Raptors, Foxes & Migrants

Shortly before Mike got home, I stopped in Lyons to see if the Golden Eagle nest we watched last year was active. As soon as I turned into Meadow Park, I got my answer as the Eagle flew low overhead! Another birder pointed out the new and presumably improved 2011 nest location, in which we have since seen a nesting adult.

Golden Eagle

The same birder had also seen four American Dippers in the stream at Meadow Park, which surprised me because I thought they preferred higher elevations. We confirmed her sighting, spotting two of the busy Ouzels on another day. Her last tidbit was a Bald Eagle Nest just down the road.

Bald Eagle in nest

Since I was heading to Boulder anyway, I made a slight detour to check it out. I found the nest easily, as another photographer had it in his sights. He told me about a Great Horned Owl nest near Boulder, so off I went to see my third raptor nest of the day.

On a subsequent outing, we also discovered a large Great Blue Heron rookery off of Hygiene Road, and monitoring these three nests sites has kept us busy.

Great Blue Herons nesting
Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl owlets

We've also expanded our avian treasure hunting to some new Colorado front range locales including Lagerman Reservoir, Pella Crossing, Crown Hill Park, Golden Pond and most recently the Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins where we had a close encounter with a Red Fox.

Red Fox at Grandview Cemetery

Oh, and speaking of foxes, the Fort Collins den we watched last year is active again! Four adorable kits were out and about when we happened by one afternoon.

Red Fox and kit outside their den
Afterward we strolled through the Environmental Center Trails, which which we shared with a high school track team. Needless to say, we did not spot a lot of birds, but Mike did spot our first Blue-winged Teals.

Blue-winged Teal
Back home again, we've been pleased to learn that Lake Estes has quite a lot to offer, especially as the Spring migration gets underway in April. With the assistance of new binoculared acquaintances we've made along the way, we've been spotting more and more local and migratory birds.

Our life list is up to 233 with the addition of the Willet, which we saw on the last day of the month while helping with a trash clean up around the Lake.

Greater Yellowlegs and Willet near Lake Estes


View from the Lily Lake area to the northwest
Osprey over Lake Estes

Near the end of April, we decided to look for Williamson's Sapsuckers, newly returned from their winter vacation in Mexico.

Our first stop was at Lily Lake where we enjoyed a nice walk with stunning views of Meeker and Long's Peak, along with the Continental Divide views to the northwest.

We didn't find any of our target bird, so we headed back to town and stopped by Lake Estes. We watched an Osprey hunting and hoped to see (and photograph) him fishing, but it didn't happen. We also enjoyed watching the cute Pygmy Nuthatch in the pines of the Lake Estes bird sanctuary.

Pygmy Nuthatch

We went home for a late lunch before heading into RMNP to look for Sapsuckers along the Cub Lake Trail.

While we again came up empty handed on the Williamson's, we did see other woodpeckers, along with a Yellow-bellied Marmot and a bull elk with stubby antlers in velvet.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Red-naped Sapsucker
Late in the day we noticed an unidentified bird fly high into a pine tree. Then came the unmistakable drumming overhead. We waited below the tree for him to pop into view, our necks getting sore from looking up constantly.

Our patience paid off and he finally flew down low enough that we could see who was making all the noise, a Red-naped Sapsucker -- the first we'd ever seen. He didn't stay long, and after exchanging "words" in flight with another woodpecker he was off.

Red-naped Sapsucker: now you see him...

Hairy Woodpecker
The newcomer was a busy little Hairy Woodpecker, who put on quite a show for us right along the trail. Even when a group of rather loud schoolchildren filed by, he continued drilling into the aspens without taking notice.


That afternoon we also enjoyed taking note of our first Townsend's Solitaire, with a melodious warble that stands out more than the little gray bird itself.

Townsend's Solitaire
As happens so often when exploring nature, you don't find something you were looking for, but what you do find is often unexpected, new, and exciting. We left the Cub Lake trail for home with smiles on our faces.

Ibis and Avocets

On several occasions this spring, we had the opportunity to observe and photograph two distinctive migratory waders at Lake Estes -- the American Avocet and the White-faced Ibis.

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis
The first time we saw the Ibis, a flock of 16 flew over the lake, time and time again. A birding friend believed they were looking for their sandy spit, which was still covered in water. We saw Ibis' other times, as late as mid-May, but the Avocets' stay was shorter.

American Avocet
American Avocet

Bald Eagles at Lake Estes

While doing her walk around Lake Estes, Susan called to let me know that she was seeing a bald eagle or two, so I grabbed the camera and headed over.

We were rewarded with some excellent activity, flights, and poses! I just love the North American Bald Eagle!