For years, whenever I’ve gone to Pueblo to go birding, I’ve headed to Lake Pueblo state park. How can any place else compete with a large reservoir surrounded by arid open space, watered picnic areas, and, along the Arkansas River below the dam, a birdy stretch of riparian trees and bushes. Pueblo Reservoir gets its share of rarities as well—out-of-state gulls in particular. I’ve picked up a number of lifers there.
This time, however, we went to Pueblo and didn’t go to the state park! I’d heard that there are other places in Pueblo where you can find birds. Well, maybe.
Our first stop was Roselawn Cemetery, which is actually in Blende, a Pueblo suburb. Dating back to the 1800s, the cemetery had greening lawns (remember, we’re just at the beginning of the growing season), native junipers, an unirrigated section of winter-dried grasses and dirt, and a rather ugly square pond with a dike around it. Oh yes, and a bunch of graves.
Roselawn has played host to a series of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and also collects wintering mountain birds, so I was hopeful—and a bit disappointed when the first bird I saw was an American Robin. So was the second bird, the third, and the 247th. The juniper trees were full of berries, and the robins were busy making pigs of themselves. That was rather handy, as they totally ignored me and my camera. Still, I didn’t drive an hour south to see robins.
Once I started ignoring the robins, I noticed some other expected species—Eurasian Collared-doves, starlings, Dark-eyed Juncos, a White-crowned Sparrow. Nothing too exciting there. Then I saw what was probably the best bird of the day—a Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk. Not only that, but it flew right overhead!
The most productive spot was the pond. A pair of Canada Geese defended a section of shoreline. A lonely female Ruddy Duck dove for her breakfast. I picked up a single Cedar Waxwing, also snarfing juniper berries, and a Townsend’s Solitaire. And that was that.
Our next stop was Lake Minnequa, at the southern end of town. It looked impressive on the map and I was hoping for close-up photos of some ducks, but when we arrived we discovered that what was designated lake was actually a soggy expanse of dense marsh grasses. You’d have to get very muddy to get anywhere close to the open water. I was prepared to slog until I realized that all those birds I was seeing were American Coots. I have plenty of coot photos.
Deciding that a better place to find ducks would be at a duck pond, we headed for the little pond in the city park, behind the Pueblo zoo. Sure enough, even though the pond was only half full, it was mobbed with Canada Geese, American Wigeons, and Mallards. A pair of Killdeer were busy hunting bugs, and a Belted Kingfisher rocketed past on its way to a new branch.
We headed to Pueblo West to drum up some lunch. My sandwich wasn’t all that great, but I discovered a first-of-year Common Grackle in the Subway parking lot. Spring is coming.
Finally, we caved and headed for the reservoir. Instead of paying the state park entry fee so late in the day, we decided to explore the State Wildlife Area north and west of the lake. There’s no fee for driving around on the dirt roads, and you get a nice view of the reservoir from the cliff tops. Past visits have yielded Scaled Quail and Canyon Towhees, but this time all I found were juncos in the junipers, a Spotted Towhee, a very quiet Western Meadowlark, and a flock of American White Pelicans barely visible on the opposite shore.
By now it was mid-afternoon. Temperatures had peaked in the mid-60s, and a nap sounded pretty tempting. As we retraced our steps to the car, I spotted one last bird making lazy circles overhead, riding the sun-warmed thermals. The birding hadn’t been spectacular (well, except for the Harlan’s—that was pretty cool!), but who can complain about a late winter day in the sun, and a Bald Eagle?