Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Long Day in Adams County

November 17, 2008

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I counted birds along the South Platte River and Clear Creek from 88th avenue to the Water Treatment Plant south of Interstate 270. What a gorgeous day with temperatures in the low 70s and mild winds for most of the day.

As we started out at the West Gravel Lakes Park at 88th Avenue and Colorado Blvd it rapidly appeared that birding was going to be slow. Oh well, at least we were getting some exercise on an unusually warm November day.

Our trek started along the east side of the Platte River. For those with "Colorado Field Notes", a map of the area can be found on pages 15 & 16 of the January, 2007 issue.

Gadwalls slightly outnumbered Northern Pintail Ducks which were just about all that were on the Platte River. Goldeneyes (are target birds) were in short supply. We ran into a pair of male Common Goldeneyes on the southern West Gravel Lake.

When we arrived at the confluence of the Platte River and Clear Creek we split up. Bryan continued south along the Platte to the Water Treatment Plant south of I270. I hiked up Clear Creek west to Washington Avenue.

Bryan's highlight was a very late and "lethargic" House Wren found just south of I270. My "highlight" was 2 American Tree Sparrows in the willows about 0.2 miles west of the Platte River.

When we reunited at the confluence we shifted over to the West side of the Platte River and continued North. Engineer's Lake just west of the Confluence had 2 dozen Hooded Mergansers, a few Northern Pintail Ducks, and a dozen Northern Shovelers.

Finally on Tani Reservoir we observed 5 Common Goldeneyes, then another 7, then another 5.

At the north end of Tani Reservoir (which is the reservoir south of East Gravel Lake) at long last we found a male Barrow's Goldeneye swimming along the northeast edge of Tani. This duck would not have been visible from Dahlia Avenue (to the east).

East Gravel Lake had 4 Western Grebes, 19 Common Mergansers, another 17 Common Goldeneyes, one Pied-billed Grebe, and 5 Ruddy Ducks. A Northern Shrike was on the fence just south of the Dam Tower.

A hike north of 88th Avenue was uneventful and we drove east to scope the Dahlia Ponds. As I got out of the car, I observed a female or juvenile Long-tailed Duck about 20 yards south of 88th Avenue (on the first pond east of Dahlia). About 2 dozen Ruddy Ducks, 3 dozen Common Goldeneyes, and some American Coots were also on this pond.

If one was to search for the Long-tailed Duck tomorrow, note that this pond is L-shaped. Only half of it can be seen from 88th Avenue. Drive west and south on Dahlia and you will find a small one car pullover from which to scope the rest of the pond.

A little farther west and uphill there is a pullover on the south side of 88th Avenue where another pond to the south can be scoped. Across 88th Avenue to the north is another large pond worth a check. Both these ponds are fed by the Fulton Ditch.

We found a second Long-tailed Duck here (on the pond North of 88th Avenue). We drove into the Wildlife Area on the north side and scoped from the closed (always) gate. It could possibility be seen from 88th Avenue. Beware most of this area was private property.

Afterwards we split up, Bryan went home and I drove over to Barr Lake. A walk from mile marker 5.3 to 4.3 was uneventful. Scoping the lake from the north end of the dam (mm 6.0) was also uneventful.

On the trip around to the south side of Barr Lake and the park proper, I counted 68 Eurasian Collared-Doves just south of the Tree Nursery at Bromley Lane and Picadilly Road.

Inside the south side of the park I only found 2 American Tree Sparrows, 7 White-crowned Sparrows, and hordes of House Sparrows in the bushes behind the Visitors Center.

Thousands of Geese were along the edge of the lake. I was not going to walk the first mile from the Niedrach Trail but I ran into a couple of birders who had seen 2 Great Horned Owls "not far from the parking area". As I hiked the half mile or so past the Niedrach Trail, a Peregrine Falcon flew along the shoreline.

Eventually I found the Great Horned Owls (after it was too dark for a photo, but it was more like a mile from the parking area. In any case, I scoped the thousands of White-cheeked Geese feeding south of the lake.

About 0.2 miles west of the Niedrach Trail I counted 2 white Snow Geese, 3 blue phase Snow Geese, and a lone Ross's Goose (not with the Snow Geese). Mixed in with the thousands of geese was a Greater White-fronted Goose!

At 4:13pm about 30 minutes before sunset, a large majority of the White-cheeked Geese flew south toward the Sod fields south of 120th Avenue (and east of Tower Road). I relocated the Ross's Goose here. About the same time, 70 Snow Geese flew into Barr Lake from the north. The Greater White-fronted Goose did not move.

The list in the visitor's center said someone reported a Swan species a few days ago. In the distance I observed a white bird swimming with thousands of White-cheeked Geese. Ah, the swan? In time the whole flock swam up to the shore and the "white bird" loomed over the White-cheeked Geese. It was a Snow Goose. Then it hit me, the thousands of White-cheeked Geese were Cackling Geese. Some of them were really small.

I ended my birding day by driving around the DIA Owl Loop in search of Short-eared Owls; without success. A Ferruginous Hawk flew along 120th Avenue as I headed east toward Trussville Avenue. I did locate a Barn Owl in a restricted area where I have permission to count birds.

The sunset was spectacular and so was the day!

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