March Around Lake Estes

In March I spent a lot of time on the 3.75 mile Lake Estes Loop Trail as part of my fitness program, as well as to practice shlepping and shooting with our big lens. I have now boosted my daily walk to an even 4 miles by starting from the Visitor Center, which, although I appreciate the nice restrooms, should have been built as an ice skating rink...  but that is another story.

It was fun to watch Winter loosen its grip a little each day as the streams flowed more freely under melting ice and snow. March had no shortage of wind, and interesting formations created by water blown against the rocks and logs often caught my eye.
Coyote slipping on the ice

One early morning while concentrating on finding the noisy little Nuthatches near the near the tip of the Matthews-Reeser Bird Sanctuary peninsula, I inadvertently approached a coyote at close range. We locked eyes. Wow! In that brief moment, it dawned on me that I actually held in my hands a camera with which I might take his picture. Ignoring the thin ice signs, he trotted off the peninsula across slick and slushy terrain and disappeared back into the woods, but not before I managed to get a few shots off.

American Dipper (aka water ouzel)
Most days I saw only birds. Gadwalls, Coots, American Widgeons and Green-winged Teals joined the Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Redheads seen in February, and once I may have spotted a pair of Northern Pintails way out in the lake. The first Great Blue Heron I've seen in Estes flew overhead another morning. I happened upon the American Dipper frequently, usually near the same spot in Wapiti Meadows. Now I always walk a little off trail, ever hopeful to discover a nest. A Prairie Falcon seems to be spending a lot of time hunting from the high power towers and I've seen him circling over the meadows, too. I see Red-tailed Hawks often on my walks, but the best show was one sunny day when three of them swooped and played in the thermals.

Mountain Bluebird
Mike had been out of town for 10 days, and the day he got home, I saw my first Bluebird of the season, actually a pair of Mountain Bluebirds. The end of the month also brought Western Bluebirds and the occasional finch, and we both anxiously await the arrival of more songbirds and migratory water birds.

Tundra Swan at Walden Ponds

View of Indian Peaks from Walden Ponds
One Thursday morning on the way to volunteering in Boulder, I stopped at Walden Ponds to see the Tundra Swan reported on eBird. It was still there, but I had to come back in the afternoon to see it at close enough range to positively ID.

Tundra Swan (L)
Along with the swan were large numbers of other waterfowl including Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwalls, Coots, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes and a lone Bufflehead. I learned the sound of the American Wigeon that day - I was surrounded by their amusing whistle, not unlike a noisy chorus of doggie squeak toys.

American Wigeon

Bird # 218

Redhead (male and female)
We enjoy many aspects of our newest hobby, birding, but twitching has a strong appeal to both of us. Given our history of collecting, organizing and counting things, this is no surprise. (:   So we were both happy to add bird species #218 for our life list - the Redhead.

Now that the weather has warmed up some, after an incredibly cold spell in February, we've been walking the Lake Estes trail again regularly. The Redheads (two pair) were hanging around near the southern side of the lake trail the past few days. Common Goldeneyes are still at the lake, as well as the Bufflehead, but no sign of the Barrow's Goldeneye since that day in January. We also heard and then saw a number of Red-winged Blackbirds in the pines along the upper portion of Mall Road. Sounds like spring to me!