During the colder months, when a large number of waterfowl gather in the South Platte Valley, a spectacle develops as dusk envelops the Front Range. In the darkening sky, flocks of wintering ducks begin to appear, streaming above our Littleton farm.
After spending the day feeding on the river and its adjacent wetlands, they are heading for several lakes and reservoirs to our northwest; there they can safely spend the night, protected from fox and coyotes that prowl the shores. Some are easy to identify in the gathering dusk; tight, rapid flocks of green-winged teal and squadrons of large, torpedo-shaped common mergansers are perhaps easiest to pick out. But identification is only important for the compulsive birder; the sight of the numerous flocks, joined by noisy V's of Canada geese is inspiring enough for most of us.
Indeed, though our property is surrounded by suburban neighborhoods, the waves of waterfowl offer reassurance that wildness thrives along the urban corridor, just as it did long before humans settled in the Valley. Hopefully, this evening spectacle will unfold for many generations to come.