Backyard Birds - February-March 2023 Report
As February wraps up and March begins in earnest, the large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings are thinning out while Robins come out en masse.
John Rawinski reminds us that the Monte Vista holds its crane festival March 10-12 — an event everyone should enjoy. “Recent trips to the Refuge have shown about 5 to 10K cranes with a few thousand geese as well. You can see them at the Monte Refuge but as usual, they are spread out across the Valley. Ducks such as Pintail, Am Wigeon, Ring-necked, Redhead, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye are also present in the flocks. Red-winged Blackbirds are starting to sing from the cattail heads.”
On Feb. 22, Jared del Rosso reported “Three Mountain Bluebirds — one male I’d call sky blue, but today’s sky looks more Ring-billed Gull to me — near Sturm Hall at the University of Denver this afternoon. A lovely surprise to encounter them crossing Asbury Ave over a crosswalk that’s typically filled with students.”
Urling and I have seen occasional bluebirds along Castlewood Canyon Road on Feb. 4 and March 3. The blustery weather does not encourage them.
Jared also said, “During the winter, my home can get massive flyovers of gulls at dawn and dusk. In the a.m., they move toward the eastern reservoirs. In the p.m., they come back west, usually in more concentrated flocks — though admittedly, I’m not as often staring at the sky during the cold winter sunrises as I am at sunset.
“I haven’t rigorously birded these flocks, but I’ve picked out a few Herring and California Gulls in the past. Most of the birds are Ring-billed Gulls, of course. One day, I’ll get better at this — or more lucky — and pick out a Lesser Black-backed Gull or a Glaucous. Maybe.”
On Feb. 18, he “watched a pair of Common Ravens at Streets of South Glenn in Centennial chase a Red-tailed Hawk away from the mall. The hawk had perched along the edge of the now-empty Macy’s, where the ravens have previously nested. The ravens harassed the hawk from a perch above him. One raven croaked at the Red-tail; the other banged their bill against the ledge above the hawk — a surprising strategy, at least to me.
”Eventually, the hawk flew off and the Ravens gave chase. The Ravens returned, perched where the hawk had been, croaked, and generally seemed unsettled. The Red-tail was still in their view, perhaps explaining their unease.”
Bill Kunz summed up winter at Arvada’s Majestic View Nature Center: “It’s been relatively slow birding at the Nature Center since late December’s cold and snow set in which I think is probably more a function of not getting outside as often rather than a lack of birds. But there have been some interesting sightings in January to early February. We’ve seen Spotted Towhees, Common Bushtits, Townsend’s Solitaire, a Ferruginous Hawk, more Robins than anyone could ever hope to count, and several flocks of Cedar Waxwings. These were the first waxwings seen in several years here.”
People continue to see a few Bohemian Waxwings, though lately, none have reported the big flocks of early winter.
He also said, “At my west Arvada home Tree Sparrows have moved in for the winter — I regularly have a flock in my yard throughout most of the day. And robins are everywhere. It’s not unusual to see two or three dozen at a time. I back up to open grassland so hunting hawks and kestrels are common, as are wintering meadowlarks.”
Amy Law says, “The cold and snow have been driving birds to the feeders this winter. We’ve seen the usual suspects up on Green Mountain — House Finches, Mourning and occasional Collared-Doves, Juncos, Spotted Towhees, robins, magpies. We’ve even had some Cedar Waxwings come by. Even more unusual this winter is that we’ve had a small flock of Cassin’s Finches come by when it is really cold and snowy, which is to say they have visited a fair amount.”
She continued, “My husband and I saw two Flickers today that have us confused. It looked like two males courting. Not judging if that was what was going on, it just seems unusual. But except twice when the more dominant bird hopped up and flew at the other, nothing indicated aggression. Even when they flew at each other, the bird on the receiving end wasn’t particularly intimidated. These two birds were clearly interacting and did so for at least 10 minutes as we looked on. We didn’t see any females around at all. If it wasn’t courtship, and it wasn’t territorial, what was it?” (I have no answer.)
David Gulbenkian wrote that “Starting around nine on Feb. 17, I began seeing extraordinary Robin activity outside my study window. My honeysuckle berries were all gone, and there were only a couple of dried pears hanging on to my medium-sized pear trees, so I was puzzled why so many were hanging around. When the number perched just in one tree reached 40, I decided to go out. I stepped out the door on the other side of the house to find the walk heavily littered with droppings. Not the usual white splotch, but dark brown and black stuff. What were they eating?
The great attraction turned out to be a large juniper next door. A shoveled walk alongside it and a large patch of snow-free grass were packed with robins pecking the ground, and there were another 20 or 30 birds in the trees. I wondered what had caused the juniper berries to drop, but my neighbor affirmed that it was the mass of birds in the tree that had knocked so many of the berries down. (The walk had been clear last night.) In addition to the birds actively feeding, there were robins in trees in all directions — we estimated 200-300 hundred robins.
It was thrilling to witness, but not having had any luck with Bohemian Waxwings yet, I was feeling bad that so large a flock didn’t have at least a few. Then I saw them. They were all in the very top of the juniper, none on the ground. Only about a dozen or fewer, but brilliantly lit up. Great morning! Two-and-a-half hours later the feeding is still going on for some 100 robins. Only a couple of Bohemians left, but as a bonus, I saw one Cedar Waxwing too.