March 11, 2023 Bird Walk to Pella Crossing with Jamie Simo

March 15, 2023

After scouting out Pella Crossing the day before on a very chilly and overcast Friday morning, it was a blessing to wake up to such a sunny, beautiful day on Saturday. Unsurprisingly, the majority of activity at Pella was at Webster Pond, which is set aside as an emergent wetland for native fish and is therefore closed to fishing. The pond held 11 different species of duck.

Right away we spotted both Canvasback and Redhead ducks, which are two diving ducks sometimes confused for each other. Males of both species have reddish heads in breeding plumage, but while Redheads have conventional round heads, Canvasbacks are easily distinguished by their “ski slope-like” foreheads, which make their profile very triangular.

Male Canvasback. Photo by Jamie Simo
Male Redhead. Photo by Jamie Simo

Among other diving ducks seen were Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck, which are also often confused for each other. While males of both species sport black heads which shine iridescent in the right light, Lesser Scaup males have grey backs with whiter flanks. Ring-necked Duck males, however, have black backs and greyer flanks with a white vertical “spur” at the shoulder area. If close enough, you can also see that Ring-necked Ducks have ringed bills while Lesser Scaups lack this feature.

Male Ring-necked Duck. Photo by Jamie Simo
Male Lesser Scaup. Creative Commons [[File:Lesser Scaup (11636209866).jpg|Lesser_Scaup_(11636209866)]]

Although it’s still a little early for spring migration, we did witness several hints of spring. We saw several Hooded Merganser males, which are a type of fish-eating duck, exhibit courtship behavior, puffing up their crests and stretching their necks out for the accompanying females.

Across the agricultural field to the south we also witnessed a Red-tailed Hawk bringing sticks to a nest. Such “nestorations” are a prelude to breeding and egg-laying, which may begin as early as later this month for this species. While songbirds were in short supply due most likely to the breeze, we did also see two other raptor species: two soaring immature Bald Eagles and, making its appearance just before reaching the parking lot at the end of the walk, an adult Cooper’s Hawk.

All-in-all we saw 28 species, which wasn’t bad for the “calm before the storm” of spring migration!

Pella Crossing Open Space, Boulder, Colorado, US
28 species

Cackling Goose  40
Canada Goose  100
Wood Duck  2     Quick fly over. Heard alarm call from female and saw two ducks.
Gadwall  11
American Wigeon  6
Mallard  6
Green-winged Teal  2
Canvasback  2
Redhead  3
Ring-necked Duck  1
Lesser Scaup  5
Bufflehead  3
Common Goldeneye  5
Hooded Merganser  8
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
American Coot  1
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Northern Flicker  1
Common Raven  2
American Robin  2
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  1
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  6


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  1. Always appreciate features you point out to look at in specific to help identify within species. Thanks for posting.