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

Birding Chatfield

April 25th, 2015 · No Comments

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Chatfield State Park is more than 40 miles south of where I live in Boulder, Colorado. To get there at sunrise on a spring morning meant getting up before 4 a.m., but the birding there this week made it worth the effort.

As my friend Sharon and I approached the park we searched for Burrowing Owls. We eventually saw four of them, but they were too far away for photographs. Much closer, however, were hundreds of Western Meadowlarks, a species of birds that is a delight both to human eyes and ears.

​A Western Meadowlark at Dawn

A Western Meadowlark at Dawn

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Two miles further we arrived at the park where a road circles a large reservoir has dammed the South Platte River since 1976 to stop the river from flooding Denver as it had in 1933, 1935, 1942, and 1965. We hadn’t been to the park since last December when we looked for and found a Yellow-billed Loon — a rare visitor to Colorado — on the reservoir.

This time, however, we explored the area upstream, where the South Platte still flows freely. An easy trail parallels the river for about two miles on the west side. But we wanted the morning sun to be at our backs, so we chose instead to take the rougher social trails to the east of the river. This turned out to be a good choice with many birds and no other people.

​A Spotted Towhee Sings

A Spotted Towhee Sings

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Not until we arrived back at the trailhead, however, was I able to get really close to one of the birds. This little guy was so busy defending its new territory that it didn’t mind me as I circled as close as 15 feet from the small tree that he had staked out.

A Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler Let Me Get Close

A Say's Phoebe Let Me Get Close

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The day was already a success. But we stopped at the park office to pick up maps and brochures. While we were there anyway, I asked the rangers what interesting birds that people had recently spotted. One of the rangers told us about a brood of four Great Horned Owlets and how to get there.

Half of the Brood Poses for a Photograph

Half of the Brood Poses for a Photograph

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All four of the owlets are reportedly in their nest in this dead cottonwood tree. Maybe one of the reasons why they are still staying at their childhood home is because of its good ventilation.


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