Barr Lake State Park is located just NE of Denver (Adams Co.) and only 30 minutes away. The 2700+ acre lake has an 8.8 mile trail that circles the lake. Cottonwood and Willows line the banks and offer riparian habitat for migrant birds like warblers and nesting habitat for locals like Northern Flicker and Great Horned Owl. The park boasts a bird list of 300+ species.
I arrived shortly before. A dense fog blanketed the area, with visibility less than ¼ mi. All I could see of the lake was the water below the trees lining the shoreline. But high winds were expected this afternoon, so I knew the fog wouldn’t last. In the meantime I enjoyed a half-dozen White-crowned Sparrows sharing the parking lot w/ Western Meadowlarks, European Starlings, several Northern Flickers (Red-shafted), and Common Grackles.
As the fog began to lift the lake came into view. American Coot were plentiful along the shoreline, but farther out in the lake small rafts of Northern Shovelers and Mallard came into view. I then saw the first Western Grebes of the trip. First, a couple of birds, then a whole raft of 20 birds quietly floating out in the middle of the lake. They would soon be joined by several American White Pelicans that flew in a bit later.
As I walked past a small cattail patch next to shore I heard the distinctive blare of a Yellow-headed Blackbird! The bird appeared in the trees over the small marsh and was close enough to photograph and digiscope. As I photographed the male I noticed that it not only stretched its neck as it called, but also twisted it. This had me wondering if it is necessary for making the distinctive noise. ??? They also have the cutest little yellow vents (or butt holes :))
As I continued along the shoreline trail I ran into another photographer who informed me of a nesting Great Horned Owl next to the bird blind up the trail. Sure enough, I was able to see mom on the nest.
A House Wren was singing near a fallen Cottonwood that had been cut up, and perched in the open long enough for some nice portrait shots just a few feet away.
Several Black-billed Magpies were singing in the trees, but never close enough to photograph. I consoled myself when a Bald Eagle flew toward me and directly overhead as it headed out over the lake.
After about 2 miles around the lake I decided to turn back toward the car. I watched an American Kestrel chase a Cooper’s Hawk away from a possible nest site, but did not return after chasing it away. The Yellow-headed Blackbird made another appearance, this time just a few feet overhead. I managed even to get a pic or two in flight.
The Western Grebes never came close enough to shore for decent images, so I settled for short videos at full zoom on the scope (60X). But, a few birds did drift close enough to attempt to digiscope some stills.
Just before returning to the car I stopped to photograph a Swainson’s Hawk as it soared over the parking lot.