Thursday, April 9, 2009

An even nicer evening at Stearn's Lake

The shorebird above is an American Avocet, just one of the 6 new life birds I saw on Tuesday evening. It was so nice on Tuesday that I decided to stop at Stearn's on the way home for a bit of a walk and some more pictures. While I was there I saw 3 shorebirds, including the Avocet above, two new Grebes, and an American White Pelican which I knew would be coming any day now. For the record I did peek at the Farmer's Pond across from the parking lot. That is where I spotted the Avocet, a Solitary Sandpiper, and the standard assortment of ducks, Red-wings and Killdeer.

Here is a Greater Yellowlegs walking along the beach. I am going to do my best with shorebirds, but will very likely be wrong at some point along the way. Feel free to email or add corrections in the comments.

I saw a lone American White Pelican on the lake and apparently the fishing was better towards the middle than it was for the humans on the bank. It was quite a battle for the Pelican to get it lined up for swallowing.
A quick note on Pelicans. Back a few years I spotted one on the lake at a local golf course. I was shocked that Pelicans showed up in Colorado. In Minnesota where I grew up there is a town called Pelican Rapids where White Pelicans nested, but they were fairly isolated, from what I knew, and I really thought that the additional 4000 feet of elevation would be prohibitive. At any rate - I started noticing Pelicans, even thought at that time I was far from doing any actual birdwatching. Since I started keeping a list last October I have known that at some point the Pelicans would return and I would get see them officially. What a cool way to get to see my first of the year, catching a monster fish.

I also had three species of Grebe on the lake, two of which were lifers. The Horned Grebes above were a long way out, but their distinct buff "horns" and bill shapes made the ID clear.

Also present were two similar species of Grebe, the Western above which is fairly common...

and this Clark's Grebe which is less so. I actually got several shots with multiple Westerns and the Clark's in frame, but they were far enough apart that the formatting would have made them indistinguishable blobs.
The above pictures still aren't great, but they show the major differences for making an ID. On the Western the black on the head drops down below the eye, and the body is mostly dark. The Clark's has a whiter face, including the area around the eye and the mottled light sides. Also of note is the difference in bill color. The Western's bill is a greenish-yellow and the Clark's is bright yellow to orange.

This Killdeer was in great light with a group as I walked past it in a field. Check out that great red eye.

I saw this Great Blue Heron way up in a Cottonwood that was somewhat removed from a small pond on the way to the Cradleboard trail. Interesting to see something that large, on those skinny legs, standing 40 ft up in a tree.

What a day!
Between my earlier walk along coal creek and the evening spent at Stearn's I really saw some of nature's best. I added six new life species on the day. They were, American Avocet, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, American White Pelican, Horned Grebe, and Clark's Grebe.
2009 Count: 78
Lifetime: 102

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