Monday, December 7, 2009

A Wonderfully Wintery Day

I was raised in Minnesota, beyond giving me a taste for lefsa, my home state forged in my veins an acceptance of cold as a natural state of being. Were it not for a seventh grade trip to Wyoming, from which I returned knowing that mountains would have to be a major backdrop to my life, I may never have left. Had that been the case, I would probably never have learned that in some places "bone chilling" cold can be hyped on the news casts when the temperatures are still being measured in positive degrees. Not only that, but at times, a couple of days of cold can be wrapped around a day of warm sunshine and no wind. Despite reminding me that I have lost my true Minnesota attitude towards winter, these days are ones that I look forward to as much as any other.
One such day was this past Saturday. The weather was perfect, a break in my pre-holiday, Minnesota preparatory, cold immersion therapy. Just right for meeting folks in the great outdoors and tracking down some birds.

One of the highlights for me were the Western Scrub Jays.

Interesting for me was that I had not previously tallied this species in Colorado.

They are always entertaining, as are all corvids for that matter. I saw many individuals on the day, from a loner huddled in the low branches of an evergreen in the higher wind-swept park, to a group rotating through turns robbing a barn while others stood sentry on the surrounding fence posts, to a last look at one scavenging on the ground below some scrub oak.

We had a good list running with a nice variety of common species, including this Song Sparrow.

This Spotted Towhee was showing off color against the bright blue sky, but a battery change kept me from getting an unobstructed view of its face, or the apparent acorn in its bill.

Another great highlight of the day was getting some good shots of a Northern Shrike. We had one at our first stop early in the morning, but I never had a chance to switch from bins to camera. Fortunately, this individual perched after running off a Black-billed Magpie and sat for a moment letting me snap off a few frames.

The Northern Shrike is a hunter, using its hooked bill to lethal effect. The surprise here is just how small in stature this hunter is.

I wrapped up my day by swinging through Chatfield State Park in hopes that the Tundra Swans reported over the past few days had remained. They were no longer present, but these American Tree Sparrows were suitable, if dissimilar, replacements.

2009 Count: 193
Lifetime: 199

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