Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recovering from Perma-grin!

Birders know that waking up early has its advantages, so do skiers in Colorado. This morning started well before six, and the payoff was a Saturday powder day for me while most of the front range traffic was stuck on the highway! Anyone who has taken face shots off the T-bar at Breckenridge knows that the hours of driving and tired legs are worth it.
As a side bonus I finally have a chance to use the power of the Internet to take us back to last weekend. It was a happy time...Coloradoans hadn't felt double digit negative temps along the Front Range in seasons, and commute times were measured in minutes, not hours. I had celebrated the warm temps and great Cooper's Hawks of my surprising Friday afternoon walk by heading to Arapahoe Basin for a good day of sunny skiing on Saturday. By Sunday I was feeling the itch, and a bit of lactic acid in my legs, so I headed off for a midday walk along the South Platte River in Adams county to work the legs and enjoy the mild temps.

A Long-tailed Duck had been reported in the area earlier in January, and I thought maybe I would get a chance to track it down. Before I came upon many ducks, I had a group of seven small peeps on a rock bar to try to identify. I didn't have an ID in the field, but after looking at the pictures I recognised American Pipits.

No Long-tailed Duck on this trip, but Barrow's Goldeneye are a good consolation prize, (male shown above - left).

One of my real highlight birds was a Northern Shrike. Shrikes aren't uncommon, but this was the most cooperative bird I have had the chance to observe. It was hunting a field from its perch in the trail side tree, and let me walk past below it, shooting all the way.

Of course I also enjoy seeing Northern Pintails, they are just a classy looking bird. There were lots of Pintail on this stretch of the Platte, and I managed to catch this one in flight.

Next up, a species I hadn't found in a few months, Yellow-rumped Warblers. In summer these small birds are like Juncos in winter, absolutely everywhere. However, these days only a hardy (or foolish) few remain. Last Sunday they seemed an omen of more springlike weather, yeah right. At least it was a nice thought while it lasted.

After a great walk I headed for home, and on my way gave a close look at a Great Horned Owl nest near my home. As I drove past I spotted ear tufts! Traffic and my direction only allowed me to get a passing glimpse, but I was consoled a few moments later by this look at a well fed American Kestrel.

Little did I know that in a few short hours the bottom would fall out of the area thermometers, clearing the skies nicely, but making for nasty roads and bringing a good chunk of the regional infrastructure to a standstill. Tuesday evening I was bundled up, and off to watch a basketball game at the University of Colorado. On the way I made a detour to check on the owl nest, and managed a couple of passable shots before cold drove me back to the warmth of my truck.

Great birds, wild weather, and chances to go catch powder days in the Rockies, all wonderful reasons that I love Colorado.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos, but the one of the Pintail in flight is really special.