Backyard Birds – Lions and Birds and Bears, Oh My!

Backyard Birds - Lions and Birds and Bears, Oh My!

July’s edition of Backyard Birds brings us some of the usual suspects plus a few unexpected sightings.

Big Critters

Jill and Mark Holden reported an incident on June 13. “We set off down Roxborough Park trail and as we got to the Sundance Ranch house, I looked at the tree line across the field and noticed that something appeared to be looking back at us. I credited my imagination turning something like some fallen branches and shadows into something not really there. Or maybe a black-color-phase red fox staring at us.

“I did see a pair of eyes looking back at me through my binoculars, but instead of the black fox I found a bear looking at us.  Its size was hard to judge, but think it was a moderate-sized adult.  It seemed to decide that we weren’t of much interest and went back to the foraging that it must have been doing before stopping to look at us. We started to continue down the road for a few steps, but the bear, while not coming any nearer, continued in the same direction.  We decided that it was a good time to turn back instead. It was very fun to get to see it, but there was no point in pressing our luck.”

Then on June 29, their house sitter, Bob Andrews, reported “an amazing event. At 3:45 PM, our dog Dipper suddenly went rushing out of the house and ran up to the open area just west of the house, looking intently but not barking. I followed to see what was going on. There was a lot of noise in that area from crows and magpies. I figured there was probably a Cooper’s Hawk or Great Horned Owl perched somewhere in the trees, but I could not see anything.

“Then I heard a high-pitched squeal coming from underneath the oaks. Suddenly, a tiny fawn (only a bit bigger than Dipper and heavily spotted) ran out of the oaks, with a Mountain Lion right behind it. Then the fawn ran back into the oaks, with the lion behind it. I could hear them crashing through the vegetation. Shortly thereafter, everything fell silent, and the crows and magpies dispersed. I don’t know the outcome of the hunt. Dipper never barked through the whole episode.”

black bear walking on grass
Black Bear | photo by Hugh Kingery


Amy Law-Ziegler emailed July 23, “I heard a hawk screaming in front of our house on Green Mountain the other night. When I looked out, I saw that a Sharp-Shinned [?] hawk had caught a baby cottontail rabbit. We have been over-run by cottontails the last few years, possibly because the local coyotes have had a bad infestation of mange that has killed off a lot of them. And we have had far fewer songbirds this year, a result of the die-off in New Mexico. These two factors may have prompted the sharpie to try its talon at catching a baby bunny.

“But when a family walking down the sidewalk startled the hawk off its prey, the bunny bounced up and scampered back under our blue spruce, albeit with a nasty gash on the side of its head.”

Barbara Faheyemailed on June 29, “We have a family of Eastern Screech-Owls living in our yard in Boulder. It’s been great fun watching the fuzzy guys stretching their wings and taking their first flights. We took a photo and video  4 ft from our kitchen sink! I got to watch him/her while doing the dishes tonight.”

Sharp-shinned Hawk standing on the ground with wings slightly spread
Sharp-shinned Hawk | photo by Amy Law-Ziegler
Eastern Screech Owl in leafy tree
Eastern Screech Owl | photo by Barbara Fahey


John Ealy reported the first Rufous Hummingbird of the season at his Roxborough Park home, on July 3. “It came to our feeder, 7:45 pm. Earlier, a juvenile black-headed grosbeak also paid a visit.”

Hugh’s dental hygienist, Kathy Blea keeps two hummingbird feeders filled. In mid-July a Rufous hummingbird visited her for a week or more, with a preference for one of the two feeders. Early one morning, she took in the preferred feeder to fill it. During that time, she saw her Rufous arrive and search for the feeder. When he couldn’t find it, he came to her kitchen window and hovered, as if demanding that she hurry up and get that thing out there. Which she did.

Rufous Hummingbird in flight
Rufous Hummingbird | photo by Dick Vogel

Mountain birds on the plains

On the evening of June 18, Kevin Corwin watched “a male Wilson’s Warbler take center stage at the top of an aspen in my little townhouse yard in west Centennial.”

Jared del Rosso, on July 23, “while biking the High Line Canal Trail in Greenwood Village, I heard at least two, possibly three Cordilleran Flycatchers.” This species typically breeds in the montane area, where it finds cliffs on which to put its nest.

Dave Leatherman saw on Cobirds several reports of Cordillerans in July—on the plains. All of them gave the “characteristic territorial ‘squeek-itt!’ call.” He then commented, “Over the past 45 years of visiting Fort Collins’ Grandview Cemetery and also spending a lot of time on the eastern plains at places like the Pawnee Grasslands and Lamar, the occasional and seemingly increasing presence of foothills/lower mountain species at low elevation has intrigued me. I have mostly attributed this to the maturation of the ‘urban forest,’ especially Colorado Blue Spruce but certainly other conifers and many deciduous trees, as well.”

Cordilleran Flycatcher perched on a branch
Cordilleran Flycatcher | photo by Jeanette Littlejohn

Your contributions write this column. Thanks to all who send in these intriguing reports. Send a note or post card to P.O. Box 584, Franktown 80116, or Email Hugh Kingery at