Granted a few mild days between potent winter storms, I headed down to South Platte Park this morning to see what winter had brought to the valley. The shallow ponds and wetlands were frozen but Eaglewatch Lake remained open, attracting many waterfowl that were forced south by the recent Arctic front.
Canada geese have finally reached their typical winter population and the usual winter ducks are now all represented. Redheads have finally arrived and lesser scaup, hooded mergansers and ring-necked ducks are far more numerous than they were a week ago. We are still almost two weeks short of the winter solstice but the season of ice and snow has arrived with a vengeance, sending overnight lows near zero (F) before this brief thaw. Woodland songbirds seemed to appreciate the warm respite as well and were more conspicuous than on my recent visits to the Park; of note, a lone ruby-crowned kinglet joined the resident insectivores, seemingly unaffected by this week's frigid temperatures.
He'll soon get another chance to prove his stamina. The next winter storm, now dropping snow across the Intermountain West and Northern Plains, will sweep Arctic air down along the Front Range within a few days. While many assumed that our exceptionally warm autumn signaled a mild winter as well, nature seems to have other plans.