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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

August 19th, 2014 · No Comments

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The Denver metro area in summer is not the most obvious place to go birding. But Sharon and I went there anyway this Sunday morning.

The Wheat Ridge Greenbelt is one of just a dozen birding hotspots in the metro area that Hugh Kingery includes in his valuable guide to more than 180 premier birding sites in Birding Colorado (Morris Book Publishing, 2007). And this greenbelt is one of the closest of all these places to the state capitol building in downtown Denver, just 8 miles from the city’s skyscrapers.

About 30,000 people live in the Wheat Ridge suburb of Denver. Birds live here too along the greenbelt formed by Clear Creek. The greenbelt runs for more than four miles through Wheat Ridge, and its heart is Prospect Park, which I have visited time and again.

The time of year is as unlikely for birding as this suburban place. Spring and fall migrations offer better prospects. May is the best month, when 131 species are commonly seen, according to Audubon Birds Pro, one of my iPad apps. September comes in second with 120 species, followed by June with 107 and August with 102.

But Prospect Park is a special place, an island of natural beauty formed by the creek, four lakes, and many big old trees. Likewise, this is a special summer. Both Sharon and I are staying the season here in part because it has been so beautiful: generally sunny, calm, and not too hot. Particularly when we hit the trail at sunrise, as we did this morning and do on most of our hikes, we have been blessed with cool weather.

We made a loop walk through the park. We passed Prospect Lake as we drove in and out, stopping to see Snowy Egrets both times. On our way in, the egrets flew off skittishly as soon as I slowly open the car door. We waited until we finished our hike in hopes of seeing them again on Prospect Lake.

Not until we hit the trail along Clear Creek did I capture an image of a bird. The creek was running as clear as its name promises. The flow was down from my last previous visit when it was rushing so fast that I saw no birds on it. But even this time few birds besides Mallards were on the creek. This was one exception:

​A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

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A few minutes later Sharon spotted this tiny raptor in a tree.

​The American Kestrel Is Our Smallest Raptor

The American Kestrel Is Our Smallest Raptor

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Walking further west, we approached Tabor Lake where Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons nest on a distant island. We saw a few there, but one cormorant was alone on the shore within range of me and my camera.

​A Double-crested Cormorant Has Such Blue Eyes!

A Double-crested Cormorant Has Such Blue Eyes!

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I spent quite some time creeping closer and closer to the cormorant to capture this image. Just after I turned around and walked back to Sharon, she motioned to me. A large raptor had landed in a tree just across Clear Creek.

​A Red-tailed Hawk Has Just Landed

A Red-tailed Hawk Has Just Landed

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Continuing our walk along the creek, we reached West Lake at the west end of the greenbelt. On a small island in that lake a Belted Kingfisher had just landed.

​Kingfishers Always Seem to Have a Bad Hair Day

Kingfishers Always Seem to Have a Bad Hair Day

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Only one Snowy Egret had stayed on Prospect Lake when we drove by as we left the park. But it was enough. Of course, we stopped, and this time we were more careful (or the egret was less careful) and we got the photos we wanted.

A Snowy Egret Reflected in Prospect Lake

A Snowy Egret Reflected in Prospect Lake

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I kept watching the egret until it left.

​The Snowy Egret Flies Across Prospect Lake

The Snowy Egret Flies Across Prospect Lake

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When the egret flew away, it was also time for us to leave.

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