robin_winter.jpgThis year’s Audobon Christmas Bird Count is underway, and this past Saturday, I joined a fellow birding friend at Monument Valley Park to count all of the birds we could find. Monument Valley Park is pretty darn big, but we covered all of it over the course of about three hours. It was sunny and 35 degrees out when we started and over 50 degrees when we finished. This was much more pleasant than the last time I participated, and it only got to 18 degrees. I had no idea that my feet could ever get that cold!

As a large urban park with several different environments, Monument Valley Park offers interesting birding. The more developed area offers a large flock of rock doves (a.k.a. pigeons), the small duck pond hosts over 150 Canada geese, and the creek that runs through the entire length of the park often has many mallards and American wigeons dabbling in it and sleeping on the sand bars. The less developed northern portion of the park often treats birders to hawks, tree sparrows, and a variety of other (sometimes shier) birds.

Being such a nice day, lots of people were out enjoying the park. Often they would glance at our binoculars and smile. A few even offered a bit of help – “We just saw a group of birds over there!” One couple walking their friendly corgi enjoyed trying to spot the brown tree creeper that we saw disappear around to the back side of a tree trunk.

In addition to the tree creeper, other highlights included three red-tailed hawks (sighted separately), one of which came in to observe the large pigeon flock on a sandbar. An American crow showed up quickly and started harassing the hawk until it flew off, making its screaming cry as it crossed over the Cache la Poudre Street bridge. (I have a feeling it probably returned later to continue checking out the all-you-can eat pigeon buffet.) A beautiful kestrel (which I initially thought, from afar, was an American robin) waited patiently in a cottonwood tree for us to get closer and positively identify him. Our most challenging identification was a flock of bushtits that flew past us, going from shrub to shrub very quickly.

Overall, we saw 19 different species. We were surprised to only count six American robins and only one(!) black-capped chickadee, birds that often have large numbers in the park in winter. But that’s part of what makes the Christmas Bird Count fun, it’s never the same from year to year.

My friend Leslie did the count with a group in the Palmer Park area, and you can read about her experience (and see her marvelous photos) here:

And the local paper did an article on another group who did the count in Bear Creek Park (and saw nearly three dozen species):