Well, if I were to say that the best bird on the CFO’s late fall trip to eastern Colorado on November 8th was Red-winged Blackbird what would you think? Probably, glad I missed that one.
You might be wrong. 15 birders joined CFO Vice President, Christian Nunes, and President Bill Kaempfer on this trip east from Denver on I-70 to Hale and than back on US 36. Frankly, things were slow. Perhaps birds that had been around enjoying our lingering warm fall took off in an innate avian anticipation of this upcoming cold slam that has just arrived. Maybe trips out that just aren't that exciting anymore since both Bonny Reservoir and Flagler Reservoir are not reservoirs any more. Or it might have been the presence of hunters just where we wanted to get out of the cars and explore. In any event we just didn't see all that many species. There were a few goodies here and there, albeit not seen by all: a Say’s Phoebe on the road around Limon, a White-throated Sparrow at Flagler SWA; a Rough-legged Hawk between Flagler and Seibert. Finally, at Seibert we all got terrific looks at a really dark, adult female taiga sub-species Merlin. It stared us down; sallied forth to pick off a grasshopper in mid-wing and gave icy, contemptuous looks to a couple of House Finches.
We failed to find any eponymous pipits on Pipit Hill near Hale, but we did have a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers at the old Foster Grove campground at Bonny. Then the real excitement began. As we crested a hill on Yuma County Road CC just south of YCR 3 we saw a Prairie Falcon zooming around. Over the next hill we found out why—Red-winged Blackbirds in a massive flock. The front car radioed out—“Redwings” and Christian in the rear car cutely asked, “Which side of the road?” It was a massive throng that alternated between settling on the ground and nervously jumping into the air in an elastic cloud of silvery wings. The Prairie Falcon was the reason why as we saw it slice through the flock at one point, but fail in picking off the one bird it singled out. I can almost feel that poor bird’s adrenalin. How many? Well here are my thoughts—the flock on the ground was about the size of a quarter of a football field. That is ¼ of 100X50X9 or 45,000 square feet. I would say that there were at least one bird per square foot, maybe 2, that puts the flock as between 12,000 and 25,000.
You should have been there.