Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pine Valley Ranch Park and Cherry Creek Reservoir

Richard Stevens:

September 17, 2008

I enjoyed quite a day of birding even though I missed all my target birds. It was a beautiful day with partly sunny skies, little wind, and mild temps.

Upon arriving at Pine Valley Ranch Park around 6:45am, I walked the Narrow Gauge Trail west from the parking area to the junction with the North Fork View Trail. The Narrow Gauge Trail runs along the north side of the creek. Many Wilson's Warblers fluttered about the willows that line the trail. Several bushes on the hillside to the north gave shelter to Green-tailed Towhees. On the hike to the North Fork Trail I counted 27 Wilson's Warblers, 2 MacGillivray's Warblers, and an Orange-crowned Warbler.

Quite a few birds were moving about at the junction with the North Fork View trail including a Clay-colored Sparrow, many Song Sparrows, a few White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Lincoln's Sparrows, 7 Wilson's Warblers, 5 Black-capped Chickadees. I briefly observed one bird (for 4 seconds) that appeared slightly larger than a Wilson's Warbler and was very yellow. There was no contrast between the yellow of the breast and the nape. The blackish wings had no wingbars. It never appeared again in the next hour. Whether it could have been the Prothonotary Warbler I won't know.

A short side trip along the Pine Lake Trail (south side of lake) added an American Three-toed Woodpecker to my day list. For those looking for a Three-toed Woodpecker, early mornings are best at the lower locations. As I have learned and was probably told by Merlynn Brown, the Three-toed Woodpeckers tend to start their day at the lower elevations and work their way up the hills throughout the day.

My hike continued west to the park boundary sign. It was here that the Harris's Sparrow was seen yesterday. Unfortunately no sparrows came around in the 30 minutes I watched the area. A flock of 6-8 Black-capped Chickadees entertained me during the wait. Two Wilson's Warblers and an Orange-crowned Warbler also came by the lower scrubs.

My trek continued west and south to the closed gate at the end of the Open Space. Up on the hill to the west, an American Three-toed Woodpecker worked the many dead trees. While I was watching the woodpecker, a Northern Pygmy-Owl called five times. However, I was never able to put binoculars on the bird. It was somewhere northwest of the barb-less wire fence (green metal posts) about 40 yards north of the closed gate.

On the walk back toward the Park Boundary Sign, an adult Northern Goshawk flew along the tree line south of the North Fork View Trail! It is always a treat to see this elusive Hawk.

Before leaving, I made the circuit of the Narrow Gauge Trail to North Fork View Trail to Pine Lake Trail twice more. Many Wilson's Warblers, a couple additional Orange-crowned Warblers, and 2 additional MacGillivray's Warblers were found along with an adult Green-tailed Towhee and 2 first year birds which still had streaked breasts.

I departed about 1:30pm and after lunch decided to search for the Mew Gull and possible Little Blue Heron at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The shore at Cherry Creek Lake was completely searched at least twice. The total Snowy Egret count was 39. I even found 5 that could only be seen by walking the shore from the Mountain Loop to the Lake Loop. A Little Blue Heron was never found.

The gulls were a little more challenging as they moved around much. A large group was in the southeast corner, but by the time I arrived at that corner three people with dogs had scared them off to the Cottonwood Creek Loop (near the bird platform). By the time I drove over there, the gulls had returned to the southeast sand spit (but later flew again before I got back there once more).

While I may have seen a Mew Gull flying, picking it out of a large flock of flying Ring-billed Gulls (and at quite a distance) did not make for a positive ID. I was able to pick out a Franklin's Gull molting from alternate to basic plumage and a juvenile Sabine's Gull swam southeast of the bird platform. Also I noticed on three occasions the sub-adult Long-tailed Jaeger flying back and forth between the dam and the southeast corner.

A Common Tern stood on one of the buoys off the bird platform and was nice enough to fly and expose his wing pattern for a positive ID. There were at least 3 additional small terns farther away and whose ID was left unknown. It eventually became too dark to identify anything.

No comments: