Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pine Valley Ranch & Reynolds Parks

February 26, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I returned to Pine Valley Ranch and Reynolds Park today. It was a little windy; temperatures were in the 60s. This trip was spurred on by my lack to find any American Three-toed Woodpeckers last Monday. It was bad enough to not find any White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (though it was snowing), but to not find one Three-toed Woodpecker, ugh.

We hiked the loop Buck Gulch Trail to Skipper Trail to Strawberry Jack Trail to Parkview Trail. Along the way, 3 Three-toed Woodpeckers were encountered. The easiest to relocate would be an adult female that was south of the Strawberry Jack Trail and 200 yards west of the Parkview Trail.

We searched the locations where Northern Pygmy-Owls were previously reported; without success. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard just above (south) of the switchbacks along the Parkview Trail. The cliff drops off drastically here and the owl could have been anywhere. This could be the same owl were heard last Monday?

Also observed Pine Siskins, Mountain Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, Hairy Woodpeckers, and a Northern Goshawk! An American Dipper was along the South Platte River below the lower parking area.

As we drove along the Platte River between Pine Valley Ranch Park and Reynolds Park we found another 4 American Dippers in a mile stretch.

At Reynolds Park we made the loop Oxen Draw to Eagle's View to Raven's Roost trails. My main goal was to search for possible nesting areas for Northern Saw-whet Owls. Hope to find some owls in a couple of weeks!

Along the way we found 2 Three-toed Woodpeckers. The easiest to relocate was a adult female below (north) the intersection of the Oxen Draw & Eagle's View trails.

No Dusky Grouse were found today. We heard 4 Northern Pygmy-Owls (observed 1)! Also observed 3 species of nuthatches, Pine Siskins, and 2 Cooper's Hawks. No Northern Goshawks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Return to Jumbo Reservoir

February 24, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten, Richard Stevens and I returned to Jumbo Reservoir in Logan/Sedgwick Counties.

We again took photos of the many gulls. I suppose we have 900-1000+ photos and its going to take a few days to go through them. We took close ups and group shots and tried to capture all the gulls out there.

We again missed seeing a Dunlin and didn't find the Iceland Gull reported yesterday.

The gulls identified today included 2 Glaucous Gulls, an adult Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, an adult Laughing Gull, a 1st cycle Thayer's Gull, Herring Gulls, and Ring-billed Gulls.

We missed the 1st year Laughing Gull and adult Thayer's Gull we reported previously.

The Winter Wren at Boyd Ponds and the Red-bellied Woodpeckers at Brush Wildlife Area were relocated.

Some Mountain Birding

February 23, 2009

Richard Stevens:

New Zealand birder Sav Saville and I ran into a snowstorm while looking for Rosy Finches in Summit County. We counted 34 Barrow's Goldeneyes (males, females, 1st year) on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant Pond.

When we reached the summit of Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) the snowstorm had worsened. Needless to say, we did not find any White-tailed Ptarmigan. We did search for several hours. Gave it our best shot and left.

Next we tried Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). I had not missed American Three-toed Woodpeckers in my last 16 visits to the park. However, I did today. We also could not find any of the previously reported Northern Pygmy-Owls though we may have briefly heard one around the overlook along the Park View switchbacks.

We ended our birding day at Reynolds Park. Picked up a lifebird Townsend's Solitaire for Sav and searched for Dusky Grouse; without success. A Northern Pygmy-Owl called briefly from along the Oxen Draw Trail.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Return to Jumbo Reservoir

February 22, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard and I returned to Jumbo Reservoir today and took additional photos of the gulls seen on Friday. The count was about the same except we missed the 1st cycle Laughing Gull, mystery gull (possible Laughing Gull) and adult Thayer's Gull. Most of the Greater White-fronted Geese were still there.

I rested while Richard drove back to Denver for a scheduled bird trip.

Sedgwick County

February 21, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Roger Danka, Richard Stevens and I watched a Greater Prairie-Chicken lek in Sedgwick County before sunrise. No chickens are coming to the lek yet.

We rested much of the day, great barbecue by Mrs. Danka! We did see 2 Eastern Screech-Owls, a Harris's Sparrow, and 2 White-throated Sparrows on Roger's ranch. A visit to his neighbor's ranch found 4-6 Long-eared Owls.

At sunset, we watched for Short-eared Owls at the southeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir. No owls came by.

Morgan, Logan & Sedgwick Counties

February 20, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Before sunrise Richard Stevens and I checked out Brush Wildlife Area in Morgan County. An Eastern Screech-Owl answered our playback recordings as we stood west of the lake. Unfortunately we never did see the owl which Richard had seen last month.

We also relocated a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the same general area.

We then headed west to Boyd Ponds outside of Fort Morgan in Morgan County. It took about an hour but we finally relocated the Winter Wren! A White-throated Sparrow accompanied a nearby flock of 9 White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos.

On the way to breakfast in Fort Morgan we passed by Riverside Park and gave it a look. About 1,200 White-cheeked Geese were on the hill south of the most eastern pond. We figured there had to be a Greater White-fronted Goose among them; sure enough we found two!

After breakfast we drove to the Fort Morgan Ponds which are actually the eastern end of Riverside Park. Just south of the boundary there is a pond south of the mobile home park and north of the motels. Hundreds of White-cheeked Geese and 2 Greater White-fronted Goose were also there. We suggested that they could be the birds from the other end of the park.

To test this out we walked from the Fort Morgan Ponds parking lot back west to Riverside Park. Sure enough, the large flock of White-cheeked Geese and 2 Greater White-fronted Goose were gone. Most likely those back at the mobile home park.

Richard walked the south side of the southern tree line while I walked the north side. This tree line has been really good in the past for sparrows. Unfortunately the park workers are cutting down all the brush and cattails under the cottonwoods.

Richard finally found a flock of White-crowned Sparrows and one White-throated Sparrow just east of the number 3 hole of the Frisbee Golf Course.

On the return trip to our car I walked along the southern end of the Platte River while Richard walked the south side of the northern tree line. Just east of the number 14 hole of the Frisbee Golf Course an Eastern Screech-Owl answered my playback tapes. I was playing the recordings to attract sparrows, but I will take an owl!

I found a flock of 17 White-crowned Sparrows, 4 Song Sparrows, and another White-throated Sparrow along the southern bank of the Platte. This was near the only bench I saw along the river.

A call from Roger Danka alerted us to a "strange gull" at Jumbo Reservoir so we turned around and drove northwest.

Jumbo Reservoir was a gold mine of gulls. Mine you, we hadn't heard about Rachel Hopper's Gull sightings of 2/17. Still after finding that out later in the evening we were still thrilled at "gull" find!

On the ice not far off the western side of Jumbo we found 4 1st/2nd year Glaucous Gulls, 1 adult Great Black-backed Gull, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, an adult and 1st cycle Thayer's Gulls, an adult and 1st cycle Laughing Gull, and many Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.

Richard gets the credit for both Laughing Gulls. First he found a small dark mantled gull. We watched it for over 30 minutes before it raised its head and showed us a dark bill. Then it stood up and we saw the black feet. Finally it flew and we got to see the all black wingtips and extensive black on the underside of the primaries!

While photographing the rare gulls Richard saw another small gull that he said had the distinctive head pattern of a Laughing Gull. This bird had an all black bill, black feet, and darkish and grayish hindneck and breast similar in color to its mantle. It turned out to be a 1st cycle Laughing Gull!

Finally Richard found another black footed gull. This also looked like a 1st cycle Laughing Gull as above except its bill was 2/3 black with a fleshy colored base. No where can we find such a Laughing Gull. It did not fit any other gulls either?

As we continued around Jumbo there were many gulls on ice formations in the southeast corner, north of the campgrounds, and along the northern shore. We again found the/an adult Laughing Gull but figured it to be the one we saw flying away.

A flock of 46+ Greater White-fronted Geese stood on the ice north of the campgrounds. After dark we searched for Eastern Screech-Owls north of Jumbo and at the campgrounds, but without success.

Another Day in Yuma County

February 19, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Before sunrise we checked two previous Greater Prairie-Chicken leks north of Bonny Reservoir. No birds are visiting the leks yet.

We finished the WIAs in Yuma County today by visiting those in the northern half of the county.

Afterwards we birded Messex Wildlife Area in Washington & Logan Counties. Another White-throated Sparrow and Red-bellied Woodpecker were found here.

Kit Carson & Yuma Counties

February 18, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard Stevens and I headed east to checkout some Greater Prairie-Chicken leks and WIAs in Yuma County.

A stop at Flagler Reservoir in Kit Carson County found a White-throated Sparrow and male Red-bellied Woodpecker along the eastern side. The sparrow was with a mixed flock of White-crowned, Song, and American Tree Sparrows in the bushes at the northern end of the eastern tree line. The Red-bellied Woodpecker was about halfway down/south of the eastern tree line.

We hit about half of the WIAs (walk-in areas) in Yuma County. The purpose to take GPS waypoints and photographs of the terrain.

Tired of that we visited Bonny Reservoir where a Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen along the road that runs along the southern side of the reservoir. This road is now gated and birders have to walk into the area.

We relocated a Long-eared Owl in the windbreak near Foster's Grove Campgrounds and then played recordings at the western end of Yuma County Road 3. An Eastern Screech-Owl briefly called back to us.

At Hale we found at least two Long-eared Owls in the windbreak there. Four Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found along CR 4 at Hale Ponds. Shortly after dark, an Eastern Screech-Owl called back when we played a tape northeast of the eastern Hale Pond.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back to Adams County

February 16, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I visited Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) before sunrise. Eastern Screech-Owls answered our recordings. One was below the dam and east of the outlet canal. Another was at the western end of the property. We did not take the time to scope the reservoir itself.

After dropping Gary off, I drove home by way of 88th Avenue and the S. Platte River. It turned out to be a good choice. A 3rd cycle Glaucous Gull and adult Herring Gull stood on the ice at the southeast corner of Tani Reservoir.

Continuing north I stopped at the pullover along Dahlia (just south of the yellow brick house with red roof). A Long-tailed Duck was among many ducks which also included 2 Ruddy Ducks, Redheads, 2 Canvasbacks, and some American Coots. The Long-tailed Duck swam east and then south around the finger of the lake.

Across the street at East Gravel Lake, a male Barrow's Goldeneye was among 24+ Common Goldeneyes.

A quick hike down to the green and white tower along the South Platte River (from 88th avenue) added a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes to my day list.

It was such a beautiful winter day (I believe temps reached into the 60s) that I decided to hike below the dam at Barr Lake (mile marker 6.0 to 7.0). Perhaps a Virginia Rail could be found?

Birds were few but I did see a Marsh Wren in the cattails north of Outlet Canal 11. Two Song Sparrows were south of Outlet Canal 3. Four American Goldfinches, a female Northern Harrier, and some Red-winged Blackbirds (heard only) were just about all I found.

My birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls were found. I did pass the burnt out Continental airplane that crashed a few weeks ago. What a mess, lucky no one was hurt!

Logan County Birding

February 15, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I visited many of the WIA in Logan County today. My continuing project to obtain GPS waypoints and photographs of these possible birding locations. WIAs are "Walk-in Areas" which require a $20 pass. The areas are only opened September 1st to the end of February. See additional details in a pamphlet put out by the DOW (can be acquired at Wal-Mart, sporting goods stores or Department of Wildlife Offices).

In the afternoon we visited North Sterling Lake State Park. Two Long-eared Owls were observed in one windbreak. Not much else was moving about.

We ended our birding day at Overland Park and the Visitor's Center across the street. A White-throated Sparrow was among White-crowned Sparrows in the bushes along the S. Platte River at Overland Park. A Harris's Sparrow was found behind the Visitor's Center.

Return to Weld County

February 14, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I returned to Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer County). The weather was not as good as it was on Thursday. We managed again find 11+ Long-eared Owls at all three Units of the Wildlife Area. The most was 5 at the Wellington Unit. Two Short-eared Owls were again observed at the Wellington Unit.

Afterwards we drove back to the private ranch where the Common Redpoll is still visiting feeders. The Harris's Sparrow did not appear during our hour stay.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl was still at a windbreak in Weld County.

We visited many of the WIA units in Weld County as I continue to take GPS waypoints and photographs of the possible birding locations.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cherry Creek Reservoir

February 13, 2009

Really spent the day resting and remembering what a great day yesterday was!

Rebecca Kosten and I did drive through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) while doing chores.

Few birds were around. Only a dozen Ring-billed Gulls stood on the little bit of ice still found in the northeast corner of the lake.

A lone 1st year Bald Eagle stared at the woods below the Dam's Tower. A Sharp-shinned Hawk flew across the road at the Cottonwood Creek Loop. A Cooper's Hawk was perched at the Lake Loop.

Hawk count was 1 Harlan's Red-tail, 2 dark-morph Red-tailed, and 7 western Red-tailed Hawks.

A flock of 31 American Tree Sparrows and 19 American Robins ate along the side of the Lake Loop road.

Daylight Owling in Weld and Larimer Counties

February 12, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I met up with Stan Roth at the McDonald's along Hwy 14 & I25 in Fort Collins and we headed east. Winds were 10-15 mph; temperatures never rose above the low 40s.

Our target birds were owls today. We found a Northern Saw-whet Owl and 2 Long-eared Owls in Weld County then turned back west.

Our luck in Larimer County was just as good.

We found 11-13 Long-eared Owls, 2-4 Short-eared Owls, and 5 Great Horned Owls while visiting the three sections of the Wellington Wildlife Area.

Long-eared Owl numbers were 2 additional at the Schware Unit if you count dead owls. We suspected that Great Horned Owls were feeding on the Long-eared Owls as we only found feathers. We also observed one Eurasian collared-Dove at this unit.

A rancher saw us walking along the side of the road and stopped to see what was up. He mentioned a strange looking finch and so we following him back to his home. The "strange finch" was a Common Redpoll that he first noticed on 2/7!

I asked about sparrows other than American Tree Sparrows or House Sparrows (I know not a sparrow) and he did not appear to have seen any uncommon ones. However he knew that his neighbor had a "strange sparrow" coming to his feeders. A juvenile Harris's Sparrow was coming to his neighbor's feeders when we pulled up to the ranch!

Stan had to head back to Boulder but I had several hours before heading to the Fort Collins Audubon Society's meeting, so I ended my birding day back at Wellington WLA. Again I ran into a rancher and asked about Barn Owls. He knew where one was and kindly took me over to see it. Not bad, a five owl day (though not in the same county, my friends say I am never satisfied).

After a great lecture on Owls of Boulder County by Steve Jones, I was going to head up to Cameron Pass and Jackson County to search for Boreal Owls. When I came out of the building, it was snowing like crazy. Better judgment sent me back to Denver; Jackson County will have to wait until next week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Western Slope Birding

February 9 to 11, 2009

To be filled in later!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fawnbrook Inn, Allenspark

February 8, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Dennis Rome and I found ourselves before sunrise at Fawnbrook Inn, Allenspark. in Boulder County. Shortly before 7:00am a flock of Rosy Finches flew overhead. They landed in the trees surrounding the Inn however never did come down to the feeders. The flock of 70+ birds contained all three species (though only 1 or 2 Black Rosy Finches).

While waiting for the Rosy Finches to appear, we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl calling from somewhere behind us. A quick sweep with our binoculars found a Northern Pygmy-Owl about 60 feet southeast of the Inn.

The previously reported Band-tailed Pigeon never showed up during our stay. In Ward, half a dozen Evening Grosbeaks and 2 Pine Grosbeaks were found. We then continued south over to Gross Reservoir in search of Crossbills; without success.

Afterwards, we dropped down out of the mountains and scoped for gulls at Valmont Reservoir. No uncommon gulls or the previously reported White-winged Scoters could be found. No usual gulls were spotted at Prince Lake #2, Baseline or Boulder Reservoirs.

A quick stop was made at Lower Church Lake (Jefferson) where we observed the 5 Trumpeter Swans, and then continued to Aurora Reservoir to wait for the gulls to return from the DADS landfill (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site).

Our stay lasted until almost too dark to see. No dark mantled gulls returned. No gulls flew to the swim beach; instead they landed on the ice below the eastern end of the dam.

Reynolds and Pine Valley Ranch Parks

February 7, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Gary Weston, and I enjoyed this beautiful winter day with a search for Northern Saw-whet Owls in Jefferson County. Unfortunately we did not find any, but did find a few interesting birds. Winds were stronger on the plains than the foothills. Temperatures reached the middle 50s by us.

About an hour before sunrise, we sat at the western parking area for Reynolds Park (Jefferson County). We heard 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls first southwest of the Trailhead sign and later up Oxen Draw.

Next we drove over to Pine Valley Ranch Park and hiked the six mile loop starting at Pine Lake parking area. We eventually observed a Northern Pygmy-Owl south of the Strawberry Jack Trail and west of the Parkview Trail.

We missed Jerry Baines who was also somewhere hiking the park and found a Northern Pygmy-Owl 1/2 mile northeast of the Buck Gulch and Skipper Trails. We passed this location and must have been going in a different direction along the loop.

An American Three-toed Woodpecker was relocated north of the Strawberry Jack Trail and west of the Parkview Trail.

A search around any evergreen trees for signs of Northern Saw-whet Owls was not successful.

We returned to Reynolds Park to search for Northern Saw-whet Owls south up the mountain (along the Eagle View Trail); again without success.

A Dusky Grouse was in the woods to the right of the Eagle View Trail just before the clearing at the top.

Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found. A female downhill (south) of the Eagle's View and Oxen Draw Trails and another Three-toed Woodpecker about 40 yards east of the same intersection.

After dropping Bryan and Gary off in Denver, I headed to Lower Church Lake. I photographed the 4 adult and juvenile Trumpeter Swans reported by Kathy Mihm-Dunning.

My birding day ended with a search around East & West Gravel Lakes for gulls (such as the lingering 1st year Glaucous Gull last reported 1/31.

Many gulls flew in from the south (water treatment plant?). Many gulls landed on the remaining ice at the northeast corner of Tani Reservoir and the southern side of the East Gravel Lake north of 88th avenue.

I stayed until well after sunset (6:00pm). The only gulls observed were many Ring-billed, 2 Herring Gulls, and 1 adult Thayer's Gull (Tani Reservoir).

More WIAs in Yuma County

February 6, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann and I found an Eastern Screech-Owl at the west end of Bonny Reservoir this morning after checking unsuccessfully a Greater Prairie-Chicken lek north of Bonny Reservoir. The owl was east of the marsh area off CR 3.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was found while we walked the road along the southern side of the reservoir. Two Wild Turkeys crossed the road in front of us!

We checked another 28 WIAs in Yuma County today; nothing uncommon was found. In most cases if we did not see a flock of birds near the entrance/parking areas, we did not walk the full length of the land plots. Our goal was to get an idea of what each plot of land offered (corn field, wheat field, grass field, or other type field; any water [creek or ponds]).

Yuma County WIAs

February 5, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I checked out two Greater Prairie-Chicken leks that have been successful in the past. We found two Greater Prairie-Chickens walking along a county road near one of them. Kevin O'Brien it was yours if you are reading this!

Afterwards, we photographed and collected GPS waypoints on WIA plots in Yuma County. The weather was fantastic again. Calm winds and temperatures in the high 60s.

We observed a Snow Bunting with several dozen Lapland Longspurs and hundreds of Horned Larks at the WIA at Yuma County Road 1 and CR N. Visits to about 25 other WIAs were uneventful.

At Hale Ponds we found several Long-eared Owls, an Eastern Screech-Owl, and 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We had a brief look at a Harris's Sparrow but could not relocate it for confirmation of our identification.

South Platte River at 88th Avenue

February 4, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Jerry Petrosky and I went back to the South Platte River and 88th Avenue area (Adams County) to search for the 1st year Glaucous Gull that Jerry last observed on 1/31. It was not found.

Again there were many ducks on the South Platte River including 2 male and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneyes below the green/white tower.

We drove the DIA Owl Loop after sunset in search of Short-eared Owls; without success.

Breckenridge and Mt Evans

February 2, 2009

Richard Stevens:

This morning Gary Zeeto and I drove around Breckenridge searching for Rosy Finches and owls. We saw 2 small flocks of Rosy Finches southeast of town. Only Gray-crowned and Brown-capped Rosy Finches were identified. No owls could be found.

We made a quick stop at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant and observed 11 Barrow's Goldeneyes. A Northern Shrike was perched on the Osprey's nest on the golf course across Hwy 6 (it was also there on 1/25/2009).

On the trip back to Denver we drove up to Echo Lake Campgrounds (Mt Evans Byway, Clear Creek. A male American Three-toed Woodpecker flew around the campgrounds.

Return to Guanella Pass

February 1, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Some Mountain Birding in Clear Creek & Summit Counties

Randy Cross, Bryan Ehlmann, Gary Zeeto and I returned to Guanella Pass. I know that I said there was a 99.99 percent chance that I would not snow shoe the last 2.4 miles up there again this year. Darn that 00.01 percent chance.

I was in a little better shape this time (over my cold, more sleep, more food). The trip was not as tiring. We made it up in an hour and 45 minutes and the trip down was only 45 minutes.

Once on the relatively flat summit (there is a 400 yard climb and a 500 yard descent once back to the parking area) we snow shoed around for about 2 hours. White-tailed Ptarmigan were found northwest of the 603 & Rosalie Trails and also around the willows at the east side of the lake below the summit!

Before the climb we drove into Summit County to search for Rosy Finches and other mountain birds. Barrow's Goldeneyes were again found on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant.

Another Owl and Snow Bunting Chase

January 31, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Randy Cross and I headed up to Morgan County this morning.

We again found Long-eared Owls at Jackson Reservoir. A Great Horned Owl was in the cottonwoods at Sandpiper Campgrounds. We could not relocate the White-throated Sparrow I found last week.

We found 3 flocks of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks. The flock along County Road AAA at 1.5 miles north of CR 26 also had a Snow Bunting! We checked several other WIA (Colorado Walk-in areas; $20 pass required that expires on 1/28/2009); without seeing much.

A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was relocated at Brush Wildlife Area. We were not able to relocate the Eastern Screech-Owl I found last week.