Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pawnee National Grasslands, Barr Lake, & DIA Owl Loop

March 24, 2007

Gary Zeeto and I birded Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld County) this morning. It rained most of the day; winds were 10-20 mph.

We drove my favorite Mountain Plover Loop (see CoBus website for directions)

No Mountain Plovers were found throughout the day. My personal earliest date is 3/31 (four times in the past 13 years; seven additional times between 4/1 and 4/6). The best location is the southeast corner of Highway 14 and Weld County Road 51. Perhaps next week will see a sighting?

We did find 2 Chestnut-collared Longspurs along CR 96. We stopped at the windmill just west of the road to Murphy’s Pasture. Several McCown’s Longspurs were spotted here also. Over a dozen McCown's Longspurs were counted along the Mountain Plover Loop (further west).

Gary had to get back to Denver by four, so there was little time to stop at the many reservoirs passed in Weld County.

We did stop at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd at the South Platte River Trail (Adams). West Gravel Lakes Park is now open. So we hiked inside the park down to the southern lake. Most of the river can be seen from the eastern trail inside the park.

With the help of the last picnic table at the northern lake, we could see down to the Platte River below the green and white tower (most often location of wintering Barrow's Goldeneyes). The river is higher than I have seen it in years and we saw zero ducks and geese on it during our whole hike.

West Gravel Lakes had 15 Ruddy Ducks, 3 Horned Grebes (in alternate plumage), and 7 Common Goldeneyes.

The only duck on East Gravel Lakes was a lone male Common Goldeneye.

Tani Reservoir (south of East Gravel Lakes) was more interesting. Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, American Coots, and Northern Shovelers were in numbers over a dozen each. Gary picked out a male Barrow's Goldeneye at the halfway point of the reservoir.

Dahlia Pond had the most waterfowl. The “L” shaped lake runs between 88th avenue and Dahlia Street. It had the same species as Tani Reservoir, however in greater number. No Barrow's Goldeneyes however.

After dropping Gary off, I drove over to Barr Lake and the DIA Owl Loop (Adams). I did not expect much at Barr Lake and was pleasantly surprised that the Harris's Sparrow was still there! I only saw 4 adult White-crowned Sparrows below the Visitor Center’s feeders. They flew to the back edge of the bushes 50 feet south of the Center. I walked along the canal west of the building to see if there were more than 4. The Harris's Sparrow popped up from the ground behind the back side of the most southern bush.

Please try and avoid the southeastern side of the building where the Kestrel box is located. The male Kestrel caught a mouse and stuck it inside the box (most likely for a female).

I drove the DIA Owl loop to see if additional Burrowing Owls had flown in during the night. One Burrowing Owl was on the fence at the 96th avenue/Tower Road site (3.4 miles east of said intersection).

At 96th & Tower, a Ferruginous Hawk stood on a telephone pole. I usually see one east of the Burrowing Owl site.

Last year, two pairs of Burrowing Owls nested across from the Wildhorse Ridge Condos along Tower Road (about 0.2 miles north of 56th avenue). I have been checking that site also; without success. Today a Prairie Falcon was perched on the wooden fence post watching over the prairie dog town.

The rain did let up around 6:00pm. No Short-eared Owls came out this evening.

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