Immature Bald Eagle in flight. Photo by Jamie Simo

Milavec Reservoir, January 8th–with Jamie Simo

Hybrid Greater White-fronted Goose x Cackling Goose. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Milavec Reservoir in Frederick, Colorado is always a good place to see ducks and geese in the winter. I like to go at least once every year to see what I can see. This past Saturday was cold and windy and because of that a lot of the reservoir was frozen, but just enough remained open that it drew some interesting waterfowl and even some hungry raptors,

Hybrid Snow Goose x Cackling/Canada Goose. Photo by Jamie Simo.

including 4 Bald Eagles and a Northern Harrier.

Hiding among the masses of Canada and Cackling Geese were a Greater White-fronted Goose and a couple of interesting hybrids. One of these hybrids was clearly a cross between a Greater White-fronted Goose and probably a Cackling Goose going by the bright orange beak and feet (indicative of a Greater White-fronted Goose) and the dark  head and neck with a paler cheek patch (indicative of either a Canada or Cackling Goose). It’s small size hints that the other parent was probably a Cackling Goose rather than a Canada Goose.

The other hybrid was a lot harder to pin down to parentage. The white, blotchy head points to either a Snow Goose or a Ross’s Goose parent with the blocky head shape being more of a Snow Goose than Ross’s Goose trait. The dark bill and dark body indicates the other parent was either a Cackling or a Canada Goose.

We also had some great diving ducks, including good looks at both male and female Canvasbacks. The “ski slope” head shape of the Canvasback is distinctive and makes it unique from our other duck species. The Canvasback is named for the male’s white body, which resembles the color of unpainted canvas. The highlight for me was the lone Red-breasted Merganser that helpfully hung out next to a male Common Merganser to give a good indication of its slightly smaller size. This merganser had dark patches on the face, which I suspect would’ve been green feathers coming in if we’d been able to get closer to it. Immature male Red-breasted Mergansers resemble females with their brown heads and grey bodies. Mature males have green heads.

Red-breasted Merganser. Photo by Jamie Simo.

If you get a chance, check out Milavec this winter. I doubt you’ll be disappointed whatever you end up seeing!

Milavec Reservoir

20 taxa

Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Greater White-fronted x Cackling Goose (hybrid) 1
Snow x Canada Goose (hybrid) 1
Cackling/Canada Goose 2500
Northern Shoveler 16
Mallard 27
Canvasback 19
Lesser Scaup 1
Common Goldeneye 23
Common Merganser 21
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 5
Ring-billed Gull 2
Northern Harrier 1
Bald Eagle 4
Northern Flicker 1
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 1
House Finch 7

Sandstone Ranch, February 13–with Aron Smolley


American Tree Sparrow. Photo by Jamie Simo.

It was an honor and a pleasure to lead my first bird walk for Front Range Birding Company this morning. Although the temperatures never quite got above 4 degrees Farenheit, our small group had a fantastic time braving the elements in search of birds at Sandstone Ranch.

A lone American tree sparrow greeted us at the bottom of the hill, and we started off scanning the mostly frozen river for waterfowl, and mostly turned up Canada and Cackling geese as well as mallards, but we did get some great views of the local muskrat going about it’s day on the ice like it was no big deal. As soon as we crossed the first bridge we dicovered a pair of American kestrels, a male and female sitting side by side, feathers puffed up for warmth, and shortly after that we had a pair of red-tailed hawks soaring

Northern Pintail drake. Photo by Jamie Simo.

in the distance in what appeared to be early courtship behavior. An adult bald eagle sat perched next to a partially completed nest as black-billed magpies fluttered by.

Scanning the river we managed to turn up a few gadwall among the mallards, and a Northern pintail was a “lifer” for one of our participants. We also found some more bonus mammals- a small herd of white-tailed deer and a mink! A little further upstream we had a female hooded merganser ducking and diving beneath the icy water. At this point, we made a group decision to start making our way back to the parking lot, stopping occasionally for interesting waterfowl such as a common goldeneye, as well as some little brown birds that had to be left unidentified (I blame fogged-up, iced over binoculars and shivering hands!)

When we got back to the main trail we had a soul-satisfying view of an immature bald eagle that flew low and slow over our heads, and at that point my falcon senses started tingling so I started scanning the sandstone cliffs. To my delight, a prairie falcon (a lifer for ALL the partipants of this bird walk!) was perched in plain view at the edge of the cliff so we took a small detour so that everyone could get a closer look. The final bird of the day- a special bonus I might add- was a merlin that zipped by, giving us all of 3 seconds to confirm it’s identity before disappearing over the horizon. Our third falcon species and the perfect ending to a wonderful, albeit frigid, bird walk.

Here is our complete list of (confirmed) birds seen:
Canada goose-110

Merlin. Photo by Jamie Simo.

American crow- 17
Am. tree sparrow- 1
Mallard- 48
Cackling goose- 37
American kestrel- 2
Black-billed magpie- 3
Red-tailed hawk- 2
Gadwall- 4
Western meadowlark- 3
Northern pintail- 2
Bald eagle- 2
Hooded merganser- 1
Common goldeneye- 1
Prairie falcon- 1
Merlin- 1

Tagawa Gardens, Oct 8, with Chuck Aid

Dear Front Range Birders,

Tagawa Gardens, a beautiful and extensive garden center, is adjacent to a series of open space properties along Cherry Creek just upstream from Cherry Creek State Park, and on Saturday thirteen of us explored some of the immediate environs to see what birds we could find. The good part of all this was that we had a great group of participants and the weather was glorious. However, as one person noted, “The birds didn’t get the memo.” There were few to be seen, and we tallied only 16 species (see list below).

We noted that the male Mallards are largely done with the eclipse phase of their molting, and we saw only one that was still a bit mottled looking. The others were wonderful with their new breeding plumage that they will now carry through the winter. Just a reminder that when in eclipse plumage bill color is perhaps the easiest way to tell a male from a female. Note the solid yellowish bill of the males, while the female’s bill is orange with a splotch of black on top. All photos are courtesy of Bill Schmoker.


We also had great looks at a pair of adult, light-morph, Red-tailed Hawks. Note the all-dark head, the lightly streaked belly-band, the dark leading-edge of the wing (this is diagnostic), and the “bulging secondaries” (this is where the trailing edge of the wing gets a bit wider). Oh, yeah, it also has a “red” tail, telling us this is an adult – juvenile tails are finely banded without the red.


There was a very cooperative female Downy Woodpecker. Note how the length of the bill is much shorter than the width of the head, there’s a conspicuous white tuft right behind the bill, and there are little black bars on the outer tail feathers.


Finally, we saw a few beautiful Western Meadowlarks.


Remember to have your bird feeders ready to go for feeding the birds this winter, and, that when you’re ready, the Front Range Birding Company will give you the best prices when it comes to optics!

Good birding!  Chuck Aid


Tagawa Gardens, Oct 8, 2016

16 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  1

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  15

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  28

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  13

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  8

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  11

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  5

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  40

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  4

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  6

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2