Monday, August 31, 2009

Search for Target Birds in the Mountains

August 30, 2009

Richard Stevens:

This morning, I only had about an hour before having to meet 4 birders for a trip into the mountains. I scoped the new wetlands at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was lying in the sand on the east side of the pond area. It stood up once and then lay back down.

Also in the area were 4 Wilson's Snipe, a Virginia Rail, 3 Baird's Sandpipers, 2 White-faced Ibis, and a few ducks and other unidentified sandpipers.

At the northeast corner of the lake I thought I saw a Sabine's Gull on the sand spit. Unfortunately, I had stopped at the lower parking area for the boat launch area. A ranger came down and asked me to move (no parking down there on weekends, though I was not parked only stopped for 3 minutes). By the time I found another place to park, the mystery Gull had flown away.

Five of us drove up to Guanella pass by way of Grant (highway 285). I decided on this location (instead of Mt Evans) because their second target bird was an American Three-toed Woodpecker and thought we had better chance at success at Pine Valley Ranch Park.

Luck was with us today on both target birds. We were not out of the car 20 minutes before finding an adult and 3 obviously younger White-tailed Ptarmigan on the south side of the south south-east of the upper Guanella Pass parking area. I have spent 4+ hours to find one; 20 minutes is nothing.

At Pine Valley Ranch Park, I was prepared to hike the several miles from the parking area to the intersection of the Parkview and Strawberry Jack trails to find a Three-toed Woodpecker. Again it took less than 20 minutes to find a male Three-toed Woodpecker at 40 yards east of the Buck Gulch trail and 150 yards south of Pine Lake!

Back in Denver, I returned to Cherry Creek Reservoir to see if I could get a photo of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. What I found was 30+ birders (one with a dog); figuring the sandpiper was not going to approach closer, I left.

Trip to Northern and Eastern Colorado

August 28 and 29, 2009

To be filled in later today!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Escaping the Heat in Jackson County

August 21 to 25, 2009

Sue Ehlmann: Dianne Weston, Rebecca Kosten, and I decided to get away from the heat in Denver and spent a few days at a cabin in Jackson County. We birded parts of the days, but not as much as our male counterparts would have. We did have some fun!

Highs only reached the low 80s; lows at night dropped into the high 40s! It was very enjoyable in spite of several thunderstorms. We skipped looking for owls on several nights as we figured the thunder and lightning would greatly diminish our chances of success.

August 21

On the trip up we made the detour over to the South Boulder Creek Trail along Highway 93, south of Boulder. The previously reported Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was hawking insects when we arrived.

August 22

Early in the morning we listened for Boreal Owls at the Crags Campgrounds. One owl called from 80-100 yards south of the Campgrounds! On the walk back to our car, a Dusky Grouse crossed the road which runs south from the west side of the Campgrounds.

We stopped at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center and watched hummingbirds. In the two hours of our visit over 60 hummingbirds could be seen at one time. Most of them were females, though a couple of male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds also flew in for a drink.

August 23

We birded about a mile hike up Ruby Jewel Road searching for Boreal Owls. None made a sound this morning. A Three-toed Woodpecker was drumming away at approximately 100 yards east of Michigan Creek Road.

We watched hummingbirds at the KOA Campgrounds and the Gould Store. Again most of the 80+ birds were females. No Calliope Hummingbirds flew in that we could identify.

August 24
We wandered out in the middle afternoon and drove several of the gravel roads north of Delaney Butte Lakes and Lake John Wildlife Area. The rolling hills were very impressive in the late afternoon light. Winds were calm and the scenery very sedate!

There were no surprises at either of the wildlife areas. No Greater Sage-Grouse were found; we even checked the lek north of Delaney Buttes. It was a very pleasant drive however.

August 25

Up an hour before sunrise, we listened for Boreal Owls at Ranger Lake. A pair nested in the vicinity this spring; but no owls called this morning.

After sunrise we found a Townsend's Warbler flying about the Campgrounds.

We drove over to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge where we had better luck. A pair of Greater Sage-Grouse was seen crossing the road that runs south from the west side of the ranger's office/Visitor's Center.

A few Sage Thrashers and Brewer's Sparrows were perched on the many sage bushes.

Exploring Southeastern Colorado

August 17 to 27, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Exploring southeast Colorado including Comanche National Grasslands, the Cimarron River, Cottonwood Canyon, Mt Carrizo and Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area. Read about the adventure in October's "Colorado Field Notes".

Preview of birds found in order seen:
Northern Waterthrush, Flammulated Owls, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Vermilion Flycatchers, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Painted Bunting, Baird's Sparrow and more!

Barr Lake State Park

August 15, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard Stevens and I went over to Barr Lake (Adams County) to search for yesterday's Northern Parula and Townsend's Warbler reported by Jacob Washburn. We could not find the Northern Parula but did get glimpses of the Townsend's Warbler high in the cottonwoods (near mile marker 8.2).

A medium size owl flew around east of the Pioneer Trail (mile marker 8.1). Neither of us got a good enough look to tell if it was the Barn Owl or a Great Horned Owl.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Douglas County Wanderings

August 14, 2009

Richard Stevens:

After doing some owling 3 hours before sunrise in Douglas County (heard one Northern Saw-whet Owl) Bryan Ehlmann and I hung around Castlewood Canyon State Park to see if the Black Vulture was still around. We also searched several locations where Common Poorwills had been found in the past; without success this morning.

Shortly after sunrise, we stood along Castlewood Canyon Road about 0.2 miles south of the entrance to the Winkler Ranch and listen to the early morning chorus of birds. It was an enjoyable way to start the morning. Some of the birds heard from the one spot were Spotted Towhee, Gray Catbird, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Vesper Sparrow, and a male Blue Grosbeak!

We did not see the Black Vulture between 9:30am and 11:00am. The usual Turkey Vultures took off over the northwest entrance about 10:17am. No Black Vulture was among them.

Then we wandered west to Louviers to see if any Lewis's Woodpeckers were still around; without success (kind of the story of our day). A walk around the town of Louviers did not find the previously reported Northern Cardinal.

Many Eurasian Collared-Doves still plague the town. They are about the only bird one hears when walking around this small town. Several Lesser Goldfinches and American Goldfinches were at the southeast corner and not much else.

We did not get to Barr Lake until late afternoon. Winds were 8+ mph with gusts to 14 mph. The Northern Parula found this morning was not relocated by me. We did finally manage to relocate the Townsend's Warbler in the Cottonwoods around mile marker 8.2. There are plenty of mosquitoes out there also!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

DIA Owl Loop and Cherry Creek Reservoir

August 13, 2009

Richard Stevens:

It was a resting day after weeks of hiking and birding!

I enjoyed a casual drive around the DIA Owl Loop, hoping to find one of the McCown's Longspurs reported recently. Unfortunately, our total bird count (not including the 14 Burrowing Owls) was just 3 Horned Larks. Winds were steady at 14 mph with gusts to 23 mph; not helpful in a hunt for birds that prefer to stay on the ground.

Afterwards, we drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). No birds were around the southwest marina (poles circling the area). One Herring Gull was on the southeast sand spit. While watching the Gull, I noticed a small tern circling overhead. It turned out to be a Common Tern!

After dark I tried to get a response to a Great Horned Owl recording at the Campgrounds and the woods west of the Shop Creek Trail. No luck, I have not heard an owl at the State Park in months.

Guanella Pass and Pike National Forest

August 12, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Eric Moser, Russ Givens and I went up to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County). We hiked around 4 hours before finally finding an adult and juvenile White-tailed Ptarmigan. The birds were on the south side of the hill southeast of the main parking area. If you take the 603 trail straight up the hill, the birds were 40 yards directly south of the top of the hill.

Next we hiked around Guanella Pass Campgrounds in search of an American Three-toed Woodpecker. Since their favorite trees along the Pass Road were bull-dozed down in the process of road improvements, Three-toed Woodpeckers are more difficult to find even though they are up there.

Eventually a male Three-toed Woodpecker was found while we hiked up the Lost Silver Dollar Trail (about 800 yards west of Guanella Pass Road).

Around the Campgrounds, we found MacGillivray's Warblers and Wilson's Warblers in the willows along the stream. A pair of Pine Grosbeaks was west of the Campgrounds. A flock of 6 Red Crossbills came in and ate from the pine cones before moving eastward.

They mentioned that a search for a Northern Pygmy-Owl would be good so we headed over to the Pike National Forest. While access to past Locations is a little closer from Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson), there is no parking there after dark.

Instead we drove up Forest Road 550 to the southern parking area for Pike National Forest. We then hiked the two miles into the forest to the Park View Trail (by way of the Strawberry Jack Trail). Most of the hike is through scattered trees (not thick forest) and the walk was quite enjoyable. The almost full moon lit the path well and flashlights were not required.

Our efforts were rewarded. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was calling about 400 yards south of the Park View Trail. It responded to our recordings and came closer. Allowing us a nice 20 second look though our spotlight, we stopped after that as to not further bother the owl.

Finally, we stopped along Forest Road 550 at 3 locations where I have gathered waypoints on Flammulated Owls. At one of the three, we obtained a response from my recordings!

Cherry Creek State Park

August 11, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I made a quick drive through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County); At least one Black-chinned Hummingbird is still lingering behind the Ranger's Office. It perches in the trees at the southeast corner of the fence around the maintenance parking area. When not there, the male hummingbird flies over for some nourishment to the feeder at the house directly east of said corner.

Afterwards, we road our bikes along the east side of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Buckley Road between 56th and 88th avenues. Not many birds were found, but the Burrowing Owl count was 11.

Pawnee National Grasslands and Owling Trip

August 6 through 9, 2009

Richard Stevens:

August 6

Jim Fuller, Brad Hutton and I returned to the Pawnee National Grasslands area (Weld) for another search for Mountain Plovers.

On the trip up we stopped at Lower Latham Reservoir and Beebe Draw Ponds. No uncommon birds were observed. We did relocate Dickcissels at two locations (CR 42 and CR 45).

We enjoyed walking around several fields in spite of the hot temperatures. It took an hour to find a Mountain Plover at the field north of CR 94 and CR 63. About a dozen Burrowing Owls were scattered around west of the old cement drain (north of CR 94). Finally a Mountain Plover was found 1012 yards west of the old cement drain and 20 yards north of the dirt road that leads west.

Swift Foxes were out at both the dens that I discovered on August 3rd (two of four dens found that day)!

We continued east to Murphy's Pasture (CR 96) and found several McCown's Longspurs along CR 96. A 30 minute walk around the field south of CR 96 at 1.7 miles west of CR 77 added another Mountain Plover to our day list.

Many Brewer's Sparrows, the Clay-colored Sparrow nest (first recorded Weld County record), and several Lark Buntings were found as we continued back west. No Chestnut-collared Longspurs could be found here or south of CR 69 and 96.

Two Cassin's Sparrows were observed along CR 69, just north of CR 96. There are a bunch of Yucca Plants in the area (the only we saw along CR 69). Thanks to Nick Komar for pointing out this spot!

We had to drive up to Highway 85 and CR 114 to get out Chestnut-collared Longspur for the trip. We only had to walk about halfway to the windmill in the southeast field before finding two male Chestnut-collared Longspurs. They were still singing and displaying (seems late in the season?).

Burrowing Owls were found at many locations including:
Hwy 14 & CR 51
CR 90 & CR 51
North of CR 94 & CR 63
Hwy 14 & 0.7 miles east of CR 51

After dinner we continued to Pennock Pass. Having made half a dozen trips up there this year; it only took a few minutes to find Flammulated Owls. In fact, we had 4 Flammulated Owls spread around 3 Locations.

Returning to Highway 14, a Common Poorwill was found along Stove Prairie Road at 0.3 miles south of Highway 14. It answered our recordings and was seen in our spotlight.

August 7

We did not arrive at Cameron Pass (Jackson County) until after midnight. No Boreal Owls were found at my favorite spots (usual Locations).

We finally located a Boreal Owl after a three mile hike into the Colorado State Forest. We enjoyed the hike (from the end of Michigan Creek Road) along the road heading east into the forest. Several owl boxes are located in the area. While none were used again this year (fifth year in a row), a pair of Boreal Owls nesting in Aspens near the boxes!

I found several birders like myself a glutton for punishment; we continued west to the old Teller City ghost town (foregoing any sleep for a few more hours).

While we could not relocate any American Three-toed Woodpeckers, we did manage to find one of the two Northern Pygmy-Owls that appear to be nesting at the southwest corner of the self guided hiking tour around the old Silver mining town. Remnants of the "house of ill-repute" and several cabins are still up there!

Beware; a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is definitely required to reach the ghost town.

After getting a few hours sleep, toward sunset, we drove around Jackson County Road 26 but did not find any Greater Sage-Grouse. After dark we searched for owls around Gould; without success.

August 8

We got a few more hours of sleep this morning and then drove north to Steamboat Springs State Park and north to Columbine. The forests east of Columbine have been good for White-winged Crossbills in the past. Unfortunately, we could not find any.

Several Sandhill Cranes were found while driving around the gravel county roads north of Columbine. A few hummingbirds

We birded around Walden Reservoir, Delaney Buttes Wildlife Area, and Lake John Wildlife Area. No uncommon birds were found.

A drive along Jackson County Road 25 did not find any grouse but we did see plenty of Sage Thrashers and Brewer's Sparrows.

Near sunset we returned to the county roads south of Gould to look for owls. This time we heard Northern Pygmy-Owls at two locations!

August 9

After a few hours of sleep, we drove to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. Two Greater Sage-Grouse crossed the road that heads south from the Ranger's Office east of Highway 125.

Our trek continued south along highway 125 south toward Granby. We stopped many times and listen and played recordings for American Three-toed Woodpeckers. Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at five locations along this road where the forest seems to have been devastated by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

Waypoints were taken at all locations. Two successful sites were in Jackson County and three in Grand County.

A quick stop at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) found a surprise. A male Barrow's Goldeneye was among many more common ducks. It seems a little early for Barrow's Goldeneyes to be moving south?

Before returning to Denver, we drove up Grand County Road 14 (north and west of Kremmling). This area has been good for Red Crossbills and owls in the past; we relished no success today.

Return to Jefferson County

August 5, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I thought I would give the Magnificent Hummingbird seen up in Bailey (Jefferson County) another shot even though several birders and I had missed it the past couple of days. I had no better luck today.

On the way back to Denver, I drove to the southern parking area for Pike National Forest. The two mile hike along the Strawberry Jack Trail to the Parkview Trail found about the same birds found a few weeks ago.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Mountain Bluebirds, White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Chipping Sparrows are still tending to families.

At 120 yards south of the Park View Trail, I observed an adult American Three-toed Woodpecker feeding a young bird.

I could not find any of the elusive Northern Pygmy-Owls.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Western Slope Birding Trip (part 7, final)

I am not quite ready to post Western Slope Trip part 7. Richard wanted me to post this to keep things somewhat in chronological order.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Drive through Jefferson, Douglas & Adams Counties

August 4, 2008

Richard Stevens:

I drove up to Bailey (Jefferson County) to see if the Magnificent Hummingbird found last week was still anywhere in the area; without success.

Before sunrise, I relocated the Common Poorwill northwest of the main Reynolds Park parking area. I also heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl east along Foxton Road (the road to and past Reynolds Park).

On the way home I stopped at the Winkler Ranch (Castlewood Canyon Road, south of the State Park) and counted at least 5 male and 2 female Bobolink. I heard at least one Dickcissel but did not have the time to put binoculars on it.

Burrowing Owls are still spread around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Pawnee National Grasslands

August 3, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Suzy Murphy and I birded Pawnee National Grasslands and surrounding areas.

A quick stop at Cottonwood Marsh found Least Bittern (off Artist's Point) and a lone and uncommon for that area Sage Thrasher (trail just below Artist's Point).

On the grasslands I took waypoints of Chipping Sparrow in five locations. We found a first Weld County breeding record (4 witness's to young--being fed and adult Clay-colored Sparrows; see future "Colorado Field Notes"). A few Grasshopper Sparrows and Cassin's Sparrows were also around.

Burrowing Owls were relocated at five locations.
Northeast corner Highway 14 & Weld CR 51
Southeast corner of Hwy 14 & CR 51
Northeast corner of CR 51 & CR 90
Field North of CR 94 and CR 63
Field South of CR 96 and 1.7 miles west of CR 77

I found one Mountain Plover at the field North of Weld CR 94 and CR 63. It took about 1.5 hours to find one. The plover was 1012 yards west of the old cement drain and 20 yards north of the dirt track.

We also found an adult and juvenile Ferruginous Hawks, one Prairie Falcon, and a Golden Eagle.

The highlight for me was 4 Swift Fox Dens spread around the grasslands. I saw 2 young at each (duh 8 total) and Suzy saw an adult while I was searching for Mountain Plover.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Western Slope Birding Trip (part 6)

Bryan Ehlmann: Hello cobirders,

Over the next three weeks I will be leading the CoBus summer birding tour. Sue and I are the core of the group and we will be joined at times by up to 7 other birders including Richard Stevens, Rebecca Kosten, Gary Weston, Jerry Petrosky, a few other Colorado birders and a couple of out of state birders.

Unfortunately the format of this blog doesn't allow chronological order of our trip. See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 below.

July 29

Ehlmann group:

We continued to search for Yellow-billed Cuckoos but did not get any response early this morning around Hotchkiss or Paonia today. For the most part, we were again limited to public property and missed much good habitat on private property. There just wasn't enough time to run down landowners to obtain permission to enter private property.

We did find a Lewis's Woodpecker in Paonia; it was a new county bird for the three of us!

Campgrounds birded today included McCluskey and Roeber. We spent a lot of time around Paonia Reservoir, but had to see what Minnesota and Beaver Reservoir looked like. McCluskey and Roeber Wildlife Areas were visited also.

After receiving a text message about a Common Black Hawk and Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Hotchkiss, we returned to Hotchkiss in the afternoon. Our only hint was 0.5 miles southwest of town. We drove around the county roads found neither the Yellow-billed Cuckoo nor Hawk. We kept our eyes to the skies but never saw the Common Black Hawk.

We then returned to the mountains south and east of Paonia for owling. Our owl count tonight was 1 Northern Saw-whet Owls, 3 Northern Pygmy-Owls (2 Locations), and one Long-eared Owl. Scouting areas helped to find the owls later!

Weston group:

Our big search today was Forest Road 860 to Owl Creek Pass in Ouray County. It was one of the most exciting days so far. Besides finding Three-toed Woodpeckers at 2 Locations, a pair of White-winged Crossbills flew around the road up to Green Mountain!

We continued down to Silver Jack Reservoir and the Middle Fork of the Cimarron River. We found the trail to Big Green Falls and relocated 2 Black Swifts that Coen Dexter had reported on Monday!

We then turned around after dark and returned to Ridgway. Another great highlight was a Boreal Owl at the first switchbacks that turn extremely south from the Summit. There are only 3 or 4 records of Boreal Owls in Ouray County. I have been fortunate to be along during 3 of them!

One Northern Saw-whet Owl and two Northern Pygmy-Owls (2 Locations) were added during our all night journey.

July 30

Our groups are more or less back together staying at a cabin that we have rented for the summer in Montrose County.

Ehlmann group:

With yesterday's report of a Common Black Hawk and Yellow-billed Cuckoo near Hotchkiss, we went back for another look. Neither bird was found again.

We had a short day planned with no owling past midnight. We counted birds at Chipeta Lakes Campgrounds and Chipeta Lake Wildlife Area, Montrose County and Billy Creek Campgrounds and Billy Creek Wildlife Area, Ouray County. We also stopped at Ridgway State Park.

The Common Loon reported a few days ago was still at Ridgway S.P. Nothing unusual was recorded but we did count many nesting birds.

We made it down to Ouray and Box Canyon in time to see that several Black Swifts are still around. Hummingbird feeders in Ouray added Broad-tailed, Rufous, and a Calliope Hummingbirds to our day list.

We had several leads on Western Screech-Owls and Barn Owls around Montrose. They did not pan out either. Not one owl was found tonight. We thought the State Park would have at least one.

Weston group:

We are trying to find a couple of days of good weather to bird the Uncompahgre Plateau and the Telluride area. That left us with Paradox valley and the Nucla area for us today.

Five Black Phoebes were found over 3 Locations (2 at Uravan). Surprisingly, a Long-eared Owl was at the same GPS waypoint as last year!

At Buckeye Reservoir Williamson's Sapsuckers, Grace's Warblers, and a Virginia's Warbler was added to our day list.

After dark we found 5 Northern Pygmy-Owls at 5 stops (four in the Manti La Sal National Forest). Two again were close to GPS waypoints taken last year! One up La Sal Creek.