Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moraine Park - RMNP Ranger Led Birdwalk

On Friday May 14th I headed into the park early to join a ranger led birdwalk. I started early, and had a chance to get the snowy morning pics before the others arrived. The walk itself was one on which I hoped to add a couple of alpine species that I had not seen previously. In one spectacular instance I fulfilled that goal. The Red-naped Sapsucker. I actually spotted this bird, was correct on the ID, (I had done a bit of checking on some targets), and was able to get the rest of the group on this bird as well. Getting a life bird for myself was one thing, but sharing it with the rest was even better.
This shot illustrates the namesake red nape:

Sapsuckers are woodpeckers, but they drill a series of holes into a tree to get the sap flowing, then they use the sap like flypaper to catch insects. They make their rounds of their territorial wells, and gather the insects that are stuck there until they arrive. Those wells, I also learned, provide an alternate food source for Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. They must be useful during snowy snaps like this one.

We developed a good list of species as we walked, most of which were fairly common for me. I did have a nice flyover from a Clark's Nutcracker, but was unable to get any pictures of it as it flew past multiple treetops before heading off into the rising sun. I did note that it has a "flickery" shape in flight, but with a predominantly white underside of it's tail and wings.
Driving back from the Cub Lake trailhead I stopped to get a few shots of Mountain Bluebirds as they perched along the road in the sunlight. I pointed them out to some of my fellow birders, an karma came back my way as I caught up to our leader as he had stopped further along.

I pointed them out to some of my fellow birders, and karma came back my way as I caught up to our leader further along the road. As I took a few frames I thought I was looking exclusively at more male and female Mountain Bluebirds, so I was pleasantly surprised to find American Pipits mixed in as well as I looked through my pictures more closely.

I didn't stop for long, as I was racing down the 'hill' to meet my brother-in-law and his students for a hike outside Ft. Collins. We hiked the Greyrock Trail, and after my spectacular morning birding it seemed fairly quiet, but one last surprise was in store as I descended the trail with one of the students. A large grouse was just off the trail below one of the many switchbacks, and gave us good looks before flying up to a nearby tree. At that point I pulled the camera back out of my bag, and got a few shots from a less than ideal angle. It was enough for confirmation of a Dusky (formerly 'Blue') Grouse.

Ranger led birdwalks occur every Friday and Saturday morning at 8:00am at the Cub Lake Trailhead. I checked at the Visitor Center the day before and confirmed that no reservations are required, and oh yeah, they're free. If you are in the area and interested I would check the park's website to make sure that they are being held at that time of year.
After discovering the Pipits amongst my pics my counts are now:
2010 Count: 144
Lifetime: 218

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures. I'm in Texas, so it's weird for me to see snow on the ground in May.