A Winter Count in Spring Weather

Just four days after a major snowstorm pummeled the Colorado Front Range, I participated in a winter waterfowl count at South Platte Park this morning.  Unlike much of the past week, bright sunshine bathed the valley and a downsloping, southwest breeze bumped the temperature into the forties (F) before the count ended.

My group was assigned a section of the South Platte River; since most of the lakes and ponds are now partially or completely frozen, we hoped for large numbers of ducks on the free-flowing river.  Unfortunately, though Canada geese were abundant, the number and variety of ducks was below par; buffleheads, common goldeneyes and hooded mergansers were best represented, joined by smaller numbers of mallards and gadwalls.  Other sightings were limited to a Harlan's hawk and two belted kingfishers, in addition to common riparian songbirds.

Other areas of the Park proved to be more fruitful and our segment of the refuge was certainly disappointing.  On the other hand, it was an enjoyable walk through snowy terrain and the weather was downright inviting.  To be perfectly honest, I'll take a fair count under pleasant conditions over a productive count in frigid weather any day of the week!