Monday, February 2, 2009

Sun-Kissed Crowns

This is a catch-up post from the 29th of January. (I haven't been out since, so it seems like it was yesterday). Due to a work scheduling modification I ended up with a few surprise hours free Thursday afternoon. I decided to go bird a section of the Big Dry Creek open space that runs through Westminster just south of 120th.

It is an area that I have run and hiked in, but haven't really looked at as a birding possibility. I did find out quickly that my chosen parking was far from the most convenient, but it was a good afternoon for a walk anyway, and the greenbelt I followed to get to the open space did yield a dozen Mallards and a male American Kestrel.

The interesting part of the day was a comparison of two different White-crowned Sparrows. I saw them both about 20 minutes apart, one well above the creek in a reedy area bordering a soccer field. The other was down just along the creek itself, somewhat closer to sunset.

Above is sparrow #2, showing the field guide coloring clearly marking him a White-Crown. Below is sparrow #1, whose head looks much different, with only a few minutes difference in sun angle.

The difference also shows in the head-on views, below.

Sparrow 1.

Sparrow 2.

Enough of the sparrows. As I was checking the area I found that I had placed myself right in the midst of a flock of Robins. I easily counted over 200, and estimated the count around 300. Robins are interesting. First off as a kid in Minnesota I remember looking for the first Robin of spring, but here in Colorado they are year round residents, and apparently invite their northern neighbors down to "hang-out" for the cooler months.
I remember them as individuals, maybe you would see three or four, but rarely more than that. Must have been the seasonal difference, and flocking behavior for migration and wintering. On Thursday the Robins were everywhere, but loosely spread across the entire area I was walking in. Smaller groups would sometimes bunch more tightly, but individuals seemed willing to shift from group to group as they worked their way through the fields and bushes. It was some interesting behavior to observe, and as with everything seems to raise more questions than answers. The lesson I'll take away is that if one Robin is around chasing a worm there may be hundreds more nearby, lurking....., planning......, preparing to take over the world! Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha.

2009 Count: 56

Lifetime: 86

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