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.

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