|Riverbend Ponds Natural Area|
We traveled to northern Colorado for the specific purpose of checking on our "retirement house" northwest of Fort Collins. While we were there, we also spent two days in southeastern Wyoming in and around Laramie, where we visited the University of Wyoming's geology (and dinosaur!) museum and two fine natural areas (stay tuned for details).
The trip started off badly. After dinner in Fort Collins on Saturday night, Kali and I veered off the sidewalk and into the street to avoid lawn sprinklers that were spraying onto the sidewalk. Kali couldn't see well in the low light and stepped off the very high, irregular curb along the street. Down she went, badly twisting her ankle and the knee of her opposite leg, and scraping her elbow. Though she was able to hobble back to the hotel two blocks away, I was sure that our trip was over (and that I would have to drive her to work for the next eight weeks).
It appears that she just badly sprained her ankle and knee because she could walk on them the next morning, though she definitely was in pain. Nevertheless, she said that she wanted to try to take an easy walk that day, so I suggested we visit one of the many natural areas set aside by the the city of Fort Collins along the Cache la Poudre (pronounced "cash la POO-der") River. The Riverbend Ponds Natural Area offered winding trails circling a series of ponds in the river's floodplain. I hoped there'd be birds to observe even if we didn't walk far. So, off we went after breakfast.
I have no idea about the origin of these numerous ponds. They were probably gravel or borrow pits excavated on the floodplain. Now, they serve as wildlife habitat and water storage basins when the river (rarely) floods. Birds were numerous but not diverse or particularly exciting, with the avifauna dominated by Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, and Canada Geese. But, we did see Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and an Osprey nest with at least two chicks.
|Spiny softshell turtle (Trionyx spinifereus)|
|Milkweed on the floodplain (Asclepias spp.)|
|Cache la Poudre River on the plains|
All in all, we walked about three miles but finally had to retreat back to our hotel because most of the walk was in the sun and temperatures were in the upper 80s or low 90s. Between Kali's physical problems and the relentless sun and heat, we were beat.