Thursday, December 27, 2007

DIA Owl Loop

December 26, 2007

I went over to Barr Lake while I waited for Bryan Ehlmann to show up. In the hour I watched the Visitor Center's feeders I saw a dozen White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, and 2 dozen Dark-eyed Juncos. The latest snowstorm did not bring any Harris's Sparrows.

The string of 5 winters in a row (and 9 of the last 11) with a Harris's Sparrow may be broken? The four Northern Bobwhite have not been reported since 12/19.

Bryan and I then drove the DIA Owl loop. The number of Horned Larks amazed us. When we arrived at the field 5.2 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue the field south of the road was covered with Horned Larks.

A Prairie Falcon was perched on the radio tower about 100 yards further east. The falcon later flew to the north and scared up what we conservatively counted as 100,000+ Horned Larks. So our count from that position was well over 120,000 and that was just the birds that we could see.

To escape the Prairie Falcon the northern flock flew toward us. The sky was filled with Horned Larks. We were able to pick out at least one Snow Bunting in the mix. However, there may have been two. This section of road is just east of the only structure next to the road as 96th avenue turns into 114th avenue. (The sequence of the same paved road leading east from Tower Road is 96th avenue to Quency Street to Quency Way to 114th).

We continued east and south. At the Prairie Dog Village/Burrowing Owl Colony (3.4 miles east of 96th & Tower) the only tree to the east was covered with 800+ Red-winged Blackbirds. We looked for a stray Yellow-headed Blackbird but did not find any.

We continued south of another 0.3 miles and found the cultivated field to the east of the road filled with 30,000+ additional Horned Larks. As we watched this group, a flock of 1200+ Red-winged Blackbirds flew over from the south.

The eventual raptor count was 1 female Northern Harrier, 3 American Kestrel (one with a mouse), 2 Prairie Falcons, and a lone Red-tailed Hawk.

A quick trip over to Emerald Strand Park found only 900 White-cheeked Geese on the lake that was 60 frozen. At LakeCrest, we counted over 3,000 White-cheeked Geese. No Greater White-fronted Goose or Ross's Goose. The "blue" Snow Goose was along the western edge. One domestic goose not far away. The geese just kept flying in as we watched. We couldn't see how additional geese found a place to land; they were so tightly packed.

We returned to the DIA Owl Loop at sunset. Searched for Short-eared Owls; without success.

Christmas Counts (Dec 14 to Cec 25)

December 14 to December 25, 2007

Each year the Colorado Birding Society conducts a series of Christmas Counts. They are separate from the counts sponsored by the Audubon Society. Sort of a protest against the fee charged for their counts.

We decided to take turns describing our experiences on the five Christmas Counts conducted by the Colorado Birding Society. We hope some enjoy our accounts.

December 17

Pawnee National Grasslands: Bill Cryder

I guess I will start. The area received a fair amount of snow the few days prior to our count. Winds were 20+ mph; it felt cold all day. They decided to reprise this count which was conducted only once before about 5 or 6 years ago.

A friend of Richard called on 12/14 and said that he had several Sharp-tailed Grouse on his property. That ranch was inside of our count circle. The grouse made a good motivation to do this count. It helped in getting volunteers anyway.

Count circles have 15 mile diameters. The Pawnee National Grasslands circle centers at Weld County Roads 98 & 73.

In all we had 10 birders plus 7 feeder watchers, total birder hours 152, mileage driven while birding 182, miles walked only about 12 miles reduced because of the snow and cold.


Sharp-tailed Grouse (2) private ranch
Long-eared Owl (6, 2 locations) Pawnee National Grasslands
Short-eared Owl (1 each at 2 private ranches)
Common Redpoll (Briggsdale)
Barn Owl (private ranch)

Totals: 49 species; 32,458 birds.

December 18: Richard Stevens

The next CBC was scheduled for Wray on 12/20. We headed to the Crook area on 12/18 to scout for the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife CBC scheduled for 12/21.

Wandering around Sedgwick we watched a Short-eared Owl fly up and down Sedgwick Draw before sunrise. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen at the cemetery. A flock of 14 American Tree Sparrows, 9 White-crowned Sparrows, and 2 Song Sparrows were also there.

At a friend's ranch we found 2 Long-eared Owls in his windbreak. His feeders were being visited by a female Purple Finch. The cattails in his fields had 2 Common Redpolls!

He pointed out that a neighborhood also had 2 Purple Finches visiting his feeders. We did not take the time to confirm that, but the report sounded good.

Sedgwick-Bar Wildlife Area: We stopped here and found 2 Eastern Bluebirds around the parking area. A short walk down the riparian area added a Red-bellied Woodpecker to our day list.

Birds in Ovid were scarce. We were not able to relocate the White-winged Dove or Purple Finch reported by Henry Armknecht. Eurasian Collared-Doves were fairly easy to find however. We did find a White-throated Sparrow in the thickets at the Ovid Sewage Ponds.

Our birding day ended at Roger Danka's Ranch in Sedgwick County. He has had a Purple Finch visiting his feeders since 10/27. He had an eastern race Fox Sparrow show up yesterday and it reappeared for us. The Eastern Screech-Owls on his property did not disappoint, they called shortly after dark.

December 19: Richard Stevens

Most people decided to rest today. Bryan Ehlmann and I headed south to Wray to scout for tomorrow's CBC.

We started out early enough to drive the Marks Butte Area of Sedgwick County before sunrise. Our hope was to find a Greater Prairie-Chicken or Sharp-tailed Grouse. Neither was found. We did see tracks that were not Ring-necked Pheasants. They could be in the area. Marks Butte is the western end of Sand Draw.

At Sand Draw Wildlife Area we missed the Harris's Sparrows that have been around for a month. We did see a Field Sparrow along the back fence line. A Great Horned Owl flew out of the tall evergreen trees along the northwestern corner.

Once in Wray we drove by Stalker Ponds and the Wray Fishing Unit. Bryan pointed picked out the red of a male Northern Cardinal at Stalker Ponds.

Sandsage Wildlife Area had quite a few sparrows. They were however White-crowned, Song, and American Tree Sparrows. Two Great Horned Owls called near dusk.

We met up with the rest of our group for dinner and retired for an early morning CBC.

December 20: Wray CBC: Bryan Ehlmann

Oke, dokie. No snow today but the ground was covered. We had 8 birders and 11 feeder watchers. Winds were 15+ mph. Temperatures in the 30s. Birder hours: 146 Miles driven: 210 Miles hiked: 18

The count circle of 7.5 mile radius was centered on Hwy 385 and Yuma CR 40.5.


We started about 2 hours before sunrise and covered 4 separate areas looking for owls. The Weston group found a Barn Owl at an old broken down barn along CR BB. The Stevens group found an Eastern Screech-Owl at Sandsage wla. Great Horned Owls were counted at 3 different groves.

Before sunrise, we all met and drove the CR 45 loop (Hwy 385 to CR 45 to CR NN to CR PP). Two Greater Prairie-Chickens were seen along the side of the road (CR 45 & CR NN).

We then broke into our groups to count.

Two Long-eared Owls were reported by one of our feeder watchers. A Short-eared Owl was seen during count week (along CR NN). It didn't show today.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was found at Sandsage wla.

Two Common Ravens were east of CR 45.

Five Red-breasted Nuthatches, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and 18 Mountain Chickadee represented some mountain species.

Bluebirds included 2 Eastern Bluebirds and 10 Mountain Bluebirds. A Western Bluebird was reported during count week.

A Brown Thrasher in Wray and a Northern Mockingbird at Stalker Ponds were both surprises.

Eight Yellow-rumped Warblers and 2 Common Yellowthroats represented the warblers.

A Savannah Sparrow was seen at Sandsage along with 2 White-throated Sparrows. A Harris's Sparrow visited a feeder in Wray.

Nine Northern Cardinals (7 males and 2 females) were reported around Wray. The male at Stalker Ponds was during count week.

One Yellow-headed Blackbird was with 120 Red-winged Blackbirds near a pond on the Bledsoe Ranch.

A female Purple Finch was also reported at a town feeder. All of us got to see this bird.

Totals: 79 species; 5723 birds (count week birds are not included).

December 21: Gary Weston

Tamarack Ranch/Jumbo/Red Lion CBC

It snowed the night before and the day after this count. We had driven back from Wray and arrived at the Danka ranch around midnight. Some of us who will remain unnamed did not start counting until 8:00am. Four of us went owling around 4:00 am.

The Count Circle is at CR 89, south of Hwy 138. As a result, only a Logan County section of Jumbo Reservoir is included in the count circle. We had 10 birders and 4 feeder watchers. Birder hours: 112 Mileage driven: 122 Miles walked: 7

Because of the snow, we tried something different. We did point counts aided by scopes from our car windows. We spent about 15 minutes at each station, but could move on if no birds were seen.


Both a Sora and Virginia Rail were seen at Little Jumbo Reservoir. A Yellowlegs species was not identified to species.

Four Eastern Screech-Owls answered our playback recordings before sunrise. One Long-eared Owl was found by the Ehlmann group. Later we all went back and relocated the owl.

Nine Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found flying about the cottonwoods at Tamarack Ranch WLA.

Two Field Sparrows and one White-throated Sparrow were the only rare sparrows seen.

Two Northern Cardinals were found near the old Ranger's home.

Total: 71 species; 14,194 individuals

December 22: Richard Stevens

Today we rested back at Roger Danka's Ranch. Bryan, the Gary's and I drove the eastern border from the northeast corner down to Highway 6, then west to Holyoke and back north.

We ran into flocks of American Pipits at two different fields on sunflowers. We did not expect any Sprague's Pipits, but we kept our eyes open for them.

Horned Larks were plentiful. Two dozen Lapland Longspurs were found at a dried up pond. To our surprise a McCown's Longspur was with them. Perhaps a Sprague's Pipit could be a stray also?

We really would have liked to find an Eastern Meadowlark. I read much about the Eastern Meadowlarks in Nebraska. The possibility of one wintering in Colorado is good; we never found one however.

Raptors were in average numbers. Not as many as I have encountered in past years.

We talked to several landowners along our trek. One talked about a really red "House Finch". When we showed him a picture of a Purple Finch, he said that was what he had coming to his feeders in Alvin. We received an invitation to come over and look and sure enough he had an adult male Purple Finch. He thought that it had showed up on December 8th and had been coming everyday since.

I gave him a Field guide which he thumbed through as we ate some of his wife's chili. He also said that he had seen 2 White-throated Sparrows and a Harris's Sparrow. Neither of them gave by while we were there. Anyway, we made a new friend on the eastern border and hopefully turned him into a birder.

December 23: Julesburg CBC: Roger Danka

Not my thing to type out on a computer, but I will give it a shot. They started a new Julesburg Christmas Count today. The center point of the circle was designated as the intersection of Sedgwick County Roads 32 and 47.

Eight birders participated, we recruited 5 feeder watchers. Total birder hours: 114, miles driven: 132, miles walked: 6

The number one highlight was an American Woodcock discovered by Richard Stevens and Gary Weston. Bryan Ehlmann and Rebecca Kosten were close by and were also able to see it. By the time the rest of us got over to the Platte River, the woodcock had vanished into the weeds. We all went back later, but still could not find it.

One rancher showed Gary Zeeto and me a Barn Owl hidden in the dark corner of his barn of course. Another rancher saw 2 Long-eared Owls which were not around when Bryan Ehlmann and Rebecca Kosten went to look.

One Red-headed Woodpecker was found. Some years I have 2 or 3 stay on my ranch. But I haven't seen this for 4 or 5 years now.

An exciting find for all of us was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A friend of mine called to ask about a strange woody. Richard and Bryan thought that he might have a late migrating Red-naped Sapsucker. When they went to check it out, it turned out to be an adult female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. All of us got to see that one.

They thought that the 2 Brown Creepers deserved a mention. Also a Rock Wren that was seen during count week (12/20).

One Common Yellowthroat was our only warbler. Interesting sparrows included 2 Field Sparrows, 1 Harris's Sparrow, 1 Fox Sparrow, 2 White-throated Sparrows,

One female Purple Finch was found by a feeder watcher. We all stopped by and saw this one. Three Red Crossbills were a surprise at Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop. Two Common Redpolls were found at a ranch near DePoorter Lake.

Totals included 69 species and 2847 birds. Not what we expected. It was cold and windy all day.

December 24: Bonny Reservoir CBC: Gary Zeeto

I was made count manager for the Bonny Reservoir CBC. It was a horrible day with winds 25+ mph and gusts into the 35 mph range. Temperatures never reached 30 degrees. But 7 hardy souls gave it a try. We also found 3 feeder watchers.

Bonny Reservoir is not what it once was. Water levels are sadly terrible. The once great birding spot is a shadow of itself. The campgrounds are far from any water. Water birds are greatly reduced in the numbers that once flourished here. We hope Kansas enjoys our water.

One of the rangers reported seeing a Greater Prairie-Chicken during count week. None of us hiked to the area where it was seen. Six Wild Turkeys were seen walking along the road on the south side of the reservoir. Two Northern Bobwhite were kicked up at Hale Ponds.

Owls found included 1 Barn Owl, 4 Eastern Screech-Owls, 2 Long-eared Owls, 1 Short-eared Owl and 6 Great Horned Owls.

Gary Weston and Sue Ehlmann found a Winter Wren at Hale Ponds. It was not relocated in the late afternoon.

A Brown Thrasher was found in the bushes across from a ranch house along CR 4.

Two Bohemian Waxwings were with a flock of 101 Cedar Waxwings near the Hale Store.

Our warbler count was 1 Common Yellowthroat along the Republican River. A flock of 11 Yellow-rumped Warbler was in the same area.

Our sparrow count was 1 Lincoln's Sparrow, 2 White-throated Sparrows, and 2 Field Sparrows.

Richard Stevens and Rebecca Kosten found a pair of Rusty Blackbirds along the Republican River west of Hale Ponds. Five Common Grackles and one Great-tailed Grackle were at a feeder along CR 1.

Two Purple Finches were reported at a feeder northeast of the reservoir. One Common Redpoll and 14 American Goldfinches visited a feeder along CR 4.

Totals: 83 species, only 2359 individuals.

The center of our circle is located 2.0 miles north of LL.5 and CR 4 and 200 yards west of LL.5. This keeps the circle inside Kit Carson County and included Bonny Reservoir, Hale Ponds Wildlife Area and the Allen Grain Company.

December 24-25: Richard Stevens

Snow was predicted for Christmas Day and we hurriedly returned to Denver. The snow had started early and the roads on the trip home were terrible. The snow continued through Christmas night; we were stuck inside on Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Search for Pine Warbler

December 13, 2007

Gary Weston and I returned to the Denver West Office Complex (Jefferson County) hoping to get photos of the Pine Warbler.

The feeders north of building # 15 (south of # 17) were full, but no birds.

We ran into a flock of birds on the north side of building # 5 (about 600 yards south of # 15). The Pine Warbler was there with 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 11 Mountain Chickadees, 2 Black-capped Chickadees, 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers, half a dozen American Robins, and 29 Red Crossbills. We did not find the previously reported Wilson's Warbler.

From there we drove over to Wheat Ridge Greenbelt and looked for Eastern Screech-Owls. None were out sunning themselves this morning. We checked Johnson Park for Waxwings; without success and headed back to Denver.

I dropped Gary off and drove over to Barr Lake (Adams). Two Bald Eagles stood on the ice just off the boat ramp. Don Belts had seen 9 Bald Eagles just 30 minutes earlier.

I met up with Don and we watched the Visitor Center's feeders for about an hour and a half. Finally the male and 3 female Northern Bobwhite came and fed under them.

A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over several times causing the sparrows, red wings, and bobwhites to scatter. A female Northern Harrier flew over twice and had the same affect.

More than a dozen White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, a Pine Siskin, and a lone American Goldfinch were observed getting some "free food".

I had business in Denver and afterwards drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and again met up with Don Belts. More the half of the lake was ice covered. Hundreds of waterfowl and gulls were in an open area, unfortunately in the center of the lake.

On the trip over, I stopped at Village Greens Park (southwest of the State Park). While there were several thousand White-cheeked Geese, I did not pick out any Greater White-fronted Geese or Brants.

The only birds seen from the southern shore at Cherry Creek were 4 Hooded Mergansers and a dozen Northern Shovelers.

After leaving Don, I drove over to the south side. From here I could pick out a juvenile Thayer's Gull and 1st and 2nd Lesser Black-backed Gull. Glenn Walbek had earlier also found a 4th year Lesser Black-backed Gull and relocated the Long-tailed Duck I found the week before.

A quick trip around the campgrounds did not find any Bald Eagles or Great Horned Owls.

The plan to drive the DIA Owl loop was abandoned due to lack of daylight. Roads around there were snow blown and icy on my trip home.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DIA Owl Loop

December 12, 2007

Getting Cabin fever, Rebecca and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) in the afternoon. Roads were again not good. Snow has melted and turned to ice.

There are still three large flocks of Horned Larks. We did not relocate the Snow Bunting. No Short-eared Owls made an appearance this evening.

Skies were clear and we watched a few "falling stars". The main Geminid meteor shower is predicted to "hit" Thursday and especially Friday. Midnight to dawn on Friday will be best, look to the west in the constellation Gemini.

Quick Trip to Barr Lake

December 11, 2007

I braved the snowy and icey roads and drove over to Barr Lake (Adams) but did not find much.

A few White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos came to the Visitor Center's feeders. No Harris's Sparrows (yet) this year. Roads were snow covered; temps cold. If there are any uncommon birds around, I would think the feeders would attract them?

And where are the Goldfinches? I have noticed that the past two weeks, no Goldfinches have come to the thistle feeders? Were they on the CDC "West Nile hit list" also?

Return to Loveland & the Streak-backed Oriole

December 10, 2007

Gary Weston, Gary Zeeto, and I returned to Loveland to get another look at the Streaked-backed Oriole. We discussed the sex of the bird for awhile, never came to a conclusion as to which it was. Additional research needed.

We drove through Boulder County on the way back to Denver. Not many birds were found on the freezing reservoirs. A drive through the southern subdivision off Paragon Drive & S. Boulder Road did not find any Bohemian Waxwings.

Search for Long-eared Owls

December 9, 2007

Dave King and I drove up to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County). We did not find the previously reported Harris's Sparrow but did see our target bird. A lone Long-eared Owl was hidden deep in the woods by the campgrounds. A flock of 9 Yellow-rumped Warblers added a little color to the drab landscape. Two adult Bald Eagles flew by during our stay.

In the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I scurried up to Loveland (Larimer). The Streaked-backed Oriole visited feeders several times at Connie Kogler's home.

Thanks much to Connie for finding and inviting birders to see the bird!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Horrible Day Weather-wise, Good Birding Day!

December 8, 2007

Dave King and I went up to Boulder County to look for Long-eared Owls and Rosy Finches. The roads were bad and we decided not to go up to Allenspark. Only 2 Brown capped Rosy Finches reported, so we did not miss much.

We did manage to hear a Long-eared Owl on private property. May have gotten a glimpse of the shadow as it flew by us. Not very satisfying looks for Dave as a lifebird.

Instead of heading toward Allenspark we searched the old Boulder neighborhoods where Bohemian Waxwings have been reported in the past. We did not have any luck west of Broadway from Foothills Community Park south to Chautauqua Park. In the neighborhood along Paragon Drive, south of Boulder Road we found one Bohemian Waxwing flying around. It never stopped and was not joined by others.

Visibility was bad, so we skipped the many Boulder Reservoirs and headed back east.

On the way over to Barr Lake State Park, we stopped along the S. Platte River at Colorado Blvd & 88th Avenue. Relocated the male Barrow's Goldeneye on the Platte River at about 40 yards south (upstream) of the green/white tower.

A drive around the neighborhoods northeast of Barr Lake (Bromley Lane east to Gun Club Road) did not find any Great-tailed Grackles or Waxwings.

At Barr Lake visibility was poor and little could be seen on the lake. No uncommon sparrows visited the Visitor Center's feeders during an hour watch. A male and 3 female Bobwhites did wander under the feeders. These must be escapees from somewhere.

After a late lunch we checked out LakeCrest, Emerald Strand, and the Airport Park n Ride. The most geese were on the Airport Park n Ride Pond. No Ross's or Greater White fronted Geese.

With about an hour of daylight (rather dim) left, we drove the DIA Owl loop in search of Short eared Owls, what the heck, maybe a Snowy Owl.

None were found, but we found 3 huge flocks of Horned Larks. The flock at 5.2 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue was accompanied by a Snow Bunting! The flock would fly up from the plowed field and weedy field to the west on the south side of the road whenever a car would pass by honking their horn. The area is just east of the only Oil Storage Tank close to the road.

Many of the Horned Larks would land on the road and people would nice enough to honk at them before running them over. The flock also flew to the north side of the road several times.

Two additional huge flocks were not far away by flight. Driving around to see them was several miles. Both flocks were on the east side of same road which twists and turns as it heads east from Tower Road.

Foray for Mountain Birds

December 7, 2007

Dave King and I drove up to Summit County. Weather was no good. High winds, blowing snow, cold temperatures.

We did manage to find 3 species of Rosy Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays, and 3 species of Nuthatches. We even found a Brown Creeper!

Made for quite a good trip in spite of the weather!

A quick stop at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant added 8 Barrow's Goldeneyes and 2 Common Goldeneyes to our trip list.

We searched for the previously reported Bohemian Waxwings along the road to Ute Pass, without success. Weather was getting worse, so we headed back to Denver.

We stopped a Denver West Office Complex and got another look at the Pine Warbler. It was again with a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers north of building #15 and south & east of building # 17. No sign of a reported Wilson's Warbler.

Again, no Eastern Screech-Owls were out at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Jefferson).

Friday, December 7, 2007

Goose Hunt

December 6, 2007

Drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) at first light after spending most of the night searching for owls. A "taiga" Greater White-fronted Goose was with hundreds of White-cheeked Geese at the soccer practice field below the Cherry Creek Reservoir dam at Village Greens Park (southwest of the State Park).

I searched the reservoir proper but found few of the birds that were around on Monday (12/3). A suspect dark mantled gull, Ring-billed size or smaller kept my attention. It kept its head in its back; so I was unable to see its bill. Finally after 20 minutes it lifted its head and turned out to be a Ring-billed Gull (mantle was dark enough and white crest large enough for it be possibly be a Mew Gull).

Most of the gulls and Common Goldeneyes were off the east side of the Lake Loop. There could have been a Thayer's Gull, but I was not able to positively id it. I could not pick out a Barrow's Goldeneye among the dozens of Common Goldeneyes. I also could not find the Long-tailed Duck that was on the reservoir last Monday.

Afterwards I wandered over to Inverness and the Denver Tech Center. My White-cheeked Geese count for the day was over 25,000! Not one Brant among them, I only found the one Greater White-fronted Goose early in the morning.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Search for White-winged Crossbills and Owls

December 5, 2007

At first light I went searching for the Sharp-tailed Grouse and previously reported Bohemian Waxwings up Fish Creek Drainage (Routt). No sign of either. Perhaps the weather has not been bad enough to bring the Grouse up to their traditional wintering grounds?

I wandered back to Jackson County and visited an old friend. His feeders have been visited by 800+ Rosy Finches for about a week now. They show up with good regularity. He also had a White-throated Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow coming to his feeders. He had reported seeing 2 White-winged Crossbills which of course did not show up during my stay. A consolation prize was a Northern Saw-whet Owl that my friend sees about every 3rd day or so.

After watching 600+ Rosy Finches come to my friend's feeders (Jackson), no White-winged Crossbills, I headed east toward the Colorado State Forest. I looked around Walden on the way, but did not find any additional Rosy Finches. Road conditions discouraged me from driving over to Lake Johns or Delaney Buttes Wildlife Areas.

Finally…………a flock of 30+ Bohemian Waxwings (Jackson County!) flew around the KOA Campgrounds at the entrance to the Colorado State Forest! Again road conditions discouraged me from wandering too far off the main highway.

Three Rosy Finches visited the feeders behind the State Forest Visitor's Center. I couldn't find any of the 9+ American Three-toed Woodpeckers reported there a while back. One of the rangers hears a Boreal Owl after dark some nights. However, one is not going to call during the day.

Returned to my friend's ranch to search for Greater Sage-Grouse and see if the White-winged Crossbills had shown up.

Near dusk, we wandered to the back of his property and found 3 Greater Sage-Grouse. Some days, he and his wife see them from their kitchen windows. They come up and eat the seed dropped below the feeders.

After dark I stopped at 4 previous Boreal Owl locations around Cameron Pass; without success. However………… had started snowing around 2:00pm. Winds were 50+ mph and snow appeared coming down at a 45 degree angle by dusk. Not the best conditions to locate an owl.

Once I dropped down off of Cameron Pass (hwy 14 heading east, Larimer) winds had quieted down. Owls were also quiet at the campgrounds and picnic areas along Highway 14.

Search for Bohemian Waxwings

December 4, 2007

I decided to head into the mountains today to look for the previously reported Bohemian Waxwings. Snow is predicted for later in the week and next weekend. Driving around may become treacherous soon.

I circled Dillon Lake and managed to find 5 of the Barrow's Goldeneyes reported by Charles Nims first on 11/29. Another nine Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant Pond (Summit County).

A search along Hwy 9 to Ute Pass did not find any Bohemian Waxwings. They do have a tendency to move around a bunch.

No Rosy Finches were found at feeders in Kremmling (Grand) or around the "cliffs". Each year Rosy Finches are reported on the cliffs. Must be a nemesis of mine, my record is zero for 14 attempts over the years.

There was no success in searching for the Northern Pygmy-Owl and American Three-toed Woodpecker on Rabbit Ears Pass either. No Boreal Owls answered my playback after dark.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Search for Owls in the Front Range Foothills

December 3, 2007

Gary Weston and I left Denver around 4:00am for Reynolds Park (Jefferson County). I am still trying to get a good photo of a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Unfortunately we could not find any owls this morning (or the whole day).

A consolation prize was a male Dusky Grouse walking across the Oxen Draw Trail, perhaps 15 yards south of the Songbird Trail. We did not take the time to hike up 0.7 miles to the intersection of the three trails (Eagle's View, Oxen Draw, and Raven's Roost). Twenty yards around this intersection seems to be a good location to find a resident American Three-toed Woodpecker.

Instead, we drove over to Pine Valley Ranch Park and hiked to the end of the Narrow Gauge Railroad Trail. No owls along here either.

We circled around to the south side of the park (Forest Road 550) hoping to find a Northern Goshawk. Struck out on that bird too. We tried hiking down the Tramway and 543 Trails. A couple of flocks of Pygmy Nuthatches and pairs of White-breasted Nuthatches & Red-breasted Nuthatches were just about all that we found.

From here, we decided to drive Rampart Range Road. Stops at locations of Northern Pygmy-Owl sightings of past years did not produce an owl.

The Sedalia Cemetery was quite birdy. Several Townsend's Solitaires, White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch, and many Pine Siskins kept our attention. A flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in; unfortunately no Bohemian Waxwings were among them.

I dropped Gary off and ended my birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). I hope people took time to look at the spectacular sunset just to the south of Cherry Creek Reservoir. Colorado does have some fantastic wintertime sunsets.

Hundreds of gulls and ducks were just off the northern picnic area and I headed there first. I managed to pick out a Long-tailed Duck among the multitude. At least one Bonaparte's Gull was in the mix.

A quick walk to the south end of the 12 mile beaver pond did not add much to my day list. No Dunlins, warblers, etc. A flock of American Goldfinch fluttered about the trees west of the group picnic area.

Hundreds of gulls stood on the poles outlining the southwest marina. No dark ones or large white ones, mostly Ring-billed Gulls with a few California Gulls mixed in.

As expected, hundreds of geese flew in around sunset. A lone Greater White-fronted Goose was in the middle of several thousand Canada Geese in the cove west of the Mountain Loop. For about 30 minutes around 4:30, there was no wind and the water was like a mirror (reflecting the sunset and the birds).

At 5:15pm however, winds started up and had to be 25+ mph quickly. I had planned to search for a Great Horned Owl as it has been almost a year since I have observed one at the park.

Eventually the winds encouraged me to head for home. I did not find a Great Horned Owl at the campgrounds, or northern picnic areas. The planned hiked back to the 12 mile beaver pond was called off.

Looking for Geese around DIA

December 2, 2007

Spent most of the day working on chores around the house. We did manage to get out for a bite of dinner in the late afternoon. Of course, we had to look for a few birds, so we took a walk around LakeCrest.

Thousands of geese were on the lake. At least 5000+ Canada Geese. We could pick out at least half a dozen Cackling Geese also. Two white Snow Geese and one beautiful "blue" Snow Goose swam with them.

At nearby Emerald Strand Park (across the street from the eastern end of LakeCrest, another 6000+ Canada Geese were on the small pond and field to the north. We were amazed that geese kept flying in; there did not seem any space for more geese on the pond. One Ross's Goose stood out from the horde of Canada Geese.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Birding Around Denver

December 1, 2007

In spite of the worsening weather, Bryan Ehlmann and I enjoyed a cold day of birding.

At first light, we walked around the Denver West Office Complex (Jefferson County). It was too dark to see much, but we narrowed down the location of feeders where the Pine Warbler could possibly visit. Only one feeder had seeds; it was at the southwest corner of building # 17. Later, once the House Sparrows found the feeder, the seeds did not last long.

From 7:22am to 7:26am we watched the Pine Warbler flutter about the Pine Tree at the southwest corner of building # 15. A couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Townsend's Solitaire were also in the tree. Fifty+ House Sparrows were in the bushes underneath the tree. When the House Sparrows flushed, the Pine Warbler flew with them around to the feeders at building # 17. We were not able to relocate the warbler.

We walked over to nearby building # 15 because Pine Warblers have been seen behind it several times in the past. No Pine Warbler, but we found a flock of birds which included 22 Mountain Chickadees, 2 Black-capped Chickadees, 2 Red breasted Nuthatches, 2 White breasted Nuthatches, 2 Brown Creepers, and 7+ Ruby crowned Kinglets.

From here, we drove over to Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Prospect Park) to see if any Western Screech-Owls were out. None were; it was pretty cold, windy, and cloudy. Not much of a reason for the owls to come out to sun themselves.

We received a text message about the Brant at Glasser Reservoir in Broomfield County and headed up that way. We only gave the search 15 minutes; without success and moved on to the South Platte River.

On the trip south, we drove by Sheridan Blvd and 104th Avenue. The partial albino Red-tailed Hawk was in a tree about 0.4 miles east of the intersection. It has been around for half a dozen years now!

From Colorado Blvd & 88th avenue (Adams County), we walked the west side of the Platte River down to Hwy 225, then crossed over and returned via the east side. West and East Gravel Lakes only had a little ice; this tends to spread the ducks out over a larger search area (best when the lakes are frozen and the ducks are forced onto the Platte River).

At the confluence of Clear Creek, we detoured along the Creek down to York Street. Several years in the past, Harris's Sparrows and other interesting birds have been reported in the bushes along Clear Creek. Unfortunately, nothing uncommon showed up today.

On the return trip (east side of the Platte) we found a male Barrow's Goldeneye on East Gravel Lake. There were plenty of ducks (Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Gadwalls, dozens of Common Goldeneyes); nothing else uncommon.

We also found a Northern Shrike on the chain link fence along the west side of Tani Reservoir (that's the lake south of East Gravel Lake).

Nothing unusual was on the Dahlia Ponds and we left as the weather was deteriorating rapidly.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Search for Owls; Boulder, Larimer & Jackson Counties

November 30, 2007

Julian Rodriguez and I were still looking for Long-eared Owls, so before civil twilight we headed to my semi-reliable site in Boulder County. It did not disappoint and we found 2 Long-eared Owls perched in thickets on private property. Just before sunrise, they flew around a bit and went deep into the thickets.

We spent the next couple of hours searching for Northern Saw-whet Owls in Boulder County. Our hunt centered around the Ann U. White Trail and up Left Hand Canyon. We hoped that if no owls were found, we would at least run into a flock of waxwings (perhaps some Bohemian Waxwings). Sightings of neither happened.

Afterwards, we decided to search for owls at the campgrounds along Highway 14 on the way up to Cameron Pass (Jackson). Stops at 9 campgrounds and picnic areas did not find any owls.

With plenty of time before sunset, our next stop was the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center. Four Brown-capped Rosy Finches came to the feeders in the hour we watched. Plenty of birds came by, including; Pine Siskins, White-crowned Sparrows, Evening Grosbeaks (2), Pine Grosbeaks (a few), Mountain Chickadees, and Black-capped Chickadees.

We searched the feeders in Gould and the KOA campgrounds for the Common Redpoll that was reported several weeks ago. As previous trips, I missed it again.

After dark, we stopped at 7 stations where Boreal Owls have been found in the past. We heard one at a stop about halfway between the upper Joe Wright Parking area and the summit to Cameron Pass. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the bird (which happens more times than not).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Search for Owls on the Eastern Plains

November 29, 2007

Julian Rodriguez and I set out this morning for Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County). Our target bird was Long-eared Owl. Unfortunately, none turned up in their historical wintering location.

Lapland Longspurs were fairly easy to find along Morgan County Road 4 which turns into Weld County Road 105. We counted over 200+ in three flocks. We were pretty sure that there was one Chestnut-collared Longspur in a flock just south of the Weld County Line.

No Long-eared Owls at Crow Valley Campgrounds this afternoon. We searched the windbreaks around the Washington Work Center for Northern Saw-whet Owls; without success.

There was not much to see at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld). Could not find any Peregrine Falcons today.

My birding day ended at sunset at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). At least two Bonaparte's Gulls flew around. No loons, scoters, or jaegers that I could find.

Mountain Birding

November 28, 2007

Julian Rodriguez and I headed up to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan.

We made several stops along the way. First we drove around Silver Plume to see if any Rosy Finches were around town; none were. Then we searched for Evening Grosbeaks at their usual location in Georgetown; they were! A flock of 11 Red Crossbills were feeding at the Georgetown City Park. Again I audio taped the birds to compare their calls with my master recordings later.

Luck was with us at Guanella Pass. It only took about 20 minutes to find a dozen White-tailed Ptarmigan. The birds have been on the hill to the southeast of the upper parking area during my last four trips up there. Once in awhile, it is nice to not have to search for hours to see them.

We continued south from Guanella Pass to Grant, then east through Bailey to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).

American Three-toed Woodpeckers were a little more difficult to find than the Ptarmigan today. We had no luck along Buck Gulch Trail and had to take the Strawberry Jack Trail up to the Parkview Trail. Just north of the intersection, a female American Three-toed Woodpecker was working a Ponderosa Pine.

Several flocks of Pygmy Nuthatches, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, and 1 White-breasted Nuthatch were observed along our trek. A couple of Hairy Woodpeckers were found along the Strawberry Jack Trail.

Once we returned to Pine Lake, we decided to search for an American Dipper along the creek. We struck out on them, but had the good fortune to hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl calling. The owl was on the hillside north of the Narrow Gauge Railroad down by the western gate!

We made one last stop, Mt. Falcon Park (Jefferson). A quick hike down to the Old Castle did not turn up any Blue Grouse today. Julian did pick up one last lifebird as a Townsend's Solitaire called constantly around the lower parking area.

Weather was interesting all day. We ran into snow several times. Fortunately, winds were mild even up on Guanella Pass.

Our worst problems were driving in the traffic after dark back in Denver.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birding on the West Side of Denver

November 27, 2007

I searched for the Harris's Sparrow reported on Saturday at Bear Creek Lake Park (Jefferson County); without success. I would have searched for the Harris's Sparrow up Turkey Creek Road, but could not remember directions.

So I continued up Highway 285 and ended my birding day at Mt. Falcon Park (Jefferson). It the past Northern Pygmy-Owls have come out to hunt around dusk at the upper meadow. Unfortunately, none came out tonight.

I hiked over to the old castle and about 1000 yards further east in search of Dusky Grouse; again without success. All three nuthatches were found. I also ran into a flock of 9 Red Crossbills. I recorded their calls, but have to check my master recordings before deciding which race they belonged.

The pleasant day (temps in 50s, mild winds) did end with a colorful sunset over Denver to the east.

Birding East of Denver

November 26, 2007

Back driving around, we checked several private ranches before heading back to Denver.

Roger's neighbor (private ranch # 3) called. He had a large "red" sparrow visiting his feeders. We rushed over to find an eastern race Fox Sparrow! It has been a couple of years since I observed one in Colorado.

Back at Roger's (private ranch # 1) we again found 2 Harris's Sparrows and a White-throated Sparrow visiting his feeders.

An hour before sunset, we decided to head over to Jumbo Reservoir. A Short-eared Owl flew around the fields south of the southeast corner! We also checked the windbreaks at Little Jumbo Reservoir, but did not find any additional Short-eared Owls. No Long-eared Owls answered our playback recordings.

November 25, 2007

Back at Roger's Ranch, we walked around at 4:00am. Two Eastern Screech-Owls called in their usual location.

We returned to Jumbo Reservoir to try and photograph a Snow Bunting. None could be found today. The Long-tailed Duck was still out there.

We mainly rested today, too much driving this week. We sat and watched Roger's feeders. Unusual visitor's included 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches and a pair of Mountain Chickadees.

November 24, 2007

My second lifebird of 2007, Black tailed Gull at Sailorville!

November 23, 2007

We left Denver at 3:00am and searched for owls at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) and Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington). Owls were not cooperative this morning; we did not hear anything.

We met up with Bill Cryder and went over to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick). The Long-tailed Duck was still there, swimming in the middle of the lake. No scoters, but we did find a couple of Greater White-fronted Goose north of the eastern campgrounds. Bill Cryder pointed out a Snow Bunting flying around the southeast corner. Unfortunately, it landed on private property and we could not take photos.

Afterwards, we went over to DePoorter Lake. It is usually a good place to find Northern Bobwhites. Again we did not have any luck. When I think about it, I have missed them here on my last four trips now. Perhaps West Nile Virus or hunting has reduced their numbers? Our trip was brightened by finding two Harris's Sparrows along the South Platte River. By the way, this area now requires the Habitat Stamp to visit (can be purchased for $10 at Wal-mart or Sporting Goods Stores).

November 22, 2007

Early in the morning, Roger Danka and I went searching for Rosy Finches in Summit County. We managed to find all three species and then headed over to Fawnbrook Inn (Boulder County) by way of Rollinsville.

No Rosy Finches made an appearance during our 2 hour stay. We did see the usual mountain species; Mountain Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pine Siskin, and 3 Evening Grosbeaks.

We stopped by this week's hotspot, Baseline Reservoir, on our way back to Denver. Added White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, and Greater Scaup to our trip list.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Snow Buntings at Sterling Reservoir

November 21, 2007

Roger Danka and I again went out searching for owls before sunrise. We did not have any luck. Even the resident Eastern Screech-Owl east of Sedgwick Draw was quiet this morning.

We wandered west to Sterling Reservoir where we enjoyed more success. Two Snow Buntings flew around the northeastern corner! A Great Horned Owl hid quietly in the small wooded area. Great Horned Owls are more difficult to find these days. West Nile Virus? Human growth?

Our birding day ended early. We did stop briefly on the way home at Riverside Park in Fort Morgan (Morgan). No Greater White-fronted Geese around yet.

Sedgwick County Birding

November 20, 2007

Roger Danka and I birded around Sedgwick and the eastern edge of Logan Counties today.

We started at Sedgwick Draw and searched for Short-eared Owls; without success. Nearby Sedgwick Cemetery had only a pair of Townsend's Solitaires today.

At Jumbo Reservoir, we found the Long-tailed Duck reported by Larry Semo on 11/12. No scoters could be found.

We stopped at two private ranches in Sedgwick County. At one (previously reported as private ranch #3, we found 2 Long-eared Owls. The ranch usually has 2-10 Long-eared Owl winter (for the past 4 years anyway). The rancher has been reporting a male Purple Finch since 10/25. Roger has seen it on two occasions; I keep missing it.

We ended our birding day driving the roads in Sedgwick County. Though we did look unsuccessfully for Greater Prairie-Chickens at the Sedgwick County Roads 46 & 89; without success. We found a few small flocks of Lapland Longspurs (no Chestnut-collared or McCown's mixed in).

At Sand Draw Wildlife Area, we relocated 2 of the 7 Harris's Sparrows reported by Mark Peterson on 11/18. The thickets at the southwest corner parking area seem to be good for Harris's Sparrows in early winter. We walked around a little at the extreme eastern edge of the property looking for Field Sparrows; without success. A flock of 6 Red Crossbills were a somewhat uncommon find. They do seem to show up almost every fall/winter here.

Prewitt Reservoir

November 19, 2007

At first light I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) in search of owls. A Short-eared Owl flew along the windbreak northwest of Powhaton Road & 128th avenue. This was well before sunrise. It disappeared perhaps 10 minutes before sunrise.

I then drove around looking for longspurs, snow buntings, and etc.; without success. A couple of Red-tailed Hawks were along the new section of 128th avenue (east of Trussville Road).

I headed east and stopped briefly at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County). Not much was found here. A flock of 9 Yellow-rumped Warblers fluttered about the campgrounds.

Prewitt Reservoir was slow also. I did not find any uncommon birds on the water. Few birds moved about the woods at the inlet area. Few birds were around the outlet canal. After dark, I did hear an Eastern Screech-Owl about 150 yards west of the eastern parking area (semi-campgrounds).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birding in Boulder County

November 18, 2007

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove up to Fawnbrook Inn at Allenspark to see if the Rosy Finches were coming to their feeders yet. We did not find any around the feeders but did see a small flock up the road to Brainard Lake later in the day.

The usual suspects came to the feeders. Pine Siskins, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, and Black-capped Chickadee. Highlight was a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks. No owls around town, we tried several likely spots; without success.

We also drove through Ward but again no Rosy Finches. The highlight of our mountain excursion was a Northern Goshawk at the top of the tree along the Brainard Lake Road about 0.2 miles west of Highway 72. We checked several reservoirs on the way back to Denver, but found little of interest.

We stopped at Baseline Reservoir and found the nice birds reported earlier in the day by Bill Kaempfer: Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, and Common Loon.

Our birding day ended at Lagerman Reservoir where we hoped a Short-eared Owl or Barn Owl would make an appearance. Unfortunately, none did.

Mountain Birding

November 17, 2007

We returned to my friend's ranch and watched 350+ Rosy Finches as we ate a late breakfast. Said our goodbyes for a couple of weeks and headed back to the Colorado State Forest.

Again an hour wait at the KOA campground and Gould did not find the Common Redpoll. At the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, we watched a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy Finches visit several times. Reports of up to 7 American Three-toed Woodpeckers around the building did us little good. We were not able to get any to respond to our playback recordings.

We stopped at several of the campgrounds along Highway 14 (Larimer). No owls could be found and we continued back to Denver.

November 16, 2007

We started the morning at a private ranch of a friend. Over 300+ Rosy Finches (3 species plus Hepburn's) came to his feeders! He also had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in one of his fir trees! It is a beautiful ranch; the downside is that he and his wife are snowbound for 2 to 3 months minimum every winter. That's too claustrophobic for me.

We drove over to the lakes west of Walden but enjoyed little success. Gary Z found one female Barrow's Goldeneye in the high waves. Winds had to be 30+ mph; it was cold. At Delaney Buttes Lakes, Gary Weston added 2 Common Loons and another Barrow's Goldeneye to our day list. Walden Reservoir was quiet. No scoters were found anywhere and the Burrowing Owl reported last week could not be relocated.

We searched feeders at the KOA campgrounds (at entrance to the Colorado State Forest) and around Gould for the Common Redpoll reported last week. It would have been a great Jackson County and trip bird for all of us. Oh well, we tried.

After dark we searched for Boreal Owls around the Colorado State Forest. We managed to hear 2, observe none. They just would not come close enough for us to great looks.

November 15, 2007

Our group checked the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County) and Green Mountain Reservoir for Barrow's Goldeneyes; none were around.

We ate lunch while watching feeders in Kremmling (Grand). No Rosy Finches came down from the mountains today. The weather has just been too warm to force them to look for food at feeders. The home owner stated that she had only seen 2 Brown-capped Rosy Finches in the past month.

Windy Gap Reservoir was interesting. Three Barrow's Goldeneyes swam with several dozen Common Goldeneyes. One California Gull was left from last summer's large flock. A Prairie Falcon flew over while we scoped the lake.

Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain were not kind to us. No additional Barrow's Goldeneyes were found.

We ended our birding day by driving the roads around the old Coalmont Lek (Jackson). While there were plenty of Greater Sage-Grouse tracks in the snow, we could not find any birds.

November 14, 2007

We got up early and searched for owls along Cottonwood Pass. Did not enjoy success and continued to Taylor Park Reservoir. Here we found 7 Barrow's Goldeneyes (first reported by Tyler Hicks on 11/12). We were not able to locate the Black Scoter or Rosy Finches that Tyler also found.

At Evelyn Lane near Gunnison we enjoyed better luck. Both Gray-crowned and Brown-capped Rosy Finches were coming to feeders in the neighborhood.

After lunch, we turned around and headed back toward North Park. A quick stop at Twin Lakes added a Common Loon to our day list. We could not find the Pacific Loon that had also recently been reported here.

Once at I70, we headed east and over to Sylvan Lake State Park. We struck out on relocated the Bohemian Waxwings reported there on 11/11.

Our birding day ended by watching 3 species of Rosy Finches come to a feeder in Summit County.

November 13, 2007

Gary Weston, Gary Zeeto, and I headed back into the mountains today. The Park County Reservoirs had fewer birds than my previous visit; there was enough to keep our interest up.

The five Tundra Swans were still at Antero Reservoir. We also found 2 White-winged Scoters and a Pacific Loon. At Spinney Mountain Reservoir, we added another White-winged Scoter and a Surf Scoter to our trip list. No additional scoters were observed at Eleven Mile Reservoir, but we did see 3 Common Loons and 2 Pacific Loons.

Our next stop was the Buena Vista Overlook. A small flock of 5+ Bushtits fluttered about here. Three+ Pinyon Jays could be seen at the KOA campgrounds below the overlook.

We checked several ponds around Salida (Chaffee County). Not many birds were found today. Franz Lake WLA has been slow my last two trips here. Sands Lake WLA was just as slow. Nothing was found at the Arkansas River WLA.

A few Mountain Bluebirds were observed along the road between Salida and the Buena Vista Overlook. About 9 Pinyon Jays flew around the parking area for Ruby Mountain.

We stopped at the Buena Vista home where a Western Screech-Owl was found on my last trip up here. It did not make an appearance this evening. If it is nesting, it would be a first county nesting record. We supplied the home owners with a pair of binoculars and a Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds. Looking forward to further visits and looks at the bird. Photos will eventually appear in "Colorado Field Notes".

After dark we headed up to the BLM Land north of the Buena Vista Overlook. This night we enjoyed much success by locating two Northern Saw-whet Owls.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Cold Wet Day at Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 12, 2007

Another cobirder and I scoped Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) at first light. We could only see 3 loons out there; numbers were down quite a bit from the past week. Shortly after 7:00am, two loons took off, slowly gaining altitude, and disappearing in the low clouds. They appeared to be the pair of Pacific Loons (were definitely not Common Loons and looked too dark headed to be the Red-throated Loons.

Shortly afterwards, we picked up 2 additional pairs of eyes but still could only find one or two Common Loons left on the lake. Four or five Bonaparte's Gulls flew around the jet ski area. A small lingering group of Pelicans huddled together in the southeast corner of the lake. We stopped at two or three additional sites around the reservoir but did not locate additional loons; the weather did not cooperate.

By 9:00am it was raining, winds picked up, and temperatures dropped. My birding partners left and I had every intention of doing the same. A Sharp-shinned Hawk stood on the Gazebo at the Butterfly Hill parking area and I stopped to take a photo. A flock of about 80-100 Red-winged Blackbirds were overhead in the cottonwoods. A female Rusty Blackbird stood out in the crowd. The male could have been there also, but I was not able to pick it out in the four minutes I had before they took off for the Cottonwood Creek Loop.

Curiosity as to where this flock spent the day inspired me to walk back to the Cottonwood Creek Loop to check out the mudflats. First I followed the Butterfly Hill path north to the shoreline. This path goes through some high grasses and bushes which as usual had many sparrows. It is a good place to study White-crowned, American Tree, and Song Sparrows if one is interested. At least two races of Song Sparrows fluttered about. However stopped to check them out, slowed the trip back to the Cottonwood Loop.

By the time I made it down to the Bird Observatory Platform at the Cottonwood Creek Loop, the flock of blackbirds had moved on (who knows where). Water levels have been rising all week and the mudflats where Glenn Walbek first found the Rusty Blackbirds 10 days ago have disappeared. Continuing east, I did not find any mudflats; nightly snows in the mountains and warm daily temperatures have brought high water levels to the Denver lakes.

At one gap between the cattails along the southeastern edge of the lake, I could see that one Common Loon and the Red Phalarope were still around.

Skies cleared somewhat and temperatures rose a bit, so I decided to continue hiking east to where many blackbirds usually spend the day in the cottonwoods over the cattails just west of Cherry Creek.

Along the way, I found a pair of Great Horned Owls, my first at the park in almost a year. West Nile Virus?, human growth, bird counts seem to be way down from past years.

In the next four and a half hours, I took about 150 GPS waypoints. For ten years, I hiked Cherry Creek Reservoir 2 or 3 times a week and entered bird counts on graph paper. Now with the help of my computer, I plan to transfer the count coordinates to GPS waypoints.

Once I reached the woods where the main road goes over Cherry Creek, I doubled back to the Shooting Range area. Hundreds of blackbirds were in the Russian Olive trees here. Unfortunately once I reached the area, most of the blackbirds were Starlings. No Rusty Blackbirds, but my interest in getting GPS waypoints rose, so I decided to walk the blockaded road south from the shooting range and turn east on the south side of the 12 mile beaver ponds.

Along the way, I ran into 9 Red-tailed Hawks (including 1 dark morph), 3 Northern Harriers, and 4 American Kestrels. A Prairie Falcon stood on the telephone poles next to the southwestern prairie dog town.

I did not pick up a late Common Yellowthroat or Marsh Wren at the Beaver Ponds. Several flocks of American Goldfinches picked away at the cattails. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers worked the trees around the 12 mile picnic area. No warblers, shorebirds except Killdeer, hundreds of starlings, a few Red-winged Blackbirds, still no Rusty Blackbirds.

The day's Black-billed Magpie count was only 3 down from the last 10 year mean average for November (again, got to love computers to keep track of all this for you). They even can draw up a pie chart if one so desires!

As I crossed over the model airplane runway area, a Northern Shrike flew from the Butterfly Hill area southeast toward the shooting range. Two dozen Horned Larks (but no Snow Buntings) wandered around the short grasses here.

No gulls stood on the telephone poles outlining the southwest marina and I left Cherry Creek Reservoir around 3:30 pm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pleasant Evening at Barr Lake & Star K Ranch

November 11, 2007

Kind of pitiful, four of us went out looking for a late lunch of baked potatoes to settle our queasy stomachs left over from the flu last week (settled for Wendy's at I76 & Bromley, yeah, yuk).

We drove by Barr Lake (Adams County) and found the 4 Common Loons still circled together. They were below the northern end of the dam when we scoped the lake. Only sparrows at the Visitor Center's feeders were White-crowned and American Tree.

Since we do not know how many of these beautiful fall days our left (temps near 70, little wind) we wanted to go for a walk. So, we continued over to Star K Ranch (Adams) to check out a Long-eared Owl report that was a couple of days old. The report is reliable; however we did not find it.

We spent the last hour of daylight circling the wetlands loop. Quite a few sparrows (White-crowned, American Tree, Song) appeared and sang near the northeast corner of the loop (about 20 minutes before sunset). We found 2 pairs of Red-breasted Nuthatches (3 pairs last weekend) and 6 White-breasted Nuthatches along the loop.

Just after sunset, a Great Horned Owl called from the cottonwoods south and east of the Steak House (for those familiar with the area). An Aurora Open Space Ranger said that there are two nesting pairs in the area of the Star K Ranch and nearby Sand Creek Open Space. This probably keeps down the number of other species of owls in the area.

This area's most "famous" uncommon birds were the January 1, 2005 American Woodcock and December 29, 2002 to March 8, 2003 Red-bellied Woodpecker.

It was a nice evening for some fresh air! No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop on the trip home.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Enjoyable Morning at Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 10, 2007

After missing the Rusty Blackbirds at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) on previous two afternoons, I thought I would try to find them in the morning. I didn't, however enjoyed a fantastic morning at the State Park. My arrival was timed for sunrise (6:38 am). Winds were 4 mph or less; temperatures around 50 degrees.

I first walked the road going below the dam from the southwest marina. When getting to the end of the road, the Red Phalarope was perhaps 25 feet off the dam. It eventually swam toward the center of the lake. I could see 2 Pacific Loons together off the swim beach and 4 Common Loons together off the handicapped fisherperson's dock.

No Clark's Grebes among plenty of Western Grebes, Eared Grebes, American Coots, and Horned Grebes. I rushed over to the bird platform at the Cottonwood Creek Loop hoping to find the Rusty Blackbirds; none were in sight. The bonus was an adult and juvenile Red-throated Loon about 20 yards off the observatory platform. This was about 7:40am. By 8:00am several boats were on the lake and most of the waterfowl swam to the center.

While watching the Red-throated Loons, at least one adult and one juvenile Bonaparte's Gull flew over them.

I then searched for Swamp Sparrows from the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands Pond to the southeast end of the lake loop; without success. Many White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and American Tree Sparrows were found along the way. The greatest number (41 American Tree, 6 Song, 11 White-crowned) were found about halfway between the Cottonwood Creek and Lake Loops. There is a small stream entering into the lake. The bushes here had plenty of sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos.

I also found a Long-eared Owl (understandably I can not give the location due to the high foot traffic area). It is a good idea to keep an eye out in the thickets.

Besides the visible mudflats from the bird observatory platform, there are considerable mudflats reached by walking east over the Cottonwood Creek wooden bridge and then taking the first dirt path north. If the Rusty Blackbirds are to return, these mudflats maybe a good location to find them.

Also found were a male Northern Harrier (not helping my Swamp Sparrow search by flying back and forth in front of me), 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk (Cottonwood Creek dried pond area, west of parking area), 2 Belted Kingfishers, 1 Virginia Rail, and many Red-winged Blackbirds (at Gazebo parking area west of Cottonwood Creek).

I should have stopped there when I first passed it as there were 200+ Red-winged Blackbirds. The Rusty Blackbirds may have been among them, but I hurried over the bird platform. Of course, by the time I returned several dog walkers and moved the Red-winged Blackbird on to somewhere else.

A pleasant surprise was a flock of 8 Black-capped Chickadees and 2 White-breasted Nuthatches in the bushes near the Cottonwood Creek old wooden bridge. Most chickadees I have observed together in several years now.

Mountain Owling

November 5 & 6, 2007

Gary Weston, Gary Zeeto, and I decided to search for owls at Cameron Pass (Larimer/Jackson Counties). According to the weatherman, there was to be a window of nice weather for the next couple of days.

November 5, 2007

We started up to Cameron Pass shortly after sunrise. Our first stop was over the pass and down 4 miles to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

The feeders were up and we watched for about 2 hours. Two and sometimes four Brown-capped Rosy Finches came for a quick refueling. Other birds that showed up included Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, Mountain Chickadees, and Dark-eyed Juncos.

After sunset, we headed back to the pass. Our technique was to stop every 0.1 miles and play a tape. Snow piles were so high along the road that we could not see over them.

We received responses at two stops. One 0.2 miles west of Cameron Pass' summit (Jackson). The other 0.1 miles west of the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer).

Our task took as into civil twilight on November 6th and we headed back home. Tired but satisfied with our success!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Another Unsuccessful Owl Search, Back to Cherry Cck Reservoir

November 4, 2007

We received a report of a Northern Pygmy-Owl at Mt. Falcon Park (Margo and I were up there Thursday looking; without success). John Tiernan and I drove up but could not find any owls at sunrise. We did have 3 species of nuthatches, 2 Townsend's Solitaires, and a flock of 9 Mountain Bluebirds. The consolation prize was relocating a Dusky Grouse (30 yards east of the old castle and 25 yards south of the main path).

After dropping John off at DIA, I drove back to Cherry Creek Reservoir. It was anther beautiful afternoon. Winds were calm and temperatures near 60 degrees.

I arrived with only an hour of daylight left (messed up with the time change), scoped the reservoir for an hour and had found no loons. Then the Red-throated Loon flew in from the east to below the dam. I was able to show the loon to two other birders. While we watched the Red-throated Loon, the adult Bonaparte's Gull flew almost over us several times.

The Red-necked Grebe was not found, but not much time was used searching for it. Scoping the raft of Western Grebes (in the center of the lake) did not find it.

Many boats and jet skiers harassed the birds. They moved around much and made identifying them difficult. The Red-throated Loon had to fly out of the way of traffic at least 3 times in the 15 minutes we watched it.

Unsuccessful Owl Search & 2 Trips to Cherry Crk Reservoir

November 3, 2007

John Tiernan and I stopped by Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) early in the morning. We found a Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, and 2 Common Loons. The Lesser Black-backed Gull and one Bonaparte's Gull were flying around below the dam. We missed the Red-necked Grebe.

From Cherry Creek Reservoir we headed up Deer Creek Canyon in search of Northern Pygmy-Owls (or any owls). None were found. We did run into a flock of 9 Red Crossbills and 20+ Cedar Waxwings. John had a wedding to go to and time was limited (isn't always).

My birding day ended at Cherry Creek Reservoir. With up to 8 loons reported during the day, I was not able to find any in the first hour of searching. Granted, the 2 Rusty Blackbirds were the focus of my trip; they were not found.

Just before sunset, I spotted the Red-necked Grebe of the north end of the owl loop. It was loosely associated with the raft of Western Grebes (did not see any Clark's). The bird looked different than the Red-necked Grebe seen on 10/24 (found by Bill Cryder).

After sunset, 2 Common Loons were spotted below the dam. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was back on the sandbar north of the southwest marina. There was zero wind; the reservoir surface was like glass!

No owls came out during my drive of the DIA Owl Loop.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cherry Creek Reservoir Visit Again

November 2, 2007

While out doing chores, I stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). From the bird platform, Cottonwood Creek Loop, I could see the Red-throated Loon and 2 Common Loon not far off shore. A single Bonaparte's Gull was flying around to the east of where I stood.

A stop at the southwest marina found the Lesser Black-backed Gull standing on the poles outlining the marina.

Again with an hour of daylight left, I walked around the Star K Ranch Wildlife Preserve in Aurora. While I did not find any rare birds, I watched 8 Red-breasted Nuthatches hunt for food on the large cottonwoods. There were also 48+ Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon, Pink-sided, State-colored, and 1 White-winged) and 3 Song Sparrows.

Birding in the Mountains

November 1, 2007

Margo and I enjoyed a fantastic birding day. We ran into no wind throughout the day. It has to be the first time I have been on the top of Loveland Pass and Guanella Pass and experienced calm.

We left Denver at 6:00pm to search for birds in the mountains. We enjoyed great success in Summit County with many Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Pine Siskins, 3 species of nuthatches, and three species of Rosy Finches.

Our next stop was Loveland Pass. No wind, but we found no Ptarmigan either. I suggested that instead of walking for several miles looking for a couple of Ptarmigan here, that we head over to Guanella Pass where at least the number of potential birds was much greater.

Once at Guanella Pass, again no wind!, we were lucky to find 25+ White-tailed Ptarmigan. Our search lasted less than 30 minutes (which is much better than my usual 4 to 6 hour searches).

With several hours of daylight left, we headed over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). We only took time to walk the south side of Pine Lake. An American Three-toed Woodpecker was drumming away on the hill near the southwest corner of the lake.

She had two additional lifebirds to find, so we drove to nearby Mt Falcon Park (Jefferson). We walked to the old castle but found no Dusky Grouse. Our walk continued east and I heard a Dusky Grouse about 25 yards east of the castle (and 30 yards south of the main path). While here, 4 Townsend's Solitaires flew to the trees above us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

October 29, 2007

I received a call from Bill Cryder about a strange gull at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). I detoured my birding trip to Julesburg and headed over.

We watched a small gull in the eastern center of the lake of course, for about an hour. The bird fitted the description of a Bonaparte's Gull or Ross's Gull. The primaries looked fairly light and accounting for any shadows from the afternoon sun, they could have been pale gray like a Ross's Gull. From the distance we were observing, we could not see any contrast between the wings and back. However, after 55 minutes the bird finally took off and we observed a Bonaparte's Gull flying away toward the southwest marina.

Later, we drove over to the Lake Loop and found the Red-throated Loon about 100 yards off the northwest corner. Three Common Loons were in close proximity. Also seen were many Western Grebes (no Clark's Grebes), many Horned Grebe, Eared Grebes, a couple Pied-billed Grebes, dozens of American Coots, a group of Ruddy Ducks, 2 Common Mergansers, many Ring-billed Gulls and California Gulls.

From the hill overlooking the southwest marina, we could see an adult or 4th year Lesser Black-backed Gull on the sandbar to the north and an adult Great Black-backed Gull standing on the poles outlining the marina area.

We did not find any scoters.

Winds were calm; temperatures in the high 50s. Just to stand under the superb fall sunset and listen to the loons, grebes, coots, and arriving Canada Geese makes the trek worthwhile! What a bonus the loons add to the trip!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Birding Adams County

October 28, 2007

I spent 6 hours walking around Rocky Mountain Arsenal Sunday. There was nothing rare, but I still enjoyed a few highlights.

The Surf Scoter on Havana Ponds was a surprise though I did go there looking for scoters at Lake Ladora and Havana Ponds. Unfortunately, it is not possible to see Lower Derby Lake which should have the best birds on it (more isolated, maybe deeper).

I watched a Northern Shrike hunt for about an hour at the Rod and Gun Club Pond area. He caught a mouse and ate lunch during my stay.

The local Peregrine Falcon flew over Lake Ladora about 3:00pm. He has made an appearance now on my last four trips over to the Arsenal (usually in the morning).

A yellowish bird flew out of the bushes along the western side of Lake Ladora. I thought it might be a late Wilson's Warbler and took 20 minutes to find out it was a Common Yellowthroat. A few winter in Colorado and I hope to return in a couple of weeks and relocate it. The location is a small group of bushes (opposite leaves, reddish, look willowish) next to the cattails where the shoreline runs a straight line north to south. The high weeds to the west are usually filled with sparrows.

In the same area was a flock of sparrows which included 9 Song Sparrows and 37 American Tree Sparrows. On the northwest side of Ladora, there was a flock of 29 White-crowned Sparrows (which were first seen a couple of weeks ago). The White-crowned Sparrow was not observed with them on this trip.

Both Bryan and I have found a Long-eared Owl in the same area (not the sparrow areas) on our last two trips. Perhaps it will stay the winter.

After hiking the Arsenal I headed over to Barr Lake to see if the "missing Ross's Gull ended up there. No luck on any uncommon gulls, however I did see one Pacific Loon and 2 Common Loons. A fourth loon was too far away to identify (I was at the boat ramp). If the Cherry Creek Reservoir Red-throated Loon is no longer there, Barr Lake may be the place to check?

I ended my birding day watching several dozen White-crowned Sparrows below the feeders behind the Visitors Center. About 30 minutes before sunset, I watched a sparrow that was quite interesting. It was larger than the "rest" of the White-crowned Sparrows and appeared to be darker. While I had good looks for about 25 seconds, it kept its back to me the whole time.

Its back appeared blackish without any brown or rusty color. A 5-8 second look at the top of its head appeared to be blackish with a yellowish center. The bird was in the shadows with the sun 90 degrees to the left. The bird appeared to be a Golden-crowned Sparrow. I list it as "possible" to be cautious (perhaps the sun somehow shone of the center and made it appear yellow and the rest of the dark head was due to being in shadows?).

I continued to watch hoping to see if the cheeks were grayish (Golden-crowned) or had brown (first year White-crowned). Unfortunately, two hikers walked around the side of the building and scared all the sparrows away. I stay an extra 30 minutes waiting for the birds to return. When I lost enough light that I could not see, I departed.

The bird will have to be left for another day; however I am leaving town for the week and can not get back there until next weekend.

Local Denver Reservoirs

October 27, 2007

I returned to Denver late yesterday afternoon and found little on Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Met up with Gus Chambers and headed out about 3:00am to do some owling. We struck out at both Pine Valley Ranch Park and Reynolds Park. Winds were calm; temperatures in the high 40s. Unfortunately, we did not have time to hike around Pine Valley Ranch Park (only searched around the lower parking area).

After sunrise, we quickly hiked up to the junction of Oxen Draw, Eagle's View, and Raven's Roost. No Blue Grouse, but we did find a female American Three-toed Woodpecker about 15 yards north of the intersection.

Afterwards, we rushed Gus to DIA to make his flight home.

After getting a text message about scoters in the area, I decided to check the local reservoirs.

First stop, Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). There were 7 Surf Scoters (Allison Hilf had reported 6) just offshore near the gull-winged picnic tables. Two Common Loons swam off the handicapped fishing dock. Allison also reported a Pacific Loon which I did not take time to search for (and later Glenn Walbek found a Red-throated Loon, which I could not relocate later in the day).

At my next stop Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas), I managed to find another Pacific Loon and another Common Loon. I did find my main target, a Thayer's Gull at the sand spit at the marina area. I did not find the reported Lesser Black-backed Gull or Ross's Geese.

My final stop (before returning to Cherry Creek Reservoir) was Standley Lake. It took awhile, but I was able to relocate (all reported by Doug Faulkner early in the day) 2 Surf Scoters, 3+ Black Scoters, 2 Common Loons, and my third Pacific Loon of the day!

Back at Cherry Creek Reservoir, I did not arrive until it was almost too dark to see. Missed the Red-throated Loon and planned to return on Sunday. However, first stopped at Rocky Mountain Arsenal and then decided to go to Barr Lake to look for the Ross's Gull.

What another beautiful fall day it was in Colorado!

Birding South Park

October 21 to 26, 2007

October 21st

Bill Cryder, Jerry Petrosky, Terry Michaels and I struck birded around Arapahoe County today.

We enjoyed good success. A Surf Scoter was swimming around the east side of Aurora Reservoir. Our loon count was up to 5; most of them swimming in the southeast corner of the reservoir. A flock of 9 American Tree Sparrow

October 22nd

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed up to Park County to see if any scoters were migrating through South Park. Our route was roundabout as we went through Loveland Pass, then Leadville, and then down to Park County.

We were at Loveland Pass at sunrise and counted 14 White-tailed Ptarmigan below the ridge on the east side of the road!

We had lunch with a friend and his wife in Summit County and took up their invitation to stay the night and play bridge. The weather was poor so we took them up on it.

October 23rd

Besides, we woke up to Evening Grosbeaks and Pine Grosbeaks coming to their feeders! A check of Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit) did not find any Barrow's Goldeneyes.

We made a detour to the A.M. Bailey Bird Sanctuary to see if any American Three-toed Woodpeckers could be found. None were found, but we birded mostly from our car.

Bryan and I worked our way west and south to Leadville (Lake). Turquoise Lake was quiet, birdwise. We drove up to Independence Pass (base, not the top) and searched for owls.

Finally we heard an owl. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was calling from the northwest corner of Twin Lakes. We stopped at the traditional Rosy Finch house near Granite, none have been seen yet this fall.

October 24th

We stayed the night in Buena Vista and headed out at 2:00am in search of owls. Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were found in their traditional Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands east of town. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was found west of town as we drove up to the top of Cottonwood Pass (Chaffee).

While looking for Lewis's Woodpeckers around town, a lady came out and described an owl she had been seeing. She took us over to the tree and there was a Western Screech-Owl looking out!

Finally we reached Park County east of Buena Vista. We spent most the afternoon counting the many birds on Antero Reservoir. The highlights were 2 Greater Scaup, a Pacific Loon, 7 Surf Scoters, 4 Black Scoters, and one White-winged Scoter. In addition 3 Common Loons and a Pacific Loon were also found.

What a treasure! It's not often one can find the triple crown of scoters at on one lake!

With only an hour of light remaining and winds picking up to 35+ mph, we decided to return to our motel in Buena Vista.

October 25th
For once we did not get up at 2:00 or 4:00 am. We passed Buena Vista Overlook on the drive east to Park County reservoirs. Five Pinyon Jays flew around below the hill to the west.

We hit Antero Reservoir first to see if yesterday's birds were still there. Numbers were slightly down which might have indicated that the birds had moved to the nearby reservoirs.

A careful scoping of the lake convinced us that the White-winged Scoter was definitely gone. Both of the other scoter numbers were down to 2 Black Scoters and 2 Surf Scoters. Loons included 2 Common Loons and 1 Pacific Loon. An addition at Antero Reservoir was 2 Trumpeter Swans!

We headed to Spinney Mountain Reservoir to cautiously count scoters there. The scoter count at Spinney was 5 Surf Scoters and 1 Black Scoter. To err on the conservative side, we concluded that the Surf Scoters were from Antero Reservoir and no addition Black Scoters had flown into Park County during the night. The White-winged Scoter was not relocated during our stay.

Additions to our trip list were 4 Common Loons swimming around on Spinney Reservoir. There were another 4 Common Loons on Eleven Mile Reservoir (on which there were no scoters).

On the way back to Buena Vista for the night, we checked on the 2 Trumpeter Swans. There had been joined by 5 Tundra Swans!

We also made a detour to the top of Weston Pass. There had been a report of a Boreal Owl heard at the top. We did not find that, but did hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl at a stop about 0.4 miles into the riparian area first encountered west of Highway 285.

October 26th
While we were not as through with our scoter count today. We did get:
Antero Reservoir: 4 Surf Scoter, 2 Black Scoter, no White-winged Scoter
Spinney Reservoir: 3 Surf Scoter, 1 Black Scoter, no White-winged Scoter
Eleven Mile Reservoir: 4 Common Loons, no scoters

Swan count today was 5 Trumpeter Swan and 5 Tundra Swans. Clearly they were migrating through and there was no way for us to determine if we were counting the same birds.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hunt for Arapahoe County Trumpeter Swan

October 20, 2007

Definitely needed to do chores today (undesirable, frustrating tasks, purchased a new car and got new eye glasses). However, there is always time to get in a little birding, so I searched for the Arapahoe County Trumpeter Swan (reported earlier by Bill Cryder) and Cherry Creek Reservoir Pacific Loon (reported by Don Beltz). Did not find either at Cherry Creek Reservoir; birding was slow. The pursuit was not aided by winds which were again 20+ mph.

The gull count was at least double since my last visit. The many American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorant have not yet left for their winter grounds. No loons and no uncommon gulls or any uncommon birds were found. Added Sunday: I forgot to mention that we did see one or two Bonaparte's Gulls flying around off the swim beach area.

One Shrike flew across the main road below the Ranger's Office. It appeared to be tracking a sparrow of some type. Neither stopped long enough for an id and I did not take the time to chase them into the field. At the bird platform (Cottonwood Creek Loop) I couldn't get a Swamp Sparrow to respond to a recording and left it for another day.

Both Quincy Reservoir and Aurora Reservoir did not have a large white bird on them. No swans, I headed for home at dusk. No Short-eared Owls came out along the DIA Owl Loop.

Quick Trip to Barr Lake

October 19, 2007

While doing chores I ran by Barr Lake (Adams County) and birded a couple of hours. Winds were 20+ mph; temperatures in the 70s. I walked from the Visitor's Center to the boat ramp (mile markers 9.0 to 7.5) and did not see one bird (not even a Starling) until reaching the boat ramp.

Finally a Northern Flicker flew off the ground and away. A small flock of birds along the canal at the access bridge to the boat ramp included 9 Dark-eyed Juncos, 3 American Goldfinches, 2 Black-capped Chickadees, and a Song Sparrow. Nothing uncommon, I turned around and went back to the Visitor's Center.

I watched the feeders behind the center for about an hour (so much for chores :-). The bird count included many House Sparrows, about 8 White-crowned Sparrows, 5 Dark-eyed Juncos, 2 Red-winged Blackbirds, and a White-throated Sparrow. When not at the feeders, the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows flew to the short bushes about 25 yards to the west of the Nature Center.

I drove the DIA Owl Loop one last time this season looking for Burrowing Owls. They have been gone for about 3 weeks now. In a few weeks, it will be time to look for Lapland Longspurs and perhaps Snow Buntings along the loop. A Short-eared Owl is still always a possibility.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Search for Dusky Grouse, Mt Falcon Park

October 18, 2007

Several birders asked about Dusky Grouse locations, so Jim Bottoms and I went to Mt Falcon Park (Jefferson County) this morning. One of those lucky days, we only had to search about 30 minutes before finding one. The Grouse was on the hill below and east of the old castle. It could be observed from the main trail going east from the castle. 40 yards east of the castle and 20 feet north of the trail. Found all three nuthatches and 4 Red Crossbills.

The hill below and west of the old castle has also been good for them this year. If missed at either location I usually walk east along the main trail and look below the first bench encountered (about 400 yards or so east).

A quick stop at Genesee Mountain Park and we missed Williamson's Sapsuckers again. No time for much else.

Search for Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass

October 17, 2007

Jim Bottoms and I headed up to Loveland Pass in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan. Another lucky day, we did not have to hike as far as Randy Cross and I did Monday. Two White-tailed Ptarmigan were around the huge rock outcropping below the Sniktau trail about 60 yards and perhaps 0.4 miles from our car. A few Mountain Bluebirds were still flying around west of the parking area.

No birds at Loveland Ski Basin. The feeders that use to be visited by Rosy Finches and Pine Grosbeaks are gone. The ski area was forced to take them down by the Forest Service.

We stopped at Genesee Mountain Park and walked from the group picnic area to the top (by the flag pole). No Williamson's Sapsuckers were encountered today. They could be gone for the season. We missed them Monday also.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pleasant Afternoon at Cherry Creek Reservoir

October 16, 2007

While out doing chores I stopped and walked the Cottonwood Creek Loop at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) for the last two hours of daylight. I played a Swamp Sparrow recording at several locations and one came out of the cattails. It was along the inlet canal at about halfway between the bird platform and the wooden bridge east of the parking area. You can recognize the area by a small muddy shoreline with a large group of bright green plants (cattails?).

While standing on the old wooden bridge playing a Swamp Sparrow recording, a flock of sparrows came by to the east (where the path is paved). The count was 37 American Robins, 9 White-crowned Sparrows (all juveniles), and 6 Song Sparrows. When I continued the walk east to the metal bridge (just below the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands Pond) there were 17 White-crowned Sparrows (all adults). No additional Swamp Sparrows could be found.

No uncommon gulls were found today around the lake. A couple of Herring Gulls, dozens of California Gulls, and hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls were it. Two American Tree Sparrows were around the restrooms at the campgrounds. A dozen Great Blue Herons, no egrets, hundreds of American White Pelicans, and dozens of Double-crested Cormorant rounded out the count. Only shorebirds were Killdeer.

One thing that stuck me was the lack of birds especially sparrows. In late October last year and previous years, many sparrows would be feeding on the thistles and rabbit brush at the Cottonwood Creek and Lake Loops.

On a traffic note: trying to get to Barr Lake from the airport is next to impossible between 3:30pm and 6:00pm. With the new town, Reunion and all the cars heading north on Tower Road, forget it. It takes half an hour just to get through the traffic light at 88th avenue. The reverse (Barr Lake to Airport) is the opposite (impossible) between 5:30am and 7:00am.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Summit & Clear Creek Counties

October 15, 2007

Randy Cross and I decided to try owling in the Montezuma, CO area (Summit County). We wanted to hike up the Saints John Trail (toward Glacier Mountain) and Hunkidori Trail. We arrived to discover that the area had received a foot of snow the day before. Lacking the proper equipment, we only hiked about 0.5 miles of the trails and did not locate any owls.

Our backup plan was to see if we could find any White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). Winds had blown off most of the snow up there, especially on the east side. We hiked up about 1.5 miles and back and found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan on the return trip. Guess we were about 0.75 miles from our vehicle (GPS) on the trail to the top of Mt. Sniktau and therefore in Clear Creek County.

A flock of 7-9 Mountain Bluebirds flew around the evergreens on the west side of Highway 6. Several American Pipits were also still around the area, no Rosy Finches though.

For the past four years I have wanted to hike the ridge to the west along the continental divide and then drop down into Loveland Ski Basin (about a 4 mile hike). Preferably when there is a thin layer of snow on the trail so to make finding White-tailed Ptarmigan a little easier. It is always easier to find them by looking for their tracks in the snow rather than their well camouflaged bodies in snow or granite rocks (depending upon the season).

The kink in this plan has been that when the area gets its first snow, it is usually several feet. Avalanche danger has discouraged any attempt of the plan. Perhaps this will be the year? Snow is predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday and if not too deep, we plan to give it a try.

After our Loveland Pass trek we headed into Dillon and checked local feeders. No Rosy Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, or Pine Grosbeak were about. We did see Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Downy Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker. A Band-tailed Pigeon would have been nice; but found none of them around either.

The city park in Georgetown was quiet also as was Silver Plume. A quick stop at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson) did not find any Williamson's Sapsuckers.

Owling and "The Little Sit"

October 14, 2007

Randy Cross and I started out owling about 3:00am. Before sunrise we enjoyed medium success. Partial view of a Northern Pygmy-Owl at White Ranch Open Space (Jefferson County). We heard another Northern Pygmy-Owl at Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Jefferson). We then headed up to Rollinsville by way of the Peak to Peak Highway.

Along the trek we stopped every 0.5 mile and listened for owls. Heard 2 Northern Saw-whet Owls (Boulder), observed none. No Flammulated Owls, it is late in the season for them (however, we did hold out hope that we might come across a late migrating Flammulated Owl). No Boreal Owls, we were not high enough (elevation) for them.

We returned to Denver by way of Hwy 72. Throughout the earlier morning and the whole day for that matter, we ran into rain and more rain.

In the afternoon we sat for three hours at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). It was part of a competition started last year to see how many birds could be found in 3 hours. The 3 hour time limit was an accident. When we started this "little sit" as we call it, weather turned so bad last year that we had to quit after 3 hours.

This year we had three teams of two. Total species were: 28, 27, 27. Further rules for anyone who cares: teams can pick any spot in the park to sit and any 3 hour time period. It is an interesting exercise at a slow time of the year.

The highlight for the two teams with 27 species was a Red-necked Grebe. The winning team missed the Red-necked Grebe but added Sandhill Cranes heard flying overhead and a Swamp Sparrow (heard in the cattails west of the bird platform).

Other notables included a 4th cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Egret. We hoped for an early scoter or loon; none showed up.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Return to Rocky Mountain Arsenal

October 13, 2007

I enjoyed a successful day of birding in spite of the weather. Partly cloudy skies in the morning turned to heavy rain by late afternoon.

At first light I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) to see if I could find the Northern Waterthrush that Bryan Ehlmann reported on Wednesday. I also wanted to cover all 7.8 miles of trails open to the public.

My first stop was the northwest corner of Lake Ladora (which is just behind the Visitor's Center). Guess it was not my first stop as I watched and photographed 2 Rock Wrens fluttering about behind the Center.

At Ladora, I counted at least 51 sparrows in the tall weeds just north of the trail. Most were White-crowned Sparrows, however the White-throated Sparrow popped up several times. Two Song Sparrows also joined the group. A dozen American Goldfinches flew around feeding on the thistles also. The several tall cottonwood trees at this corner only had Yellow-rumped Warblers (about 7) today.

I continued clockwise around the lake. No Long-eared Owls today in the Russian Olive grove. The locust grove was also void of birds. Warbler migration is definitely on the downside or over here. I scoped the canal at the northeast corner for about 30 minutes before giving up on a Northern Waterthrush sighting.

Once I arrived at Peoria and 64th avenue, I continued south to the junction with the Woodland Trail. I took the detour to the Rod and Gun Club Ponds. The ponds are dry and only a few flickers were found along the trail. A Rock Wren searched for food under the bird blind on the western end of the ponds.

I was able to relocate the Long-eared Owl that Bryan found on Wednesday. The thick locust groves appear to be good places for them to hide. I wonder if any try and nest on the arsenal? Looking at my records, I have now found them in each month of the year.

Back on the Woodland Trail (now west of Peoria) it goes through several locust and cottonwood groves. I counted 2 dozen+ Dark-eyed Juncos (which included Oregon, Pink-sided, and Slate-colored). When I reached the junction with the Havana Ponds trail, I turned south again.

Havana Ponds was the busiest place today. Hundreds of ducks, 2 American White Pelicans, American Coots, 2 Western Grebes, and 1 Pied-billed Grebe were observed here. Ducks included nothing uncommon (Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail Duck, American Wigeon, 2 Redhead).

I turned back north and walked the southwestern side of Lake Ladora. A Peregrine Falcon flew between Havana Ponds & Ladora during my walk. Another flock of 67 sparrows were in the tall weeds at Ladora. This flock was again mostly White-crowned Sparrows, but also included several American Tree Sparrows.

The highlight of my walk was found at the western edge of Ladora. First I heard the clicking of a thrush and later located a late migrating Hermit Thrush. The Thrush acted like a Sanderling and ran up and down gathering insects on a small sandy beach area. I took some of my best Hermit Thrush photos (as usually I only get small glimpses of them deep in woods).

After Rocky Mountain Arsenal, I headed over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). I was pouring rain, however I managed to see the Lesser Black-backed Gull flying around the center of the lake. American White Pelican numbers have increased as have Western Grebes. If a Sabine's Gull is still there, I could not locate it.

My final stop of the day was Barr Lake (Adams). I got the text message from the CoBus RBA text message service and wanted to see if I could find the gulls reported earlier in the day by Ira Sanders. When I arrived at the boat ramp, 2-4 Sabine's Gulls were flying around about 200 yards north. It took a while, but I finally got the Lesser Black-backed Gull in my scope. It started to rain pretty hard, but I managed to find at least one Common Loon before packing it in for the day.