Pretty much any bird I’ve never seen before is on my birding bucket list.
In other words, I’m not picky. And I never expected to cross this one off my pages-long list: bald eagle.
When I heard one such glorious creature had been spotted swooping overhead at Pikeview Reservoir, I was on the trail. I dropped off my fluffy white dog at the groomer (I’ve overworried on occasion that a hawk or eagle would consider my 20-pound, three-legged love muffin an acceptable lunch, and in such case, I would rip down my feeders and never look at a bird again), and headed to this body of water off Garden of the Gods Road and Mark Dabling Boulevard. I’d never considered this might be a good spot for bird watching, even though I’ve driven by who knows how many times. Some birder I am.
I cruised slowly down Mark Dabling, feeling more and more disheartened at the aspect of finding this baldy bird. So many trees. So many hidden places. So many people enjoying the warm and overcast Sunday afternoon. Would a bird be scared off by all the humans? Or would he have gotten bored and flown the coop to tastier, fishier shores?
There’s really no suspense to be had here, is there? I blew the ending right from the start, didn’t I? Well, anyway, I pulled into a dingy parking lot behind some mechanic and marijuana businesses to turn around and go home, looked up at a light pole, as I’m wont to do these days, and there he was. Regally perched, with his perfectly rounded beak in profile, gazing out over the reservoir. His body was all-black and his head looked bare, small and vaguely whitish, like that of a little old man whose follicles have given up, but whose nose has continued to grow.
I watched him until he got tired of my prying eyes and took flight to the west, only to circle around to the east and fly low to the surface of the reservoir. Gone fishing, as the adage goes. He came up empty-clawed, from what I could tell, and found a new perch in a tree on the opposite side of the water from me.
Naturally, I raced home to blast my big bird across the landscape of the social medias, and got some confirmation about my sighting from a bird photographer who also saw him doing some fishing at the reservoir the same day around sunset. I got a second confirmation from Linda Hodges, conservation chair for the Aiken Audubon Society, who said it takes about four years for a bald eagle to achieve a noggin that is full-on Santa Claus beard-white. A woman she knew had also reported seeing the young bald eagle at the reservoir. This made me wiggle in my chair. Confirmation is bliss. (Sorry, ignorance. I like you, too.)
So excited was I about finding a new body of water relatively near my home that I quizzed Hodges about other hot spot watering holes for bird life in the Pikes Peak region.
And she came through, bird lover that she is, with plenty I’d either not heard of or had forgotten about.
“We have so few water spots in El Paso County that birds flock to the big ones they can see from the sky,” she says.
Here’s hoping you can cross some birds off your bucket list this spring, too.
• Big Johnson Reservoir: South of the old Colorado Springs Airport in Security-Widefield. It’s about half-full with water from Fountain Creek after being dredged by the irrigation company that owns it. Hodges has seen Northern shovelers, ruddy ducks and lots of grebes here, including Western grebes, eared grebes and horned grebes.
• Prospect Lake in Memorial Park: When I posted my bald eagle sighting, a friend said he’d also seen one here recently. This year, Hodges saw a neotropic cormorant (“He was drab, but I’d never seen one before so it was cool”). You might also catch an osprey fishing or an American white pelican.
• Sinton Pond Open Space: North of Fillmore and running alongside Sinton Road, this body of water claims 189 species on eBird, while Pikeview has 123. Guess where I’m headed next? Hodges says you’ll get water birds such as hooded merganser, canvasback and Canada goose. Looks like others have seen yellow-rumped warbler, Say’s phoebe and Western bluebird.
• DoubleTree by Hilton hotel pond: Who’d have thought about bird watching at the hotel on East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, near Cinemark Tinseltown USA and XD? Not me. According to eBird, a lucky birder saw a bald eagle here on May 1.
• Fountain Creek Regional Park, near Fountain Creek Nature Center: This gem to the south of the Springs is one of my favorite spots in all the region. You could spend hours walking the trails, eyes agog as you search for hidden flighty treasures, such as barn owl (I saw one here last summer), black-crowned night heron, chipping sparrow and double-crested cormorant.
• Sondermann Park: This stretch of nature hidden near downtown offers a quiet, uncrowded space to search for a variety of birds, including Cooper’s hawk, Bullock’s oriole, Western tanager and turkey vulture.
• Clear Spring Ranch: Hardly anybody visits this spot south of Fountain, says Hodges. There’s a wide trail you can walk along and search for red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, spotted towhee, yellow-headed blackbird and great horned owl.
• Mallard Pond: This pond, in Falcon near U.S. 24 and East Woodmen Road, can also get some great birds, says Hodges.
• Hale Reservoir in Cross Creek Regional Park: This little body of water in Fountain is an eBird Hotspot, meaning your chances of seeing winged creatures is excellent. Latest sightings include hooded merganser, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, great blue heron and belted kingfisher.
Contact the writer: 636-0270