Friday, May 28, 2010

Blue Grosbeak!

Went out paddling on Bear Creek Reservoir early this morning. Wanted to beat the wind. Saw a Cinammon Teal, Great Blue Heron and some turtles in one of the shallow bays. Came off the water about 10AM as it was starting get a bit choppy. Decided to do a little birding at Muskrat Meadows. Immediately saw a Cedar Waxwing, but didn't get a shot. A Western Wood-Peewee. Actually heard it before I saw it. There was a pair working the bugs over the creek.

Down in the creek on some floatsom was, I think a Song Sparrow. Not sure on that one.

Tons of Wrens, as usual. Just singing all over the place. Small, but not very shy so getting close is usually not difficult. Fast, though

Then, a flash of blue in the trees. A bit backlit. At first I thought it was perhaps an Indigo Bunting. Nope, a Blue Grosbeak! My first! Been looking for one. What a beautiful bird. I stayed with him a long time and got a few shots, but never the perfect one I was holding out for.

A couple of Blug-gray Gnatcatchers came flitting by. Got a grab shot of one. They sure were not doing their jobs, though - the gnats were pretty vicisous.

Heard the song of a Black-headed Grosbeak and Bullocks Orioles chattering. The Black-headed came over for a couple of shots, but the Orioles stayed off in the woods.

Was very exciting seeing the Blue Grosbeak.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Canon City

Had been reading about bird sightings along the Canon City river walk. Never been able to find close-by camping near Canon City, but heard about some camping not far from town. Location remains a secret. First spot I checked was in a hot, red rock canyon. I didn't like it, and on the way in there was this nice Rattler on the road. He didn't seem much concerned with my photo op out the car window. His tail wiggled, but didn't rattle.

Further up the road found this nice spot. Nice high desert plain, surrounded by large limestone cliffs. Green from Spring moisture. Large open grasslands, among Pinon/Juniper forest. Plenty of Cholla cactus.

Humming Bird had himself a nice little perch near my campsite. At first thought it was a Black Chinned, but upon processing the photos, I'm pretty sure it's a Broad-tailed. Never did see a female. Perhaps on a nest nearby, but I didn't see one.

Saw a Western Tanager, but only a brief glimpse.

Met this rock-climber couple from England. They were telling me how they'd been there the year before and the Hummer had been in the exact same perch. Also told me about these beautiful white flowers out on the flats that were only out in the morning. I told them I thought they were Evening Primrose. In the morning the flat was indeed covered with them.

Also in great abundance were these barrel cactus. They were everywhere! I've never seen so many in one spot.

I was tent camping. Hadn't done that in years. Always had this big tent, but since I have the camper usually take that. Camper is much nicer, but I enjoyed the tent. I'm going to do more of it. I'd been a bit worried because we'd been having some hellacious, hurrican-like wind storms. It was bit breezy, but not bad. At least my tent didn't blow over, although it did flap a lot during the night.

Got up early and headed into Canon City. On the way down the road heard a Western Tanager song, and stopped. Plenty birdy, but nothing special and only got a glimpse of the WT. Did happen to spy this black bunny. A black bunny with a white face blaze out in the middle of nowhere. How in the world did he get there? He seemed almost tame. I would have taken him home, but he liked it out there, eating some wild Alfalfa.

Lots of Penstemon blooming alongside the road. I think it's one of my fav wildflowers. I like the lavendar Aberts, but also the dark blue variety that grows in rocky road cuts.

Was anxious to get to the riverwalk. Really nice trail, right thru town. Lots of birds. Got out of the car and there were some Evening Grosbeaks eating Elm seeds. Never got a good shot. Did get a somewhat obstructed shotof this beautiful male Blackheaded Grosbeak. They are so handsome. He was singing away on his perch.

Kept smelling this really sweet blossom smell. There were lots of Locust blooming, and several Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were working on them. They know what's good. Reminded me of the Jasmine vine that grew outside my bedroom window in Memphis. Man, I could smell that at night.

If there's a train around, Bill will find it. I've ridden the Royal Gorge train a couple of times. Great trip. So, I stopped by the depot to see what was happening. Train was getting ready for a trip. Out in the parking lot there was a nice mud puddle where a flock of Cliff Swallows was busily gathering mud for nest making under the bridge over the tracks. They'd all come in together on a flurry beating winds. Kind of like hovering helicopters. Never did stop moving their wings. Must have been some good mud. They seemed very happy.

As I was waiting for the train to depart, I spotted this Starling that had found a perfect hole in a Cottonwood for a home. Starling always seem to have that greasy hair-do look.

Finally, a shot of the train leaving the depot. I love those F units and the throb of their original prime-movers. And a Mars light - swiveling headlight- to boot!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Turtles and Orioles

Walked a bit through the river bottom just upstream of Chatfield Reservoir yesterday. Was a sunny morning, but had a good shower just after noon.

As I walked down to the first pond just east of the Audubon Society facility, I spied some turtles sunning on an old concrete culvert. Three box turtles and one huge Snapping Turtle. Man, they were on guard, though. I no sooner got close and they were gone. Waited a bit, and they came back, but I spooked them again trying to get a clear shot. I've sneaked up on turtles before in my kayak, and actually picked them up, but these guys were shy. When I first saw them the big snapper was sitting with his mouth wide open, like, come on bugs, jump on in here and I'll snap these babies shut. Those are a set of jaws alright.

Walking through the woods I walked right into a Rocky Mountain Birding Observatory catch net. The sun was in my eyes, and I was looking up into the trees. Scared the hell out of me. I thought I'd walked into a giant spider web or something. They had these nets all over the place. I spied a Yellow Warbler caught up in one of the nets. I heard hoops and hoolers across a filed, "Ohhh, don't let him go." I wondered what they'd netted. I was going to walk over and tell them they had a bird, but a man was coming over. Yellow Warblers and Wrens were thick in the woods. Just everywhere. Not sitting long for photos, though.

Came across a deer near a small pond, full of singing frogs. Never can spy them, though. Funny how they start and stop singing all together as if on cue.

Was about to give up on things, when I saw a pair of Bullock's Orioles working in a flowering shrub. I was about to snap some frames when along came a couple of horseback riders, adn they spooked the birds. They weren't gone long, though. I don't know what that shrub is, but I've seen Orioles in them often. I think they like the nectar. Either that or the flowers host some small bug they like. I've heard Orioles like jelley and oranges, so I think it's the nectar. I got a few shots. They were very noisy. They are so beautiful.

Thought I'd give the turtles one more try. I was very stealthy. There was the big snapper and one box turtle. They were watching me, but I moved very slow. Got a couple of shots, but never could manuever to get some stems of grass out of the shot. Man, I'd sure hate to have that big guy snap shut on my toes! That's a set of choppers! Yeeeooow! Good, God, Hep-me, Yayall!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finally Summer!

Finally, yesterday was the first day when it really seemed like summer. It was in the mid-70's, green, nice sky - it's about time.

Went up to South Boulder Creek below Gross Dam to bird, hoping for maybe a Western Tanager. Wasn't very birdy, but I did come across this nice crop of blooming Barrel Cactus. Their blossoms are so beautiful, and the bees were having a feast. Nice to see a regular Honey Bee. Haven't seen many this spring. Kind of worrisome.

Gave up on the birds there, and headed over to East White Ranch Open Space. Man, that place is always full of birds this time of year. It's really a rich bird, riparian environment. Walking between the parking lot and the gate to the park property, a Lazuli Bunting flew by. Oh, boy, one of my favs. Maybe there will be more down by the creek. I no sooner opened the squeaky gate, and there's a chorus of bird song. Tons of Yellow Warblers fliting back and forth. Got a good CU. The resident Song Sparrow was at work. He's always there right at the trail head.

I think one thing that makes this location a good spot for bird photography is that there are not only a lot of birds, but they are accustomed to people with all the hikers and mtn. bikers who use the trail. I usually work my off the trail over towards the creek. There's remnants of an old trail that's lined with rocks. There's other evidence, that maybe in the past this was a homestead of some sort. There's a small spreading tree, not sure what kind, that offers good cover to shooting the tangle of brush off to the west where a lot birds hang out. It's almost inpenetrable it's so dense. Lots of wild Plum and it's very aromatic and buzzing with little bees. Lots of Black Headed Grosbeak song in there, and lot of the birds. Several males and females eating seeds in the Elms above.

A flash of blue went by and landed overhead. Lazuli! Nice song, too. Such a beautiful bird. Had been hoping to see them, somewhere other than at the pond in my backyard.

There's always Catbirds in there, too. What an interesting song. Very aptly named bird. No mistaking that mewwing.

I also saw and heard Bullock's Orioles and Chat's, but never got a good shot.

Thought I'd throw in this shot of a male Downy Woodpecker that's taken up in a dying Aspen in the neighboring yard at a friend's house in Arvada. Was helping her out in the yard, when I noticed birds hanging about the Aspen. Saw the pair copulating, then just the male as he made numerous trips between his sounding post and the hole. I don't know if the female was on the nest or what, but never saw her again.

Today, Tuesday, has dawned gray. Not good light for bird photos. Was going to go to Roxborough Park, but guess I'll stay home.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bountiful Belmar

Kountze Lake in the Lakewood Belmar area is a great briding spot. Just a small lake and preserve in the midst of Denver suburbia, but lots of birds. Just stopped by on my way to Whole Foods for my fav loaf of bread. Saw a Warbler flitting about, so thought I'd get the gear out and see what it was. Spotted a Common Yellowthroat, but couldn't get a pic. Very muddy, but it was pretty birdy, so I kept looking.

I'd been looking for a Cinnamon Teal, and there was a nice pair working thru the reeds . Also a Blue-winged Teal. Along comes this momma Wood Duck and her babies skittering along the pond. Didn't see Mr. Wood Duck. Man, baby ducks can skitter along the surface so fast, like a big bug. Amazing.

There are always lots of turtles there at Belmar in the north slough. Some of them are so brightly colored. I don't know much about turtles, but I like them.

Tons of Yellow-rumpbed Warblers, both Audubon and Mytrle. Also some Yellow Warblers. Got a shot of a Audubon's. A Yellow Warbler was in the mix, but couldn't get a clear shot.

Was about to head to the car when a pair of Snowy Egrets came in. They worked the shore for a bit before taking off to the north. I like the way the way they walk along in the mud, kind of settling each step in the mud, before settling down. At first, you think they might have some kind of nervous condition or something. I should be so careful walking in muddy terrain.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May Monday

Got out fairly early before the rains on a May Monday. First hit Matthews Winters where I've seen some nice Orioles before. Not today. Wrens, Yellow Rumpeded, and these Chickadees chiseling out a nest in this broken off tree down by the picnic tables. I've seen this several times this spring - Chickadees making a home in a broken off small tree, maybe four feet off the ground. They tolerate humans very nicely, it seems. When I lived in the foothills a few years back, I had Mtn. Chickadees make a home in a small birdbox over my front dears several years in a row. The coming and goings of humans didn't seem to bother them at all. They always raised a sucessful brood. When they weren't there it was the Wrens, and they were always successful as well.

Drove up to Red Rocks, but didn't see much, so went down to Matthew Winters. Spotted a MacGillibvay's Warbler down along the creek, but never got a decent shot. A bright, male, American Goldfinch was singing away high up in old dead tree. Couldn't get a clean shot of him, but here he is. Noticed this female Broad-tailed Hummingbird buzzing about the little babbling stream. She posed nicely for a shot. I kept looking for the MacGillvray's, and thought I had it, but it was this Flycatcher, I think a Cordilleran.

Clouds started filling in as they have every day this week, so I headed home. Sure has been a a cool wet May. At least it will be green. I wonder if the cool weather is having an impact on nesting and bug populations.

Monday, May 10, 2010

East White Ranch Open Space

One of my favorite place to bird in the Denver area is the East side of White Ranch Open Space. It's great riparian environment with a wide variety of birds in the spring and summer. Van Bibber Creek was running pretty full today. I've been there three times this spring and today had the most birds so far, but nothing like what I saw there last May. Maybe more migrants are on the way. I hope so. Last year I saw Chats, Catbirds, Bullock Oriole, Black Headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, and more. Today it was quite windy and tough shooting. Not only hard to keep the gear steady, even though I had the heavy duty tripod, but the birds were blowing around a lot, too.

First up, was a Broadtail Hummingbird. Had two favorite perches when it wasn't climbing and diving. It was having a tough time in the wind, though. I watched a Black Headed Grosbeak pair, but never got a good shot. Same with a male Western Tanager. Did get some shots of a Yellow Rumped Warbler, the white throated variety. Also a Yellow Warbler and a male Bullocks Oriole, but they were high up and blowing around while picking bugs off tree buds.

Was hoping to see a Lazuli as I have there in the past, but no luck. Surprsingly, this afternoon in my backyard in Edgewater there were TWO male Lazuli's getting a drink at my pond waterfall. Only got a shot thru the window and it's not very clear, so I'm not posting it here.

I'll try back in another week in hopes some of the birds I saw there last May have arrived.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Carrizo Canyon

Took off for Carrizo Canyon down on the Colorado/Oklahoma border on Monday. Had read it was good birding with potential for Lewis's and Ladderbacked Woodpeckers, Blue Grosbeak, and Painted Bunting. Not much luck on those, but what a beautiful remote place. I guess I never realized the mesa country extended that far east out onto the plains. It's pretty flat, then all of a sudden there's this little creek winding thru the mesas, creating a pretty good canyon. And an interesting micro-environment and mix of eastern and western flora and fauna.

Drove south from La Junta on Colorado 109. I think I saw maybe five cars between La Junta and Kim. Penstemon and Primrose already flowering in Pugatorie Canyon. Once I got to Carrizo Creek and the three spot campground, I saw or heard no one for the 18 hours I was there. Couldn't even see a ranch or farm light at night. Very peaceful. Had to walk over to the overlook as soon as I shut down the truck. A really big turtle, as least a foot and a half across plopped into the creek. Not a huge amount of water flowing, but some nice big deep pools. I was about 4PM when I got there, and was tired so just made dinner and went to bed. Thought I might hear some owls, but no hooting.

In the AM I got up early, made some coffee and went birding along the creek. Flushed a bird out of nest in a Cholla Cactus. Didn't get a good look at it. Three palish blue eggs in the nest. Set up beside a nearby Cedar to wait. Naturally I was looking away at something else, when suddenly the bird was back on the nest. Never got a great look for a good ID. Maybe a female Blue Grosbeak? Lazuli? Pretty good sized bird, dull, heather, brownish, with wing bars. Stout, dark bill. I don't know. See what you think. Watched for quite a while, but she never stirred, and no male came around.

Lots of wildflowers already in bloom. Yellow Puccoon?, variety of little yellow composites, white Primrose, some purple flox-like flowers I'm not familiar with. A Apple and Lilacs blooming in old abandoned farms and ranches.

Big flock of Cliff Swallows that would noisily work back and forth up and down the canyon. Found some nest under a cliff overhanging the creek. They would come and chatter and swarm around the nests, but never did land. Never got a good shot.

There was also a Flycatcher with a nest in a crevice a couple feet above the water. Think it was a Willow Flycatcher. Was having quite a time with a proflic hatch on over the water.

Came around a bend in the trail and spooked a herd of deer getting a drink, and a beautiful male Wood Duck. Sure wish I could have gotten a shot of him! Just gorgeous. Just love Wood Ducks.

Birded till about 10:30, then took a drive thru the canyon. Just beautiful. Spring sure further advanced down in that warm canyon then along the Front Range or up on the mesa tops, that's for sure. Cottonwoods really leafed-out for the most part. Kept hoping for a Lewis or Ladderbacked, but only Flickers. Didn't see another soul, till I came around a corner and saw a truck stopped near a couple of cows. Saw a woman go down into the creek bed with a camera in her hand. Then, I spotted a herd of about a dozen Big Horn Sheep across the creek. I jumped out and just as I got the camera on the tripod, she spooked them. Got them running up the hill. She came over to talk me. Nice buckarooette with a thick New England accent. Said she'd left Mass. years ago to live in Wyoming, then moved to SE Colorado. She was out looking for her missing dog. Afraid the Mtn. Lions had gotten her. Sure looked like good Mtn. Lion country.

The road eventually works back up on the mesa, with no more trees. Did see some Burrowing Owls, but the minute I opened the truck door they were down their holes. Couldn't hold the 500 steady enough on the window for a good shot. They were pretty far off the road.

Drove on to Springfield. Needed to be in cell phone range to check on my mom. Wind started to howl out of the NW. Thought the blasts from oncoming semi's was going to blow the camper off my Ranger. Gees! Was going to go to Queens State Wildlife Area north of Lamar. Free camping, but the wind was so strong and the lakes mostly dried-up so headed to John Martin Res. Maybe a dozen camps there in the large campground below the dam. Trees were full of chattering Western Kingbirds. What a racket. I don't know if they are residents for migrants, but there was a bunch of them. Other birds of note was a flock of White-crowned Sparrows busy eating seeds off the Elms. Lots of Blackbirds of various types, and tons of cooing Doves. In the morning I heard Turkey's off to the east in the river bottoms. I went over there but didn't see them. Did look up to see maybe ten Turkey Vultures roosting up in a big Cottonwood. Man those are ugly birds. Several Bluewinged Teal in Lake Hasty below the dam. Watched a young man catch a pretty nice Channel Catfish.

Like to take Hwy 71 north from Rocky Ford to Limon. Gorgeous, wide open, high plains, views from the Spanish Peaks down by Walsenburg all the way up to Pikes Peak. And, NO traffic. You can just cruise along at a human speed and take in the view.