November 27, 2008

Turkey Week Birding

We spent most of this week at our aunt's house in Aurora, and since our cousin Victor is also now birding, we were out birding most of the time. We met them for lunch in Boulder on Monday (the 24th), and since the Long-tailed Duck at Baseline Reservoir was still being reported, we tried again. There were Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Ring-billed Gulls, but again we missed seeing the Long-tailed Duck and the Surf Scoters. We didn't bird there for very long, as the traffic was very loud and distracting. Heading for a quieter place, we stopped by Walden Ponds, which was much more active. We saw 23 species.

Marcel, Victor, and Joel birding Walden Ponds - by Renee Haip

Greater Yellowlegs - by Joel Such

Canada Geese - by Renee Haip

On Tuesday, the 25th, we birded some new territory, Arapahoe County. We got out to South Platte Park near Littleton a little before noon. Joel and I were surprised by the number of ducks in the South Platte River. It took us about an hour to even get to the first lake! One of our most surprising finds was a male Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrid that was hanging out with some Mallards in the river. The camera I use for digiscoping was not working properly, so we relied on Aunt Diane's camera to get photos. 

Mallard x Northern Pintail Hybrid - by Diane Germain

Another unexpected sighting was a late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, spotted by Victor, that was by the bird viewing blind. There were lots of waterfowl on the lakes, even more than on the river. But perhaps the highest quantity of birds were the ones passing overhead, a couple hundred Canadian Geese and several Common Mergansers. There were also signs of the bird life that had been here during breeding season, signs in the form of old bird nests. It seemed to us that there was a nest in every tree, some of which were just two feet off of the trail!  We also saw two large wasp nests.

Bird Count from South Platte Park:
Canada Goose - 250
Gadwall - 20
American Wigeon - 40
Mallard - 60
Northern Shoveler - 2, male and female
Northern Pintail - 1 female, 2 males
Northern Pintail x Mallard hybrid - 1 male
Green-winged Teal - 4 females, 5 males
Redhead - 1 male
Ring-necked Duck - 10
Lesser Scaup - 2 males
Bufflehead - 4 females, 5 males
Common Goldeneye - 10
Hooded Merganser - 10
Common Merganser - 19 males
Pied-billed Grebe - 2
Double-crested Cormorant - 1 juvenile
Great Blue Heron - 2
Bald Eagle - 1
American Kestrel - 1
Prairie Falcon - 1, eating an unidentifiable duck carcass
American Coot - 20
Ring-billed Gull - 25
Belted Kingfisher - 1 male
Downy Woodpecker - 1
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 5
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Crow - 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
American Robin - 20
European Starling - 2
Song Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 4 males
House Finch - 10
House Sparrow - 10

On the way home we stopped at two city parks, Utah and Expo. Utah Park hosted hundreds of Canadian Geese and some Cackling Geese, as well as the normal group of tame Mallards waiting for a hand-out. Among the Mallards we also found a pair of American Wigeons, which were just as tame as the Mallards. Expo Park had less individuals, but more species. We saw Canadian Geese, American Wigeons, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and American Coots.

On Wednesday, the 26th, we birded Cherry Creek State Park. It wasn't quite as active as South Platte Park, but it was still a lot of fun. We got out earlier today, around 8 o'clock in the morning. There had been a lot of cool and rare things reported here lately, but we didn't see any of them. One of the highlights from this trip was a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls in a flock of Ring-billed Gulls on the south side of the reservoir.

Bird Count for Cherry Creek State Park:
Cackling Goose - 10
Canada Goose - 100
Gadwall - a male and a female
Mallard - 2 males and 4 females
Green-winged Teal - 5 males and 15 females
Common Goldeneye - a huge group by the dam
Common Merganser - five in the southeast corner of the reservoir
American White Pelican - 2 late juveniles on the docks
Great Blue Heron - 1 flying over
Northern Harrier - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 1 spooking the gulls
Red-tailed Hawk - 3
American Kestrel - 2
American Coot - 20
Killdeer - 4 walking on the ice
Spotted Sandpiper - 1 very late individual
Bonaparte's Gull - 4
Ring-billed Gull - 100 or so
California Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 5
Belted Kingfisher - 1 male perching on sailboat masts and diving at the marina
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker "Red-shafted" - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 4
American Crow - 10
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
European Starling - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 2
House Finch - 5

Before heading back home for lunch, we stopped at one of Victor's favorite birding spots, Bluff Lake. The lake was low, but there was still a lot of waterfowl. There was also a large thicket of Giant Reed Grass, which is an exotic and invasive species.

Bird Count for Bluff Lake:
Mallard - 5 females 10 males
Northern Shoveler - 6 females 4 males
Green-winged Teal - 10 females 5 males
Killdeer - 3
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Robin - 9
Song Sparrow - 1
White-crowned Sparrow - 3
Red-winged Blackbird - 5
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 male
House Finch - 4

You might have the impression that this was a boys only birding week, but without Aunt Diane as our driver and birding companion, we wouldn't have gotten very far!  Thanks Aunt Diane!

November 22, 2008

Recent Birding Adventures

Now that the leaves have fallen and fall migration has passed, we have turned our attention from the migrants and recently departed summer residents of Colorado, to our bird feeders and local lakes and reservoirs. 

As expected, the juncos returned in the first week of October and the winter flocks of nuthatches and chickadees are coming through. An unexpected bird was a Northern Shrike that showed up on November 5th. It may be staying for the winter, as we saw it again on November 20th.  

Northern Shrike - by Marcel Such, 11-5-08

Around noon today we went down to Baseline Reservoir in Boulder to look for a Long-tailed Duck that had been reported earlier today. The lighting was good, and we searched for over a half-hour with no success. We also searched for a Barrow's Goldeneye among the hordes of Commons, but with no success. 

Bird Count for Baseline Reservoir:
Canada Goose - 15
Mallard - 2 males, 2 females
Bufflehead - 2 males, 5 females
Common Goldeneye - 30, half males, half females
Hooded Merganser - 1 male
Red-breasted Merganser - 4 females
Unidentified Raptor - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 20
American Goldfinch - 2

After Baseline we went to an overlook of Hillcrest Reservoir, part of the Valmont Power Plant cooling lakes. 

Bird Count for Hillcrest Reservoir: 
Gadwall - 1
Canvasback - 4
Red-breasted Merganser - 4 females
Pied-billed Grebe - 4
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
American Coot - 10
Rock Pigeon - 20