Tuesday, November 24, 2009

White-tailed Ptarmigan Guanella Pass, Finally!

November 23, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Yesterday, Christa Clarke, John Munro and I found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan at Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County). They were about 400 yards up the hill southeast of the Summit parking area!

Later we searched unsuccessfully for Merlynn Brown's Northern Pygmy-Owl often heard near the Buck Gulch and Strawberry Jack Trails at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). We did find an American Three-toed Woodpecker up the Strawberry Jack Trail at 80 yards east of the Buck Gulch Trail.

Afterwards, I went over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). From the bird platform, Cottonwood Creek Loop, I found 11 Common Loons (a raft of 9 and 2 separate birds that probably were the 2 that have been there for a week or so) and 1 Pacific Loon.

Five+ Bonaparte's Gulls flew around the southeast sand spit where 9 American White Pelicans remain. Many Eared Grebes, a few Horned Grebes, 11+ Pied-billed Grebes, many Western Grebes were in the middle of the lake. No black backed gulls were observed today. Also did not find the Barrow's Goldeneye.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Back at Cherry Creek Reservoir Again

November 22, 2009

Richard Stevens:

With no reason to see the second half of the Broncos game (Final: Chargers 32, Denver 3) I went back to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

On the way, I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) and found the Common Loons off boat ramp. Great-tailed Grackles are still massing south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd and Picadilly Road.

At Cherry Creek Reservoir, water level was a little lower than yesterday. Three plus Bonaparte's Gulls were flying around the northeast corner. A little of the southeastern sand spit was exposed. One hundred and fifty plus gulls (mostly Ring-billed and a few California; no Herring Gull) stood among 10 American White Pelicans and half a dozen White-cheeked Geese.

From the bird platform, I could see two Common Loons. The Virginia Rail came by but was not scolding today. A Marsh Wren came out of the cattails in response to a Swamp Sparrow recording.

I sat at the southwest marina at sunset; only 300+ Ring-billed Gulls stood on the surrounding floating telephone poles at 4:38 pm. Ten minutes later an adult Herring Gull flew in and a little later the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. It had not shown up Saturday, but was there Friday. This could be the same Lesser Black-backed Gull observed by Jerry Petrosky at Aurora Reservoir this morning.

Again, the previously reported male Barrow's Goldeneye was not found. A surprising 27 Pied-billed Grebes were counted between the southeast corner, the bird platform and the southwest marina.

Dozens of Western Grebes swam east of the Dam's Tower. I could not pick out a Clark's Grebe or Red-necked Grebe among them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 21, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I did not have the whole day to bird but managed a few hours in the afternoon.

A quick check of Lake Ladora, Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) found nothing unusual. I circled Mary's Lake while now and then playing a Swamp Sparrow recording. No Swamp Sparrows appeared but a Marsh Wren and Song Sparrow came out of the southeast cattails. A second Marsh Wren was at the middle of the east side cattails.

There were no white geese at Lakecrest at Gateway Park. Hundreds of Cackling Geese and some Canada Geese were there and at nearby Emerald Strand Park.

I ended my birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). I arrived too early (most successful time is about 30 minutes before sunset and wait for the gulls to come to the southwest marina thereafter).

Gull count around the reservoir had to be 25 percent of yesterday's count. Most the loons and grebes had departed. Water level was much higher than yesterday. The southeast sand spit was covered with water. Yesterday, the Pelican count was 81, today I found six.

I scoped the lake from the Dam's Tower parking area, the northeast boat ramp and the bird platform, Cottonwood Creek Loop. It took about an hour to find any birds at the Bird Platform. Finally, I observed one Pacific Loon and Common Loon, both quite a ways north. They dove for a count of 30+ and only surfaced for a count of 4 or 5. Strong winds (20+ mph) produced high waves. There may have been a Red-necked Grebe in the middle of the lake; I finally gave up trying to see bits and pieces as it rode the waves.

Forty-five minutes at sunset to civil twilight was spent at the southwest marina. Only about 110 Ring-billed Gulls flew in to the poles around the marina before it was too dark to see. No California Gulls, no Herring Gulls, and no black backed gulls were found. I did count 3 Bonaparte's Gulls.

Birding Around Denver!

November 20, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed a tremendous birding day on this fantastic fall day.

We started out looking unsuccessfully for the Barrow's Goldeneye at Lakecrest, Gateway Park (Adams County). Hundreds of Cackling Geese and Canada Geese were on the lake. Five Snow Geese and two Ross's Geese were also observed.

A resident talked about the goose problem. I mentioned that having 18 decoys on the lake probably does not help.

We also checked Emerald Strand Park (hundreds of White-cheeked Geese), Green Valley Ranch Recreation Pond (no geese) and Montbello Recreation Center Pond (no geese).

Next, we check the lakes south of Colorado Blvd and 88th Avenue. Here we relocated the Barrow's Goldeneye in the southwest corner of Tani Reservoir. A Long-tailed Duck was at the northwest side of Dahlia Pond. The "tame" Mute Swan was in the private pond north of Dahlia Pond (east of Dahlia and north of 88th Avenue).

The Great-tailed Grackles are still at the first house south of 152nd Avenue and Picadilly Road. No loons or uncommon gulls were found at Barr Lake (Adams).

The day was so nice that we decided to drive over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) instead of ending our birding day. We were hoping to find the Barrow's Goldeneye reported yesterday.

This was a lucky, good decision. From the Bird Platform, Cottonwood Creek Loop I found at least 3 Common Loons and 1 Pacific Loon. At one time, I thought there were 5 loons, 2 of which were Pacific Loons. However, I never saw both at the same time and recorded only one.

While playing a Swamp Sparrow recording, a Virginia Rail jumped up on the dead log and scolded us for making so much noise!

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was not far off shore. I also believe there was a good possibly of a 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull nearby. While watching these gulls, at least one Bonaparte's Gull flew by!

At the southwest marina, there were two huge dark gulls. Definitely, one was an adult Great Black-backed Gull and I thought the other to be a 1st cycle Great Black-backed Gull. The first cycle Gull looked much more like a Great Black-backed Gull than a Herring Gull. It was getting dark and I could only be "mostly sure".

I never located the male Barrow's Goldeneye reported yesterday.

Warren Lake

November 19, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I drove up to Fort Collins and Warren Lake (Larimer County).

We digiscoped the mysterious Gull (possible Western Gull). While no scoters or loons were found, we did see a Thayer's Gull and Bonaparte's Gull.

I sent photos on to a western Gull expert. Personally, I hope it is a Western Gull, but would not bet on it.

Guanella Pass

November 18, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Jacob Washburn, Amy Davenport, Terry Michaels and I ventured into the Colorado tundra and went up Guanella Pass this morning. We didn't know what to expect after last weekends snowstorm. Fortunately, the road was mostly clear with a few snowy and icy patches. Once the sun comes out, the snow evaporates rather quickly.

We don't know what the fuss is all about in a Ptarmigan search. Within five minutes of getting out of our car we found two Ptarmigan below, the large rock about 40 yards east of Guanella Pass road. This rock is approximately 150 yards south of the parking lot at the summit.

All kidding aside, we know how lucky we were to not have to search hours for the elusive bird. We scoped the hillsides on both sides of the road but found no additional birds.

On the way back to Denver, we detoured over to Pine Valley Ranch Park. Our search for Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls came up negative. We did see 2 Hairy Woodpeckers on the hillside south of Pine Lake. A few White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches were up the Buck Gulch Trail. We only went as far at the Strawberry Jack Trail.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cheesman Reservoir and Owling in Jefferson/Douglas Counties

November 17, 2009

Gary Weston: In the afternoon, Richard Stevens and I decided to bird Cheesman Reservoir and then do some owling.

We arrived at Cheesman Canyon Trail parking lot around 1:00 PM. Before hiking up the trail, we walked Highway 126 west to the old green trailer. In past trips, Red-headed Woodpeckers and Lewis's Woodpeckers were found around this trailer and the hill to the south. Regrettably, we couldn't find either today.

We then hiked the Cheesman Canyon Trail from Hwy 126 to the Reservoir. Along the way, we found 3 Three-toed Woodpeckers, 2 Hairy Woodpeckers and a Downy Woodpecker.

Around Cheesman Reservoir, we found White-breasted, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. One Brown Creeper and 2 Townsend's Solitaires were also seen.

Sunset comes early now and we switched to owling mode. No Northern Pygmy-Owls were found around the reservoir. While visiting five previous owl locations along Deckers Road (GPS Waypoint sites) we heard Northern Pygmy-Owls at two.

Richard also had waypoints for 2 Northern Saw-whet Owl sites but neither was productive tonight.

We continued along Platte River Road, found another Northern Pygmy-Owl at a new site, and took GPS waypoints.

At Reynolds Park, a fourth Pygmy-Owl was heard. This one we were able to get a spotlight on and watch for a few minutes. It was not the usual location at the main parking lot, but farther to the east.

Finally, we made a quick stop at Pine Valley Ranch Park. Here a Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard calling southeast of the lower parking lot. This one was very far away and we were not able to get it in our spotlight.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Return to Plaster Reservoir

November 16, 2009

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, Rebecca Kosten and I returned to Plaster Reservoir (Broomfield County).

As we walked by the footbridge east of the Russian Olive Tree Grove east of the reservoir, a Marsh Wren was rattling away. I played a recording for just 5 seconds and the Marsh Wren flew up from the cattails and landed about 15 feet away!

We waited about 1.25 hours and were about to leave when the Harris's Sparrow came from the fir tree north of the green house (north of Russian Olive Grove). It first landed in the tree with red berries (north of the swing set at the green house) and then flew over to the blue house looking feeder south of the blue home (north of R.O. Grove).

While we waited a male and 5 minutes, later a female Northern Harrier flew along the cattails and creek. American Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches also visited the blue colored feeder.

A dark morph Red-tailed Hawk stood in the cottonwoods along the east side of Plaster Reservoir.

Later, I walked the southern edge of Plaster Reservoir where I found a Great Horned Owl at the western end of the trees. A second Marsh Wren responded when I played a recording at the cattails there.

Waterfowl on the lake included: Ring-necked Ducks, Eared Grebes, American Coots, Redheads, and American Wigeons.

Later, we relocated the 2 Common Loons off the boat ramp at Barr Lake (Adams). At least 38 Great-tailed Grackles were around the house south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd and Picadilly Road (just north of Barr Lake).

Another Cherry Creek Reservoir Visit

November 15, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I went over to Barr Lake (Adams). The two Common Loons and two Bonaparte's Gulls were still there. Several dozen Great-tailed Grackles were south of the Tree Nursery at Picadilly Road and 152nd Avenue.

We returned to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) to try to photograph the Mew Gull found yesterday. There was quite a ruckus in the water just east of the Dam's Tower parking area. Hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls, a dozen California Gulls, and the Mew Gull were attacking a school of fish.

Two Common Loons were off the Bird Platform at the Cottonwood Creek Loop. Ten or so Bonaparte's Gulls flew around the eastern side of the lake.

At least 90 American White Pelicans and a dozen Double-crested Cormorants remain at the lake. It is getting pretty late for them to hang around. Western Grebes, Eared Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots, Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, and a few Canvasbacks were also counted.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Few Metro Lakes

November 14, 2009

Richard Stevens:

I birded a few metro reservoirs on this snowy day. Today's bird was Bonaparte's Gull, seen at each lake that I visited.

First stop was Barr Lake (Adams County). Two Common Loons were relocated while I scoped the lake from the boat dock. At least three Bonaparte's Gulls flew by. A dozen Great-tailed Grackle are still around the first house south of the Tree Nursery at Picadilly Road and 152nd Avenue (just north of Barr Lake).

I circled the East Gravel Lakes-Tani Reservoir area and relocated the male Barrow's Goldeneye on Tani Reservoir. It just was a little cold and damp to make the hike down the Platte River to see if additional Barrow's Goldeneyes have joined the first bird.

My next stop was Standley Lake (Jefferson). I hoped to relocate the Yellow-billed Loon but missed it for the second time in three days. At least five Common Loons and 2 Bonaparte's Gulls were observed.

I swung down to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) hoping to get a photo of the Mew Gull that I found at the swim beach yesterday. Searches of the swim beach, below the dam, the southwest marina, and the eastern sand spit did not turn up the bird. At least five Common Loons remain here. Bonaparte's Gull count was at least ten.

At sunset, I checked Lakecrest, Gateway Park (Adams). Not one White-cheeked Goose was on the lake. I assumed that some of the tens of hundreds of White-cheeked Geese seen on 11/10 and previous visits were resident birds; guess not.

The highlight however were 16 Bonaparte's Gulls swimming in a tight circle about 20 yards from the west end of the lake. They swam so close together that taking an exact count was quite difficult.

About 1000 White-cheeked Geese (Canada Geese and a few Cackling Geese) were at Emerald Strand Park (just east of Lakecrest).

Some Winter Birding

November 11-13, 2009

Richard Stevens:

November 11

At Sunrise, we visited feeders in Clear Creek and Summit County.

Darrell Schiffman and I headed to the foothills and mountains in search of some uncommon birds. Our attempts were well rewarded as our morning list included:

Three species of Rosy Finches (not many, but 1 Black Rosy, 4 Brown-capped, 7 Gray-crowned). We missed a Hepburn's, but felt fortunate to find at least one of each species this early in the season!

Four Pine Grosbeaks and 20 Evening Grosbeaks visited one feeder. Other visitors included Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays, Steller's Jays, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted, Red-breasted, and Pygmy Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Hairy Woodpeckers, and a Downy Woodpecker.

The highlight for me was a Northern Shrike staking out the feeders. He had his own personal "feeding bar". The bird was at 9621 feet elevation! I cannot remember any higher elevation sightings of a Northern Shrike (however, will look into it).

A quick visit to the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County) found an adult male, immature male, and four female Barrow's Goldeneyes.

Next, we spent 3 hours searching unsuccessfully for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County).

My approach which has been success in the past is first to scope the east hill and valley east of Highway 9. Especially looking around the ragged rocks below the summit has produced sightings in the past.

Next, we walk about 0.1 miles south to the first pullover on the east side of Hwy 9. Then we scope the hill on the west side of Hwy 9 (again, this has been quite successful).

As a final resort, we have had to make the strenuous climb up the west side of the summit. This trail has produced Ptarmigan sightings but usually only after a mile climb. At about one mile there is a flattish area on the south side of the trail (north side is a severe drop-off).

Scope the hillside to the south of the flattish area. If necessary, walk south as the "flattish area" has a dip where Ptarmigan can hide from view from the western trail.

Darrell and I turned around and headed to Routt County where I have found Sharp-tailed Grouse during the day. I was surprised by the lack of snow both in Routt County as well as back at Loveland Pass. In both cases, I believe there was not enough snow to draw the grouse/ptarmigan from their summer habitats.

We missed on the Sharp-tailed Grouse and headed back to Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand). An American Three-toed Woodpecker flew across our view as I played a Three-toed Woodpecker recording. This was up the road to the Maintenance Shed. We missed finding any Red Crossbills or White-winged Crossbills and drove back south.

With a couple of hours of daylight remaining, we visited Walden Reservoir (Jackson) which had no birds. A few birds were observed at Lake John Wildlife Area. A pair of Greater Scaup swam about 40 yards off the northern shore. A pair of Pied-billed Grebes, one Western Grebe, and four American Coots were also on the lake.

We ended our daylight birding day west of Coalmont. While we drove up Jackson County Road 26, north from Highway 14, we scattered 7 Greater Sage-Grouse. They flew across the road and landed about 30 yards south of CR 26! Finding them in non-lekking season is quite a prize!

In spite of winds of 20+mph, gusts to 40+mph, we were able to hear Boreal Owls at two locations west of Cameron Pass. Quite lucky, as their call is quite soft and low.

November 12

We returned late last night to Denver and started our birding day again at 5:00 am. Mostly this was to miss Denver's rush hour traffic (sunrise was not until 6:38 am).

At civil twilight, we drove through Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) looking for a Mountain Bluebird which would be a lifebird for Darrell. One was never found. The hillside west of the Winkler Ranch entrance had four American Tree Sparrows, two Song Sparrows, a Spotted Towhee, and a Northern Shrike.

We waited for only about 10 minutes at the slanted Ponderosa Pine tree east of the road to Louviers before the Lewis's Woodpecker flew to the tree. The second Lewis's Woodpecker never came by while we watched the first one for 15 minutes.

From there we continued west up Highway 285 to Guanella Pass. Last summer's huge rockslide has closed down access to Guanella Pass from Georgetown (probably through the end of next summer). The only access is from the Grant end of Guanella Pass.

Again, we were surprised by the lack of snow. Only a few patches remained on the hill southeast of the summit. However, these small patches had hundreds of White-tailed Ptarmigan tracks and scat. Unfortunately, our 3-4 hour search did not turn up any Ptarmigan. We covered the southeast hill quite well, no Ptarmigan.

Our birding day ended at Standley Lake (Jefferson) searching for the previously reported Yellow-billed Loon. While it was not found, five Common Loons were observed swimming around the large lake.

November 13

Again we started early and arrived at Reynolds Park (Jefferson) an hour before sunrise. About 30 minutes after sunrise (7:31 am), we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl east of the Oxen Draw trail and south of the Elkhorn trail. Unfortunately, we did not get looks of the bird.

Next, we hiked the Narrow Gauge trail at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). An American Three-toed Woodpecker and several Hairy Woodpeckers were seen on the hill south of Pine Lake.

Tired legs convinced us to search for Northern Pygmy-Owls along the Narrow Gauge trail instead of hiking up Buck Gulch trail. Again, no Pygmy-Owls were encountered.

The highlight of the day was a Northern Mockingbird singing in the tall fir trees at the southeast end of the second footbridge west of the parking area. Quite an uncommon find this late in the year and at 7326 feet elevation.

Afterwards we drove back to Castlewood Canyon State Park for another shot at Mountain Bluebirds (none was ever found).

Along the way, we detoured to Daniels Park (Douglas) which is another spot to find Mountain Bluebirds in winter. None was found today, however a Prairie Falcon perched in a pine tree only 10 yards off the road and allowed good looks.

No Mountain Bluebirds at Castlewood Canyon State Park but we did see a low flying, circling Golden Eagle just outside the northern entrance!

After Darrel left for the airport, I drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Up to 7 Common Loons were out on the lake. Winds had picked up and temperatures dropped quite rapidly.

A Mew Gull was picked out of hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls standing on the swim beach. It took a while, look for darker mantle and then look at its bill.

Started snowing around sunset (4:38 pm).

Another Trip to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 10, 2009

Richard Stevens:

This morning I relocated the Red-necked Grebe and 2 Common Loons at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

Late in the afternoon, I relocated the Ross's Goose and blue form Snow Goose at Lakecrest (Adams County). By the way, one can park in the Wendy's parking area and walk to two blocks over to Lakecrest in Gateway Park. Beware of parking restrictions in Gateway Park.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pawnee National Grasslands and Plaster Reservoir

October 9 & 10, 2009

Gary Weston: On 11/9, Ray Foster and I searched for Lapland Longspurs up on the Pawnee National Grasslands.

We stopped at Barr Lake State Park on the trip north. Two Common Loons were off the boat ramp. We also found Richard Stevens' Great-tailed Grackles at the Tree Nursery at 152nd avenue and Picadilly Road.

It took an hour drive north of Briggsdale when we found Lapland Longspurs on County Road 122. This is the road into the 122 Pond. We didn't see any rare birds on the 122 Pond.

Crow Valley Campgrounds had very few birds. Not one sparrow was found. No Common Redpolls either.

We also looked for Snow Buntings and Short-eared Owls at the field a mile north of the USDA Experimental Office. No Short-eared Owls showed up at Wellington Wildlife Area.

This morning, I relocated the Harris's Sparrow below the feeders north of the Russian Olive Trees east of Plaster Reservoir.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Broomfield & Adams County Birding

November 9, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Search for Harris's Sparrow at Plaster Reservoir:

"I stood at the intersection of the two trails northeast of the high school and east of Plaster for 20 minutes. No birds, but a Sharp shinned Hawk flew out of the Russian Olive trees on the north side of the grove. I waited another 20 minutes, no birds. I was about to give up and decided to walk by the trees and the feeders north of the path. A Cooper's Hawk was perched in the trees. Once he left, the birds almost instantly came out of the evergreen next to the square, blue gray feeder. About a dozen Dark eyed Juncos, a pair of House Sparrows, two House Finches and the Harris's Sparrow. The Harris's Sparrow stayed below the feeder and mostly on the upper tier of railroad ties. It did drop down once to the lower ground level.

The Marsh Wren popped up from cattails about 20 feet west of the Russian Olive grove. Only once and only for 5 or 6 seconds. Two Song Sparrows were in there also.

Thanks to Eric Zorawowicz for finding and reporting the birds! First county sightings for me!"

Afterwards since I was already outside for the day, I walked the South Platte River from 88th avenue to I225 and back to see if any uncommon waterfowl had arrived this season. (Adams County, approximately 5.0 miles round trip).

A male Barrow's Goldeneye was on the Platte River at about 50 yards south of the green/white tower area. It eventually flew up circled West Gravel Lakes and headed toward Tani Reservoir (east of the Platte River, south of East Gravel Lake).

No additional uncommon waterfowl (Long-tailed Ducks, etc) were found.

Next, I scanned Barr Lake (Adams) from the north end of the dam. Many species of waterfowl were below the dam. No Barrow's Goldeneyes, Greater Scaups, Loons, or Long-tailed Ducks were picked out.

However, from the Boat Ramp inside Barr Lake, two Common Loons were seen to the north.

Twelve to eighteen Great-tailed Grackles have been around the south end of the Tree Nursery at Picadilly Road and 152nd Avenue and House just South of the Nursery.

I ended my birding day with a walk along the northern side of Barr Lake (from mile marker 5.5 to 4.0). No uncommon gulls were found among the hundreds of gulls that were out there.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cherry Creek Reservoir Again

November 8, 2009

Richard Stevens:

It was another fantastic fall day in Colorado. Winds were mild, temperatures reached the middle 50s in Denver. Richard Miguel and I spent 6 hours searching for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass; without success.

My statistics show that finding them on a weekend when many snow boarders and skiers are using the pass to avoid ski lift fees greatly reduces the chance of any White-tailed Ptarmigan sightings.

We stopped briefly at Genesee Mountain Park on the trip back to Denver. A few White-breasted Nuthatches, one Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a flock of five Pygmy Nuthatches were found. No crossbills or Williamson's Sapsuckers (not expected).

After returning to Denver, I drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). The number of birds was much less than last Friday. Two Common Loons and the Red-necked Grebe were observed from the Bird Platform (Cottonwood Creek Loop).

Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Some Local Reservoirs

November 7, 2009

Richard Stevens:

One of my target birds during my October visits to Rocky Mountain Arsenal was a Swamp Sparrow. They had never made the Arsenal checklist but with all the cattails on the Wildlife Area, surely Swamp Sparrow have migrated or even nested in the area.

All my attempts turned up negative. Last Wednesday Robert Andrews and Mike Henwood found 2 Swamp Sparrows at the Arsenal. My goal today was to relocate one of them.

It was a beautiful day with calm winds and temperatures that eventually reached 70s! I arrived at sunrise (6:30am) only to find that the Arsenal did not open until 7:30am. I had asked several people for the correct time, gotten different answers and did not know the correct one until I had to wait an hour this morning.

Finally, the arsenal opened and I hurried to Mary's Lake, hoping to see a hungry Swamp Sparrow actively searching for food. I circled the small lake twice. One the second cycle a Song Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow responded to my Swamp Sparrow recordings.

They came out of the willows on the island, flew toward me and dove into the cattails along the south side of Mary's Lake. Eventually the Swamp Sparrow moved east into thicker cattails where I lost it.

I then hiked along the west and south sides of Lake Ladora to search for the Swamp Sparrow reported by Andrews at the southeast corner of the Lake. I assumed that the first Swamp Sparrow was also one reported by Andrews.

No Swamp Sparrows were enticed out of the southeastern cattails. A small puddle on the south side of the road (6th street) attracted a pair of "yellow shafted" Northern Flickers. Many birders believe no true yellow-shafted Northern Flickers exist in Colorado, but that they are hybrids?

On the return trip to my car, a bluebird was singing from top of a large cottonwood near the southwest corner of Lake Ladora. It did not sound right for a Western or Mountain Bluebird, so I put my scope on it. The bird turned out to be an Eastern Bluebird! I had seen a different more colorful Eastern Bluebird a few weeks ago.

As I worked my way along the western shore of Lake Ladora, a flock of 5 Song Sparrows and surprisingly another Swamp Sparrow came out of the cattails (again responding to my recordings). I point this out because I would probably not have seen any Swamp Sparrows if it was not for the Swamp Sparrow recordings. Most of the Long-eared Owls I have found at the Arsenal this fall have also been reacting to recordings!

These cattails were located where the shoreline goes from northwest corner, south, then east, then south again. There is one large cottonwood with a dead 12-foot snag just south if it. The sparrows came out of and returned to cattails behind these two trees.

My hike did go to the Rod and Gun Club pond and Havana Ponds. I saw no Greater Scaup at the Rod & Gun Club pond and nothing unusual at Havana Ponds (although a Greater Yellowlegs was at Havana Ponds).

Later, Rebecca joined me and we went to relocate the Swamp Sparrow. While I was unsuccessful in relocating the Mary's Lake Swamp Sparrow, Rebecca was able to see the one along Lake Ladora.

We were quite fortunate in the rest of our birding day. Hearing about the Surf Scoters and Parasitic Jaeger at Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas Counties) we headed south.

Instead of driving way around to the swim beach area, we drove up the north side parking area just west of the dam tower. When we looked over the hill, the Parasitic Jaeger was chasing a Gull just below us! Off in the distance I was able to put my scope on the two Surf Scoters. Total birding time was about 15 minutes! The Common Loon could have also been out there, we did not take the time to look for it.

Our next stop was to drive way north to Standley Lake (Jefferson) to search for the Yellow-billed Loon. Somewhere we had gotten the idea that there were 3 Common Loons and a Yellow-billed Loon.

We stopped off Miller Road and walked through the gate across 88th avenue to scope the reservoir. First, we saw 5 Common Loons, then another group of 3, then a pair and then two single loons. They were quite far away and it took quite awhile to identify them (had to wait for the sun to come out of the clouds for better lighting).

Finally, we picked out one that could have been the Yellow-billed Loon. Again, it was so far away, that we could not quite be 100 percent certain. Therefore, we drove over to the north side of Standley Lake and the fee area.

From the northwest shore, we had better looks at many of the loons. The yellow bill of the Yellow-billed Loon was quite easy to pick out!

Return to Barr Lake and Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 6, 2009

Richard Stevens:

After only 1 (and myself) of 4 birders showed up for this morning's trip to Guanella Pass. We decided to call it off until next week. In the absentee's defense, one stayed up all night with the flu, the other twisted his ankle while hiking on the Grand Mesa this week.

Instead, Rebecca Kosten and I visited a couple of local reservoirs today. Temperatures reached the high 60s; winds around 6 mph.

Three Common Loons were seen from the boat ramp at Barr Lake (Adams). We did not see the Bonaparte's Gull nor did we walk down to where the Ross's Goose has been hanging out.

After lunch, we ended our birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Here we enjoyed much fortune. We scoped the lake from the bird platform. Two Common Loons were seen to the northwest (off the Lake Loop). Another Common Loon was below the handicapped fisherperson dock way on the other side of the lake.

While scoping a raft (?) of Buffleheads between the bird platform area and the fisherperson's dock, we found a beautiful Red-necked Grebe. We continued scoping to the east and found a Red-throated Loon in the eastern section of the lake.

Perhaps these birds can be relocated if one gets out early tomorrow morning before a large number of boats are put on the lake?

At the southwest marina, there was a large darkish Gull with whitish head and partial blackish bill. We also observed this Gull on 10/30. Jerry Petrosky told me he said a similar Gull on 11/1 but not 10/31 or 11/2. It could possibly be a 1st or 2nd cycle Great Black-backed Gull?

Marston Reservoir in Denver County

November 5, 2009

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I decided to checkout the "mystery loon" at Marston Reservoir (Denver County). We scoped the reservoir from the west side near the closed "bird sanctuary". At 1:30 pm, this angle is better because of the southern setting sun.

We got fair looks at a loon quite far off in the distance. The loon had a "blocky" head and showed much white on its side. When I looked at digiscoped photos later, the head looked too "blocky" to be an Arctic Loon. Also measuring the size (length) of the loon compared to a Common Loon at a similar distance from my scope, they appeared to be similar (not smaller as would be expected with an Arctic Loon).

I set my scope up again at the small park/runoff area at the northwest corner of Marston Reservoir. Another 2 Common Loons were far out in the lake. Two large white sleeping birds "woke up" a couple of times. They turned out to be Tundra Swans.

The large number of gulls at the northwest mudflats was mostly Ring-billed Gulls with a few California Gulls in the mix.

Trek to the Northwest Mountains

November 1 to 4, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

November 1

Gary Weston, Richard Stevens and I left Denver early in the afternoon. We searched unsuccessfully for the Red-necked Grebe and Red-throated Loon at Union Reservoir. All that was found was a Common Loon. No unusual gulls were among the hundreds scattered across the huge lake.

After finding a couple of Gray-crowned and one Brown-capped Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center's feeders we headed up Michigan Creek Road to do some snow shoeing in the Colorado State Forest.

After dark, we found 3 Boreal Owls, albeit all only heard. Two owls were up the Ruby Jewell Road within a mile of Michigan Creek Road. The third was found about 0.7 miles north of the west end of Michigan Creek Road. We enjoyed a pleasant night, as winds were calm. The nightly forest noises were only dimmed by our breathing along the strenuous trek.

November 2

We had a late start after last night's long one. Our hike of about 4 miles along Rabbit Ears Pass did not find any White-winged Crossbills. An American Three-toed Woodpecker was found up the road to the Maintenance Shed (Grand County).

In the afternoon, we relocated the 2 Pectoral Sandpipers reported yesterday by Craig Dodson at Stagecoach State Recreation Area. We also found 3 Sharp-tailed Grouse near Steamboat Springs.

We drove as far as we could north of Steamboat Springs and then snow shoed into the area where White-winged Crossbills and Dusky Grouse have been reported in the past. However, neither species was found.

After dark, we searched unsuccessfully for Boreal Owls around the Steamboat Springs Ski Area and Fish Creek.

November 3

We stayed in Craig and at first light went over to the Moffat County Maintenance Pond. The two Dunlin reported several times by Forrest Luke were still there! A drive around Craig didn't find any Bohemian Waxwings, so we headed south toward Rifle and the Grand Mesa.

The three Tundra Swans again reported by Forrest Luke were still at Perch Pond (Moffat County).

A Peregrine Falcon was in the large cottonwoods on the west side of highway 13 just before entering Rifle. No birds were around the Rifle Rest Stop; we continued west on I70.

Our plan was to drive to the Visitor's Center and a little farther south while there was plenty of light. A quick stop at the Powderhorn Ski Area found a Three-toed Woodpecker west and below the parking lot.

At the Visitor's Center, we walked farther down the road for about a mile. Gary found a male White-winged Crossbill at 0.2 miles south of the Visitor's Center.

After dark, we turned back north and stopped at about a dozen pullovers. Boreal Owls were heard at 3 of them. All three of us have seen Boreal Owls in the past, so we only stopped to here the owls not to try to draw them out of the woods and see them. We marked the spots with GPS waypoints.

Our last stop of the night was again the Powderhorn Ski Area. One or two Northern Pygmy-Owls responded to our recordings.

November 4

We drove through the Colorado National Monument and found few birds. Two Pinyon Jays were seen at the Campgrounds. Attempts to get up the Uncompahgre Plateau (Mesa County) were turned back by muddy roads.

Our trek went as far as Escalante Canyon in Delta County. No Chukar were found and we returned to Grand Junction for an early dinner.

After dinner, we continued our search for Northern Saw-whet Owls at BLM land south of Fruita (sorry I can't remember the name). In any case, no owls were found.

We returned to the Grand Mesa and stopped at three places where Northern Saw-whet Owls have been heard and seen in the past. Unfortunately, we missed them again. A Boreal Owl was heard at the Spruce Grove Campground. Going no farther south, we started the drive back to Denver.

Richard knew several places near DeBeque to search for Northern Saw-whet Owls. One of the stops at Sunnyside Road rewarded our persistence with a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Mostly it was only heard, but it did fly across our heads twice. We settled for a silhouette and headed back to Denver.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ptarmigan and Rosy Finch Search

October 31, 2009

Gary Weston: Ray Foster, Richard Stevens and I went to the mountains in search of Rosy Finches and Ptarmigan.

On the trip up, we saw a flock of 20-30 Rosy Finches fly across the highway at the Silver Plume exit. Just in time, Richard was able to pull off at the Silver Plume exit. We followed the flock to the rocks behind the fire station north of town. Most birds were Gray-crowned Rosy Finches with about 5 Brown-capped mixed in the group. Unfortunately, no Black Rosy Finches were in the flock.

We didn't find any Rosy Finches in Summit County and returned to Loveland Pass in Clear Creek County for a Ptarmigan search. We scoped the eastern slopes for a good 2 hours without seeing any birds.

Then we scoped the western slope across from the first pullover south of the pass. Here we had better luck. Only one Ptarmigan was found, but that was good enough.

For "fun", we hiked up about a mile on the western slope from the parking lot. There were plenty of Ptarmigan tracks but no birds. Man that is a hike!