Following a tip from a birder I met at Barr Lake, I arrived at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge the next morning. Within the refuge, I had the opportunity to walk the trails around Lake Mary and Lake Ladora. Lake Mary is the smaller of the two and the one I explored first.
As I followed the perimeter of the lake, my Merlin app picked up the song of a new bird I’ve never seen…the American Tree Sparrow. I readied my camera in the direction of the sound and when the moment was right, captured this photo.
A standout gull
At Lake Ladora, far down the trail, I could see a birder using a spotting scope to watch all of the gulls and other shorebirds. He told me today he was mostly seeing Ring-billed Gulls with the exception of one bird that was significantly darker on the backside than the others. He suspected it to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Comparing it in my photos to its neighbors and consulting the Merlin app, he appears to be correct!
Out of nowhere, the gulls all took flight at once and started frantically flying around. I looked for the source of the disturbance and found a Northern Harrier flying around amongst the gulls. Notice the white rump patch above its tail.
Further down the Ladora trail, another group of birders and I swapped birds we’ve spotted so far. They gave me a heads up about a really cool bird and I rushed off to hopefully find it.
The king of fishers 👑
Around the bend of the lake, I walked slowly and scanned the air for a specialized fish hunter. Then I saw it! A flash of black and white glided by and landed on a branch. Perched there, surveying the waters, was a Banded Kingfisher.
Not shortly after snapping these photos the kingfisher dove into the water, snagged a fish, and flew it to a new perch to eat it. It’s hard for me to tell, but I believe the kingfisher was female. It looks like there was a small amount of chestnut color near the wings on the belly that would indicate a female. Only the females of this species have chestnut belly band markings.
Back on the path close to my starting point, I spotted a handful of White-crowned Sparrows busy in bushes.
With Fall migration wrapping up, and with my unfamiliarity of the area, I didn’t see a large number of different species at the refuge, but what I did see was exciting to me. I’m sure visiting in the Spring or with a local birder group will bring many more species. I hope to return in the future to see what discoveries await.