Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Heron Pond Wildlife Refuge, Denver County

September 8, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I started out toward the west side of Denver.  Traffic on Interstate 70 was terrible and we abandon it at Washington Street.  A short distance north of I70, we stopped at Heron Ponds Wildlife Refuge (Denver County).  Temperatures were in the high 60s this morning; winds were less than 3 mph.

This area was the Denver Water Company back in the 1950s.  In the early 1980s, they tore down most of the decrepit buildings and converted the property into the Wildlife Refuge.

The Heron Ponds Wildlife Refuge is rightly named.  We circled the perimeter of the property twice in the next three hours and found two Great Blue Herons, one Great Egret, six Snowy Egrets and the prize, a Green Heron.  The herons and egrets were easy to see.  The passerines took more effort.

In the past, I visited this Refuge quite often; however, quit coming about three years ago when Green Herons were no longer reported.  Today we scoped from the north side the cattail fields along the south side of the pond.  A mostly hidden Green Heron was moving in and out of the cattails (about the middle of the group).

On the first pass we found a lingering House Wren (north side), young Common Yellowthroat (inlet canal), flock of 60+ Chipping Sparrows (corner at southwest bend) and a Cassin's Vireo (about 20 yards north of the dried cement canal, south end of refuge).

Water trickled around the canal that runs from south to north out of the Platte River.  Most likely the water was from runoff from recent rains and not from the Platte River.

On the second pass, we walked south down to the Platte River and back.  First, we detoured through the grassy area along the west side of the pond.  A Savannah Sparrow was along the inlet canal. 

Farther west, we ran into a sparrow that flew up several times however returned quickly to the high grasses.  Both of us thought the head had a hint of orange color.  Each time the small sparrow flew directly away from us.  It appeared to have a square tail and twice both of us thought we saw streaked flanks.  It was an "ammodramus" sparrow (Baird's or LeConte's or not) perhaps a Grasshopper Sparrow (more likely).  After close to an hour, we lost track of it (last seen 80 yards west of the inlet canal, 60 yards south of the northern chain link fence).

Nothing interesting was along the Platte.  It is possible to circle the Refuge by cutting across the canal/drainage with a land bridge just south of the west-east cement canal.  We continued south and found another cement bridge several hundred yards south of the mostly dried west-east canal.

At the southern cement bridge (really just a flat cement platform), we looked down stream and found a Northern Waterthrush walking the western edge!

The Refuge has much riparian area besides the pond.  Perhaps bird activity will pick up when migration gets in full swing (week or two).  We plan to return several times in the coming weeks.

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