Redpolls in Fort Collins

Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

Common Redpolls, a small arctic bird in the finch family, have been spotted in Estes Park and a number of other Colorado locations this winter, which is unusual because normally they don't migrate further south than Canada. One of the more reliable locations to find them has been around Lee Martinez Park and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

We saw only one there last week so we feared they had already headed north, but recent reports on eBird showed they are still basking in our relative warmth. We lucked out and saw a flock of about 30 birds enjoying the FCMoD feeders! Although we’d heard that Hoary Redpolls had been seen with the Commons, we didn’t see any.

Common Redpoll
Comparison: House Finch at left with Common Redpoll at right

We also spotted this guy, an Eastern Screech Owl (gray morph) along the nearby Poudre Trail. We'd noticed a large dead tree with a hole in it but it didn't seem remarkable. We walked right by it the first time, but on our way out, Mike reminded me that we hadn't looked at the hole with binoculars. When I focused on the hole, I said, "there's an owl there!"

Although we were able to get fairly close to his perch, he seemed completely unconcerned with us, not even opening his eyes for a picture. We'd seen the Eastern Screech Owl in Cambridge, MA, but this was our first one in Colorado.

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

We then decided to head over to the Ziegler road area to see if “our” fox den had any evidence of activity. We saw no foxes, but the soil around the den look disturbed enough that it may be in use again this year. We’ll check back, as we’ve seen a fox and kits here in two previous years. Here’s a fox photo from a couple of years ago.

Red Fox with still-nursing kits

And in the pond across from the den we saw maybe 6 male Common Mergansers wooing two females.
While we were in the area we went over to CSU’s Environmental Learning Center trails to do some birding on the main paved trail.

A Red-tailed Hawk soars over us at the ELC

After the ELC we stopped by to watch the volunteers at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program take out a couple of their birds. We got a front row seat as they fed their Golden Eagle.

Volunteer Pat feeds a Golden Eagle at the RMRP
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

It was a very nice birding day. We didn’t make a list of everything we saw, but here’s a quick list from memory: Common Redpoll, Eastern Screech Owl, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, Downy Woodpecker, Canada Goose, Common Merganser, Blue Jay, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Bufflehead, Golden Eagle (in captivity), Mallard, Western Meadowlark, and some unidentified gulls.

On our way home we saw our first Western Meadowlark singing away atop a telephone wire -- a sure sign of Spring!

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) from a previous spring

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