Saturday, May 11, 2024 Bird Walk to Golden Ponds with Jamie Simo

May 17, 2024

I maintain there is no better month in Colorado than May, and Golden Ponds is a fantastic place to enjoy spring unfolding. Like most of the ponds in the state, Golden Ponds is the product of reclamation following gravel mining. The first pond closest to the parking lot is a good one for American White Pelicans in the spring and summer and we saw several of those right off the bat. Historically, pelicans would mainly pass through Colorado on their way north to breed, but the addition of so many ponds and reservoirs means they now breed in several places within the state. The bumps on their bills are called caruncles and have some function in courtship that scientists don’t entirely understand yet. Both sexes show them in the breeding season.

Golden Ponds is one of the areas where Eastern Phoebes return each year to breed. As their name suggests, Eastern Phoebes are commonly found in the eastern United States and midwest, but the increase in tree canopy in Colorado within the last several decades have allowed these birds, as well as birds like the Blue Jay, to start colonizing further west. Eastern Phoebes are a brown flycatcher that often sits out in the open. It says its name: “Phoebe!” and bobs its tail regularly. There’s been one hanging around near the footbridge over St. Vrain Creek near the Beckwith diversion structure for a few weeks now.

Eastern Phoebe. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Other migrants we were able to see and/or hear were Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a male Bullock’s Oriole that helpfully perched low for us to get a decent look. Less accommodating was a Warbling Vireo that we could hear singing, but hid in the tree canopy out of sight.

As expected, nesting birds were plentiful, including a pair of Bushtits constructing their pendulous nest, which looks like a messier version of an oriole’s nest, with moss, grasses, and conifer needles woven together with spider webs. Both Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks were also on their nests with the Red-tailed Hawk having a downy chick already.

Spotted Sandpiper. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Finally, of special note were the amorous pair of Spotted Sandpipers who we saw copulating. Unlike most birds, it’s the male that will do the incubating and chick-tending while the female may go off to establish another territory and another nest with one or more additional males.

Another great bird walk! We’ll see you again in June!

Golden Ponds Park and Nature Area, Boulder, Colorado, US
36 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  6
Mallard  3
Mourning Dove  3
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Double-crested Cormorant  3
American White Pelican  20
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  7
Osprey  1
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Warbling Vireo  1
Blue Jay  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  5
Bushtit  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  2
European Starling  1
American Robin  6
House Sparrow  4
House Finch  5
American Goldfinch  5
Song Sparrow  6
Bullock’s Oriole  1
Red-winged Blackbird  28
Brown-headed Cowbird  7
Common Grackle  5
Yellow Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)  1


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