Into Raptor Country

Stepping outside yesterday morning, I was greeted by a snowy landscape, bright sunshine and, to my good fortune, the sight of a golden eagle soaring above our Littleton farm.  Motivated by that encounter, I decided to visit a large swath of raptor country south of Chatfield State Park.

Bordered by the Highline Canal to its north and by the convergence of Sharptail Ridge and the Front Range foothills to the south, that landscape of horse farms, cattle ranches, rural homesteads and massive prairie dog towns is always a good area to observe raptors; cottonwood groves and powerline towers offer perch sites for the hunters.  Titan Road crosses this open area from east to west while Roxborough Park Road (mostly unpaved) runs north to south near the eastern ridge and Rampart Range Road passes suburban developments along the foothills.  Those wanting to hike in the area can use the Highline Canal Trail (just south of Chatfield State Park via Roxborough Park Road) or the trails of the Sharptail Ridge Open Space (off the southern portion of Roxborough Park Road).

Winter visitors to this area may encounter golden and bald eagles, American kestrels, merlins, prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, ferruginous hawks, northern harriers, Cooper's hawks and sharp-shinned hawks; those visiting at dawn or dusk may also observe great horned owls.  During the warmer months, Swainson's hawks and burrowing owls also inhabit the area.  On my visit yesterday, raptor sightings were limited to kestrels, red-tailed hawks and a lone rough-legged hawk but I also encountered a large number of magpies, western meadowlarks and American goldfinches.