Sunday, January 13, 2019

Impromptu Day of Birding!

January 13, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 36 degrees.  Lack of wind made for a fantastic day!

I was not planning on birding today, just watching two football games.  Took a friend to early church and lunch, but when I passed Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) had to stop and check for the Rusty Blackbird(s).

My only equipment today was the 8X21 binoculars that I keep in the car.  We had stopped by another friend's house to say hi.  He was gifted a new scope for Christmas and returned my backup scope (good deeds do pay off, later).

It was a beautiful morning with mostly unmarked snow covered grounds.  Wind was calm to immeasurable. The female Rusty Blackbird was searching for food up the western stream that flows into the swim beach pond.  

The male was not found, neither was the Brown Thrasher.  I circled the pond area looking for Brown Thrasher tracks.  Several Black-billed Magpie tracks were observed as they made them.  Whether I could distinguish between magpie and thrasher tracks was undetermined.

I detoured to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) on the way home.  My backup scope came in handy!  From the signed Lower swim beach parking area (northeast of Visitor's Center), I picked out an Iceland Gull among hundreds of Ring-billed and two Herring Gulls.

Then I hiked up the western parking area (just north of the boat storage area).  Another Iceland Gull was not far off the dam.  The Long-tailed Duck continues in the open water off the swim beach parking area.  However, it was around the corner from that parking area and out of view from the lower parking area.

I did see what could be called a Glaucous-winged Gull if one is so inclined.  The Glaucous Gull and Great Black-backed Gull reported yesterday were not found.

The way home passes not far from the eastern end of the First Creek Trail (Denver).  Hence, I had to stop and go for Rusty Blackbirds in two Counties in one day.

The four Rusty Blackbirds were in approximately the same area of First Creek as yesterday.  They were just northeast of the horse corrals.  Three Rusty Blackbirds stayed close together as yesterday, the fourth loosely trailed behind when they moved.

I will put photos on the Colorado Birding Society's website in a few hours.
"recent favorite photos" link

No Short-eared Owls appeared at sunset along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver).

I missed the football games, enjoyed a great winter day of birding!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Birding Around Denver County

January 12, 2019

Richard Stevens:

After yesterday's snowstorm, today was a fantastic day.  High temperatures reached 34 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph.  The 4-6 inches of snow melted rapidly.

On the way home from downtown Denver, I stopped at Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver County).  The Harris's Sparrow that has been hanging around since late October is usually with a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows.

It took about ten minutes to find the flock of eight White-crowned Sparrows under a Rabbit Brush.  The Harris's Sparrow was among them!

I also passed the First Creek Trail (Denver) and stopped.  A flock of 100-150 Red-winged Blackbirds without Rusty Blackbirds popped out of the cattails northwest of the horse corral.

I continued to walk east along First Creek.  Judith Henderson and Melissa James were also walking the Creek.  Judith was the first to spot Rusty Blackbirds.  Eventually we relocated four Rusty Blackbirds walking up and down First Creek, just northeast of the horse corral.

No Short-eared Owls appeared when I parked at sunset along West Cargo Road, south of Third Creek.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Southern Arapahoe County to DIA Airport

January 11, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Yesterday's weather prediction was correct.  We woke up to snow covered ground and it continued to snow most of the day.

High temperature was 42 degrees at the airport.  Winds were 12-13 mph with gusts to 17 mph.

Two things I did not want to do today.  First, I did not want to count Red-winged Blackbirds along the First Creek Trail (Denver County).  Searching through 400+ Red-winged Blackbirds during two previous trips and missing the Rusty Blackbirds were enough.  Second, I did not want to drive on the snowy roads and in the traffic.

What to do, I parked at the 64th Avenue Light Rail parking area off Tower Road and took the Light Rail down to South Platte Park off Mineral Avenue (Arapahoe).

A 1.3-mile hike got me to the South Platte Park Reservoir.  Along the way, The Tundra Swan was observed just 10 feet offshore at the southern end of Eaglewatch Lake.

At South Platte Park Reservoir (Arapahoe side), the Black Scoter was directly west of the gazebo outside of the east side of the Lake.  At least two Greater Scaup were also on the Lake.

Another two Greater Scaup were on the South Platte River, north of C470 Bridge.  

Back at the Carson Visitor's Center, an American Dipper flew up river and landed under the Mineral Avenue Bridge.

The Harris's Sparrow was with a dozen American Tree Sparrows and four White-crowned Sparrows in the willows at the southwest corner of the building.

I hopped on the Light Rail and headed toward the 64th Avenue parking area.  With a couple of hours of daylight remaining and an all day Light Rail pass, I decided to ride out to the Airport.

The return trip was timed to pass by the Disposal Dump and outlying areas at sunset.  While I did not see any Short-eared Owls, a Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon and two Red-tailed Hawks were a nice consolation.

I missed Denver's terrible traffic and enjoyed quite a birding day on this snowy Friday!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Searching for Rusty Blackbirds

January 10, 2019

Richard Stevens:

If the weather prediction is correct, two days of snow are coming.  It was necessary to take advantage of this fantastic winter day and go birding.  Temperatures reached 60 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

My first stop was Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The Long-tailed Duck continued to swim around one of the open water pools while the majority of the Lake was still ice covered.  

The Northern Saw-whet Owl found yesterday was gone.  At least six birders were able to see it yesterday.

I walked the Denver County section of the First Creek Trail for about two hours.  Unfortunately, no Rusty Blackbirds were picked out of the 400+ Red-winged Blackbirds flying around the cattails.  

Half a dozen Song Sparrows mixed with two dozen House Sparrows also flew around.  A dozen Mallards, two Northern Pintail Ducks and two Green-winged Teal swam up and down the creek.

A Virginia Rail called from the small dam area east of the Light Rail tracks.  Two Wilson's Snipes called along the creek opposite the horse corrals.  Two responded to my recordings but did not come into view.  Nothing responded to an American Woodcock recording...darn.

Finally tired at looking at Red-winged Blackbird, I headed over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The Brown Thrasher was the main target bird.

A walk up the western stream that flows into the swim beach pond found the female Rusty Blackbird about 30 yards north of the paved path.  The male was nowhere to be seen.

Then I sat on the bench at the southeast corner of the pond and waited for the Brown Thrasher.  After an hour and a half, the Brown Thrasher was a no show.

The female Rusty Blackbird appeared twice as did two Song Sparrows, a dozen Black-billed Magpies and two Northern Flickers.  The male Rusty Blackbird did not.

A search for the Long-eared Owls along the shooting range road also was a bust.  I parked until dusk, no Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Birding Along the West Side of Town

January 9, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperatures reached the low 50s today.  Winds were 3-4 mph.

At first light, I drove the DIA Owl Loop; no Short-eared Owls appeared.

About 75 percent of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) was ice covered.  One of the Long-tailed Ducks of three was easy to spot swimming around one of the open water areas.

Common Merganser numbers were up from my last visit.  Perhaps the many that stayed at Cherry Creek Reservoir, 8 miles to the west, had to relocate when Cherry Creek became 99 percent ice covered.

A walk up from the western parking lot found a Lesser Black-backed Gull with several dozen Ring-billed Gulls and a Herring Gull on the ice below the northwestern end of the dam.

The highlight however, was a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the evergreens at the upper swim beach parking area.  It was quite a surprise!  It is the sixth Arapahoe County record.

The only other Northern Saw-whet Owl I have encountered in Arapahoe County was also completely out of place (pines at Mississippi Avenue & I225 on 12/9/2012).

I texted several birders and at least Terry Michaels, Dave King, Jacob Washburn and Jamie Thompson were able to confirm the sighting.

My next stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The goal was to get a photo of the Brown Thrasher that has been reported around the pond northwest of the swim beach from 11/16 to 1/8.  No photo, I did not find it during a two-hour walk.

The female Rusty Blackbird was about 20 yards up from the paved path along the western stream flowing into the pond.  The male Rusty Blackbird was not relocated.

Both Rusty Blackbirds have been reported since 10/31/2018.  The pair originally stayed close together until about two weeks ago.  I found both last on January 1st.  They were quite far from each other that time.  Others have seen them both as late as yesterday.

After lunch, I decided to try for the Rusty Blackbirds reported along the First Creek Trail (Denver County).  I walked from the Tower Road end of 56th avenue to the pond just east of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Denver/Adams).

The Rusty Blackbirds were never found.  A search for the White-throated Sparrow that has been hanging around the weedy field at the southwest corner of the Buckley Road trailhead also came up unsuccessful.

Eighteen Song Sparrows, the most I have observed in one place and four White-crowned Sparrows popped up and down from the chain link fence to the tall grasses.

A little farther west I ran into a flock of twenty eight Dark-eyed Juncos and two additional White-crowned Sparrows.

I may have observed the White-throated Sparrow that has been reported since 10/26 (last reported 11/24).  Unfortunately, it had its back to me and I could not see its yellow lore.

The weak moustachial bar, smallish bill and faint streaks on its flanks would indicate a White-throated Sparrow.  A Song Sparrow has a much stronger moustachial bar, thicker bill and strong streaks on its flanks.  I left the identification undecided.

The highlights of the several miles hike were a Belted Kingfisher and Great Horned Owl.

See comments!

No Short-eared Owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop while I was parked along Gun Club Road north of 104th avenue.

Some Additional 2019 Birds

January 8, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was in the middle 40s today.  Winds ranged from 8-9 mph with gusts to 20 mph.

Terry Michaels and I headed up to Loveland around 3:00am.  Unfortunately, it requires an early start if one wants to avoid Denver's awful traffic.

A dawn we stopped at Trilby and Taft Roads to see if the Gyrfalcon and was around.  It was not and we continued south.

We heard and later saw the Carolina Wren in the alley between Pierce and Adams streets (almost at Adams).

Later a brief stop at Lake Loveland (Larimer) did not find any uncommon gulls.

We then headed to Frederick Recreation Area.  The Pink-footed Goose, Barnacle Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose were on Milavec Reservoir and the golf course to the north (photos taken of all).  

Then we continued east to Ireland Reservoirs #5 & #1.  The Northern Mockingbird reported earlier at #5 was not relocated.  Nothing uncommon was found at either reservoir.

The rest of our birding day was spent at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  First, we walked the northern sections from Pond 5 to Pond 9.  Highlight was a Long-eared Owl hidden in the Russian Olive trees along the western windbreak.  

The Eastern Bluebird reported yesterday was not relocated.  The Swamp Sparrow we found on 12/14 was not found either.  A Great Horned Owl called from Pond 13.

A hike down the southern sections from Pond 4 to 1 was uneventful.  Two Spotted Towhees, many Robins and Dark-eyed Juncos were just about everything seen.

We held around until dusk, no Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

East of the Metro Area

January 7, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperatures in Aurora were 47 degrees.  It was a bit of a change after the middle 60s in Baca and Las Animas Counties last weekend.  Winds were 15-16 mph with gusts to 22 mph.  Last night winds reached 45 mph!  An airplane was blown sideways at DIA airport.

Terry Michaels and I wandered around east of Aurora after a late start.  

A Barn Owl and two Long-eared Owls were relocated at Barr Lake (Adams).

We relocated one of the Rusty Blackbirds and the Brown Thrasher around the swim beach pond at Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe).

A return to the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver) did not find any Short-eared Owls at sunset.  The high winds perhaps discouraged even Short-eared Owls from flying around.