THE BIG BIRDING WEEKEND Pt. 1
My dad and I had been wanting to do a big birding weekend for the last couple of years, but due to schedule conflicts and commitments, nothing was ever able to be worked out. Fortunately, things finally fell together and on the morning of Friday, May 18, we were off to Northeastern Colorado for a two day weekend of birding adventures.
First on our itinerary was a stop at one of our favorite birding locals, Barr Lake State Park. We arrived before sunset and set out to start finding birds. Within the first hour of us being there, our list had grown to 40 birds. Bullock's Orioles welcomed us to the park. Eastern and Western Kingbirds greeted us as we walked the trail to look out over the lake. Yellow Warblers and House Wrens abounded. Canada Goose, American White Pelican and numerous other waterfowl species dotted the lakes surface. Walking along the loop trail, we picked up Western Bluebird, Bank Swallow and Hermit Thrush, the later of which we were able to get many excellent views of. Scanning across the lake, we picked up the national bird, a Bald Eagle. As we continued along the trail, it seemed as if every other flash of movement we saw was a Bullock's Oriole. They were EVERYWHERE. We then headed up toward the banding station. We picked up such species as Black-headed Grosbeak, White-breasted Nuthatch and Swainson's Hawk. As we neared the banding station, a large black and white bird flew over us and landed in the top of a tree about 200 feet away. Getting glass on the bird, we were surprised to discover a Red-headed Woodpecker. After getting good views of the bird, we high-fived and continued to pursue birds. No sooner had we seen the woodpecker than another bird launched our spirits, a male Orchard Oriole flew out and perched in a tree just down the trail from us. This was life bird 301 for me. We continued down the trail to the blind and picked up Plumbeous and Warbling Vireo, Ring-necked Pheasant, Osprey and Blue-winged Teal. We then headed back to the car with a list of 60 species to head further into the realm of NE Colorado.
Our next stop was Messex SWA. Along the way we added 5 more species to our list. We meandered around Messex and to our delight, discovered a pair of nesting Red-headed Woodpeckers. Outside of swallows and a few more Hermit Thrushes, the birds were quiet here so we decided to continue on.
We arrived in Sterling, CO about an hour later, and settled in to Sonic for dinner. While munching on our food, we were pleasantly surprised to see Chimney Swifts foraging through the air around some buildings near Sonic. We finished our food, said fair well to swifts, and headed out to North Sterling State Park.
Along the way to the park, we stopped by some open fields to scan the birds sitting on the wires. We picked up Lark Sparrow and American Pipit right off the bat. Upon further scanning, we saw a couple birds that didn't quite fit in. I was elated to ID them as my life Lark Buntings. We hopped back in the truck and continued on our way.
Pulling into one of the parking areas at North Sterling SP, we were immediately greeted by Forester's Terns. We scanned the lake and found a few more American White Pelicans. A storm was brewing and a fierce gust of wind blew up a large dust devil that proceeded to blow through my dad and myself and continue on it's way. After shielding our optics and making sure they were unharmed(my binocs and five days new Canon Rebel t3 were fine, as were my dads scope and binocs), we headed out to explore more of the park. We thought we saw a Brown Thrasher at one point, but as neither of us got a positive ID, we searched for it but were unable to find it again to verify our sighting. Some Turkey Vultures decided to grace us with their presence by flying about 50 feet above our heads. A Common Nighthawk suddenly popped into view and we enjoyed some nice views of this wonderful bird. Continuing on we stopped in our tracks as a pair of brown, rather large birds flew by. We saw where they landed and got glass up and were happily surprised to see a pair of Brown Thrashers. We watched them for a while and were able to determine that they were a mated pair, though we were unable to find their nest. We soon bid "adieu" to the park and headed back into Sterling.
The last location of the day we decided to bird was Overland Trail Recreation Area. No sooner did we arrive then we discovered a male Baltimore Oriole perched out on a branch and singing right by the parking lot. Life bird 303 for me, and 3rd on the trip. I was very happy as this was one of my two target birds, with the other being a yet-to-be-found, Red-bellied Woodpecker. We walked the trail around the lake and saw a more Bullock's, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. We were very excited about the fact that we saw all three orioles in one place. A few more Yellow and Wilson's Warblers, House Wrens and swallows were seen, but no more were we able to add to our trip list.
We got to our hotel and compilated the list for the day. We finished the day with a list of 78 species, good for the 4th best day list in my birding pursuit. I also added 4 birds to my state list bringing it up to 244 and 3 birds to my life list, bringing my life list up to 303. We settled in for the night, set our alarms for 3:30am and got ready for another exciting day of birding to follow.
Sunrise at Barr Lake.
Geese on the lake.
My dad scanning the lake for birds.
Trying to digiscope Osprey on their nest.
My dad and some deer at Barr Lake.
Walking the trail at Messex SWA.
Looking out over the river at Messex.
Storm clouds over North Sterling State Park. The white spec is an American White Pelican.
Turkey Vultures at North Sterling.
A Western Kingbird at Overland Trail Recreation Area. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any pics of the orioles.
Due to the amount of time that I have missed in blogging, I will be splitting my catching up blogs into 3 parts. Part 2 of the Big Birding Weekend will be coming soon!