Powderhorn Birdwatch: Fish and fowl relationships instruct and intrigue

Great EgretBY JOHN KARRIGAN

I don’t have thousands of out-of-state Sandhill Cranes to write about this month, but the park water birds have been quite good.
On the last day of March, three Great Blue Herons were on the lake and one or two have been on the lake almost every day since. (I am writing this on April 26.) Also, on March 31, I saw a Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Juncos and American Crows. “And now for something completely different”—I heard and saw a 15-foot-long tree branch break off and come down partially across the sidewalk, west of the lake. No birds, animals or people were hit by the branch. Strangely enough, this is not the first time I have seen large branches come down in the park.
Now back to birds. A Great Egret, probably the same one that showed up at the end of March, has been making Powderhorn visits, but not nearly as many visits as the Great Blue Herons. More heron information is coming later in this column.
A Pied-billed Grebe was on the lake on April 10 and from one to nine Grebes have been on the water almost every day since then.
You will notice I have not seen many song birds or non-water birds to mention and that has been true most of the month.
An Eastern Kingbird, usually a short-time visitor, was around the west side of the lake on April 14 and a swallow (I don’t know which species) was in the same area April 23.
Back to water and water-related birds. Blue-winged Teal (ducks), from four to nine of them, have been on the lake various times from April 18 to now. Double-crested Cormorants have been back on island trees and in the water, in small numbers so far. And, seeming very early to me, one pair of Canada Geese now have seven goslings. On April 23, once again I was on the west side of the lake, and walking past and quite close to a pair of geese, when I spotted a baby goose with the adult pair. The gosling walked over to the sitting female and the female lifted a wing for the gosling to run under. When the gosling ran under the wing, I could see another gosling already under the wing, and I was enjoying the scene. I didn’t want to bother them and continued my walk. Not long after that, I returned through that area and it turned out that seven goslings had been under the mother’s wings. They all came out and made a family trip across the lake. So far, those are the only babies I have seen this spring.
Yesterday (April 25) was a big Powderhorn Island day for me. A Great Egret was perched quite high in a tree on the south side of the island when a Great Blue Heron on shore not far from me took off and landed not five feet from the Egret. They were not bothering each other. I started studying the area and also found a Kingfisher and two Black-crowned Night-Herons. (A few days before that, I thought I might have found a Black-crowned Night Heron hiding on the island. It turned out there were three Black-crowned Night-Herons on the island on the west side, perched in a vertical row at water level, 10 feet up and 20 feet up. Then the Belted Kingfisher started calling and moving. I think there was a small group of Kingfishers. Anyway, it was quite a show and experience, though I am still waiting for all kinds of warblers, other small birds, and still more water birds.
Another lake event, strange but true. On April 21, I was looking at the lake from the southeast shore and saw what I first thought was a large orange reflection of some kind, but there was no sun or orange cloud to cause a reflection. A close look through my binoculars and my bare eyes showed the color was a very large, probably 40- or 50-foot-long school of mostly medium to large goldfish. In past years, I have sometimes seen small groups of probably a couple hundred goldfish, but this school could easily have had one or two thousand goldfish. So far I have only seen it once. It would obviously occupy all sorts of Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Grebes, Gulls and who knows what else if they are seen very often. Who knows what the end result of this will be.
I don’t have anything to report on the park hawk nest yet.
Now to the yard. At least lots of small and normal song and small birds are showing up there, though the juncos left for the far north as usual on about April 15. The male Goldfinches are now properly gold and there are the usual Sparrows, Cardinals, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, House Finches, etc. And something new:  Robins have built a nest in the back yard.
Prince Trivia:  I’ve been a Powderhorn resident for several decades, and, as one of the requirements for being a “birder” is to be observant, friends know that I observe more than birds. I remember on a number of occasions in the distant past spotting a limousine parked by the park building and learning that Prince was playing a pickup game of basketball in the middle of the night. I don’t know how high (or low) this information was known to the park board or staff. This was during his early days as a prominent local celebrity. Also, as has been mentioned recently, he played on the then Central High School (at 4th and 35th) basketball team when he was a student there.

Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.

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