The South Platte in Adams County near 88th Avenue was the destination for the Littleton store’s walk on January 6. The river is a winter haven for many hundreds of ducks, its food resources bolstered by the inflow from a water treatment plant located upstream. The nutrient rich – and warmer – waters attract many ducks during the winter season as they gather to feed and find refuge.
We walked to different vantage points along the river, at first braving a chill breeze, but later ready to shed some of our winter layers. Ducks crowded the river all the way. We saw many Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, and Mallards, representing our dabbling ducks. Diving ducks were less numerous in the river channel than the dabblers, but we saw many Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye, and one section had lots of goldeneyes and Lesser Scaup. As we walked along we spied hunting a Northern Harrier and a cooperative American Kestrel.
The Platte’s channel is shallow, but large reservoirs lying alongside the river corridor offer a deeper water habitat, probably with more fish, too. These attract mostly diving ducks during winter. We climbed up a low bank to scan the birds at one of the reservoirs. There we added all three merganser species – Common, Hooded and Red-breasted, and many more scaup.
Birding the South Platte River Trail north of Denver is like finding a ribbon of life tucked away in an urban world. During our visit, all the waterfowl along the river seemed to be at peace. Plenty of food and resting places for all, and the winter sun highlighting such wonderful and varied colors and patterns on the ducks. It makes a fine winter walk.