Tuesday, January 26, 2010

City Park Denver - DFO Meeting Birding

Last evening was the first monthly DFO (Denver Field Ornithologists) meeting of the year. I needed to pay my dues, and coincidentally the keynote speech was going to be given by Bill Schmoker. Bill is one of the elite Colorado birders, and a person whose blog really jump started my birding activities when I was still a complete novice and leaning heavily on the Internet for general information and tips. Seeing his photography was a great add to the evening - there were even a couple of shots from the 2008 Boulder CBC that I recognised.
One of the appealing aspects of the DFO meetings for me is that I wrap up my work day at three on Mondays, and so can use the hours before the meeting to do some birding at Denver's City Park. I had just stepped out of the parking lot when I spotted an accipiter cutting across the sky above. I am sure the museum visitors were a bit perplexed by the man with a big camera who suddenly rushed back into the parking lot. Oh well, if they had followed my look they would also have gotten to see this Cooper's Hawk perched above the lot. With all the activity along Colorado Blvd, and in and out of the museum I only merited an occasional glance from the Coop. Of course that was just fine by me, I got my fill of good looks and headed off, leaving the hawk to keep an eye on the lot.

My tantalizing look for the owls that I believe must be around turned up nothing, but a walk along the back of the Denver Zoo took me up to Duck Lake. The cormorant rookery is empty for now, but the lake offered a bit of open water. When I arrived it was occupied by just a handful of waterfowl. I had great relative numbers of Hooded Mergansers and Common Goldeneye, the one on the left below I believe to be a first winter male. While I was looking yesterday I thought it might have been some kind of hybrid with that extra white. I headed on, searching the trees for raptors or owls, and soon from a distance I watched as roughly 2500 geese descended on the valuable watery real estate.

Not all of them had finished grazing though, and I frequently found myself surrounded by large flocks of Canadas, who displayed varying degrees of chill as I passed. Then, I heard a distinct call - almost approaching gullish. I looked over and saw two geese that were not like the others. They were very similar to one I had seen at the park last year, and even commented on at the time. Last year, seeing only a single individual I had dismissed it as a released domestic, as many urban parks attract descendants of former captive birds. This year I looked more closely, and after some more checking this morning am confident that I added two Greater White-fronted Geese to my list. Um-um, that humble pie tastes good! Finding the Greater White Fronted Geese certainly made my walk through large areas of 'goose leavings' and past some less than welcoming individuals worth while. It even helped to console me on not finding any owls last evening. Oh well, there will be several more months, hopefully with warmer dusk temps, before the summer layoff where I may have more luck.

2010 Count: 54
Lifetime: 204

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