Well, the weather has finally turned warm. The last couple weeks, temps have been in that nice spring region, the 70’s. Temps changed pretty suddenly in early April, from nearly freezing during the day and sub-freezing at night, to in the low 60’s during the day and in the low 40’s at night. The last couple weeks, we saw a jump into the high 70’s. I honestly cannot say how happy I am to see the cold weather gone. Since the deadly rains we had in Colorado last September, temperatures have been cold, and either wet or icy. We didn’t get quite the same amount of snow as we have had in years past, but the cold…just brutal.
With the warmer weather comes all the things about nature that I love. The ice is gone, and fresh water is flowing. A fresh breeze blows just cool enough to keep you feeling comfortable, and warm enough that you don’t shiver. Birds and wildlife arrive all colorful. Babies are hatching and birthing now, or just around the corner.
I’ve been visiting Cherry Creek, my regular haunt (sorry, birder joke :P), and my favorite area of Cherry Creek, the Cottonwood Creek Wetland, for a couple weeks now. I missed most of the earlier bird migrations. A fairly wide variety of ducks move through just as spring starts, and they didn’t wait for the cold to lift this year. Most of the more interesting ducks, like the beautiful little Buffle Head, Ring-necked, and even more exotic ducks have mostly moved on. A few stragglers seem to be sticking around, according to reports, but for the most part, I’d have to hit Barrow, AK to see them all. I’m ok with that, though…I didn’t really want to be out in the freezing breeze shivering my buns off to get one or two good shots.
Now, the next part of the migration is occurring: The shorebirds, waders, and summer waterfowl are arriving. The American White Pelicans are here in force, as are the Cormorants. Just yesterday, when I was just getting to Cherry Creek, several huge flocks of Double-crested Cormorants flew overhead…must have been a couple hundred of them. The Herons and Egrets have arrived, and some big flocks of another wader that has for me thus far been rather elusive has also arrived: The Ibis! This year is a treat, we have both the common White-faced Ibis, and a very rare visitor I have not seen since I first started photographing birds with my 450D about five years ago (more on this rare bird in a future post.) Shorebirds are arriving, most which will probably just move through onto more northern and coastal grounds, as well. This includes the Killdeer, which are probably one of the most ubiquitous endemic plovers, as well as sandpipers, Willets, and Dowitchers. I think I may have spotted a Snipe as well, but it flew off before I could get close enough for a proper ID.
The deer are out in force again. The males and females have broken up into their separate groups. I’m still learning more about the behavior of deer. Last year, I learned that during summer, one older male will usually take a younger yearling male under it’s wing. Pairs of males like that roam the park, and the deer at that time of year are quite docile. It seems in early spring, the males group up. The yearlings that level up to their second year, and the older males, wander around in larger groups of four, five, maybe even more. They all have the fresh stubs of beautiful velvet-covered new antlers. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other behaviors the deer exhibit. I also hope to maybe capture some baby fawns being born, although I think the window of opportunity for that is fast closing.
The wildlife at Cherry Creek is very healthy this year. Not really sure why, perhaps because of the significant increase in water (last years September rains restored the water levels in our water table and all our reservoirs, so much so that they are either overflowing or in the case of Cherry Creek and Chatfield, flowing backwards whenever there is a rain), perhaps because winters been ending on schedule and life has sprung forth with a vengeance. I know for sure that the Coyotes, which appear to be incredibly healthy, are healthy because of an explosion in the Black-tailed Prairie Dog population. Just yesterday, I finally glimpsed baby prairie dogs. They must have emerged a week or two ago, as they a have their fear of intruders and bolt hole behavior ingrained. Between a plethora of baby prairie dogs, and the very large size of the prairie dog ward at Cherry Creek anyway, the coyotes have plenty of food.
While trying (and failing) to get some great activity shots of the newborn p. doggs, I saw two amazing things. One was a truly fat tub of a prairie dog BOOKING it across dog town (God only knows why). I new prairie dogs could move quickly into their holes when they wanted to, but this bub, he was HAULING. He must have been going 25-30mph for the incredibly short time he cleared a distance of well over 100 feet, it took him only a few seconds. The little guy kicked up a huge dust trail, and clods of dirt where flying everywhere! It was probably one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in nature for some time. (Sadly, at the time this occurred, I was still unpacking all my gear, and couldn’t get a shot.) Shortly after this, a coyote quite literally hopped out from behind a juniper, cleared over four feet in air, in an attempt to pounce on an unsuspecting ground rodent near it’s hole. He failed, but then he tore off in a frenzy, one hole after another, kicking off a rippling dog town alarm. I think he was mixing up play time with lunch time as he looked to be having a blast, however I think in the end he ultimately got a meal. (Of course, he was behind a brambling bush when he caught it, and was at too great a distance to photograph as anything other than a roughly canine-shaped blob.)
I have a bunch of new photography to share in the coming days, so stay tuned.