Before the Storm

With a winter storm bearing down on the Front Range, I headed to South Platte Park before conditions worsened.  Though only scattered flurries had developed, the air was frigid, a low gray overcast blocked the intense Colorado sun and a light, northeast breeze intensified the chill.  Most of the ponds were frozen but the South Platte River and Redtail Lake (which connects with the river) remained open.

All of the usual winter ducks were present (with the exception of redheads); they were joined by a large number of Canada geese, two stoic great blue herons and a lone, juvenile double-crested cormorant.  Two red-tailed hawks (one a Harlan's hawk) surveyed the bleak landscape and a noisy flock of black-billed magpies moved across the refuge.  Other sightings were limited to a few ring-billed gulls and common winter songbirds: American robins, black-capped chickadees, northern flickers and song sparrows.

The storm should arrive by this afternoon and is expected to intensify overnight; about six inches of snow is currently anticipated though sub-zero temperatures will likely be more problematic.  Fortunately, the storm system will move rapidly to the east and warm sunshine should return to the South Platte Valley within a few days.