Waterton Canyon, June 4, 2022 with Andrea Cahoon

June 11, 2022

Waterton Canyon, located south of Littleton near Roxborough Park, is a popular hiking trail that follows a gentle grade up the canyon. The road was originally the bed of the Colorado, South Park and Pacific Railroad, built in 1877 from Denver, through Waterton Canyon to Leadville. The tracks were removed during WWII for scrap metal. The trail changes from a paved road to a dirt road leading to Strontia Springs Dam, located 6.2 miles from the starting point. Denver Water manages the area and the road gives them access to the dam. Bighorn sheep are often seen along the rocky canyon walls. To protect the sheep, no dogs are allowed in the canyon. This is a great birding area with its riparian habitat hosting many migrants at this time of year.

Gray Catbird. Photo by Jamie Simo.

A group of 13 began our walk on a warm, sunny day, well into the 70’s by the time we started. Before we even left the parking area, one of our participants spotted four eagles, most likely Golden Eagles, soaring overhead. Then upon crossing the road to the trailhead, we heard a catbird in the brushy area on the left. Eventually the catbird showed itself before moving on. Not more than a few minutes on the trail and we spotted 13 White Pelicans high in the sky in V formation. They were following the trail, leaving their V formation to take advantage of the thermals rising from the canyon walls. What a sight they were, shining white in the sun, brilliant against the deep blue Colorado sky. As they turned, the black of their wingtips was beautifully displayed. As we continued up the canyon, we noticed them again and again, totally in awe of this beautiful sight!

Golden Eagle. Photo by Jamie Simo.

As we went deeper into the canyon, the trees rose high around us, and we turned off the main trail to a trail leading south toward the South Platte River, lured by the cacophony of birds high in the trees. Many of us opened the Merlin Bird ID app on our phones and used the Sound ID feature. Merlin did an impressive job identifying the Warbling Vireo and the Yellow-breasted Chat that we heard but did not see. Note that this feature on Merlin Bird ID is not 100% accurate, and if it identifies a bird not commonly seen in the area, it is best to see the bird before adding it to your list. We spent quite a bit of time by the river and soon found it was time to turn back. For the short distance we travelled, we saw a lot! Here is the list:

24 Species Observed, 59 Individuals

  1. Common Merganser – 1
  2. American White Pelican – 13
  3. Northern Harrier – 1
  4. Golden Eagle – 4
  5. Mourning Dove – 2
  6. Black-chinned Hummingbird – 1
  7. Broad-tailed Hummingbird – 1
  8. Northern Flicker – 1
  9. Western Wood Pewee – 2
  10. Western Kingbird – 1
  11. Warbling Vireo – 2
  12. Blue Jay – 1
  13. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay – 3
  14. Barn Swallow – 4
  15. Violet-green Swallow – 6
  16. White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
  17. House Wren – 1
  18. American Robin – 1
  19. Gray Catbird – 1
  20. European Starling – 1
  21. Yellow Warbler – 6
  22. Yellow-breasted Chat – 1
  23. Spotted Towhee – 3
  24. Western Meadowlark – 1


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