Monday, December 9, 2019

Clear Creek & Summit Counties

December 9, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature in Georgetown was 34 degrees.  It was at least 10 degrees colder at Loveland Pass and Silverthorne. 

Rob Baker and I searched for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties) this morning.  Two and a half hours passed before we finally turned up one along the western trail.  

The Ptarmigan was a good 0.7 miles uphill, south of the trail.  The climb from the parking area (11990 feet) to the Ptarmigan location (12414 feet) was only 424 feet in elevation.  However, starting from 11990 feet, the thin air makes the hike effortful.

We had first checked more likely and easier locations 1. east of hwy 9 at first pullover south of the Summit, 2. west side of hwy 9, 2nd pullover south of Summit, 3. eastern side of Summit, then the strenuous hike up the western trail!

Later we dropped in on a friend in Silverton (Summit County).  We stood around in a cold 26 degrees for over an hour.  Birds encountered included three species of Rosy Finches, a Clark's Nutcracker, two Canada Jays, four Pine Grosbeaks, seven Evening Grosbeaks, Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and Pine Siskins.  

A stop at the Georgetown Park (Clear Creek) added four Red Crossbills to our day list!  No Rosy Finches were found during a drive around Town.

On the way back to Denver, we detoured up hwy 103 to Echo Lake (Clear Creek).  Birds were scarce around the Lake.  Eventually we found an American Three-toed Woodpecker at the southeast corner of the Campgrounds.

Then we stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  No uncommon birds were found; we missed the Barn Owls also.  Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Western Scrub-Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos and a Spotted Towhee were observed behind the Trading Center.

Eastern Colorado Birding Trip

December 7-8, 2019

Richard Stevens:

December 7

High temperature in Wray was 56 degrees.  Winds were 2-3 mph.

Rob Baker and I headed to Wray by way of Hwy 59 (near Joes).  Two county roads north of Joes were searched unsuccessfully for Greater Prairie-Chickens.

We continued to the Republican Wildlife Area (a.k.a. Bonny Reservoir, Yuma).  At Fosters Grove, we found a Long-eared Owl (windbreak) and ten Wild Turkey (along CR 3).  The absence of songbirds and sparrows was surprising.

Birds were scarce at the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was spotted during a hike along the southern gated road, which is quite overgrown with vegetation.

After lunch in Burlington, we drove back north.  We searched Fairview Cemetery north Burlington for Pine Warblers and other uncommon birds.  Two Red Crossbills were the most interesting birds there.

A couple of hour's walk around the Republican Wildlife Area (Hale ponds) found two Eastern Bluebirds (CR 4), a male Red-bellied Woodpecker and an Eastern Screech-Owl (called shortly after sunset).

December 8

Our target birds this morning along Yuma CR 45 were Greater Prairie-Chickens and Short-eared Owls.  We drove to CR 45 by Yuma CR P.  I have seen Short-eared Owls on several occasions near the bend where CR P turns into CR 45; none was around this morning.

Fortune shined, a male Greater Prairie-Chicken was observed in the field south of CR 45 (between the gravel road to the CR 45 lek and Hwy 385).

The highlight of the trip for me was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker just south of the Community Hospital.  We missed the resident Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  Two local birders had seen one along the draw just east of the Hospital about 10 minutes before our arrival.

Nothing uncommon was found at Stalker Lake.  We searched the cattails below the parking area for a stray wren (Winter, Marsh or House).  We could not find the resident Northern Cardinal at Wray Fishing Unit.

A brief stop at Washington Country Club Golf Course Park did not find any uncommon birds.  Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) did not add any uncommon birds to our trip list.

Return to Aurora Reservoir Under Better Weather Conditons

December 6, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature reached 42 degrees.  Winds were 9-10 mph.

I returned to Aurora Reservoir today hoping for better visibility.  

The swim beach was scoped from the Lower Parking Area.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull and Glaucous Gull were among 1500 gulls on the swim beach.  At least one Herring Gull and two California Gulls were also there.

Four additional groups of 1000+ gulls were scattered along the shore (mile 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 and 2.5).  After an hour, the gulls on the swim beach were dispersed by human activity.

I hiked up from the Western Parking Area to the west side of the dam.  My target bird, the Yellow-billed Loon was also not found from here.  In fact, few birds were at the northwestern corner of the dam today.

It was such a beautiful day, warm and calm winds, that I decided to hike down to the Lake from the south side.  It is approximately a 1.5 hike one way to the shore.  Yet another group of 1000+ gulls was on the shore in Lone Tree Cove.  

This group included most likely the same Glaucous Gull previously found, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and at least one Mew Gull.  Another scope of the Lake from the mouth of nearby Senac Cove did not find the Yellow-billed Loon.

To continue enjoying the excellence day I walked the length of the nearby northern Pronghorn Open Space trail.  It is about 1.2 miles one way to the northern border.

Song Sparrows were the only species found in the long cattail fields today.  No Short-eared Owls appeared at sunset as I hiked back to my car.

Brief Afternoon Visit to Aurora Reservoir

December 5, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature in the afternoon at Aurora Reservoir was 39 degrees.  Winds were 14-15 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

We stopped at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) on the way home.  Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, one Herring Gull, two California Gulls and one Mew Gull were among 1600 Ring-billed Gulls on the swim beach.

It took almost an hour to scope the beach and shore at mile 2.0.  By the time we arrived at the dam at the scuba beach, visibility was less than 10 yards; we left. 

Yellow-billed Loon and whatever could still be on the Lake.

Trip to North Park

December 2-5, 2019

Richard Stevens:

December 2

Rebecca and I drove to Cameron Pass and the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center (Jackson County).  Nothing uncommon was found at the Visitor's Center.  After dark, a Boreal Owl called from west of the Pass's Summit.

December 3

High was 39 degrees west of Cameron Pass.  Winds were a whooping 23-24 mph with a few gusts reaching 29 mph.  Owling under these conditions was (is) a bust.

We checked the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center this morning.  A lone Gray-crowned Rosy Finch was observed.  Among other birds seen were a Clark's Nutcracker and Canada Jays.

On the way to the Colorado State Forest, we walked hwy 14 near Ranger Lakes.  A drumming male American Three-toed Woodpecker made the stop worthwhile.

Then we explored the main road in the Colorado State Forest and did a little cross-country skiing.  Nothing noteworthy was found.  

Two hundred and fifty Rosy Finches (66 percent Gray-crowned Rosy, 33.9 percent Brown-capped and a few Black) entertained us at a friend's ranch.  Other birds stopping by included Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers.

At sunset, we skied down to the Crags Campgrounds.  No Dusky Grouse or additional Boreal Owls were found.

December 4

It warmed up to 43 degrees today.  Winds 14-15 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

Rebecca and I drove Jackson County Road 26 an hour before sunrise.  Our early rising was rewarded with a Greater Sage-Grouse sighting (northwest of CR 26b).

A drive along the streets of Walden did not find any Rosy Finches.  We visited another friend's ranch this time west of Walden.  They had a flock of about 100 Rosy Finches visit most days.  Unfortunately, the Rosy Finches did not visit during our stay.

Walden Reservoir was snow covered.  The few birds around were American Crows.

December 5

It was relatively warm this morning at 34 degrees.  Anomometer readings were 6-7 mph.  However, snowstorms were in the forecast; we got out of there.

We checked behind the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, again found only one Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, and then headed for home.  An American Three-toed Woodpecker could be heard drumming north of hwy 14 across from the Visitor's Center.

Stops at Joe Wright Reservoir and the Zimmerman Lake Loop Trail parking areas did not find any uncommon birds.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Weld to Arapahoe to Jefferson County

December 1, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It warmed up, sort of as high temperature today was 44 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

Rebecca and I headed north to Union Reservoir (Weld.  Eventually one Long-tailed Duck was relocated.  We could not find any of the reported Mew Gulls.  Other sightings included a Barrow's Goldeneye and possible Eastern Meadowlark (singing).

Next, Rebecca and I settled on driving to the South Platte Park Reservoir area (Arapahoe/Jefferson).  Only on Sunday is there a chance at not running into heavy traffic in Denver/Littleton.  

The two Long-tailed Ducks found earlier this morning by Adam Vesely were at first in Jefferson County at the western end of the Reservoir.  They swam around much and ended up in Arapahoe County before we departed!  The previously reported Black Scoter stayed at the western side of the Lake in Jefferson County.

We parked near Blackrock Lake and walked between Blackrock and Eaglewatch Lakes.  No swans were at either Lake.  Our target birds were Greater Scaup, which historically spend late, fall and early winter on the two lakes before they freeze.  None was found today.  

A consolation bird was a Surf Scoter on the northwest corner of Eaglewatch Lake.  Most likely, this was the South Platte Park Reservoir duck.  Both scoters seem to disappear for a day or two from the Reservoir.  Perhaps they are flying back and forth between the Reservoir and the two Lakes just below and to the east.

We had no strategy to travel to nearby Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).  However, because we had observed two of the three species of scoters our next stop was Chatfield Reservoir.  The White-winged Scoter was observed while we scoped the Lake from above the dam.

We then continued northwest to Harriman Lake Park (Jefferson).  The six Tundra Swans stood on the ice at the northwest corner of the Lake.  The yellow spots on their bills were visible on all six birds.  

Thanks Lucy Dealcins for reporting them!  I put photos on the Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library: 

Our final stop was Addenbrooke Park (Jefferson) where our target bird was a Greater White-fronted Goose.  Regrettably, not one goose was at the Park.  More distressing, I had to spend 35 minutes digging our car out of a snow bank, which used the remained daylight.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Return to Arapahoe County

November 30, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 34 degrees.  Cold but it was warmer than the past few days.  Winds were measured at 14-15 mph with gusts to 21 mph.  The wind caused high waves on the Lakes.

I returned to Arapahoe County to see if some of the previously reported birds were still around.  The Common Loon was observed swimming near the mouth of Lone Tree Cove at Aurora Reservoir.  The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull stood on the shore near mile 4.5.

My next stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Winds had picked up quite a bit.  I received a text message about the sighting of two Trumpeter Swans.  Unfortunately, I did not find them as I scoped the Lake four times.

Two to four Bonaparte's Gulls and the Glaucous Gull flew around the Reservoir during my stay.  Dozens of Western Grebes and some common ducks were more toward the swim beach.  

Only three American White Pelicans remained of the sixty-eight+ seen Thanksgiving Day. I did not find the Yellow-billed Loon, however it could have been hidden by the high waves.

On the way home, I stopped at the apartments south of the horse corrals on 56th avenue.  High winds bent the tall grasses back and forth.  I relocated several of the Song Sparrows, however did not see the Harris's Sparrow Rebecca and I found on Thanksgiving.

No Short-eared Owls were observed this evening as I parked at 88th avenue and the Toll Road Bridge.