Though it's a month late, spring has finally taken charge at Chatfield State Park, southwest of Denver. On my visit this morning, I focused (as usual) on the backwater areas of the reservoir and along the ponds, wetlands and riparian woods that flank the South Platte River, south of the lake.
Scattered flocks of American white pelicans and western grebes graced the open waters, joined by double-crested cormorants, common mergansers and wood ducks. Several ospreys perched above the shoreline or fished on the reservoir while lesser yellowlegs and spotted sandpipers foraged along the sandy rim and mudflats; in the shallows, chorus frogs, having recovered from our wintery setback, delivered their rising calls. Though the cottonwood groves and willow thickets remain devoid of leaves, they were filled with songbirds and woodpeckers, including northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, house wrens, magpies, house finches and an abundance of yellow-rumped warblers; northern orioles and other summer residents should arrive by early May.
In addition to the ospreys, raptors included red-tailed hawks and sharp-shinned hawks and a large flock of turkey vultures soared above the Park. Out on the grasslands, western meadowlarks, vesper sparrows and horned larks were observed, now free to forage in a snowless landscape. While snow may yet fall (through mid May in some years), the threat of severe cold has likely passed and an explosion of life will encompass Chatfield State Park in the coming weeks.