Thursday, January 29, 2009

Goose Chase Around Denver

January 28 & 29, 2009

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores this afternoon Rebecca and I passed by Cherry Creek Reservoir, Arapahoe County. Only three Snow Geese were found at Greenwood Village Park (southwest corner of Cherry Creek Reservoir).

Yesterday (1/28), we observed 1 Greater White-fronted Goose, 2 Ross's Geese, and 6 Snow Geese. If you search for the geese, there are undulations in the fields along the west side of the park. You have to walk 50 yards west to see the geese there.

At Greenwood Village Recreation Park (Denver County, 1/28) we found 1 Greater White-fronted Goose among 2000+ White-cheeked Geese.

Not much came to the Barr Lake (Adams) Visitor Center's western feeders. The usual half dozen White-crowned Sparrows and a couple of Song Sparrows. A dozen winter plumaged American Goldfinches visited the feeders on the east side of the building.

Cherry Creek Reservoir

January 27, 2009

While out doing chores we drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Most of the lake is ice and snow covered. The only gulls found were Ring-billed Gulls (about 24).

Several thousand White-cheeked Geese walked around the soccer and baseball fields at Greenwood Village Park (southwest corner of Cherry Creek Reservoir). A Greater White-fronted Goose, 2 Ross's Geese, and 6 Snow Geese were among them.

Clear Creek and Summit Counties

January 25 and 26, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Sunday, Rich Trissel and I drove around Summit County searching for Rosy Finches and other mountain birds.

Afterwards we spent about 3 hours searching unsuccessfully for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). Conditions were not good. Winds were 40+ mph and visibility was less than 20 yards most of our stay.

We headed back to Denver but ran into what would have been stop and go traffic for 32 miles. So instead, we decided to see how far up Guanella Pass (Clear Creek) we could get in a passenger car.

We got to within 12-15 feet of the Guanella Pass campgrounds. Our passenger car would go no farther on the slippery snow. We debated on whether to hike to the top of the pass, see Ptarmigan, and then return to Denver.

However since our car was facing the wrong direction, we fortunately decided to turn the car around instead (since we would be returning to Georgetown in the dark). We had to back up 2 to 2.5 miles before finding a turnaround and gave up our quest for Ptarmigan.

Once back at Georgetown traffic on I70 was still stopped so we got a room at the Motel 6! On the way to dinner we stopped at several businesses before we found someone to take us up to the road block near the campgrounds on Guanella Pass the next day.

By the way, it was Mike of Mad Mike's Sports Shop. Great guy, great sales on winter clothes.

Monday, we rented snowshoes and Mike took us up in 30 minutes to the road block. He ent back skiing at Loveland Pass, giving us 4 hours to search for Ptarmigan.

Conditions were beautiful with little wind and temperatures I found out later were 14 degrees warmer than Denver (which got up to 6 inches of snow in 12 degree temps).

It took about 2 hours to snow shoe to the top of Guanella Pass and another hour to get back down. Anyone wanting hints on where to find the Ptarmigan once up there just write me:
Birdertoo (at)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Return to Morgan County!

January 24, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Earlier in the week I visited 11 of the 43 walk-in hunting areas listed in Morgan County.

Today Gary Weston, Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Morgan County. Besides visiting Jackson Reservoir and Brush Wildlife Area, we hit another 14 of the walk-in areas and re-visited the section where I found Snow Buntings earlier in the week.

My goal this week was to take a representative photo and GPS waypoints for as many of the walk-in hunting areas in Morgan County as possible. The walk-in areas require a special $20 pass that is only good during September 1st through the end of February.

Several of these areas in Weld County have ponds or lakes. None visited this week did. One did have a nice creek with just a little water.

Our first stop was Jackson Reservoir where we located the White-throated Sparrow and several other birds I found on Thursday. We had no luck searching for the Northern Goshawk or Bohemian Waxwing. Our stay did not last until dark and therefore we also missed the Short-eared Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl I found previously.

We hit the walk-in area north of CR AA and CR 28 first. A few Horned Larks were there but not nearly as many as Thursday. No Snow Buntings could be found. We then visited another 14 walk-in areas. Only about 200 Horned Larks were found. Two areas also had a dozen or so Lapland Longspurs.

I again tried to obtain access to Vancil Reservoir (south of CR AA & CR 28); again without success in contacting the landowner.

We ended our birding day with a quick stop at Brush Wildlife Area where I again found several Red-bellied Woodpeckers and the Eastern Screech-Owl!

Note: We started our day up in Weld County. I was not going to report the 2 Snow Buntings near Pawnee National Grasslands; however the report did get out.

We found 2 Snow Buntings by hiking the gravel road that heads west from CR 37 at 1.0 miles north of the USDA Office. We then continued west to Cow Creek, turned south and found a Short-eared Owl about 1/4-1/2 mile south along the creek.

On the way to Jackson Reservoir we found another Snow Bunting flyover at CR 122 and CR 45. Several flocks of Lapland Longspurs were seen along Weld County Road 105 and another along Morgan CR 4.

Morgan County Birding!!!

January 22 and 23, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed one of the best winter birding trips considering that I did not see one duck. Most if not all reservoirs and lakes were frozen. The trip report and photos will be in February's "Colorado Field Notes".

To whet your appetite I enjoyed a five owl day at one location! It was to be topped by a six owl day the next!

I will put the report on this blog around the middle of February after CFN subscribers have read it.

Owl Search Jackson/Larimer Counties

January 20-21, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Three of us returned to Jackson/Larimer Counties around Cameron Pass to search for owls. The weather has been darn good lately. Calm winds have helped in hearing and locating the owls.

Tuesday night we drove up and down Highway 14. We found 3 Boreal Owls and actually got to see one of them. The best locations are the north side of Hwy 14 at the upper parking lot for the Joe Wright Reservoir and the woods west of the restroom area at the top of Cameron Pass.

The owl that we saw was on the south side of Hwy 14 at 0.2 miles west of the Joe Wright Reservoir parking lot mentioned above.

We also cross country skied up Ruby Jewel Road for about a mile. Boreal Owls have been found nesting up this road from 0.5 miles to 1.0 miles east of Michigan Creek Road. This night they were quiet. In summer, Flammulated Owls have also been found nesting up this road.

Wednesday morning we searched for Greater Sage-Grouse up Jackson County Road 26. While plenty of tracks were seen, we could not locate any birds. We figured they were watching us from under the many sage bushes.

We entertained the idea of skiing down to the ghost town of Teller City. Another great owl and Three-toed Woodpecker area. Unfortunately snow blocked roads left us too far from the town for an attempt. We all decided that it might be worth a try later in the winter. It would be a long way, but we could camp overnight and make it a two day trip.

Two hours before sunset, we set out on snow shoes to hike along the Michigan Ditch for five miles. Richard discovered nesting Boreal Owls in this area about 4 years ago. Cross country skiing would be less strenuous and quicker, however the trail is rather steep at several places and beyond our expertise or skills as skiers.

The trek and challenge was worth the effort. Surprisingly we ran into little wind and the trip was very pleasant. The trail goes along the base of Mt. Rickentofen. It was quite a spectacular sight!

A word of caution, we all have taken a course in avalanche danger and conditions. We all carry avalanche beacons. It is not wise to go into this area without that knowledge and equipment! Conditions looked safe and there were no previous indications of avalanches along our route.

We arrived at our destination near dark and played recordings of Boreal Owl. To our surprise, two owls answered! One of them landed in a fir tree within 20 feet of us and allowed fantastic looks! It made our trip!

The trek out which is very much uphill was made much easier by our success!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Morgan County

January 19, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Brad Nelson, Randy Cross and I headed northeast today. Winds were 22+ mph with temperatures in the high 50s. Gusts were recorded at 38 mph.

Long-eared Owls can still be found at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County). We only had to drive along Morgan County Road 4 about a mile before finding a flock of 60+ Lapland Longspurs. Unfortunately, they all appeared to be Laplands.

Nothing uncommon was found at Riverside Park in Fort Morgan or at any feeders at Log Lane Village. We did find a Wilson's Snipe at Highway 144 bridge over Bijou Creek.

Barr Lake (Adams) was quiet. We could not relocate the previously reported Barrow’s Goldeneye. Most of the White-cheeked Geese were too far out to positively identify.

A Rough-legged Hawk was found at Tower Road and 128th avenue.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back to the Mountains & Foothills

January 18, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Brad Nelson, Randy Cross and I hiked around Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) for an hour after we searched for Rosy Finches in Summit County this fine morning. Views were spectacular with clear skies, calm winds, and warm temperatures.

It took about 45 minutes but we finally found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan by scoping below the East side of Hwy 6 at the Summit. Look for the rocky ridge several hundred yards to the east.

Afterwards we drove up to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). We did not get any responses to our Northern Pygmy-Owl calls but were able to find a male American Three-toed Woodpecker along the Buck Gulch Trail (about halfway between the Pine Lake Trail and the Strawberry Jack Trail).

A nice flock of Pygmy Nuthatches was just south of Pine Lake. Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches were also observed.

After that we drove to Reynolds Park (Jefferson) to search for grouse and owls. We spread out at the top of the Eagle's View trail and eventually found a Dusky Grouse (it took about an hour).

After sunset we walked the Songbird Trail to Elkhorn Trail to Oxen Draw Trail. We never saw a Northern Pygmy-Owl but one did answer our calls about 20 minutes after sunset!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Valmont Reservoir and Wellington Wildlife Area

January 17, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I joined the Boulder Bird Club trip to Valmont Reservoir, Boulder County Saturday. 60 degree weather and little wind resulted in less birds than previous trips.

The highlight was the only Gull that our group saw in the first 2.5 hours. It was an adult Mew Gull; pretty close to us too!

A good variety of raptors and falcons (as Ted Floyd told us, falcons are no longer raptors, but related to parrots?). Just a few land birds a couple of American Tree Sparrows and Song Sparrows and 2 American Pipits (again our group). So many birders showed up that we were assigned to 4 groups. Beautiful day.

Because of all the open water, I suspected that the Gull influx at sunset would be poor (turned out to be true). So I drove up to Wellington Wildlife Area, Larimer County to search for Short-eared or any owls.

The area has much human growth now and I suspect that the usual wintering Short-eared Owls and occasional Northern Saw-whet Owl may be a thing of the past. The only owls I found were two Great Horned Owls calling to each other. Always a nice experience for the end of my birding day!

Birding Around Denver, Warm Winter Day!

January 16, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed the beautiful winter day by birding the South Platte River to Green Valley Ranch to Aurora Reservoir.

At first light I scoped the 1st year Glaucous Gull standing on the ice at the northwest corner of the most northeastern East Gravel Lakes. I finally found an authority on the area you told the names of the many lakes. The two lakes on the west side of the Platte River at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd are West Gravel Lakes. The most southern reservoir on the East side is Tani Reservoir. The other lakes on the east side are all East Gravel Lakes. The large one just south of 88th avenue has East Gravel Lake on its dam's tower.

A walk down the west bike path along the Platte River found several Barrow's Goldeneyes and many species of ducks. Unfortunately for me, a couple of walker scared the ducks up on their walk up river and again down river. As a result, I had to wait 20 minutes or so both times for the ducks to return from West Gravel and East Gravel Lakes.

My goal was to get photos of a yellow/orange billed Goldeneye that has the skull pattern of a Common Goldeneye. Eventually it was captured, but it took over two hours.

While waiting for this duck to return, I also took photos of 3 male and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneyes, dozens of male and female Common Goldeneyes. I also found a 1st year Barrow's Goldeneye and another 1st year Goldeneye that was interesting (ID not determined yet).

Finally the target Goldeneye returned and I did take photos of her also!

I would have stayed longer but a prominent DFO Trip leader came by to look at the ducks. He set his scope up 12 feet in front of me and scared the ducks away. I only mention this because this is the second time he has done this to me. He stepped in front of me while I was photographing a male Black Scoter at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt a few years ago. Next time I will use the guy's name. What do people like this think? Or are they thinking?

I pass Green Valley Ranch Recreation Park and Pond on my way home and decided to walk around the park. Thousands of geese were eating in the baseball field and standing on the ice covered pond.

A Greater White-fronted Goose was at the north end of the pond. This was a juvenile goose and I thought that on my last stop a few days ago, that I had seen an adult? As I photographed the Greater White-fronted Goose hundreds of additional White-cheeked Geese flew onto the pond. With such large numbers they did not seem to be bothered by a birder standing 15 feet from them.

I ran my binoculars over the geese hoping for a Brant; no such luck. I did see an adult Greater White-fronted Goose about 30 feet from me. So, this was probably the adult observed a few days ago.

It was such a fantastic day with calm winds and temperatures in the 60s, that I hated to go home. Instead I went over to Aurora Reservoir to watch the gulls return from their daily trip to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site, aka, landfill).

A walk across the mile dam at the north side and 0.8 mile west side down to the swim beach found 14 white geese (including 2 Ross's Geese) and another 2 Greater White-fronted Geese among the 25,000 White-cheeked Geese on the reservoir.

As sunset came and went, hundreds of gulls returned from the landfill. I picked out a couple of Herring Gulls among the many Ring-billed Gulls but no uncommon gulls such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull or Mew Gull.

Return to Reynolds Park

January 15, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Steve Hsu and I birded Reynolds Park today. Again a Northern Pygmy-Owl was calling when we arrived at the western parking area!

We hiked east along the Elkhorn and Songbird trails and I relocated the Northern Pygmy-Owl(s) that were first discovered on 1/8. This maybe a nesting pair and location is not going to be disclosed.

Next we hiked up the Oxen Draw Trail and relocated a female American Three-toed Woodpecker about 10 yards east of the Eagle's View and Oxen Draw intersection. We continued up the Eagle's View trail but were unable to find any Dusky Grouse today.

Other birds observed along the trek included: 3 species of nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, and one Brown Creeper.

We stopped at Mt Falcon Park (Jefferson) on the return trip to Denver. No Dusky Grouse were found here either. A good place to check is around the old castle and 50 yards farther east to a bench along the trail.

We did count 7 Townsend's Solitaires and a flock of 8 Red Crossbills.

Our final stop was at South Platte Reservoir to look at the Dunlin along the S. Platte River at 100 yards south of the C470 bridge.

Goose Count ARound Denver and Aurora

January 14, 2009

Rebecca Kosten and I drove around Denver and Aurora counting geese today. Our totals:

Overland High School and Utah Park
1000+ White-cheeked Geese (10 percent Cackling Geese)

Gateway High School, Arapahoe County
1500+ White-cheeked Geese mostly Canada Geese

BiCentennial Park, Arapahoe
6000+ White-cheeked Geese, quite a few Cackling Geese

Field North of Bolling Street (east west road along north side of Emerald
Strand Park)

1 Greater White-fronted Goose
10,000+ White-cheeked Geese

Green Valley Ranch Recreation Pond
1 Greater White-fronted Goose
1800+ White-cheeked Geese

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Mountain Birding

January 10-12, 2009

Gary Weston: We spent the last 3 and a half days in the mountains. Monday four of us went on the CoBus trip to Loveland Pass. We were dropped off at the summit and snow shoed down the south side twice. Our final Ptarmigan count was 13!

Yesterday, we had a trip up to Grand County. About 40+ Rosy Finches were found flying around the north end of Kremmling. Our plan was to snowshoe up to A.M. Bailey Bird Sanctuary, but snow blocked roads did not allow access.

We found Rosy Finches flying around Breckenridge on three occasions this week. No where in particular and not at any feeders. Owling was a bust too. We searched south of Breckenridge on Monday and south down to Quandary Peak last night. Not a peep or hoot to be heard anywhere.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Search for White-tailed Ptarmigan

January 9, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Sullivan, Bryan Ehlmann, and I waited all week for a potential of good weather in order to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass. Friday was not that day but we had gone anyway. Winds were ridiculously (35 mph plus); temperature was 18 degrees and falling.

Before our attempt to find Ptarmigan and while searching for Rosy Finches in Summit County we passed by the Blue River Water Treatment Plant. Barrow's Goldeneyes are still there and the best location close to Denver to find them in winter.

At Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) it took us over two hours (2 hours, 18 minutes in fact) before Bryan S yelled that he had two White-tailed Ptarmigan in his binoculars! I was never so glad to get off of there. Winds were so strong that seeing through binoculars was almost impossible. Scopes were useless.

Fortunately, Bryan S had success on his third attempt. The birds were uphill, south of the Summit and west of highway 6.

After dropping Bryan S off at DIA and Bryan E at home, I drove around the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood (Denver). A Greater White-fronted Goose was again at the northeast corner of the Recreation Park (at 3:00pm). Winds were measured at 22 mph, gusts into the low 30s. Three dozen geese and the Greater White-fronted Goose were in the low area that looks like it could be used as a soccer field. There they were somewhat protected from the higher winds.

I checked the area around Picadilly Road and 56th avenue. The small pond to the west had no geese as the wind whipped across it. Up north on Picadilly Road were 500+ geese but no Greater White-fronted Goose in the high grass covered rolling hills. The Recreation Park Greater White-fronted Goose could be the same one that wanders the few miles up here.

Later, I found a second Greater White-fronted Goose along Picadilly Road at 42nd avenue. There is a low cultivated field with high edges (protected from the winds) at the southeast corner. This field is 1.7 miles north of Smith Road and Picadilly Road (and just in Denver County).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Reynolds Park and Owling

January 8, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Again informed that winds in the mountains were quite high, we decided to drive instead to Reynolds Park before sunrise. When we arrived at the western parking area at 6:44am, two Northern Pygmy-Owls were calling. One from the woods just north (downhill) of the Elkhorn and Oxen Draw trails. The other was 10 yards or so east of the parking area.

We also heard a possible third owl in the woods south (uphill) of the western end of the parking area. We did not think that it was one of the other owls that had moved; of course we could not be sure. Unfortunately we never did see any of these birds.

Six Townsend's Solitaires called constantly from around the parking area. Along the hike to the eastern parking area we would count another nine Townsend's Solitaires.

After sunrise, we hiked the Elkhorn to Songbird trail down to the eastern parking area. At the obvious spot along the trail (not going to give a better hint than that) we finally observed a Northern Pygmy-Owl standing on a cottonwood limb.

While we watched this owl who definitely was watching us, Bryan Sullivan briefly saw another Northern Pygmy-Owl sticking its head out of a hole. As this could be a possible nesting hole, I am not providing specific directions.

We did not use tapes, recordings, or vocalizations to locate these birds. They called on their own. Again, this is a quite sensitive nesting area. Owls can be found without disturbing noises from humans.

Later we decided to hike to the top of Eagle's View trail and back to look for an American Three-toed Woodpecker. On the trip back to the Oxen Draw Trail, I spotted a Dusky Grouse uphill (south) of the Songbird trail.

A female Three-toed Woodpecker was heard and found drumming in the trees, first below (north) and later to the east of the intersection of the Oxen Draw, Eagle's View, & Raven's Roost trails.

We continued to the top of Eagle's View where Bryan Ehlmann found our second Dusky Grouse of the day! Along the loop we also saw 2 Red Crossbills, three species of nuthatches, and several flocks of Pine Siskins.

Returning to Denver we passed Chatfield Reservoir and stopped at the new South Platte Reservoir. Few birds were on the lake. We drove to the southeast parking area just north of the C470 Bridge.

A short walk of 200 yards and we spotted the Dunlin still on the South Platte River mudflats.

We then walked north to the island about 40 yards north of where the power poles cross the bike path. We gave the Winter Wren 15 minutes to show itself or call; it did not and we walked back south.

Bryan Ehlmann saw a small bird with a short tail (got to be the Winter Wren?) skulking along the western bank in the cattails (about 55 paces north of the most eastern power pole). We only had glimpses but all described a small bird with a short tail running along like a mouse.

We backtracked to Marston Reservoir (Denver). About 14 Hooded Mergansers swam at the southern end. The 100+ gulls on the northwest ice cover were all Ring-billed Gulls except for one Herring Gull.

A dozen Common Goldeneye and 8 Common Mergansers were all we saw out on the lake. Most of the lake is unfrozen now (90 percent frozen just a few days ago).

A quick stop at nearby Fort Logan National Cemetery found the Greater White-fronted Goose on the hillside south of Veteran's Lake. Not much else but White-cheeked Geese were around as both Memorial and Veteran's Lakes are iced covered. Two funerals were progress so we did not stay long.

We ended our birding day at the Centennial Airport Waste Treatment Pond. Neither the female Greater Scaup nor Swamp Sparrow seen last week by Bryan Ehlmann was found.

Wednesday birding continued; Pawnee National Grasslands

January 7, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Sullivan and continued north to Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) after leaving Bryan Ehlmann in Denver. We wanted to check several areas for owls.

A Long-eared Owl was found at the southwest corner of Crow Valley Campgrounds. With the lack of cars driving into the campground area, the owl may stay there. We checked the windbreak at the Washington Work Center and also the few fir trees in the campgrounds for Northern Saw-whet Owls; without success.

From reliable sources I have been told that Sharp-tailed Grouse are still on the grasslands and even still breeding. We checked the few areas that I have access to and where I have observed them in the past; without success.

We did find 4 Long-eared Owls at a friend's ranch. Stayed for dinner and ate too much fried Chicken :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Short-eared Owl still at Cherry Creek State Park

January 7, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Bryan Sullivan, Rich Stevens and I started out for Loveland Pass and Summit County in search of Rosy Finches and Ptarmigan. Shortly after getting on the road at 5:00 AM news radio said that Loveland Pass was closed due to high winds. At 5:00 AM it was above freezing at DIA with 39 degrees. Anemometer readings were steady at 32 MPH with gusts into the low 40s. Nevertheless we decided to put the trip off for a day.

Instead we found ourselves at the parking lot north of the main road and west of the creek at Cherry Creek State Park. The Short-eared Owl flew from north to south over the cattails 30 yards west of us at 6:51 AM. At 6:59 AM, it returned from south to north within 25 yards of us! We may have seen it at 6:44 AM, but it was too dark to be sure of the ID.

They decided to continue up to Pawnee National Grasslands. I opted out.

Search for Gulls and Geese, Arapahoe & Denver Counties

January, 6, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed the day walking around Aurora Reservoir in spite of 22+ mph winds (gusts to 34 mph).

At 10:30am, several thousand gulls flew from the ice at the swim beach toward DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site; landfill). They did not return during my stay (I departed at 3:00pm).

I sat and scoped the remaining 800+ gulls and found the adult Mew Gull among them. It took four or five passes with my scope before I picked out the Gull. At 12:00pm most of the remaining gulls including the Mew Gull flew north.

I followed this flock up the west side of the reservoir as half of them temporarily landed at the southwest end of the dam. Unfortunately, the Mew Gull was observed again but took off before I could digiscoped it. A Ross's Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose swam just off shore from here.

While waiting for the gulls to return, I scoped the lake from the north end. At least 25,000 White-cheeked Geese flew in. Wave after wave of geese came from the north and landed below the dam. Eventually, they would swim to the dam and shore at the scuba diving area (northeast corner) and walk out to feed in the grasses.

The road to the northeast corner is closed because of construction and one must walk down from a parking area southwest of the dam. When I tried to get anywhere near the northeast corner the geese would take off. Fortunately they returned. I noticed that if I scoped the geese from behind the fence at the dam's tower, they tolerated it and even swam directly below me!

From my vantage point, I was able to pick out two additional Greater White-fronted Geese, 3 Ross's Geese, and a dozen Snow Geese (including a Blue Phase). I did manage to get within 50 yard of the scuba beach area once. From there I digiscoped a Brant!

At 3:00pm I received a text message that a Brant had been seen at the Green Valley Recreation Ponds (Denver) north of I70 and off I went. There were no geese on the ponds at 3:45pm. On the trip over I checked Lake Crest and found no geese there or at nearby Emerald-Strand Park (both only a few miles from Green Valley Ranch).

The last hour of daylight was spent driving around north of Green Valley Ranch. A Greater White-fronted Goose was with 200+ White-cheeked Geese at the southeast corner of Picadilly Road and 56th avenue.

400+ White-cheeked Geese were around a small frozen pond along 56th avenue and west of Picadilly Road. Another 5000 White-cheeked Geese were over the hill to the north along Picadilly Road, north of 56th avenue.

This area at Picadilly Road and 64th avenue is my number 3 favorite location around DIA (Denver International Airport) to sit and watch/wait for Short-eared Owls to come by after sunset; none did today. This area just south of DIA and Pena Blvd sees little vehicle traffic (only a few workers at the Denver Water Plant just east of Picadilly Road).

Bonny Reservoir & Christmas Count

January 4 & 5, 2009

To be filled in later!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Aurora Reservoir Gulls

January 3, 2009

Richard Stevens:

In the morning I went over to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County). It was a useless attempt to find the Tundra Swan reported Thursday. I circled Lake Lenore but most of it was frozen (small open area at the western, closest end). The eastern end where the Tundra Swan was observed was completely frozen.

It took an hour to circle the lake and make sure there were no birds. Back at the western end, about 15 Common Goldeneyes and 14 Common Mergansers were among a dozen Ring-billed Gulls, one or two California Gulls, and three Herring Gulls.

Winds were 22+ mph, gusts to 34 mph; temperatures in the upper 20s. I think my anemometer froze; I did!

I met up with Jerry Petrosky and Bill Cryder after Noon. We spent the rest of the day walking the 7.8 mile bike path around Aurora Reservoir.

Again many gulls were below the dam. Unfortunately none of the uncommon gulls were here. The southeast corner was best, but required a 4 mile hike to get there.

Here we found a Tundra Swan (could it be the Rocky Mountain Arsenal swan?). Two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls stood off mm 4.0. The strange Gull was with many Ring-billed Gulls, a few California Gulls, and several dozen Herring Gulls off mm 4.5.

Land birds including sparrows were really scarce. One flock of American Tree Sparrows (5) at mm 1.5. A couple of Song Sparrows south of the marina.

Raptors included 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 American Kestrel, and a female Northern Harrier. The new construction along the northern end of the reservoir is not going to help the birding. Someday Aurora Reservoir will be another Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Jerry Petrosky, Bill Cryder and I found and photographed an interesting Gull at Aurora Reservoir Saturday. It was slightly larger or similar in size to the nearby Herring Gulls. This bird was quite far away from us. I digiscoped it, but light was terrible except for a short time. The legs were pink and at times looked bright pink (again the light). The mantle was dark, too dark most of the time to be a Western Gull (again bad light?) but at times looked lighter than a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It probably was a small Great Black-backed Gull, but wish we could have observed it under better light.

I am not suggesting that anyone rush out there. The Gull population changes throughout the day as the gulls fly back and forth to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site. aka. landfill). I have sat out there for eight hours and never observed the same gulls more than once or twice.

Will not have the chance to go back out there until Tuesday. I sent photos to a "Gull expert" in California. Hopefully he will shed "light" on the bird. If there is a best time to see most of the gulls, 11:30 to 12:30 seems to be when many gulls fly back from the landfill; other days this is not so much true. The interesting gulls today were at mile marker 4.5 (southeast corner of the reservoir).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Georgetown Christmas Count

January 2, 2009

Gary Weston: Eight of us conducted the third annual Georgetown CBC. Actual center point is Silver Plume as then the count circle included Loveland Pass, Guanella Pass, and Echo Lake, Keystone Ski Area.

Preliminary Results: Total species: 34

Some birds we expected were missed: Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel, Clark's Nutcracker, Townsend's Solitaire, to name a few.

We had planned on staying up there for cross country skiing and owling some more, but weather is horrible. Snow is predicted 4-6 inches and up to 1.5 feet. Winds are pretty strong.

As pointed out on the CoBus website, while Guanella pass is closed, it was temporarily open to Lost Silver Dollar Lake trail. Three birders skied to the top of Guanella pass and saw 11 White-tailed Ptarmigan! Another group found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass. A mixed flock of 60 Rosy Finches flew around Silver Plume. We didn't see any this morning.

Canada Goose
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Northern Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Boreal Owl
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Gray Jay
Steller's Jay
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
American Dipper
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Black Rosy-Finch
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
Pine Grosbeak
Cassin's Finch
House Finch
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Great First Day of the Year!

January 1, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed a fantastic first day of the year! Winds were mild most of the day; temperatures reached into the 50s.

At first light I scoped the Dahlia Ponds, Tani Reservoir, West Gravel Lakes, and East Gravel Lake. A Glaucous Gull was temporarily on East Gravel Lake, but flew toward the South Platte River (south of 88th avenue).

Later in the morning, I observed the Glaucous Gull fly up and down the Platte from 88th avenue to the mudflats just south of the green/white tower (about a mile south of 88th avenue). It landed briefly on the mudflats, but again took off to the north.

I counted 3 male and a female Barrow's Goldeneyes on the Platte below the tower. There was another Goldeneye with a totally orange bill. However, it had the skull shape of a Common Goldeneye and I just could not call it a Barrow's Goldeneye.

Returning north, I continued downstream along the Platte River about 200 yards north of 88th avenue. I was looking for the Glaucous Gull. My fourth male Barrow's Goldeneye of the day was about 100 yards north of the 88th avenue bridge.

Most of the wintering ducks were added to my 2009 list: Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail Duck, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Ruddy Ducks and American Coots. A big surprise was a male Blue-winged Teal!

Raptors included Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle. A Northern Shrike was below 88th avenue at the most eastern Dahlia Ponds.

I ran into Dave King and Ray Simmons who started down to look at the 4 Barrow's Goldeneyes. Meanwhile I scoped the East Gravel Lake from the east side. A Glaucous Gull was on the ice just offshore and I managed to take about 600 photos (not taking a chance that they would not come out).

One thing I noticed was that this Glaucous Gull was not the 1st year Glaucous Gull that I reported on the S. Platte River mudflats on 12/25. Its mantle and bill appeared like a 3rd year bird (most likely the one reported by Leukering on 12/25).

Next I spend 15 minutes looking unsuccessfully for the American Dipper observed last week near Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area. When I drove around the Loretto Heights University, there were plenty of White-cheeked Geese, but no Greater White-fronted Goose.

Noticing that Fort Logan National Cemetery was below the hill where the college sits, I drove through. A Greater White-fronted Goose stood on the ice at Veteran's Lake (western lake). A juvenile Snow Goose stood on the ice at Memorial Lake (eastern lake). Photos to be posted on the CoBus website tomorrow.

Nearby Marston Reservoir had many waterfowl, but nothing uncommon. I did pick up my first 2 Double-crested Cormorants of 2009.

My next stop was Platte Canyon Reservoir (actually parked at its most southeastern lot and walked to South Platte Park. The Dunlin is still just upstream of the C470 bridge. This access is a slightly shorter walk than driving into Chatfield Reservoir and its dog walking area. Besides, I had not purchased my 2009 State Park Pass yet.

I ran into Steve Stackowiak who gave me directions to a Winter Wren in South Platte Park. I thought I would give the bird 2 hours to show. At 1.5 hours it popped out of the willows and grasses along the western banks of the Platte, gave me a 5 second look, and re-buried itself. It was last seen at the bottom of the willows even with the northern half of the island (described by Steve and the CoBus website directions).

I waited another 30 minutes to see if it would show up again, but then had to leave to meet Bryan and Sue Ehlmann. They had "staked out" a Swamp Sparrow and female Greater Scaup at the Centennial Airport Water Treatment Pond (birds found on 12/28). While waiting for the Winter Wren to reappear, a Prairie Falcon zipped by over my head. A female Belted Kingfisher rattled at me for disturbing her hunting grounds.

We all arrived at the same time and scoped the cattails for the Swamp Sparrow. It was relocated farther north than Bryan and Sue had seen it on last Sunday (about 100 yards north of the gravel road cutting across the canal).

After it disappeared back into the cattails, we scoped the pond. The female Greater Scaup was on the pond, but within 3 minutes of our arrival, a loud truck (airport security) drove by and scared the 300+ ducks into the air. They probably returned, but we did not stay around for that.

This area is within the Cherry Creek State Park Christmas Count circle. Of course, they cannot count it as we protest the $5 reporting fee. At least the bird will count on the Colorado bird list and CoBus' Christmas Count!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Last Bird of 2008; First Bird of 2009

December 31 and January 1, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I almost went downtown Denver to see the fireworks. The news talked about thousands of people expected. So we decided instead to go for a really good first of the year bird.

A friend of mine had mentioned that his family was going back east (ouch, bad weather) for the holidays. He invited us to bird his land anytime so we headed into the foothills.

We passed by Reynolds Park (Foxton Road) on the trip up. A Northern Pygmy-Owl answered our recordings about 10:30 pm. It only called for about 3 minutes, but we figured it might be our last bird of 2008.

We arrived at my friend's ranch and listened for an hour. A Northern Pygmy-Owl called about 11:45 pm! Several times it flew through the street lights on the ranch, giving us great looks at our last bird of 2008. Around 12:15 am, it landed near the barn; shortly afterwards a second owl joined it. First bird of the year and not the same one as our last!

Happy New Year!

Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 31, 2008

Richard Stevens:

After the last few days of high winds, winds were calm when we drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

The Reservoir was 99+ percent frozen and we observed less than a dozen ducks out there. Several dozen White-cheeked Geese and 5 Great Blue Herons stood on the ice. It was a little strange to see the Great Blue Herons way out on the ice. What is that, protection from predators? They can not break through the ice for fish, can they?

A Virginia Rail walked below the wooden bridge at the Cottonwood Creek loop. The usual common birds were at the wetlands pond (same as Beaver Pond). Not a single American Tree Sparrow was found?

No sparrows were in the campground areas. I could not find the Great Horned Owl that was observed a few weeks ago. No response to my rather poor owl imitations.

We walked down to the south end of the 12 mile Beaver Pond to enjoy the sunny and calm afternoon. However, once the sun set it got cold quite fast. We managed to find 2 Virginia Rails and a Wilson's Snipe. Green-winged Teal, American Coots, Mallards, and a couple of Northern Shovelers were just about it on the unfrozen pond. Not much on the mud flats and only a couple of Song Sparrows were in the cattails.

We hung around until it was quite dark to see if the Short-eared Owl would fly around; did not see one.