June 03, 2006
Over Memorial Day we packed up our fishing rods, threw in binoculars and a bird book and decided to head up Walden way to do a spot of fishing. We were lucky to have our birdwatching gear with us, because our long weekend of fishing turned out to be a superb weekend of birding.
I got to see some birds that I have never seen before. The variety of birds that we saw in a single day was amazing.
Fishing was not so good but the birding certainly made up for it.
Walden is a small depressed town that is trying valiantly to attract tourism to Northern Colorado. You can see signs of this in the town itself - art galleries (only 2), a coffee shop that offers lattes, and a fancy restaurant and hunting lodge kind of hotel with very impressive decor, but glacially slow service. Kevin and I used the town as a base for sit down bathroom use. Both garages in town have very clean restrooms. We camped both Saturday and Sunday nights at the Delaney Butte Reservoirs. While there were people about (it was a holiday weekend afterall) our fellow campers were quiet serious fishermen types.
Just outside Walden are the Walden reservoirs. We were lucky because during the time we were there these reservoirs were teeming with bird life, and there was a strong sustaining wind that seemed to keep the birds from flying off. I watched as a pelican tried to fly against the wind, but just hung there like some enormous white battleship in the sky.
Apart from our usual assortment of ducks (Cinnamon Teals, Mallards, Canadian Geese, Western Grebes, Pied Billed Grebes, Coots, Eared Grebes, Gadwells, Canvasbacks, and a pair of Lesser Scaups) there were some birds that I had never seen before: they were very active and they spun like whirling tops in the water. What could they be?
They turned out to be Wilson's Phalaropes.
We saw dozens of them, feeding in the shallows, bobbing up and down with the water, and spinning like tops in the water. We also saw avocets, and gulls as well as one black headed gull that we identified as a Franklin's Gull.
All around us hundreds of swallows (two kinds, Cliff and Barn Swallows) battled the high winds, often settling on the road to rest.
We videoed a Forster's Tern fishing in the waters, and saw a pair of snowy egrets feeding in one of the reservoirs while a farmer's bull wallowed in the shallows.
We then photographed this bird which I think is a Willet... I am not too good at sandpipers...
Up at the Delaney Buttes Reservoirs we saw Pelicans, and Western Grebes who seemed to have more luck catching fish than any of the fisherman.
In the evening of our second night there we had an excellent sighting of a Long Eared Owl sitting on a fence in the fading light. We awoke each morning to the sound of birds: I could especially hear the yellow headed black birds, and song sparrows.
We explored the surrounding area - it is strangely beautiful; wild rolling hills of sage brush, and neat farms with green meadows and contented cattle. Overhead turkey vultures soared riding the thermals. Harriers skimmed the rolling land, hunting. We came across a Greater Sage Grouse crossing the road. It was completely unafraid, and didn't seem to move off very quickly.
There were storms popping up and we did see some rain. Kevin made us drive like bats out of hell to get to Walden as he had calculated where the rainbow would appear. We got to our spot in time. I was in charge of the umbrella (to protect the camera from getting wet) and we spent some time charging through sage brush to get the right spot. Then Kevin said, "We should be getting a rainbow about now." He pointed to where he expected the rainbow to be. I was, I admit, quite skeptical. And then, there it was, a rainbow over the town of Walden, made (it seemed) especially for me.