When I joined eBird and started filing reports from South Platte Park (the section near C-470), I assumed that black-billed magpies would be among my most commonly sighted species. After all, these gregarious and noisy birds are abundant along the Colorado Front Range and often visit our Littleton farm, a couple miles north of the Park.
To my surprise, having filed at least a dozen reports since early April, I have yet to encounter a magpie on my two mile walks. While I saw 1800 violet-green swallows one day and 300 yellow-rumped warblers on another, not a single magpie has crossed my path. Ironically, I usually see a half dozen or more on my journey to and from the Park and a few are often hanging around the Park entrance; yet, they seem to avoid my count area, at least while I am present.
On this cool, cloudy morning I saw 30 species, including a bald eagle, an osprey, more than 20 cormorants, a black-crowned night heron and three snowy egrets. Though I kept hoping that a black-billed magpie would make an appearance, none were observed. Such is the fickle nature of birding; we often encounter uncommon residents or visitors without spotting their more abundant neighbors. On the other hand, after writing this post, I'll probably see dozens of magpies on my next visit to South Platte Park.