2009-09-02 - 8:22 p.m.
all photos © 2009 by elaine radford
a baby bison in the rocky mountain arsenal herd
This morning we took a spin around the old Rocky Mountain Arsenal. We got there early and scouted around some, easily picking up such birds as American Kestrel, Say's Phoebe, (Red-Shafted) Northern Flicker, and a bright Empidonax that I'm guessing was a probable Cordilleran flycatcher, although I won't make the claim for sure. It was a lovely blue day with all the prairie wildflowers in bloom -- lots of sunflowers and other yellow stuff, a lovely purple "ironweed" that is supposedly sought out by the botanical societies and other purple/blue stuff, and a pretty but poisonous large white poppy.
As for the tour, folks, make your reservations and check them twice, because the bus was filled and there was a tight minute there when I heard them wonder if they'd added up the seats correctly. We're not the only folks who heard the siren song of "free, gets your free tour here, folks." Don't just show up and hope.
Nice views of a Bullwhip snake crossing the road. Good views of Mule Deer, including a couple of bucks with nice velvet on their "racks." I question the countability of the herd of Bison, which seems to verge dangerously close to being domestic, but they made a cute scene grazing the yellow fields with their two adorable babies just born in July.
I won't list every bird, but some of the better ones include a lone White Pelican on one of the lakes, a close-up view of an adult Great Horned Owl regarding us calmly from a nearby tree, an adult Red-Tail Hawk making no bones that he was hunting a prairie dog. We saw one and one only Burrowing Owl, and I'm sorry to say that we were at the back of the bus and unable to attract anyone else's attention so the bus kind of scooted past it too fast. Put that one in the Better View Desired category. The guide was, I think, new to birds, but she was eager to learn about the Northern Harrier. I saw three from the bus -- one of them was easily visible to everyone and I think her shape, distinctive hunting/flying pattern, and white rump were noted by all who wished to.
As we left the park, IMOM noticed a large buteo on a telephone pole. We hopped back out of the car and heard its sad cry. It turned out to be a handsome Swainson's Hawk that gave us a great view both perched and flying directly overhead -- but despite his cries, he never succeeded in calling in a partner.
We split a $5 Subway deal and then headed for Roxborough State Park. Damn, you can't get there from here if you don't know the area. The GPS claimed it had never heard of the place. The AAA map was a joke. Finally, we broke down and went low tech and simply called the place to ask for directions. Along the way, IMOM found another Swainson's Hawk.
The park is beautiful and under-utilized. We encountered one other couple, at the peak of Lyon's Overlook, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves. They were doing renovations to the Visitor's Center, so we weren't able to get back there and see the reported Golden Eagle nest. Hell, we didn't see a Golden Eagle at all. Despite this small disappointment, we were glad we made the trip to see these dramatic red uplifted rocks. I just hope my photographs can do them justice. We did the Fountain Trail -- named not for any fountain, but for the town of Fountain and the dramatic Fountain formation of rocks. We did both the Fountain Overlook and the Lyons Overlook. Whoa!
The scrub oaks were supposedly as much as 500 years old, leading to much snickering, since they looked NOTHING like a 500 year old oak might look like in Louisiana. The most visible species were the highly attractive Western Scrub-Jays and the horrid, pitifully molting Spotted Towhwees. Cute small guys were the singing and chatting Black-Capped Chickadees and the busy White-Breasted Nuthatches.
We cursed ourselves for not bringing the scope when we noticed some whitewash and a large falcon sitting on it. Peregrine? Oh, I suppose, but it didn't seem to have that hooded look to the head. Could it have possibly been a Prairie Falcon? We'll never know.
along the fountain trail at roxborough state park, colorado
a few minutes later
OK, I fully admit it. I did not mention the cottontail rabbit or plenty of other guys I saw. But, having left this post and having finished my dinner, I put out the trash -- and who is sitting there by the door looking bitter because I didn't mention him? Yah, Peter Cottontail. FFS. You're a rabbit. A freaking rabbit. You really need a mention on the fabulous interwebs? Ho-kay, here it is.
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