Thursday, June 26, 2008

Return to Castlewood Canyon State Park

June 26, 2008

My time yesterday before sunrise at Castlewood Canyon State Park was so enjoyable that it begged for a return. Today I decided to investigate a question I asked yesterday on my Blog:

"Note yesterday: As I conducted my "hearing only" point counts through Castlewood Canyon State Park, it became interesting that at the various stops many of the birds singing were of the same species.

One stop had 3 Plumbeous Vireos, another Lazuli Buntings, one had 4 Cordilleran Flycatchers singing, another Black-headed Grosbeaks. Too many stops had numerous Spotted Towhee singing.

A question that came to mind was; were the many birds of the same species singing because they had competition from peers or were they just doing "their thing"? That maybe worth additional investigation."

I arrived at Castlewood Canyon State Park area at 3:00am this morning. First I walked the roads west of the park searching for Northern Saw-whet Owls; again without success.

Yesterday's audio point counts were repeated; however this time I used recordings after counting the birds. Again as yesterday, several stops appeared to have birds of the same species as the predominant songsters. When I played recordings at stops without apparent songs from a species I got responses from species previously not recorded at that spot.

While no definite conclusions can be drawn, it maybe possible that when 3 or 4 same species birds are in an area, they are more vigorous when faced with competition. Or is it that a silent bird already has a mate and no need to chime in?

In any case, recordings produced additional recorded numbers of bird species at each of the stops.

Still no owls and I did not find yesterday's Common Poorwill today.

Also went back to the Winkler Ranch in hopes of getting a Blue Grosbeak photo. Two males were still along the road, but did not offer a photo opportunity. Over a dozen Bobolink counted in the taller grasses south of the cut field at the Winkler Ranch entrance.

In the late afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I rode our birds along the east side of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road between 56th & 88th avenues. Temperatures were in the low 90s; winds 20+ mph. Bird count was down. We did see 4 Burrowing Owls just north of the closed barrier at the north end of Buckley.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Search for Prairie Warbler

June 25, 2008

I arrived at Castlewood Canyon State Park around 4:00am and walked several roads outside of the park in search of owls (mainly Northern Saw-whet Owls) again without success. Driving through the park I stopped several times to listen. Many birds were singing including Spotted Towhees, Plumbeous Vireos, Lazuli Buntings, and American Robins.

Note: As I conducted my "hearing only" point counts through Castlewood Canyon State Park, it became interesting that at the various stops many of the birds were of the same species.

One stop had 3 Plumbeous Vireos, another Lazuli Buntings, one had 4 Cordilleran Flycatchers singing, another Black-headed Grosbeaks. Too many stops had numerous Spotted Towhee singing.

A question that came to mind was were the many birds of the same species singing because they had competition from peers or were they just doing "their thing"? That maybe worth additional investigation.

The highlight was a Common Poorwill on the west side of Castlewood Canyon Road, just outside the southwest entrance to the park. I stood here from 5:30 to 6:30 listening to birds and waiting for good light for a search for the Prairie Warbler. Several Willow Flycatchers sang to the east. A Least Flycatcher joined in for 30 minutes. Wild Turkey gobbled in the distant south.

At 6:30 I drove south to the Winkler Ranch. In the field of tall grasses south of the cut field near the entrance to the ranch, at least 12 male Bobolink sang while perched on the taller scrubs. At least one female Bobolink flew around. Three male Blue Grosbeaks were found on the fence line on the trip back into the park.

From 7:00am to 9:00am another birder and I searched for the Prairie Warbler. The previously reported cairn marker was not to be found so we walked the Falls Trail from the parking area to the dam at least four times; without success.

At 9:00am I called Glenn Walbek to see if he could provide more detailed instructions to the bird's location. Glenn was more than gracious and drove over to show us the spot. We waited about 20 minutes or so and the female Prairie Warbler finally put in an appearance!

During the morning trek many birds were encountered. Dozens of Spotted Towhees called and flew about. I found a male Indigo Bunting just below the old broken down dam. At least 5 male Lazuli Buntings were in the neighborhood. The other birder discovered a female Lazuli Bunting close to the Prairie Warbler location. We also heard at least 4 Plumbeous Vireos and managed to put binoculars on one of them.

We examined the numerous Turkey Vultures flying overhead, hoping that the reported Black Vulture of Loveland had made its way back down south. A Cooper's Hawk chased a Red-tailed Hawk at one point. A Sharp-shinned Hawk also flew by. We might have gotten glimpses of a Prairie Falcon that flew through quite rapidly.

I believe that covers most of the birds. Oh, we did see half a dozen Cordilleran Flycatchers hawking insects. Also a couple of unidentified Empidonax Species also were in the mix.

I headed for home for a few hours of sleep (having been up for about 42 hours). A quick stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) found the male Black-chinned Hummingbird perched atop a short tree at the east end of the parking area for the Ranger's Office. No (non Killdeer) shorebirds were at the southeast sand spit. Few gulls were around. American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants stood on the poles lining the southwest marina.

In the late afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove the DIA Owl Loop hoping a Short-eared Owl would appear. None did, but the Burrowing Owl count was 11 (four locations).

Western Slope

June 15, 2008

My trek this week was to search for owls in southern Colorado. My first stop was one of my favorite south of Pueblo……..South Creek Trail (Pueblo County).

I arrived about 4 hours before sunset and decided to hike up the St. Charles Trail (which is almost across from the South Creek Trail. Flammulated Owls have been reported in the past. I did not find any but did run into a male American Three-toed Woodpecker about 600 yards west of the trailhead.

As I arrived back at Highway 165, a Dusky Grouse was crossing the road south of the trailhead. I walked up and down Hwy 165 and saw another Dusky Grouse near the Old Castle (north of the trailheads).

After sunset, camp and tent were set up along the South Creek Trail (and about 200 yards east of Hwy 165). I then hiked the 1/4 mile down to the creek and played recordings. Two Northern Saw-whet Owls (at least 2) answered back! Unfortunately, no Flammulated Owls called this night.

After driving north to the first campgrounds (name slips my mind) and not hearing any Flammulated Owls (they have been there in the past) and returned to my tent and retired. I woke at 4:00am to the sound of two Northern Saw-whet Owls calling to each other (adult and young?).

June 16, 2008

The day was spent checking locations where Hepatic Tanagers and Grace's Warblers were found the past several years. While I did see many of the nesting birds (such as Hammond's Flycatchers, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Western Wood-pewees, etc) my target birds escaped me. Perhaps they did not return this year?

Most of the morning was spent around the Gulnare Area (CR 44) in search of Grace's Warblers. The afternoon was spent near Walsenburg and possible Hepatic Tanager nesting sites.

After dark, I returned to the West Spanish Peaks area and tried my luck with owling. Not one owl was found.

June 17, 2008

Today my target bird was Bendire's Thrasher. Again I struck out. However a flock of 31 Pinyon Jays crossed my path near Forest Roads 660 & 659 (Saguache County). Temperatures rose quickly and by noon it was quite hot.

I hiked down and zigzagged the area south of the above intersection for about 2 hours. Bendire's Thrashers have been reported here in the past.

My birding day ended early as I checked into a motel for a cold shower and g was in but never was able to put a spotlight on it.

June 20, 2008

A walk around West Fork Campgrounds added many birds to my trip list. The highlight was a male Hooded Warbler. He popped up several times from the bushes and provided great looks!

As it was to turn out, that was the highlight of my day. Point Counts at Navajo Reservoir (Archuleta) turned up the usual suspects but nothing uncommon (Red-breasted Merganser, Western Grebe, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Redhead Duck).

Pastorius Reservoir (La Plata) was quiet. I ended my birding day with unsuccessful owling around the area.

June 21, 2008

I searched again unsuccessfully for owls on the way to Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma). I wanted to be there early to beat the weather and hopefully catch the Lucy's Warblers singing.

This worked out fine. I only had to hike about 30 minutes before hearing a Lucy's Warbler. Ten minutes later, a second bird joined in! If the Summer Tanagers are still around, they didn't show for me. I conducted point counts and added Black-throated Sparrow and Gray Vireo to my trip list.

In the afternoon, I drove southwest on Highway 160 down to the Four Corners Area. Several sections were picked out for point counts. I was hoping to find a Black-chinned Sparrow; but it was not to be.

June 22, 2008

Today I conducted point counts at McPhee Reservoir and later Narraquinnep and Totten Reservoir. The only birds found were the usual suspects.

June 23, 2008

Back in Durango for the night, I listened for Northern Pygmy-Owls around the Ranger's Office before civil twilight. Then I drove to Wildcat Canyon around sunrise. Two Acorn Woodpeckers were added to my year and trip lists.

Then I quickly continued north to Lake Havilland. Here I found an American Three-toed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsuckers, and Red-naped Sapsuckers. Two Grace's Warblers were also singing around the lake. No owls, few birds on the water, I headed north.

Colorado has some fantastic landscapes; the Million Dollar Highway maybe one of the best. A quick stop was made at Molas Pass (Hinsdale). I didn't walk around much and saw few birds.

I drove around Silverton to look for lingering Rosy Finches; without success. Trips are never a waste; hummingbirds were visiting several feeders in town. The highlight was a male Calliope Hummingbird! I also counted half a dozen Rufous Hummingbirds and dozens of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

I could have sworn that a Black Swift flew by. Unfortunately, I did not get a good look and did not add it to my trip list. It's no problem getting Black Swift for Ouray County, but Hinsdale County is a different matter.

My birding day ended at Box Canyon. Sure enough, three Black Swifts were flying around! A lumbering Dusky Grouse was a first county sighting for me! After dark I listened for owls; without success.

June 24, 2008

I caught up with Bryan and Sue Ehlmann and we enjoyed a great reunion breakfast. After cementing plans for the coming weeks, they headed to Telluride and I headed back to Denver to pick up a couple of additional birders.

As I passed Escalante Canyon, a quick detour found the 2 Black Phoebes along the creek across from Pinnacle Rock (Delta).

I decided to bypass Grand Junction, looked unsuccessfully for Lewis's Woodpeckers in Palisade and ended the daylight part of the day at Cameo.

It was good to stretch my legs with a 2 mile hike up the canyon. A few good birds found included 2 Chukar, 4 Black-throated Sparrows, a male Blue Grosbeak, and a singing Ash-throated Flycatcher. The Golden Eagle nest near the entrance does not appear to be used this year. Unfortunate, it was entertaining watching the adults catch food for the youngins' last year.

After dark, I drove the roads north and south of DeBeque. I finally managed to find 1 Northern Saw-whet Owl south of town.

Foothills Birding

June 10, 2008

Rebecca Kosten and I drove the DIA Owl Loop late in the afternoon. We counted 11 Burrowing Owls.

June 11, 2008

I left Denver about 2:00am and conducted "hearing" point counts along Foxton Road. The target birds were Northern Pygmy-Owls and Common Poorwills.

A Common Poorwill was finally found singing on the rocks just west of the main parking area for Reynolds Park. A Northern Pygmy-Owl answered my playback recordings at the junction of the Songbird and Oxen Draw Trails! I only hiked about 200 yards up the Oxen Draw Trail in search of Dusky Grouse; none were found.

Just after sunrise, I parked near the South Platte yard where a Painted Bunting had been visiting feeders. By the time the bird appeared, he had tested my patience. I sat from 7:00am to 9:30am. I had set a 3 hour limit so at least he showed before then (if history holds, I probably would have waited longer).

The habitat was fantastic and I counted many species which included: Spotted Towhee, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbirds, Pine Siskin, Mountain Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Yellow Warbler, House Finches, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Afterwards, I drove down North Platte River Road (CR 97) in search of owls and other birds. I finally had success with my second Northern Pygmy-Owl of the day. He was approximately 200 yards north of the junction of CR 97 & 67. I turned back around here and drove to Pine Valley Ranch Park.

I checked the south side of Pine Lake for American Three-toed Woodpeckers; without success. Along the Buck Gulch Trail at 400 yards south of Pine Lake, a male Three-toed Woodpecker crossed the trail from west to east.

From Pine Valley Ranch Park I drove through Pine and around to FR 550. A Northern Goshawk was seen at the intersection of FR 550 & 552!

As dark approached I headed to my favorite camping area in Pike National Forest. It did not disappoint. A Flammulated Owl answered my recordings around 11:00pm.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Back to the Mountains

June 9, 2008

Richard Stevens:

Paul Stein and headed to the mountains in search of a few target birds. The weather was fantastic. Cool 50 degree temperatures and little wind. Unfortunately we missed a couple of "hard to find" species.

Our first stop of the day was Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson County). A male Williamson's Sapsucker was drumming on one of his favorite poles (the telephone pole at the northwest corner of the group picnic area building). Within 10 minutes, a female Williamson's Sapsucker showed up.

We drove to the top of the park for the view. Another male Williamson's Sapsucker came to the dead tree north of the flag pole! A pair of Red Crossbills made a short appearance as did 2 White-breasted Nuthatches and a Downy Woodpecker.

We continued west and made a brief drive through the small mountain town of Silver Plume (Clear Creek). Three Band-tailed Pigeons were in a dead tree east of Woodward and Cherokee Streets. No Rosy Finches were around the rocks on the north side of town. A couple of Mountain Chickadees and White-crowned Sparrows visited feeders underneath the rocks.

In Silverthorne (Summit) we stopped by a friend's home. He still had about 20 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches and 4 Brown-capped Rosy Finches visiting his feeders. We also added Pine Siskin, Pygmy Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcrackers, Downy Woodpeckers, and a Hairy Woodpecker to our trip list.

Next we thought we would try a spot near Red Cliff and Turkey Creek Road where White-winged Crossbills were reported last year. We explored a bit but did not find any. The area did add a MacGillivray's Warbler and Wilson's Warblers to our trip list.

Our next stop was to be A.M. Bailey Bird Sanctuary. Our vehicle could not get up to the parking area. Last winter/spring snows have left several spots that we could not traverse.

We turned back south and drove to Spruce Creek Subdivision (south of Breckenridge). Again the road was quite muddy and not passable. The road up to Argentine Pass was also snow covered and we did not try it.

We did explore the Montezuma Area but did not get far without snowshoes (and did not think it worth our time to try and find a place to rent any). After dark I played tapes in locations (St. Johns & Hunkidori Trailheads) where I had found Northern Saw-whet Owls, Northern Pygmy-Owls, and Boreal Owls in the past; without success.

Finally we tried the switchbacks on highway 119 toward Rollinsville. Again in the past, Northern Saw-whet Owls and Northern Pygmy-Owls have been seen. We managed to hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl for about 10 minutes, but never put a spotlight on the bird.

Birding Boulder County

June 8, 2008

Richard Stevens:

Paul Stein and I decided to search for the Scarlet Tanager up Gregory Canyon (Boulder County). It was another fine day in Colorado, cool and mild winds.

Before sunrise we first climbed back up the Fowler Trail to see if we could get a photo of the Hooded Warbler that has been singing for several weeks now.

On the way up, we ran into two singing Red-eyed Vireos behind the post office and within 400 yards of the trailhead. The Hooded Warbler was singing when we arrived at the junction of the old Conda Mine Road and Eldorado Canyon Trail. While we again had brief views of the bird, it did not allow for any photographs.

Our next climb was the Gregory Canyon trail. It was quite a hike up. When we finally arrived at telephone pole #2, the Scarlet Tanager was singing away. Unfortunately it never approached close enough for good photos.

On the hike back down, we found a Willow Flycatcher, MacGillivray's Warbler, and several Virginia's Warblers. Several Black-headed Grosbeaks flew around the trees back at the parking area. A Gray Catbird popped out of the willows along the road in from Baseline Road. We looked for the Chestnut-sided Warbler reported a few days earlier by Gary Weston (along 6th street, north of Baseline); without success.

After a late lunch, we headed up to Gross Reservoir. We searched several hours for Northern Pygmy-Owls; without success. Twice we ran into 2-4 Red Crossbills.

Near dusk we searched for Common Poorwills and found several. Check the switchbacks that drop sharply downhill along the east side of Gross Reservoir and around the Ranger's Home.

We made several stops trying to hear Flammulated Owls along Gross Dam Road and Highway 72; without success. Highway 72 to Hwy 93 did not add any owls to our trip list either.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Birding the Front Range

June 7, 2008

Richard Stevens:

Paul Stein, Gary Weston and I went looking for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt Evans (Clear Creek County) Saturday morning. Unfortunately we did not find any in an hour or so search. Back down at Summit Lake, we observed 2+ Brown-capped Rosy Finches at the northwest shore. They later were relocated on the rocks to the northwest corner of Summit Lake.

We then continued on to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) where we enjoyed better luck. A Ptarmigan jumped up on the rocks just southeast of the sign up box for the Rosalie and 603 trails.

From there we went over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County). We had to climb all the way up Buck Gulch Trail to Strawberry Jack Trail to Parkview Trail to find an American Three-toed Woodpecker. The woodpecker was found on our return trip back down the Strawberry Jack Trail at 300 yards below the Parkview Trail.

At dusk we searched for Northern Pygmy-Owls at White Ranch Open Space (Jefferson); without success.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal

June 6, 2008

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I rode our bikes along Buckley Road between 56th and 88th avenues and back (8 miles).

We found Burrowing Owls both in Denver County (the field just north of the cell phone building, east side of Buckley) and Adams County (just outside the 80th avenue gate).

We hoped to find the previously reported Lark Buntings but did not have success with that. We did find a couple of interesting birds. A Northern Mockingbird was in Denver County (west side of Buckley) at 7 telephone poles south of the old Eagle Watch Bunker (about a mile north of 56th avenue). A Loggerhead Shrike was at 6 telephone poles south of the bunker.

Another highlight was a Cassin's Kingbird among the dozens of Western Kingbirds observed along our trek. The Cassin's Kingbird went from the chain link fence to the trees close to the fence at about 9 telephone poles south of the Eagle Watch Bunker. We watched closely to see if there were two (and possible breeding behavior). Only the one was observed in the 30 minutes we watched. It would be interesting to return and see if a second and possible mate could be located.

Other birds seen along the ride included: Bullock's Orioles, Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, American Robins, 6 Eastern Kingbirds, 2 American Kestrels, and a Prairie Falcon. No Ferruginous Hawks were found today.

After we returned to the car, we headed over to the DIA Owl Loop. A pair of American Avocet surprised us at the small "puddle" just east of the entrance to the Pena Park and Ride (south of 40th avenue and east of Pena Blvd).

The Burrowing Owl count ended up to be 13 owls. No Short-eared Owls made an appearance this evening.


June 1 through June 5, 2008

We conducted owl counts on Pennock Pass and Cameron Pass. A friend has a cabin which was our home base near Gould (Jackson County).

The counts on Pennock Pass were conducted 6/1 and 6/5. 6/2 to 6/4 we wandered around Cameron Pass (Larimer/Jackson) and into the Colorado State Forest. There are 152 Boreal Owl boxes that are being monitored in the Colorado State Forest. The Flammulated Owls appear to prefer the lower forest of Pennock Pass)

We are not going to divulge locations of nesting owls. However, we do take birders to individual sites (upon request). Our owl totals were 7 Boreal Owls and 9 Flammulated Owls! Bill Cryder found a Northern Pygmy-Owl at one of the campgrounds along highway 14 on his trip back to Aurora.

We all enjoyed a great time. Several sites in the Colorado State Forest required snowshoes to reach. Two sites required hikes of over 7 miles.

Cherry Creek Reservoir

May 31 & June 1, 2008

Bryan Ehlmann and I hiked up Waterton Canyon early Saturday morning.

Along the way we passed Spotted Towhees, Yellow-breasted Chats, a Lazuli Bunting, Chipping Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, and Song Sparrows. An adult Golden Eagle soared overhead.

We set up camp south of the reservoir (on Forest property) and then went hiking up the Colorado Trail to the south in search of owls. Not having any success, we returned to our tent. Not far north of our campsite, Bryan got a Northern Pygmy-Owl to call!

After a rather chilly night, we broke camp and hiked back by way of Roxborough State Park. Just before the trail drops down into a meadow (about 1.5 miles from the Visitor's Center) we both heard the "teacher, teacher, teacher" of an Ovenbird. It stayed deep in the underbrush and we were able to only get partial glimpses of the bird.

We continued to the Visitor's Center where Sue Ehlmann & Rebecca Kosten picked us up (we called ahead on our cell phones for a ride).

A brief stop at Chatfield Reservoir (also Jefferson County) added an adult and 1st year American Redstart to our trip list. A Gray Catbird was also added to the list.