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).

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