Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big Dry Creek

The Big Dry Creek open space is a great resource that runs through Westminster and cuts across 120th Ave minutes from my home. Yesterday I took advantage of the later sunset to get in a good walk and see what birds were about. To start it was all Prairie Dogs and European Starlings.

The Prairie Dog is essential to good wildlife watching here in the high plains habitat. Their place on the menus of Coyotes, Hawks and Eagles make their communities great places to stake out predators. In addition their alert calls can give an early heads up if a raptor is soaring overhead and up-sun from a current position. I have read that their warning barks are threat specific, so in theory they could let you know what they are watching while you are in their area, but I have yet to see that applied by anyone.

While I was walking south towards the 120th underpass I got buzzed by this Sharpie (Sharp-shinned Hawk). He was on me so fast that I didn't get a well focused image, but this and the few others I got worked for identification. As usual with raptors I double checked my own impressions against Jerry Ligouri's, Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors In Flight. Sharpies are a tough ID in the field for a relative novice like myself because they are very similar to the slightly larger Cooper's Hawk. Key identification points to look for are the squared off tail and smaller head. The Sharpie is generally more stout in appearance due to wing shape and a relatively short tail length. Also the Sharp-shinned Hawk has a body shape that starts broad at the shoulder and narrows towards the tail. The Cooper's Hawk tends to be more uniformly broad.

I half expected this guy to start dancing to "I'm Alright" as I walked past.

Shortly after the Sharpie I was treated to a very cool sight. There are two Northern Flickers in the picture above, see them both?

Here is another frame that shows the trailing bird more clearly. Not only was the lead bird a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, (my first sighting), but the two chased one another from tree to tree for the full ten minutes I was watching them. Their under-wing colors would flash in the sun on each upbeat and as they banked and dove around branches. Suh-weeet!

A handful of Cottontails are mixed in among the Prairie Dogs, although I think I see them in greater numbers in my neighborhood each morning.

As with my previous visit to the Big Dry Creek area the Robins were prolific. They still seem to be plotting, but don't seem to be taking any action yet......

...unless rerouting air traffic from Germany is a part of their plan. Muhhhhaaaaahhhhaaaa! It was a randomly low circling transatlantic jet for this area, but it did immediately precede the change in weather, that brought a cold strong wind from the northeast for the rest of my walk and snow overnight.

I'll leave off with this shot of one of the Prairie Dog predators. The Coyote and I surprised one another as I walked along a roadside to get a better view of a potential owl nest, and it was cruising into the Prairie Dog town from some cattail growth. I backed away to avoid unintentionally driving the hunter towards a busy road, and as I left the Coyote had withdrawn beneath some scrub. I was a bit disappointed to have not gotten a clear view of the nest from a higher angle, but was treated to three Red-tails circling and lightly hunting above me. Of course that was just as my one gb card filled up and just as I realised that I did not have the partially full four gb card that I had believed was in my pocket. Take my word they were great looking birds! I saw a total of six Red-tails, and believe that the three may have been a part of the beginning of migration.
2009 Count: 65
Lifetime: 93

No comments:

Post a Comment