November 5, 2023

The quiet little town of Louviers sits off the busy corridor of Highway 85 in Douglas County, marked from afar by an impressive stand of tall pines and other trees, on a hillside along the autumn gold cottonwoods of Plum Creek. The town came to be in 1906 as a company town to support the new DuPont Dynamite Works built adjacent to the town. Now the dynamite plant is gone and the former company town is an historic point of interest that offers a lovely stroll  and fun birding, too. DuPont Park Open Space neighbors the town and has trails through the riparian forest and through the grounds of the former dynamite plant, now “returning to nature.”

Our Front Range Birding Company walk enjoyed October’s mix of migrants and resident birds. Hot spots of bird action stopped us here and there as we made our way through the town. Right away our attention was captured by a party of migrant Western Bluebirds that had stopped in to forage. Flocks of migrant White-crowned Sparrows were occupying thickets and gardens, filling the air with a chorus of song and calls. White-crowned Sparrows differ from many of our fall migrants in that they love to sing when they pass through our area. Both adult and juvenile sparrows sing, tossing out lovely trills and song phrases. This is a time when young birds learn and practice their songs. 

As we watched one sparrow flock we spotted a chunky, streaky bird with a large bill feeding by itself on a gravel alleyway. Surprise: a juvenile Red Crossbill! Not red at all but streaky and drab. But photos reveal areas of yellow-gold feathers molting in, showing it to be a young female crossbill. And what a bill! It was odd to see just one crossbill by itself. I had seen a lot of crossbills in town in prior weeks, so perhaps this lonely bird was left behind! Later we heard it call as it flew and could identify it as the Type 4 Red Crossbill – the Douglas-fir Red Crossbill — a form that is infrequently found in Colorado. 

Our walk continued with many lovely views of fall color, chances to compare resident birds like Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and to enjoy our quiet walk through the big trees of DuPont Park. It is good to be out birding in the fall.

Juvenile Red Crossbill © Anne Craig


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