South Platte Park (C-470 area), Feb 2 – with Chuck Aid

Green-winged Teal female (c) Bill Schmoker

Fourteen of us began the morning by scoping and binocularing (why not, in an era when we are “verbizing” so many of our nouns?) South Platte Reservoir.  This large reservoir was completed in 2007, having been converted from an old gravel mine.  While its surroundings are rather sterile and vegetation almost non-existent, it continues to be a reliable haven for rare winter waterfowl in the south metro area. Almost every year we get one or more Long-tailed Ducks here, last year there was a Yellow-billed Loon, this year there were some Trumpeter Swans, and generally we get one or more of the three scoter duck species here.

Black Scoter female (c) Bill Schmoker

We were fortunate to see a single female Black Scoter, a single male Red-breasted Merganser, and a good representation of the more common winter ducks.  Black Scoters breed primarily in northern Quebec and northern Alaska.  Their major wintering areas are the coastal waters of Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, British Colombia, and Washington.  Any occurrence in the center of the continent is unusual. Red-breasted Mergansers are not as rare an occurrence as the scoters, but it is certainly a special treat when we get to see them – a personal favorite of mine.  We ended up with fourteen species of ducks which was pretty good.

Red-breasted Merganser male (c) Bill Schmoker

Our other somewhat unexpected bird of the morning was an American Dipper under the C-470 bridge amidst all the current highway construction.  We were easily within twelve feet of this bird, and it was totally unperturbed, even going so far as to sing a little bit for us.  And, they have a delightful song!

American Dipper (c) Xeno-canto

  What makes this sighting unusual is that Dippers don’t tend to venture too far out on to the eastern plains.  They can make it about as far east as Loveland, Longmont, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and Cherry Creek Reservoir, but those occurrences are fairly unusual.  Of additional interest is that a Dipper was seen in this exact same location on a Front Range Birding Company walk led by Jennifer O’Keefe on January 5th– presumably the same individual.

Hope to see you soon on our next walk.

Chuck

American Dipper (c) Bill Schmoker

South Platte Park–C470 area, Feb 2, 2019 
35 species

Canada Goose  14
Northern Shoveler  19
Gadwall  16
American Wigeon  1
Mallard  15
Green-winged Teal  9
Redhead  13
Ring-necked Duck  17
Lesser Scaup  14
Black Scoter  1 
Bufflehead  20
Common Goldeneye  13
Hooded Merganser  12
Common Merganser  1
Red-breasted Merganser  1
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  14
American Coot  9
Killdeer  2
Ring-billed Gull  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  3
Black-billed Magpie  7
American Crow  5
Black-capped Chickadee  6
American Dipper  1 
European Starling  7
American Pipit  1
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  1
Song Sparrow  1

Hudson Gardens, Jan 26 – with Chuck Aid

Cackling and Canada Geese (c) Bill Schmoker

We had a raucous start as music blared across the parking lots at Hudson Gardens in anticipation of the Frosty’s Frozen 5 and 10 mile races.  Fortunately, we were ahead of the nine o’clock start time, and got out along the South Platte trail before the runners came by, and then safely sequestered ourselves well away from the action at the appropriate moments – all done very serendipitously.

Canada Goose (c) Bill Schmoker

So, to begin with, though the temperature was only about 30 degrees, it seemed to feel much colder, and we initially had only a few landbirds, an American Robin and some House Finches, but then as we got over to the river things picked up significantly.  The middle of the river was packed with Cackling Geese with their heads tucked away.  There were at least 600, possibly as many as 800.  Over the next forty minutes or so they gradually began to untuck, but they were in no hurry to leave.  

Cackling Goose (c) Bill Schmoker

Distinguishing Cackling Geese from Canada Geese is one of the great birding challenges.  Up until 2004 they were considered one species, and it’s easy to see why – they look VERY similar.  As with so many bird taxonomy questions, genetic analysis has led to this reclassification.  Generally speaking, Canada Geese are bigger, and Cackling Geese are smaller, but this all gets complicated by the fact that there are roughly seven subspecies of Canada Geese and four of Cackling Geese, all of which are of variable size and with some overlap between groups.  So, not to prolong this any further, a good place to start in distinguishing Cackling Geese is to look for a stubbier, shorter bill rising into a steeper forehead; the head itself is small and squarish; the neck is proportionally shorter and thicker, and some of these guys are only slightly bigger than a Mallard.  Canada Geese have longer bills rising gradually into a sloping forehead, giving the head a more rounded look; the neck is proportionally longer and thinner, with a tendency to be more “S” shaped.  Finally, we have Canada Geese year-round in Colorado, and Cackling Geese breed in northern Alaska and Canada and are only here in the winter.  ‘Nuff said!

Ring-necked Duck male (c) Bill Schmoker

Being right beside the Platte we also had ample opportunity to become experts at distinguishing male and female ducks of several species, both dabblers and divers.  One of the interesting winter phenomena in the Denver area is that as we get really cold weather the lakes and ponds can start to freeze over and the ducks then become more congregated along the flowing rivers and streams.  We generally see more dabblers along the river, e.g. Gadwall, Mallard, and Green-winged Teal, but with the colder weather the divers tend to show up more, e.g. Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Hooded Merganser. With regard to diet the dabblers are primarily vegetarians, with only a small portion of their diet coming from various insect larvae.  Among the divers, about a fourth of the Ring-necked Duck’s diet is animal based (insects, nymphs, beetles, and mollusks).  Animal food constitutes the majority of the diet of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Hooded Mergansers.

Red-tailed Hawk, intermediate or rufous morph, (c) Bill Schmoker

Other highlights of the morning included an intermediate morph Red-tailed Hawk, which we picked up on flying away from us, but then it accommodatingly flew back towards us and landed right above us on a utility pole.  The majority of our Red-tail Hawks tend to be “light morphs,” that is they are pale in the breast and undertail coverts with a streaked belly band.  Roughly ten percent of Red-tails, however, are either “dark morph” birds that are all dark chocolate brown, or “intermediate or rufous morph” birds that are reddish-brown on the chest with a dark belly.  During breeding season in recent years there has been a breeding pair near Hudson Gardens of a light morph individual with an intermediate morph bird.  It seems likely to me that our bird on Saturday may have been the same one that breeds in this area.

Spotted Towhee (c) Bill Schmoker

Besides getting great looks at a number of songbirds such as Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee, one of our more interesting observations was of an all-male flock of Red-winged Blackbirds.  They were mostly first-year males just starting get their red epaulets, but also some beautiful adult males sporting wonderfully colorful bright red and yellow epaulets. But, no females.  Red-wings sexually segregate during migration but I’m puzzled by this mid-winter “all boys club.”

Red-winged Blackbird male (c) Bill Schmoker

A great morning with a great group of enthusiastic birders!  Hope you can make it to the next Hudson Gardens walk or one of the other Front Range Birding Company outings!

Best!  Chuck

Hudson Gardens, Jan 26, 2019 
25 species (+2 other taxa)

Cackling Goose  600
Canada Goose  42
Gadwall  10
Mallard  21
Green-winged Teal  1
Ring-necked Duck  9
Bufflehead  8
Common Goldeneye  3
Hooded Merganser  8
Eurasian Collared-Dove  9
Great Blue Heron  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Black-billed Magpie  5
American Crow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  7
American Robin  1
European Starling  2
House Finch  11
American Goldfinch  5
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (cismontanus)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)  3
Song Sparrow  5
Spotted Towhee  1
Red-winged Blackbird  18

South Platte Park, January 5 – Jennifer O’Keefe

One way I remember what birds are common in different times of the year is related to weather.  For instance, I associate seeing some types of birds with not being able to feel my fingers.  Many of the birds we saw on Saturday are ones I would expect to see while shivering, but the recent warm spell had us shedding layers by the end of the walk.  

We were fortunate to see both the Trumpeter Swans and the Tundra Swan that had been reported recently, as well as the Black Scoter that’s been hanging around for awhile.  We had great looks at so many different types of birds, and were able to spend some time discussing field marks and behavior.  It can be tedious to sort out a big lake full of birds, but our group was patient while we went through them. I hope everyone came away with at least one new nugget of information.

Once we moved on from the reservoir, we saw smaller numbers of birds but were able to put more attention to those not on the water.   We didn’t see many, but we did have good views of an American Kestrel and a Bald Eagle. 

We ventured under C-470 just for a few minutes to see if we could pick up any other species.  There were quite a few birders out that day, and we were lucky to happen upon a group that had just spotted a couple of American Dippers.  We relocated one of them, and were able to watch it for several minutes. 

Thanks to our group for a wonderful morning of birding!!   

Canada Goose                         200

Cackling Goose                        10

Trumpeter Swan                     6

Tundra Swan                           1

Mallard                                   55

Gadwall                                   35

Northern Pintail                      1

American Wigeon                   7

Northern Shoveler                  30

Green-winged Teal                 12

Redhead                                  7

Ring-necked Duck                   260

Black Scoter                            1

Common Goldeneye               45

Bufflehead                              60

Common merganser               5

Red-breasted merganser        2

Hooded merganser                 15

Ruddy Duck                             2

Pied-billed Grebe                    13

Great Blue Heron                    1

Red-tailed Hawk                      1

Bald Eagle                               1

Killdeer                                    3

Ring-billed Gull                       7

Rock Pigeon                            3

Belted Kingfisher                    1

Northern Flicker                     2

Prairie Falcon                          1

American Kestrel                    1

American Dipper                     1

Black-capped Chickadee         7

Sparrow spp.                           2

Red-winged Blackbird             1

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

South Platte Park, February 4, with Chuck Aid

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 began by noting the orange legs on the female Common Mergansers.

Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

Our first really 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 an 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 was that we 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

Hudson Gardens, January 28, with Chuck Aid

Dear Front Range Birders:

As you may remember, Saturday morning was wonderfully mild, and fifteen of us got to enjoy the weather as well as the good variety of ducks along the South Platte and in the adjacent ponds in the vicinity of Hudson Gardens.

To begin with, we were early enough to catch a large number of Cackling and Canada Geese down on the river, and get the opportunity to compare relative sizes. This is a very tricky business, and frankly much of it is beyond me. There are eleven subspecies of Canada Goose, and four subspecies of Cackling Goose, all of which have a superficial resemblance to one another, and with some size overlap. However, generally speaking, Cacklers are a small, stocky goose with a thicker shorter neck, a steeper forehead, and a small, stubby bill. When there are Mallards present (which was the case on Saturday) one can see that the smallest subspecies of Cackling Goose (25”) is only slightly larger than a Mallard (23”). These are the Cackling Geese that I can identify with some degree of confidence. The photo below shows Cackling Geese on the left and Canada Geese on the right.

Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

We then proceeded to get GREAT looks at nine species of ducks. Highlights included a male Wood Duck, a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, several Buffleheads, a few Common Goldeneyes and a few Hooded Mergansers. The real highlight of the day was a male Barrow’s Goldeneye. These ducks breed largely west of the Continental Divide up in the Canadian Rockies. They then winter as far south as northern California and western Colorado. We see a few each winter east of the Divide, but it is a rare occurrence, and always a special one.

Photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker

We ended the morning having seen 26 species (see list below). Hope to see you soon at the store, or on another walk!

Good birding!

Chuck Aid

 

Hudson Gardens, Jan 28, 2017, 26 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  25

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  180

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  1

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  8

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  37

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  2

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  15

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  5

Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)  1

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  3

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  1

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1

American Coot (Fulica americana)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  1

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  3

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  5

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  4

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  7

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  6

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  11

Bosque del Apache Birding Trip

What a great road trip Front Range Birding had to Bosque del Apache, New Mexico with Reefs to Rockies. Bosque is one of the premier winter destination for birders.  Our small group of 9 travelers drove the 1,500-mile round trip and took in the sights of the southwest and observed and photographed 94 species of birds! I loved them all but here are some that we don’t see in the Denver, Colorado area much:

Tundra Swan                                                  Black-throated Sparrow

Snow Goose                                                     Cactus Wren

Ross’s Goose                                                    Juniper Titmouse

Gambel’s Quail                                               Canyon Towhee

White-winged Dove                                       Sage Thrasher

Greater Roadrunner                                      Curve-billed Thrasher

Sandhill Crane                                                Pyrrhuloxia

Acorn Woodpecker                                         Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

Ladder-backed Woodpecker                         Black Rosy-Finch

Chihuahuan Raven                                        Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

 

A great treat on the 2nd day of the trip was the dawn “Fly Out” of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Ross’s Geese and Snow Geese.

 

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip was the Sunday Rosy-Finch banding experience at Sandia Crest House overlooking Albuquerque, NM.

Our group at the Sandia Crest House watching rosy-finch banding.

Everyone had a great time! This month, we are heading to Minnesota with a group to see the boreal winter birds at Sax Zim Bog outside of Duluth. Be sure to watch for more of our adventures as we partner with the good folks at Reefs to Rockies tour company.

South Platte Park, December 3, with Chuck Aid

It was a bit nippy on Saturday morning as fifteen of us began surveying for birds at South Platte Park. Fortunately, the wind wasn’t blowing, the sun eventually made itself known, and by late morning it was gorgeous out. As for the birds, we tallied 39 species (see list below), and found ourselves pretty continuously occupied working on our identifications.

Among the highlights were the Hooded Mergansers that seemed to be everywhere with the males often raising their spectacular crests. We were also lucky to see three Wood Ducks sitting atop a large midstream boulder in the South Platte. The rare finding for the morning was a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet hanging out with some Black-capped Chickadees. We were fortunate in seeing three species of sparrows: American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Song Sparrow (photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker).  The White-crowned Sparrow photo is of a juvenile as we tend to see far more of them this time of year.

atsp5wcsp_juv13sosp10

And we were additionally fortunate in seeing four species of raptors: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel.

Overall, we didn’t see anything unexpected, but we were fortunate in seeing the diversity of the regularly occurring winter species that we did. Birds I had hoped for that we did not see were Long-tailed Duck and Greater Scaup. We also missed on a few of the more common species such as Common Merganser, Great-horned Owl, Blue Jay, and Dark-eyed Junco.

Finally, I hope that you all will find a Christmas Bird Count in which to participate. Here’s a link to all the areas in Colorado with contact info. http://audubon.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=3dcefef2f4654a94960fc3c8d1cfcc6d

Happy Holidays!  Chuck

South Platte Park, Dec 3, 2016

39 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  527

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  3

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  23

American Wigeon (Anas americana)  2

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  34

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  119

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  6

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  3

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  2

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  36

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  15

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  29

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  2

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  7

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)  1

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3

American Coot (Fulica americana)  36

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  13

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  15

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  8

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  55

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  11

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  8

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  130

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)  5

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  17

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  4

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  1

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  23

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

 

Hudson Gardens, Oct 29, with Chuck Aid

Well, it was another beautiful morning at Hudson Gardens, and nine of us were there to take it all in. While we only tallied 21 species (see list below) we had good activity and a number of entertaining moments.

Only a few male ducks exhibited any eclipse plumage, and for the most part they are looking pretty bright and beautiful and ready to go courting (in a few months). As you guys know, Mallards are here year round. So are Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, and Hooded Mergansers, thoiugh in relatively low numbers, and now is when those numbers start to go up due to migration and the fact that this is a popular wintering area for these species. Several of the diving ducks are only found here during the winter, and our single female Bufflehead (see photo) is a harbinger of more divers showing up soon, e.g. Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Merganser.

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One more ducky note. When the first Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas came out in 1998 there were only two accepted breeding records for Hooded Merganser for the entire state. Since then, a few more records have emerged, but this is an interesting species to keep an eye out for this coming breeding season.

One interesting note from our walk is that we encountered a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds that, as near as we could tell, consisted exclusively of male birds. We know that in the spring males arrive before females to begin setting up territories. Apparently, males return south in the fall after the females have already left.

One other highlight was getting really good looks at a variety of American Goldfinches in their winter plumage.

amgo9

Good birding!

Chuck

 

Hudson Gardens, Oct 29, 2016

21 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  9

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  46

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  1

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  2

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  3

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  8

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  3

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  8

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  7

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  14

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  2

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  140

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  18

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  13