The rains finally came to an end yesterday and it seemed a good time for a springtime road trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Kevin and I had high hopes of a long day photographing great blue herons and snowy egrets. We got an early start but it was burning daylight by the time we arrived at about 8:30.
An Unpleasant Surprise
As we drove past the first set of lakes it quickly became apparent that things are different in the refuge this year. The only birds on the lake on our first pass were Canada geese. The water was high and the little concrete and rebar island where the egrets and cormorants perch was either gone or completely underwater. The lower lake was also quite high and completely devoid of the usual great blue heron and cormorants. There were a few cormorants perched in a tree some distance away, but too far for a good picture.
There were rumors of burrowing owls out with the prairie dogs so we took the Wildlife Loop with the hope of spotting them. We found plenty of prairie dogs, but no owls. However things started looking up on the west side when we spotted a couple of mud holes that we had never seen before. It appeared there might be some birds gathering in the shallow water that had recently collected from all the spring storms.
So it seems that the wading birds including herons and egrets prefer the shallow water of rain runoff to deep water in the lake. We found a pretty good sized bunch of them foraging for food in the runoff water. Oddly it seemed they were actually finding fish where there should be no fish.
It will probably be another month or so before the runoff melts and the birds return to the lake. So we won’t be going back there until probably August when the extra ponds dry up. the day wasn’t a complete waste though, we got a few pictures. And I also got to drop my winter film off at the camera store, so in a week or so I’ll get to see the results from my old film cameras. Well anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures!
Steven W. Krull
Steve Krull has been photographing and writing of the diverse landscape and wildlife found in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for over two decades. More of his work can be found on his website at swkrullimaging.com