the Rookie Birder

I have watched birds all my life, but after reading "The Big Year," "Grail Bird" and especially Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway," plus Santa's timely stocking stuffer of "Sibley's 2003 Eastern & Western Field Guides," I made the decision to become a rookie birder beginning January 1st, 2006.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Boulder birds near Frasier Meadows

Thunderbird Lake & East Boulder Community Park, Boulder, Colorado
Frasier Meadows on Boulder's East side

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006, 10am-3pm

The weather never cleared up yesterday, and eventually we simply had to bite the bullet and hit the road to Boulder for the last part of our visit in Colorado. We would finish it by spending two nights seeing Lynne's mom and Anna Grace's Grandma Jean. The drive from Frisco to Boulder was a pain until we got off of I-70 just east of Idaho Springs where Hwy 6 winds its way into Golden. The snow stopped by the time we got on Hwy 6, but it was windy. In Golden we would catch Hwy 93 to Boulder. It was windy in the canyon down to Golden, but on the plateau from Golden to Boulder it was so wind that day that we saw a semi-truck & trailer blown onto it's side, and a large livestock trailer blown off the pickup truck that was towing, clear across to the other side of the road. Driving the car was like riding a bucking bull.

Despite the wind and snow from Frisco to Idaho Springs, we arrived safely and enjoyed one last Christmas celebration with Lynne's mom Jean, brother Woody, Anna Grace & Robert. Of course, before last night was over, Anna Grace and I took the walk to the small aviary that Frasier Meadows has, and said hello and good night to the 15-20 birds that were kept there for the residents.

After sleeping in late, again, we decided to start our day with a walk from where Jean lived at Frasier Meadows to the park that Anna Grace loved so much near the East Boulder Community Center. Robert, Woody and I were ready a bit ahead of everyone else, so we walked across the road from Frasier Meadows to a small pond there called Thunderbird Lake to see what water foul might be there. Just Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese. The only new find there was the lowly EUROPEAN STARLING (photo Matt Fletcher), bird #10 for the year.

Once Anna Grace, Lynne & Jean got down to join us, we walked from Frasier Meadows across the Hwy 157 pedestrian overpass on Sioux Drive. Once across, we walked to the East Boulder Community Park where AG got to play, and Robert and I would see what birds we could find on the two ponds there. Only Canada Geese, and one duck that I couldn't see well enough to identify as it was on the far side of the pond, and I forgot my glasses. So we walked around to the east side of the building, and knocked off bird #11, the ubiquitous ROCK DOVE (photo Roland Ripoll), or Feral Pigeon, a group of which were on the building's roof. We saw the Natural and Brown adults on the roof.

This was a disappointing birding walk thus far, so I hoped that crossing 55th street to the nature path there would be better birding. Didn't hear much, didn't see much, so we began walking back to meet up with everyone else. On the way back I finally heard some birds, and then saw them in the reeds next to a small pond/marsh area on the east side of 55th street just north of the path. They were sparrows of some kind, and once again, not having my field glasses with me would keep me from a positive ID. I feel they were Song Sparrow's, but without glasses, and without knowing their call, I will have to go back to ID them another day.

By this time Lynne called to see where I was, so we caught up with them and began the walk back. Woody finally spotted the magpies I had hoped to see while I was in Colorado, but again, no glasses, and no positive ID to see that they did indeed have the black bills I expected them to have. In addition to the magpies, I saw a graw jay-like bird about the size of a Northern Cardinal that had a crest and a black necklace. Once again, not having my field glasses cost me a chance to identify another bird.

As we crossed the Hwy 157 pedestrian overpass to head back to Frasier Meadows, I was able to identify one more easy bird, right to the left of the overpass was a pale adult AMERICAN ROBIN sitting in a branch in it's ever so dignified manor welcoming us back to Frasier Meadows. Bird #12 for the year.

After our walk, the day progressed lazily. I was anxious to go attempt more birding. Eventually, Jean and Woody joined me in a drive up to NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, I had hoped to walk on the trails their might allow me to see a few more birds. So we drove up Table Mesa Drive to its end at NCAR. As we walked from the car to the NCAR building, I saw a few LBTs (little brown things), but didn't see anything long enough to even get my glasses up to my eyes. But the trip was not a loss, because once we got to the trail on the west of the building Woody immediately spotted a BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (photo Chuck Roberts) that I was able to ID...I got my magpie, it was bird #13 for the year.

Right after that I spotted another American Robin, and then sharp eyed Woody noticed a grey bird right behind the robin. I watched it in the glasses for 10 minutes...I guess it was a Townsend's Solitaire. Bit smaller than the robin, gray overall, it was facing directly at me, white eye ring, black eye & small black bill. But I couldn't see it's wings, and though it was in a juniper tree on a steep dirt bank and it was perching inconspicuously enough, to quote the Sibley's description. I gave up after 10 minutes, it wasn't going to move for me, and well, maybe I just wasn't birder enough to wait this Townsend's Solitaire out.

The phone rang right after I caught up with Jean & Woody, Lynne needed help with Robert who wouldn't nap, so off we went to get him for adventures of a different on the Pearl Street Mall. It was hardly a great bird day, four easy birds:

#10 EUROPEAN STARLING winter plumage
#11 ROCK DOVE (Feral Pigeon) natural & brown adult


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