Saturday, February 10, 2007

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.

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