Friday, August 16, 2013

Catching Up...Again.

Hello everyone!
I greatly apologize for having not been posting this summer. Since the Big Birding Weekend with my dad I have not been out much. Life has been very busy for me.  Started a job, then quit and started a new one. I now am working as a photographer at the Downtown Aquarium in Denver, CO. Finally getting started down the road to a career in photography or videography! Very excited.

To catch up I shall continue on with the second half of the Big Birding Weekend...

Waking up at 3:30am, my dad and I packed up and headed out. Our target locations today were Chatfield State Park and Waterton Canyon. These two locations are favorites of ours, providing great diversity and birding. Definitely some crown jewels of the Colorado birding scene.  We arrived at Chatfield just before 5 as the sun's light started to peek over the horizon.   We parked at Kingfisher Bridge and could hear a ton of activity all around us as we stepped out of the car.  American Robin, Great Horned Owl and Canada Goose all called in the distance, along with many a buzz and song we couldn't quite make out.  Soon enough Yellow Wabler and House Wren joined in the chorus.   We started along the trail and saw a small hummingbird.  We didn't have the best views and both happened to have left the bird books in the truck.  So we took mental notes and trekked further in.  The trees were alive.  Broad-tailed Hummingbirds soon made appearances, as did a Willow, Hammond's and Least Flycatcher.   Coming to a point where we could view the river, we picked up Common Merganser, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron within a few minutes. An Olive-sided Flycatcher perched high up on a tree further upstream.  We forged ahead listening to the many songs and calls all around us, thoroughly enjoying this treat of nature.  We paused for a moment to look for a woodpecker we heard, and my dad looked up just in time to call out a flock of White-faced Ibis that was flying over.  A nice surprise.  We then decided to turn around and head back to the truck and go to another part of the park.  We drove to the lake overlook and had a look around.  We finally added Violet-green Swallow to our list at this point. Looking over the lake produced Common Merganser, Snowy Egret and a few other ducks. I then noticed another diving duck off in the distance and after a few minutes of study and deliberation with my dad, we identified it as a young Common Loon, a very pleasant surprise.  We then packed up back into the truck and headed off to Plum Creek.  Upon arriving at Plum Creek,  we were soon greeted by the pair of Eastern Phoebes that have been nesting under the bridge. We were treated to some great views before the birds flew off into the trees to hunt for insects.  We birded around the bridge and a Dusky Flycatcher made a brief appearance.  We then turned our sights for the path along Plum Creek and headed off.  Within a few steps, we discovered a female Yellow Warbler constructing a nest in a shrub just off the path. I tried for a photo but she flew off before I had a shot.  We waited a little longer with no success and then pressed on.   Another pair of Common Mergansers made an appearance, as did a few other common birds we had seen all day.  We were unable to go very far as the water level was pretty high and made cross country walking very muddy and wet, so we turned around.  We came upon the nest shrub again, and my dad kept walking while I sat down to wait out the warbler for a photo shoot.   After about 10 minutes of waiting, she finally returned with spider web and fiber for her nest.  I was able to get a couple quick shots off as she was a quick worker.  As I met up again with my dad, he informed me that while I had been focused on taking a photo of the nesting warbler, a Long-billed Curlew had flown over.  I was a little bummed on missing that bird, but was very pleased with being able to photograph the warbler.  We climbed back into the truck and drove to the flooded parking lot, with no success, before heading out to bird Waterton.
We left Chatfield and took the long way round to Waterton.   We got some great views of Vesper's Sparrow and Horned Lark, and finally picked up Turkey Vulture for the weekend.  The drive also produced a Western Bluebird and Bullock's Oriole.  We then pulled into the Waterton parking lot and were very excited to see what it had to offer.
As we crossed the street to enter Waterton, my dad jokingly made a bet that we would see a Bullock's Oriole in the cottonwood tree just around the bend.  No sooner did he say that then a pair of male orioles flew out from the tree, one hot on the tail of the other.  Lo and behold as we made the turn, yet another oriole was sitting there in the tree. Hence why we have come to call it, the Oriole Tree(ever need to show someone their life Bullock's Oriole, take them either here or to Barr Lake in May/June and they can't be missed). A few sparrows made an appearance as well and I finally saw a White-crowned Sparrow for the weekend.  We headed up the path into the canyon and were soon greeted by Spotted Towhee, and there were many of them here.  A different buzz got our attention and we tracked the sound down to a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A fun little bird that my dad and I both love.   Heading further up the trail we heard a Yellow-breasted Chat calling from some trees, but were unable to locate it.   We walked along the river path but did not add any new birds to the list.  Once again joining the main trail, we quickly picked up Lazuli Bunting for our list.  Heading further into the canyon, we came to realize that the bird life was very much dead.  Very quiet with few singing other than a towhee or bunting every few dozen feet. A large bird flying off in the distance got my dad's attention, and we were happy to find it to be a Golden Eagle.  The birding for the rest of our walk through Waterton was very slow, outside of a Red-breasted Merganser fighting the current heading upstream on the river, providing great views and a fun viewing experience of this cool bird.  Upon exiting the canyon a couple hours later, we walked the trails at the Audubon Center and enjoyed views of some of the common birds we had been seeing.  We then headed back to the truck and decided to hit up one more place before heading home.
We pulled into the parking lot of Belmar Park to bird Kountze Lake.  We got out and were greeted with many common birds, as well as some Double-crested Cormorants and Snowy Egret. On one of the islands in the lake, two pairs of cormorants had a nest.  An egret foraged along the edge of the island, showing some of its fun hunting antics.  Gadwall and Mallard swam around but otherwise there was not much variety.  We walked around to the other viewing platform and saw a Spotted Sandpiper, as well as a female Mallard with eight ducklings.  We had a nice chat about birds and the outdoors with a lady, and then decided that it was time to head home and call an end to what had turned out to be a great Big Birding Weekend.
All told, we had 125 different bird species, over 1/4th of all the birds ever seen in Colorado, on our list for the two days.  We could not have been happier. We went to many great places, saw many great birds, had many a laugh and created a memory to last a lifetime.  I very much look forward to next years Big Birding Weekend.

Now that I am all caught up there, upcoming birding events include:
Barr Lake Bird Fest in September. I will post more info when I come across it.
My dad and I will be leading another bird walk at Two Ponds NWR before the summer is over as well, and I shall post more info about that as we get it finalized too.

I want to thank you all for reading my blog and please forgive me for having such a long dry spell. I will do my best not to let this happen again.


Morning light at Chatfield. 


Great Blue Heron and Osprey

Canada Goose resting in the top of a broken tree. 

White-faced Ibis flyover. 

Common Merganser

One of my favorite shots. The female Yellow Warbler at her nest. 

Vesper's Sparrow

Mountain Bluebird. Lighting was horrible. 

Double-crested Cormorant hanging out in Waterton Canyon. 

Red-breasted Merganser.
Watch a video here on YouTube:

Spotted Towhee. One of many in Waterton. 

Snowy Egret at Kountze Lake at Belmar Park. 

The nesting island. 

Mama Mallard with her ducklings. 

The nesting cormorants. 

Closer shot of a Snowy Egret

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