Saturday, March 29, 2008

Getting ready for 5 weeks of Grouse Trips

March 27, 2008

In preparation of five weeks of grouse trips, I spend most of the day doing chores.

We did take time out for lunch and drove the DIA Owl Loop. Only the one Burrowing Owl has shown up at the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue.

The Greater Scaup appears to have moved on from the pond at the Aurora Sports Park.

Cherry Creek Reservoir was again slow. Mallards, Gadwalls, and 2 Great Blue Herons were at the Cottonwood Creek Loop wetlands pond.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leisure Birding in Arapahoe & Douglas Counties

March 26, 2008

Recovering from yesterday's all night owl prowl. I drove over to Aurora Sports Park (Arapahoe County) a little after Noon. It was a beautiful spring day with temperatures that reached 70 degrees. Unfortunately, winds were 20+ mph.

The male Greater Scaup found yesterday by Jerry Petrosky was still at the only pond in the park. Also there were 22 male & 18 female Lesser Scaups, 4 American Coots, Gadwalls, Mallards, one Northern Pintail Duck, and a Great Blue Heron.

Unfortunately, a guy stopped and let his three dogs jump into the pond. No telling how long the ducks will stay around.

While at Aurora Sports Park I received a text message that White-winged Doves were found in the Stroh Ranch neighborhood south of Parker (Douglas County). So what the heck, I headed that way.

I parked at the Recreation Center at East Creekside Drive and South Silver Creek Street. A walk around the area for an hour was quite interesting. First I ran across a Sharp-shinned Hawk along J Morgan Blvd. Then a Cooper's Hawk came out of the Pines along Nate Circle (just north of E. Creekside Drive).

While I was on S. Silver Creek Court, two Eurasian Collared-Doves flew overhead.

Finally, when I was at E. Clear Creek Way and S. Silver Creek Street (for the third time) I heard a White-winged Dove (to the southwest of the intersection). It was coming from behind the houses, so I circled around and took the bike path that headed north off E. Creekside Drive. The White-winged Dove was in pines in the only yard with feeders along the path!

From here I continued South to Castlewood Canyon State Park. Not much was "happening" at the east side and I continued south to Lake Gulch Drive and then west to Castlewood Canyon Road.

The drive north along Castlewood Canyon Road to the west side of the park was slow bird wise. More Western Bluebirds (3 pairs) than Mountain Bluebirds (2 pairs) were counted (across from the old Winkler Ranch).

The only bird seen once I entered the park was a lone Turkey Vulture flying overhead at the north end of the park.

The Walker Pits north of Castlewood Canyon State Park (and north of Hwy 86) had a dozen Common Mergansers, a couple of Common Goldeneyes, and a few Gadwalls. No swans (they have not been reported for several weeks now). The Great Horned Owl is still on her nest (south Walker Pits, east side of road, and north of hwy 86).

Boulder County Owl Prowl

March 25, 2008

Gary Weston, Bryan Ehlmann, and I hiked up Shadow Canyon (accessed from the Mesa South Trail). We started around midnight and finished about 7:30 am. One problem is where to park your vehicle. There is no overnight parking at Mesa South Trail, so our trek started near Eldorado Springs.

Ted Floyd usually conducts an owl prowl up this canyon in early June, late May. We wanted to explore the area in early spring.

We did not hear or find any Eastern Screech-Owls around the parking area or during the walk along Eldorado Springs Drive. Once at the parking area we turned north and west into Shadow Canyon. The moonlight reflecting off the snow helped our trek and allowed us to use flashlights sparingly.

We guess our trek advanced to at least two miles up into the canyon. Footing was interesting several times and much caution to not slip on the ice and snow was required.

Just before entering Shadow Canyon a Northern Pygmy-Owl answered our recordings. Minutes later we had a response from a second Northern Pygmy-Owl that sounded quite far away.

Continuing up the canyon, we enjoyed a great surprise. Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were calling back and forth. Then a third Northern Saw-whet Owl also briefly joined in the concert. We never saw the owls as we did not want to use our spotlight. GPS readings were taken. Hopefully we can return during the day and see the landscape better. Perhaps a Northern Saw-whet Owl can even be located and observed!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Swainson's Hawk of 2008

March 24, 2008

While out doing chores, Rebecca Kosten and I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Birding was slow. Only a couple of American White Pelican and a dozen Double-crested Cormorant were found. No sparrows at campgrounds, model airplane area, or Cottonwood Creek loop. Two 1st or 2nd white belly Bald Eagles flew over the eastern end of the reservoir.

No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop. We did pass a Swainson's Hawk that was perched on a speed limit sign near 96th avenue and the Toll Road.

Owling in Boulder County

March 20, 2008

(Written by Gary Weston)

"Thursday night around midnight Richard Stevens & I went owling in Boulder County. We found Long-eared Owls at two locations (private lands); Short-eared Owl at Lagerman reservoir about 6:40 am; Northern Pygmy-Owl (private lands); Great Horned Owls at 3 locations along Boulder bike trails; an Eastern Screech-Owl was heard at Walden Ponds.

The areas we searched included South Mesa Trail. Just around the parking lot, we are going back next week to climb into Shadow Canyon. Gregory Canyon, Walden Ponds, the Bobolink Trail off Baseline Road, Lee Hill Road area, I don't know if this area of Boulder has another name? Looks to have great potential for owls with much forest.

One highlight in the full moon was a shadowy figure crossing the Anne U White Trail. It looked too big and long for a dog. If it was a Mountain Lion, we will never know as we backed out of the area slowly and deliberating!!! After that we walked the Bobolink trail and listened to heavy breathing, not ours, we thought were deer upset with our presence.

Anyway, it was interesting walking around in the semi-dark. Especially Gregory Canyon with the Mountain Lion warning signs.

Afterwards I went to bed and Richard to Pawnee National Grasslands."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Search for Burrowing Owls

Rebecca Kosten and I watched a hundred or so Double crested Cormorants on their nests at Duck Lake, Denver City Park. Then we went to the zoo to see if the White throated Sparrow reported several months ago around the bird house could be found; it was not.

I hiked the east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road). Rebecca dropped me off at the 88th avenue end and drove around to 56th avenue to wait for me. No Burrowing Owls were found today. I did find a flock of 30 American Tree Sparrows (getting late to find this species). Also saw a couple of White crowned & Song Sparrows (near the creek crossing about 0.5 miles north of 56th avenue). A Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, 3 Red tailed Hawks, and 2 American Kestrels were also found.

No Burrowing Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop.

Jefferson & Arapahoe Counties

March 15, 2008

Kansas birder Brandon Magette and I birded half a day in Jefferson County. We found temperatures were around 10 degrees in Mt Falcon Park (after leaving the fog back down in Denver). Fortunately, winds were mild to calm.

At first light we were in the parking area for Mt Falcon Park. At least three Wild Turkeys were in the area. We missed Dusky Grouse but observed a few birds. A Northern Goshawk flew over the old castle. Other birds seen included 2 Red Crossbills; Townsends Solitaire; Red-breasted, White-breasted & Pygmy Nuthatches; quite a few Mountain Bluebirds.

At Pine Valley Ranch; there was an American Three toed Woodpecker along the Buck Gulch Trail and within 100 yards of the Pine Lake Trail. Another Three toed Woodpecker was 3/4 mile south of Pine Lake. Other birds included Pygmy Nuthatches, House Finches, and a Song Sparrow.

In the afternoon, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove out to Aurora Reservoir. We biked the 8.7 miles around the lake. The previously reported Lesser Black-backed Gull was not found. It could have been the wrong time of day as few gulls were observed. As we departed, many gulls (only Ring-billed Gull seen by us) were flying back for the nearby landfill to the northwest.

We ended our birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Few birds were found; no uncommon gulls could be located. Not many waterfowl were out on the lake. A flock of 5 or 6 American Tree Sparrows wandered along the north side (near the northern boat ramp).

Friday, March 14, 2008

A few metro birding spots checked

March 14, 2008

While out doing chores I made a couple of birding stops. Winds were 10+ mph; it was cloudy and cold.

Not much was happening at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). I went through the park around 3:00 pm and few gulls were around. A couple of American White Pelicans and half a dozen Double-crested Cormorants were in the southeast corner.

Barr Lake (Adams) was also quiet. I did not see the Ross's Goose reported by Jerry Petrosky. The Great Horned Owl is still on her nest. The ranger's believe that the eggs hatched last Saturday. As yet, the young have not peeked over the nest.

As I was driving the DIA Owl Loop and stopped at the western prairie dog village site (3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th Avenue) a Burrowing Owl flew up from the southern end of the field and perched on a fence post at the northern end. I did not see any additional owls. This prairie dog village now stretches from here to 112th Avenue. However there was not enough time to check 112th avenue out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Drive Around Adams County

March 9, 2008

While going out for dinner and a few chores, Rebecca Kosten and I passed by Barr Lake (Adams County). We found few birds in the park, however enjoyed watching the nesting Great Horned Owl (just south of the banding station).

A dark morph Red-tailed Hawk circled overhead. We found few waterfowl on lake; however our scopes had been left at home. The flock of warblers (including the Magnolia Warblers reported yesterday) was not found during a hike from mile marker 0.5 to 8.0.

After an early dinner we again passed by Barr Lake and this time counted 60+ Great-tailed Grackles in the two large cottonwoods south of the Tree Nursery (at Bromley Lane and Picadilly Road). We had driven by there 2 hours earlier and the grackles were not there.

A Ferruginous Hawk was found at Bridge Road and the railroad tracks (on our way to the Lochbuie Ponds). We did not see any birds around the Lochbuie Ponds.

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. Still no Burrowing Owls, we did count 6 female Northern Harriers and 2 males. A few Western Meadowlarks perched on high weeds and street signs. Their song is always worth a listen!

March 8, 2008

While out doing chores we again passed through Cherry Creek Reservoir. The ice shelf off the bird platform (Cottonwood Creek Loop) had melted. No gulls were in that area. In fact, we found few gulls around the whole reservoir.

A stop at the campgrounds found 2 adult Bald Eagles roosting in the trees at the southern end. Not much else was observed. We did run into a small flock of American Tree Sparrows along the shoreline at the Handicapped Fisherperson's Dock. Five American White Pelicans and 2 Double-crested Cormorants were in the southeast corner.

Walker Pits & Cherry Creek Reservoir

March 7, 2008

Rebecca Kosten and I traveled south to Franktown to search for the Tundra Swans. When we arrived at the Walker Pit we only observed a few Common Goldeneyes, Redheads, and White-cheeked Geese on the ponds.

I thought about the history of the swans and wondered where they went when not on the Walker Pits? A search on Google Earth Pro did not find any bodies of water in the surrounding area. This presented quite a mystery.

For the fun of it, I drove to the west end of Walker Road and found the Douglas County Open Space (with bike/hiking path). We walked up this path for about 0.5 miles and could see most of the southern end of the south Walker Pit. Here also we found the 2 Tundra Swans against the south shore! Who knows how many times the swans have been missed and were so close?

We also noticed that we could scope the southern end of Walker Pits from Highway 83 and Whispering Pines Park Road. The birds were quite far away, but possible to see.

Our birding day ended at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). We scoped the ice shelf off the bird platform and found the 1st cycle Iceland Gull, 1st cycle & 4th cycle Lesser Black-backed Gulls, several California Gulls, and dozens of Ring-billed Gulls.

A Grouse Search in Northwestern Colorado

March 10th to 13th, 2008

Gary Weston, Bryan Ehlmann and I went out to look for early dates for the Chicken-like Birds (on their leks).

March 10th
It was snowing heavily on Loveland Pass and Guanella Pass is closed for until June, so we decided to skip a search for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

After catching looks at Rosy Finches in Summit County we continued north. No Rosy Finches were around Kremmling and our next stop was Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand). Fourteen male and 7 female Barrow's Goldeneyes were swimming around the reservoir (which had more open water than we expected).

Two Rough-legged Hawks stood on telephone poles as we passed through Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge (Jackson).

We ended our birding day by watching 6 Greater Sage-Grouse dance around a private lek in Jackson County.

March 11th
It was snowing when we got up to drive over to the 20 Road Lek outside of Hayden (Routt). The lek was under 5-6 feet of snow. Fortunately, 2 Sharp-tailed Grouse braved the weather and found a small wind blown grassy spot on the west side of 20 Road (also called 27 Road on some maps).

We could not get up 80 Route to see if any grouse were moving about there. It appears that it may be weeks before that road opens this year.

We decided that the weather was too bad to drive hundreds of miles to Rifle and Grand Junction. Instead we drove north of Craig to checkout the Timberlake Lek. Ten+ Greater Sage-Grouse were displaying on the lek in spite of the heavy snow fall. It was slow going back to our motel in Craig.

March 12th
The weather was much better this morning. We took the long drive west of Maybell to the Oxbow Wildlife Area (Moffat). Four Pinyon Jays flew around the pines on the north side of Highway 318. Unfortunately our target birds (Sage Sparrows and Sage Thrashers) were not here yet.

The drive to Rifle and toward Grand Junction was uneventful. No Great-tailed Grackles or Peregrine Falcons flew about the Rifle Rest Stop today.

We could not find any Chukar at Cameo and headed up the Grand Mesa. When we arrived at the Powderhorn Ski Area, skies were partly cloudy. A Northern Pygmy-Owl answered our playback recordings. He was not seen, but called for 10 minutes from west of the upper parking area.

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found and within 30 minutes of our arrival, it started snowing quite rapidly. Conditions deteriorated quickly and we considered ourselves fortunate to creep back to Grand Junction.

March 13th
Predictions on the weather were not good. Our decision was not to continue to Gunnison and instead drive east to Denver. The trip over Vail Pass was not good and reinforced our earlier decision to return home.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Search for Owls & Woodpeckers in Foothills

March 1, 2008

Jay Karl and I went searching for Northern Pygmy-Owls in Jefferson County. Our first stop (before sunrise) was Mt. Falcon Park. No Northern Pygmy-Owls, however we did find a Dusky Grouse on the hill west of the old castle. Several Mountain Bluebirds flew around the open field east of the upper parking area.

We looked briefly for owls at nearby Reynolds Park; without success. Our search was just around the parking area (Songbird & Oxen Draw trails). There was too much snow to make the 0.7 mile hike uphill (south) to the traditional American Three-toed Woodpecker site (junction of Eagles View, Ravens Roost, & Oxen Draw trails).

Instead we headed over to Pine Valley Ranch Park. It took only 20 minutes to find a male American Three-toed Woodpecker. He wandered across the Buck Gulch Trail (about 200 yards south, uphill of Pine Lake). An American Dipper worked the stream south of the footbridge (near the parking area).

A quick stop at Red Rocks did not add much to our morning trek.

Late in the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I looked for a hike to enjoy the beautiful day. We chose the east side of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road). We hiked from the closed gate (off 88th avenue) south to the cell tower and back. Prairie Dogs are doing well. Wish I had kept a count for the past few years, because there appears to be quite a larger number of them this year. The usual 50+ American Tree Sparrows and 4 White-crowned Sparrows fluttered about the Elk Thistle lining Buckley Road.

When we drove up to the closed gate, a Prairie Falcon flew to the 2nd telephone pole north of us. When we returned to our car 1.5 hours later, it was still there. Beautiful bird! No Burrowing Owls were found.

Emerald Strand Park and LakeCrest were passed on our way into Denver for dinner. No Barrow's Goldeneyes anywhere. The Common Goldeneyes that wintered on LakeCrest appear to have departed. Emerald Strand Pond had 18 Redheads; LakeCrest 8. Most of the White-cheeked Geese have departed or were out feeding.

Before dinner, we made one final stop; Star K Ranch Open Space. I wanted to search/listen for owls. As we got out of our car, a Great Horned Owl flew over us. We later located another Great Horned Owl on a nest. No Eastern Screech-Owls answered my playback recordings (I did not play a Great Horned Owl tape). A late? Northern Shrike was atop the shorter trees east of the Visitor's Center. Surprisingly, we did not see any sparrows around the wildlife ponds.

Eastern Plains

February 25 to 28, 2008

Bryan Ehlmann and I visited our friend Roger Danka in Sedgwick County.

February, 25th

Roger took us around to several ranches in the county. It's a treat to have access to the private property.

First at Roger's ranch (i.e. private ranch #1) we found his wintering Harris's Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. They visit his feeders throughout the day.

At private ranch #5, Roger took us over to see 2 Long-eared Owls. They were buried deep in a windbreak, but figured we couldn't see them. So we got pretty close without seeing any disturbing behavior on their part.

February, 26th

This morning, Roger took introduced us to a ranger in Phillips County. The rancher had called Roger two days earlier and described what sounded like Common Redpolls coming to his feeders. Sure enough, within a 30 minute wait, 2 Common Redpolls appeared. They visited his feeders about every 20 minutes or so.

From there we continued back north to Sedgwick Draw. It was well worth the stop. Bryan found an Eastern Screech-Owl in the few pines around the intersection of CR 30 & CR 11.

A little south of there, we found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker flying around the Sedgwick Cemetery.

Our birding day ended by watching for owls along Sedgwick Draw. Shortly after sunset, Roger pointed out a Short-eared Owl flying down the draw (from north to south, west of CR 11).

February 27, 2008

After searching in the dark for Roger's resident Eastern Screech-Owls (2, private ranch #1) we drove south to be at the Yuma County 45 Lek before sunrise. Two male Greater Prairie-Chickens came to the lek shortly after sunrise.

After seeing them, we quickly rushed over to CR 25 where another Greater Prairie-Chicken was found crossing the road.

On the trip back north, we stopped at DePoorter Lake and walked around the old dump and the South Platte River. A pair of Northern Bobwhite stood on the wood piles at the dump. A Harris's Sparrow fluttered about the willows along the Platte River.

Roger received a call from a friend and we rushed over to private ranch #3. His friend had noticed a dark reddish "House Finch" that looked different than all the others. Sure enough, the guy had a male Purple Finch! While trying to take photos (it was getting dark) a second male Purple Finch visited at the same time.

After sunset, we walked the Riparian Area on Roger's Ranch and found one of the two resident Eastern Screech-Owls looking out his nesting hole.

February 28, 2008

All good things must come to an end. Bryan and I had to return to Denver. We picked a route that took us by Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson). We hoped to find an uncommon sparrow, Bohemian Waxwings, or perhaps Common Redpolls.

A flock of sparrows flying around the bushes at the northeast corner of the reservoir caught our attention. An adult White-throated Sparrow was among 14 White-crowned Sparrows and 3 Song Sparrows.