Saturday morning, only 27 (see list below). It warmed up quickly which may have been a factor.

Brown Creeper (c) Bill Schmoker

We got to see a Red-wing chasing a Red-tail, attempting to move it on out of the area. In the same part of the color spectrum, a few of us were able to see the crown of the male Ruby-crowned Kinglet (see above photo) as he carried food back to the nest to feed his youngsters. We had a great, though distant, view of a male Black-headed Grosbeak; got to watch a Brown Creeper working over a Douglas-Fir pretty thoroughly, and had a dazzling to-and-fro display by the local Cliff Swallows, that nest on the US 285 bridge by the parking lot, as they carried food back to their mud nests.

Wilson’s Snipe (c) Jeff Jaacks

We had a number of interesting side discussions as we contemplated the flattened petiole of the aspen leaves, relished the multitude of path-side flowers, and learned a bit about differentiating the various conifers from one another, e.g. pine needles grow in bundles (fascicles), while spruce and Douglas-Fir needles emerge singly. Jeff Jaacks shared some fascinating geology tidbits, explaining how the mosaic of underlying igneous and metamorphic bedrock at Meyer Ranch, due in part to differences in pH, directly influences the forest that grows from their soil – Lodgepole Pine forest growing locally on amphibole biotite gneiss (a metamorphic rock), and Ponderosa Pine forest growing on granite (an igneous rock). I told Jeff, that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, so I hope I’ve gotten this at least partly right.

The highlight of the morning was having four calling Wilson’s Snipe, of which we were able to see one very well and quite close to us. We saw two others that were more hidden, and heard a fourth a bit further off. Very special!

Good birding!

Chuck

 

Meyer Ranch Open Space, Jul 1, 2017
27 species

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  4
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  3
Hairy Woodpecker (Rocky Mts.) (Picoides villosus orius/icastus)  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  3
Hammond’s Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)  1
Cordilleran Flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis)  3
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  4
Steller’s Jay (Interior) (Cyanocitta stelleri [diademata Group])  3
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  35
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)  6
Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)  10
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  5
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  7
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  2
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed) (Junco hyemalis caniceps)  11
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  2
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  5
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  1

Hudson Gardens, June 24, with Chuck Aid

Female Wood Duck (c) Bill Schmoker

We had an enthusiastic group of 16 birders this past Saturday morning at Hudson Gardens, and we tallied 35 species of birds.

While the female Wood Duck we saw was not quite as colorfully attired as a male would have been, I always enjoy seeing any Wood Duck and know that good views of males will come again on another trip.

 

American White Pelican (c) Bill Schmoker

Perhaps the BIGGEST highlight of the morning was provided by the couple of American White Pelicans we saw soaring overhead. So, if I tell you that a Red-tailed Hawk has a wing-spread of four feet, guess what the wing-spread of an American White Pelican is. What do you think? Can you imagine a bird with a nine-foot wing-spread? Pretty incredible, no?!!

From the entertain perspective, the highlight was provided by a family of raucous Belted Kingfishers. They never settled down for a good look, and just kept flying in circles around us (clockwise, as one astute participant pointed out). Likely, a couple of recently fledged birds were still demanding a three-course meal from one of the parents, who, while hesitant to abandon the youngsters, was ready for them to take on the job of provisioning themselves.

Cedar Waxwing (c) Bill Schmoker

The most numerous award goes to the ubiquitous Cliff Swallows that nest on the nearby Bowles Street bridge and then forage over the adjacent river and ponds. They were everywhere.

A couple of other great moments were provided by Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Warblers, and Bullock’s Orioles, just to name a few.

Hudson Gardens, Jun 24, 2017
35 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  16
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  6
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  2
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  9
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  3
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  4
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  1
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  5
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  80
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  4
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  3
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  8
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  11
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  7
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  15
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  5
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  10
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  22
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  3
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  8
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, June 3, with Chuck Aid

It was a beautiful morning at the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield! The birding never slowed down and seventeen of us came away with 45 species (see list below).

Highlights included numerous Great Blue Herons – somewhere between 2 and 12 of them. It seemed like every time we scanned the sky here came another Great Blue. A lone Swainson’s Hawk hung around just long enough to give us a good view and attract a whole slew of Red-winged Blackbirds who aggressively sent him on his way. Always a crowd pleaser, a Belted Kingfisher gave us a nice long look, and at the same time we got to watch a female Bullock’s Oriole working on her nest. A bit later we got to watch another female gathering weaving material for her nest – there was a distinct preference for the old hairy bark of dead cottonwood branches. Beautiful views were also had of Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Western Meadowlark; and five species of swallows provided a good opportunity for a nice impromptu seminar on the Hirundinidae family.

Song Sparrow (c) Bill Schmoker
Lark Sparrow (c) Bill Schmoker

A couple of birds of note were Song Sparrow and Lark Sparrow. On the Song Sparrow note the gray head with brown streaking, the coarse brown breast streaks converging in a central breast spot, the strong brown lateral throat stripes, and the fairly long tail (for a sparrow). Also, this particular photo shows a typical Song Sparrow behavior – the drooping wingtips. With regard to the Lark Sparrow, it is one of our largest sparrows, having a long, rounded tail. Note the boldly patterned head and clean, white underparts. In flight, the tail pattern is unique (take a look in your field guide). With regard to behavior these guys have a preference for open ground, or, as we saw on Saturday, they may even forage on an old asphalt walkway.

Migration is pretty much done, and the business of nest-building and laying eggs is high on the priority list.

Hope to see you soon on another Front Range Birding Company walk!

Good birding!  Chuck

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, Jun 3, 2017
45 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  8
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  6
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  6
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  2
Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)  1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  4
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  2
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  3
Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)  2
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)  2
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  1
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  2
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  6
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  3
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  22
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  17
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  9
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)  3
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  22
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  5
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  3
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)  6
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  5
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  3
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1

 

Hudson Gardens, May 27, with Chuck Aid

Dear Front Range Birders:

Western Kingbird (c) Bill Schmoker

Eight of us explored the Hudson Gardens environs until the ominous black clouds coming from the west were joined by a gusting breeze beginning to carry raindrops which hastened our return to the visitor center. So, we quit a bit prematurely but managed, before doing so, to have seen and/or heard 32 species (see list below).

Before sharing some of our highlights, I want to mention a couple of species that we did not see. Last year, by the end of June, we had a Wood Duck hen with six ducklings on the turtle pond. Today we saw no sign of any Wood Ducks, but we will hope to do so on our next walk on June 24. The other species that was conspicuously absent was Cooper’s Hawk. We’ve been extremely fortunate for several seasons now in getting to have views of a nesting pair of Cooper’s in the cottonwood grove just north of Nixon’s Coffee House by the bike path. This morning we saw neither hide, nor hair, nor feather of these guys. Again, we will be checking again in the future.

Bullock’s Oriole (c) Bill Schmoker

Now, as to this morning’s highlights, we had great views of a pair of Western Kingbirds foraging over the river on the plentiful insect fare, Yellow Warblers were numerous, a pair of Bullock’s Orioles were right above us in a cottonwood, and American Goldfinches were doing a lot of chasing one another around.

There were also numerous swallows in the air over the river just prior to the rain moving in.

Yellow Warbler (c) Bill Schmoker

I think the real highlight was getting to watch the efforts of a male Red-winged Blackbird trying time and again to chase a foraging Great Blue Heron away from what he considered to be his particular patch of cattails. The heron was hunting by slowly wading along the edge of the cattails, but the Red-wing would have none of it. Presumably there was a nest close by. The Red-wing would fly down at the head of the heron, and the heron would respond by lunging upward with open beak and without leaving its feet. This went on for quite sometime – a good drama, of which we did not see the outcome. As I explained at the time Great-Blues eat a variety of food items – essentially any living organism that they can grab including fairly large fish and muskrats.

Spring migration is coming to an end and many species are now on eggs or even starting to have fledglings. I hope you are managing to get out and enjoy the show.

Good birding!

Chuck

 

Hudson Gardens, May 27, 2017
32 species
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  4
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  8
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  4
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  3
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  2
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)  2
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  4
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  5
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  1
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  50
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  4
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  7
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  5
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  3
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  8
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  9
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  12
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  3
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  5
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  4
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1

Chatfield State Park, May 13, with Chuck Aid

Yellow-breasted Chat (c) Bill Schmoker

We had glorious weather for the Front Range Birding Company open house, and ten of us started off the day by going birding at Chatfield before joining the festivities at the store. Three species dominated the morning: House Wren, Yellow Warbler, and Yellow-breasted Chat. They seemed to be everywhere.

A few other highlights were the great looks we had of a male Common Yellowthroat, a few fleeting looks at Gray Catbirds and a single male Western Tanager, and then there was a female Black-headed Grosbeak that stuck around, but was mostly foraging methodically deep in a bush and good looks were brief.

Yellow Warbler (c) Bill Schmoker
House Wren (c) Bill Schmoker
Common Yellowthroat (c) Bill Schmoker

At 10:30 we made our way over to the banding station run each spring at Chatfield by the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. For the next hour we were totally enthralled getting to see Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Bullock’s Orioles, and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow in the hand.

 

Breeding season is in full swing, and there’s something new and wonderful to see almost every day. I hope you’re getting your fair share!

Best,  Chuck

 

Chatfield State Park, May 13

32 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  6
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  7
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  6
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  4
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  9
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  3
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  32
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  4
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  48
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)  17
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  4
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  17
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  1
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  4
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  5

 

Majestic View Park, May 6, with Chuck Aid

Twenty-one of us (fifteen adults and 6 kiddos) had a very nice spring morning at Majestic View Park in Arvada. This is a delightful 80 acre oasis in the city, with a superb nature center and a beautiful little lake and wetland area, and we were able to see 33 species of birds (see list below).

Pied-billed Grebe (c) Bill Schmoker

One of the early highlights for me was getting to hear the song of the Pied-billed Grebe. Though I may have heard it previously, I had forgotten the initial rapid hooting of the song.

 

 

We also got see and hear a beautiful Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark (c) Bill Schmoker

Perhaps the main highlight of the morning was getting to see two species of Accipiter hawks. Accipiters are a group of forest-dwelling hawks that have short rounded wings and long tails that facilitate their ability to maneuver rapidly through trees and shrubs. When out in the open they have a characteristic flight pattern of several rapid flaps and a glide. Because they spend so much of their time below the forest canopy they tend to be observed less often than other hawks.

 

Sharp-shinned Hawk (c) Bill Schmoker

We have three species of Accipiters here in Colorado. The largest is the Goshawk, found predominantly in conifer and mixed conifer-aspen montane forests. The intermediate sized is the Cooper’s Hawk which is found with some regularity in cottonwood gallery stream-side forests, coniferous forests, and urban habitats with tall trees. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest and prefers coniferous, aspen, and stream-side habitats. Both the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned have adapted to urban environments opportunistically taking prey from bird feeders.

 

Cooper’s Hawk (c) Bill Schmoker

We were able to see what appeared to be an adult Sharp-shin perched at a distance. Note the rounded head with the eye centered in the head. We then had a great look at an immature Cooper’s as it flew directly over us. Note the straight front to the wings with the head sticking out in front of the wings (with Sharpies the wings are pushed forward and the head is recessed between them).

Overall, a great morning! I look forward to seeing you again soon on another Front Range Birding Company bird walk or at the store.

Good birding! Chuck Aid

 

Majestic View Park, May 6, 2017
Front Range Birding Company
33 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  4
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  7
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  2
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  4
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)  1
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  3
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  8
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  7
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  1
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  4
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  9
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  4
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  16
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  1
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  23
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  5
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  8
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  2

Hudson Gardens, March 25, with Chuck Aid

Dear Front Range Birders:

Thirteen of us had a delightful morning at Hudson Gardens. I was pleased to see so many American Wigeons as I’ve seen very few over the last couple of months. The female’s smeared mascara look was quite evident (all photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker).

Also, we had a great look at a pair of Green-winged Teal, and we could even see the green in the wing of the female.

Once again we were lucky to see an apparent pair of Cooper’s Hawks, and the intermediate morph Red-tailed Hawk that was around all last breeding season is back again.

Finally, I was excited to see a single Bushtit. These guys were not very common in this area thirty years ago, so even though they are more plentiful now, they still give me a thrill. Remember that the male has the dark eye, and the female’s eye is light.

Hope to see you on a walk soon either at Hudson Gardens or with the Front Range Birding Company!

Best,

Chuck

 

Hudson Gardens, Mar 25, 2017

30 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  16

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  12

American Wigeon (Anas americana)  27

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  23

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  2

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  2

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  8

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  2

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  1

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  2

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  5

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  2

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  10

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  1

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  8

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  1

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  9

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  3

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  2

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  12

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  3

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  6

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, Mar 4, with Chuck Aid

Fourteen of us spent a productive morning at the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, tallying 35 species (see list below). We had twelve species of ducks; the highlight being a male and female Red-breasted Merganser. Note that they both have shaggy crests and very thin bills. Also notice his white collar and her sort of muddy white chin and upper breast (this is in contrast to the clear bright, white patches that a female Common Merganser has).  Photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker.

 

The highlight of the day was a Sora heard calling, but not seen, in the cattail marsh. Evidently, a few Soras may hang out during the winter, but generally we don’t start hearing them until around the first of April. So, this was a bit of an early bird.

Sora (Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker)

As we move into the next few months, the number of opportunities to get out birding are going to increase, so I hope to see some of you that haven’t made it for a while.

Good Birding!

Chuck Aid

 

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, Mar 4, 2017

35 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  46

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  37

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  18

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  39

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  17

Redhead (Aythya americana)  13

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  6

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  6

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  8

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  11

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  14

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  3

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)  2

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  24

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  4

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)  1

Sora (Porzana carolina)  1     “Kerwee” call heard several times in cattail marsh.

American Coot (Fulica americana)  7

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  22

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  5

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  2

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  1

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  5

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  8

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  5

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  4

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  7

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  16

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  2

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Front Range Birding trip to Minnesota and Sax Zim Bog

Who goes to Minnesota in January? If you want to see Great Gray and Snowy Owls then traveling to the Sax Zim Bog just outside Duluth, Minnesota is a must. Front Range Birding helped, along with Sheridan Samano of the Reefs to Rockies travel company, to lead a small group of intrepid birders to this cold north location to see these and other great boreal birds. 

Top left and top center – Great Grey Owl!  Top right – Snowy Owl!    Score!!

Bottom left – The drive into Sax Zim Bog      Bottom right – Our group from Colorado, Delaware, and New Jersey. 

Considering the weather, and dead of winter time frame, the number of birds seen was quite impressive. Most in the group picked up multiple life birds for their lists. The temps were very tolerable and brought out many of the Minnesota winter residents. Aside from our target birds pictured above, of note were the Black-backed woodpecker, White-winged crossbill, Bohemian waxwing, Pileated woodpecker, Boreal chickadee, and Golden-crowned sparrow.

We loved our stay in Duluth, Minnesota at the historic Fitger’s Inn which is located in the vintage 1885 renovated Fitger’s Brewery. The shores of Lake Superior offered great views and ambiance and all of us had a fantastic time. Thank you Reef to Rockies for setting up this trip!

Our complete list of birds seen is below.

  1. Mallard
  2. Common Goldeneye
  3. Ruffed Grouse
  4. Sharp-tailed Grouse
  5. Wild Turkey
  6. Bald Eagle
  7. Red-tailed Hawk
  8. Rough-legged Hawk
  9. Thayer’s Gull
  10. Rock Pigeon (feral)
  11. Snowy Owl
  12. Great gray Owl
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. Hairy Woodpecker
  15. Black-backed Woodpecker
  16. Pileated Woodpecker
  17. Northern Shrike
  18. Gray Jay
  19. Blue Jay
  20. Black-billed Magpie
  21. American Crow
  22. Common Raven
  23. Black-capped Chickadee
  24. Boreal Chickadee
  25. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  26. White-breasted Nuthatch
  27. American Robin
  28. European Starling
  29. Bohemian Waxwing
  30. Dark-eyed Junco
  31. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  32. Pine Grosbeak
  33. White-winged Crossbill
  34. Common Redpoll
  35. Pine Siskin
  36. American Goldfinch
  37. Evening Grosbeak

Our partnership with Reefs to Rockies is great and we are planning many more trips with them. Next up is a visit to the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World – Kearney, Nebraska March 25-27, 2017. Be sure to visit Reefs to Rockies website for details on this trip. Also sign up for our newsletter on this website to learn more about this and other great trips with Front Range Birding!

 

South Platte Park, February 4, with Chuck Aid

Well, Saturday was another great day of birding. Eleven of us went to South Platte Park, where the winds calmed down and the temperature warmed up quite nicely.  We started by looking at the orange legs of female Common Mergansers.

Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

Our first enthralling bird of the day was a female Northern Harrier, which flew down from a nearby tree with prey in its talons, and landed out in the open on the edge of Blackrock Lake. We were able to watch her for some time as she ate her breakfast – possibly a pigeon or a coot. The photos below are not of our bird, but they give you an idea of what we saw. Note the owl-like facial disc, the white both above and below the eye, the streaking on the upper breast and nape, the long banded tail, the white rump, AND the prey (in this case a Green-winged Teal).

Photo courtesy of Rob Raker
Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

Then, we were most fortunate to see my target bird for the day, Greater Scaup, which are uncommon wintering bird in the interior of the continent, preferring salt water along both coasts. However, they have been occurring regularly at Blackrock Lake over the past three winters, and we were able to see eight of them. Distinguishing Greater Scaup from Lesser Scaup, which occur regularly here in the winter, is one of the trickier IDs, and I hope our group didn’t tire of my trying to point out some of the distinguishing characteristics. Among these, head-shape is a key factor. In the photos below note how the three Greater Scaup have more rounded, longer heads, with eyes closer to the top of their heads. The single Lesser Scaup, on the other hand, has a more pointy head with an obvious corner towards the rear of the head, and the eye appears to not be as close to the top of the head. I have spent hours working on the finer points of distinguishing these two species, and you can too if you get on over to Blackrock Lake. Apparently the Greater Scaup are showing up there again with some regularity.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Grosset
Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

One additional highlight of the day is that were able to locate a pair of Great Horned Owls. Their proximity to a huge nest high in a cottonwood may indicate that they have chosen their nesting site for this year. The female could be incubating eggs anytime now, as here in Colorado nests tend to begin being occupied at the beginning of February. Incubation then lasts about 35 days, so we could expect to start seeing little white owlets as early as mid-March. However, there is great variation in the nesting phenology, and it is possible to see owlets in nests as late as July. The photo below is of the male we saw.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Jaacks

Hope you guys are enjoying these mild days, and enjoying the wintering ducks.

Good Birding!

Chuck Aid

 

South Platte Park, Feb 4, 2017

31 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  48

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  1

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  12

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  21

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  16

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)  8

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  11

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  32

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  23

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  11

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  2

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  2

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)  1

American Coot (Fulica americana)  7

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  110

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  30

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)  2

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  3

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  9

Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  7

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  40

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  8