Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hike Of An Advanced And Aging Birder at Cherry Creek Reservoir

May 22, 2019

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed this cloudy day in Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) with a walk from the Lake Loop to Cottonwood Creek Pond and then up the Butterfly Hill drainage.  High temperature was 50 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 12 mph.

Regarding the title of the post,   Birding almost light to dark 5-7 days a week for 25 years qualifies me as an advanced birder.  Last year I spent almost half the year on crutches or in a wheel chair (accidental fall down stairs).

I am happy to say that I can walk 8-10 miles a day again.  Albeit, my normal speed of 13.5 minute/mile has been decreased to 18-19 minutes/mile.

I stood in one location for almost an hour today.  When just a beginner, the first 5-6 years, this was normal.  Today was the first time in years to do such.  Impatience sometimes sets in now, a downside to so many birding years.

On the plus side, with advanced experience, I can now identify birds from 10-20 yards, perhaps 30 yards by standing still.  It is much less strenuous on the neck.  As a beginner, I would stand under the trees and look almost straight up.

Today was much different than yesterday which was filled with hundreds of sparrows.  Total today: five Lark Sparrows, 8 Brewer's Sparrows and 4 Clay-colored Sparrow.
Lark Buntings: 120 at model airplane field, another 80 100-200 yards to west, none anywhere else

My walk started along the sandy shore east of the Lake Loop.  Nine Spotted Sandpipers, several displaying, showed off for a couple of females.  I continued along the path close to the shore and found two Swainson's Thrushes.

Once the path turned away from the shore, I found hundreds of warblers in the taller cottonwoods.  This is where I stood for a long time.  One group of 40 Yellow-rumped Warblers, four Black-capped Chickadees was joined by a Black-and-white Warbler (approximately 60 yards west of the bird platform.

Another flock of 30+ Yellow Warblers had a Tennessee Warbler.  A Virginia's Warbler walked under the burnt cattails (controlled burn) at the bird platform.

My hike continued along Cottonwood Creek to the Wetlands Pond.  Here a Swamp Sparrow was singing from the top of a willow.  We long have suspected that they may nest along this drainage, however not confirmed.

A highly streaked sparrow with buffy breast and face popped out of the cattails along the northern side of the Pond.  It eventually flew to the Cottonwood Creek cattails.

Six or seven photos were captured to be examined later.  It has not been labeled yet; however, I did photograph a Le Conte's Sparrow at Pelican Point on 5/4/2017.

Returning along the west side of Cottonwood Creek I found a female Rufous Hummingbird.  While trying for photos, an adult male Mourning Warbler came out of the thick willows (perhaps 30 yards north of the new footbridge).

I was able to watch the Mourning Warbler for a good 8-10 minutes.  Witness photos were taken; although, the bird never exposed himself completely.

Taking the more southern trail back to the Lake Loop I found two Swainson's Thrushes refusing to leave the trail (photos).  While taking photos a Nashville Warbler jumped out of some short willows.

Just before returning to drainage between the Lake Loop and Butterfly Hill, two Warbling Vireos flew around the cottonwoods close to either side of the trail.  While capturing photos, a Red-eyed Vireo was also observed crossing the path.

Next, I walked the Lake Loop-Butterfly Hill drainage.  From the west side I must have approached an active Hawk's nest.  Two Red-tailed Hawks flew out and a cottonwood tree and circled noisily overhead until I was well away, farther south.

A second Nashville Warbler was found in the willows about 20 yards north of where the riparian area opens up for 20-30 yards.

On the way back down the hill, a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers fluttered about the eastern side approximately 20 yards from Lake View Road.

No owls appeared this evening as I parked along the Shooting Range entrance road.

I must have 2800+ photos to sift through.  It will have to wait until next week.  My six 2019 grouse trips are finished.  I am going to the eastern plains for three or four days for some alone time and to catch the end of spring migration (hopefully).

Great birding to all!

Cherry Creek Reservoir After A Snowstorm

May 21, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today only reached 39 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

I popped over to Barr Lake (Adams) in the morning hoping to relocate one of the Gray-cheeked Thrushes I found last Friday (May 18).  None of Monday's birds was found either.  Last night's snowstorm did bring in many sparrows.

In the afternoon, I searched for the Chestnut-collared Longspurs found earlier by Loch Kilpatrick at the Cherry Creek State Park model airplane field.  They were not found also.

The majority bird(s) were Lark Buntings.  The count included 160 at the model airplane field, 50 at the Prairie Loop, 60 at the Mountain Loop and 40 at West Shades picnic area.  Additional small groups were scattered along Lake View Road (the main road between the east and west entrances).

Sparrows were in high numbers also.  In order of most number, there were Lark Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Brewer's Sparrows, eight Song Sparrows, six Clay-colored Sparrows, two Savannah Sparrows (one each East Shades picnic area & Lake Loop), two Lincoln's Sparrows (West Shades), one Harris's Sparrow (Prairie Loop), and one White-throated Sparrow (Prairie Loop).  The most difficult find was two White-crowned Sparrows along the shooting range entrance road.  Best find was two Cassin's Sparrows up the Butterfly Hill trail!

Misses included Field Sparrow and Sagebrush Sparrow.  I walked the 12-mile pond trail where a Sagebrush Sparrow was photographed on 4/11/2018 (not so recent witness photos link on Colorado Birding Society's website).

I relocated the Blackpoll Warbler found this morning by Terry Michaels at the east end of West Shades.  While trying to photograph a Yellow Warbler in a cottonwood, the Blackpoll Warbler was seen around two "West Shades" picnic tables east of the restrooms.

An Eastern Phoebe hung around the eastern boat ramp parking area.  I will try to add photos to the Colorado Birding Society's photo library tomorrow.

Finally, a Tennessee Warbler was spotted in the trees at the west end of East Shades.

The only non-Killdeer shorebirds found were a dozen of so Spotted Sandpipers.  Nine of them walked the shore west of West Shades.

A final search for the Chestnut-collared Longspurs at the model airplane field was not successful and I left.

Return to Barr Lake

May 20, 2019

Richard Stevens:

The high today only reached 45 degrees and that was a little after midnight.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 10 mph.

I returned to Barr Lake (Adams) in the afternoon.  The Gray-cheeked Thrushes and Northern Waterthrush I found yesterday were not relocated.

The majority birds were Yellow Warblers.  A Tennessee Warbler fluttered about mile 8.8 (around the willows that hang over the main trail.

An Osprey was laying on the nesting platform.  No Barn Owls were found.  No Short-eared Owl appeared this evening around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver).

Two Burrowing Owls have returned to the prairie dog village at West Cargo Road, south of Third Creek.

Quick Trip to Elbert County

May 19, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High today was 59 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

After picking up Rebecca at the Airport, we rushed south to Elbert County.  Three days ago a friend reported a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on his ranch near Kiowa.  Terry Michaels confirmed it yesterday.

We captured photos of it and had to rush back to Denver for a previous engagement.

Photo on Colorado Birding Society's website: recent witness photos

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Adams and Arapahoe County Birding

May 18, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 62 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

Terry Michaels conducted the Eastern Arapahoe County spring count yesterday.  Today I ran the Eastern Adams County route.

Regrettably, no Mountain Plover were found this trip.  Grasses were high, perhaps the Mountain Plover are still nesting, and no young were wandering around.

The Burrowing Owls continue along 160th Avenue, approximately 0.5 miles west of Yellow Jacket Road.

Eventually I dropped down south to Richmil Ranch Open Space (Arapahoe).  Three Cassin's Kingbirds constantly chattered at each other.  Perhaps two were males, the third a female.

The Northern Mockingbird found yesterday by Terry was not relocated today.  I understand it flew south across the railroad tracks and into the closed section of the Park.

My birding day ended with a four hour hike around Barr Lake (Adams).  Baltimore Orioles have been found here between 5/17 and 5/23 eight of the last fifteen years.  None was encountered today.

The lack of a variety or large number of warblers was surprising.  Yellow Warblers are back in full force (over three dozen in a two mile section of the trail.

A Northern Waterthrush walked around the water's edge near what would be mile 8.4.  It was hidden well most of the time but did show several times.  A Hermit Thrush was in the same area.

Highlights were two Gray-cheeked Thrushes.  The first sighting was at mile 8.05 (Pioneer trailhead is 8.1).  It walked on the ground and fallen logs below the trail.

I was attempting to photograph a Western Wood-pewee hawking insects at mile 0.5 (just west of the Niedrach Boardwalk) when a second Gray-cheeked Thrush popped out of the underbrush.  I captured several shots of this bird.

While waiting for better photos, a male MacGillivray's Warbler also flew out of the willows here.  Four Eastern Kingbirds also flew around.

Other sightings included many Bullock's Orioles, a few Western Kingbirds, many House Wrens, and an Osprey back on the nesting platform at mile 8.6.

While waiting for Short-eared Owls along the DIA Owl Loop I observed one Burrowing Owl near West Cargo Road and Third Creek.  Two Ferruginous Hawks stood among the prairie dog mounds.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Last Grouse Trip of 2019

May 11-17, 2019

Richard Stevens:

A group of five made up the CoBus Group on the last grouse trip of the season.  Weather was cooperative with most of the inclement weather staying farther east.  The third week of May is getting late for a successful trip; however this one turned out spectacular! 

May 11

High temperature today in Kremmling was 59 degrees.  Winds were 3-4 mph with afternoon gusts to 14 mph.

The trip started at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties).  It took about an hour before two White-tailed Ptarmigan were spotted along the western trail at approximately 0.7 miles from the parking area.

In Silverthorne (Summit) the trip list added Rosy Finches (no Black),  White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Evening Grosbeaks, a Pine Grosbeak, Clark's Nutcrackers, Pine Siskins and a surprise Band-tailed Pigeon!

Nothing uncommon was found in Kremmling.  Five Barrow's Goldeneyes were among twice as many Common Goldeneyes at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand).

Walden Reservoir (Jackson) added Marbled Godwit and Willets to the day list.

The birding day ended at the Jackson County Road 26b Leks.  Twenty seven Greater Sage-Grouse still were visiting the Leks.

May 12

High temperature in Hayden was 61 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

Just before sunrise, seven Sharp-tailed Grouse stomped around the Twenty Road Leks (Routt).  Phil thought he heard a Greater Sage-Grouse on the opposite side of the Road.  Earlier in the spring, several other birders reported the same experience.  

A drive west of Maybell (Moffat) to the Oxbow State Trust Lands provided sightings of a Sagebrush Sparrow and two Sage Thrashers.  The area is closed until August 15; however, the birds could be found with a scope.  Both species can be found later in the trip and the detour to Oxbow is long.  As a bonus, a Ferruginous Hawk was observed flying over the Snake River.  They are uncommon in Moffat County.

The next stop was Coal Canyon (Mesa).  A Chukar responded to a recording played at the large parking area at the second pipe gate.  With patience, it was found standing on a large boulder on the hill to the southwest of the parking area.

Then the group headed to the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  Owling was quite successful this evening.  The Northern Saw-whet Owl was relocated along the switchbacks to the Powderhorn Ski Area.

An American Three-toed Woodpecker drummed in the small grove of trees behind the maintenance shed.  While Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to a recording played near the Ski Lodge entrance.

Finally two Boreal Owls were heard along highway 65, south of the Ski Area.  The first was heard south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds.  The second was seen at the third pullover south!

May 13

Temperatures reached 68 degrees with winds of 6-7 mph.

A drive through the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) is always worth the time as least once.

Gambel's Quail were running around the subdivision outside of the eastern entrance.  A Black-throated Sparrow sang south of the road at the eastern entrance.

Devil's Kitchen trail is a good stop.  Today a Gray Vireo fluttered about.  Unfortunately, no Black-chinned Sparrows are around this year.

The Campgrounds added four Pinyon Jays, two Juniper Titmice, and two Black-throated Gray Warblers to the trip list.

A drive down Escalante Canyon (Delta) found two Black Phoebes.  One was near the Gunnison River and the other below Pinnacle Rock.  No Chukars were encountered.

Fruitgrower's Reservoir did not have any shorebirds or Sandhill Cranes.  A Lewis's Woodpecker was spotted below the dam.

The rest of the day was taken for a leisure drive to Cortez.

May 14

Temperatures reached 81 degrees with hot winds of 11-12 mph with gusts to 25 mph.

The hike down to Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma) was quite successful.  Two Lucy's Warblers, the prize of hike, were fluttering about the cottonwoods near the open gate.

A male Summer Tanager was also spotted.  It has been confirmed that they nest here.  Other birds included Gambel's Quail, Plumbeous Vireo, a Juniper Titmouse and a few Bushtits.

Three Acorn Woodpeckers were observed at their usual location at Wildcat Canyon (La Plata).  While a Grace's Warbler was found along Junction Creek Road on the way to the Campgrounds (a spot that has been good most years since 1999).

A text message informed that a Neotropic Cormorant was found at Pastorius Reservoir (La Plata).  A Red-necked Phalarope and the Neotropic Cormorant were great bonuses for the trip list!

The Group rushed to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) and arrived an hour before sunset.  Eventually three male and one female Dusky Grouse were observed.

Most were just east of the first speed limit sign east of the western end of the South Rim Road.  Joey heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl way off in the distance toward Warner Point (most western point of the South Rim).

May 15

Hot temperature today was 70 degrees.  Winds were 10-11 mph with afternoon gusts to 31 mph.

A drive down Gunnison County Road 877 an hour before sunrise added two Gunnison Sage-Grouse for our grateful troop!  

A rest stop at the large pullover at Monarch Pass (Chaffee) found two male American Three-toed Woodpeckers drumming along the south side of the road.

A quick stop at Tunnel Drive in Canon City (Fremont) found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow on the rocky hillside at the trailhead.

A Curve-billed Thrasher at a private yard in Canon City avoided a later drive down Swallows Road.  A Greater Roadrunner was observed on the trip into Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont).

Birds encountered below the dam at Brush Hollow included a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, two Juniper Titmice and Bushtits.

A text message informed about a Black-billed Cuckoo at Carrizo Creek Picnic Area.  Sure enough, it responded to a recording, which made the long drive well worth the effort!

The birding day ended at Cottonwood Canyon (Carrizo Creek and Baca County Road M).  Two Western Screech-Owls flew around south of the primitive Campgrounds.

May 16

Temperatures continued to be hot with a high of 89 degrees.  Winds of 12-13 mph with gusts to 18 mph brought the warm temps.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, two Lesser Prairie-Chickens flew into a Lek that is located on private land in Baca County!

Later a drive down Baca County Road G found Cassin's Sparrows at the old Campo Lek Road, a Burrowing Owl west of the entrance and farther west a Curve-billed Thrasher.

Back at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca), the usual birds were added to the trip list: Eastern Phoebes, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Gray Flycatcher, Canyon Towhees, Cooper's Hawk, Chihuahuan Ravens, Wild Turkey and Bewick's Wrens.

The birding day ended 220 miles north at Bonny Reservoir (Yuma).  A Lewis's Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and Wild Turkey were found at Fosters Grove Campgrounds.

A Northern Waterthrush walked along the Republican River at 0.3 miles west of the Kansas border.  At dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl called at Hale Ponds.  Misses: no Common Poorwill was enticed into calling this evening.

May 17

It was a little cooler with a high of 76 degrees.  Winds were quite strong at 18-19 mph with gusts to 28 mph.

A drive down Yuma County Roads 45 & P did not find any Short-eared Owls hunting this morning.  Shortly before sunrise, three male Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed on the CR 45 lek.  No females made an appearance.

Wray Fishing Unit and Stalker Pond were skipped and the Troupe headed to the Pawnee National Grasslands area (Weld).

One Mountain Plover was relocated along CR 100, west of Hwy 390.  While searching for McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs a second Mountain Plover was encountered on a traditional nesting ground.

McCown's Longspurs were easy to find, while Chestnut-collared Longspurs not so much.  Finally, one was located in the field southeast of Highway 85 and CR 114 (a permit maybe required to bird here).

With some time left in the afternoon, the Schware unit of the Wellington Wildlife Area was scoped.  The Common Gallinule made a brief show!

No Short-eared Owls appeared around Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld) at sunset.  Two Great-tailed Grackles were not a good consolation.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Birding In Boulder County

May 10, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature reached 53 degrees in Boulder.  Winds stayed less than 4 mph throughout the partly sunny day.

I returned once more to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  This time I stood in the dark about two hours before sunrise.  After an hour, I played several records.  First King Rail, getting no response after 10 minutes I tried a Clapper Rail.  Ten minutes later Virginia Rail recordings enticed one to respond.  Finally, a Sora recording got a response from a Sora.  Conclusion, confirmation of a potential King Rail at the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands will not be affirmed by me.

Next, I drove up to Boulder County and the CU Campus.  The riparian area along the creek north of Varsity Pond was hopping with birds.

Of course, the best was the Golden-winged Warbler.  I may have a photo or two, will checkout tomorrow.

Other birds found included a MacGillivray's Warbler, two Tennessee Warblers, a Virginia's Warbler, two or three Orange-crowned Warblers, a Green-tailed Towhee, and a Hermit Thrush.  It was an enjoyable two hours watching the birds!

My next stop was the CU East Campus.  One of the Gray Flycatchers was still around the Ponds (Peter Burke, 5/1).

An Eastern Phoebe flew around Boulder Creek west of 75th Street.  It flew in and out of the barn north of the creek (west of 75th).  I believe the pair has a nest in the barn!

I circled southwest of Boulder where traffic is as terrible as Denver now.  Twenty years ago when I live northwest of the airport, one could drive across town in less than twenty minutes, not any more.

A hike around the Mayhoffer-Singletree trail did not find the previously reported Sagebrush Sparrow.   I believe it was last reported on Wednesday.

After dark, I searched unsuccessfully for Flammulated Owls at several of their traditional nesting locations west of Boulder.