Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Completing my Patchwork Coal Creek Trail Walk

This Mallard is symbolic of my very enjoyable six mile walk along the Coal Creek trail Monday afternoon. I went from the dogpark on Main in Louisville east to Highway 287. It is a good trail, with a bit of a climb onto a bluff in the middle that mixes the habitat up, and offers fantastic views of the Front Range, the Flatirons and Boulder Valley.
As for pure birding, I think in the future it will be more efficient to park on the other side of 287, and walk west as far as the trail follows the riparian habitat along the creek.
That being said I can't wait until I have a full day to walk the entire length from Lafayette to Superior.

As for my birds found on Monday, there wasn't anything new, but I got great looks at some familiar faces. The Belted Kingfisher was as close as I have seen one.

At the very beginning of my walk I had a typical bird conversation with two women walking the trail. After asking if I had seen anything good I replied with, "Well yes, there is a Swainson's Hawk sitting on top of that pine tree", 30 yards from us. They glanced for a second and then asked the expected, "have you seen any Bald Eagles?" I gave a 30 second answer, that I hadn't today, and that many of the Bald Eagles would be leaving the area, as they headed on to nest, and that other species like the Swainson's above us were returning to the area from their wintering grounds as the weather warmed up. Seeing their concerned look I assured them that some Bald Eagles would remain to nest, and then headed on my way.
I walked on, thinking about the Bald Eagle topic. I get it, I like to see Eagles too. I am also new enough to this activity that I haven't grown jaded by the great Eagle question. I see it as an in - a way to talk to someone who may not know much about birds, but cares enough to share what they have noticed. What amazes me is how quickly the majority of those conversations deteriorate if it is shifted away from Bald Eagles. At least I try, and I hope I leave an impression that people with bins and cameras standing along a trail are approachable, and may just be looking at something interesting!

Oddly enough, the Bald Eagle pattern from above was thrown on its head when I reached the Cottonwood Park area of the trail. I had four individuals approach me who all asked if I had seen, or encouraged me to look for the Great Blue Herons. One man also tipped me off to his experiences flushing Coyotes and watching snapping turtles. I got some great shots on my way back thanks to a woman who let me know that one was standing in a bend on up ahead. I believe it was an individual I had already seen once, and had then been flushed by a nearby walker as I took earlier pictures.

On our second encounter it was content to pose as I moved along the trail getting shot after shot. This last pic is a closer crop on the face from the same shot. I love that eye, and the clarity of the breeding plumage feathers on the back of the head and neck. Oh yeah!

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