Stearn’s Lake, April 2, 2021–with Sheridan Samano

Early morning has the reputation for being the best time to go birding. It’s definitely a sweet spot for peak bird activity, but as the days get longer, you might find it convenient to bird later in the day.

On April 2, we met at Stearns Lake at 5:30 pm. Even before leaving the parking lot, we had the opportunity to pick out a lone white Snow Goose among a hundred or so Cackling Geese. Snow Geese have a  ‘grin patch’ – a dark patch on the side of the beak that makes the beak look open or like the bird is grinning. It’s not always easy to see the ‘grin patch’, but the setting sun provided ideal lighting conditions to do just that.

Bald Eagle – Second or Third Year. Photo by Sheridan Samano.

It wasn’t long before a Bald Eagle flew over the lake scattering the large flock of geese. Since 2012, a pair of Bald Eagles has nested near Stearns Lake. For several years, their nest was in a large cottonwood tree east of Del Corso Park, a small park wedged between apartment complexes that can be seen to the west of Stearns Lake. Last year, the Bald Eagles moved to a nesting tree south of Stearns Lake. This year, they’re nesting just southwest of the lake, much closer to the trail that leads you along the lake’s south and east shore.

The Bald Eagle that scared off the flock of geese wasn’t one of the adults in the nesting pair. By plumage, it appeared to be a second or third year individual. We watched as it headed straight for the eagle nest tree after flushing the geese. It was then promptly chased off by the adult male. We watched as the young individual approached the nest tree multiple times before being chased off again and again.

As we worked our way along the lake’s south shore, we practiced our waterfowl identification (ID) skills. We spotted a lone Gadwall, several Mallards, a Bufflehead pair, two pairs of Ruddy Ducks, and a Horned Grebe. The cerulean blue bill of male Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage always rank high on the “wow-index”. We also discussed the distinct profile of Ruddy Ducks in the water –  small body, scoop-shaped bill, and stiff tail often cocked upward.

The Horned Grebe offered another ID challenge. Both Horned and Eared Grebes had been reported in Boulder County recently. In poor light or from a distance, it can be challenging to tell the two species apart. Both are small and compact with black heads and showy head feathers. Neck color in breeding plumage differs between the two species, though. The Horned Grebe has a cinnamon neck and the Eared Grebe a black neck. Again, the setting sun

Killdeer. Photo by Sheridan Samano.

provided ideal lighting to see the cinnamon neck of this Horned Grebe through the spotting scope.

Other highlights of our walk included a pair of American Kestrels, our smallest and most common falcon “pair bonding”, a Great Blue Heron stalking prey in the lake’s shallows, and a Killdeer in beautiful Golden Hour lighting.

As the days continue to get longer in the coming weeks, consider taking an evening bird walk. It’s a wonderful way to end the day.

eBird Checklist – 20 Species

 
Snow Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Horned Grebe
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Killdeer
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Black-billed Magpie
European Starling
American Robin
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle

 

Front Range Birding Company’s blog readers get 10% of Best Birding Hikes – Colorado’s Front Range. Enter discount code FRBC at check out.

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.

mall2mall1

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.

rtha_ad13

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.

downy_woodpecker-female

Finally, we saw a few beautiful Western Meadowlarks.

weme24

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

pelicans

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1U3tGk4scQ[/svp]
American White Pelicans forage for food at Windy Gap Colorado. In the Walden, Colorado area these Pelicans will breed with other colonial nesters on Islands in lakes. They are monitored by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. Unlike Brown Pelicans of coastal reagions who hunt alone, American White’s cooperate in groups.

Digiscope Video of American Kestrel

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_RGW4bTlI[/svp]
Digiscope video taken with Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope, 20-60x Eyepiece, Digital Camera Adapter DCA, and Canon PowerShot A540. Digiscoping combines small point and shoot cameras with spotting scopes to produce images and videos at higher magnifications than possible with the camera alone. This video is an American Kestrel eating its prey at Platte River Park, Littleton, CO.

Digiscope Video of Ducks

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4ILbtfnBm4[/svp]
Digiscope video taken with Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope, 20-60x Eyepiece, Digital Camera Adapter DCA, and Canon PowerShot A540. Digiscoping combines small point and shoot cameras with spotting scopes to produce images and videos at higher magnifications than possible with the camera alone. This video is a feeding frenzy of ducks taken at Platte River Park, Littleton, CO.

Digiscope Video of Bald Eagles 3

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSew81AZOuo[/svp]
Digiscope video taken with Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope, 20-60x Eyepiece, Digital Camera Adapter DCA, and Canon PowerShot A540. Digiscoping combines small point and shoot cameras with spotting scopes to produce images and videos at higher magnifications than possible with the camera alone. This video is two bald eagles sitting on a branch in Weld County, Colorado.

Digiscope Video of Two Bald Eagles 2

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBJg9-cU1Uo[/svp]
Digiscope video taken with Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope, 20-60x Eyepiece, Digital Camera Adapter DCA, and Canon PowerShot A540. Digiscoping combines small point and shoot cameras with spotting scopes to produce images and videos at higher magnifications than possible with the camera alone. This video is two bald eagles sitting on a branch in Weld County, Colorado.

Digiscope Video of Two Bald Eagles 1

[svp]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwpLxtqNOw0[/svp]
Digiscope video taken with Swarovski ATS 80 HD Spotting Scope, 20-60x Eyepiece, Digital Camera Adapter DCA, and Canon PowerShot A540. Digiscoping combines small point and shoot cameras with spotting scopes to produce images and videos at higher magnifications than possible with the camera alone. This video is two bald eagles sitting on a branch in Weld County, Colorado.