May 112010

Wow, what a wonderful (long) weekend of wildlife!

Wildlife Drive

Not one but two Shrike, it must be Skrike Time

Friday we went for a drive, ostensibly looking for Golden Eagle. On the way out of the canyon we saw our herd of “canyon greeters” (the Coal Creek Canyon Elk herd) but also a less usual visitor, a shrike. We didn’t get close enough for an id, but it was a welcome visit. A few miles, a pair of coyote later, and we were stopped at the lookout point for eagle. To our surprise another shrike (likely a Loggerhead Shrike) came and posed on a fence post right next to us.

We saw more Elk, the obligatory Mule Deer herd (browsing the valley), and a Turkey Vulture recycling a Red Fox before we came upon the Golden Eagle sitting high on a power pylon. Today the bird was resting, preening; attempting the important work of maintaining the flight equipment.

Migrants Return

On Saturday both our local singers returned, almost as if they arrived back together. The house wren — our most energetic singer — was back from migration, and already singing from atop one of ‘his’ two bird boxes (allowing his lady choice of abode.) The green-tailed towhee — loud and glorious — was happy to pick a bush to sing from. Two of our most anticipated birds, back the same day … a wonderful event!

Barr Lake State Park

Sunday — a mother’s day treat — a trip to Barr Lake State Park. We arrived in time to catch the last available spots on the Eagle Express a naturalist guided open air ride to the eagles. We should have made reservations, but this day we were just very lucky. When you go to Barr Lake, book the ‘train’ … it is great for the young and old, and still fun for those in between.

On the ride out we saw a bull snake swimming across the canal, various orioles, and scads of crazed western kingbirds. Too cold (this year) for the carp to be splashing their mating rituals (and that is quite a sight), but the bald eagle were nesting, as were the swainson’s hawks. Perhaps the best aspect of the ride was the northern harrier that put on an amazing show by gliding feet above the reeds. A mule deer gave backdrop to the aerial display off by wandering gently past the harrier.

Barr Lake was alive with life, but perhaps the best part of the day were the many bull snakes.

Bull Snake Show

We came upon a pair of snakes right as the male was making his advances. He’d been patient and taken his time (or so we were told by other observers) but now was pressing his advantage. She recoiled, and puffed up her head (see her pushing out her cheeks) but instead of giving up he chose to strike. He hit his target precisely and grabbed her behind the neck, and now secure from her fangs he attempted his moves. We are not sure if he scored in the ensuing tussle but the two of them writhed and splashed in the waters of Barr Lake for almost a minute before separating & going in opposite directions.

He's making his advances

She doesn't seem interested. Note the puffed up head.

Not sure the outcome (in terms of mating) but he pushed his point. They tussled for a while (part of it underwater) then separated.

  • Weekend Cowgirl

    Wish I had more bullsnakes here and less rattlers! Great photos.

  • Jackie

    What a fascinating series of pics to a rarely observed happening. Very interesting!