Early Spring Birding in Cherry Creek (Part 1)

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Spring is starting to arrive. Its a bit early this year, it seems, and a greater variety of birds is starting to show up. Cherry Creek has always been a bird haven here in Colorado, which is nice as its nearby and within the city. I took a trip over there this morning, and spent the entire day there (from about 11am to 6:30pm). I photographed a lot of birds! I found quite a number of species as well, including one I explicitly set out to find, and another I had not expected. Since I don’t want to stuff too many photos in a single blog entry, and to make it easier for me to write about all the birds I managed to find, I’ll be breaking this up into two parts. Part #1 will be the song/perching birds, and part #2 will be the waterfowl. All told, I found the following species today:

  • Song/Perching Birds
    • Black-billed Magpie
    • European Starling
    • Mexican Chickadee
    • Redwing Blackbird
    • Northern Flicker
    • American Robin
    • House Finch
  • Waterfowl
    • Wild Mallard (duck)
    • Northern Shoveler (duck)
    • American White Pelican
    • Double-Crested Cormorant
    • American Coot
    • Canada Goose
    • Gulls (unknown species)

I was happy to see so many varieties of perching birds. Often called songbirds, although not all of these birds are particularly musical, are actually the order passerine. They are the largest order of birds in the world, consisting of roughly 5400 species in 110 families. That number changes year to year, as the deities of taxonomy divide and merge species and subspecies as they try to accurately classify the order. If we look at these birds from a biblical standpoint, I would say there are probably less than 100 Genesis “kinds”, within which you have specitation to certain niches of diet and locale…as God intended. Nevertheless, there are about 5,400 different forms, colors, and songs, and I managed to knock 7 off my list today!

The most interesting birds of the day were the Chickadees, and a Redwing Blackbird that gave me a great in-flight shot. I have to say, I think Chickadees are one of the more interesting species I’ve photographed so far. They have a fairly varied diet, from a variety of seeds to grubs. In the morning, I found a chickadee snatching grubs from within the bark of trees, and doing so quite deftly. She would flit from branch to branch, sometimes exhibiting considerable acrobatics, and once she (somehow) sensed a grub, would efficiently peck it out and gobble it down without leaving much of any kind of mark behind on the tree. They seem quite fearless as well, and there were times when she would hang upside down examining a branch only feet above my head, quite happy to be photographed during breakfast hour.

I found chickadees all over the place, from near the lake to deep within the woods. You can tell when they are around, as they have a very distinctive chirp and chatter while they go about the business of foraging and hunting grubs. Its pretty amazing when you hear a whole group of them feeding, moving from tree to tree. I’m not exactly sure what they are saying to each other, but I imagine its along the lines of “Food here!!” and “Nothing over here!”. One of my shots of the day was presented by a lone Redwing Blackbird. At first I wasn’t sure there was a bird around, as I was scouting along the dried reeds and cattail stems from the year before. Redwings seem to enjoy the cattails, and this guy was apparently adamant about defending his territory. He leapt up from within the reeds and grabbed onto a cattail, then hopped up again from there and glided down onto the very top of the stem. I had only a moments time to react to get the following shot:

I managed to sight a few other birds today as well. I see magpies quite often…they seem to stick around most of the year, and during most of that time, they look like somewhat boring black and white birds flying about just a bit too far away to really see well. I was surprised today to see a male in full mating plumage…very long black feathers with bright blue highlights on the top, along with blue highlighting along its wing feathers. I was unable to get a presentable shot, but there seem to be quite a few of them about. They are certainly a part of the crow family…regardless of species, they all have pretty much the same beak. I also found a few rather large flocks of European Starlings. Like the magpie, I was unable to get any really presentable shots (the sun was pretty harsh today, making it tough to get any well-exposed shots, particularly with trees still budding and a lot of nearly white bark glowing in the sunlight.) Starlings, when the sun illuminates them, are very colorful, almost iridescent birds. Very “communally vocal” birds as well, they chatter incessantly, fly off in swarms, and generally make a ruckus. Another bird that I managed to get a glimpse of was a Northern Flicker. A type of woodpecker, one of the larger varieties, it seemed fairly shy, and was extremely fast. I’m not quite skilled enough yet to capture a bird as fast as that, especially in the poorer light of the late afternoon. A gallery of all the keepers of the day for songbirds can be found at the bottom of this blog. Overall, it was a great day, especially with some of the waterfowl shots I’ll present tomorrow.