Date: 10/29/17 12:25 pm From: Jared Del Rosso <jared.delrosso...> Subject: [cobirds] West Arapahoe. Co Birding
I woke early today (10/29), in the CBC-spirit, scouting the edges of the
two Denver-area circles for owls. I started in Cherry Hills Village, near
the southwestern edge of the Denver urban circle. There, a pair of Great
Horns greeted me; I’d later hear a third. But I was after screeches, hoping
to find a few potential spots for them in the circles. So I called them as
I walked. For a time, nothing. But one came out, flying low and close by
me, before disappearing into a thicket.
From Cherry Hills Village, I headed to the eastern edge of the other Denver
count area. I stopped by Fly’n B Park in Highlands Ranch (Douglas), where
I heard and saw nothing. I then stopped by the High Line Canal near
McClellan Reservoir (Arapahoe), where a pair of a Great Horns hooted in
response to a not-distant-enough interloper, who called too. No screeches
I went home around sunrise, for food and tea. Around 8:30, I headed back
out to Willow Spring Open Space in Centennial. I hoped for a shrike (nope),
a Merlin (nope), other winter-y raptors (still no), sparrows (none but Song
& juncos), or even a Pygmy Nuthatch in the small collections of pines and
spruce around the open space’s entrances (nope). A Western Scrub Jay was as
close as I came to a consolation bird.
From Willow Spring, I headed to Holly Park, hoping still for that same mix
of birds. None. The scold of two Blue Jays lead me to a Great Horned, my
seventh of the morning and my first at Holly Park.
I had planned one more stop – Curtis Park in Greenwood Village. But I
dawdled instead, driving the roads under the transmission towers in
Centennial to look for raptors. Still none. I considered that I’d erred by
birding the scrubby weed and grass fields of Willow Spring and Holly Park,
rather than the local parks along the High Line. I considered, too, going
home. The sunny day had outgrown my owling attire – a thermal, heavy pants,
and thick socks.
But I stopped at Curtis Park anyway. Near the intersection of S. University
Blvd and E. Orchard Rd in Greenwood Village, Curtis Park is a block by
block-and-half of grass for baseball and soccer fields. On the weekends, it
serves kid’s soccer teams. It may serve the kids at the adjacent Aspen
Academy during the week. It hardly seems worth birding, and I’d never
actually birded it before.
Of course, I wasn’t there for the grassy fields. The park is lined by pines
and spruces, which form a border between the park and the surrounding
private residences. There aren’t great collections of conifers in the west
Centennial area, not at least around me. So this is as good as it gets. The
park, I figured, is my best bet for a Golden-crowned Kinglet in my local
birding circle. And, I hoped, other montane birds might find this otherwise
unremarkable park attractive. (After seeing Ben Sampson’s eBird report of
Red Crossbills in the area, I recently announced, to a friend in NY who
also birds, that Red Crossbills are “in play” this winter.)
It was quiet when I arrived. A lone Pygmy Nuthatch flew out of the park. I
heard, then followed Black-capped Chickadees to the northeast corner of the
park, where high pitched calls drew my attention. I don’t, off hand, know
the difference between a Brown Creeper and Golden-crowned Kinglet call, so
I started to stake the birds out.
But that didn’t last long. A different flock, with an unfamiliar call,
arrived at the northwest corner of the park. They held still for a moment,
showing them to be red and yellow finches. Crossbills! They moved into a
spruce, where a male picked at a cone in the crossbill style. Then they
flew, noisily, into a private yard, before crossing the street, headed
south. I counted 17, about the same number as visited Cheesman Park in
Denver two Aprils ago on an equally sunny day.
After the Red Crossbills left, I headed back toward the northeast corner,
to look for the birds making the high-pitched calls. I soon spotted the
silhouette of the culprits, which were clearly not creepers (as they
weren’t creeping). I eventually got very good looks at two Golden-crowned
(I would have had photos of both. But over breakfast, I had my SD card in
my laptop to watch videos of the Great Horns. After lugging my camera all
over Centennial, I only discovered that I forgotten to put the SD card back
in the camera when trying to photograph the crossbills.)
Both were county birds for me. And what gratifying encounters too, to meet
them in this sort of way.
- Jared Del Rosso
PS: While writing this, I noticed two robins at my bird bath, staring up at
the sky. I checked and a what appeared to be a Harlan's Red-tailed was
soaring over us.