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.


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

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