Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gray Day Pics - Part 3

A couple more pics,

American Coot

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) Female

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle's) Male

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gray Day Pics - Part 2

While I was out I had an opportunity to observe a pair of Cooper's Hawks in Broomfield.

The separate pictures don't show it here, but the size difference between the male and female is striking when they are seen at close range. The female is noticeably larger than the male.

Such cool birds, and very cooperative just feet from a busy sidewalk. Hopefully these two are residents so I can check in on them again.

I'll be watching for them, and apparently they'll be keeping their eyes on me!

Gray Day Pics - Part 1

Colorado Weather: Can't decide if it is winter or spring! Today featured a few inches of snow, more inches of rain, and some dark clouds that weren't dumping (much) after I left work this evening. The lakes, creeks and fields...roads and parking lots are all over full, and at one Broomfield pond I stopped to see the waterfowl enjoying it.

The Blue-winged Teal let me get close, but the overcast light favored the American Avocets.

They were just doing what Avocets do.

Cruising the shoreline for tasty goodies!

Sometimes getting the right angle is a bit of a trick!

More pics to come.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Mountain

On Monday afternoon I decided to go see if there were any early migrants that had dropped into the Boulder hot-spot Gregory Canyon. It has been a breeding site for Scarlet Tanagers for at least the past two years and has been visited by many other unusual migrants as well. I hadn't seen it on any of the lists, so I decided to see if anything was about.

Perhaps there is a reason Gregory Canyon hasn't been getting much birding press yet - it was very thin on birds. The Mourning Cloak butterfly hung out on a few trail side branches, allowing me a couple of close ups, but the birds were few, and far between. Because there wasn't much to photograph in the canyon proper I decided to take a connecting trail on up Green Mountain, as I hadn't been that way before. I was pleasantly surprised when I rounded the first bend and found this fairy-tail like cabin poking out of the woods.

It is a cool little spot, the picture didn't do it justice. Even as I climbed the signs of spring were still there to be found. Although the higher I climbed the less springlike it became.

Ultimately, the climb ended just short of the summit. I was dressed in a cotton t-shirt, and had climbed roughly 2500ft, so the breezes up top were a bit more than I was dressed for. Responsibility probably wouldn't have won out, but the trail became snowed over, so I turned back. I really didn't want to risk an incident close to sunset on a day when I had planned to stay in the canyon itself, there will be plenty more hikes in the months to come, and I hope that a loop over Green Mountain's summit is one of the early ones.

Even without making it to the top the view of the first row of foothills extending north from Boulder was worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Few Sights from the Plains

Western Meadowlark

My good fortune with the Scaled Quail on Friday morning exhausted my luck for seeing new life birds, but the next few hours spent driving and hiking the back-roads of Lincoln County weren't a waste.

Great Horned Owl on nest

In Lincoln County the Great Horned Owls build their nests directly over the roadways. Between that and no traffic jams who wouldn't love driving out here?

Wood Duck

The roadside ditches are graced by colorful waterfowl, but if a vehicle stops they aren't going to hang around for long.

Dark-Morph Ferruginous Hawk

The drab landscape is broken by the patterns of washes and the flights of aerial hunters.

Vesper Sparrow

In this setting the unremarkable buff, tan and brown patterns of the sparrows make perfect sense. From above they are just a piece of the prairie carpet.

Swainson's Hawk

If something stands out; it will likely be on the menu for something else.


Even in a harsh environment there are still signs of levity, such as this Pronghorn making a turn before reaching a Horned Lark. After all, this is the land "where the deer and the antelope play".

Monday, April 19, 2010

Which is the bird that gets the worm again?

Scaled Quail

That's right the early bird of course!

I decided to use my day off Friday for a bit of a birding adventure. Coincidentally I had not yet taken my 4runner on any overnight trips, and wanted to test it out for sleeping before the camping season really sets in. So, on Thursday night I headed out after dinner and arrived at Karval State Wildlife Area just in time for bed.
Arriving after dark as I did I had a very limited view of the area, but I was fairly confident that I had the place to myself. I located the basic, but established camping area, pulled into the shelter of a hilltop (it was windy), made a quick stop at the outhouse and was back in the truck and pulling into my sleeping bag within 5 minutes of my arrival. It turned out I was just in time, minutes later, as I drifted off I was serenaded by the pitter-patter of arriving rain drops...
The next morning, after waking several times to the much heavier rain during the night, I woke and began my birding of the day listening to the songs of Western Meadowlarks from my sleeping bag. The few remaining sprinkles were not enough to silence their springtime singing. I propped up on an elbow to see what was in the area and found that I had three quail cutting through the camping area beside me. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I dug out my camera and got a couple of shots through the windows before quietly pulling on boots and getting a couple more from outside and behind the vehicle. Unfortunately, the birds were not content to remain stationary for the longer exposure time needed, but the effect makes the male look like a speedster as he worked his way across the gravel and mud.
A life bird, before seven a.m., and within minutes of first opening my eyes!
The Scaled Quail is a game bird in Colorado, and the male is recognised by its white plume atop its head and the scaly appearance of its breast. The Northern Bobwhite has a white face, with a black eye-line, but no white plume.
I will have more from my trip to Lincoln County in coming posts, and hope to have return visits to explore more of this quiet county and its wildlife areas. Lincoln County offers some great short-grass prairie habitat just far enough from the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas to have felt that you have really made a trip to the prairie.

2010 Count: 117
Lifetime: 213

Friday, April 16, 2010

Touching Base

Thursday, for me, featured a lunch time trip to the open space near Baseline Reservoir. Nothing exceptional, but an accommodating Turkey Vulture gave me a few flyover looks. Today I made a trip out to Lincoln County. I'll get some posts up at some point, but have a trip up to the mountains tomorrow. Have a birdy weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wrapping up a Week of Phoebes; the Say's Phoebe

Apparently not wanting to be shown up by its less common cousins, this representative of the Say's Phoebe species but on a show for me last evening, wrapping up a week of seeing all three of the North American Phoebe species.

This individual worked its way between several perches, making occasional flights to pick off the insects rising from the marshy area between us.

The Say's Phoebe features the tell-tale, dirty white over orange underparts, and blurry long wingbars on a dull gray back. The Black Flycatcher is distinctive with it's highly contrasting white and black sections, and the Eastern can be identified by it's lack of eye-rings, wingbars or other distinctive fieldmarks.
As a flycatcher it helps to keep an eye on the little critters buzzing around the area.

Flycatchers are a welcome returning resident. Their repeated, short flights from obvious perches make for good places to stake out to attempt some flight shots. We'll see if that can pan out this summer.

Inevitably, the opening Avs, Sharks game in the first round of the playoffs went down to the final minute. At least, the game that started at almost 9:00 pm locally ended in regulation and didn't end up being a triple overtime marathon affair. Fortunately for the hockey fans in Colorado the outcome was good for the Avalanche, but when my alarm went off at 4:30 I decided that sleep was more important than another visit to the owl nest, and crawled back under the covers for another couple of hours.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Few More Pics from St. Vrain SP

A few more random pics from my visit to Saint Vrain State Park on Monday afternoon.

Killdeer on the wing:

Savannah Sparrow:

Teal; both Cinnamon and Blue-winged:

Great-tailed Grackle:

The hint of light-blue iridescence on the wing coverts was cool to capture.

Horned Lark:

Great Blue Heron:

Mourning Dove, showing the fainest hint of green iridescence:

Going to look for some spring arrivals around Broomfield this evening, then a late NHL Playoff game will make my plans for an early visit to the nesting owls a long shot, but who knows it may still happen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Owlettes and Glass Envy

Getting a long Monday afternoon always helps to make up for the extra-early start I get to each week at work. Yesterday I used my extra hours to make my first visit to Saint Vrain State Park, just outside Longmont, Colorado. It was a good visit, and I will have at least one other post from the trip, but the highlight had to be the three Great Horned Owl nestlings I had the chance to observe.
A great thing about cool sights like this in birding is the fact that they always seem to bring birders together. I had met Mike and Susan earlier on the trail, as they let me know that they were looking for a reported owl nest in the area. Later I found them with another birder, Pat, as the three were getting great shots of the nest.
As a sign to the unaquainted, of the character of people who choose to go birdwatching; Pat, who had never met any of us before, allowed Mike and myself chances to attach our Canon bodies to his 500mm f4.0 lens. I know, three different Canon rigs shooting wildlife at the same place and time, wierd huh? Talk about me drooling though!
Here is a shot with his lens:

Here is the roughly the same shot with my 100-400mm fully zoomed f4.5-5.6, (actually this is the only shot in this post through my lens - why not share the good ones, right?):

Now, blog visitors don't go expecting me to have shots like that regularly. Unless, a Gates or Buffett decide to send me a gift lens in the pursuit of better blogging picture quality here at DaveABirding, the only quality improvements are going to come from my practice and gradual improvement as a photographer. It sure was fun to shoot through though, Thanks Pat!
This was my first opportunity to observe young owls up close, a real treat.

Unfortunately, the time of day left them a bit back lit. I am hoping to get back up one day before work, but it is a bit of a drive, so the verdict is still out on that plan.

A real topper to a good afternoon. Not only getting to watch cool birds and shoot through an upgraded lens, but meeting nice folks along the way - there really is nothing but upside to birding...except for the glass envy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eastern Phoebe

This afternoon I made a quick trip to Boulder to see if I could find a reported Eastern Phoebe. As I drove past the site I saw a birder in the area, but by the time I had parked and walked the half mile back I was on my own.

Eventually I did locate this bird, a Colorado first sighting for me, but it took a bit of scanning in the area to find it. This visitor had decided to settle in next to the busy multiuse trail along South Boulder Creek, and 20 yards from a major thouroughfare. In that spot it was tough to hear, and was wary enough to hang back a ways from the trail.

Not quite the picture quality that I had gotten when I saw one last August in Minnesota, but always fun to add yet another unusual Phoebe here in Colorado in under a week.


In addition to seeing my first Lincoln's Sparrow yesterday I also added the Mink to my Mammal list.

I guess another advantage of early spring, I saw a brown shape moving across a muddy marsh area where the grass was just springing up. Conveniently, it decided to pause and do a bit of scanning, allowing me to get a few shots.

I got to see this one take a swim across the pond, which is appropriate as Mink spend much of their time in and around the water.

In fact, this one tipped off it's burrow location in the bank as I watched. Perhaps I will get back at some point to see if I can improve the pics.

I was surprised at just how Ferret like they are in their actions. Both species are closely related, so it makes sense, and makes the Mink a fun species to watch in the wild.