Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Taste of Autumn at South Platte Park

1. Pond-kab View of the Rockies across one of the ponds at the South Platte Park

It is the day after the wedding and we are packing for home. A cold northwest winds is blowing over the parking lot as we load our car. Clouds hang low and heavy, like the downy gray underside of a Canada Goose. The air smells like autumn with a hint of winter in its wings.

2. birds-kabWe meet the newlyweds at the park. Since we arrive first, I start counting birds on the way in. Gus stops the car alongside the road so I can count and identify the birds. Though I brought my compact binoculars along to the wedding yesterday, I resisted the urge to pull them out until the ceremony was over and most of the people had left. I didn’t see anything then. Now I am hoping to make up for that! With a view of some starlings, a magpie and a red-tailed hawk I am thinking this will be a promising walk!

3. rockies-kab When you live in a desert water starts to seem almost magical and I love the look of these still blue pools reflecting the world. I can see a large flock of gulls at the far end but they are too far for me to identify. A lone gull that is closer turns out to be a ring-billed gull, but I can only guess at the others. A few mallards and shovelers float below me paddling around in the silver wet stuff that is such a large part of their world.

4. flicker-kab When Renee and Randy finally arrive we set off on a trail around a different pond. High overhead in a cottonwood tree a northern flicker lands amidst dried autumn leaves. There is grass here and tall trees and I am loving this golden autumn feel to the day.

5. kingfisher-kab As we start down the trail a kingfisher flies in scolding with its rattling call. It lands on a branch over the pond looking intently around him.

6. gadwall-kab In the water below Gadwall are floating lazily on this cool autumn day.


7. gadwall-kab Gray skies and autumn bronze are reflected in the rippling water.


8. geese-kab Overhead a small flock of Canada Geese fly honking their wild call.


9. squirrel-kab In a tall tree above a tangle of bushes and vines a gray squirrel nibbles away at a seed. It seems to eat in a hurry as if it cannot bulk up fast enough for the coming winter. Most of the bushes and trees are now bare, but a few still retain the colors of autumn.

10. trail-kab I listen to the sound of leaves crunch as I wander down the woodland path. I know that I am here, now in this place, but my mind is wandering other paths  from previous years and in other states. Autumn is such a rich time, full of promise, full of the bounty of the harvest, yet holding out the picture of the coming winter, of death and dormancy and the promise of rebirth. Why is it that I am so drawn to this season of mixed emotions? There is a dichotomy of peace and drama at this time of year. Autumn is an ambivalent season it seems.

11. pond-kabI wonder what the ducks think as they float on this watercolor lake. Do they see it as I do? Do they realize the colors they are floating in? Water is safety for them. Do they also see its beauty? I think they do know that water is LIFE.

12. pelicans-kab I glance overhead as a string of pelicans flies by like musical notes in the sky.

Can I sing the song of the pelicans too?

13. cottonwoods-kab My daughter walks ahead of me, lingering while I stop to observe birds, to observe nature. I am as aware of her as she is of me. I remember all the hikes we have done together and I am thankful that she loves to be outside as much as I do. It is hard to live so far away from her.

14. lake-kab It seems that all of Colorado is gold and gray with bits of blue.


15. autumn dreams-kab My thoughts and emotions dissolve like ripples in the water.


16. water's edge-kab This is my kind of Rocky Mountain High!


17. chickadee-kab A Black-capped chickadee reminds of New England even as I stand on ground that is a mile high in Colorado.


18. grebe-kab Everywhere I look I see another picture.


19. Lake-kab Autumn Lake


20. path-kab Autumn Path


21. dream grebe-kab Clark’s Grebe


22. cormorant-kab A cormorant flies by


23. buffleheads-kab Buffleheads, Coots, and Gadwall


24. Northern shrike-kab Northern Shrike


25. autumn glory-kab Autumn Dreams

It is 1.7 miles around the lake and it takes us two hours to do it. Everyone was patient with me as I dawdled and looked and counted and soaked in a season’s worth of Autumn colors. We all hugged each other in the parking lot and said our good-byes. Then Gus and I got in the car and headed south.

Birds seen at South Platte Park in Littleton, CO on November 4, 2012:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Gadwall
  3. Mallard
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. Bufflehead
  6. Hooded merganser
  7. Green-winged Teal
  8. American Widgeon
  9. American White Pelican
  10. Great Blue Heron
  11. American Coot
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Pied-billed grebe
  14. Western grebe
  15. Clark’s Grebe
  16. Ring-billed Gull
  17. Red-tailed Hawk
  18. Rock Pigeon
  19. American Crow
  20. Black-billed magpie
  21. Belted Kingfisher
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. Black-capped chickadee
  24. European Starling
  25. Northern Shrike
  26. Tree Sparrow
  27. White-crowned Sparrow
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. Common Grackle
  30. Red-winged Blackbird
  31. House Finch


26. Renee-kab











27. Randy-kab 











28. widget-kab Widget



  1. Looks like a beautiful autumn day! love the kingfisher and shrike photos!

    1. Kathryn, it was great and the Shrike was a life bird for me!

  2. This was a beautiful Kathie, both your photos and your musings. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness in your posts. I too wonder to what extent the birds realize the natural beauty around them versus the necessities and instincts of survival.

    Northern Shrike huh!? Well done! That'd be a sweet lifer to pull, a little wedding gift/party favor for your troubles eh? :)

    Congratulations to the newly weds.
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    1. Laurence, I am so glad that you enjoy my musings. I think that most people who enjoy nature do their own brand of musing.

      The shrike was a very nice surprise. Though I suspect I have seen one in Idaho, Utah, and here in Colorado when I lived here before. I have never documented the time or place and certainly have never gotten a photo before, so it was very rewarding to add it to my Life List!

  3. I'm sure the birds appreciate their surroundings and have a different interpretation of "beauty." Which I am always in awe of how you see and share these natural places wherever you go.

    1. Gaelyn, thank you for these kind words. Nothing makes me happier than to know my writing has touched someone else!

  4. Kathie, your posts and writing are beautiful. I would like to think that the birds do love their beautiful surroundings. After it is their home. I enjoyed this post and the bird photos. I also love the cute Widget!

  5. Ahhh...autumn. My favorite time of year.

  6. Hi Kathie

    I loved the colours and reflections in this post, you captured the autumnal mood perfectly and the Clark's Grebe what a beautiful photo.


  7. So many beautiful pictures, your water reflection shots are wonderful. The shot of the grebe is awesome!

  8. What a beautiful rendition of an autumn day in South Platte Park! Makes it rewarding for us in managing the site!

  9. WOW!!! Love all your scenic shots. Really really beautiful. I can only imagine how exciting it was to see all those birds:) Autumn in Colorado is also a plus:)

  10. Katie, Goodness...I feel like you took me along on your trip. Thanks for sharing the love of nature.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.