Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Snowy Day West of Fort Collins

February 27, 2007

Allen Sopack and I started out early to search for owls along Highway 14 on the way to Cameron Pass (Jackson County). I wanted to try out my new snowshoes. We had planned to stay until dark and search for Boreal Owls.

By afternoon, snow started coming down quite heavy. Before sunset, winds were 50+ mph and picking up speed. We gave up and headed back to Denver. The idea to stay overnight and try again on Wednesday just did not seem that inviting (especially if the snow continues as predicted).

We did manage to find one Northern Pygmy-Owl at one of the campgrounds along highway 14 (Larimer County). Two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches did visit the feeders behind the Colorado State Forest Visitor’s Center.

Completion Of My South Platte River Trek

February 26, 2007

My trek of the South Platte River through Denver was completed today. Winds were again out of the south 5 to 10mph; temperatures reached 40 degrees. In the last three weeks I hiked and counted birds along the S. Platte from Chatfield Reservoir to 96th avenue. Total distance approximately 27 miles; birding hours totaled 21.

I hiked from the dam at Chatfield Reservoir to the Arapahoe Power Plant north of West Dartmouth Avenue today (Denver County). No uncommon birds were counted; hundreds of ducks and geese were observed.

A Cooper's Hawk was in the riparian area just north of the South Platte Park Carson Nature Center. Most of the lakes and ponds passed were still snow/ice covered.

I did not relocate any of the Greater Scaup reported in the past two weeks. The hike was quite pleasant with the cool breeze and sun at my back.

After the hike, I returned home by way of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas). Only a few House Finches flew around the Visitor Center. A few Mountain Bluebirds were checking the bluebird boxes at the southwest end of the park.

I also drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The 80 gulls included Ring-billed and 5 Herring Gulls. Two Bald Eagles stood on the ice around 5:30pm.

Drive Around Adams County

February 25, 2007

We stopped briefly at 74th avenue and the S. Platte River. The male Long-tailed Duck was below the 74th avenue bridge. I hike the west side of the river down to the 78th avenue footbridge, crossed the river, and hiked back along the east side of the Platte. The sun was at my back on the return trip and one is also closer to the river. It is then possible to cross back west by way of 74th avenue (highway 224). Total distance is only 0.5 miles. I was not able to find the Harris's Sparrow reported several weeks ago.

Since last Thursday, Tani Reservoir and West Gravel Lakes have lost most of their ice/snow cover. The Long tailed Duck and Barrows Goldeneyes may move over to them often now.

Rebecca Kosten and I drove the DIA Owl Loop in the afternoon. A stop at Barr Lake (Adams County) did not find the Harris's Sparrow (missed two days in a row now). Sparrows included 11 American Tree Sparrows, 1 Song Sparrow, and 2 White-crowned Sparrows.

We did not find much around the Owl Loop. Just a few Horned Larks along Trussville Road.

We enjoyed Subway sandwiches and diet cokes at the “Barr Lake Snow Goose Festival” :-) We watched 900+ Canada Geese and 1 Snow Goose at 128th avenue and Tower Road.

Over 600 gulls (Ring-billed and 17 Herring) were on the ice at Lakecrest at Gateway Park. Nothing uncommon was found; watching the many gulls, geese, and few Common Mergansers was enjoyable.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Drive Around DIA Owl Loop & Barr Lake

February 24, 2007

While out doing chores, I stopped by Barr Lake (Adams County) and drove the DIA Owl Loop. After last night’s snow melted, roads were clear and temperatures reached 40 degrees.

The Harris's Sparrow did not make an appearance in the hour I watched the Visitor Center’s feeders. Sparrows were rare; I only observed 3 White-crowned and 2 American Tree Sparrows.

The DIA Owl Loop was slow also. Horned Lark count was only 21 birds. Not much else was seen. It’s too early for Burrowing Owls; prairie dog villages were filled with dogs looking for food and sunning themselves.

Raptor count was 2 Red-tailed Hawks and an American Kestrel. No Short-eared Owls were seen this evening.

I also stopped by Lakecrest at Gateway Park. This maybe where many of the gulls are in the local area. I counted 219 Ring-billed Gulls and 11 Herring Gulls. Waterfowl included Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, Gadwalls, Common Goldeneyes, and American Coots.

Eleven Mile Hike Down the South Platte River

February 23, 2007

Another beautiful winter day in Colorado. Temperatures almost reached 60 degrees.

I first searched for the Lesser Black-backed Gull reported earlier by Terry Michaels at Aurora Reservoir; without success.

On the way to the South Platte River, I passed Mt Olive Lutheran Church and School. A white goose caught my attention. A Ross's Goose was with 118 Canada Geese and 1 undetermined goose between Canada and Cackling in size. I am uncomfortable calling the difference between a Lesser Canada Goose and a Taverner’s or Richardson’s Cackling Goose.

Once at the South Platte River (at Evans Blvd), I first hiked south to the Arapahoe Power Plant and then turned around and walked to I70. The wind (5-10mph) was out of the south and most of the day I had this nice cool breeze on my back. Total distance was about 11 miles.

I kept an eye out for the Pied Crow that I saw at Pasquinel’s Landing a few weeks ago. Just read this morning that the Crow was found a Washington Park yesterday afternoon. It has been between there and Ruby Hill Park for a few months now.

I was also looking for the Greater Scaup reported at the same time I saw the Pied Crow. A third target bird was a pair of Cinnamon Teal reported last week. None of them were found, however it was an enjoyable hike in the winter sun. Calm before the storm, it is snowing this morning.

At Evans Blvd, I found 10 Lesser Scaup; no Greater Scaup.

Throughout the day I found 17 Hooded Mergansers, dozens of Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, and American Coots.

Strange misses were Common Mergansers and no woodpeckers.

An albino Rock Pigeon was under the bridge halfway between Florida and Mississippi Avenues. True pink eye and all.

The only raptors found on the trek were 2 Red-tailed Hawks.

The area has great potential and I hope to hike it again during spring migration.

My birding day ended back at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). I was only going to drive the south side of the reservoir; however a strange phenomenon seemed to occur. I could only find one gull on the drive around the lake. The lone Ring-billed Gull flew over the southwest marina.

Two adult Bald Eagles still stood on the ice at 5:30pm. I thought that a little late in the day (lost sunlight at 5:35pm, due to clouds, not sunset which should have been around 5:45pm. I searched for owls after sunset; without success.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Great Birding Day Along Clear Creek & S. Platte River

I found myself downtown Denver at 6:30am and decided to bird along Clear Creek and the South Platte River. What a fantastic winter day. Temperatures made it into the 50s; winds were calm to mild.

My trek started at Washington Avenue and Clear Creek around 7:00am. As I walked east along Clear Creek I found an American Dipper searching for food just below the first water fall east of Washington. While I have found one in Denver County, I believe this is a first Adams County record for me.

Continuing east, I found a pair of Canvasbacks on the creek just west of where it passes under I76. As I was watching them, a flock of sparrows moved about the bushes between I270 and Clear Creek. With some effort I made my way over to the south side of the creek to examine the sparrows. The loose flock included 1 Harris’s Sparrow, 7 White crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, and 3 American Tree Sparrows.

Nothing uncommon was found on the way to the confluence with the South Platte River. Once there I scoped down the S. Platte from the bridge which goes to Engineer Lake on the east side of the Platte. I could see the male Long-tailed Duck about 50 yards downstream.

Today I hiked the eastern side of the Platte down to 88th avenue (kept the sun at my back and this side seems to have more sparrows than the west side). I was allowed closer looks at the Long-tailed Duck and continued south.

A lone Ruddy Duck swam near the Long-tailed Duck. About 100 yards further north, a female Greater Scaup swam among a small group of Lesser Scaups. I did not find a male Greater Scaup today.

I again searched for the Harris's Sparrow reported a couple of weeks ago near the 74th avenue bridge; without success. A Northern Shrike was on the chain link fence at the southern end of Tani Reservoir.

A group of Goldeneyes were just stretching and moving about at 10:00am on the ice at East Gravel Lakes. A male and female Barrow's Goldeneye were among the 29 Common Goldeneyes. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers completed the triple merganser sightings (17 Common Mergansers, 2 pairs of Hooded Mergansers).

Once at 88th avenue I crossed over and went back to the northern West Gravel Lake (the southern lake was frozen). The smaller male Barrow's Goldeneye was here along with 22 Common Goldeneyes and many Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, and Gadwalls.

I continued north about 2 miles along the Platte. Found 2 Rough-legged Hawks, 6 Red-tailed Hawks, and a Northern Harrier. No falcons today or additional uncommon birds.

Went back to 88th avenue and hiked to I76. Dahlia Ponds was frozen as were the lakes on the north side of 88th avenue (by the Wildlife Area, no name on the sign other than Wildlife Area).

Caught a ride home by way of Barr Lake. Three dozen+ sparrows on and below the feeders included the 1st year Harris's Sparrow.

I added additional Long-tailed Duck photos, a lone Ruddy Duck seen today, and photos by Dick Vogel to the CoBus photo library.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Colorado Eastern Plains

NOTE: Dates are after 2/14 because Posts dated after 2/14 were added on 2/27. To keep in sequence, I added them to 2/14 post.

February 21, 2007

At first light we staked out a private ranch with a known Greater Prairie-Chicken Lek. Two male Greater Prairie-Chickens showed up (thanks to Kevin O’Brien if you are reading this; it was at your site!).

We stopped in Wray at a friend’s home for lunch. Her pair of Northern Cardinals came by several times, getting us great looks. She also has a Brown Thrasher wintering in her backyard. A Cooper's Hawk flew through and scattered the birds on one occasion.

At Roger’s ranch, we found a wintering Harris's Sparrow and 2 White-throated Sparrows. He also has a Long-eared Owl (possibly two) staying on his property. We hope they will try to nest come spring. After dark we went for a hike and found 3 Eastern Screech-Owls.

February 20, 2007

Roger Danka and I drove the DIA Owl Loop before sunrise. While scoping the fields east of Trussville, Roger pointed out a Short-eared Owl flying along the trees far in the distance. The fields north of the runways and along Picadilly Road were not a help this morning.

We headed east toward Bonny Reservoir (Yuma). Below the dam at the Hale Ponds area, we found a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (along CR 4). A flock of 9 Eastern Bluebirds were on the telephone wires along CR 4. Another flock of 7 were along CR LL.5.

At dusk we searched for Short-eared Owls mostly along CR 4, CR 2, and CR 1; without success. After dark, we returned to Hale Ponds and got 2 Eastern Screech-Owls to answer our playback tapes.

February 19, 2007

Roger Danka and I were in Estes Park (Larimer) at first light. The Scott Rashid’s Northern Pygmy-Owl did not make an appearance this morning. We again found a Northern Shrike in the field across from the Meadowview Subdivision.

We then dropped down to the plains by way of Highway 34. A quick detour to Bobcat Ridge Natural Area was quite successful. A flock of 20-21 Pinyon Jays flew along the ridge northwest of the wildlife area. Few birds were seen on the property itself.

Back at Highway 34, a stop at the small group of homes at mile marker 78 was also successful. A Northern Pygmy-Owl answered our tape. With some effort, we were able to locate the owl and get decent looks as it hid in the evergreens.

Once out on the plains we headed toward Pawnee National Grasslands and the USDA Experimental Research Center. Our target birds were owls, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings.

I had seen Snow Buntings in previous winters around the barn that is located one mile north of the USDA office and 1 mile west of CR 37. Today we only found Horned Larks and 2 Lapland Longspurs.

We hiked a little further west to the dry creek, then hiked south about a mile. A Short-eared Owl flew out of the banks about 0.7 miles south of directly west of the old barn. A Great Horned Owl was later found about 0.3 miles north of directly west of the old barn.

We returned to our car and drove around looking for Snow Buntings; without success. We did stop at two ranches of friends. At one we observed a Long-eared Owl behind his barn. At another, my friend had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the two evergreen trees in front of his house. It has been around for at least two weeks now!

We continued our drive and spotted 3-4 Rosy Finches flying around near the intersection of Weld County Roads 57 and 134! A Prairie Falcon was seen near the 124 Ponds.

A check around Grover did not add any Sharp-tailed Grouse to our day list. When I think about it, Sharp-tailed Grouse have not been reported around here now since August, 2001 and September, 2000.

Crow Valley Campgrounds had few birds. No owls were found at the Work Center or Briggsdale Cemetery. No Common Redpolls at the campgrounds or around Briggsdale and we headed back to Denver.

February 13, 2007

Dan Piorte and I walked up the South Platte River from 88th avenue to I225 and back. It was probably my last search for the Long-tailed Duck (last reported on 2/5). It was a cold hike as the high yesterday was around 20 degrees; winds were 5-10mph.

We found 2 male and 1 female Barrow's Goldeneyes within 100 yards downstream and upstream of the green and white water tower. The tower is about 1.0 miles south of 88th avenue.

There was quite an assortment of ducks on the Platte again. Unfortunately, we did not find the Long-tailed Duck. It was not in the small open water space on East Gravel Lake either. The rest of the lakes were ice and snow covered. We could not pick out any Greater Scaup today.

A search for the Harris's Sparrow reported around the confluence of the S. Platte and Clear Creek was also unsuccessful. Sparrows were scarce; our totals were 2 Song, 5 American Tree, and 7 White-crowned Sparrows.

The female Northern Harrier and one Bald Eagle flew down the river. Ring-billed Gulls were the only observed along the river. Two Herring Gulls stood on East Gravel Lake.

We stopped by Barr Lake on our way to the DIA Owl loop. The 1st year Harris's Sparrow, American Tree Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrows visited the feeders behind the visitor’s center.

No owls, hawks, or buntings were found on a drive around the Owl Loop.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Drive Through Cherry Creek State Park

February 12, 2007

Under the weather so to speak, I did have to take a friend grocery shopping. We drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) on the way. Two adult Bald Eagles on the snow covered ice. Not much else moving about that we could see. A group of 80 gulls appeared to be Ring-billed Gulls with 8 Herring Gulls?

Could not find the Northern Shrike today. No sparrows or juncos around the campgrounds. We did see a Great Horned Owl. Hope they have a successful mating this year.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Search for a Black-throated Sparrow in Parker

February 11, 2007

I promised my feet yesterday that I would not wear hiking boots today. No boots, no computer for a day. Why do I bother, it seldom happens :-) All worked out okay; what a beautiful winter day. Temperatures reached into the 50s; winds were mild.

Bryan Ehlmann received a report of a Black-throated Sparrow in Parker (Douglas County). Black-throated Sparrows have been reported in Douglas County in the past. Most are reported in April and May. There is a February 10, 1974 record of a Black-throated Sparrow in Pueblo.

Bryan, Sue, Rebecca, and I hiked around the Stonegate neighborhood for about 3 hours. We parked at the Stonegate Village Community Park (on Stonegate Parkway a little south of East Lincoln Avenue and about 2.0 miles west of Parker Road, Hwy 83).

We hiked around the neighborhood and also hiked the bike path from the community center to the east to Jordan Road. The open space has several small groups of willows for cover. Many of the houses had bird feeders. We peeked over the fences hoping to see the elusive Black-throated Sparrow skulking around under them.

However, we did not find the Black-throated Sparrow. It was enjoyable to get outside on such a fantastic winter day (the first weekend in 8 weeks without snow)!

We did meet some friendly people in the neighborhood and handed out about two dozen copies of “Colorado Field Notes”. If we nudge someone toward becoming a birder, it would be an added bonus.

Not far from Jordan Road, the bike path converges with another path coming from the northwest. There was a fair size marsh here with some taller cottonwoods. I counted 7 Black-capped Chickadees; the most I have seen together in quite awhile. A Brown Creeper walked up and down the cottonwoods.

A couple of Song Sparrows were in the willows. Northern Flickers searched for food on the small bare spots under the taller trees. Most of the ground (and bike path) is still covered with snow. A flock of 8 House Finch took refuge in one clump of willows.

Thanks for the report! We enjoyed our search!

After an early dinner, Rebecca and I drove the county roads east of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe). Four Bald Eagles were perched in the cottonwoods along the first creek east of the Reservoir (along East Quincy Avenue). While driving to the Denver Research Center and CR 129 (which is labeled Bennett, CO), we also found a Ferruginous Hawk, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, and 2 American Kestrels. Unfortunately, no owls, but a great sunset!

Search for Northern Pygmy-Owls in Larimer County

February 10, 2007

Paul Hudson and I started out in the fog at 4:30am this morning. Target birds were Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Goshawk, Northern Shrike, and Pinyon Jays. Winds were quite strong all day; temperatures probably did not reach the middle 40s.

Before sunrise we walked Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins for about an hour or so. This once was my favorite and first location to look for accipiters for the year. Ah, the good old days when I could see a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Northern Goshawk all in the same area. And as an added bonus, pick up a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker for my Colorado year list.

The cemetery was not birdy this morning. A few House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and Mountain Chickadees were just about all we found. We did hear a few Pine Siskins fly by, but they did not even stop.

The Fort Collins City Park Duck Pond (across the golf course from the cemetery) was full of geese. Unfortunately only Canada Geese and the usual hybrids attracted to city parks.

We next headed into the foothills and looked for Snow Buntings (or any birds) along the shore at Horsetooth Reservoir (CR 38E, west of the city). Again we found few birds? We scoped the gully where David Leatherman had reported a Northern Pygmy-Owl last week (where Spring Creek crosses under CR 38E). Great potential, no birds.

Our trip continued down (west) Larimer CR 38E to CR 27 and Masonville. We drove over to Bobcat Ridge Natural Area. Again no birds, Pinyon Jays have been reported in the area in the past. Great potential, great habitat, few birds.

When this is finally opened to the public, it is going to be a great birding area to explore. Paul and I had missed Pinyon Jays here back in August, 2006. We enjoyed a short walk at sunset. Dozens of Turkey Vultures roosted on the cliffs above. Bullock's Orioles fluttered about in the cottonwoods. Empidonax Flycatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Chickadees were common. We enjoyed the long drive through the valley (at the time the main entrance was closed due to a collapsed road). The detour offers a more interesting drive and exploration of the valley.

We returned to CR 27 and drove south, picked up Highway 34 and headed west toward Estes Park. We stopped at David Leatherman’s second Northern Pygmy-Owl spot (mile marker 78). Here we had some success in that we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl call at least four times over our hour stay. Unfortunately, we were not able to pick out the small owl in the cluster of firs. We did see a few Townsend's Solitaires and Chickadees. The drive up Thompson Canyon is an intriguing and splendid one.

Winds were outrageous in Estes Park. We drove north on Devils Gulch Road hoping to find a Northern Shrike hunting along the narrow fields (outlined with barbed wire fences). Once we entered the forest near Glen Haven, we turned back figuring Northern Shrikes would not be in that habitat.

A hike around the northern and eastern side of Lake Estes was also not successful in finding a Northern Shrike. A few Common Goldeneyes were out on the lake. Winds were so strong, that few in any birds were flying around. Crows and Ravens were blown by us.

We hiked quite a bit of Fish Creek Road between Highway 7 and Highway 36. The willows along Fish Creek (I am assuming that is the name of the creek, hence the road name) have sometimes produced Northern Pygmy-Owl and Northern Shrike sightings. Today we found dozens of noisy Steller's Jays and Black-billed Magpies.

We found ourselves with many hours to kill before meeting up with Scott Rashid (in hopes of seeing the Northern Pygmy-Owl that has been visiting his yard). So we headed down Highway 36 toward Lyons.

Finally, an adult Northern Shrike was perched atop a willow in the field near Meadowview Subdivision. Paul walked down the road closer to the willow and the Northern Shrike was nice enough to fly to a fence post even closer to Paul. It put on a nice show in the next 10 minutes. Turning forward and back, allowing great views of its face mask and hooked bill. It flicked its wings several times, showing the contrast between its upper rump and back!

North of Lyons, we drove the Spring Gulch Area for several hours hoping to run into a flock of Pinyon Jays. We did not. Winds were again strong, but we thought we would be able to hear the loud nasal “waoow” calls a flock seems to constantly make. No success, again we found few birds.

Across Highway 36, the loop that Apple Valley Road makes is another fascinating birding location. This small group of trees and brush along North St. Vrain Creek attracts some nice birds including Northern Pygmy-Owls and Northern Goshawks, just not today for us.

Back in Estes Park, we found ourselves with still two hours to kill before our meeting. We drove to the end of Highway 66 (past the YMCA of the Rockies). West of the Estes Park Campground there is a small reservoir (I believe it is called East Portal, could be wrong).

We hiked around this lake which in spite of the altitude was not frozen (because of the strong currents). Lone female Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye swam back and forth. Forest to the south and an open field to the north, great habitat for a Northern Goshawk to hunt in the late afternoon, just not today.

A walk through the campgrounds did not find any birds either. Some deer scat and tracks that were either Mountain Lion or dog (got to look them up one of these days).

Finally we met up with Scott. Winds died down after sunset and there was hope that “his” Northern Pygmy-Owl would show. He feeds him mice after it shows. You would pass up a free meal? Sometimes the owl shows up for days in a row; sometimes it skips a few days. Unfortunately, it did not appear for us this evening.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Search for Boulder County Chihuahuan Ravens

February 9, 2007

Gary Weston and I returned to Boulder County continuing our search for Chihuahuan Ravens. Our search centered around Valmont Reservoir area and northeastern Boulder County. Again we gathered many photographs, video, and audio (to be studied later).

We cannot say that we found any Chihuahuan Ravens.

February 8, 2007

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Boulder County in search of prospective Chihuahuan Ravens. We photographed many ravens, videotaped their flight patterns to study later, and recorded audio whenever possible.

Today’s 8 hour search focused around Lafayette, Louisville, and Superior (southeastern Boulder County).

We cannot say that we found any Chihuahuan Ravens. Several dozen Common Ravens and many American Crows were picked out. Perhaps after we study our collections?

We missed the White-throated Sparrow at Waneka Lake (Greenlee Preserve) also.

Hike along the South Platte River, Adams County

February 7, 2007

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to hike the South Platte River downstream from Globeville Park (38th avenue) to 88th avenue. The hike is approximately 6.5 miles. We counted all birds observed along the way. I will not post the list here as many may find it boring. Write me, if you would like a copy.

We started at 7:00am (just before sunrise). It was 32 degrees, but temperatures reached 43 degrees during our day. Winds remained calm which made for a pleasant day. Total hiking time was 7 hours.

After completing the hike, we planned to catch the #88 RTD bus west to Washington Avenue and then the #7 RTD bus south back to our car. It was such a nice day, we decided to hike the 2 miles back upriver to Clear Creek and then west along Clear Creek to Washington (and the #7 Washington bus). In the past, I have made this hike several times and find it more interesting than hiking just a short distance along the S. Platte and having to return to my car.

Our first bird of the day was an American Tree Sparrow at Globeville Park (Denver County). Once you follow the S. Platte River to the southern end of Riverside Cemetery, one enters Adams County.

A female Greater Scaup was loosely with 5 Lesser Scaups below Northside Park. With the recent reports of Chihuahuan Ravens in Boulder County, we kept our eyes peeled on any ravens that flew over. We did see 7 American Crows and 2 Common Ravens near Northside Park.

There is construction at Franklin Avenue (just north of Northside Park, Denver). It is possible to hike along the east side of the National Guard building and pick up the trail on the east side of the Platte at Franklin. Then we had no further access problems.

Once at Riverside Cemetery (Adams), we found a Peregrine Falcon on a tall tree. Below him was a Green-winged Teal with a broken wing. Whether he did the damage or just decided an easy meal was in the vicinity, the Peregrine Falcon was watching the duck and not us. Eventually the Peregrine Falcon grabbed the teal and flew to the metal electric poles along the Platte at 58th Avenue (Adams).

The Water Treatment Plant just south of I270 was disappointing. Only about 21 Ring-billed Gulls flew around it. Many times, this area is loaded with gulls (and sometimes uncommon ones). There was no sign of the recently reported Glaucous Gull; we continued north.

On the Platte River about 100-150 yards north of the I270 bridge (where river is farthest from the bike path), we found a male and female Greater Scaup. The female with her bright yellow eye stood out first; later we picked out the male.

Once at the 74th avenue Bridge, we took an hour detour to search for the Harris's Sparrow that Jim Beatty reported on 2/4. We never relocated the sparrow. However, a Northern Shrike stood sentinel over the area and sparrows were scarce (to none, we did see one Song Sparrow). There was no sign of the adult male Long-tailed Duck observed last weekend.

A Ferruginous Hawk flew over the southern West Gravel Lake. In my experience, they are rare here. I hike this about 20-30 times a winter and this was only my second sighting here in five years. A female Northern Harrier flew up and down over the ducks around the green and white water tower.

We found a female Barrow's Goldeneye about 50 yards upstream from the water tower. A large male Barrow's Goldeneye was 30 yards south of same. Further downstream at about 400 yards from the water tower, we located another, smaller male Barrow's Goldeneye.

We studied the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds closely; no Rusty Blackbirds could be found among them. A lone adult Double-crested Cormorant swam just north of the railroad tracks at 78th avenue.

Most numerous ducks were 832 Northern Shovelers. We found only one male Ruddy Duck. Only 2 Black-capped Chickadees (across from Riverside Cemetery). A Great Horned Owl was also across from the cemetery.

We hiked around to the small open water area on East Gravel Lake. All the 119 gulls were Ring-billed Gulls. A few Common Goldeneyes were the only ducks. No sign of the recently reported Long-tailed Duck (last reported on 2/5).

Afterwards as stated, we turned around and hiked Clear Creek from the confluence with the Platte to Washington Avenue. Nothing uncommon was added to our list.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Afternoon Drive on the Eastern Plains

February 5, 2007

In the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I journeyed out to the eastern plains on this fantastic winter day. Temperatures reached 48 degrees; winds were mild.

First we circled Mira Vista Golf Course (Denver County) in search of the Greater White-fronted Goose reported by Terry Michaels on Sunday. We could not relocate the goose.

Next we tried for the Ross's Goose reported by Karl Stecher west of Buckley Road and Orchard (Arapahoe) on Sunday. Again without success.

I hope everyone notice our marvelous sunset. Colorado has some great ones in the winter. Tonight’s was exceptional.

We drove for several hours east of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) in search of owls. Whenever we came upon a riparian area, we would stop and listen. Great Horned Owls were heard (and seen) at 3 different locations. Unfortunately, no Short-eared Owls or Barn Owls could be found.

Our Raptor count included: 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 American Kestrels, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, 2 Ferruginous Hawks, and a Prairie Falcon!

The drive on the plains with little traffic and great views of snow covered Pikes Peak, Mt. Evans, and Longs Peak to the west was well worth the trip. Listening to Great Horned Owls call in search of a companion was an added bonus!

Monday, February 5, 2007

February 4, 2007

Bryan Ehlmann and I spent most of the day searching for Chihuahuan Ravens in Boulder County. Temperatures almost reached 50 degrees! Winds were mild to gusting at times.

We took about 500 photos and recorded a dozen or so ravens. Neither of us thought we had heard or seen a Chihuahuan Raven. It may take a few days to process all the photos and listen to the recordings.

We did not hang around and wait for the gulls to return to Valmont Reservoir. Super bowl time!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Up into Colorado Mountains & Down along the Platte River

February 3, 2007

Yes, I did not go birding yesterday; I am a little amazed myself! Too cold and nasty out, winds were outrageous.

Today was much better. David Bear and I drove up to Summit County to look for mountain species. We enjoyed much success. Our list included:

Rosy Finches

Evening Grosbeaks

Pine Grosbeaks

Pine Siskins

Mountain Chickadees

Red-breasted Nuthatches

White-breasted Nuthatches

Pygmy Nuthatches

Brown Creeper

Red Crossbills (Clear Creek County)

Six Barrow's Goldeneyes were still at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant just south of Silverthorne.

We stayed on Loveland Pass for about 2 hours. Our search for White-tailed Ptarmigan was not successful. In my experience, weekends are not the best time to search. Too many snow boarders and skiers use the pass as a jumping off point to avoid the pricey lift tickets at Loveland Ski Basin.

After lunch we decided to see if the Greater Scaup were still on the South Platte River at Evans Avenue. They were relocated about 200 yards south (upstream) of the Evans Bridge. This is just north of the footbridge going across the river (south of Grant-Frontier Park).

We were sidetracked for awhile. We parked at the parking area for Pasquinel’s Landing Park (1 block south of Evans and Huron). Overland Golf Course is just north and we could see Ruby Hill Park off to the northwest.

In an hour, the Pied Crow (probably same one from last summer) flew over our car four times. When it was not in the trees near the radio tower (alley, northeast of South Huron Street & W. Ashbury Avenue), it was constantly harassed by dozens of American Crows and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. When we left, it was still in the neighborhood at S. Galapago & W. Jewell Avenue (about 3 blocks from the park at south end of the Overland Golf Course).

According to Microsoft Streets and Trips, this sighting is 3.6 miles (as the Crow flies) from the 10/6/2006 sightings at Sheridan Blvd & Alameda Ave.

Our hike took us up and down the Platte (for a 1/2 mile in each direction). Many Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, and Gadwalls were counted. Several American Coots were also around.

And one less…….as we approached the Evan Bridge a Peregrine Falcon swooped down and grabbed an American Coot! It then flew over the bridge and landed on the sandbar about 50 yards south of the Evans Avenue Bridge. We did not notice its landing until we got down there; then the Peregrine Falcon flew east. Several American Crows and another Sharp-shinned Hawk harassed it as the Falcon departed; without its prize.

There was a dead female/immature Hooded Merganser near the Evans Bridge. Perhaps another victim of the Peregrine Falcon?

Next we stopped at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt. The Eastern Screech-Owl was not out of its tree (just east of Jack’s Place Picnic Table) at 3:30pm.

Our final stop of the day was the Denver West Office Complex. A Western Scrub-Jay was in the park at the northeast corner of the complex. We found no warblers today. A couple of Townsend's Solitaires (which were David’s target bird) and 2 White-breasted Nuthatches were about all we found. We looked for an hour in Georgetown and Silver Plume for Townsend's Solitaires; without success. Quite glad to find one in Denver!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Barr Lake, DIA Owl Loop, and a Snowstorm

February 1, 2007

We drove over to Barr Lake (Adams County) to get our bird watching “fix” for the day. High temperatures today were 21 degrees; winds were 10-15 mph. By 4:00pm, it was snowing quite hard.

The usual suspects visited the feeders behind the Barr Lake Visitor Center. Our every visit seems to find more sparrows discovering their feeders. Sparrows included American Tree, Song, and White-crowned. The 1st year Harris's Sparrow made two appearances during our one hour stay.

A couple of Ring-necked Pheasants continue to pick up some food below the feeders. Another two dozen were found along the road to the boat ramp. A male Downy Woodpecker also came by briefly. Five races of Dark-eyed Juncos were under the feeders in the front of the building. A White-winged Junco is always a nice addition. Half a dozen American Goldfinches in their dull winter plumage visited the thistle feeder.

We planned to drive the DIA Owl loop at dusk. However, visibility was poor by 4:00pm and roads quite slippery by 4:30pm. We could not see more than 50 yards long before sunset was to set in, so we scampered for home. (Watched the many car accidents on the 5:30pm news shows). With high temperatures tomorrow predicted to be single digits and 2-4 inches of snow expected, birding tomorrow may be unlikely.