Tuesday, February 24, 2009

South Boulder Creek & Denver Birding

Monday at lunch-time I headed up to Boulder, to check along South Boulder Creek and the southwest corner of Baseline Reservoir. There wasn’t much in the way of exciting species, but I did get to witness some cool behavior on the part of two Northern Flickers. When I first spotted them they were on opposite sides of the same tree trunk. For a few minutes I watched as they danced back and forth around the trunk. It was almost like a young child playing peek-a-boo around a centerpiece at a dining room table. After a bit, one of the two flew to another tree and began vocalizing in a different manner than I had heard previously. Those spring triggered hormones must be activating for the Flickers.
Being that Mondays are my early day at the office I had an early afternoon, and decided to use it in conjunction with the Denver Field Ornithologists meeting/presentation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

My first stop was at the Denver Botanical Gardens. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with my decision. I had been there once previously when my sister and her husband lived in Loveland and my parents were out visiting from Minnesota. At that time the gardens were obviously more interesting, and the entire area just seemed larger and more involved. The Koi above was as happy as a fish could be to have a visitor. Yesterday the gray skies, dead gardens and lack of people all made the site less interesting. Granted I did not spend any time in their indoor habitats, which I am certain I would have found more appealing in late winter, but I was looking for birds. There just wasn’t much to be seen, aside from the squirrels which had lost all fear of humans.

I did see a Red-tailed Hawk soar overhead, which was unexpected in such an urban area. As I was getting ready to leave I saw American Crows assembling in a murder to head off to roost. They just kept arriving from everywhere, and as the first to arrive headed west more were emerging from treetops and from behind buildings. It was very cool to watch.

I left before it started too get dark because I wanted to get to City Park with some remaining daylight. I had a specific target in mind, but had never really spent any time in City Park itself before. I have been to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in the past, and knew that it was connected to a large park area which included the Denver Zoo, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I parked at the Museum and headed along the first lake towards Duck Pond. In the lawn just to the west of the museum building were two banded Geese in a crowd of many. There was a great variety of waterfowl in the first lake, and I stopped a few times to take pictures, but I was very aware of the setting sun, and needed to reach my destination before it got too dark for pictures. On the way I looked up into the trees that divided the Zoo from the Park and saw this:

Juvenile Red-tail Hawk

Urban raptors, what a deal! I did also see a Cooper’s Hawk fly right over my head, but being dusk it was too dark to track him for any pictures. Finally I did reach my destination and beheld:

Double-Crested Cormorants! Here is a closer view from the same pic:

I had no idea that there was a Double-Crested Cormorant rookery right in an urban park habitat until it was mentioned on the COBirds mailing list. Apparently the birds are still just arriving and will have totals in the hundreds at their peak. For the time being there were around 40 that I counted.

I did also see this unknown goose. After I had a chance to look it up I determined it was a Graylag Goose, which can be found wild in the Eastern Hemisphere, but here they are deemed released/escaped domestic birds and therefore uncountable.
Update 01/26/2010: After a return visit to the park and seeing two individuals I correctly identified Greater White-fronted Geese, and realized that I had made an incorrect ID last year.

Oh well, I did add the Double-Crested Cormorant and Coopers Hawk, not bad.

I walked back towards the museum in the growing darkness, and caught the novelty of sunset at City Park, lions snorting and roaring as they welcome the dusk, their natural hunting time. Not to mention a view that has gotten a bit of Executive attention in the past week.

2009 Count: 63
Lifetime: 93

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