Late July is an interesting time to go birding in Colorado. Many birds are finished breeding, so songs are few and far between; some have even begun to stage for migration, fattening up before an arduous trip south for the winter. However, the upshot to these phenomena is that baby birds being reared by mom and dad are in abundance, and birds to our north that have begun their migration are passing through in fair numbers through the Front Range. For our large gaggle of birders at Hudson Gardens this past Saturday, this translated into some wonderful birding with up-close looks at 32 species.
Our walk began with a bang, as we quickly caught sight of some flyovers from a Snowy Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron, both of which we’d observe foraging later in the morning. Shortly afterwards, a marvelous adult Cooper’s Hawk perched in a cottonwood by the South Platte river offered superb viewing through a scope.
While there were not many birds foraging in the river — some Canada geese, Mallards, and Snowy Egrets were observed — there was plenty of action in the surrounding trees. Our group quickly tuned in to the constant sounds of juvenile Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers, still calling heartily to their nearby parents. One special moment spent with the young birds was watching a juvenile Downy observe its mother feeding on a mullein stalk and then proceeding to feed on it itself.
Further along the river, we observed some Colorado summer mainstays, including Western Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Barn Swallow, along with some more unique breeders. Three Gray Catbirds skulked through some nearby shrubbery, alerting us to their presence with their namesake “meow” calls. Catbirds, close relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, are one of the few bird species that can identify the eggs of the Brown-headed Cowbird — a nest parasite — and remove them.
Things really picked up as we returned to the Gardens proper en route to the freshly-filled bird feeders: in a small stagnant pond near the weather, our group was treated to views as close as twenty feet of a Black-crowned Night Heron hunting for fish. These unique herons breed in rookeries in the Front Range, but occur across the northern hemisphere. At the feeders, hungry birds were everywhere: Rufous, Broad-tailed, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds fed on a lone hummingbird feeder; more Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers feasted on sunflower seeds; White-breasted Nuthatches, Mourning Doves, and American Goldfinches made appearances as well. Our walk was finally capped off with the sighting of three Ospreys — mom, dad, and junior — soaring overhead.
Check out all the species we saw on our unexpectedly splendid walk on eBird here!