A Western in the Estes

Going with a quick post tonight. We’ll be heading to one of my favorite birding locations in the northern part of the state for the holiday weekend – hoping to meet my brother Ron up there and see what we can get in the tin. It seems like every time we head up there to bird their lakes and streams they get a multitude of storms that either outright flood the Fox River or squish up the place – neither situation ideal if you are trying to walk the banks. Of course, for those of us on the well the rain is a welcome sight especially since it has been pretty dry lately. Just had an interesting thought – maybe we can turn the ability to make it rain into a service. You call us up, tell us when you want/need some rain and we’ll make it happen for a fair but hefty chunk of cash. Then I simply call up Ron, schedule a trip to the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park and pump up our bank accounts while enjoying one of our favorite pastimes. Will putting some noodle time on that – for now, decided to feature a bird that has already made its debut at Intrigued.

Western Kingbird shot at Rocky Mountain National Park, May 2014

hit the jump to see a couple more shots of this yellow hued bird.

The first time I featured a set of Western Kingbirds that I found on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds (link here). A few of them were hanging out in the back of the horse arena enjoying the spectators at the TDAA Agility Nationals – our poodles were showing off their champion obstacle course skills. That was back in May of 2014. It just so happens, that this set of Western pictures was also taken in May of 2014.. but 70 miles to the northeast. On our way back from the agility show, we decided to do a little site seeing in Estes Park, Colorado..

Western Kingbird shot at Rocky Mountain National Park, May 2014

Those not familiar with Estes, you may recognize it more for being at the foot of the Rocky Mountain National Park. If I had to make a choice, I’d always pick Yellowstone as my favorite park, but Rocky Mountain is a close second. RMNP does not have the variety of wildlife that we see at Yellowstone, but if you like mountain views RMNP has it beat (although the Tetons are a short drive from Yellowstone). Now from a birding perspective, RMNP has been both extremely productive and equally frustrating. I have been able to get a number of good shots of local bird there (like the Clark’s Nutcracker, link here), however, I have been out there to specifically get a Ptarmigan (a bird that prefers to hang out above the tree line in the mountain tundra). Been there multiple times now, walked the alpine trail each time only to come up empty handed – SUCK! I will get that damn bird in the tin if it’s the last thing I do. On the positive side, I was able to find this cute Western Kingbird hanging out on the plains below the mountains. The irony in all this is a pair has been showing up at a power substation about 40 minutes from us for a couple of years now. No idea why, but guessing they got lost and decided summers in the heart of Illinois isn’t so bad. Ron ended up coming down from Chicago to get this bird checked off his list – sure saved him time and gas money.

Western Kingbird shot at Rocky Mountain National Park, May 2014

These Westerns are actually seeing their regions expand (Illinois is still an anomaly). Interesting enough, they attribute this expansion to human activities like erecting utility poles (ironic based on where our lost specimens made their summer home) and clearing forests creating open habitats suitable for foraging. It was originally called the Arkansas Kingbird and then changed to reflect its greater western range. Lastly, something I was not aware of until tonight and obviously never seen during my encounters – these Kingbirds have hidden red crowns under their grey feathers which are revealed when they are provoked. Definitely something to try and get in the tin the next time.

Well, need to call it tonight. Stay safe everyone!

12 thoughts on “A Western in the Estes”

  1. The problem with the flooding at Chain O’ Lakes State Park is that we get trapped on the trails and have to turn back. I remember a few years ago when I pushed for us to continue quite a ways through tall brush to get to another place using a shortcut, only to eventually have to backtrack all the way due to the water. Not my fault, by the way! On the plus side I got shots of a one of the blurriest Wild Turkeys I’ve ever seen.

    Yes, I got a Western Kingbird the second time we went to the electrical substation in the country outside of Havana, Illinois, which was great! It would be really odd if utility poles led them there. I wonder if substations are hotspots? Eurasian Tree Sparrows hang around that substation, and the WAY-out-of-place Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers were very near there for two years in a row, and there’s nothing else distinctive about that area. Time to parse through the 360 million lines of of eBird sightings again.

    Thanks for the pics of Western Kingbirds! They have a certain coolness about their attitude and appearance, I think.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. First off, I can confirm that was one of the blurriest Turkey pictures I’ve ever seen – and I think that might have been you first Wild Turkey you were able to get in the tin if I recall correctly. Of course, I have also seen your other Turkey pictures and yes, even that shot of the Pheasant that scared the crap out of you .. wait, think that was at Chain too! I distinctly recall you getting us trapped by those flood waters and yes, the jury has come back and confirmed it was absolutely your fault. Surprised we made it back before nightfall after that issue.

      I should have mentioned the other birds that have been collecting at that Havana Substation. Maybe there is some giant magnetic pull generated by that substation that is messing with their guidance systems – my same opinion of what is happening at Fermilab in Chicago based on the rare birds that start showing up there.

      Can’t wait to see what we get in the tin this weekend.


    1. fingers crossed although it would not be the first time Ron and I have had to bird in the rain. I recall quite the downpour one outing at Starved Rock – the reason you pay the additional fee for the fully sealed cameras! Will let you know what we find. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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