DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — It’s balmy and green down here in Texas, so it’s hard to remember that just two days ago, I was hiking in the snow-clad Rocky Mountains west of Denver, Colorado.
Abu, Fjord, me, and Lynn birding along the road to Guanella Pass. We had a few precious hours to squeeze in some birding.
I’ve not had the opportunity to spend much time in or west of the Rockies, so this is magical, mysterious territory for me. I can’t help craning my neck at every magpie or raven that passes by. Mountain Bluebirds and Townsend’s Solitaires are equally enthralling. And on this trip, I added three life birds:
- Steller’s Jay. Larger than I had expected, with flamboyant crests and stunning blue hues.
- American Dipper. Absolutely fascinating little creatures, perfectly at home in the fast-moving mountain streams. A pair put on a good show for us along Bear Creek, showing off the full range of their amazing aquatic capabilities.
- American Three-toed Woodpecker. Good looks at a female along Guanella Pass Road. And even cooler, we watched her fly to a snag and start drumming. Another bird answered from somewhere in the forest. Their bursts of drumming speed up and get softer toward the end.
Here’s the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis), which Laura K and Mike correctly identified in my earlier post. I had not had any previous experience with three-toed woodpeckers, and I was initially surprised by the similarities between females of the Rocky Mountain races of this species and Hairy Woodpecker. Note the barring on the bird’s sides, the very narrow white supercilium, and the white lower nape merging with the largely white back, among other differences. The drumming pattern is also distinctive.
White-tailed Ptarmigan was another species on my target list, but snow at higher elevations and a limited amount of time kept us from reaching their haunts on the alpine tundra. Next time!
At lower elevations, there was no snow, and ice on the streams was breaking up. Along Bear Creek in Jefferson County, Song Sparrows and Black-capped Chickadees sang in the alders. This is also where we got the dippers, but we didn’t hear them singing.
Alder catkins were out, apparently offering some sort of food source to Black-capped (shown here) and Mountain Chickadees, which bounced acrobatically from branch to branch, knocking loose little clouds of pollen as they went.
Lower still, at a suburban park in Lakewood, a local resident pointed out a Great Horned Owl above a walking trail. Apparently a pair is nesting nearby, and has for several years. In the same park, I photographed some small white-cheeked geese and would appreciate feedback on my tentative ID.
You can find a few more pictures in the gallery.
- Swiftlet situation worsens
- Butterfly forest