Category: Blog

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Bosque del Apache Birding Trip

What a great road trip Front Range Birding had to Bosque del Apache, New Mexico with Reefs to Rockies. Bosque is one of the premier winter destination for birders.  Our small group of 9 travelers drove the 1,500-mile round trip and took in the sights of the southwest and observed and photographed 94 species of birds! I loved them all but here are some that we don’t see in the Denver, Colorado area much:

Tundra Swan                                                  Black-throated Sparrow

Snow Goose                                                     Cactus Wren

Ross’s Goose                                                    Juniper Titmouse

Gambel’s Quail                                               Canyon Towhee

White-winged Dove                                       Sage Thrasher

Greater Roadrunner                                      Curve-billed Thrasher

Sandhill Crane                                                Pyrrhuloxia

Acorn Woodpecker                                         Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

Ladder-backed Woodpecker                         Black Rosy-Finch

Chihuahuan Raven                                        Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

 

A great treat on the 2nd day of the trip was the dawn “Fly Out” of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Ross’s Geese and Snow Geese.

 

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip was the Sunday Rosy-Finch banding experience at Sandia Crest House overlooking Albuquerque, NM.

Our group at the Sandia Crest House watching rosy-finch banding.

Everyone had a great time! This month, we are heading to Minnesota with a group to see the boreal winter birds at Sax Zim Bog outside of Duluth. Be sure to watch for more of our adventures as we partner with the good folks at Reefs to Rockies tour company.

South Platte Park, December 3, with Chuck Aid

It was a bit nippy on Saturday morning as fifteen of us began surveying for birds at South Platte Park. Fortunately, the wind wasn’t blowing, the sun eventually made itself known, and by late morning it was gorgeous out. As for the birds, we tallied 39 species (see list below), and found ourselves pretty continuously occupied working on our identifications.

Among the highlights were the Hooded Mergansers that seemed to be everywhere with the males often raising their spectacular crests. We were also lucky to see three Wood Ducks sitting atop a large midstream boulder in the South Platte. The rare finding for the morning was a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet hanging out with some Black-capped Chickadees. We were fortunate in seeing three species of sparrows: American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Song Sparrow (photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker).  The White-crowned Sparrow photo is of a juvenile as we tend to see far more of them this time of year.

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And we were additionally fortunate in seeing four species of raptors: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel.

Overall, we didn’t see anything unexpected, but we were fortunate in seeing the diversity of the regularly occurring winter species that we did. Birds I had hoped for that we did not see were Long-tailed Duck and Greater Scaup. We also missed on a few of the more common species such as Common Merganser, Great-horned Owl, Blue Jay, and Dark-eyed Junco.

Finally, I hope that you all will find a Christmas Bird Count in which to participate. Here’s a link to all the areas in Colorado with contact info. http://audubon.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=3dcefef2f4654a94960fc3c8d1cfcc6d

Happy Holidays!  Chuck

South Platte Park, Dec 3, 2016

39 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  527

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  3

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  23

American Wigeon (Anas americana)  2

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  34

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  119

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  6

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  3

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  2

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  36

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  15

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  29

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  2

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  7

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)  1

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3

American Coot (Fulica americana)  36

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  13

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  15

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  8

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  55

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  11

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  8

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  130

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)  5

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  17

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  4

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  1

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  23

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

 

Hudson Gardens, Oct 29, with Chuck Aid

Well, it was another beautiful morning at Hudson Gardens, and nine of us were there to take it all in. While we only tallied 21 species (see list below) we had good activity and a number of entertaining moments.

Only a few male ducks exhibited any eclipse plumage, and for the most part they are looking pretty bright and beautiful and ready to go courting (in a few months). As you guys know, Mallards are here year round. So are Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, and Hooded Mergansers, thoiugh in relatively low numbers, and now is when those numbers start to go up due to migration and the fact that this is a popular wintering area for these species. Several of the diving ducks are only found here during the winter, and our single female Bufflehead (see photo) is a harbinger of more divers showing up soon, e.g. Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Merganser.

buff3-1

One more ducky note. When the first Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas came out in 1998 there were only two accepted breeding records for Hooded Merganser for the entire state. Since then, a few more records have emerged, but this is an interesting species to keep an eye out for this coming breeding season.

One interesting note from our walk is that we encountered a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds that, as near as we could tell, consisted exclusively of male birds. We know that in the spring males arrive before females to begin setting up territories. Apparently, males return south in the fall after the females have already left.

One other highlight was getting really good looks at a variety of American Goldfinches in their winter plumage.

amgo9

Good birding!

Chuck

 

Hudson Gardens, Oct 29, 2016

21 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  9

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  46

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  1

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  2

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  3

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  8

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  3

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  8

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  7

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  14

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  2

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  140

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  18

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  13

Customer Appreciation Night at FRBC

Just over a week ago we had a great time with our customers! Bill Eden gave a fantastic presentation showing his Tanzania photo safari. Also HawkQuest! brought in 4 live owls of the world,  Zeiss supplied a great pair of binoculars for a door prize. All that along with burgers, brats, beans, and beer from our bbq on the back porch.

Check out the action in these appreciation night photos:

HawkQuest!

 

Eurasian Hawk-Owl

Spectacled and Barn Owls

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Kathy Neely wins a pair of Zeiss 8×32 Terra ED binoculars!

Bill Eden (below right) gives presentation on Tanzania.

bill-eden-1

Be sure that you are on our email list to learn about all of our events!

Tagawa Gardens, Oct 8, with Chuck Aid

Dear Front Range Birders,

Tagawa Gardens, a beautiful and extensive garden center, is adjacent to a series of open space properties along Cherry Creek just upstream from Cherry Creek State Park, and on Saturday thirteen of us explored some of the immediate environs to see what birds we could find. The good part of all this was that we had a great group of participants and the weather was glorious. However, as one person noted, “The birds didn’t get the memo.” There were few to be seen, and we tallied only 16 species (see list below).

We noted that the male Mallards are largely done with the eclipse phase of their molting, and we saw only one that was still a bit mottled looking. The others were wonderful with their new breeding plumage that they will now carry through the winter. Just a reminder that when in eclipse plumage bill color is perhaps the easiest way to tell a male from a female. Note the solid yellowish bill of the males, while the female’s bill is orange with a splotch of black on top. All photos are courtesy of Bill Schmoker.

mall2mall1

We also had great looks at a pair of adult, light-morph, Red-tailed Hawks. Note the all-dark head, the lightly streaked belly-band, the dark leading-edge of the wing (this is diagnostic), and the “bulging secondaries” (this is where the trailing edge of the wing gets a bit wider). Oh, yeah, it also has a “red” tail, telling us this is an adult – juvenile tails are finely banded without the red.

rtha_ad13

There was a very cooperative female Downy Woodpecker. Note how the length of the bill is much shorter than the width of the head, there’s a conspicuous white tuft right behind the bill, and there are little black bars on the outer tail feathers.

downy_woodpecker-female

Finally, we saw a few beautiful Western Meadowlarks.

weme24

Remember to have your bird feeders ready to go for feeding the birds this winter, and, that when you’re ready, the Front Range Birding Company will give you the best prices when it comes to optics!

Good birding!  Chuck Aid

 

Tagawa Gardens, Oct 8, 2016

16 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  1

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  15

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  28

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  13

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  8

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  11

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  5

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  40

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  4

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  6

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, Oct 1, with Chuck Aid

Well, it seems as though a major part of fall migration has been completed for many species. Twelve of us covered a lot of ground at the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt this past Saturday, but we were only able to come up with 27 species (see list below). Absent from the area were Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cinnamon Teal, Spotted Sandpiper, Hummingbirds, Flycatchers, Swallows….. Well, you get the idea. These are species that have largely moved on south.

Of course, another aspect of fall migration is those birds that bred farther north, and that will retreat south to spend the winter here in Colorado. Many of these species just haven’t arrived yet in any numbers, but we can still be on the lookout for them, e.g. Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin, American Tree Sparrow, and the winter Juncos.

In the meantime we’ve got a bit of a hiatus, and this mild fall weather is keeping things a bit quieter for a while.

So what were Saturday’s highlights? We had a few Gadwall – these are early arrivals that will spend the winter here (photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker).

gadwfly4-1

We had only one Robin, the majority seem to have moved on out. Perhaps the most interesting observation was of a begging Lesser Goldfinch, meaning that a pair are raising fledglings pretty late in the year.

So, 27 species isn’t like we got skunked, but we will hope for a bit better action on our upcoming walks.

Good birding!  Chuck Aid

 

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, Oct 1, 2016

27 species

 

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  48

Gadwall (Anas strepera)  11

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  31

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  6

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  3

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  2

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  2

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  37

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  3

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  3

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  3

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  10

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  11

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  5

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  17

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  1

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  16

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  12

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  17

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  3

Hudson Gardens, September 24, with Chuck Aid

Eight of us explored the relatively quiet avian world at Hudson Gardens on Saturday. It was not until we had been out for a couple of hours that we saw any Passerines (perching birds), other than Blue Jays, and we ended up with a list of only 20 species. At this time of year there is a lot of migrant movement going on, but we were not lucky enough to pick up on much of it. We did get to see one lone female American Wigeon (all photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker),

AMWI14

a few Cedar Waxwings, and a couple of Barn Swallows

BARS2

all of which were possibly migrating through, but we can’t say for sure. They might have been around all summer. An interesting observation was how variable the male Mallards are looking with some still in complete eclipse plumage and others well on their way to regaining their brilliant breeding plumage. We saw no sign of the family of Wood Ducks that were around at Hudson Gardens for much of the summer.

We look for more exciting birding this coming Saturday, Oct 1, at the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt. I hope to see some of you then!

Good birding!

Chuck

 

Front Range Birding Company

20 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  12

American Wigeon (Anas americana)  1

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  40

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  25

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  6

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2

Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  2

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  3

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  4

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  1

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Barr Lake, September 3, with Chuck Aid and Chip Clouse

Twenty-six of us got out to Barr Lake on September 3, and ended up tallying 38 species (see list below). The highlights were a MacGillivray’s Warbler seen in the hand at the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies banding Station and a Solitary Sandpiper in the Farmers’ Canal.

MGWA4

SOSA9

Photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker.

Good Birding!

Chuck Aid and Chip Clouse

 

Barr Lake 9.3.16

38 Species

 

14 Mallard

30 Western Grebe

30 Western/Clark’s Grebe

80 Double-crested Cormorant

150 American White Pelican

36 Great Blue Heron

20 Snowy Egret

6 American Avocet

14 Killdeer

13 Baird’s Sandpiper

1 Solitary Sandpiper

3 Franklin’s Gull

35 Ring-billed Gull

2 Osprey

1 Swainson’s Hawk

1 Red-tailed Hawk

2 Eurasian Collared-Dove

2 Mourning Dove

3 Downy Woodpecker

1 Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)

1 Western Wood-Pewee

2 Western Kingbird

1 Eastern Kingbird

2 Black-billed Magpie

1 Blue Jay

3 Barn Swallow

6 Black-capped Chickadee

2 House Wren

1 MacGillivray’s Warbler

1 Yellow Warbler

3 Wilson’s Warbler

1 Blue Grosbeak

1 Western Meadowlark

1 Song Sparrow

1 Lincoln’s Sparrow

1 Western Tanager

6 American Goldfinch

5 American Goldfinch

20 House Sparrow

Hudson Gardens, August 27, with Chuck Aid

Eighteen of us enjoyed perfect weather at Hudson Gardens this past Saturday, as well as enjoying some interesting bird activity. There were still juvenile Wood Ducks at the wetlands, although their number has diminished from five to three – all males. The male Mallards are still in eclipse plumage, with no evidence yet of their breeding plumage reemerging.

We saw an individual Blue-winged Teal, which I have tentatively identified as a male in eclipse plumage. This is based on: 1) the almost black coloring of the bill (as opposed to slate-gray), 2) the absence of obvious eye-arcs (which females tend to have), 3) the drab coloration on the flanks (feathers on female flanks are edged in a light beige – almost white), and 4) the faint white facial crescent tending to extend above the eye-line. However, this is a really tough call to make, and perhaps more information than you wanted, right? For those of you that got a good look at this bird please give me your input.

In the photos below the male is the second one.

BWTE female BWTE Eclipse

We had great looks at Cedar Waxings, which were so numerous that we had to duck at times. Note the difference between adults and juveniles.  Photos courtesy of Bill Schmoker.

CEDW12 (1) CEDW11 (1)

Finally, the highlight of the day was getting to watch a Cooper’s Hawk dismember a smaller representative of the Class Aves; after which it went into digestion cycle, and just sat on the same branch for the next hour or so.

COHA

Hope to see you on another Front Range Birding Company walk soon!!

Best, Chuck

 

Hudson Gardens, Aug 27, 2016

28 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  18

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  3

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  17

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)  1

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  5

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)  1

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  2

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  5

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  4

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1

Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  7

Plumbeous Vireo (Vireo plumbeus)  1

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  1

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  2

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  8

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  1

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  2

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  38

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  4

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  27

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  6

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield with Chuck Aid, August 6

Fifteen of us braved the perfect weather on Saturday morning, and made the brief drive from The Front Range Birding Company over to the Denver Botanic gardens at Chatfield without mishap. The morning was perfect, and we ended up recording 42 species (see list below).

Highlights were numerous, fast, and furious. We got to see a voracious Pied-billed Grebe subdue a crayfish and gulp it down. An adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron gave us both profiles as they flew past us first this-a-way and then that-a-way. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird harassed an American Robin that couldn’t pay it any mind because it was busy harassing a Cooper’s Hawk. A Swainson’s Hawk dive-bombed another Swainson’s forcing it to drop the vole (gopher?) it was carrying. Juvenile Say’s Phoebes were our representative dull-colored, difficult birds to identify for the morning, but we had plenty of time to work it all out. A juvenile Western Kingbird was incredibly pale compared to the adults (photo courtesy of dwfurbanwildlife.com).

WEKI1

A massive flock of juvenile European Starlings gave me pause for a minute – so unlike the adults (photo courtesy of Bill Schmoker).

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And a male ‘Black-backed’ race of the Lesser Goldfinch sent everyone scrambling for their field guides – supposedly more common farther east, but we get them around here with some regularity (photo courtesy of txtbbatamu.edu).

LEGO

The bird show was a good one, and the Botanic Gardens is a good place to catch it!

Best regards, Chuck Aid

 

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, Aug 6, 2016

42 species

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  10

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  1

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)  2

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)  4

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  17

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  6

Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)  1

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)  7

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  2

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  5

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1

Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  6

Cordilleran Flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis)  1

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)  2

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)  3

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  2

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)  20

Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  2

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  7

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  3

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  6

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  9

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  33

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  40

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  2

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  5

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  3

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  6

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  2

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  22

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  28

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  13

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  9