Belmar Park, home to Kountze Lake, is a great place for birds. Whether you are bird watching, birding, taking photographs of birds, this is the spot to be. It doesn’t provide the best landscape opportunities for photography, but it does, offer birds. It could be just me. But out of all the places I’ve visited in Colorado, besides Red Rocks bird feeders, this place has always been money. I’ve been 4 times and always seem to walk away with several keeper photos and video footage.
Belmar Park is located in the city of Lakewood. There’s a 1.8 mile trail that goes around Lake Kountze, the elevation is 5,465 ft, and it’s free. There’s also plenty of parking, which is also free. Great! Although it’s a nice flat hike around the lake, if you are going for bird photography, you won’t need to hike the loop. I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. The reason I say this, is that 90% of my keeper photographs of birds here have been on the north side of the lake.
I’ve ventured the whole lake many times, but consistently have success on the north side only. Maybe it’s dumb luck, but I know the next time I go to Belmar Park to take photographs of birds, my ass is walking back and forth on the north side of Kountze Lake. This could be a little biased though. There’s lots of waterfowl and ducks and stuff on the lake, which I really don’t care to shoot.
Out of the 4 or 5 times I’ve been to Belmar Park, I usually spend 2-4 hours here. One feature that attracts many birders is the island that’s in the middle of Kountze Lake. During breeding season you can witness several Cormorant nests, as well as Great Blue Herons that also nest in the park. (citation needed for 2017-2018). Here’s a short clip of the Double-crested Cormorants and their nests.
So when you get to the park super early in the morning (which you should), you’re going to hear a lot of Red-winged blackbirds, especially on the north side of Kountze Lake. But this is pretty normal for anywhere in Colorado that has a body of water and isn’t miles above sea-level.
You’re also going to hear and see many Song Sparrows. The Song Sparrow is the most abundant of the sparrows in the United States, and if there’s a lake or a body of fresh water in Colorado, it’s more than likely filled with Song Sparrows.
Enough of the boring birds you can see anywhere though. That’s not why I come to Belmar Park. I come to Belmar Park for great bird photography opportunities that present themselves more often than neighboring spots in the Denver Metro vicinity. One sunny summer day I was on the north west side of the park and seen a bright yellow bird. But it wasn’t the commonly seen Yellow headed Blackbird, but instead it was a Summer Tanager. Rare bird alert. Guess he camped out at the park for a couple of days according to eBird. I’m not a ‘birder’, I just like to photograph them, but I was really proud of finding this Summer Tanager.
American Avocet’s will migrate and sometimes hangout at Belmar Park for the summer months. I’ve only been there to photograph them in 2014-15 so I don’t know how common they are in Colorado. Being from Florida I’ve photographed them hundreds of times but nice to see them here in Colorado.
Here’s some footage of this awesome bird in action, being vocal and eating up some bait fish. Nikon d7000, 300mm f/4 prime, 1.4 teleconverter, rode videomic pro.
Swallowed up in Bird Photography at Belmar Park
Pun intended. I know Swallows are everywhere. But they can still be fun to photograph. Sometimes you just need to make a bird photograph and not just take a bird photograph. This picture, pictured below, I just took a photograph of a Tree Swallow on his man made bird box.
Sometimes though you need to just MAKE a photograph. This opportunity doesn’t always present itself, this is especially true when it comes to the unpredictability of wild birds. Luckily, this Barn Swallow was the most cooperative bird I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting. I snapped a couple hundred pictures of this barn swallow while laying on my belly. Looking back at it, I really wish I would have taken the 1.4 teleconverter off and started shooting once I knew I had several keepers. Live and learn.
Shorebirds of Belmar Park
Though I’m not completely sure this deserves it’s own headline, the two shorebirds that frequent Kountze lake are Spotted Sandpipers and Kill Deer. I’m not totally sure if Kill Deer are actually ‘shore birds’ but I know that they like to hang around sand and water. Seems to be a lot of Spotted Sandpipers at Belmar Park. I’ve been presented several photographic and video opportunities to capture these awesome shorebirds.
I got plenty of opportunities to get some decent video footage of Spotted sandpipers as well. Here’s a short clip of a Spotted sandpiper making some noise on the small beach of Lake Kountze.
Kill Deer are pretty easy to photograph compared to other shore birds. They like to act injured if you get too close to them, giving their young a chance to run. I’ve seen this multiple times but never got it on video. Maybe one of these days. Here’s a nice portrait of a Kill Deer giving me the stink red eye.
Killdeer have a very distinct, simple, high pitched call. Once you hear something enough times, it’s in your brain memory forever. I struggle with bird calls simply because I’m not that experienced compared to real birders, but I can pick out a Killdeer call all day long.
Around the north east part of Belmar park there’s a bunch of wild flowers and plants, which is a great hangout for flycatchers. When shooting with a long lens, which you should be if you are serious about bird photography, creates great bokeh and makes the subject very easy to focus on.
Bird Photography Tips For Belmar Park
- Arrive early. This should go without saying. If the sun rises at 6 am you need to be there at 6 am. If you show up at 10 am and wonder why your not getting any good photos….plus, less people. This is especially important when recording wildlife footage.
- Stay on the north side of Lake Kountze for better bird photography opportunities. This comes from experience, and maybe just lucky. I never get good shots on the south side. Ever.
Overall this is my favorite spot near Denver to photograph birds. I haven’t seen much wildlife here. Although you may see some turtles and snakes and reptiles. It still takes a good amount of skill to get good photographs here. The waterfowl is abundant and can give you good practice to get your animals photographed sharp. If that’s your thing. Even if you’re not into bird photography, this is still a great park, with a great hike. It’s surrounded by the city but you get the nature feel when you get on the trail and start hiking. Highly recommended.