Waterfowl Exodus in the Valley

It was partly cloudy and pleasantly mild down at South Platte Park this morning but strong southerly winds raked the valley for the third straight day.  Waterfowl numbers had declined dramatically, suggesting that migrants may have taken advantage of strong tail winds and headed north.

On the positive side, buffleheads and common goldeneyes were still present in significant numbers and the male goldeneyes were performing their unique courtship displays.  Other sightings of note included an immature bald eagle, two red-tailed hawks, two kestrels and a lone male greater scaup.  The strong winds kept most of the songbirds in the shrubs and thickets, making them less conspicuous; indeed, I identified the song sparrows and a spotted towhee by their voices alone.

Veteran birders know that strong winds hamper birdwatching more than any other weather condition (with the possible exception of heavy rain).  It is certainly disappointing to head out on a warm, sunny morning, only to discover that a steady or gusty wind is keeping the birds in their secluded haunts.  Today, it may have also encouraged many of our wintering waterfowl to depart for their northern breeding grounds.