Waneka Lake and Greenlee Preserve, March 9–with Jamie Simo and Special Guest Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd, birder extraordinaire

It was a beautiful, but blustery, morning when we set out for Wanaka Lake Park and Greenlee Preserve where we were joined by Lafayette resident and expert birder, Ted Floyd. The wind ended up being fortuitous because it broke up the thin skin of ice on Wanaka Lake. That meant we got to enjoy ducks and geese that would otherwise have been elsewhere, including Gadwall, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, a male Common Goldeneye, a group of Common Mergansers, and both Canada and Cackling Geese. The latter is distinguished from the former by their much smaller size, daintier bills, and stubby necks.

Cackling Goose (c) Jamie Simo

After surveying Waneka, Ted led us to Hecla Pond, which is a short walk from Waneka. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Lafayette, CO was a big coal mining town and Waneka Lake Park used to be the site of a power plant that operated from 1907 until 1957. There are remnants of this history in the large ore boulders we passed on our walk to Hecla. We spent a few minutes admiring the lichen growing on the surface of the boulders.

Though small, Hecla Pond was no less interesting than Waneka. We were able to get good looks at a pair of Hooded Mergansers and compare them to the larger, sleeker Commons we’d seen earlier. We added American Wigeon to our list for the day there, as well as Ring-necked Duck (named for the faint, almost invisible ring around its neck rather than the much more obvious ring around its bill!).

Cooper’s Hawk (c) Jamie Simo

The wind kept our numbers of songbirds down, but back at Greenlee Preserve we logged Red-winged Blackbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, and American Robins. We even had a Cooper’s Hawk fly over us! Lafayette hosts bird walks at 1:00pm from Greenlee Preserve on the first Sunday of every month, so stop by if you’re in the area then.

Our final species count was 27:

Waneka Lake/Greenlee Preserve
Number of Taxa: 27
100 Cackling Goose
49 Canada Goose
5 Northern Shoveler
3 Gadwall
3 American Wigeon
14 Mallard
10 Ring-necked Duck
3 Common Goldeneye
2 Hooded Merganser
7 Common Merganser
4 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
8 Eurasian Collared-Dove
1 Mourning Dove
32 Ring-billed Gull
1 Cooper’s Hawk
2 Red-tailed Hawk
5 Northern Flicker
4 American Crow
1 Common Raven
5 Black-capped Chickadee
7 American Robin
13 European Starling
27 House Finch
1 American Goldfinch
3 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbird
8 House Sparrow

Peschel Open Space, Dec 8 -with Jamie Simo

It was a cold, but clear morning when 9 intrepid birders set out for Peschel Open Space. Peschel is a hidden gem in the Weld County portion of Longmont near Sandstone Ranch. While the St. Vrain Greenway trail was heavily damaged by the devastating 2013 flood and parts of it only reopened earlier this year, the flood also created a lot of fantastic wetland habitat ideal for shorebirds and waterfowl.

Snow Goose (c) Photo by Jamie Simo

Things started off on a high note with a female American Kestrel and only went up from there. At some points the sky was nearly black and the air filled with the honking of geese attracted to the river, ponds, and nearby agricultural property that Peschel has to offer. In and among the thousands of Canada/Cackling Geese, we saw a dozen Snow Geese, including several juveniles and even a “blue morph.” 

Though Mallards were by far the most prevalent duck, there were also a scattering of American Wigeons, a few Green-winged Teal, and even 4 male Northern Pintails in their full glory.

Immature Bald Eagle (c) Photo by Jamie Simo

In addition to American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks were especially prevalent. We saw 6 different Red-tails. Other raptor highlights were the resident pair of Bald Eagles that made their appearance as we were heading back to the parking lot, 2 Northern Harriers, a Great Horned Owl roosting low in a tree, and a soaring Prairie Falcon.

While songbirds were in short supply this time of year, we did see several sparrow species (Song, American Tree, and White-crowned) and heard from resident species such as the Marsh Wren, Northern Flicker, and Blue Jay. The piece de resistance, however, was the American Pipit we saw picking around in the river near the bridge leading to Sandstone Ranch.

In all, we saw a total of 35 species, pretty good for an early winter day!

Peschel Open Space, December 8, 2018
35 species 

Snow Goose  12
Cackling/Canada Goose  2000
American Wigeon  22
Mallard  141
Northern Pintail  4
Green-winged Teal  3
Hooded Merganser  1
Ring-necked Pheasant  13
Eurasian Collared-Dove  11
Killdeer  5    
Ring-billed Gull  3
American White Pelican  8     
Great Blue Heron  3
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  3
Red-tailed Hawk  6
Great Horned Owl  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  2
Prairie Falcon  1
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  4
Horned Lark  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Marsh Wren  1
European Starling  20
American Pipit  1    
American Goldfinch  2
American Tree Sparrow  1
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  9
Western Meadowlark  3
Red-winged Blackbird  3

Hudson Gardens: March 31, 2018 with Jennifer O’Keefe & Chip Clouse

Our merry group of 27 birders ventured into Hudson Gardens and along the South Platter River on a brisk, beautiful day with plenty of sun. We spotted 25 species of birds during our 3-hour walk covering just under 2 miles.

We began by walking clockwise through Hudson Gardens, looking and listening for birds in the trees, on the ground, in the sky, and everywhere in between. American Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds were both observed singing out in the open, giving us a great opportunity to associate the song with the bird.

Out along the South Platte trail, we saw many of the waterbirds we’d anticipate seeing this time of year such as Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Gadwall.

One exciting observation was a Northern Harrier behaving very un-Harrierlike. These medium-sized raptors with long tails and a distinctive white rump patch are most often seen flying low over grasslands or marshes. This behavior is explained by their habit of not only looking for its prey, but listening as well. The Northern Harrier we observed was soaring high in the sky, a behavior we typically expect from other raptors such as the Red-tailed Hawk. What a treat to see a bird exhibiting an unexpected behavior!

Female Northern Harrier @ Bill Schmoker

Another big highlight was a pair of nest-building Bushtits. These tiny gray birds are often seen in marauding flocks that descend upon your suet feeder and then disappear, often for weeks at a time. This time of year, they are paired up to nest and often start earlier than many other perching birds.

Bushtit @ Bill Schmoker

As spring migration continues, we will say goodbye to many species of waterbirds, and hello to some of our summer favorites such as hummingbirds, swallows, and Bullock’s Orioles. Be sure to sign up early for the next walk on April 28th, 2018 by visiting the Hudson Garden’s website.

Species List:

American Robin – 30

Black-capped Chickadee – 5

Northern Flicker – 3

European Starling – 9

Red-winged Blackbird – 25

Northern Harrier – 1

Song Sparrow – 4

Green-winged Teal – 4

Bufflehead – 7

Double-crested Cormorant – 2

Mallard – 14

American Coot – 1

House Finch – 12

American Goldfinch – 4

Killdeer – 1

Bushtit – 4

American Wigeon – 12

Gadwall – 6

Swallow spp. – 10 (flying high)

Canada Goose – 26

Blue Jay – 5

Common Grackle – 3

Eurasian Collared-Dove – 2

Common Raven – 1

Black-billed Magpie – 3