Saturday, February 23, 2008

Birding Adams, Weld, and Arapahoe Counties

February 23, 2008

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to the South Platte River at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd. Temperatures just reached into the 50s. Winds were 10-20 mph all day. We hiked south to I270 and back with a side trip along Clear Creek over to Washington Blvd. Highlights:

A male Barrow's Goldeneye was again on the Platte near the green & white tower. A Northern Shrike was on the east side of the Platte River north of Hwy 224. A Harris's Sparrow was found in the brush south of Clear Creek and east of York Street. A Prairie Falcon and Northern Harrier were observed flying up the Platte River during the return to our car.

Our next stop was Banner Lakes east of Hudson. There were few birds around, but we took photos and GPS waypoints for future reference. The 200+ Great-tailed Grackles are still flying around several cottonwoods north of I76 and near mile marker 29.2.

Bill Cryder reported an adult Great Black-backed Gull at Aurora Reservoir this morning and we headed back that way. By the time we arrived there were few gulls at the reservoir. No swans either.

Instead of waiting until dusk when they might return, we drove over to meet Gary Weston at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). While scoping the open water from the southwest marina, we found the adult Great Black-backed Gull on the ice around the open water off to the north.

We noticed a white bird(s) way back at the east end and rushed over to the ski boat rental area. Perhaps we had found the missing swans from yesterday? The bird turned out to be an adult American White Pelican. There was one Double-crested Cormorant which we had also seen yesterday.

On our rush over, we stopped briefly to look at ducks at the Cottonwood Wetlands Pond (50 percent ice covered). One male Cinnamon Teal was among Mallards, Green-winged Teal, Gadwalls, and American Coots. Two Great Blue Heron also searched for food.

Bet the Cinnamon Teal is surprised to see so much ice. Eighty percent of the lake is still snow and ice covered. I have not been back to the 12 mile Beaver Pond recently to see if it is frozen. That is where the teal usually hang out.

While searching for swans yesterday we also stopped by Denver City Park (Denver County). Here we found 9 Double-crested Cormorants at the rookery at Duck Lake. They were not around last Tuesday; so they came in sometime in-between.

Search for Area Trumpeter Swans

February 22, 2008

We went looking for the Trumpeter Swans reported this morning at Walker Lake near Franktown. While the swans were reported at 8:45am, they were not there at 10:30am. A Great Horned Owl is on a nest in the large cottonwood located east of Walker Road and just north of Hwy 86.

On our way to check Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas Counties) we stopped at Louviers to watch the Lewis's Woodpeckers. Three American Kestrels (2 males and a female) are also inspecting the same Ponderosa Pine Tree. Hopefully all or some will nest here.

At Chatfield Reservoir we found the lake still frozen and snow covered. Only a few Ring-billed Gulls stood on the southeast sand spit. McLellan Reservoir (north of C470 from Chatfield Reservoir) was about 2/3 frozen. No gulls were around (best to check near sunset). A few Common Goldeneyes and American Coots were all found here.

At Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) we found a lake 80 percent frozen. No swans, unusual gulls, or ducks. One can see Herring Gulls and a California Gull or two. We also did not find the Northern Shrike today.

At sunset we drove around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls came around. We counted 2 Red-tailed Hawks and a Prairie Falcon. We also checked the northern end of Buckley Road (east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal). No unusual activity. A flock of 60 American Tree Sparrows with a dozen White-crowned Sparrows was the highlight.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hike Along the East Side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal

February 17, 2008

Inserted by Bryan Ehlmann:

Four of us hiked the east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal following up on a report of a Burrowing Owl near the 88th avenue barrier to Buckley Road. We didn't find a Burrowing Owl but enjoyed the walk away from people. Except for an occasional airplane and the squeaking Prairie Dogs, it was quiet.

Our raptor count was good. Seven Red-tailed Hawks flew by during our 8 mile trek. A pair of Ferruginous Hawks stood on the hill about 0.5 miles south of the gated road. They watched the Prairie Dogs below them as we were sure the Prairie Dogs kept a close eye on the hawks.

Other raptors along the road included a male American Kestrel, 2 female Northern Harriers, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, and an adult Bald Eagle. One Prairie Falcon also zoomed by heading to the arsenal and coming from the landfill.

A flock of 80 American Tree Sparrows flew around the elk thistle lining Buckley Road. At least 17 White-crowned Sparrows were also in the flock.

A sun would peak out of the clouds now and then. We hoped this would encourage a Burrowing Owl to come out and search for food. No luck. By 2:00 PM, thicker clouds rolled in and by 2:30 PM it started to snow.

Birding Along I76

February 15, 2008

Inserted by Gary Weston:

Four of us I drove up to Jackson Lake State Park in Morgan County.

Along the way, we relocated the 50+ Great-tailed Grackles at the south end of the Tree Nursery at Bromley Road (152nd avenue) and Piccadilly Road.

We ran into another flock of Great-tailed Grackles, about 200+ birds, on the north side of Interstate 76 at mile marker 29.3.

Birds were not many at Jackson Reservoir. We did find our target birds. Seven Long-eared Owls were hidden in the thickets at the western campgrounds. A flock of 6 or 7 American Tree Sparrows was accompanied by a White-throated Sparrow and 2 White-crowned Sparrows. They were in the thickets south of the white and red warning sign at the south end of Pelican Campground.

One adult Bald Eagle was perched in a tall cottonwood at Cove Campground.

We checked the feeders at Log Village area north of Fort Morgan. It appeared that most of them had been taken down.

Two Cackling Geese were among several dozen Canada Geese at Riverside Park, Fort Morgan, Morgan County.

Bryan noticed thousands of White-cheeked Geese in the field west of the sugar beet factory; we made a u-turn and scoped the flock from the south service road. One Greater White-fronted Goose was among dozens of Cackling Geese and thousands of Canada Geese.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Birding in Boulder County

February 10, 2008

Rebecca Kosten & I enjoyed a great day of birding in Boulder County.

Our first stop was McIntosh Lake in Longmont. On the way there, we encountered a flock of 80+ Bohemian Waxwings along 17th avenue just east of Lakeshore Drive. We drove around the lake but did not find any additional waxwings around the park.

From there we drove south along Airport Road to Mountain View Drive, then east to Columbia Street. Along Columbia Street we found about 400+ Bohemian Waxwings. Many of them eventually flew north. We relocated them along Baylor Street (just south of Pratt Park). The numbers had grown to 600+. Photos on CoBus website.

The Bohemian Waxwings entertained us for an hour as they came down to the ground and ate snow and crabapples that had fallen from the trees.

Our next stop was Fairground Park (Hover & Rogers Roads). White-cheeked Geese were coming and going. A Greater White-fronted Goose was with one of the flocks.

After lunch, we stopped at Thomas Reservoir. Here we observed an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull among 500 Ring-billed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls. After a time, most of them took off in the direction of Erie Landfill.

Our next stop of the day was Valmont Reservoir. We again enjoyed success here. An adult Great Black-backed Gull came by briefly. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls were among several hundred gulls. We also could pick out at least 1 adult and 1 1st cycle Thayer's Gulls. The prize however was the gull that has been called a 1st year Iceland Gull!

We stopped at the Bobolink Trail in Boulder to search for an Eastern Screech-Owl which I had seen on a previous trip. Unfortunately, it did not respond to my recording this evening.

At our final stop of the day, Mesa South Trailhead, we again searched for Eastern Screech-Owls. None could be enticed to show this day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Raptor Tour on Eastern Plains

February 9, 2008

I led a group of five birders on a raptor trip to Douglas and Elbert Counties.

We started out by going by my friend's home near Franktown and seeing the Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been around for about 2 weeks now.

We continued south and east and enjoyed great success with a raptor count of:

Bald Eagle: 1 adult (quite far from any body of water)
Northern Harrier: 5 (2 males, 3 females)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1, in Kiowa)
Cooper's Hawk (Elizabeth cemetery)
Northern Goshawk (Castlewood Canyon SP)
Red-tailed Hawk: 9
Ferruginous Hawk: 2
Rough-legged Hawk: 7
Golden Eagle: 2 (adult & juvenile; Castlewood Canyon)
American Kestrel: 13
Merlin: 1
Prairie Falcon: 2

We also found a flock of 14 Mountain Bluebirds, 3 Northern Shrikes, and a Great Horned Owl (in Kiowa).

Afterwards, we drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Got a better look at the swan (which appears to be a Mute Swan, more on that later).

At the eastern end near the sailboard area there were many gulls. Just as we pulled up, an adult Bald Eagle flew over and scattered the gulls. The gulls took off and circled overhead (like a tornado funnel). The Bald Eagle continued to fly around the "funnel" but eventually flew north.

In the group were the "Glaucous-winged Gull" and also another large white gull (perhaps the bird that Terry Michaels had reported earlier). This gull was much whiter than the "Glaucous-winged Gull" and had a two toned (black & pink) bill (unlike the "Glaucous-winged Gull's" black bill) and white primaries. It was either a 1st or 2nd Glaucous Gull.

Our birding day ended with an uneventful drive along the DIA Owl Loop north of the airport.

Note on Friday's Swan Sighting at Cherry Creek Reservoir:

Concerning the Swan at Cherry Creek Reservoir, I have to admit that I got sloppy on that one. I assumed the ID of other birder who had seen the bird much closer than I. Lesson learned.

When I observed the bird on Friday, it was cold, windy (I arrived at 6:25am). The weather did not encourage me to stay for longer looks at any birds.

The swan was quite far away. The swan had rose up and stretched its wings twice for me. I had noticed considerable amount of brown in the wings and tail. I also thought the size strange for a Tundra Swan. I made a mental note to look up the details when I returned home; however by 8:00 pm that night, it slipped my mind.

I agree with Bill Maynard that the bird is a Mute Swan. Size, the way it held its neck, etc.

Unfortunately, there is not much way to prove whether the bird is wild. There have been other free flying Mute Swans in Colorado. Too bad we can not tie down its origin.

Sibley "Guide to Birds"
"Guide to British Birds" Collins
"Birds of Britain and Europe" Peterson, Mountfort, Hollom

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Birding South and West of Denver

February 8, 2008

Well before sunrise, I drove the DIA Owl Loop hoping to see a Short-eared Owl flying around in the moonlight reflecting off the snow covered ground. Nothing appeared to be moving about this morning and I continued over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

It was still pretty dark when I arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir. I could tell that the previously reported Tundra Swan was not at the eastern end. I also could not pick it out at the western end.

There were two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an adult Great Black-backed Gull on the ice around the open water closer to the swim beach. Hundreds of White-cheeked Geese obscured the view of many of the other waterfowl. Later I returned and did find the juvenile Tundra Swan in this open water area.

On the way to the southwest marina, I observed the Northern Shrike atop one of the few trees in the field just west of woods where the main road crosses Cherry Creek. He is usually here or over on top of the Russian Olive trees along the entrance to the shooting range (not far to the southwest).

At the southwest marina, hundreds of White-cheeked Geese filled the small open area. A blue phase Snow Goose was among them. Some Common Mergansers, an American Coot or two, and a few Common Goldeneyes were also here. It was from here that I first saw the Tundra Swan stretching its wings back at the open water area on the other side of the lake.

The 1st cycle Glaucous-winged Gull was standing around on the ice here surrounded by hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls, a few Herring Gulls and one California Gull. Unfortunately, an adult Bald Eagle that was perched by the end of the fishing pier flew over and scared all the gulls (before there was enough light for a photo). I am reminded that most Glaucous-winged Gulls east of their range could be hybrids of some degree, so I called the bird a "Glaucous-winged type".

From here, I drove over to Louviers (along Hwy 85). On the way, I made a quick stop at Walker Lake (west of Franktown). A pair of Common Goldeneyes was all that was on the lake.

Returning to Parker, I cut over to I25 by way of 20 Mile Road. In the field south of 20 Mile Road and just west of Parker Road (Hwy 83) a Greater White-fronted Goose was among 600 White-cheeked Geese. Most of this flock flew northwest and I relocated them at Challenger Regional Park (northwest of originally sighting).

As soon as I got out of the car at Louviers, I could see the pair of Lewis's Woodpeckers flying around the slanted Ponderosa Pine (0.6 miles east of N. Peterson Road & W. Airport Road). It appeared that one of them went into a hole on several occasions. They also fed on something stuck in the bark of the tree.

Several dozen European Starlings flew into the tree and one of the Lewis's Woodpeckers spent much time chasing them away. When not in the Ponderosa Pine tree by the service road, the Lewis's Woodpeckers would fly to the snag several hundred yards to the south. Hopefully they will nest in the area!

I was close to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) and decided to check it out. As expected, there was not much moving around. The lake is completely frozen. Few gulls were around. No waxwings were found flying around the campgrounds.

My next stop was South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center. It was not open yet, so I could not ask if the Northern Mockingbird was still around. It did not show up during my 30 minute stay.

Nearby McLellan Reservoir was also slow. No gulls (thousands reported a few days ago). Only a few Common Goldeneyes swam in the lake which was about 10 percent open water.

From here, I headed back east and searched for geese at the Denver Tech Center at Dry Creek Road east of I25. While there were many White-cheeked Geese (definitely a few Cackling Geese among hundreds of Canada Geese), no unusual geese could be found (no Greater White-fronted or Brants).

Before going to my friend's home west of Castlewood Canyon State Park, I made a quick drive through the park. Not much was found. No bluebirds were seen along Castlewood Canyon Road near the Winkler Ranch. A Northern Shrike was about 0.2 miles north of Lake Gulch Drive.

At my friend's home, we again located the Northern Saw-whet Owl. He definitely has a favorite tree. The neighborhood is gated so not accessible. Perhaps we can have an owl tour when the weather warms up?

Waterton Canyon

February 6 & 7, 2008

Inserted by Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard Stevens & I hiked up Waterton Canyon on Wednesday afternoon. We planned to camp overnight as a practice run for a trip up Guanella Pass and Rocky Mountain National Park.

It snowed most of the afternoon. The silence of no cars, few airplanes, and no people was a treat. Just the falling snow coming straight down because of the lack of wind was a reward!

After setting up our tents at the south side of the reservoir (7 miles from the trailhead), we hiked another mile south up the Colorado Trail.

We played Northern Pygmy-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl recordings and got a response from a Pygmy-Owl about 0.5 miles from our camp.

Thursday morning we woke to 10 degree temperatures. Getting out of our warm sleeping bags was the chore for the morning.

Once we were moving around, things were fine. On the trip back to our car, we found several Spotted Towhees, Song Sparrows, many White-crowned Sparrows, and American Tree Sparrows.

The highlight was a flyby adult Golden Eagle, maybe checking out the rabbit that our presence kicked up?

Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

February 5, 2008

While out doing chores, we again drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Nothing unusual was found. The Bald Eagle count was 2 adults and 1 young bird. Red-tailed Hawk count was 3 dark morph and 2 lighter western.

The Northern Shrike favoring the field between the shooting range and the field west of the woods where the main road crosses Cherry Creek was in the Russian Olives near the entrance to the range.

A male Ring-necked Pheasant crossed the road just west of the above woods.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jefferson County; Pine Valley Ranch & Reynolds Park

February 4, 2008

Bob Gould and I went up to Reynolds Park hoping to run into a Dusky Grouse, Northern Pygmy-Owl, or American Three-toed Woodpecker. We found none of them today. No owls or grouse around the main parking area.

There was too much snow to make the 0.7 mile trek up to the main location for Three-toed Woodpeckers. We usually find them around the intersection of the three trails (Eagle's View, Oxen Draw, & Raven's Roost).

Instead we drove over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (also Jefferson County). There we enjoyed success. A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was going from tree to tree just south of the intersection of the Buck Gulch Trail and Strawberry Jack Trail.

On the return trip to our car, we ran across a Hairy Woodpecker, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, and a small flock of Pygmy Nuthatches.

Weather was horrible. It snowed most of the morning, so we decided to head for home and not look for owls south of Sedalia.

Loveland Pass

February 3, 2008

Bob Gould and I were at Loveland Pass at first light. We scoped the hillsides on both sides of Highway 6 for about 2 hours. Finally, we found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan below the large rocks below Mt Sniktau.

A check around Silver Plume and Georgetown did not find any Rosy Finches.

Weather quickly deteriorated and we decided to head back toward Denver. Besides it was super bowl Sunday.

Search for Owls along I76

February 2, 2008

Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) and Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) were checked for owls and other birds today. I could not get any owls to respond to my recordings today.

No Long-eared Owls could be located at Jackson Reservoir. It appears that not as many are wintering this year (possibly only 1 or 2). It has been that way ever since they cut the underbrush about 4 years ago.

Late in the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove over to the Barr Lake area (Adams). We relocated the 50+ Great-tailed Grackles that Don Beltz had reported earlier in the day (Thanks Don!).

The grackles were around the corral area south of the Tree Nursery (at Bromley Lane and Piccadilly Road). Several times they flew over to the trees and driveway of the house directly west of Picadilly Road.

Barr Lake was slow again. When we arrived there were no birds at the feeders. We discovered why when a Sharp-shinned Hawk was found perched on the feeder that looks like a house.

No owls showed along the DIA Owl loop. Only a few Horned Larks flew about.

We had to wonder how much longer owls (Short-eared or Burrowing) will be in the area. 128th Avenue has been extended east to Gun Club Road. There are commercial "for sale" signs posted everywhere along the route. It won't be long before humans flood the area (we need another strip mall, right?).

The highlight was watching a coyote trying to sneak up on the prairie dogs at the Burrowing Owl site along Quency Avenue (96th avenue after it turns north from its eastern route away from Tower Road).

Logan County Birding

February 1, 2008

I returned to my friend's ranch in Logan County. One juvenile Harris's Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow are still coming to his feeders.

We headed over to Logan County Roads 89 & 46 at first light. A Greater Prairie-Chicken was in the field northwest of the intersection. Nineteen Ring-necked Pheasant were also here. This location is best after a dusting of snow. The snow seems to bring out the chicken-like birds.

Further west, we found a Ferruginous Hawk and 5 Rough-legged Hawks.

At Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, we managed to get two Eastern Screech-Owls to answer our recordings. The Northern Cardinal was not found today. Not many birds were moving about. One male Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen from the South Platte River Bridge at CR 55.

We also checked again the private ranch location where we had found an American Woodcock on 12/23; without success again.

At dusk, we stood waiting for owls to come out at the southeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir. One Short-eared Owl did not disappoint us. It flew back and forth across the field southwest of CR 3 & CR 24.8.

Cherry Creek Reservoir

January 31, 2008

While doing chores, I passed through Cherry Creek State Park. The lake is ice covered and few birds are around. The Northern Shrike was found again in the Russian Olive Trees along the road into the shooting range.

Two Bald Eagles stood on the ice and watched the many ducks swimming around the small open water in the middle of the lake. I did not have my scope and could not identify most of the waterfowl. There were no Swans.

Dark morph Red-tailed Hawks appear to outnumber western Red-tailed Hawks. I counted 4 dark morph and only 2 western Red-tailed Hawks today.

Return to Castlewood Canyon Road

January 30, 2008

I drove down to Castlewood Canyon State Park and Castlewood Canyon Road (west of the Winkler Ranch) today. Birding was slow until I reached my friend's home near the park. The Northern Saw-whet Owl was in the same tree it has been for about a week now. Hopefully, it will try to nest in this tree or in the forest behind his house.

Yesterday, his feeders were visited by a Harris's Sparrow. Unfortunately, it did not show up today.

I did not return to Denver until after dark. I stopped at several locations along Castlewood Canyon Road as it passes through Castlewood Canyon State Park. No owls answered my recordings.