Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area to Barr Lake

August 15, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I spent about three hours at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) this morning.  Temperatures were in the low 70s, winds less than 4 mph.  First, I walked the southern ponds 4 to 1, then the northern ponds 5 to 11.

No Long-eared Owls were encountered today.  An Olive-sided Flycatcher was hawking insects near Pond 3.  A Townsend's Warbler fluttered about Pond 7.  Surprisingly, few birds were around.

Afterwards I visited a friend's ranch.  The Mountain Plovers that nested on his property seem to have departed.  Two Burrowing Owls continue.  The pair of nesting Long-eared Owls did not appear to have successfully nested this year.  The female did stay on the nest for several weeks.

Late in the afternoon, I hiked at Barr Lake (Adams) from mile 0.5 to mile 8.0.  Few birds were seen between the Visitor's Center footbridge (mile 0.0 or 9.0) to the banding station at mile 8.7.  Once I reached the banding station, many birds were found.  They included eight Yellow Warblers, eleven Wilson's Warblers (only two females), one House Wren, one Western Kingbird and one Western Wood-pewee.

Back at mile 0.0 to 0.5, the Niedrach Boardwalk area I found a male Lazuli Bunting, two Western Wood-pewees, one Olive-sided Flycatcher and a pair of House Wrens between the footbridge and the boardwalk.

At the southwestern end of the boardwalk, I counted 17 House Wrens, 9 female type Bullock's Orioles, two Western Wood-pewees, and a possible Least Flycatcher.  The "empidonax flycatcher" did not sing or call.  It was quite small.

The DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver) is closed to traffic because of major road construction.  I parked at 112th avenue and W. Cargo Road and walked toward Third Creek and W. Cargo Road.  Two Burrowing Owls continue at the prairie dog village there.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.  I hope to establish a "last date" for Burrowing Owls in the area.  However, the hike while not too long, is time consuming.

Cassin's Vireo at Barr Lake, No Common Terns Found in Arapahoe County

August 14, 2017

Richard Stevens:

My first stop today was Barr Lake (Adams).  Highlight was a Cassin's Vireo near mile 8.9.  Two Western Wood-pewees, half a dozen Western Kingbirds and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds continue.  Two House Wrens were also found.  No terns or shorebirds other than Killdeer were encountered.

I decided to search for the Common Tern(s) reported at Aurora Reservoir yesterday.  Unfortunately, I did not relocate them.  I also checked Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe), no terns.  Only a few American White Pelicans, a couple of Double-crested Cormorants and a dozen Snowy Egrets were found.  A few California Gulls were among less than 50 Ring-billed Gulls.

Search for Long-tailed Jaeger Turned Into Swallow-tailed Kite Search, then Hepatic Tanager Search

August 8-13, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I started out to search for the Long-tailed Jaeger reported August 6 at Prewitt Reservoir.  The trip was extended because of a couple of additional bird reports.

August 8
We stopped at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) on the drive to Prewitt Reservoir.  No jaegers or uncommon gulls were seen.  One Long-eared Owl was found in the southwestern Campgrounds.  At least one or two stayed since last winter or even before.

The Jaeger was not found in our three hour search of Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington).  Two Red-headed Woodpeckers were not much of a consolation. 

Our birding day ended at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  A lone tern turned out to be a Common Tern.  We watched the fields south of Jumbo Reservoir at dusk.  One Short-eared Owl came out just before sunset and flew back and forth for five minutes or so.  No Eastern Screech-Owls were found at the north side this evening or Long-eared Owls along the western side.

August 9
Terry and I spent about four hours at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) after sunrise.  Before sunrise, we did relocate two Eastern Screech-Owls (eastern sections).  The Wildlife Area is still quite birdy this late in summer.  In the western sections, we found one Yellow-billed Cuckoo, three Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and an Eastern Screech-Owl (unusual location).  Misses: No Bell's Vireos, the Eastern Wood-Pewee or the Eastern Towhee could be detected.

In the eastern sections, we came across two Northern Cardinals, five Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Field Sparrows and a lingering Great Crested Flycatcher.

In the afternoon, we drove Highway 138 searching unsuccessfully for Upland Sandpipers.  No Upland Sandpipers were found at Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) where a lingering female or juvenile Baltimore Oriole flew around the cottonwoods.

After dark, we relocated two Eastern Screech-Owls on Roger Danka's ranch (Sedgwick).

August 10
We started out at Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).  No owls were discovered before (or after) sunrise.  A Great Crested Flycatcher and two Loggerhead Shrikes were the highlight of an hour or so walk around the property.  Misses: no uncommon sparrows could be found.

Holyoke area (Phillips) was slow.  Nothing uncommon was found at the Holyoke Fishing Pond or woodlots northeast of town.  A Least Flycatcher hawked bugs at the Holyoke Cemetery.

We left Phillips County and headed to Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  Two immature or female Baltimore Orioles were along the "closed to cars" road that runs along the south side of the now defunct lake.  Six Wild Turkeys walked along CR 3 (north side of property).  Nothing uncommon could be found at Foster's Grove Campgrounds area.

Our plans were to look for owls (Eastern & Long-eared) and Common Poorwills (or possible Whip-poor-wills) after dark.  Instead, a report of a Swallow-tailed Kite in Lamar caught our attention.  We rushed south.  It was not found in the fading light.

August 11
Terry Michaels and I drove every possible road in Lamar (Prowers) at least three times.  There was no sign of the Swallow-tailed Kite.  We had encountered a tremendous thunder and hailstorm between Burlington and Lamar.  The marble/golf ball sized hail surely did not aid our Kite search.

Eventually we counted thirty two Mississippi Kites around Lamar, no Swallow-tailed Kite.  A male Northern Cardinal was observed at the south end of the Lamar Community College woods.

With no reports of the Swallow-tailed Kite, we decided to continue south.  No kites were at Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca).  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker was a highlight. 

At Cottonwood Canyon (Baca), we encountered two Rufous-crowned Sparrows and Eastern Phoebes east of the primitive Campgrounds area.  Eight Mississippi Kites were perched in cottonwoods between the Campgrounds and 1.6 miles to the east.  Ten Common Nighthawks circled around Carrizo Mountain (during our search for Lesser Nighthawks).  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called briefly (responded to our recording) in the draw south of the Campgrounds.  Two Western Screech-Owls called after civil twilight!

We drove to Picture Canyon for the night.  A Short-eared Owl hovered over CR 18

August 12
Five hours were spent exploring the Picture Canyon area (including Sand Canyon & North Canyon).  Highlights included a Painted Bunting and two Rufous-crowned Sparrows in Picture Canyon.  Curve-billed Thrasher in Sand Canyon. 

We saw an Oriole in Sand Canyon that could not be identified with the brief looks given to us.  It most likely may have been a female Scott's Oriole with darkish gray head and grayish breast and belly.  It had no yellow color on the breast.  We "chased" it for 30 minutes before it mysteriously disappeared. 

A male Vermilion Flycatcher was come across in North Canyon (near the old spring that has produced several sightings over the years).

A Greater Roadrunner crossed the road as we left Picture Canyon and drove to the Upland Bird Management Area (Baca).  This area is close to abandoned now days.  I believe the Forest Service once used the area to reintroduce sage ground and prairie chickens.  I have not seen any tracks for a dozen years now.  A Short-eared Owl was observed at dusk!

August 13

Our target bird today was a Hepatic Tanager.  We stopped at five previous nesting locations in Las Animas County; none was found. The few highlights included many Cassin's Kingbirds, a lonely Dickcissel along CR 10.8, six Mississippi Kites (still no Swallow-tailed Kite), eight Red-headed Woodpeckers, one Greater Roadrunner, and a Pinyon Jay, which seemed way out of place.

We entered New Mexico by way of Highway 389 and continued west to Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area (Las Animas).  Finally the highlight of the day.  An adult female Hepatic Tanager at the northwest corner of the lake.  A Townsend's Warbler was also in the area.  The tanager had a bright orange red throat (could it have been a first year male?).

After civil twilight, we searched for owls.  None was heard.  One of our three "owl listening stations" attracted a Northern Saw-whet Owl!

End of a great trip, in spite of missing the Swallow-tailed Kite.  Would be only the sixth state record (2nd Prowers County).

Search for Cave Swallow at Harriman Lake Park

August 7, 2017

Richard Stevens: email sent to cobirders listserve:

Hello cobirders,
Bird report below, trust me.

Anyone seeing a nut standing in the rain for three+ hours at Harriman Lake Park this afternoon, it was me!  I rigged up a tripod with an umbrella and another with my camera and took shots (can they still be called photos?) of the swallows flying around the western end of the lake.

While studying the swallows I noticed that the species tend to fly different patterns and speeds.  After a while, I would look without binoculars and guess species; then use binoculars to confirm.  Accurate rate was close to perfect.

That got me thinking about the Strouhal number and whether I could calculate what I was seeing.  For those not knowing, Strouhal number may be used to calculate flight speed of birds (in some cases when flight is in straight line).  The number is equal to frequency (of wing beats) times amplitude (vertical distance traveled by wing tip during a flapping stroke) divided by forward speed (distance traveled per second).

Took over 1400 photos and stopwatch measurements, it will take a few days to summarize my data, depends on how well the photos come out, I was able to get 1/2000 shutter speed out of my camera during some of the brighter moments in the cloudy skies.

All this was brought to mind as one particular swallow was much faster and flying straighter than most of the rest.

Swallow count was hundreds of Barn Swallows, dozens of Tree Swallows, four Violet-green Swallows, two Cliff Swallows and the speedy swallow.

I watched a potential Cave Swallow (speedy) at one stretch for 12 minutes as it flew towards me and parallel many times.  It eventually flew to the eastern end of the lake.  Many of the swallows would rest on the rocks at the southwest corner of the lake.  Regrettably the possible Cave Swallow did not.

The speedy swallow had a buffy throat that extended behind the nape, rusty forehead, and no white "headlights" on forehead.  Southwestern race of Cliff Swallow does show rusty forehead but also dark chestnut throat which "speedy" lacked.  I hope I captured a photo of the mystery bird!

Rain increased, I departed.

Another bird of note was a Red-eyed Vireo.  It was along the southern side of the lake up the "canal" that runs south.

Continued Good Birding!

Directions to birding spots and maps on CoBus website:


NOTE: after looking through hundreds of photos (most were fuzzy, out of focus) I could not confirm that a Cave Swallow was present.  I probably will address "swallow flying speed" in September, 2017 "Colorado Field Notes" 

Back to Jackson County

August 5-6, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I escaped the heat in Denver with a trip to Jackson County.  It was cooler; however, afternoon storms were not good for our birding.

August 5

We arrived in Jackson County in late afternoon.  A side trip to Red Feather Lakes added a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers and a male American Three-toed Woodpecker to our trip list.

No Boreal Owls were heard around Cameron Pass (Jackson) after dark.  We drove west to Ranger Lakes where our success improved.  Two Boreal Owl called (responded to recordings) from the southwest corner of the Lakes area.

After Rebecca retired, I could not sleep and drove east to the Crags Campgrounds.  Winds had died down and forest sounds were everywhere.  I enjoyed the hike down to the Campgrounds and along the fire road leading to the south.  A Boreal Owl briefly responded to my recordings.

August 6

Rebecca and I drove Jackson County Road 26 about an hour before sunrise.  Eventually we observed one Greater Sage-Grouse crossing CR 26b approximately 0.6 miles south of County Road 26.

Several Sage Thrashers, many Vesper Sparrows, two Willets and an American Bittern were seen during a drive through the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

Search for Shorebirds In Weld County

August 4, 2017

Richard Stevens:

On this superb summer day I drove up to Weld County.  I had planned to go to Pawnee National Grasslands and search for Mountain Plovers, etc.  Highway construction slowed my drive too much and I birded around the Lower Latham Reservoir area instead.  The wetlands south of Latham were dry in spite of the many afternoon rain storms lately.

A Pectoral Sandpiper, six Baird's Sandpipers and a few Killdeer walked around the Beebe Draw Pond at Weld CR 40.  Dickcissels were found: one along CR 42, 0.1 miles east of CR 43 and another along CR 40, east of CR 43.  The fields which hosted more than half a dozen seven days ago were now cut.

Loloff Reservoir had another Pectoral Sandpiper, fourteen White-faced Ibis, six Baird's Sandpipers and four Black-necked Stilts.  I could not pick out a Glossy Ibis among the White-faced.  Had to be at a barbecue back home and I cut my birding day short.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mt Evans Parkway and a Surprise At Home

August 2, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I led the CoBus trip to Mt. Evans (Clear Creek County) today.  The weather was great with temperatures in the 70s.  Four birders and I enjoyed the cool temperatures.

Our first stop was Summit Lake area of Mt. Evans.  Two Brown-capped Rosy Finches were found flying around the northwest corner of the Lake.  It took about 20 minutes before they appeared; however, it is a good spot to wait.

The search for White-tailed Ptarmigan took much longer.  We spread out and walked the field east of the Summit Lake parking area.  After about an hour and a half, I found one Ptarmigan about 600 yards below the Road.

We drove to the top and looked for the eastern and western edges of the parking area.  No additional Ptarmigan were found today.

At the Echo Lake Campgrounds, we walked to the Mt Captain trail.  A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was drumming on a tree south of the trail!

Finally, we walked around Echo Lake.  Six Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the water.  A Green-tailed Towhee and Lincoln's Sparrow fluttered about the western side of the lake.  A Pinyon Jay was observed at the southwest corner.

Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds show up in good numbers at the southeastern corner!

Back at home, many hummingbirds continued to visit our feeders.  Many for us, in the past we have never had more than one each summer.  Today we again saw at least one of the four common species coming through Colorado.

HOWEVER, we got a visit from a quite large hummingbird.  It appeared to have a long bill and spots/stripes across its flanks and belly.  Could we have a Rivoli's Hummingbird?  We hope it returns tomorrow!

I am not counting it as a Rivoli's Hummingbird yet.  Size is relative.  It only came by once but did stay a good 4-5 minutes.  No other hummingbirds were around for size comparison.