Thursday, December 27, 2007

DIA Owl Loop

December 26, 2007

I went over to Barr Lake while I waited for Bryan Ehlmann to show up. In the hour I watched the Visitor Center's feeders I saw a dozen White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, and 2 dozen Dark-eyed Juncos. The latest snowstorm did not bring any Harris's Sparrows.

The string of 5 winters in a row (and 9 of the last 11) with a Harris's Sparrow may be broken? The four Northern Bobwhite have not been reported since 12/19.

Bryan and I then drove the DIA Owl loop. The number of Horned Larks amazed us. When we arrived at the field 5.2 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue the field south of the road was covered with Horned Larks.

A Prairie Falcon was perched on the radio tower about 100 yards further east. The falcon later flew to the north and scared up what we conservatively counted as 100,000+ Horned Larks. So our count from that position was well over 120,000 and that was just the birds that we could see.

To escape the Prairie Falcon the northern flock flew toward us. The sky was filled with Horned Larks. We were able to pick out at least one Snow Bunting in the mix. However, there may have been two. This section of road is just east of the only structure next to the road as 96th avenue turns into 114th avenue. (The sequence of the same paved road leading east from Tower Road is 96th avenue to Quency Street to Quency Way to 114th).

We continued east and south. At the Prairie Dog Village/Burrowing Owl Colony (3.4 miles east of 96th & Tower) the only tree to the east was covered with 800+ Red-winged Blackbirds. We looked for a stray Yellow-headed Blackbird but did not find any.

We continued south of another 0.3 miles and found the cultivated field to the east of the road filled with 30,000+ additional Horned Larks. As we watched this group, a flock of 1200+ Red-winged Blackbirds flew over from the south.

The eventual raptor count was 1 female Northern Harrier, 3 American Kestrel (one with a mouse), 2 Prairie Falcons, and a lone Red-tailed Hawk.

A quick trip over to Emerald Strand Park found only 900 White-cheeked Geese on the lake that was 60 frozen. At LakeCrest, we counted over 3,000 White-cheeked Geese. No Greater White-fronted Goose or Ross's Goose. The "blue" Snow Goose was along the western edge. One domestic goose not far away. The geese just kept flying in as we watched. We couldn't see how additional geese found a place to land; they were so tightly packed.

We returned to the DIA Owl Loop at sunset. Searched for Short-eared Owls; without success.

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