Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December Birds

It's Been an extremely dry and warm winter so far. Been a few oddities lately. Heard reports of some interesting birds out at the Red Rocks Trading Post. There are some feeders and folks bring seeds to attract birds. There's good cover, water, and food so quite a few birds. A Curved-bill Thrasher has been coming to the feeders all fall and winter. Quite a bit out of it's northern- most range down in SE. Colorado, although I saw a pair down at Aiken Canyon south of Colorado Springs earlier this fall. The Thrasher sure stood his ground against a flock of Scrub Jays, and they got out of his way. I think I would, too, considering that long curved bill and those evil eyes.

I'm not real good with Sparrows, but I found a Harris's - a lifer, for me - and White-throated Sparrow interesting. Used to see lots of the later in the hedges in Memphis in the winter. The Harris's is really beautiful.

Folks have been seeing a Golden-crowned Sparrow, but it didn't show the two times I've been out to the park. That would be a lifer for me as well, and pretty rare for this locale.

You see quite a few of these yellow variant House Finches. I think there were at least two in the flock of maybe 20 or more House Finches. There were also lots of Juncos of three races, and a Spotted Towhee. I think Towhees are very handsome and it's crazy how they give themselves away with their scratching in the under-brush.

I left Red Rocks and drove down to the S. Platte River in south Denver. Reports of lots of ducks. Hard to get close, but I got a few shots of this Northern Pintail. Lots of Mallards, a couple Green-winged Teal, a few Buffleheads and one female Golden-eye. Our, lately, almost constant wave cloud, made lighting poor so I gave up the hunt. Warm winter weather often brings these wave clouds that shade the front range, but the plains and mtns. bask in bright sun.

First real snow of the season coming tomorrow. Will be interesting to see what that does to the visitors at Red Rocks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Red Rocks Birding

Haven't been out shooting anything for the blog in a long time. Was so nice today, I headed out early to Trading Post at Red Rocks Park to look for the Harris's Sparrow, Golden Crowned Sparrow, and Curved-bill Thrasher being reported there. Quite a few folks and lots of birds. The feeders there attract not only a lot of birds, but also squirrels, and chipmunks. There were lots of Scrub Jays, House Finches, and English Sparrows. Pretty soon the Harri's came out. Very striking Sparrow. Got a few shots. There's also been a White-throated Sparrow reported and he made a very brief appearance, but stayed well back in the brush. The Golden Crowned also came out very briefly, but I mean brief. I don't think anyone got a shot. The Curved-bill Thrasher was quite cooperative. Those yellow eyes are quite remarkable. Also a Flicker or two, and a Spotted Towhee.

Met a fellow named Ken who wanted me to send him a shot of the Harri's, but I quite promptly came home and put my pants with his card in the wash. Sorry. If you'll drop me a line, I'll be glad to send you a couple, Ken. Sorry.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blue, Bug-eyed Whipper Thrasher

Surely has been a nice, warm fall. Too dry, though. Everything just crunches under foot out in the field. Hard to be stealthy.

Went out to Welchester Tree Grant Park in Lakewood the other morning. Not much bird activity, but lots of dragonflies on wing, their shiny wings glinting in the early morning light. You can see them quite far off flashing in the sun. Saw a couple of different kinds. I couldn't ID them on the internet. One pretty knobby, robust one. Others more slender, with sports on the forward tips of their wings.

Other morning I drove out to South Table Mountain in Golden. Parking for access on the south near the Renewable Energy Labs seems to have been abolished by some kind of construction. That was the fastest easiest route to the top. I guess you could park in the business lots. I went around the east and north side and finally found a trail access with a two car parking area. Climbed up the north slope a bit. Not many birds. Scrub Jays off in the distance. Spooked a Kestrel. Did shoot this beautiful Common Buckeye butterfly. Never could get a nice clean shot without grass in the way. I think one of the most beautiful butterflies there is. Herd of about ten Mule Tail Deer were working across the slope above me. They kept an eye and some distance from me, but didn't seem overly concerned. I'm sure they see lots of people on the mountain, but maybe not on the little used north slope.

Been wanting to drive down to Turkey Creek Recreation area south of Colorado Springs on Fort Carson where there have been reports of Lewis's Woodpeckers. Didn't see any though. Big pumpkin hunt going on for base kids, so very noisy. Across the highway is the Aiken Canyon Nature Conservancy Reserve. 160 acres of undisturbed Pinon-Juniper, Scrub Oat foothills. No Lewis's there, either, but did see a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. Too backlit for a good shot. Did see this Thrasher, a Sage Thrasher, I think. A lone Scrubjay was working over a Pinon tree. I had me a few Pinon's, too. Very sappy getting them out, but very tasty. In the parking lot I spotted this fuzzy caterpillar really whipping along across the gravel. He only stopped for a second when I blocked him with my finger, but then went along his way.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

South Park September

Took a little late summer, two night camping and fishing trip down to Eleven Mile Reservoir in South Park. Then drove over Trout Creek Pass the second night along the Arkansas. Didn't see a whole lot, and what I got was from a fair distance so not real great. Really nice sunny day, and rarely calm day at the Mile. No fish though. I paddled and paddled and fished and fished, but nothing. What a fisherman. Did see this big heard of Buffalo on the drive in. They were a bit aromatic. While out in the boat late in the afternoon I noticed this small herd of Antelope near my camp. Paddled back in, grabbed the camera and got as close as possible before I spooked them. Also saw a Bald Eagle sitting up in one the rare trees near the water. He spooked before I got within range, however. There were tons of Horned Larks out on the flats. I think this one might be a juvenile from this summers crop.

Like I said, the day was warm, but at 9,000 feet it got down to 29 the next morning at the reservoir. I woke up about 3AM with cold feet, so turned on the heat for a bit and put on another blanket. Bucket of water out on the picnic table had a good inch of ice on it when I got up. Still, there were a few Indian Paintbrush and Asters blooming.

It cost a minimum of $22 to camp in a Colorado State Park these days. That adds up, and since I wasn't catching any fish I decided to drive over the hill to the Arkansas. Looked for the Lewis's Woodpecker in the park in Buena Vista, but didn't see it. Got one of my fav spots right along the river north of town. Absolutely great spot, but not very birdy this time around . And, man there were a lot of folks out for late September, mid-week! The drive down on 285 was like I-25 here in town! And, lots of folks camping. I guess folks were taking advantage of the really warm sunny days and the fall color, although a lot of the Aspens had already lost all their leaves.

Much warmer night along the Arkansas, but kind of windy. Camper rocked most the night. Nice when I got up next morning, though a bit cooler. Dry front had come thru. Drove up a county road off Trout Creek Pass on the drive home. Found this little birdy pocket along a seep. Got this Wilson's Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, and I think a Townsend's Solitiare. Also saw a few straggling Mountain Blue Birds and heard a Western Tanager up on the hill, but never saw it.

Might head down to Bosque del Apache later in October. Just have to see.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Odds and Summer Ends

Yep, summer is over. I think I must have been some kind of bird, butterfly, or migrating animal in a former life. There always comes a day, usually in mid-August, when the shadows, temperature and maybe wind, just say to me, summer is over. Better move along. I don't necessarily like the experience as I don't winter well. Spring and summer are my seasons. Anyway, here's a few odds and ends from the end of the summer of 2010.

And, by the way, until I started this bird photography thing, I guess I never really noticed how early in the summer birds start to migrate. Out at one of my fav birding spots, East White Ranch Open Space, just north of Golden, the place is filled with birds in May and June. By late July you notice a marked decrease, and by mid August about the only thing there are a few year round residents. And spring migration is so different from fall migration. In the spring it's waves of birds, but in the fall it's more like a trickle.

Before I get to the photos, folks ask me what kind of gear I shoot on. Most of the time I'm on my beater Nikon D200 with battery grip, and either my Sigma 300mm f2.8 with a 1.4 teleconverter, or my Sigma 500mm f4.5. Infrequently, I'll handhold the 300, but most the time have the rig is on my heavy-duty Benro tripod and Jobu gimbal head. The camera body and lenses weigh about 11 to 13 pounds, depending on the lens, and the tripod and head about the same. I recently picked-up a used Nikon P6000 point and shoot to stuff in my pocket for incidentals. Does a great job with macro shots.

Explored Mary's Pond over on Sheridan and 104th the other day. Didn't see a single bird, but did see this large dragonfly. I'd been trying to get a good dragonfly shot for sometime, and this one cooperated nicely. Amazing insects.

Visited Kountze Lake over behind Lakewood City Hall the other morning. Again, very few birds, but did see this Black-crowned Night Heron. I spooked him near the north end of the lake, but watched him fly over by the decks. Found him up under some bushes. About the only other bird activity were some mother Wood Ducks and Mallards with juvies.

Connie has a Butterfly Bush in her backyard. Man, that thing does attract butterfliea. One Sunday afternoon lately there was a beautiful Two-tailed Swallowtail and a Monarch on the bush at the same time. And, up in the fir tree, a very still Mourning Dove. There's a pair that nests in her yard every summer.

Up the street from her house at Lake Arbor I caught this nice Great Blue Heron the other afternoon. Wonder when they'll head south?

Went up to the Colorado and William Fork Reservoir a couple weeks back. Not very birdy, and very stormy. Spent a lot of time in the camper reading, but did find a few things. First day was sunny, though, and I marveled at the end of summer wildflower display. The hills were just yellow with Rabbit Brush, and there was this nice display of Butter and Eggs and Lupine.

And on the way home, I stopped at my fav drive-in in Hot Sulphur Springs for a corn dog. She makes them fresh. God, they're good! This Chipmunk family was very busy nearby gathering seed heads for the winter. They'd fill up their pouches, run into their burrows, and come back for more. Summer ends.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bear Creek

Had the need to get outside the other day, so I drove up along Bear Creek in the foothills. Walked a bit along the creek just downstream of Lair of the Bear Park. Spied what looked like a dried up bug web. On it was this small object reflecting gold light. Thought I'd found me a "Gold-ribbed Hairs Ear" fishing fly, one of my old standbys. Then it moved. It was this odd little golden flecked spider who had a fly. Very odd looking spider. Might be a wolf spider.

Also saw this big red fly-like insect on some Milkweed. I don't know if it was a fly or a bee. Big thing. I think it might be Tachnid Fly. Might have a spelling error there.

There were a few of these immature, I think, Black-headed Grosbeaks flying back and forth across the creek. Also a Western Tanager. Man, I haven't seen many of them this summer. I had to shoot fast, so it's not real sharp. What a gorgeous bird. My fav, I think.

Shot this brownish butterfly. A Wood Nymph, I think. Not very brightly colored, but quite beautiful just the same.

Spotted some Swallow parents, Rough-winged, I think, flying into a hole in the end of this old cottonwood limb, bringing bugs to a young family.

And, finally, a nice Flycatcher of some sort. Posed nicely.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pearl Lake, Golden Gate, and Camp Dick

Birding is sure slowing down. Just haven't seen that much lately. Do have a couple of little adventures to tell about.

Connie, my friend Jon and his wife Yana went camping up at Pearl Lake State Park recently. We all went in Jonnie's RV, although Connie and I slept in a tent. Man, the beetles sure have ransacked that place! I wonder what impact the beetle infestation in Colorado is having on birds? On the way up there kept seeing this pretty pink flower I'm not familiar with. I think it might be Mountain Hollyhock, but I'm not at all sure.

Connie and I got up early one morning to check out this baby bird noise we'd heard down by the marina. Tracked it to this hole in a large aspen. Pretty soon along came this Red-napped Sapsucker. Bird wouldn't go in the hole while we were there, but the babies sure saw the adult bird's shadow cause they went to town. We didn't stay long, but I got a couple of shots of the adult.

Yana is from Russia and made this wonderful regional speciality, "saschlik?" I hope I'm spelling that right. Anyway, it was wonderful! Key is to cook it over a good hot wood fire. It worked!

Also saw this, I think, immature Song Sparrow. Was working thru the slash along the lakeside early in the morning while the mist came off the lake.

Recently went up to Golden Gate State Park to look for a reported nesthole of the Three-toed Woodpecker. Didn't find it. Didn't see a lot of birds! Did see a couple of Brown Creepers working thru the forest. I hadn't seen this bird since my college days in Tenn. Down there they are browner. They really do blend in with bark, though.

Since there weren't a lot of birds I took some shots of butterflies and wildflowers. I think this is some kind of Fritillary. Beautiful butterfly. I'm learning more about butterflies.

The wildflowers were spectacular! I have never seen such a display of Mariposa or Sego Lilies. Millions of them. I just love this flower. There were some with a definite purple sheen. Just beautiful!

Also found this odd orange composite. Never seen it before. Kind of like a small, oragne dandelion.

Was so hot yesterday and today, Ty, the dog I'm sitting - world's BEST dog - and I took off for the mountains to camp over night. Been years since I'd been up along the Peak to Peak highway, so headed up there. Ended up camping at Camp Dick Campground. Nice little place along the Middle St. Vrain. Got a nice private site right along the creek. Ty enjoyed laying down in the creek. He does this when it's hot. What a dog! Wasn't too birdy, but did have these Red-breasted Nuthatches working thru the Conifers. Since I've been shooting some butterflies, I've been trying to idenify them. It's not easy. Here's a shot of some kind of White. A Great Southern White? I don't know. Then, down along the lower reaches of the river just before you come to Lyons, I found this Skipper sitting on a leaf soaking up solar energy. Maybe the solution to our energy woes can be found in how butterflies convert solar energy.

Yep, birding is really slowing down. I hate to see summer end.