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.

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