Saturday, March 28, 2009

Return to Barr Lake and DIA Owl Loop

March 28, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Barr Lake State Park to see if the Vermilion Flycatcher had made it through the Blizzard. At least a half dozen birders plus myself could not relocate the flycatcher.

I also stopped at five homes south of the park to see if any people (friends) had seen a "little red bird"; no one had.

In Barr Lake Estates, a Harris's Sparrow was found at feeders at a private yard. The landowners did not want dozens of birders coming by, but did allow me to phone Bryan & Sue Ehlmann. They drove over from Brighton and witnessed the sighting!

Later Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) was again checked for American Tree Sparrows. None were found. A pair of Mountain Bluebirds wandered around the Lake Loop.

Along the DIA Owl Loop we saw a Ferruginous Hawk standing on Trussville Road (just south of 128th Avenue). Also observed were one Rough-legged Hawk, one dark morph Red-tailed Hawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, and a Prairie Falcon.

Burrowing Owls were again seen at the 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue site and the site along Tower Road at 0.4 miles north of 56th Avenue.

Vermilion Flycatcher at Barr Lake State Park

March 25, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I had promised my feet that they would not have be in hiking boots today. As happens quite often I broke the promise when I heard about the Vermilion Flycatcher at Barr Lake State Park (Adams County).

We hurried over and watched the red and brown male Vermilion Flycatcher for a good 30 minutes. Afterwards I searched around the Visitor Center and Boat Ramp (mile marker 7.5) for American Tree Sparrow; again without success.

It was a good thing that we hurried over to Barr Lake to see the Vermilion Flycatcher. Denver was hit by a blizzard the next day. I returned briefly on March 26th and searched an hour for the Vermilion Flycatcher. Visibility was down to 20 feet and the Vermilion Flycatcher was not found. March 27th I decided to not leave the house and to leave the snowy roads to others.

Reynolds Park

March 24, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Our target birds today were Northern Pygmy-Owls and Dusky Grouse. We returned to Reynolds Park and hiked to the top of Eagle's View.

A Dusky Grouse flew by at the clearing 500 yards uphill from the intersection of the three trails (Oxen Draw, Raven's Roost & Eagle's View). Another male Dusky Grouse was booming near the top of Eagle's View (near the old park boundary marked by a rock cairn and small dollar sized silver plate in the ground).

One American Three-toed Woodpecker was found just downhill (north) of the three trail intersection. Another was drumming along Eagle's View at 600 yards uphill of the intersection.

We returned to the DIA Owl Loop and found Burrowing Owls at two locations. One each Burrowing Owl were observed at the 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue and along Tower Road at 0.4 miles north of 56th Avenue.

This time a Ferruginous Hawk was observed over the prairie dog village located 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue.

Pine Valley Ranch Park

March 23, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson Marceau and I searched for American Three-toed Woodpeckers at Pine Valley Ranch Park today. After yesterday's snow, 50 degree temperatures and mild winds we welcomed.

Our trek took us 1.5 miles up the Buck Gulch Trail before we found a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers. The male and female Three-toed Woodpeckers were 50 feet east of the trail at the Park Boundary Sign (from Pine Lake it really is the third Park Boundary sign that you pass before the "real" Park Boundary Sign as the trail weaves in and out of Pine Valley Ranch Park before leaving the park for good and entering Pike National Forest……how's that for one long sentence?).

We were quite happy not to have to hike the whole 6.0 mile loop to find a Three-toed Woodpecker and turned back toward Pine Lake.

We passed Reynolds Park on the way back to Denver and made a quick stop and search for Northern Pygmy-Owls; without success.

The rest of the day we visited Barr Lake State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, and Star K Open Space in search of an American Tree Sparrow; without success. My experience in past years is that once the Tree Sparrows start to depart Colorado, they are quite difficult to find just one. It turned out to be the case today.

Along the trek we looked for the Ferruginous Hawk that had spent the winter along the DIA Owl Loop; without success. On Burrowing Owls were found yet either.

Jumbo Reservoir

March 22, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson Marceau and I spent the night on the west side of Denver. We woke up to snow and wet roads. The plan was to search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers in Pike National Forest. However we though the snowy trails and wet habitat would not be all that inviting for us or the woodpeckers.

Instead we headed northeast 180 miles to Jumbo Reservoir and a chance at the juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake. When we arrived at Jumbo Reservoir winds were 40+ mph with gusts to 58 mph. Waves were stronger and higher than I had ever seen there.

With the help of Cole Wild the Black-legged Kittiwake was found trying to fight the winds at the southeast corner of the lake. We watched the Kittiwake for 30 minutes and then continued around the reservoir.

Few additional gulls were found. We did add at least one each Ring-billed, Herring, and California Gulls to our day list.

Quite a few ducks were holding their own in the rough waves. The previously reported male Barrow's Goldeneye was west of the dam. Also seen were: Redheads, Canvasbacks, Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Pintail Ducks, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, and Green-winged Teal.

One Tree Swallow turned out to be our only swallow sighting. Winds definitely kept down the number of birds we could find.

Our plan was to continue west to Pawnee National Grasslands for a search of longspurs. When we reached Sterling the general prediction was that the area could be hit with 4-6 inches of snow. We turned southwest and returned to Denver.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kansas to Yuma County

March 21, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Before sunrise, Allyson Marceau and I sat at the eastern Lesser Prairie-Chicken outside of Elkhart, Kansas. Sixteen (11 males, 5 females) Lesser Prairie-Chickens put on quite a show for us. A check of the western lek did not find any birds, but perhaps they had already departed?

Few birds moved about Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca County, Colorado). We did find a lone Grasshopper Sparrow and a couple of Common Ravens.

Few birds were found at Lamar Community College. It appeared to be too early for Mississippi Kites and Chimney Swifts.

Sheridan Lake had no water and birds. We observed two Great-tailed Grackles at the first house south of I70 and along Highway 385 (traditional location).

We did not take the time to visit Bonny Reservoir and instead continued north to Wray. Driving toward the Yuma County Road 45 lek we found two groups of Greater Prairie-Chickens (a group of 6, another of 3). At the lek itself we watched another 7+ Greater Prairie-Chickens dance.

Notice: You can see the Greater Prairie-Chickens and under good light pick out the reddish air sacks. However the birds are quite far away.

Gunnison County to Kansas

March 20, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson Marceau and I were at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek long before sunrise. It was surprisingly warm for this time of year and winds were calm. It is early in the season; however 3 male Gunnison Sage-Grouse did show up about 15 minutes before sunrise.

Today was a day of much driving as we had to travel almost 400 miles to Elkhart, Kansas for a shot at Lesser Prairie-Chicken tomorrow. We tried to get there before sunset to see the Lesser Prairie-Chickens dance; unfortunately we missed it by 15 minutes.

On the way we stopped at the Monarch Pass (Chaffee County) overlook. An American Three-toed Woodpecker fluttered about the evergreens and telephone poles just south of the overlook (which appears to be the roof of a Monarch's store).

Our only other stop was for a quick search for the Eastern Towhee which had been at Bent County Roads JJ & 16. The farmer had burned the underbrush and there were few places for the Eastern Towhee to hide. It was not found.

Mesa to Gunnison County

March 19, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson Marceau and I visited the Colorado National Monument. It was another beautiful spring day. A flock of 24+ called and flew around the campgrounds. Allyson picked up her lifebird Juniper Titmouse in the Junipers north of the overlook.

White-throated Swifts soared below the overlook. It is still early in the season and few other birds were around.

Chukar were missed in Escalante Canyon. The canyon had few birds. Usually I see Mountain Bluebirds with a few Western Bluebirds in the mix. A female Hairy Woodpecker seemed out of place. No Black Phoebes which have nested the past 3 years here were found.

The Ross's Geese were not at Confluence Park. Having time to spare we drove to Paonia and searched for a Northern Pygmy-Owl; without success.

In the middle of the day, no Sandhill Cranes were at Fruitgrower's Reservoir. A birder stopped by and said that several hundred took off early in the morning. Nine Lewis's Woodpeckers were in the two cottonwoods below the dam (west end at E. Horn's home).

We ended our birding day at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. In spite of driving up and down the south rim (now open) no Dusky Grouse could be found.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Western Slope Birding, Continued Grouse Trip

March 18, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson Marceau and I sat at the 20 Road Sharp-tailed Grouse outside of Hayden (Routt County) at first light. Three Sharp-tailed Grouse eventually made an appearance. However none showed up until 8:15am.

We drove south from Craig to Rifle (no Great-tailed Grackles today at the Rifle Rest Stop) and continued to the Grand Mesa (Mesa to Delta County).

At the Powderhorn Ski Area we hiked around about 1/2 mile and missed American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls.

We then drove to the Visitor's Center 14 miles south of Powderhorn. With great luck we were only out of our car about 10 minutes before a male White-winged Crossbill and male Red Crossbill perched on the top of fir trees east of the building!

Several large flocks of Pine Siskins with accompanying Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and White-breasted Nuthatches also were around.

We stop at the Mesa Lodge and Store to watch their feeders for 30 minutes. Allyson saw her lifebird Gray Jays when a pair visited the Lodge's feeders.

To linger around until dark, we returned to Powderhorn Ski Area. This time a Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard behind the maintenance shed! No Three-toed Woodpeckers could be found.

Finally at dark (8:15 pm) we drove south on the highway. Four Boreal Owls were found between the Spruce Grove Campgrounds and the Visitor's Center.

Weather was fantastic all day. The temperatures on the Grand Mesa were quite warm and we experienced no wind (NO Wind). Can't remember if this has ever happened to me before as usually there are 20+ mph winds and snow in March and April.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Start of Another Grouse Trip

March 17, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Allyson and I headed west to search for mountain birds in Clear Creek and Summit Counties. At Loveland Pass we found a lone White-tailed Ptarmigan on the west of side Highway 6 and halfway between the summit and the first pullover south.

At the Blue River Water Treatment Plant we found 2 male and 3 female Barrow's Goldeneyes and then continued north.

At Steamboat Springs we detoured south to Lake Catamount. The waxwings were quite cooperative. We watched 100+ Bohemian Waxwings and 20+ Cedar Waxwings hawk insects from the tall cottonwoods along the Yampa River at the southwest corner of the lake.

We missed the American Three-toed Woodpecker at Rabbit Ears Pass and then ended our birding day at Jackson County Road 26 in search of Greater Sage-Grouse. Unfortunately a woman was walking her dog right at the best time for finding the Grouse. We only got glimpses of one bird as the dog went sniffing for grouse along the road. She had seen 7 male and 3 females on her morning walk.

March 15, 2009

I rode my mountain bike around Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) this morning. Temperatures warmed up nicely; winds were mild.

The Say's Phoebe reported yesterday was not found. The several hundred gulls were mostly Ring-billed with a few Herring and 2 California in the mix.

In the afternoon I revisited the east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road). No Burrowing Owls flew in during the night or early this morning. There were no Burrowing Owls seen along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Aurora Reservoir and Rocky Mountain Arsenal

March 15, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I rode my mountain bike around Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) this morning. Temperatures warmed up nicely; winds were mild.

The Say's Phoebe reported yesterday was not found. The several hundred gulls were mostly Ring-billed with a few Herring and 2 California in the mix.

In the afternoon I revisited the east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road). No Burrowing Owls flew in during the night or early this morning. There were no Burrowing Owls seen along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).

Larimer & Adams Counties

March 14, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I birded Larimer County today. Temperatures may have reached the 50s; winds were mild to calm.

We waited at Wellington Wildlife Area before sunrise for Short-eared Owls; none flew around this morning. Three Long-eared Owls were found in the northeastern windbreak. We wanted to check because today (Saturday) is the last day the property is open to the public until July 15th.

Next we drove south to Fossil Creek Reservoir and Swede Lake. In two hours neither last week's Eurasian Wigeon or Greater Scaups could be found. There were no geese to speak of around the property.

We checked as many of the bodies of water around Loveland as time allowed in search of uncommon gulls. A Glaucous Gull was found on the east side of Donath Lake. After 10 minutes, it took off and flew west. No luck was had at Duck Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Boyd Lake, Lake Loveland, Windsor Lake, Timnath Reservoir, and a few others.

In the afternoon Rebecca Kosten and I hiked the east side of Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road from 56th to 88th avenues in search of an early Burrowing Owl arrival; without success.

The 8 mile round trip is a nice exercise but too time consuming at 3.5 to 4 hours. We are going to have to tune up our mountain bikes for future treks.

There was no wind at all and once the hum of the car tires on Pena Blvd (500 yards to the east) was ignored we listened to singing Western Meadowlarks, an occasional scolding by an American Robin, and the ranting of 3 flocks of European Starlings (totaling 341 birds).

A flock of 81 Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon, Pink-sided, Slate-colored) near the creek was joined by 2 White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, and 5 American Tree Sparrows.

Raptor sightings included 1 Prairie Falcon, a pair of American Kestrels, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, 1 Ferruginous Hawk, and 1 Red-tailed Hawk.

There were no Burrowing Owls along the DIA Owl Loop either. The immature Rough-legged Hawk was in the same spot as yesterday. The Ferruginous Hawk stood on the telephone poles where 96th avenue turns east from north of the Prairie Dog Village (at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road).

March 14 is my early date for a Burrowing Owl in Adams County. Most first sightings are between 3/25 and 3/30.

Friday, March 13, 2009

DIA Owl Loop

March 13, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Early in the morning I tried my luck at finding owls at riparian areas in Morgan County; without success.

A stop at Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan County) relocated the pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. The Eastern Screech-Owl found several weeks ago did not cooperate today.

Long-eared Owls can still be found at Jackson Lake State Park. Not much else was found though plenty of American Robins flew around.

In the afternoon I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Denver International Airport, Adams County) to see if any Burrowing Owls have arrived; none were found. I did see a Ferruginous Hawk flying over the Prairie Dog Village (CR 96 at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road).

A Rough-legged Hawk stood on one of the road signs.

Another Search for Eastern Birds

March 12, 2009

Richard Stevens:

At first light I was back at the Yuma County Road 45 Greater Prairie-Chicken lek. Several male birds eventually decided to try their luck at attracting a female; without success.

I birded around Wray (Yuma) afterward and visited the yards of three friends. Northern Cardinals visit all of their yards on a regular basis!

A drive on the country roads east of Wray found few birds. A couple of flocks of White-crowned Sparrows and several Song Sparrows were just about it. Again no Eastern Meadowlarks or uncommon sparrows (such as Field, Harris's, or White-throated) were observed.

A White-throated Sparrow was relocated at Sandsage Wildlife Area. I tried to locate the Eastern Screech-Owl heard last night; without success (have not figured out where he spends the day?)

More on the Eastern Plains

March 11, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Hale Ponds area (Yuma County) three hours before sunrise and hiked along the Republican River to Yuma County Road LL.5. I eventually found (heard) 4 Eastern Screech-Owls along the trek.

By the time I reached CR LL.5, it was around sunrise and sparrows started to move about CR 4. A Harris's Sparrow flew across CR 4 (near the old restroom area) and dived into the brush. A Northern Shrike was perched on the telephone wires east of the large cottonwood grove.

Temperatures were again in the low 40s; winds however were calm. I headed north to search for Eastern Meadowlarks and other uncommon birds. While I found two possibilities for an Eastern Meadowlark, neither called or sang to confirm that.

While walking along a section of CR 9 a rancher stopped to see what I was doing. He talked about these bright red birds visiting his feeders. The description suggested Purple Finches and he took me back to his ranch. Sure enough, two adult male and a female Purple Finches came by. He believed that the Purple Finches first showed up the day before Christmas.

I continued my tourney by driving the country roads along the eastern border of Colorado. While driving the 2 miles of Yuma CR RR south of Highway 36 a flock of sparrows caught my attention. A Vesper Sparrow appeared among the White-crowned Sparrows popping up from the field.

Sandy Bluff State Trust Land was closed to visitors. I stopped a played an Eastern Screech-Owl recording in an attempt to attract some sparrows. White-crowned and American Tree Sparrows flew up to take a look. An Eastern Screech-Owl answered the playback.

I always enjoy stopping at the historic Beecher Island. Terry Johnston does an interesting take of its history in one of his books. While trying to photograph a Say's Phoebe perched on a branch I heard the familiar song of Northern Cardinal. A bright red male fluttered about the western end of the property.

Simmons Wildlife Area off Yuma CR 22 is a fine example of eastern prairie land. Several dozen sparrows (including another Vesper Sparrow) flew around the property. Forty or so Lapland Longspurs and one male McCown's Longspur were among 200+ Horned Larks.

Back on Yuma CR RRRR, this time 1.6 miles south of CR 23 I found another flock of longspurs among the Horned Larks. Another male McCown's Longspur was picked out of 2 dozen Lapland Longspurs.

I stopped at the end of CR 31 and watched a few White-crowned Sparrows, 1 or 2 McCown's Longspurs, and many Lapland Longspurs fly about.

Just before sunrise I drove to Kevin O'Brien's' Greater Prairie-Chicken lek. No Greater Prairie-Chickens displayed on the lek, but I did see one cross the road. The property owner, a friend I have met on many occasions, came by to catch me up. He has only seen a few Greater Prairie-Chickens on his land in 2008 and 2009. He did give directions to a neighbor's property where he thinks "his" Greater Prairie-Chicken moved. He started running cattle on the land where his lek was located two years ago and thinks that contributed to the Greater Prairie-Chickens move.

I stopped a played an Eastern Screech-Owl recording as I passed Sandsage Wildlife Area. The resident Eastern Screech-Owl answered back nicely!

Colorado Eastern Plains

March 10, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I needed to get out and bird alone and do some walking. It seems that I have been doing too much "car birding" lately. Temperatures were in the 30s or low 40s; at least winds were not as strong as last weekend.

I spent the day walking around Bonny Reservoir (Yuma County) but keeping in mind that I wanted to checkout a possible Greater Prairie-Chicken lek at sunset.

The first three hours I did my 4 mile loop around the Hale Ponds area. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were west of the most eastern pond and also along Yuma County Road 4.

A Brown Thrasher was seen in thickets near the driveway of the first ranch west of Hale Ponds. These bushes have been quite good for Harris's Sparrows and other sparrows in the past. A flock of 9 White-crowned Sparrows and 17 American Tree Sparrows were all that were here today.

Long-eared Owls can still be found wintering in the Hale Store windbreak. Having made a count earlier this winter, I only walked around long enough to confirm that at least two Long-eared Owls remain.

Next I walked the gated road along the south side of Bonny Reservoir. Another pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a flock of 7 Eastern Bluebirds were observed along here. The resident Wild Turkey left many tracks and eventually I found 2 of them crossing the road.

From the dam I could pick out 2 Greater Scaup among quite a few ducks and geese. At least two Cackling Geese, many Snow Geese, and at least 2 Ross's Geese were among the hordes.

Finally I walked CR 3 along the northern side of Bonny Reservoir. A pair of Northern Cardinals were west of the campgrounds. The Long-eared Owl observed earlier in winter in the windbreak east of the campgrounds was not found today.

No Burrowing Owls have arrive yet at the Yuma County Road 7 Prairie Dog Village just east of Highway 385. The nearby Greater Prairie-Chicken lek did not have any displaying birds this evening.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First Grouse Trip of 2009

March 3 through 9, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

The first grouse trip of the year is on the books. It was a little early to hunt for grouse but Lori and Chuck Wheeling found it to be the only time they had this year for the trip. Sue Ehlmann joined us for a successful trip. We found all the gallinaceous birds on our target list. Even the most difficult one, if you want to guess the answer is below.

March 3
We started out by looking at Rosy Finches at Fawnbrook Inn at Allenspark, Boulder County and then going into the mountains west of Denver. Our first attempt at White-tailed Ptarmigan was a bust. We looked for a good hour and a half, no luck.

We got a quick look at Barrow's Goldeneyes as we passed the Blue River Water Treatment Plant in Silverthorne, Summit County.

No feeders with seeds were found in Kremmling, Grand County and we drove up to Rabbit Ears Pass where American Three-toed Woodpeckers were also missed.

At sunset we drove Jackson County Road 26 north of Highway 14. Two Greater Sage-Grouse were found which allowed us to skip the Timberlake Lek north of Craig.

March 4

Before sunrise we sat at the 20 Road Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek south of Hayden, Routt County. It is definitely early in the season, but we got lucky. Two males displayed on the east side of the road for us!

Our next location was Oxbow Wildlife Area. Again it was early but we hoped to catch an early Sage Sparrow returning to his breeding grounds. Unfortunately neither a Sage Sparrow or Sage Thrasher could be found.

A Cameo-Coal Creek Canyon, Mesa County a Chukar jumped out of the ditch on the west side of the road across from the old stone house.

We started up the Grand Mesa to search for crossbills and owls. It was snowing rapidly when we arrived at the Powderhorn Ski area. A Three-toed Woodpecker was heard drumming below the western end of the upper parking lot.

Taking the advice of Richard Stevens we returned to Denver rather than drive farther up the Grand Mesa and a possible snow storm.

March 5

Too early for Black-throated Sparrows at the Colorado National Monument, Mesa County we drove the subdivision just outside the eastern entrance. At least 21 Gambel's Quail were found walking around just after sunrise.

The monument was slow. Too early for Gray Vireos, Gray Flycatchers, and Warblers, we did hope for a White-throated Swift or two. The view was spectacular; birds were rare.

A Juniper Titmouse was found in the campgrounds. Several Pinyon Jays called from below the overlook but they eluded our binoculars. Finally at the overlook, three White-throated Swifts flew by looking for insects which seemed pretty rare in the cold air.

At Escalante Canyon, Delta County we drove down to Pinnacle Rock to see if the Black Phoebes had returned yet. It did not appear that they had. On the trip out Lori pointed out a Chukar on the rocks just east of the sheep corral.

Confluence Park in Delta added additional Barrow's Goldeneyes, Ross's Geese, and a Tundra Swan to our trip list.

Fruitgrower's Reservoir, Delta had a few ducks and grebes, no shorebirds. Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were in the cottonwoods below the west end at Evelyn Horn's home.

The last hour of daylight was used up at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Gunnison County. On our third pass between the entrance and the Visitor's Center, Lori again with her great eyes spotted a Dusky Grouse about 15 feet off the road. It was about 20 yards west of the road to the campgrounds.

March 6

Before sunrise we drove Gunnison Road 884 toward the Waunita Hot Springs Lek. A Gunnison Sage-Grouse walked across the road; another flew over our heads and over to the lek.

We searched an hour at Tunnel Drive in Canon City, Fremont County for the Golden-crowned Sparrow. Several White-crowned Sparrows and one Rufous-crowned Sparrow were found, but no Golden-crowned.

It was recommended that we drive the Swallows Road just west of Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo County. The road is known for Curve-billed Thrashers, Sage Thrashers, Shrikes, and Scaled Quail. Only 3 Scaled Quail and a Loggerhead Shrike were recorded today.

We stopped briefly at the marinas at Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo County. No rare gulls were found in 30 minutes at each marina and we decided to move on.

Few rare birds had been reported at the various southeastern reservoirs and we decided to reach Cottonwood Canyon, Baca County while there was plenty of daylight to bird.

The usual residents were found at Cottonwood Canyon. Added to our trip list: 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows, 2 Lewis's Woodpeckers, half a dozen Canyon Towhees, 8 Chihuahuan Ravens, and a pair of Mountain Bluebirds.

No Eastern Phoebes or kingbirds were expected and none were found. After dusk we did hear 2 Western Screech-Owls and saw one of them land in a tree above our heads.

March 7

Fourteen Lesser Prairie-Chickens displayed at the Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek outside of Elkhart, Kansas.

Being 50 miles farther south than the Campo Lek, Colorado didn't add any migrants to our trip list. A few White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and 1 Vesper Sparrow and Western Meadowlarks were around, not much else.

We passed the road into the Campo Lek on our trip back to Springfield, Baca County. The road heading north from there is usually good for Sage Thrashers; it appeared to be too early for them.

A Burrowing Owl was found in the prairie dog village just west of there. A Curve-billed Thrasher was under the trees with the large Swainson's Hawk nest, again not far west of the Campo Lek road off Baca County Road G.

Two Buttes Reservoir, Baca County was quiet. Chuck found a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker along the creek. We couldn't find a Barn Owl or any migrating birds.

Lamar Community College was also quiet. We couldn't find the previously reported Northern Cardinals or Red-bellied Woodpeckers. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen at Willow Creek Park north of the College.

We missed Eastern Screech-Owls at Bonny Reservoir, Yuma County but were rewarded with several short looks at Long-eared Owls.

March 8

Six Greater Prairie-Chickens were watched at a lek on private land in Yuma County. We then drove over to the Yuma County Road 45 Lek where two additional Greater Prairie-Chickens were still displaying.

The stop was a success. We found 2 Northern Bobwhite on the old logs near the old city dump. Since our tremendous snow storms a couple of winters ago, many of the gallinaceous birds took a big hit. Northern Bobwhite seem to have taken the worst of it.

All the great gulls found at Jumbo Reservoir, Logan and Sedgwick Counties appeared to be gone by the time we reached the area. Two Greater White-fronted Geese and many Ross's Geese remained.

We drove the Mountain Plover Loop in Weld County. A few Lapland Longspurs still wander around the short grass prairie. We didn't find any McCown's or Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Mountain Plovers or Burrowing Owls. Crow Valley Campgrounds appeared empty of birds.

March 9

It was our second attempt at finding a White-tailed Ptarmigan. This time the search was a success. A Ptarmigan was found walking around the rocks on the west side of Highway 6 as we scoped the area from the first pullover south of the Summit. Thankfully it saved us from the 0.6 mile climb up the west side to their usual location.

Lori and Chuck has just enough time to make it to DIA and their flight home.

Monday, March 9, 2009

South Platte River at 88th Avenue, Adams County

March 9, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston and I arrived at Memorial Park in Arvada about an hour before sunrise. We walked around for two hours searching for the possible Northern Saw-whet Owl reported yesterday. Our search went from Memorial Park to North Jeffco Park to the west.

We did not find any small owls but the trip was not a total lost. An Eastern Screech-Owl popped its head out of a hole in the large cottonwoods at the east end!

Temperatures started to warm up and we decided to hike the South Platte River at 88th avenue in search of sparrows. Sparrows were quite rare. We found a couple of Song Sparrows east of the parking area.

The greatest number of sparrows was found while we detoured along Clear Creek to York Street and back. Harris's Sparrows have been found here on several occasions in the past, but not today. Our sparrow count was 9 Field, 2 Song, and 5 White-crowned.

Quite a few ducks are still "wintering" along the S. Platte. Northern Pintail Ducks and Northern Shoveler were in high numbers. The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was again observed on the River below the green/white tower.

The Barrow's Goldeneyes eventually flew to the southern West Gravel Lake where they joined 3 Herring Gulls and an adult California Gull. A Loggerhead Shrike was at the Engineers Lake south of the confluence of the S. Platte and Clear Creek.

About 140 Ring-billed Gulls were at the south end of Tani Reservoir. Winds had picked up and were blowing toward this end. We assume that brought more food possibilities here or the gulls just did not want to fly northward in the stiff winds?

After taking Gary home, I drove through Barr Lake. Things were pretty slow there; winds had gotten quite strong and the high waves made counting waterfowl difficult.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mountain Birding!

March 7, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Gary Weston, Tom Warring, and I found 12+ Barrow's Goldeneyes at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County), then returned to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County). We hiked up the trail west of Highway 6 and found 3 White-tailed Ptarmigan. They were in the flat area (with a ditch) about 0.7 miles up. It easy to find the area as it is the only flat area south (or north) of the trail.

Afterwards drove over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found until we hiked along the Strawberry Jack Trail and south of the Parkview Trail. A female Three-toed Woodpecker was probably the one reported by Merlynn Brown yesterday. It was along the Strawberry Jack Trail and approximately 250 yards south of the Parkview Trail.

While in the area, a Northern Pygmy-Owl started calling. It could have been the one reported by James Junda on 2/3. This was approximately 300 yards south of the intersection of the Strawberry Jack and Parkview Trails.

Birding in Larimer & Boulder Counties

March 6, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Tom Warring and I met at Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer County) about an hour before sunrise. No Short-eared Owls were found flying around this morning. We walked the windbreak just before sunrise and found 2 Long-eared Owls hidden in the evergreens.

We met up again at Swede Lake (Exit 262 of I25). It was fortunate that we parked along the western service road and about 50 yards north of Larimer County Road 32. While we scoped the whole lake, a flock of about 10 American Wigeons and the male Eurasian Wigeon were observed in a finger of the lake that could only be seen from our vantage point. Ten yards either direction and we were have missed the ducks. They swam in and out of the cove several times; eventually we lost them against the southern shore. I do not believe the cove could be seen from CR 32.

Tom had to leave for work and I decided to drive over to nearby Fossil Creek Reservoir. When I arrived a flock of 100+ White-cheeked Geese and 7+ Greater White-fronted Geese were along the south shore of Fossil Creek Reservoir. Winds were predicted to get quite strong today. However in my experience, if one gets out early, there are still an hour or two of calm before the storm on windy days.

When the geese saw my car, they flew to the field (backyard) of a house at the northeast corner of the lake. Scoping the lake from the broken pier (soon to be taken down) did not find the previously reported scoter.

In the end, I hiked both the Cattail and Sandpiper Trails. Cattails, the eastern trail allowed a limited view of Swede Lake. Unfortunately the sun was to the east which made it impossible to relocate the Eurasian Wigeon. No uncommon ducks were seen at this end.

Along Sandpiper, the western trail a Northern Harrier stood on one of the perches provided by the park. From the western end I again did not see a scoter, but found 2 Greater Scaup among many Redheads and a dozen Lesser Scaup.

Quite a few additional ducks were far out along the northern shore and left unidentified. The scoter could still be out there.

I worked my way south stopping at Donath Lake, Boyd Lake State Park, Horseshoe Lake, and Lake Loveland. The only uncommon Gull found was an adult Thayer's Gull swimming in the southeast corner of Horseshoe Lake (directly west of Boyd Lake State Park).

While I waited for Tom to finish some work he had in Loveland I continued south into Boulder County in search of the previously reported Mew Gulls. The six swans were still at Baxter Lake. Winds were gaining power which made looking through my scope difficult. I thought the swans had large bills, long necks, and a deeply sloped nape; all indications of Trumpeter Swans to me.

Nothing unusual was found at Ish Reservoir. No Mew Gulls were at Jim Hamm Park. I did find my first Tree Swallow and California Gull of the year. The six previously reported American White Pelican were also at Jim Hamm Park. By now, winds had picked up to 21+ mph with gusts to 32 mph. No uncommon gulls were found at Union Reservoir (Weld) across County Line Road from Jim Hamm Park.

Walden Ponds (Boulder) was also quiet. Boulder Reservoir did not add anything uncommon to my trip list.

Back at Loveland I met up with Tom and we headed to Fort Collins and Rist Canyon in search of Northern Pygmy-Owls. None were found in the now roaring winds. We had planned on driving up to Pennock Pass just to checkout conditions (snow?, open or closed roads) and then continue to Cameron Pass for Boreal Owls. With the predicted advancing snowstorm and high winds it was decided that such a trek would be useless and we turned for Denver and home.

Search for Greater Prairie-Chickens

March 2 to 5
To be written in a bit!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cherry Creek Reservoir

March 1, 2009

Richard Stevens:

While doing chores I passed through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). What a beautiful day with temperatures in the mild 60s; winds were calm(ish).

I scoped the eastern sand spit for the first winter Slaty-backed Gull reported yesterday by Bill Schmoker; without success.

I did find an interesting Gull among the 60 or so gulls (Ring-billed and Herring Gulls). This Gull had a dark mantle but not near as dark as a Great Black-backed Gull or even Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was the same size or slightly bigger than the adult Herring Gull standing next to it.

Its head and neck had scattered brown streaks. When it stood it revealed bright pink legs. The yellow bill had a darkish reddish spot near the tip. It was too far away to tell the color of its eye.

This Gull fit the description of an adult Slaty-backed Gull? Could an adult and her offspring have migrated to Colorado together? I watched the Gull for about an hour. It changed position several times so I could see the color of the mantle. It appeared much darker than a Herring Gull or not? The color could still be a result of the light (which was mostly back lit).

I have seen several Herring Gulls that looked like the description that Bill Schmoker gave of his possible first winter Slaty-backed Gull. Perhaps they are hybrids of some type? In both cases, I figure his and my gulls were Herring Gulls. Will look further into them.

Several people eventually walked by and scared up all the gulls which then flew west. I plan to return tomorrow for another look.

Aurora Reservoir and Boulder County

February 28, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I met up with Bill Cryder and Terry Michaels at sunrise and we searched Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) for gulls as soon as it opened (we did not see any black backed gulls fly toward the DADS landfill while we waited for the reservoir to open).

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the edge of the swim beach when we arrived. Unfortunately, it only stayed for about 15 minutes and took off toward the Landfill. Other gulls there included a few Herring Gulls and many Ring-billed Gulls.

Next we drove up to the S. Platte River at 88th Avenue (Adams) and looked for uncommon gulls; without success. Have not seen the Glaucous Gull in a while now!

We hiked down to the green/white tower and saw a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes on the S. Platte. There are still many ducks wintering on the river. We did not take the time to scope East and West Gravel Lakes.

Terry Michaels left for home and Bill and I headed to Boulder to look for the previously reported Mew Gulls. There were no Mew Gulls at Walden Ponds or Jim Hamm Park (Boulder). We could not pick out any Mew Gulls at Union Reservoir (Weld) either.

After sunset we drove over around the county and found a Long-eared Owl at its usual spot (unadvertised as it is on private land).

Aurora Reservoir & Lower Church Lake

February 27, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I did not find a Lesser Black-backed Gull or Short-eared Owl at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) this morning. Nor at Quincy Reservoir. We did see an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at the swim beach at Aurora Reservoir. Unfortunately only for about 3 minutes before it took off for the DADS landfill.

In the afternoon Rebecca and I were looking for a drive to get out in the fresh air and chose Lower Church Lake (Jefferson County). Temperature was 35 degrees. Anemometer readings steady at 34 mph with gusts at 49 & 52 mph.

The five Trumpeter Swans (Mihm-Dunning, 2/7) were huddled down behind the cattails at the northern end of Lower Church Lake. They were so close, but only one raised its head up just once to look around. The wind could have blown it off. At least two Canvasbacks were also observed bobbing up and down on the waves.

The Arvada restaurant we ate at had its front door blown open and the glass shattered.