We were out at the State Park yesterday, which meant shelling out $7 for a ticket for the car (it was too cold and too far to be a pleasant bike ride, realistically, although we have done it before). The ticket lasts until noon the next day so this morning we decided we’d better head out again and get the full value from it (and yes we have been living in Scotland for five years and your point is?)
There are a number of different entrances to the park, and we were heading past one when we spotted a large number of birds circling up above a small lake. They turned out to be gulls – but as we slowed down to have a look, we realised that what had disturbed them was a bald eagle. We needed no more encouragement to stop and park and take a closer look.
We only saw the eagle again once, but we did spend a lovely morning pottering around doing some proper birdwatching, something we’ve been shamefully neglectful of recently. Not just looking for eagles – anyone can appreciate an eagle – but spending ages trying to identify a nondescript sparrow (American sparrows are an absolute bugger – there’s hundreds of them and not only do all the species look pretty similar to each other, but individual species vary widely in appearance). In the end we decided it must either be a new bird to science or a Song Sparrow on the grounds that it was the closest and the bird book not-very-helpfully said there were 30 different races ‘not all shown here’. It’s sometimes the least-spectacular birds that make for the most satisfying experiences, although it doesn’t always feel that way as you page through the book trying to match up description, picture, distribution maps, and actual bird which always manages to show you every feature except the crucial eye-ring, wing bar, tail notch or chest patch that will definitively distinguish it from 13 other similar-looking species. It helped that, while still cold, it was gloriously sunny and still and, apart from the fishermen,* almost deserted so the little birds mostly stuck around, although the ducks were more flighty – sensibly, as they shoot ducks round these parts.
In short, a morning well spent (despite the distressing lack of donut shops on the ride home. In America. I know). And capped off by going for another walk in the afternoon and seeing a Great Horned Owl at close quarters, apparently just hanging out and enjoying basking in the sun.
I know exactly how it feels
* I believe that under Colorado State law that there must be a taciturn man in waders standing in the water every thirty feet along every suitable stretch of river. Certainly we’ve yet to find one where there isn’t.