Sunday, May 17, 2009

Birding Around Denver, Long & Great Day!

May 16, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Barr Lake, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, & Cherry Creek Reservoir

When I heard that the wind which was coming out of the south most of May 15th had shifted to the north-northeast around 10:00pm, it seemed that Saturday would be a good day to bird around Denver. Perhaps I would catch some of the migration that I missed while conducting many grouse trips the past two months?

It was raining, windy, & cold when I left home around 5:30am. After meeting Jerry Petrosky and on the way to Barr Lake (Adams County) by way of the DIA Owl Loop, we almost hit a Barn Owl. It missed my car by less than a foot.

We found out that a foot race was being held at Barr Lake today. Start time was 9:00am; that limited our birding time if we were to leave before the hundreds of runners ran down the same path we wanted to bird.

Walking the Niedrach Trail (mile marker 0.0 to 0.6) found a few birds. Many were in the center of the field defined by the trail loop. A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (mm 0.3), many Yellow Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and Clay-colored Sparrows fluttered about the short willows.

Once at the Niedrach boardwalk (mm 0.5) a Cassin's Vireo was observed in that loop to the south. Half a dozen Bullock's Orioles and twice as many Western Kingbirds were also here. West of the boardwalk (mm 0.6) a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers also included 2 Black-capped Chickadees and a Plumbeous Vireo.

Reversing direction, many House Wrens, 2 Spotted Towhees, and again many Bullock's Orioles moved about from mm 0.0 (9.0) to the banding station. As we scoped the willows next to the banding station (mm 8.7) a plain thrush jumped out and searched for food along the water's edge. It allowed good looks for over a minute and turned out to be a Gray-cheeked Thrush.

We passed up the Pioneer Trail and hiked to mile marker 7.6. A yellowish warbler with a dark head jumped out of the willows at mm 7.8. The dark head, with contrasting darker breast and no eye ring definitely indicated an adult male Mourning Warbler! The bird worked the willows along the water's edge and moved back west.

We reversed our tracks and went down the Pioneer Trail. The Northern Waterthrush that had been around for several days was today walking the eastern side of the trail. To our surprise, the male Mourning Warbler had reached the northeast corner of the Pioneer Trail and allowed us additional looks.

Back at the Pioneer Trailhead (mm 8.1) we saw a Blue Grosbeak and followed it west a little bit. At mm 8.2 a very reddish thrush jumped out of the wild mint. After 5 seconds or so, it returned to the mint. We both agreed that it was a Veery and not a Wood Thrush. The strange morning light did give it an unusual orangish-red color. To both of us the face seemed rather plain and no large spots were observed on its breast.

Jerry was to continue east and north while I hiked back to the parking area to get the car and us out of the increasing foot race traffic.

I drove to the old Stone House and met Jerry around mm 6.2. Jerry had found a 2nd Gray-cheeked Thrush around mm 6.8 (south end of the outlet canal running south to north). Jerry pointed out a large flycatcher south of the old house (turned out to be an Olive-sided Flycatcher).

Our plans were to head to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) with a quick stop at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Weather had improved to partly cloudy skies, less wind, and warmer temps. So we decided to hike the Lake Ladora trail.

It was a good choice; less foot traffic made for quieter air waves. While scoping up the creek running west-southwest from Lower Derby Lake we found a Blackpoll Warbler in the tall cottonwoods. Motion underneath the trees turned out to be a Northern Waterthrush.

Hoping to find one of the Long-eared Owls that I had discovered earlier in the year, we walked to the end of the Rod and Gun Club trail. A Black-and-white Warbler walked up and down the limbs of the large cottonwood at the end of the trail.

Nothing uncommon was found down the Havana Ponds trail and we never relocated any of the Long-eared Owls.

By the time we returned to my car, Jerry decided it was time to leave. I planned to go home and take off my hiking boots (already breaking another promise to my feet to not put them in shoes today).

After hearing of the Philadelphia Vireo at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) Rebecca Kosten and I decided to give that search a go.

The woods west of the Lake Loop were very busy. A Green-tailed Towhee scurried up and down one path. A pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers gobbled insects off the short willows. American Robins, a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, 2 Yellow Warblers, 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers, and one Orange-crowned Warbler were also found.

At the extreme western end (just east of the Mountain Loop parking area) we observed a thrush skulking under some heavy brush. Eventually it allowed 30 second looks; it was another Gray-cheeked Thrush!

It was here that I observed my only "Empidonax" Flycatcher of the day. It was a Cordilleran Flycatcher. The Philadelphia Vireo was never relocated.

We spend another hour around the Russian Olive trees and small pond northwest of the swim beach. The previously reported Northern Waterthrush and American Redstart were not relocated. We were surprised by the large number of Clay-colored Sparrows among the 50+ Chipping Sparrows.

As sunset drew close, I walked from the swim beach to the picnic area to the southeast. Just south of the Covered Smoky Hill Group Picnic Area, I ran into a flock of 124+ Yellow-rumped Warblers. Also in the couple of trees with opposite leaves (Locust?) was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Another warbler had quite an active tail. Thinking it could be the previously reported Palm Warbler, I hung around a bit longer. Not a Palm Warbler, I did identify a colorful Virginia's Warbler!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recommend you go to Bear Creek Lake Park... I spotted a Rose-breasted Grosbeak there.