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