Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area & Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 14, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 54 degrees before we left Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  Winds were 9-10 mph with gusts to 13 mph.

Early this morning, Terry Michaels and I heard an Eastern Screech-Owl calling north of Hale Ponds (Yuma).

We circled Hale Ponds and found two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds and six Northern Bobwhite.  Origin of the Bobwhite is always in question as dog trainers use them for training.

A Harris's Sparrow was a wagon wheel Campgrounds.  A Northern Cardinal was at Fosters Grove along with twelve Wild Turkeys.

What a fantastic afternoon.  Temperature was 60 degrees and winds were calm at 3:30 pm.

After scoping the mudflats from the Lake Loop to Prairie Loop, Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County), Mark Chavez suggested the pond on the north side of the lake.

The pair of Rusty Blackbirds walked the northern end of the pond west of the swim beach.  Frank Farrell was already looking at the birds when I arrived.

Photos on the Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library (recent favorite photos link). 

We stayed around until well after sunset which is not long a wait with the shorten late fall days.  Hundreds of geese flew in, no swans.

I did not see many uncommon birds on the lake when scoped earlier.  The Mew Gull was back on the sand spit north of Pelican Bay.

Trip to Wray and Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma County)

November 13, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I headed to Wray, CO.  I wanted to be at an interesting location or at least out of Denver when reaching a milestone in my birding.

High temperature in Wray was 51 degrees on this pleasant day.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts only measured at 8 mph.

Best bird at Wray Fishing Unit outside of Wray was a red Fox Sparrow. A Marsh Wren popped out of the cattails at the eastern end of the Wray Fishing Unit (Yuma CR FF).  A late House Wren was around Stalker Pond.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew around Wray Community Hospital. One found each fall/winter since 2012!

Other birds found at various private yards: 
private yard #1: pair of Northern Cardinals
private yard #2: Varied Thrush &White-throated Sparrow 
private yard #4: Northern Cardinal & red Fox Sparrow  

A drive around the county roads north of Wray around sunset did not find any Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls this trip.

The MILESTONE:  After visiting Wray Fishing Unit, Terry and I stopped near Wray City Park, and broke out a couple of cans of Dr. Pepper to celebrate.  I reached my one millionth  mile birding/driving IN Colorado.

This was after 26 years, wearing out five personal cars and 271 rental cars!

I have kept track of hours birding and distance hiked at each birding location.  Terry suggests that I post that, perhaps later.

Terry also asked what the most missed adventure was to date.  After climbing the fifty-four 14,000+ feet mountains and thirty or so "lesser" mountains, I wanted to hike the Colorado perimeter border (1320 miles) planned for 1998.  

I had arranged for a TV station and others to drop supplies and had collected donations for charity.  Obviously, I had to cross some private lands and could not contact each landowner personally.  I asked then governor of Colorado Roy Romer's office for some type of pass explaining my pursuit.  They refused stating that it would set a precedent that could cause future problems.  Pass denied, end of that quest.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Aurora Reservoir Loons

November 12, 2018

Richard Stevens:

I returned to inspect the Arapahoe County Reservoirs this afternoon.  Temperatures never warmed up; the high was 26 degrees.  Winds were calm to 2 mph at Aurora Reservoir.  The lack of wind made it feel not cold at all. 

I spent several hours at Aurora Reservoir.  Daylight ended before I could get over to nearby Cherry Creek State Park (8 miles to the west).

The Gull count at Aurora Reservoir was six+ times greater than my visit yesterday; thousands of gulls swam on the lake.  I scoped the horde from the upper swim beach parking area and the only uncommon Gull identified was one Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A Common Loon swam off mile 5.0, while a second loon kept my attention for more than half an hour.  Unfortunately, it stayed quite far away off mile 4.0.

The loon did not dive during the 45+ minutes I watched it.  I assumed the bill was not wet.  It lacked the neck markings of a Common Loon.  Its bill appeared yellow.  Its back appeared barred.  The head appeared lighter than the back.

I am always a little hesitant to call a loon's bill yellow at sunset.  Many times a wet black bill appears to pick up the sunset colors.  Therefore, I waited until sunset.  Shortly after the sun went behind the mountains, the loon's bill still looked yellow.

This was most likely a Yellow-billed Loon.  I was informed tonight that a Yellow-billed Loon was reported yesterday at Prospect Reservoir (Weld County).  Aurora Reservoir is located 25 miles almost directly south of Prospect Reservoir.

Later I walked a half mile either direction of Piccadilly Road and Jewell Avenue.  Both Eastern Screech-Owls and Barn Owls have been observed/heard during my previous hikes.  However, none was encountered tonight.

Arapahoe County Reservoirs on Sunday

November 11, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 30 degrees.  Winds were 12-13 mph with gusts to 16 mph.

I could not find anyone who wanted to go birding in the snowstorm.  I walked into Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) from the south gate by myself.  

A Black Scoter swam around in Lone Tree Cove. Two Iceland Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were among hundreds of gulls at mile 2.5.  Most were Ring-billed Gulls; I did see at least two Herring Gulls and a dozen California Gulls.

By the time I reached Cherry Creek Reservoir in the afternoon, visibility was quite pathetic.  Less than half the lake could be seen from any viewpoint.

The four Tundra Swans reported earlier in the day appeared to have left.  In my experience, four of the five times, I have observed swans here; they had flown in after 4:00pm and departed before 9:00am the next day.  Staying to watch sunset can be advantageous.

Only a couple of Killdeer walked the mudflats off the bird platform area, Prairie Loop.  From the southeast corner of the Lake Loop, I could see two Rusty Blackbirds walking the mudflats, which cannot be seen, from the bird platform.

Next, I hiked the Cherry Creek Reservoir Dam trail from Pelican Bay to the Dam's Tower.  Eight White Pelicans and many Ring-billed Gulls were on the sand spit.  The Mew Gull was not here today.

Waterfowl were closer than usual from the shore probably because visibility was so poor.  Best sighting was a White-winged Scoter among a group of Goldeneyes.  I had to wait quite a while for it to flat its wings and cement the ID.

At least ten Bonaparte's Gulls joined Ring-billed Gulls diving for food below the dam.  Misses: the previously reported Black Scoter, Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and Common Loon were not found.  That may have been due to low visibility?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Birding In Adams County

November 10, 2018

Richard Stevens:

The calm before the storm, it was a beautiful day until late afternoon.  High temperature was 56 degrees around 2:00pm.  Winds were 6-7 mph.  At 4:00pm a storm blew in from the east northeast.  Temperatures dropped rapidly and anomometer readings soared to 24 mph.

Rebecca wanted to see a Harris's Sparrow so we walked the First Creek Trail at Buckley Road.  The previously seen Harris's Sparrow did not show; however, one White-throated Sparrow did.  Again, the bird was with a dozen White-crowned Sparrows, three Song Sparrows and a Lincoln's Sparrow on or just south of the chain link fence southwest of the trailhead.

Missing the Harris's Sparrow, we headed to Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver).  This Harris's Sparrow was cooperative to a point.  It appeared several times as it scurried across the gravel trails behind (north) the maintenance building.

Our next choice was either Cherry Creek Reservoir, which we have visited several times this month or something new.  Our choice was to hike the South Platte Birding Area (Adams) from 88th avenue to hwy 224 and back.

It turned out to be a first-rate selection. 

We scoped the northern West Gravel Lake from the road running east to west along the north side of the lake.

First, a female Long-tailed Duck was spotted about 50 yards to the south.  I put photos of the adult female in basic plumage on the Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library.

Next, we noticed a bird that was too big to be a Pied-billed Grebe.  It was too far away to judge the actual size of the lone bird.  It did not look like a Western Grebe, more like a small loon and not a Common Loon.

After watching it swim closer, it was identified as a Red-necked Grebe!

We continued south scoping the Platte River from the trail along the east side of West Gravel Lakes.  Fifteen Common Goldeneyes were at the southern end of the northern lake.  Another six were on the southern West Gravel Lake.

Dropping down to the Platte River trail at the end of the West Gravel Lakes trail we found a male Barrow's Goldeneye with five female/immature Common Goldeneyes.  A dog walker came by and his dog chased the Goldeneyes east to Tani Reservoir.

Later we scoped both East Gravel Lakes and Dahlia Pond, no additional uncommon birds were found.  High winds encouraged us to give up on scoping Tani Reservoir or lakes farther south.

Not a bad afternoon with a predicted snowstorm arriving sometime in the night or later!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Denver Foothills

November 9

Richard Stevens:

It felt cold today with a high of 43 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 13 mph.

After a few hours of sleep this morning, I headed toward a White-eyed Vireo sighting at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  

A stop at Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver) found the Harris's Sparrow with four or so White-crowned Sparrows behind the park building.

Thanks to Dave King for the heads up, his photos are on the Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library (recent favorite photos): 

Many birders and I searched for over two hours for the White-eyed Vireo near the Red Rocks Park trading post.  Most birders finally left. 

At last, I relocated the vireo beneath the pine tree at the north end of the trading post trail (near the road up to the amphitheater.  This was around 2:45 pm.  Unfortunately only one birder was still around to tell.

Next, I went to the southern end of the trading post trail (north of the old chapel).  I scoped the juniper trees for Northern Saw-whet Owls, which historically have been found in them in November & December.  None was found today.

While scoping the evergreen trees north of the elementary school I found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Originally, in the two tall evergreens, it flew to the shorter pines to the west.

At one time, birders could walk down the drainage to this area.  Regrettably, it is now behind a no trespassing sign.

After checking this area, I ended my birding day at Mt. Falcon Park, target bird, a Northern Pygmy-Owl.  While no Northern Pygmy-Owls were found, a Dusky Grouse walked across the southern trail.  It was past the fence.  This trail runs south from the main trail and starts just east of the upper parking area.

No owls called this night at Mt. Falcon Park or surrounding neighborhoods.

Southwestern Colorado

November 5-8, 2018

Richard Stevens:

November 4

High temperature in Trinidad was 48 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 14mph.

Terry Michaels and I birded at Trinidad State Park (Las Animas County) this afternoon.  Nothing uncommon was found.  Our bird list included Greater Roadrunner, Juniper Titmouse, Sage Thrasher, four Pinyon Jays and Lapland Longspurs.

Owling this night was a bust.

November 5

It was a pleasant 57 degrees this afternoon.  Winds were 6-7 mph, although anemometer readings peaked at 22 mph around 3:00 pm.

Terry Michaels and I went to check on some land in Cortez.  Highlight of the day would be the Eurasian Wigeon on Industrial Park Pond (Montezuma).  It was a county lifebird for both of us.

Later we walked around the Huck Finn Pond and Durango Fish Hatchery (La Plata).  A Lewis's Woodpecker and the Harris's Sparrow continued at previously reported locations.

Two Acorn Woodpeckers were relocated at Wildcat Canyon (Rafter J) area.

We walked the northern half of the Animas River Trail.  No Black Phoebes or additional Lewis's Woodpeckers were found.

Once again, owling was a bust.  However, we have not had time to check the "owl listening stations" recordings.  The software to do so is back in Denver.

November 6

Temperature was 42 degrees when we reached Silverton.  Winds were 6-7 mph.  Little Molas Lake was no warmer and winds measures 22 mph there.

Terry and I birded Haviland Lake (La Plata) this morning.  No Grace's Warblers (not expected) or Williamson's Sapsuckers (possible?) were found.

We enjoyed the drive to Silverton, great scenery.  Approximately twenty Rosy Finches (no black) were found in town.  If I remember correctly, we were walking around 12th Street.

On the way back to Durango, we hiked/snow shoed about 1.5 miles up the Little Molas Lake trail.  Four Red Crossbills were found west of Little Molas Lake turnoff.  A White-tailed Ptarmigan pair was encountered about 1.1 miles west of the turnoff!  A San Juan first for Terry.  I had come across one along Minnie Gulch Road back in June 2015.  It is always nice to see one anywhere, especially in winter plumage.

We explored Little Molas and Molas trails for owls.  None was found this night.

November 7

High temperature in Crested Butte was 43 degrees.  Winds however were only 3-4 mph.

Terry and I found just one Dusky Grouse this morning at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  Two unidentified Rosy Finches flew by the Visitor's Center.

Later we relocated the Barrow's Goldeneyes found yesterday by Betty Fenton near Crystal Dam.

Two Barrow's Goldeneyes were on Blue Mesa Reservoir (Gunnison) when we passed by.  A Lincoln's Sparrow was at Steven's pullover.

We detoured north to Crested Butte (Gunnison).  Twenty three Rosy Finches (again no Black) flew around town.  They did not appear to settle anywhere particular.

Owling was restricted to open roads.  None was found tonight.  Again, we have not checked the "owl listening stations" put out, to be updated later.

November 8

High temperature in Canon City was 46 degrees.  Winds measured only 2-3 mph.

A drive down Gunnison County Road 38 found two Gunnison Sage-Grouse walking along the road.  They were half a mile or so north of CR 38a.

A stop at the large pullover at Monarch Pass (Chaffee) found a male American Three-toed Woodpecker and six Rosy Finches (five Brown-capped and one Gray-crowned).

We skipped turning north to Buena Vista and the Park County reservoirs and instead continued east on Hwy 50.

A brief stop at the Tunnel Drive trailhead in Canon City added two Rufous-crowned Sparrows to our trip list.  Nothing moved about Sells Pond; we did not take the time to walk the trail to Raynolds Avenue.

No owls or sapsuckers were found at Rouse Park, Lakeside Cemetery, Lions Park or the Old Abbey.  It did not appear too early for them to show up, perhaps it was?

Owl was fantastic this night.  We ended up finding three Northern Saw-whet Owls and the highlight, a Spotted Owl!  All were up Phantom Canyon Road.

Later we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area.