Monday, May 21, 2018

Big Day Competition

May 20, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels, Dave King and I had a competition "Big Day" search.  Temperature only reached 58 degrees today under cloudy and rainy skies.  Winds were 14 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

I started out by driving the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver Counties) an hour before sunrise.  A Short-eared Owl flew along Third Creek, east of West Cargo Road.

Next, I hiked the First Creek Trail from 56th Avenue to the Adams County trailhead.  The Vermilion Flycatcher was hawking bugs in the field north of the Adams County Pond.  A Northern Mockingbird flew around the same field west of the Buckley Road & 64th Avenue trailhead.  Both we observed quite a distance away, saving my feet from hiking to the Pond.

Misses: the Harris's Sparrow appears to no longer to be around.  Western Kingbirds were the only Kingbirds.  No Red-eyed Vireo here today.  Both the Red-tailed Hawk and Swainson's Hawk were on their nests.

I returned to Barr Lake (Adams) by way of the DIA Owl Loop and saw two Burrowing Owls.

A walk from the Barr Lake boat ramp (mile 7.5) to mile 8.0 relocated yesterday's Gray-cheeked Thrush (about 10 yards off the trail).  A Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl and Great-tailed Grackle were eventually relocated.

My next stop was having a staked out Mountain Plover on a friend's ranch (Weld).  Several Long-eared Owls, a Cassin's Vireo, Bullock's Orioles, White-crowned Sparrows, a Dark-eyed Junco were also found. Spotted Towhee and Green-tailed Towhee searched for food in his surrounding windbreak.

Then I hiked the southern ponds at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  Another Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, a Lincoln's Sparrow, and Barn Owl were along the eastern side of the ponds.

The western side was more interesting.  A Nashville Warbler and Tennessee Warbler fluttered about that windbreak.

Ireland Reservoir #5 added several Wilson's Phalaropes and a Red-necked Phalarope to my day list.  Other birds included Canada Geese, American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, a Cinnamon Teal pair, American Pipit and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

At Ireland Reservoir #1, American Robins, an American White Pelican and a MacGillivray's Warbler were found.

I did not return until late and will find out our totals tomorrow.  My total was 103 species.

List: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Pheasant, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, American Kestrel, Virginia Rail, American Coot, Killdeer, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Long-eared Owl, Common Nighthawk, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mountain Bluebird, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, American Pipit, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, McCown's Longspur, Blue Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock's Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

Barr Lake and First Creek Trail

May 19, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 51 degree under cloudy skies.  It rained off and on most of the afternoon.  Winds were 9-10 mph; however, several gusts reached 21 mph.

Went to bed around 7:00am and back out birding at 1:00pm.  Temperatures only reached 52 degrees today.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 14 mph.  It rained off and on all afternoon.

I walked from the Barr Lake Visitor's Center footbridge (mile 0.0/9.0) to the boat ramp (7.5), returned and continued to mile 0.5.

Kingbirds, Eastern outnumbered Western, Bullock's Orioles, House Wrens, Yellow Warblers, hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds and more Cliff Swallows that I have ever seen in one place were scattered along the trail.

The pair of Osprey was on their nesting platform.  A Warbling Vireo was west of the banding station while a Red-eyed Vireo was just east.  A Gray-cheeked Thrush at mile 8.0 was the highlight.

A Barn Owl was in the box near the boat ramp.  A Long-eared Owl and Great-tailed Grackle were in the entrance windbreak.

I picked up Rebecca and we headed to the First Creek Trail.  We enter the trail from 56th avenue and not Buckley Road (more on that later).

Eventually we found five kingbirds in Denver County (east of Buckley) and eleven (west of Buckley).  We did not find one that we could call a Cassin's Kingbird.  Red-tailed Hawk nests were in both counties; a Swainson's Hawk nest is in Adams County.

A Red-eyed Vireo was just east of the Light rail bridge.  A rufous colored thrush briefly came out of the willows about 30 yards east of the Denver County trailhead.  Unfortunately, it was not relocated.

We stood around the trailheads for 15 minutes or so to see if the Harris's Sparrow was still around.  It was not found.  I would hear after getting home that a Northern Mockingbird and Vermilion Flycatcher were somewhere north of there.

We continued to the Adams County Pond along the First Creek Trail.  A male Blue Grosbeak was perched on a rabbit brush about 20 yards east of the pond.

And here is where it got weird.  I heard back at home that the male Vermilion Flycatcher and a Northern Mockingbird were seen around the trees at Buckley Road and the 64th avenue area.

Rebecca and I watched the (a) male Vermilion Flycatcher hawking bugs from the chain link fence about 25 yards south of the Pond.  It was watched from 4:50pm to 5:00pm.  I remember the time because we had to pick up a friend at DIA at 6:00pm.  We scheduled out time to meet the deadline.

So...did the Vermilion Flycatcher fly from Buckley & 64th and back to the pond?  Less likely odds, are there two Vermilion Flycatchers?

I also heard about a second Northern Mockingbird along Buckley, south of the First Creek Trailhead.  We never passed that spot and missed that Northern Mockingbird.

Back at home, reading the Vermilion Flycatcher and Northern Mockingbird at 64th avenue in the morning, I decided to return.  This time I parked at Buckley and hiked to 64th avenue, then took the trail west to the Adams County Pond.

It was raining quite hard when I arrived at Buckley & 64th avenue.  No Vermilion Flycatcher or Northern Mockingbird was found.  

The trip would not be useless.  Two Lark Sparrows and a Clay-colored Sparrow walked along the dirt track.  Half a dozen Western Kingbirds hawked bugs.

A Cassin's Vireo was in the cottonwoods about 20 yards east of the closed green gate by the pond.  No Vermilion Flycatcher was found this time at the pond.

Continuing back east, a male Black-headed Grosbeak and Black-crowned Night-Heron were 50 yards south of the pond.

A flock of birds was in the Russian Olive trees where the east-west trail has a huge bend to the north.  This loose flock had a pair of Black-capped Chickadees, a Cassin's Vireo and Plumbeous Vireo.

A second male Black-headed Grosbeak was on the fence 50 yards north of the Buckley Road parking area.

Where the Vermilion Flycatcher is/was, I did not discover.

Searching for Migranting Birds on Colorado's Eastern Plains

May 14-18, 2018

Richard Stevens:

My last grouse trip of the spring, 2018 was canceled.  Two birders missed their flight and could not get out of Israel.  Terry Michaels and I decided to look for spring migrants on Colorado's eastern plains.  It turned out to be quite fantastic five days. 
May 14

Temperatures reached 73 degrees in Holyoke.  Winds were 7 mph with gusts to 25 mph (when it was raining).

A stop at Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington) started our day with a Northern Waterthrush, male Hooded Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler.

A Red-headed Woodpecker and Blackpoll Warbler flew around Haxtun City Park (Phillips).

Holyoke Cemetery is one of my favorite locations to bird in Phillips County.  Today we found a Palm Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Field Sparrow.  Not bad for an hour walk in 9+ mph winds.

Holyoke Fishing Pond was just as interesting.  We got our first Bell's Vireo in Phillips County.  Additional birds included a Mourning Warbler (always a great find in Colorado), Blue-headed Vireo, Cassin's Kingbird and three Western Kingbirds.

A Broad-winged Hawk, Tennessee Warbler, Summer Tanager and Baltimore Oriole moved about Holyoke City Park.  While getting gas, Terry saw a Blackpoll Warbler across the street.

Our birding day ended with a drive along Yuma County Road 45.  Two Greater Prairie-Chickens jumped around on the CR 45 lek.  A Short-eared Owl flew at the northwest corner of Yuma County Road 45 & CR P.

May 15

High temperature was 75 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 25 mph (when it was raining).

Terry and I spent the day at Bonny Reservoir.  We enjoyed another great birding day.

We eventually encountered in Bonny Reservoir:
  Eastern Screech-Owl --Republican River at CR 3 
  Great Crested Flycatcher --CR 3 
  Cassin's Vireo --east/Foster's Grove 
  American Redstart --east/Forster's Grove 
  Long-eared Owl --east/Foster's Grove & southern wagon wheel 
  Barn Owl --south/Forster's Grove 
  Bell's Vireo --CR 2 
  Alder Flycatcher (Hooper Ponds to Southern Wagon Wheel Road)
  Baltimore Oriole --southern wagon wheel road
  Blue-headed Vireo --wagon wheel road 
  Red-bellied Woodpecker (2) --southern wagon wheel road 
  Eastern Phoebe --wagon wheel Campgrounds 

In the Hale Ponds area:
  Common Poorwill --Hale Ponds 
  Eastern Screech-Owl --Hale Ponds
  Red-bellied Woodpecker (4) --Hale Ponds 
  Northern Waterthrush --Hale Ponds 
  Northern Waterthrush --Hale Ponds 
  Eastern Bluebird --Hale 
  Eastern Bluebird --Hale 

May 16, 2018

It was definitely hot today with a high temperature of 80 degrees.  Summer is coming. Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 14 mph.  A day without rain, super!  One of the top three birding days in my "career"!

We continued at Bonny Reservoir and Hale and found:

  Eastern Screech-Owl --Republican River at CR 3 
  Broad-winged Hawk --Hale Ponds 
  Eastern Screech-Owl --Hale Ponds 
  Red-bellied Woodpecker (2) --southern wagon wheel road 
  Bell's Vireo --CR 2 
  Alder Flycatcher (Hooper Ponds to Southern Wagon Wheel Road)

A stop at a friend's ranch added a male Prairie Warbler, Nashville Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak to our day list.

A text message about a possible Golden-crowned Warbler in Cheyenne County sent us south.

Fortunately, several birders were looking at the Golden-crowned Warbler when we arrived.  In ten minutes, we observed the first State GCWA.  We did not hang around for the other fantastic birds at the Cheyenne County Road 9 hotspot. 

Our birding day ended at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County).  We found a Summer Tanager, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Northern Waterthrush all along the eastern side of the reservoir.  No Short-eared Owls showed up at dusk.

May 17

It felt hot with a high temperature of 87 degrees.  Winds were 19-20 mph with gusts to 32 mph.  It rained just a little bit in the afternoon.

We again spent the night at Hale Ponds.  The Common Poorwill called about an hour before sunrise.  At sunrise, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called north of the most eastern Pond.  We relocated four Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

The Eastern Phoebe was still at the wagon wheel Campgrounds.

On the drive north, a stop at Beecher Island (Yuma County) found another Eastern Phoebe and Summer Tanager.

In the Wray area, our third Eastern Phoebe of the day was at Wray Fishing Unit.  Two Baltimore Orioles were in the cottonwoods near the ranger's office.  A male Northern Cardinal flew around the windbreak along the entrance road.  The Wray Fishing Unit closes at 4:30 pm, go early if you want to bird it.

At nearby Stalker Pond we encountered another Baltimore Oriole and Northern Cardinal.  Nothing uncommon was around the lake.  It took us quite awhile to identify the only tern flying around the lake as a Forster's Tern.

No uncommon sparrows lurked around Sandsage Wildlife Area.  The resident Eastern Screech-Owl did not call this evening.

May 18

Temperatures reached a comfortable 69 degrees today.  Winds were 14-15 mph with gusts to 25 mph. It rained quite a bit in the afternoon. 

Terry and I hiked most of the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County) today. Uncommon birds continued to pop up!  My sore foot took a beating today.  On Saturday, I could barely walk, and yet I eventually did.

First, we drove Hwy 55 (Logan) to look for Greater Prairie-Chickens; without success.

Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (western sections)
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo 
  Eastern Screech-Owl 
  Red-bellied Woodpecker 
  Bell's Vireo 
  Possible Eastern Towhee 

(eastern sections)
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo 
  Eastern Screech-Owl (2) 
  Red-bellied Woodpecker (3)
  Eastern Phoebe 
  Blue-headed Vireo 
  Swainson's Thrush 
  Hermit Thrush (2)
  Nashville Warbler 
  Black-throated Green Warbler 
  Magnolia Warbler 
  Mourning Warbler 
  Field Sparrow 
  Northern Cardinal 
  Baltimore Oriole 
  Eastern Bluebird (4)
  (all above: eastern sections)

On the way back to Denver, we stopped at Duck Creek Wildlife Area (Logan) about an hour before sunset.  A Cassin's Vireo and Red-bellied Woodpecker were off the northern parking area.  On the drive back to Hwy 160, Terry pointed out an Upland Sandpiper walking the field to the east.

After dark, we stopped at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) to try out our NVG7-3P Night Vision goggles.  Eventually we spotted two Long-eared Owls.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called also.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good Bird at First Creek Trail & Belmar Historic Park

May 13, 2018

Temperatures only reached 60 degrees under cloudy skies today.  Winds were 6 mph with gusts to 16 mph.  6 mph was low, it was windy all day.

Terry Michaels and I conducted a spring count at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) this morning.  The few birds in order encountered were a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers, a pair of Spotted Towhees, one Gray Catbird, over two dozen Robins, two Red-tailed Hawks, two American Kestrels, a Great Horned Owl and a Barn Owl.  Note: the Wildlife Area north of Hwy 52 in closed until July 15.  Hence the bird count was south of the Hwy.

After we split up, I decided to do my annual one-man spring count along the First Creek Trail.  I have been bushwhacking First Creek east of Buckley Road (Denver County) since 1992.  The Adams County section only opened up a couple of years ago.

In order encountered, starting from 56th avenue at the horse corrals (Denver County): Yellow-rumped Warblers, one Red-eyed Vireo, a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Robins, Red-tailed Hawk (on nest), House Wren, Brewer's Sparrows, one Clay-colored Sparrow, two Chipping Sparrows, one male Bullock's Oriole, one Western Kingbird, and one Northern Waterthrush.

The Northern Waterthrush was approximately 40 yards east of Buckley Road.  The Red-eyed Vireo was just east of Pena Blvd.

In Adams County: White-crowned Sparrows (missed, Harris's Sparrow, either county), Northern Waterthrush (20 yards upstream of the narrow eight foot cement structure), 38 Chipping Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Marsh Wren, four House Wrens, Great Horned Owl (dove toward me out of cottonwood when I pshing at Marsh Wren), another Northern Waterthrush (under willows that hang over First Creek when gravel trail turns from west to north), three Lincoln's Sparrows, and more White-crowned Sparrows.

Highlight of the hike was a male Vermilion Flycatcher.  A text had said that a Vermilion Flycatcher was found on Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  Not knowing where, I had hoped it might show up along the eastern border.  Later I read that I had relocated at this morning's location, the southeast corner of the little pond just outside the eastern fence line.

Also around the pond: a pair of Spotted Towhees, a pair of Eastern Kingbirds, one Western Kingbird, two House Wrens, nine Yellow-rumped Warblers (mostly Audubon), two House Finches and a Hermit Thrush.

On the walk back to my vehicle: Western Wood-pewee (one each, Adams & Denver Counties), another Hermit Thrush (Adams), and a strange calling bird that I recorded and will have to look at spectrograms.  It sounded like a Great Crested Flycatcher, which I doubt, would be in this area.  However, Barr Lake has at least six records, Cherry Creek Reservoir at least one record and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal one record.bgt5%mju7&

Back at my car, I received a phone call about a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Belmar Historic Park.  Two hours before sunset, I headed that way.  The Chestnut-sided Warbler was above the pussy willows at the horse bridge.  I took photos at 7:30 pm, my camera did focus on the bird, however hand held shutter speed was 1/13 second.  I do not expect more than witness photos.

My Vermilion Flycatcher photos should be much better and will be posted on the Colorado Birding Society's photo library "most recent favorite photos" later tonight.

We ate dinner with Bill Cryder.  A Common Poorwill called from his lilac bushes for the second night in a row (Centennial yard, Arapahoe County).

Willow Creek Open Space & Rocky Mountain Arsenal

May 12, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 78 degrees in the afternoon.  Winds were high again at 10-11 mph with gusts to 24 mph.

I drove to Willow Spring Open Space (Jefferson) to search for the Northern Mockingbird & Northern Waterthrush reported earlier in the morning by Jared Del Rosso.

Saturday is not the best day to search for birds here.  The Park gets many visitors and especially dog walkers.

I did not find the Northern Mockingbird during a walk around this rather large open space.  A Northern Mockingbird has been reported here for the past four years.  I found one last year and had searched the last four.  They seem difficult to find in the willows and cattails.  Today's bird was probably still there.

The Northern Waterthrush was relocated along Willow Creek, below the dam (north side).  It walked along the shore where the creek curves from north to west.  It took 25 minutes to relocate it after the Northern Waterthrush walked under some dead willows hanging over the Creek.

A Grosbeak called from the opposite side of the creek. It appeared to come from the wild plum bushes.  Unfortunately, I never saw it.  Audio was captured, perhaps I can identify the bird some spectrograms.

A Cassin's Vireo was fluttering about the Cottonwood Tree below the tagged Shed west of the Northern Waterthrush location.

In the afternoon, Rebecca and I drove to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  I walked to the Rod & Gun Club bird blind.  A Gray-cheeked Thrush stood on the pile of dead limbs near the Blind. Later it flew to the Cottonwoods south of the Blind.

Cattails are high and only a little portion of the pond can be seen.  No shore for shorebirds was visible.

We found few birds along the Wildlife drive.  No Burrowing Owl was out; winds were 24+ mph.  

Douglas County, east to Elbert & Arapahoe Counties

May 11, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures remained warm; it was 87 degrees in Parker. Winds were also strong at 9-10 mph with gusts to 25 mph. 

Perhaps they were the reason I found few birds in spite of covering quite a bit of mileage.

An hour before sunrise I heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl near the falls area of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas).

A drive along Castlewood Canyon Road south of the Park found several Mountain Bluebirds, no Western or Eastern.  Two Wild Turkeys were on the hill west of the Winkler Ranch driveway.  No Bobolinks were found at the traditional nesting spot just south of the Ranch entrance.

Back in Castlewood Canyon State Park, I walked the Creekside trail.  An Ovenbird popped up from willows on the east side of Cherry Creek.  

A stop at Highway 86 and the Cherry Creek bridge found two Eastern Phoebes hawking bugs (would prefer to call them insects, however was told that not all bugs are insects).

I continued east to Kiowa's (Elbert) and stopped at the Dickcissel field (along Elbert Road at 4.2 miles south of Kiowa).  No Dickcissels were seen.  Either they have not arrived yet or they did not want to be exposed to the 25+ mph winds.

Locations checked, not in any particular order as I wandered back and forth, (no warblers or vireos found at any of them):

Cottonwoods at Kiowa Creek and County Line Road: no Red-headed Woodpeckers yet
Arapahoe County Open Space: no birds

Hill cut along Arapahoe CR 42, 1.7 miles east of CR 161: Loggerhead Shrike pair, no Northern Mockingbirds

Cassin's Kingbird tree along CR 161, south of Arapahoe CR 30: no kingbirds yet

Arapahoe CR 30, 0.7 miles east of CR 149: three Burrowing Owls

Arapahoe CR 129, 0.7 miles south of Orchard Road: three Burrowing Owls

High winds, few birds

Cherry Creek Reservoir in the Afternoon

May 10, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 88 degrees today.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 17 mph.  The high winds surely kept the birds hidden.

I drove through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) in the afternoon.  Two Bonaparte's Gulls flew off the Lake Loop.  The male Great-tailed Grackle was again at the Cottonwood Creek wetlands.  I did not see the female today; however, there is one around there.

I walked around the Wild Plum bushes at the south marina upper parking area and found a male Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler and two White-crowned Sparrows.  A Northern Parula spent a couple of weeks here in 2017.

Noticing a larger group of Wild Plum on the east side of Lake View Drive (main road), I walked over to see if a Northern Parula or any uncommon bird was around.  While no Parula was found, a Tennessee Warbler flew back and forth between the Plum bushes and Cottonwoods.

A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird was performing his mating flight at the ranger's office area.  No Black-chinned Hummingbirds have shown up yet this year.  Perhaps the male that has been coming for the past eight years has given up finding a mate or has passed away?

No Short-eared Owls or Long-eared Owls appeared this evening along the Gun Range entrance road.