Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt & First Creek Trail

January 8, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I delivered a late Christmas present to a friend who lives near Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Jefferson County).  Unfortunately, she has not seen the male Northern Cardinal that off and on visits her yard for seven weeks.

A resident Eastern Screech-Owl in her backyard briefly appeared while we ate lunch on her back patio.  Afterwards, Rebecca and I walked Wheat Ridge Greenbelt at Prospect Park looking unsuccessfully for the Rusty Blackbirds that have been reported twice in the last week.

Later, I dropped Rebecca off to shop in Aurora and drove to the First Creek trail (Denver) north of Buckley Road and 56th Avenue.  I walked from the west end of the trail at Buckley Road to the eastern end at 56th avenue.

Two Red-tailed Hawks were perched near Pena Blvd and the Trail.  A Prairie Falcon stood on one of the light poles overlooking the Light Rail tracks.

Near the end of my hike, I noticed sixty+ House Sparrows in the large brush pile northeast of the horse corrals.  At least two dozen White-crowned Sparrows were also there. 

The flock eventually flew to the tall yellow grasses bordering the northeast corner of the corrals.  The many sparrows would walk along the ground, but in the middle of the grass clumps.

Finally I picked out a Harris's Sparrow although only saw bits and pieces of the bird at any one time.  I watched a waited for 30+ minutes for the birds to either come out of the grasses or return to the brush pile.

Regrettably, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in and perched on one of the fence posts.  Witness photos of the Hawk were taken.  Then the Sharp-shinned Hawk flew down and caught one of the sparrows.

The capture was near the Harris's Sparrow location.  I hoped it was not true.  Bad for a White-crowned Sparrow, it was not the Harris's Sparrow.  I watched the Sharp-shinned Hawk devour the sparrow in the next fifteen minutes or so.

The Hawk then returned to the post and looked for another victim.  This time the large flock of birds flew back to the brush pile.  Shortly thereafter, the Sharp-shinned Hawk followed and perched above the disappearing birds.

Little bird movement was observed in the next twenty minutes as the Sharp-shinned Hawk stood sentinel.  In the fading light, I had to return to my car, which was almost a mile away.

Temperature in the afternoon was around 50 degrees; winds were 4-6 mph, not a bad January winter day!

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