Saturday, January 7, 2012

Raptor Morning !

Jamie and I had been following the rare bird reports on CO Birds for several Golden-Crowned Sparrows and a few Snowy Owls. We had driven all the way down to Aurora Reservoir last weekend to try and see the Snowy, but no luck. On the way home that day we stopped by Red Rocks, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Golden-Crowned. And although we didnt catch the sparrow, we did get to see 4 of the 15 races that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says exist. Here's an excerpt from their All About Birds website :
"Regional Differences

There is a huge range of geographic variation in the Dark-eyed Junco. Among the 15 described races, six forms are easily recognizable in the field and five used to be considered separate species until the 1980s. A field guide is the best place to look for complete illustration of ranges and plumages, but in general there are two widespread forms of the Dark-eyed Junco: “slate-colored” junco of the eastern United States and most of Canada, which is smooth gray above; and “Oregon” junco, found across much of the western U.S., with a dark hood, warm brown back and rufous flanks. Other more restricted variations include the slate-colored-like “white-winged” and Oregon-like “pink-sided” juncos of the Rockies and western Great Plains; and the Yellow-eyed Junco-like “red-backed” and “gray-headed” juncos of the Southwest."

We saw the basic Slate-colored ( all we ever saw back east....loved those little guys ! ),the Pink-sided, Grey-headed and the Oregon. A Spotted Towhee joined them now and then at the feeder behind the Trading Post, along with a Song Sparrow and House Finches and of course House Sparrows. A few Scrub Jays, apparent residents of the area, came and went...looking huge next to all the tiny finches and sparrows.

On our way out to the location described for the Snowy this morning we spotted a Northern Harrier, several American Kestrels and a few Red-Tailed Hawks. We scanned the cropped fields in every direction as we got closer to Harvest Drive, and suddenly, there it was...the Snowy Owl...WAY off, standing on a patch of snow in an open area of a dark green, very short cultivated grass/crop of some kind. Jamie set the scope up and brought s/he into ! What a beauty ! And so far from home. We chatted with some of the other birders for a few minutes and then headed over to nearby Barr Lake State Park. And there, out on the mostly frozen lake were at least 21 Bald eagles !!! Most of the were juveniles in various stages of plumage...looked like all the years were represented, including a few adults. Most were standing about on the ice, some flying, and some perching in the trees surrounding the lake. some gulls and ducks were floating in the small open water area, with the eagles walking about on the edges. It was cold...27 degrees, but no wind. But still...our mesh-topped summer running shoes were not match ! And is it that the fingers can get SO cold ???? All in all a really great morning ! Unfortunately I never took my camera out...I would have had to take my gloves off....

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