Wednesday, December 5, 2012

British Bramblings

A local birder recently located a brambling in a park near here.  It's a Eurasian member of the finch family native to the British Isles and Europe.  Quite rare in the western, lower 48, but not unheard of, apparently.  I went out to the described location and there were about fifteen other birders anxiously awaiting it's appearance.  Didn't have to wait long, but just about the time it appeared my phone started ringing with a real estate emergency - trying to sell my house.  Got a couple of shots, but nothing great at all.  Didn't have time and the polite thing to do was stay behind a rope barrier not to intrude upon the bird.  I would have gone back later in the week for a better shot, but didn't have time, and folks stopped seeing the bird.  I might still go look for it. 

It was like summer in December today.  The entire fall has been like that.  Not good.  Lots of folks out today for mid-week.  Went along Clear Creek for a bit to see what I could find.  More gold panners than birds in the creek.  I wonder if they make any money?  There were a few green-winged teal in the creek, and the usual mallards and gadwalls.  I saw this one mallard drake that looked a bit odd.  A white-breasted mallard drake!  Wonder if it's a hybrid deal or just some leucism.  Maybe a long lost relative got mixed up with a white domestic duck.  Anyway, the other drakes seemed to be picking on him, but he appeared to have a content mate.  He was quite handsome. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mundane, Mandarin and Not So Mundane

It's looking more and more like winter.  Most the leaves are off the trees, the days are so short, and shadows so long.  I'm not good at wintering, but I do look forward to the colorful ducks of winter.
So far there haven't been too many, or at least I haven't seen many.  Just been too warm, I suppose.  Not complaining about that, but we could use some moisture.  But, like I said, I'm not so good at wintering.  If I were a bird, I'd be WAY south by now.  Way south!  I'd chase that retreating sun as far as I could. 

Was just poking around the other day at Prospect Lake in Wheat Ridge, and there was the mandarin duck! That'll brighten up your day!  I suppose it's the same one that's been around there for almost two years now.  Certainly can't be many of those around.  I hadn't seen it in a good while, however.  But, there he was, guarding his mallard female with great vigor.  Another man photographing the duck said last year the male mallards beat up on him and he was looking pretty bad.  He's certainly gorgeous right now.  Just looking fine.  No wonder the male mallards are jealous.  What a beautiful bird! 

Other ducks along the creek that I got shots of were some gadwalls, American wigeon, and Northern shoveler.  Most of the male shovelers are still molting or in their immature first-fall plumage, but there's a few that are showing their colors.  Of course there were plenty of mallards, and a few green-winged teal, but couldn't get any good shots of the later.  Haven't seen any mergansers so far this fall.  Ducks are so beautiful.  I just marvel at them regardless of plumage or state of molting. 

Walking around Lake Arbor in the neighborhood this morning, I noticed a pair of greater white-fronted geese mixed in the with the hundreds of white-cheeked geese grazing in the grass.  They've just been coming in in waves.  The other morning the lake was practically covered with geese. Went home and got the gear and found them in about the same spot, but in the water.  Got a few shots.  In the past two weeks I've seen those white fronted, and a single immature snow goose mixed in the white cheeks.  I find it fascinating how those different geese get mixed in with other species.  I wonder if they get mixed up during migration or just what happens, but it's fascinating. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Usual Suspects

Made another overnight camping trip down to Lake Pueblo State Park.  First went to Canyon City to explore Temple Canyon Park.  I've wanted to go there for years.  It's kind of a steep rough road and I had to take it pretty easy in my camper, but I made it up there.  Want to go back and hike the old railroad grade up Grape Creek, and hike down the canyon to the temple.  Looks like a pretty cool place.  Place was crawling with townsend solitaires.  They were just everywhere and singing, too.  Didn't get any great shots, however.  Drove threw a large flock of mountain bluebirds.  They took off in a wave of light blue.  Thought they might come back down in photo range, but I lost them.

Spent the night at Lake Pueblo State Park.  I had the entire campground to myself.  Lots of hooting owls during the night.  There was a full moon so I went out looking for them, but never saw them.  This morning, I experienced another mimidae morning similar to a previous post.  Had both northern mockingbird and several long-billed thrashers in camp, plus canyon towhees - all usual suspects there.  Birded along the river down stream of the dam where I saw several killdeer working along the riverbank.  Right below the dam I found a shrike.  Not sure if it's a northern or loggerhead.  Got a shot, but it was pretty far off.  I could use help in an accurate ID of this bird.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Season of Acorns

Folks down by Pueblo have been observing a pair of acorn woodpeckers for about a year now.  I finally got away to go look for them.  A birder lady I know told me where to find them.  I no sooner pull into the parking lot of the Pueblo Mountain Park and see one fly over by truck.  I got out and there they were right on the granary tree she had reported.   I watched them for quite a while and got a few shots, but nothing really close.  At one time I saw three woodpeckers, but I couldn't be sure they were all acorn woodpeckers.  The big old dead Ponderosa they are using for their granary or larder tree is pretty old and brittle.  I hope it doesn't blow down on them.  They have it pretty well stocked with acorns it appears.  Acorn woodpeckers are noted for living in communal groups where all the individuals help gather and stock acorns in their chosen tree.  There's plenty of scrub oak in the vicinity so they should have plenty of acorns.  However, with the dry dry summer I wonder how the acorn crop is this year.  The woodpeckers seemed to be pretty busy, so they must be finding something. 

When I left the park, I drove up a road out of Beulah where there was supposed to be a free Forest Service campground.  I never did find it.  I did see a flock of wild turkey's in the yard of a summer cabin, however.  Plenty of scrub oak on the hills there.  I think turkey's like that kind of habitat. Probably like the acorns, too.  Thought I might see a bear, but no such luck.

Drove back to Lake Pueblo State Park where I camped both nights I was out.  I like it there.  Never many folks there in the fall and winter. It was a warm sunny day so I drug my boat the 100 yards or so to the low water  in the reservoir and did some paddling.  Hooked what felt like a very heavy, large fish, but it managed to get into some submerged brush and I lost it. 

I did see the usual resident curved-bill thrashers and mockingbirds (see past post, Mimidae Morning), but none posed for a picture.  Second morning I went birding along the river below the dam.  Found a mixed flock of sparrows - white crowned and chipping mostly.  Also some groups of feeding warblers.  I couldn't positively ID all of them.  Most appeared to be yellow rumped.  They were flitting about rapidly in some yellow ash trees.  Never was able to get a good look or a decent shot of any of them. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Old Midland Grade

Probably most favorite camping spot of all is along the Arkansas River, north of Buena Vista on the old Midland Railroad grade road.  There are a couple of spots right next to the river I just love.  Sometimes the river is so loud you can't hear eachother talk, but not this year - low as I think I've ever seen that river, even in the fall.  Connie and I went up for two nights back in June.  Not a lot of wildlife or birds, but did find a pair of mountain bluebirds feeding young.  We took our annual bike ride along the road into town.  About six or seven miles.  Also had our annual flat tire along the way.  Had to visit the bike shop in town.  Always stop at Kay's Dairy Delite for lunch.  We just love that place.

South and Middle Parks

Got to thinking about it the other day, and I've gotten to camp in all my fav spots this summer.  Got my fav spot at Elevenmile Reservoir couple weeks back.  Didn't catch any fish, but had a good time paddling around.  It was hot.  You know it's hot when you sit in the shade with your mister in South Park at eight thousand feet or so.  It got up to 88 that afternoon.  Had a couple of antelope walk by going to the lake for water.  Certainly no water anywhere else out there.  It was dry, dry, dry.  Been that kind of summer.  In fact, I could see a pyro cumulus to the east with the Springer fire.   Always lots of horned larks around the campground. 

Week later went up to camp next to the Colorado River just west of Hot Sulphur Springs.  Lots of green-tailed towhees around there.  Pretty butterfly.  Haven't looked it up, yet.  Cute little baby bunny hanging around camp.  In the morning, I was out looking for birds, and out of the corner of my eye I see this fledgling brown bird, and a little yellow warbler keeps flying over it.  Then I notice the warbler is feeding it.  I realize it's a cowbird chick obviously raised by the warblers.  Pretty unusual to see this tiny little yellow bird taking care of fledgling twice it's size. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lair of the Bear and White Ranch - Yet Again

Two of my favorite places to bird are Lair of the Bear and White Ranch, both Jefferson County open space parks.  On the east side of White Ranch, you can almost always see black-headed grosbeaks and lazuli buntings.  They're both so beautiful and both have such melodious songs.  I got nice shots of both the other day.  Quite a few catbirds singing their nice song, but didn't get any good shots.  The little creek is usually a rushing brook this time of year, but this year with the snow-less spring, it's barely a trickle.  Some recent rain has helped a bit, but it's just a trickle from what it usually is.

At Lair of the Bear the other day, I found several cedar waxwings.  I've seen them there before, but never in large numbers.  I've observed them doing fly catching over the creek.  Never have gotten great shots of them, but they're so beautiful and sleek, I thought I'd put this one in, even though it's highly cropped and not that sharp. 

Down the canyon at the Morrison town park along Bear Creek, I found this family of dippers.  The juveniles were already doing the namesake dipping behavior - they do this constant, nervous dipping.  They must have very well developed bird knees. They were also actively hunting for themselves in the water, but this one had just been fed a bug by a parent. 

Hasn't rained in days, but there were a couple of mud puddles along the road.  There were a variety of butterflies soaking up moisture on the mud.   I'm certainly no butterfly expert, but I think what we have here are several pale swallowtails, an aphrodite fritillary, and I think some kind of metalmark.  There were some others, but so tiny I didn't get good shots of them.  Some kind of checkerspots, I think.  I've always found it fascinating how butterflies seek moisture at mud puddles.  I think, if I'm not mistaken, they soak up moisture through their feet.  Anyway, they are remarkably beautiful creatures.  I always enjoy trying to get shots of them. 


Out on the Plains

Went camping and paddling out at Jackson Lake Reservoir recently.  It's about 65 miles east of Denver out towards Nebraska.  I've always like the Great Plains.  It's nice out there in the spring before it gets too hot.  I had the entire non-electric campground completely to myself.  Very nice and quiet.  The western kingbirds were very numerous and very noisy.  Didn't get a decent shot of one, however.  Also present were a pair of eastern kingbirds.  I got a nice shot of one sitting on a post right next to my campsite.  Also present in good number and very chatty were Bullock's orioles.  One kept coming down out of a nearby cottonwood to scoop bugs on the ground.  There were lots of red-winged blackbirds in the wetlands.  I've seen and heard turkeys there before.  Right next to the park headquarters I saw this female walking along.  I got a couple of shots.  Shot this azure butterfly soaking up moisture in a muddy spot along the trail.  Around sunset a couple of white pelicans were cruising along the shoreline.   And, in the morning there were a ton of bunnies out.  Couldn't resist taking a picture of one. 

Couple days later I was out at Bear Creek Lake Park here in Lakewood.  Didn't get any great bird pictures but in this little pond I often visit, I saw these three huge snapping turtles.  They are quite wary and difficult to sneak up on, but I sat quietly till one of them came back up to check things out and see if it's fav sunning spot was safe.  Those things grow to be so big.  I bet all three must have been in the twenty pound range.  Must be plenty of tadpoles and other things to eat in that little pond.  Lots of big frogs sitting around the edge of the pond, too.   I've wanted a shot of a belted kingfisher for a long time, but they don't seem to like posing much.  While I was sitting waiting on the turtles, one came rattling along.  It's not a great shot, but the best I've gotten so far.  Sometime I'm going to go sit in my blind and see if I can get one.