Common Kestrel (female)
Western Bluebird (female)
Soon we were seeing a number of lizards of various species (I have attempted to identify these but am no lizard expert so any input would be much appreciated). The first, a lizard with a striped back, I believe to be a species of Whip-tailed Lizard, but I can find no reference to a lizard with this few stripes - the Plateau Striped Whiptail is said to have 6 or 7 pale stripes, not the 4 that this had (perhaps it was a juvenile PSW?). This is the only one I saw, so I give you the best of a bad bunch of photos.
Whip-tailed Lizard species
I am not particularly interested in plants, but do have a passing interest in cacti, so was pleased to find Echinocereus Triglochidiatus.
There were a couple of Western Scrub Jays seen (but not photographed), and several LBJs (little brown jobs) which seemed to be hiding from the sun in dense cover. With a total lack of experience of American birds, the LBJs were as good as impossible for me to identify.
I attempted to photograph a hawk (unidentified) that passed by at some distance but my camera had gone faulty just before the holiday, with insufficient time to get it repaired, and so had a tendency for the lens to electrically uncouple itself from the body, thus rendering autofocus and light metering non-functioning. The temporary solution was to give the lens a gentle twist until it connected again, but grabbed shots were virtually impossible to achieve for the whole of the holiday.About half-way along the trail a Chipmunk (possibly Cliff Chipmunk) was seen scampering along the edge of a rock ledge, and then stopping under a bush.
Chipmunk (possibly Cliff Chipmunk)
At one point my wife was (unusually) just ahead of me, and suddenly put up a Hummingbird which hovered noisily for a split second and then shot off, never to be seen again (in spite of hunting for it for half an hour). It was all over and done with in maybe half a second. I did not notice any colour tendencies, so do not know what species it was, but I think that Broad-tailed Hummingbird is most likely.
Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard
After this walk, we got into the car to explore the scenic qualities of the Monument from the various viewpoints. From these we saw Turkey Vultures and American Kestrels in the distance. There were also plenty of White-throated Swifts around.
very small part of mixed flock of birds
Yellow-headed Blackbird (male)
Brewer's Blackbird (female)
European Starlings (juvenile)
At the lake we found the Ranger who had not been on duty for long (it was only 9.am) who had seen the flock of on the way in, and confirmed that it was highly remarkable. She gave us several pointers as to what to look for where, and we set off for a four-hour walk round the lake in an anti-clockwise direction.
Eurasian Collared Dove
We quickly found a wader, which was too far away to identify (insufficient space in the luggage for a scope) but was almost certainly a Sandpiper of some type. Shortly after this we saw a couple of LBJs at a distance and into the sun (no chance of identification) and then the birds ‘dried up’ completely. However, we did see plenty of dragonflies, butterflies, crickets, and grasshoppers. There were also a few lizards. I have attempted to identify all this wildlife, but stand to be corrected if anyone knows better.
Thistle in 'misty' grass
spreadwing damselfly sp.
Western Meadowhawk (male)
Western Meadowhawk (female)
We got a little worried when we found some huge paw prints in the dust on the trail. These had visible claw marks in front of the pad impressions. They looked fresh and were heading in the same direction as us. This was a bit distracting as we found ourselves more concerned about the possibility of a bear or puma lurking ahead of us. I did, however, stop to photograph a Praying Mantis. This was fortunate as, if we had not stopped, our path would have been on a collision course with an eight foot snake which slowly crossed the path about ten feet in front of us. We carefully waited for the tail to come into sight and heaved a sigh of relief when no rattle appeared. With this, and the paw-prints that were still with us, we were even more nervous. I’m OK with snakes if I know that they are not going to harm me, and quite enjoy handling them, but at this stage, I did not know what it was.
We came to a point where our path diverged from the paw prints and started to relax a bit. We then came upon some rangers building a new path who told us, when I showed them the snake photos, that this was a harmless “lazy old Bull Snake which feeds on rats and mice”.
beetle with ants
We were now half way round the lake, and little other than crickets and lizards was seen for an hour or so.
Antlion sp. and spider
In some ponds beside the path we found some Mallards which took to the air as we approached, and then there was a loud clattering as a group of Mule Deer sprung out of the bushes near us and disappeared up the slope and into the trees. A little later, an American Kestrel flew past.
Mule Deer with young
American Kestrel (female)
When we got near to our start point we found the Ranger again. She told us that, shortly after sending us off to the east, an Osprey with a fish was at the western end of the lake.
That afternoon we headed back to Colorado Monument to do some bits not done the previous day. As we left Highline Lake, there was no evidence of any birds where there had been so many earlier.
The wildlife was much the same as it had been the previous day, with possibly another species of lizard seen. I also managed to get a distant shot of a Western Scrub-Jay.
American Kestrel (male)
unidentified lizard sp. (prob. Prarie/Plateau Lizard)
evil 'wasp' dragging caterpillar down hole