Monday, December 27, 2010

An Afternoon in Adams County

December 26, 2010

Richard Stevens:

After spending most of the day writing on my computer, I looked for a place to walk around a bit. Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) was chosen. During the last two hours of sunlight, I walked the western and northern sides of Lake Ladora and then circled Mary's Lake. Both lakes were 100 percent ice covered. Temperatures were still in the low 50s; winds mild.

Again, many sparrows were at the northwest corner of Lake Ladora. I counted 7 White-crowned, 5 Song, and 21 American Tree Sparrows. The White-throated Sparrow observed on 12/21 did not show.

The highlight was watching 31 White tailed Deer graze in the field north of Ladora. Five Coyotes wandered by also. Thousands of geese flew in for a final meal of the day. The setting sun spread golden rays across the yellow grasses.

Only a few House Finches and Red-winged Blackbirds were around Mary's Lake. There had to be a sparrow or two; I just could not entice them to pop out of the cattails.

I drove over to the Denver Water Treatment Plant north of 56th avenue and Picadilly Road. A Greater White-fronted Goose was among 4000+ White-cheeked Geese at the intersection.

Now the sky was filled with pink and orange clouds over the barren fields. I sat and watched the rolling fields and airplanes landing. A pair of Northern Harrier flew low hunting for food. No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our White Christmas

December 25, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Originally, Rebecca Kosten and I were going to drive the DIA Owl Loop looking for Short-eared Owls. When we got on the highway, no traffic. Christmas morning perhaps is the only day now that one can drive our highways at the speed limit. To take advantage of that, we headed down to Deer Creek Canyon and Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson County).

We drove around the Deer Creek Canyon subdivision, which is not far from Chatfield Reservoir. Rebecca spotted a small nest like silhouette, which turned out to be a Northern Pygmy-Owl!

Continuing to the boat ramp at Chatfield Reservoir to be there just before sunrise, we spotted a Short-eared Owl flying back and forth over the model airplane field. After five minutes, the owl disappeared to the southwest (behind the trees just outside the southeast entrance to the park).

When we arrived at the boat ramp, the Glaucous Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull were all standing on the sand spit. Many Ring-billed Gulls were flying over the marina. With some patience, we found at least one Bonaparte's Gull among them.

With the outstanding weather, Denver is experiencing (this morning it was 27 degrees at 7:00 am, but no wind and no snow on the ground), we decided to celebrate a little white Christmas with a ride into the foothills. Most every store was closed, but we actually found something edible and rather tasty at 7-Eleven while fueling the car.

Red Rocks Park was passed and we could not resist a quick stop. The Golden-crowned Sparrow and Harris's Sparrow were below the platform feeder behind the Visitor's Center when we arrived. Less than 5 minutes later, the Curve-billed Thrasher popped out from behind the 4 X 4 north of the feeder. We waited 15 minutes and started to leave when the White-throated Sparrow also jumped out from the western brush.

White Christmas: We walked around Genesee Mountain Park for about 30 minutes (one of us finally got cold). A small flock of 4-6 Red Crossbills (mostly males, a couple of females) fed on pinecones in the trees around the group picnic area parking lot (how's that for a string of nouns? :-)

Three species of nuthatches, many Pine Siskins, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers and many Dark-eyed Juncos entertained us! It was our white Christmas!

We decided to continue west and drive up Mt. Evans Byway from Idaho Springs back through Evergreen. Snow covered Echo Lake and the surrounding trees would have made a nice Holiday Card photo.

Two Pine Grosbeaks flew about the trees on the south side of the lake. We listened for the sound of woodpeckers at the Echo Lake Campgrounds. The distinct drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker gave away its presence. It turned out to be a male with its yellow crown!

We continued down the highway through Evergreen and made one final stop for the day. Lair 'O Bear Park sometimes attracts Northern Pygmy-Owls late on a winter day. We were passing through at the right time of day and waited; without success.

During the wait, a walk down to the footbridge at the east end of the park added a couple of American Dippers to our day list. They are as entertaining as any bird I can think of as they bob up and down while standing on the ice and rocks. Then they have the courage to jump into the freezing water to catch a nibble of food. Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

It was a superb ending to our extraordinarily enjoyable Christmas Day! We hope all relished theirs as well!

A Missed Trip, Odds and Ends Around Denver

December 24, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I had to be at the Denver Tech Center (Arapahoe) early in the morning. The route just happened to pass Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) at sunrise. Therefore, I decided to arrive about an hour before sunrise and search for Short-eared Owls at the cattail fields just west of where the main road crosses Cherry Creek. Unfortunately, none appeared this morning.

Then I scoped the lake for gulls. First from the Lake Loop and then from the swim beach. About 90 percent of the lake was ice covered this morning. Nine Bald Eagles already stood on the ice at 7:30 am. Less than 10 gulls were found.

I had to conclude that the gulls had not returned from their nightly roost (Aurora Reservoir? or where?). While looking for uncommon gulls, I received a call that the birder I was to meet had missed their flight and was not in Denver.

Not to waste a trip, I headed to Aurora Reservoir. Hundreds of gulls stood on the swim beach. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was among them.

Aurora Reservoir is deeper than Cherry Creek Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir and therefore freezes over later than most lakes in Denver. It was 90 percent ice free this morning.

I took the next four hours to circle the 8.8 miles around the lake. Three Ross's Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose were found among hundreds of White-cheeked Geese.

Later, I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) on my way home. The White-throated Sparrow came to the back of the Visitor's Center; the Harris's Sparrow never did show. The White-throated Sparrow never came below the feeders west of the Visitor's Center. It only flew below the two small bushes at the right corner (southwest corner) of the building. Half a dozen or so White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows and 1 American Tree Sparrow did grab seeds below the feeders.

Several hundred Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot. Rebecca and I drove the DIA Owl Loop and roads southeast of Trussville Street and 114th avenue. We counted 35,000+ Horned Larks, 2 Lapland Longspurs and a Snow Bunting. The question of whether we were on public roads came up; since we do not know, I am not reporting this to the cobirders group. No Short-eared Owls showed after sunset along the DIA Owl Loop.

Exploring Guanella Pass Access Denied

December 23, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Thirty minutes before sunrise, Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn and I listened for Northern Pygmy-Owls at the western Reynolds Park parking area. None made a sound. However, when we hiked to the Oxen Draw trail at Elkhorn Trail, Jacob pointed out one deep in the brush along the draw!

While watching the owl, we heard a bird just suspiciously sounded like a grouse. A short walk east of the Oxen Draw/Elkhorn intersection found a Dusky Grouse about 20 feet up in a pine tree!

We decided not the hike in the snow and ice up the Oxen Draw trail and skipped a search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Instead, we drove the short distance to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). Here we hiked the Pine Lake trail to the Buck Gulch trail to Strawberry trail. On the hike back, we observed a male Three-toed Woodpecker flying across the Buck Gulch trail at 40 yards south of Pine Lake trail.

Our main goal was to do some snowshoeing, hopefully up Guanella Pass (Park/Clear Creek Counties. We did not expect to make it to the top of Guanella Pass after the reports this week of feet of snowfall in the mountains.

This turned out to be true. Even in our 4 wheel jeep, we only got as far as 7 miles west of Grant (highway 285). We turned around at the Campgrounds below Duck Lake. It is 5.5 miles from this Campground to the gate at Duck Lake. Then it is another 1.5 miles to the Summit at Guanella Pass. Just a little too far and energetic for us today. An unanimous vote decided to leave a White-tailed Ptarmigan search for another day!

We snowshoed around the Campgrounds (I am spacing the name) looking for Northern Pygmy-Owls and/or American Three-toed Woodpeckers; without success.

A quick detour to Kenosha Pass (Park) also found few birds. Again, we snowshoed around hoping to run into a Northern Pygmy-Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker or Rosy Finches; without success.

After dropping Bryan and Jacob off at their cars, I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Hundreds of gulls (no uncommon gulls) were observed from the southwest boat ramp).

By the time, it took me to drive 10 minutes to the Lake Loop, less than a dozen gulls remained. I can only guess that the gulls spent the night at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe, about 7 miles away).

Birding Mostly in Douglas County Today

December 22, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I took advantage of the full moon last night and walked around 4 hours before sunrise searching for owls around Franktown and Castlewood Canyon State Park, Douglas County. Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were found. One was found in the park between the waterfalls and first parking area to north. The other was on private land.

After sunrise, I drove down Castlewood Canyon Road. Not one bluebird was found. Wonder where they are this year?

I spent about 3 hours at Tomichi Gulch this morning. The temperature at sunrise was 27 degrees. Fortunately, there was no wind and my walk was quite pleasant.

The majority of Spotted Towhees were twice the distance east of where I saw them and the Eastern Towhee on my last visit. No Eastern Towhee was found this morning.

I also hiked down to the open area east of the "working ranch" and scoped feeders north of creek. No Common Redpoll found this trip.

Plenty of birds moved about. Three species of jays (Steller's, Western Scrub and Blue Jays). Three species of nuthatches also, I always enjoy watching the little torpedo shaped Pygmy Nuthatches flutter about, seldom stopping!

Downy Woodpeckers, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, a Red-tailed Hawk, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a Brewer's Blackbird were added to my day list.

A quick stop found the Walker Pit 100 percent ice covered. The nearby Great Horned Owl nest had a Red-tailed Hawk on it.

A stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) found it surprisingly to be 99 percent ice covered. Eight Bald Eagles kept sharp eyes on the Common Mergansers and geese swimming in a small open water area.

Three interesting gulls stood on the ice edge. A 1st or 2nd Glaucous Gull with its black tipped pink bill. The possible Iceland Gull with its all black bill; could it have been a Thayer's Gull? The third Gull looked much like a young Glaucous-winged Gull. I lean toward the belief that all Glaucous-winged looking gulls in Colorado are hybrids. At least the large majority are.

A Long Day Around Adams County

December 21, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I entered Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) when it opened at 7:00 am. I hoped to find the Long-eared Owls flying around. Unfortunately, by the time the arsenal opened it was quite light. I have had better success when civil twilight has just started. With the time change to Standard Daylight, one cannot enter the arsenal until it is too late.

I walked to the north end of Lake Ladora and found quite a few sparrows moving about the brush. The final count was 9 White-crowned, 5 Song and 28 American Tree Sparrows. Most of the sparrows moved from around the lone evergreen tree at the northwest corner to the brush on the west side of the trail (near the blue metal pipe, "T" shaped. I put down some birdseed and continued walking north and east.

From a distance (near the white building), I observed that within 10 minutes a Song Sparrow found the seed. Shortly after, it was joined by several dozen sparrows. The White-throated Sparrow also made an appearance!

The day was relatively nice, little wind and temperatures in the low 50s. Not bad, for winter and considering the mountains just west of the Denver foothills had been receiving several feet of snow over the last three day.

So, I decided to hike the South Platte River trails from 88th avenue to Interstate 225 and back (east side, north to south and return along the west side). Dahlia Pond was passed on the way over, I stopped and pulled out my scope. A Long-tailed Duck swam in the middle section viewed from a pullover along Dahlia. The pond was about 50 percent ice covered, nicely limiting where the Long-tailed Duck could swim!

My hike along the S. Platte River was uneventful. East Gravel Lake, the 74th avenue pond and West Gravel Lakes were almost completely lacking ice cover.

The usual waterfowl suspects were seen in good number. Tani Reservoir did have a rather large number 831 Ring-necked Ducks. The most I have ever seen in one location. Northern Shovelers (hundreds) appeared to prefer the river.

When I arrived at the northern West Gravel Lake where 3 Long-tailed Ducks wintered last year, the male Barrow's Goldeneye was swimming around below the tower. He eventually flew down to the Platte River, just south of the green and white tower. I never found the female Barrow's Goldeneye reported last on December 11th.

My next stop was Barr Lake State Park (Adams). I sat on the bench west of the Visitor's Center for 2 hours watching the various House Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and a Tree Sparrow visit below the feeders. The Harris's & White-throated Sparrows (last reported 12/16) did not appear.

Hundreds of geese were on the ice and in the small open water area off the boat ramp. Eleven Snow Geese, 2 Ross's Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose were among them.

Still not wanting to end my birding day, I decided to drive to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).

Along the way, I passed the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (2 miles north of Barr Lake) where 100+ Great-tailed Grackles and dozens of Eurasian Collared-Doves flew around.

At the bison ranch along Harvest Road at 0.6 miles north of 160th Avenue, 200+ Great-tailed Grackles walked around underneath the bison.

At Banner Lakes Wildlife Area, one of the two Long-eared Owls I have found this winter was relocated. A Great Horned Owl was north of Pond 8. Few birds moved about. I waited until dark to see if any Short-eared Owls would come out; none did.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eastern Trip for Christmas Counts

December 15, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann;

Jacob Washburn, Rich Stevens and I started south from Denver at 4:00 am. An ungodly hour to start birding and I questioned Richard's sanity more than once. In his defense, we wanted to avoid the horrific traffic between southern Denver and Colorado Springs.

After a welcomed cup of nectar, Starbucks coffee, we finally made it to Fountain Creek Regional Park in El Paso County. The walk from the Visitor's Center to the northern ponds was quite eventful.

The first rare bird of our day was a Field Sparrow flying about in the field north of the Cattails Wildlife Area section.

We continued around to Rice's Pond. In the next 30 minutes, we found the Pine Warbler, Harris's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and Winter Wren. Our big miss was the reported Ovenbird. Not a bad morning if I say so myself.

The Rusty Blackbirds at Clear Springs Ranch had not been reported since 12/8; so we decided to skip a search for them and go to Pueblo Reservoir for a quick look around. Daylight is previous this time of year. Sunset is around 4:30 pm.

The Great Black-backed Gull along with a Thayer's Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the south shore marina. That was our only stop and we drove quickly to Rocky Ford.

Our search for rare doves around Rocky Ford was fortunate. We found an Inca Dove along Washington Street. A White-winged Dove was along Industrial Drive. Eurasian Collared-Doves were everywhere and a pair of Mourning Doves concluded our 4 dove search.

Daylight abandoned us before we arrived at Lake Henry. We did hike back to the north side to listen for screech owls. None was found.

December 16, 2010

Three of us planned to look for the "mysterious" Purgatory Railroad Crossing in Bent County today.

A stop at Fort Lyons Wildlife Area was not noteworthy. We desired a Virginia Rail or Sora but found neither. A White-throated Sparrow was along the dirt road south of Bent County Roads 16 and HH.

Fortunately, another Colorado birder had supplied us with superb directions to the "Crossing". In spite of warnings of "rabid hunters" with shotguns, we ventured to the dominion. Once arrived, we seeded the area with succulent food for the birds and then wandered around a bit.

Upon returning, we found a Northern Cardinal and eastern Fox Sparrow. With time, a Harris's Sparrow also appeared. Without threats from hunters or trains, we continued on to John Martin Reservoir.

With some effort, we relocated the two Dunlin reported two days earlier by Duane Nelson. I would have enjoyed running into him, but he was a no show. Other birds come across on this elongated lake included a Pacific Loon, Long-tailed Duck and Greater Scaup. These accompanied by late White Pelicans and a Double-crested Cormorant. The enormity of the geese flocks was quite a wonderment.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker flew around from tree to tree at the Lake Hasty Campgrounds below the John Martin Reservoir dam.

Again cheated by a winter daylight shorten day, we only had an hour to search for owls at Upper Queens and Neenoshe Reservoirs. A Chihuahuan Raven was found south of Neesopah Reservoir.

December 17, 2010

On our way to Wray, we stopped at Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County. Eastern Screech-Owls were found north of Hale Ponds and the west end of Bonny Reservoir State Park. We did not get any Long-eared Owls to respond to our recordings.

Time to get serious today. The eight annual Wray Christmas Count was conducted. I don't have to final birders hours put in yet. We had eight cobirders and six additional feeder watchers.

Thanks to the many people, especially to those who "stalked out" birds in the days prior!

Six of us went out before sunrise and were very lucky. A Greater Prairie-Chicken was again crossing Yuma County Road 45 at about 1.2 miles east of Highway 385! That is the second trip in a row that Richard Stevens has found one!

The feeders at private yards were the most productive to our CBC list. Birds found by feeder watchers included:

Purple Finch (2)
Northern Cardinal (9 over 3 locations)
Fox Sparrow (eastern)
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwings (68) + (2) Bohemian Waxwings
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3 locations)
Varied Thrush
Harris's Sparrow (2 locations)
Savannah Sparrow
Eastern Screech-Owl (2 locations)
Barn Owl
Common Redpoll (2)

All but the Common Redpolls and Savannah Sparrow had been seen at least once before today. The Varied Thrush has been around for 2 weeks.

On public lands:

Sandsage Wildlife Area is always interesting. Today, my group found a Swamp Sparrow at the western end. Two White-throated Sparrows west of the old barn area. A Harris's Sparrow along the road south of the property gate.

See January's "Colorado Field Notes" for complete details.

December 18, 2010

Our eastern plains Christmas Counts continued today with the Jumbo Reservoir/Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area Count. Today we had ten cobirders and five feeder watchers. Many uncommon birds were found on private lands. However, today, we also counted on the public lands around Jumbo Reservoir and Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.

My group of three at Jumbo Reservoir saw:
Greater White-fronted Geese
Ross's Geese
Swamp Sparrow (below the dam)
Eastern Screech-Owl (north side before sunrise)
Short-eared Owl (south side after sunset)

Richard Stevens' and Jacob Washburn's groups birded Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area:
Eastern Screech-Owl --East (Stevens) (sections 6-7)
Long-eared Owl --East (Stevens) (Tamarack Pond)
Northern Saw-whet Owl --East (Stevens) (remains unlisted to protect owl)
Northern Cardinal --East/Tamarack Pond (Stevens)
Field Sparrow --East (Stevens)
Harris's Sparrow --East (Stevens)
White-throated Sparrow --East (Stevens)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2) --East (Stevens)
Brown Thrasher --East (Stevens)

Northern Cardinal --West (Washburn)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3) (Washburn)
Barn Owl --West (Washburn)

At two hours before sunset, the two groups set out to "stake out" areas on the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area South. They took chairs and scoped two areas until after sunset.

Greater Prairie-Chicken --South/2 locations (M.OB.)
Stevens relocated a Greater Prairie-Chicken in the area north of Logan County Roads 46 and 89. This area is very good for prairie chickens when there is a dusting of snow. Look for prairie chickens among wandering Ring-necked Pheasants feeding in fields. While Jacob Washburn scoped the area around the windmill along CR 55, several miles south of I76.

Short-eared Owl --South (M.OB.) (Stevens and all again saw one or two Short-eared Owls flying over the field while searching for Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Feeder Watchers added many birds to the CBC:
Long-eared Owls (5 at 2 locations)
Short-eared Owl (1)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (1)
Barn Owl (1)
Eastern Screech-Owl (4 over 3 locations)
Eastern Bluebirds (15)
Hermit Thrush
Brown Thrasher
Harris's Sparrow (3 over 2 Locations)
White-throated Sparrow (3 over 2 Locations)
Fox Sparrow (eastern)
Varied Thrush (been around for almost a month now)
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatches
Red Crossbills (9)
Purple Finch (around since 12/5)

December 19, 2010

Today was the final eastern plains Christmas Count for our group. Eight cobirders wandered around Bonny Reservoir State Park area. We also had four feeder watchers.

The Eastern Screech-Owls were again found at Hale Ponds, Hale and Bonny Reservoir. All responded to recordings before sunrise.

Birds found on public lands included:
Thayer's Gull
Eastern Screech-Owl (12) --Hale Ponds & Bonny Reservoir
Long-eared Owl (21) --Hale & Bonny Reservoir
Short-eared Owl (south of Yuma CR 4 after sunset)
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Barn Owl --Hale
Red-bellied Woodpecker (15) --Bonny/Hale
Eastern Bluebird (50+) -Hale/Bonny
Brown Thrasher (3) -Hale/Bonny
Swamp Sparrow (2) -Hale/Bonny
Harris's Sparrow --Hale (CR 4, 0.2 miles east of LLLL.5)
White-throated Sparrow --Hopper Ponds
Northern Cardinal (3) -Bonny
Common Redpoll (2) --Bonny (east/Foster's Grove)
Purple Finch --Hale

Feeder watchers added:
Harris's Sparrow (2)
White-throated Sparrow (1)
Red Crossbills (5+)
Barn Owl
Eastern Bluebirds (27)
Northern Cardinal (male & female, different Locations)
Common Redpoll (2)
Eastern Screech-Owls (11)
Long-eared Owl (6)

December 20, 2010

Early this morning, Rich Stevens, Jacob Washburn and I sat at the north end of Flagler Reservoir, Kit Carson County waiting for Short-eared Owls to appear. Unfortunately, none did.

After sunrise, we hiked from the south end of Flagler Reservoir along the east side to below the dam. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker flew between the large cottonwoods at the south end.

Two Eastern Bluebirds were in the windbreak at the northeast corner.

The best bird was a stub-tailed wren below the dam. It turned out to be a Winter Wren. We would have loved to call it a Pacific Wren, especially this far east of the foothills. The throat was regrettably too white for a Pacific Wren.

We searched for the resident Eastern Screech-Owls at Brush Wildlife Area, Morgan County. They did not come out this morning. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was along the northwestern edge of the property.

No rare sparrows were found while we hiked from the Fort Morgan Ponds parking lot to Riverside Park. Again, the resident Eastern Screech-Owl was not enticed to come out of its favorite tree.

After lunch, we visited Jackson Lake State Park, Morgan County. A Merlin was east of the southern parking lot off CR 2. No rare gulls were found. Most gulls were Ring-billed Gulls.

We relocated 10+ Long-eared Owls along the western side Campgrounds. This time an Eastern Screech-Owl answered our recordings.

We waited until dusk and watched for Short-eared Owls at the northwest corner. Alas none appeared. Two Great Horned Owls called from the cottonwoods between the Campgrounds and the lake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area

December 14, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I looked for a place to walk on this beautiful fall day. Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) was chosen.

Long-eared Owls have returned or never left. The dozens of sparrows were mostly American Tree Sparrows. A couple of Song and 7 White-crowned were also found.

We heard a Virginia Rail at Pond 6. Several Northern Harriers flew over the prairie dog village at the northwest corner.

A Great Horned Owl came out of the windbreak north of pond 8. A Prairie Falcon flew along the east side of pond 11.

A lone Yellow-rumped Warbler in the windbreak at pond 7 was a surprise.

While birding was not particularly busy, the sunset and serenity around the many lakes was gratifying.

Woodpecker and Owl Searches

December 13, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I decided to help Mandy Schiff find some additional birds. She does not mind me telling you that she is a handicapped birder trying for a big year. Mandy lost use of her legs about 15 years ago. Not to get her down, she took to birding major time.

The question of where to find an American Three-toed Woodpecker from a road was a possible problem. The Three-toed Woodpeckers at Pine Valley Ranch Park and Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) require some long hikes.

We headed to Rampart Range Road and Highway 67 in Douglas County. I scouted the area northeast of the intersection and found a Three-toed Woodpecker not far from the road. It was however, out of sight from the road.

We ate an early lunch and patience paid off. The male American Three-toed Woodpecker flew to a tree just 10 feet from the road!

Spotted Towhees were easier to find. I played a recording at the northern restroom area of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) and two popped out of the underbrush. They sang from the bush tops nicely for several minutes, allowing great looks.

We talked about owls and decided to head up to Cameron Pass. Rist Canyon was not a far detour. The Northern Pygmy-Owl was nice to us and was perched on the south side of the road at about 20 yards east of the Whale Rock.

After an early dinner break, we continued west to Cameron Pass (Jackson County). It was one of those magical nights at 10,276 feet. Winds were calm; it was relatively warm and we could hear all the night sounds. Bird activity is much more alive than one would expect.

Again, luck was with us, I found a Boreal Owl about 0.1 miles west of the summit parking area (restroom area).

December 14, 2010

After dropping Mandy off at her motel, timing was perfect as I passed Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County). It had just opened and it was still dark.

I stopped at one of my favorite owl spots, played a tape and coaxed a Long-eared Owl out of the New Mexico Locust! Great end/start to a birding day!

Now for some sleep!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Clear Creek and Summit Counties

December 12, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Mandy Schiff and I went into the foothills to search for mountain species today. The challenge was that Mandy cannot walk. We found Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jay, 3 species of nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers and Pine Siskins in the Dillon/Breckenridge Area (Summit County).

Twelve Barrow's Goldeneyes continue at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

We stopped and drove around Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) three times during the day. First light, mid-afternoon and sunset. The third stop was the charm. Two White-tailed Ptarmigan flew down from the western hillside to just before the hill west of highway 6!

An attempt to find Northern Pygmy-Owls up highway 119 to Rollinsville (Gilpin County) was not successful. We did enjoy our long day of birding!

Adams and Arapahoe County Birding

December 11, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn and I walked the east side of the South Platte River from 88th Avenue at Colorado Blvd to Highway 224 and back.

The male Barrow's Goldeneye was first observed on the Platte River, just south of the green & white tower. Later he joined a female Barrow's Goldeneye on Tani Reservoir. A Northern Shrike was on the western fence of Tani Reservoir.

Farther south, we found a Harris's Sparrow in the trees along the Platte River, just north of the 74th avenue pond. A Lincoln's Sparrow was in the trees along the Platte River near the spillway.

The only sparrows found along Clear Creek, east of the Platte River were 9 American Tree Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows.

We stopped briefly at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams). No uncommon waterfowl were on Lake Ladora. No unusual sparrows around Mary's Lake. In fact, not much of anything was moving around.

We were informed of details of a Ross's Gull at Lake Ladora (Adams) on 12/4/2010.

Later we drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Again, I enjoyed a 7 Gull species day, which included: Iceland Gull, Mew Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Thayer's Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, & Ring-billed Gulls.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Couple of Denver Reservoirs

December 10, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Jacob Washburn and I visited several local reservoirs today. Temperatures were in the 50s, winds mild at first but gained speed as the day continued.

At Barr Lake (Adams County) we first scoped the lake from east of the boat ramp. The only uncommon Gull was the possible Iceland Gull reported yesterday by Bryan and Sue Ehlmann. It stood next to Herring, California and Ring-billed Gulls, which allowed a good size comparison.

There were several hundred geese, but not the numbers of last week. We could see at least two Ross's Geese and half a dozen Snow Geese. No Greater White-fronted Geese were picked out.

Then we drove around to the northwest side (mile marker 4.5) and walked to the southwest end where hundreds of gulls were on the shore. Unfortunately, no uncommon gulls were among them.

Our next stop was Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) where we decided to hike the 8.7 miles around the lake. Halfway around the wind picked up to 14+ mph with gusts to 22 mph. This created large waves, which made seeing, and identifying the hundreds of ducks close to impossible.

We did see dozens of Ruddy Ducks, American Coots, Ring-necked Ducks and Western Grebes. No scoters or other uncommon ducks were found.

Geese numbers were in the thousands. They kept coming in flight after flight during out 4 hour trek. At least a dozen Ross's Geese and several dozen Snow Geese could be picked out only because of their white color. If a Brant was among the horde, it went unnoticed.

Finally, at mile marker 7.5, we found two Greater White-fronted Geese! Could have been much more, however the geese were so close together that identification was quite difficult.

As for songbirds, we counted 19 American Tree Sparrows, 7 Song Sparrows and 4 White-crowned Sparrows. Not much else.

As for gulls, we passed hundreds. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was the only uncommon Gull found.

We ended our Gull searching day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The Iceland Gull reported yesterday by Glenn Walbek was with hundreds of gulls flying over a school of fish off the southwest marina.

We also picked out at least one Mew Gull, a Thayer's Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull! With common gulls Herring, Ring-billed and California, it was a seven Gull afternoon!

Eastern Plains

December 5-9, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Sunday, 12/5

We headed east toward Bonny Reservoir (Yuma County). Our first stop was Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson).

Two Common Redpolls were among a large flock of sparrows at the northeast corner of the reservoir. The Redpolls eventually flew south along the tree line. However, later we saw them back at the windbreak northeast of the dam.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the trees along the south end of the reservoir. Two Bald Eagles perched in the southeast corner.

At Bonny Reservoir (Yuma), we checked Wagon Wheel Campgrounds and found few birds.

From the Bonny Reservoir dam, we could see a Trumpeter Swan at the northeast corner. A group of gulls here included a Mew Gull and adult and first cycle Thayer's Gulls.

A Northern Cardinal was found when we walked around Foster's Grove Campgrounds. Five Wild Turkeys walked the open field just west of the Campgrounds.

A flock of 20+ Cedar Waxwings flew around the yard next to the Hale Store. At least 2 Long-eared Owls were found in their usual location in the Hale Windbreak. The windbreak looks like it had a bad year; it has been thinned out much.

A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was just west of the most eastern Hale Ponds. No Winter Wrens were lurking around the ponds this trip. A flock of 11 Eastern Bluebirds was just east across the border in Kansas. They never entered Colorado while we watched them.

After sunset, I was able to get an Eastern Screech-Owl to respond to my recordings (played north of Hale Ponds)!

As we rolled into Wray, we made a quick detour to the Wray Fishing Unit and Sandsage Wildlife Area (Yuma). No Barn Owls at the Fishing Unit, however we did hear an Eastern Screech-Owl at Sandsage.

Monday, 12/6

An hour before sunrise, I decided to drive Yuma County Road 45. Nothing unusual was seen when I drove 3 miles east of Highway 385. However, on the return trip, a Greater Prairie-Chicken was seen crossing the road about 1.4 miles east of hwy 385!

We visited two friend's homes in Wray. At the first home, two male and a female Northern Cardinal feeders her feeders. At the second, we got to see an eastern race Fox Sparrow and 2 Harris's Sparrows that have visited my friend's yard for the past 3 days! The highlight was finding a Varied Thrush, which perhaps only showed up today!

Enjoyed a great barbeque and decided to stay around town for the night!

Tuesday, 12/7

We wandered around the Colorado/Kansas border hoping to find a stray Eastern Meadowlark; without success. Stopped at five "Colorado walk-in" properties just to explore what they looked like. No uncommon birds were found. I "got into" these properties two years ago. It offers about 100 new birding opportunities if one is willing to fulfill their entrance requirements (write me if you are interested in knowing them).

After sitting in a car most of the day, we took a long walk around the Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Logan). Two Sharp-shinned Hawks were in the windbreak along Sedgwick County Road 49. Two Field Sparrows were along the eastern fence.

The most surprising find was 4 Red Crossbills. However, not too surprising as I have found Red Crossbills here on at least three other occasions. A flock of 9 Cedar Waxwings was also at the southwest corner of the Wildlife Area.

We leisurely wandered again around the Colorado border searching for Eastern Meadowlarks; without success. According to Nebraska bird books, Eastern Meadowlarks do wander south along the border in November and December. I have yet to find one; perhaps next time.

We rolled into my friend's ranch near Julesburg just about sunset. Again, we enjoyed a fattening but tasty barbecue.

Wednesday, 12/8

Roger Danka and I went out owling two hours before sunrise. Eventually Eastern Screech-Owls were found near Sedgwick Draw and the north side of Jumbo Reservoir (Sedgwick County).

Hundreds of geese and ducks were on Jumbo Reservoir. There included many Ross's Geese and at least 3 Greater White-fronted Geese.

Gulls included a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Bonaparte's Gull. The highlight was a Yellow-billed Loon that Roger had been seeing since 12/6. A Common Loon was also on the lake.

In the afternoon, we visited three area ranches and friends of Roger. Long-eared Owls as expected were found at two of the ranches.

An hour before sunset, we hiked the northern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan). No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Thursday, 12/9

We left our friends early in the morning. I wanted to stop and see if I could get a better photo of the Yellow-billed Loon at Jumbo Reservoir. Unfortunately, we could not find the loon. Neither was the Common Loon found?

As we drove along Interstate 76, we made several detours. At Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan), we found one Red-bellied Woodpecker but could not get the resident Eastern Screech-Owl to come out of his tree.

Riverside Park and Fort Morgan Ponds were slow. The only sparrows found were White-crowned Sparrows. The only geese, White-cheeked Geese.

When we got home, I had a message about the Iceland Gull at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and had to head over that way.

There were hundreds of gulls flying around just off the southwest marina. I sat on one of the benches and scope the horde until sunset.

The Iceland Gull was easy to pick out because of its light color. A Mew Gull stood on the telephone poles floating around the marina. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls stood on the sandbar north of the marina. It was not a bad way to end my birding day!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drive to Tomichi Gulch

December 4, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I found ourselves at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) before sunrise. No Short-eared Owls flew over the large cattail fields west of where the main road crosses Cherry Creek.

No uncommon gulls were found in the southeast corner of the reservoir. While we did not walk around to the southeast corner, we do not believe the Dunlin are still there (could not find them in our scopes from north of the eastern water inlet.

The Mew Gull was again on the swim beach with many Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls and a few Herring Gulls.

We stopped only briefly at Lakecrest (Denver County). Two Greater White-fronted Geese and several Ross's Geese were easily spotted. We did not see the Brant at that time. I heard Bryan and Sue relocated the Brant later in the day.

I took Bryan back to Barr Lake (Adams) where the Harris's Sparrow was again found in the tall bushes 25 yards west of the Visitor's Center.

Rebecca Kosten and I drove down to Tomichi Gulch for my third attempt at finding the Eastern Towhee. We missed the any Spotted Towhees within 500 yards of the parking area during our first hour of searching.

I then walked 0.7 miles east to where the trail opens into rolling prairie (northeast corner of the "working ranch"). On the return trip, I found 3 Spotted Towhees south of the creek where the path goes under telephone wires.

Continuing west, I found 5 or 6 Spotted Towhees less than 200 yards from the parking area. Then, finally, the Eastern Towhee popped out of the brush and stood on top of a willow for 20 seconds.

I radioed Rebecca and she rapidly ran down the trail. The Eastern Towhee again popped up for 15 seconds and gave us good looks. Eventually, all the towhees flew north of the creek and buried themselves in the willows.

By the way, while I had an Eastern Towhee recording with me, I did not play it. I did play a Spotted Towhee alarm call, which attracted the Spotted Towhees from 20 yards south of the trail. The Eastern Towhee followed the Spotted Towhees to the creek. The Spotted Towhees called back while the Eastern Towhee never made a sound.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Windy Day at Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 3, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Again, I avoided counting the thousands of geese at Lakecrest and went over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Temperatures reached 70 degrees today. Unfortunately, the high temperatures were due to 23 mph winds with gusts to 47 mph.

The adult Mew Gull was again at the swim beach with several hundred Ring-billed Gulls and 51 California Gulls. The variations in size and mantle color of both species are quite a bit. Several California Gulls almost looked dark enough to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull (however, not quite so).

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was standing with hundreds of gulls on the southeastern sand spit. The Dunlin of 11/28 were not found. I have not heard a report since then.

A friend in Deer Creek Canyon (Jefferson) called to say they had an owl just outside of the living room window. I hurried over to find a Northern Pygmy-Owl watching my friend's bird feeders.

On the way home, a drive through Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) did not find any uncommon birds.

I swung by Castlewood Canyon Road and State Park as a way to avoid the traffic of metro Denver. Not one bluebird was out exposing itself to the high winds.

No Short-eared Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop as I passed through to get home.

Nice Afternoon at Barr Lake

December 2, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Tired of counting geese at Lakecrest and Emerald Strand Park, Rebecca and I skipped the area today. It was another fine winter day with temperatures in the high 50s and mild winds. Instead, we enjoyed the afternoon with a hike around Barr Lake (Adams County).

The Harris's Sparrow stayed in the bushes 25 yards west of the Visitor's Center. We wondered for 30 minutes why no birds were visiting the feeders west of the building. When a couple of House Sparrows flew over, the reason became apparent.

First, a Merlin flew by and landed in the tall tree at the northwest corner of the building. Then a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk buzzed both the close bushes and then circled the taller bushes 25 yards west (twice). When we left, an adult Red-tailed Hawk was observed on the roof of the building. It was not a good day for songbirds to be flying around the park.

We hiked down to the banding station area and back. Again, few birds were found. The previously reported Swamp Sparrow was among the missing. Two Red-tailed Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk watched us from their perches in the taller cottonwoods.

I scoped the lake from the boat ramp. Hundreds of ducks and geese were north of the closed ramp. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes remains as well as one Common Loon. A few Ross's Geese were quite a distance from us.

Only four Great-tailed Grackles were observed around the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot today.

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls were found. No Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs came across our path.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Washington Park and Return to Red Rocks Park

December 1, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I was out doing chores when the call came that a White-winged Scoter was photographed yesterday at Smith Lake in Washington Park (Denver County). I hurried over, exited my car and then realized that I did not bring my binoculars. Fortunately, I eventually remembered that I had an old pair of 10 X 50s buried in the trunk. After some heavy duty cleaning, the binoculars were made usable.

However, there was no White-winged Scoter at Smith Lake or the northern lake in the park (currently spacing the name of that lake). I stayed long enough to make sure the scoter was not diving and avoiding detection.

Some of the waterfowl on Smith Lake included; Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Cackling Geese and Canada Geese.

Since I was halfway to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County), my car headed that way :-) Arrived at 3:40 pm as two birders were leaving without seeing the White-throated Sparrow or Curve-billed Thrasher. I mentioned that the birds tended to come out after 4:00 pm.

As if on cue, the Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow came out at 4:10 pm. The Harris's Sparrow showed up at 4:14 pm. The Curve-billed Thrasher at 4:21 pm. My longest wait was for a White-crowned Sparrow which should have been the most common. Finally, at 4:32 pm, a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow visited below the platform feeder at the northwest corner of the Red Rocks Park Trading Post.

This is only the 3rd time since 1992 that I have observed the four "Zonotrichia" sparrows in Colorado while standing at one spot!

Many other birds visited during my wait. Western Scrub-Jays, Spotted Towhees, many Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Mountain Chickadee, House Finches, Northern Flickers and even a Canyon Wren called briefly from the western rock cliff.

One thought I had during a late visit earlier in the month. After 4:00 pm is first good because the Trading Post shuts down and most visitors leave. However, the many House Sparrows also seem to disappear around 4:00 pm. Why I do not know; however, this has been consistent in four or five of my late afternoon visits. They may require more daylight to hunt for food. The other birds come until it is almost too dark to see them. Dozens more Dark-eyed Juncos appear after the commotion of the "jumpy" House Sparrows ends for the day. Other bird numbers increase also.

Denver and Adams County Birding, Another look at the Brant!

November 30, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached 43 degrees today; winds were 10+ mph. Still I was looking for a place to get in a walk and chose Lakecrest. I circled the whole lake and found some interesting birds among the 6000+ White-cheeked Geese.

Most of the White-cheeked Geese were as small as or smaller than the resident Mallards. Lakecrest was definitely a place to study Cackling Geese today!

Other geese included at least 9 Snow Geese, 3 Ross’s Geese and 4 Greater White-fronted Goose. Three additional white geese were not identified and could have been Snow Goose X Ross’s Goose hybrids. Several Canada Geese had white heads. Beware, there is also a resident domestic duck.

After the walk, I still wanted to get in a few miles and headed to the South Platte River at 88th Avenue. My walk today was only down to the white and green tower and back (starting from Colorado Blvd).

The male Barrow’s Goldeneye was still in the river and south of the tower. I did not relocate the Long-tailed Duck last reported on 11/15. Most of the lakes are open and there are way too many locations for the duck to “hang out”. Finding uncommon ducks and the Barrow’s Goldeneyes is much easier once the lakes freeze over and the ducks are forced to the S. Platte or small open areas in the lakes.

This location is a good place to study or photograph ducks. Many species swim on the river and they appear to not be bothered by the many people that walk and bike down the path.

My final stop was Barr Lake (Adams). The Harris’s Sparrow again visited below the feeders west of the Visitor’s Center. The Swamp Sparrow reported 11/28 by John Breitsch was not relocated.

Note: In the four or five times I have observed the Harris’s Sparrow, it has only come to the west side of the bushes west of the Visitor’s Center. I have not seen it approach the building. Perhaps throwing down some birdseed will entice the Sparrow closer to the building (for better views of it). When not at the bushes, it usually is in the taller bushes 20 yards or so west of the building.

Great-tailed Grackles and Eurasian Collared-Dove continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (152nd and Picadilly Road).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Finally the Brant! Ross's Gull Probably Gone

November 29, 2010

Richard Stevens:

We received several inches of snow last night. Temperatures will hardly reach the low 30s today. An hour before sunrise, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove the DIA Owl loop looking for Short-eared Owls; without success.

At sunrise, we scoped Lakecrest and finally got a look at the Brant! Several Ross's Geese were also observed; no Greater White-fronted Goose today. The lone Ross's Goose was with many White-cheeked Geese at Emerald Strand Park (all Denver County).

Next, we drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) for one last shot at the Ross's Gull. It was not found. We probably will not try again unless someone reports the Gull. Most gulls were flying around and we found nothing uncommon at the swim beach or the southeastern corner.

We did not see the Dunlin. However, they could be in the southeastern corner. Yesterday, they walked around in little valleys along the shore and were not visible for long periods of time (unless and when I hiked around the south side of the lake).

Then we drove over to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) and scoped the lake from the dam, the swim beach and south side. No Ross's Gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the swim beach. We did not hike the 8.7 miles around the lake and therefore missed many coves (about 20 percent of the lake cannot be seen from the above mentioned locations).

Again, we found the Harris's Sparrow at Barr Lake (Adams) and the Great-tailed Grackles at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot. For once, I did not stay out until dark; too cold, I went home for a hot meal!

Great Day at Cherry Creek Reservoir, Missed Brant Again

November 28, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I went out early searching for the Brant; again without success. We again found a Ross's Goose (Emerald Strand Park) and a Greater White-fronted Goose and additional Ross's Geese at Lakecrest (Denver County).

I took Bryan back to his car and we relocated the Harris's Sparrow at Barr Lake (Adams).

Bryan went home for the day and I headed over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).

As reported, I found the Mew Gull on the swim beach with dozens of Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls and a few Herring Gulls. I took about 60 photos before the Mew Gull was surrounded by Ring-billed Gulls.

At the southeast corner, I found and took about 30 photos of the two Dunlin before backing off and leaving. I accessed the area by taking the "wildlife preserve" trail north of the Shop Creek Parking Area. Follow this man made (covered in stones) to a well packed trail leading north toward the lake (stump on east side of trail and small log lying across trail, no stones). From here go north to lake and walk east close to cattails. Dunlin were near shore where wet area extends south to cattails.

On my return route, a Swamp Sparrow was seen and photographed on and near a fallen down cottonwood log (about 15 feet long) at the edge of the cattails. This log is about halfway between previous "wet area" and the water inlet at the bird platform.

The Ross's Gull was not found but looked for quite a bit.

Further searches for Brant were not successful. Richard Anderson found the Brant along the south side of Lakecrest, east end. I only scoped from the northern west end of the lake.

My birding day ended near Trussville Road and 114th avenue, searching for Short-eared Owls; without success.

Pueblo County Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Missed Common Redpoll and Brant

November 27, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Again getting to bed late at 8:00 am, my birding day did not start until 11:00 am. I found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker east of the tennis courts at Pueblo City Park (Pueblo). It slowly moved south along Calla Avenue and flew down Collins Avenue.

The plan was to head south to Lathrop State Park and Lake Maria. However, Rebecca and several other cobirders found a Brant in Denver County and that was a year bird for me.

On my way to Denver (by way of highway 83, it is a much more interesting route than taking highway 25 interstate), I made a brief detour to Tomichi Gulch. I scoped the feeders where I found a Common Redpoll last week; without success in a repeat.

Once in northeastern Denver County, I searched Emerald Strand, Lakecrest and the surrounding fields for the Brant, without success. I did find five Ross's Geese, two Greater White-fronted Geese, and Snow Geese at several locations; it was not a consolation for missing the Brant.

I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) and found a Harris's Sparrow below the feeders west of the Visitor's Center. Great-tailed Grackles and Eurasian Collared-Doves continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (south of 152nd avenue & Picadilly Road).

Fremont and Pueblo Counties, Unsuccessful Search for Spotted Owls

November 26, 2010

Richard Stevens:

After a couple of hours of sleep (went to bed at 7:00 am), I drove around Canon City (Fremont County) looking for some of the many Williamson's Sapsuckers that have been reported.

A male and two female Williamson's Sapsuckers were relocated at Lakeside Cemetery. A female Williamson's Sapsucker was found at both the Holy Cross Abbey and Centennial Park. I could not find any at Rouse Park; perhaps the sapsuckers at the other locations came from here?

At Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont), I found the previously reported Pacific Loon! The Wildlife Area was quite birdy. A flock of 10+ Bushtits and several Juniper Titmice were fluttering about south of the parking area.

A search for Ladder-backed Woodpeckers below the dam was not successful. Several Pinyon Jays were heard over the hill to the east (east of the old dump). However, I never did see any.

Next, I drove to Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo) and scoped the lake from several locations. The Black-legged Kittiwake and several Bonaparte's Gulls were found off the West Fisherman's Point.

The Long-tailed Duck was observed from a little farther east. A few Common Loons were seen also.

The northern marina was quiet; however, the southern marina tires hosted an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and many common gulls.

My birding day again ended with an unsuccessful search for Spotted Owls in Fremont County.

At 6:00 am, I drove through Beaver Creek Wildlife Area. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was enticed to answer my recording! Nice little bird!

Cherry Creek Reservoir, Red Rocks Park and Park County

November 25, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) about 45 minutes before sunrise and waited at the parking area just west of where Cherry Creek crosses until the main road. Short-eared Owls have been observed flying over the large cattail fields here. However, none did today.

Then I scoped Cherry Creek Reservoir from the Lake Loop to see if the Ross's Gull that was seen just offshore the evening before, was still there? It was not. I hurried over to the sandbar at the southwest marina only to hear that the Ross's Gull had just flown. A first year Thayer's Gull swam not far offshore!

On my way to the swim beach area, a quick stop at the old Jet Ski parking area turned out to be a good place to scope the southeast corner of the lake. Among the many Ring-billed and California Gulls, the adult Mew Gull and an adult and 2nd year Lesser Black-backed Gull were observed!

At the swim beach, I found the Ross's Gull flying around in the middle of the lake! Many gulls 600+ were at the swim beach. However, none was uncommon.

No loons, Trumpeter Swan appears to be gone, Western Grebes numbers were way down from 5:00 pm yesterday, Common Merganser numbers way up from last evening, and I did not see the Red-necked Grebe.

On my way to Park County, a quick stop was made at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). The Curve-billed Thrasher and Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared within 10 minutes. The White-throated Sparrow did not show in 15 minutes and I left.

The reservoirs in Park County were mostly ice covered. Eleven Mile Reservoir and Antero were 100 percent frozen. Spinney Mountain Reservoir was 90 percent ice covered. The State Park is closed for the season; however, one can walk in the Wildlife Area at the west end. Two cold Trumpeter Swans stood at the west end. Many ducks were in the river between Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Eleven Mile Reservoir; however, none was uncommon.

I ended my birding day searching unsuccessfully for Spotted Owls in Fremont County.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Search for owls in Larimer County, Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 24, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Wednesday I took my four birding friends to Larimer County. Our first stop was Lee Martinez Park in Fort Collins. It only took 15 minutes before an Eastern Screech-Owl was enticed to come out of his hole and see what our recording was all about!

On the second pass through Rist Canyon, we finally found a Northern Pygmy-Owl. It was on the south side of the road in the thin woods west of Whale Rock. Sort of the same location as past years and probably the one that Tom and Mary France photographed a while back.

We ran out of time to look for Lapland Longspurs on the Pawnee National Grasslands and I took them to DIA (Denver International Airport; seems that many people have written me about what DIA means; as in DIA Owl Loop).

We stopped briefly at Barr Lake (Adams County) and saw the Harris's Sparrow behind the Visitor's Center. Thousands of White-cheeked Geese, Canada Geese & Cackling Geese, Snow Geese and a couple of Ross's Geese were off the boat ramp.

I ended my birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). I arrived late but did see the Ross's Gull for the fifth straight day! I hurried around to the swim beach to scope for gulls; this was 5:00 pm. It was getting dark. I could see a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls but most gulls were still flying around in the center of the lake. At 5:07 pm, a Trumpeter Swan landed west of the swim beach!

After dark, I again walked from the Lake Loop to Cottonwood Creek Loop. No Long-eared Owl this evening. A Great Horned Owl again called from the Campgrounds.

I am headed over there now (Thursday morning) to see if the Trumpeter Swan is still around and if any Short-eared Owls will be flying around this morning. I was telling another birder a few days ago, that 7 of the 13 swans that I have seen at Cherry Creek Reservoir have come in after sunset. Now its 8 of 14! It pays to stay and watch the sunset and silhouettes of birds swimming around!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mountain & Foothills Birding & Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 23, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I took four birders into the mountains to search for feeders and mountain birds. We looked in Empire and Dillon, not finding much.

A quick stop at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County) found 7 Barrow's Goldeneyes on the small pond that never freezes.

On the trip back to Denver, we detoured to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). The pass has received much snow since my last visit. Snow Boarders and skiers now have enough snow to avoid the lift tickets at Loveland Ski Area. Unfortunately, the increased activity chases the White-tailed Ptarmigan away from the "easy" sightings.

Winds were quite strong at the top of the pass. Anemometer readings were steady 28+ mph with gusts to 39.3 mph. We tried to steady our scopes but found no ptarmigan at the top.

The hill opposite the first pullover south of the summit is always my second choice. Again trying to hold our scopes steady was quite difficult; again no ptarmigan.

At the first pullover on the right side of the road below the south side of the summit, we again pulled out our scopes. However, this time I found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan under one of the evergreens about 40 yards east of hwy 6!

I am always glad to avoid my fourth choice, the long climb up the west side of the Summit. A flat area about 0.6 miles up the steep hill is many times good for Ptarmigan. It is a strenuous climb even for one acclimatized to the altitude. I make it quite often, never enjoy it though.

It was still morning and we decided to drive to Pine Valley Ranch Park to search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers. One American Dipper was diving into the freezing water to hunt for food. Darn, they are hearty birds!

A quick stop at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) was a gem. We found all three "uncommon" birds within 10 minutes. Luck never hurts as the Curve-billed Thrasher, Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow all were below the northern platform feeder when we arrived.

Our luck continued at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). We walked less than 400 yards before seeing a male American Three-toed Woodpecker working the trees on the hillside south of Pine Lake.

We returned to Denver, the group had already see the Ross's Gull at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and decided to get some rest. I on the other hand, drove over to the reservoir.

I had seen the Ross's Gull for three straight days and was in no hurry to search the many gulls flying around the lake again. A Black-legged Kittiwake would have made my day so I scoped the swim beach first thing.

No Black-legged Kittiwake again, however as a consolation, the Mew Gull and a 1st cycle Thayer's Gull were among several hundred Ring-billed Gulls and dozens of California Gulls.

While scoping the lake for loons, I did find the Ross's Gull in the west-center of the reservoir. Its distinctive feeding pattern is the first clue in locating the Gull. Then a good look at its wedge shaped tail, clinches the ID. No loons or grebes were found.

I drove over to the Lake Loop and scoped the lake from the north end. The Red-necked Grebe was not found; however, a loose raft of Ruddy Ducks and Lesser Scaup had a pair of Greater Scaup among it.

Off to the east side of the Lake Loop, I could see a Pacific Loon and Common Loon. By then, daylight was disappearing rapidly and my search ended without a Black-legged Kittiwake sighting.

After dark, I hiked from the Bird Platform at the Cottonwood Creek Loop, first west to the Lake Loop and then east from the Cottonwood Creek Loop to the path that cuts through the trees (Shop Creek trail). A Long-eared Owl called for the second time in four days (east of the inlet canal and south of the cattails).

Later, I walked the Campgrounds listening for Great Horned Owls. My birding day ended with the calling of one of the large owls!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Adams and Arapahoe County Birding

November 22, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I left home about 60 minutes before sunrise hoping to find some Short-eared Owls along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County). Winds were 20+ mph with gusts to 28 mph. It was definitely colder than yesterday morning.

A Short-eared Owl was seen flying from west to east across Queensburg Street at 0.1 miles south of 114th avenue. This was about 15 minutes before sunrise (sunrise: 6:51 am). It was the only Short-eared Owl found this morning.

After sunrise, a pair of Northern Harriers came out where 114th avenue turns south toward 96th avenue.

Once at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) I scoped the reservoir from the west end of the picnic tables east of the handicapped fisherperson's dock. It took awhile; finally, the Ross's Gull was again observed flying around in the middle of the lake.

I snuck around to the swim beach and scoped the gulls hoping to find the Black-legged Kittiwake; without success. The Mew Gull was in the middle of several hundred Ring-billed Gulls and dozens of California Gulls.

Next, I walked the south end of the lake from the Lake Loop to the Cottonwood Creek Loop. No Snow Bunting for me this morning.

I stopped at the south end of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) and scoped the lake from mile marker 1.5 and over to 3.0. No uncommon gulls were found today (they could have been at the north end which was beyond my equipment's ability).

The Pacific Loon and Common Loon were again swimming in the extreme southeastern end of the reservoir. I do not believe this cove can be scoped from the eastern end of the dam or from the swim beach. It is a good 3.0 mile hike to see into this cove.

A stop at Barr Lake (Adams) again found 3 Common Loons (viewed from the closed boat ramp). Great-tailed Grackles and Eurasian Collared-Doves continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot.

It took over an hour before the Harris's Sparrow was observed again coming below the feeders behind (west) the Barr Lake Visitor's Center!

The cold winds of 21+ mph changed my mind about ending the birding day at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Common Redpoll at Tomichi Gulch, Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 21, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed an exciting day of birding. First, I drove south to Tomichi Gulch (Douglas County) in search of a possible Eastern Towhee (Kingery 11/19). Throughout the day, the weather changed drastically. At Tomichi Gulch, it was sunny, 40 degrees and calm winds. Later at Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas), I measured winds steady at 28 mph with half a dozen gusts at 37.7 mph. At Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) around 11:00 am, temperatures dropped 20 degrees and winds were 25+ mph.

I had not been back to Tomichi Gulch since 1993. When I first started birding, I thought that I could get my "lifebird" Band-tailed Pigeon there. Mixed Ponderosa Pine forest, creek and cottonwoods, after 14 visits, It sunk in that Tomichi Gulch perhaps is not the place to find Band-tailed Pigeons.

Many birds were found during a 0.7 mile hike from the trailhead east along the creek to the northeast corner of the "working ranch" where the trail opens up into prairie.

All three nuthatches, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Western Scrub-Jays, Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Three Spotted Towhees were found, no Eastern Towhee.

When I arrived at the open prairie, a red capped bird caught my attention. A Common Redpoll was with 7 American Goldfinches on top of the willows. They eventually flew to feeders between two cream colored homes quite a ways north of the creek.

On the trip back to my car, an adult female Northern Goshawk was observed in a tree about halfway to the trailhead.

Another house with feeders was found at the first creek crossing east of the trailhead. The feeders are east of the cream colored house with wooden porch. If there is an Eastern Towhee in the area, watching these feeders could produce a sighting as I did see two Spotted Towhees visit below the feeders. Perhaps the Common Redpoll will also work his way west to these feeders?

Next, I drove through Castlewood Canyon State Park by way of Lake Gulch Road to Castlewood Canyon Road. I was hoping to see some bluebirds. None was found in the 28+ mph winds.

I ended my birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). By the time I arrived, the Ross's Gull was no longer at the southwest sandbar. No gulls were at the bird platform area, Cottonwood Creek Loop or the southeast corner.

I did notice some gulls on the Jet Ski beach area. When I stopped to scope them, the Mew Gull was found among 3 dozen Ring-billed Gulls! Later, the Mew Gull flew to the swim beach.

Fog rolled in about noon or so and weather turned bad for about 2 hours. Then the sun returned and so did the Ross's Gull. Jerry Petrosky joined me and watched the Ross's Gull again hunting for fish in the middle of the lake.

I walked the north and then south "beaches" again looking for a Snow Bunting; without success.

Returning to the swim beach, the Black-legged Kittiwake was again missed, if he is still around? We scanned the lake and could not find any loons. However, Mike Henwood did report a Pacific and Common Loon. The Red-necked Grebe was not relocated either.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Look at the Ross's Gull

November 20, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I got up at 5:00 am to go over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Then remembered that this time of year, fog hovers over the reservoir until 9:00 am or so. I finally arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir about 8:30 am.

The Ross's Gull was quite visible from the northern picnic tables east of the swim beach. He flew low over the water, diving down and catching fish. He would rest now and then and continue eating quite a few fish. Perhaps "stocking up" for his long trip back home?

From my vantage point, I could see 3 Common Loons, the Pacific Loon and the Red-throated Loon west of the swim beach (below the dam). While looking for the Red-throated Loon, I also found the Red-necked Grebe among the many Western Grebes.

My main goal (having seen the Ross's Gull yesterday) was to photograph a Snow Bunting. My attempt to find any on the north side of the lake was unsuccessful. Several flocks of American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were in the bushes along the shore. Then I hiked the south side of the lake from the boat ramp to the bird platform at the Cottonwood Creek Loop.

I met a birder on the shore at the extreme eastern shore of the Lake Loop and talked to him for 5 minutes. He left and I turned around and took two steps. A Snow Bunting flew up not 15 feet from me.

Later, I met the birder again and he mentioned that he had watched the Snow Bunting for 5 minutes before I ran into him. Unfortunately, he had just started birding and did not know what he was watching. At least I got good looks at a Snow Bunting flying away, but no photographs.

The Snow Bunting flew east along the shore. I continued to the bird platform where the Mew Gull was among 600+ Ring-billed Gulls and several dozen California Gulls. At least I got a photograph of it.

As a consolation, I did see a Long-eared Owl in the trees that still have green leaves along the path from the Lake Loop to the Cottonwood Creek Loop!

Later, I drove to the Shop Creek parking area and bushwhacked into the extreme southeastern corner of Cherry Creek Reservoir. There is much shore here, however no Snow Bunting. Half a dozen Great Blue Herons and many Killdeer were there.

On the way home, I stopped at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe). The Pacific Loon, Common Loon, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bonaparte's Gull were fairly easy to find. I could not relocate the Black Scoter reported a few days ago.

One final stop, Barr Lake State Park (Adams County). Three Common Loons were swimming below the dam. Two Greater White-fronted Geese were among hundreds of White-cheeked Geese just west of the boat ramp. One Snow Goose was also here.

These thousands of White-cheeked Geese (Canada Geese and Cackling Geese) were only a small percentage of the thousands of geese farther west in the park. If someone took the time, perhaps a Brant, additional Greater White-fronted Geese or a Ross's Goose could be found among them. I could see additional white geese too far away to identify in the distance. Perhaps tomorrow?

A quick stop at the Visitor's Center found a Harris's Sparrow behind (west) of the building. He came with a couple of White-crowned Sparrows below the feeders there. When not at the feeders, he would go to the taller bushes just west of the building.

A dozen Great-tailed Grackles and many Eurasian Collared-Doves continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot at 152nd avenue and Picadilly Road (about a mile north of Barr Lake).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gilpin County Owls and Rosy Finches; Ross's Gull at Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 19, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Gary Weston and I did some owling hours before sunrise in Gilpin County. Mainly we drove up to Rollinsville and back along Highway 119. The scenery sure has changed since gambling went big time in Blackhawk and Central City. It is quite ugly.

Considering the time of year and traffic, we did quite well. We ended up hearing 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls and 1 Boreal Owl. A drive around Rollinsville found two flocks of Rosy Finches. Total number of birds was approximately 310+. They were mostly Gray-crowned Rosy Finches (80 percent) and Brown-capped Rosy Finches. We could only pick out one Black Rosy Finch.

Afterwards, we detoured to Loveland Pass and found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan north of the large pullover south of the Summit (first pullover south and west of hwy 6). We found little activity at the few feeders in Empire (Clear Creek County).

The excitement today was definitely at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Glenn Walbek found an adult basic Ross's Gull. Fortunately, many birders were able to see it.

Skipping sleep unlike my companions, I arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir around 1:00 pm. First, I tried to find the Snow Bunting reported by Rozinski. I walked from the swim beach to the old jet ski rental area and back. On the second pass, I found a Snow Bunting with 14+ Dark-eyed Juncos and 7+ American Tree Sparrows along the shore. They were in the bushes and along the shore west of the handicapped fisherperson's dock (near the cement stairs leading down to the lake.

About 2 hours later, the many birders looking at the Ross's Gull (from the Lake Loop) saw a Snow Bunting along their shore. Perhaps it was the same bird that flew directly south, or perhaps there were/are several Snow Buntings at the State Park? Snow Buntings are being reported at quite a few locations around Colorado this fall.

From the swim beach, I was able to see at least 3 Common Loons and the Pacific Loon. I missed the Red-throated Loon, which was relocated later in the day by Bryan Ehlmann. I am not sure anyone looked for the Red-necked Grebe today with the Ross's Gull being the priority.

I eventually worked my way over to the Lake Loop and got some great looks at the Ross's Gull. Thanks Glenn!

Almost forgot, on the way home, relocated the Great-tailed Grackles at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot and saw a Common Loon below the dam at Barr Lake (Adams).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Afternoon at Cherry Creek State Park

November 18, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann;

When Sue and I went through Cherry Creek State Park, we found Richard Stevens at the picnic tables with gull wings, southwest side.

Richard was looking at the Red necked Grebe 20 feet from shore.

He also put his scope on the Red throated Loon, Pacific Loon and three Common Loons.

We walked to the end of the road below the dam and saw two Bonaparte's Gulls and the Mew Gull flying around the dam's tower.

Many Ring-billed Gulls, dozens of California Gulls and at least two Herring Gulls were swimming off the dam. We could not find any Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boulder County and Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 17, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Still too tired to think of a catchy title...................

Instead of going to Gross Reservoir, I drove to the Brainard Lake area, west of Ward (Boulder County). It was snowing, but the sky was clear. I could see the starts and 3/4 full moon through the snowflakes. Winds were mild. All provided a calm surreal experience.

I could not get any owls (Boreal Owl or otherwise) to respond to my recordings.

After sunrise, I found an American Three-toed Woodpecker near the Brainard Lake trailhead. Most other birds were not moving around.

My stop at Paula Hansley's Louisville home was less than 45 minutes. Only a couple of House Sparrows and 2 House Finches visited her feeders during that time.

The last two hours of daylight were spent at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). I scoped the lake from the Bird Platform (Cottonwood Creek Loop) and found 2 Common Loons and the Pacific Loon.

Then I hiked down the road from below the southwest corner of the dam. Unfortunately, the many Western Grebes had swum back into the center of the lake. I was able to pick out the Red-necked Grebe! Two additional Common Loons were found (the two farther east could also be seen, so there were at least four!).

I ended the day watching the many grebes and gulls from the handicapped fisherperson's dock. We had another fantastic Colorado early winter sunset; it was outstanding.

Several Bonaparte's Gulls flew about. However, the Mew Gull escaped my inspection.

Aurora Reservoir and Boulder County

November 16, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Too tired to come up with a catchy title....................

In the morning, I drove over to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) and hiked the 8.8 miles around the lake. Quite a few ducks were there. Many Western Grebes but no Clark's Grebes were among them.

A Common Loon was below the dam (mile marker 6.5). A Pacific Loon was in the cove at mm 4.5.

Most of the gulls were on the beach at mm 1.5. I walked the hundred yards or so off the bike path and scoped the gulls. The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was among hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls and dozens of California Gulls. At least two Bonaparte's Gulls were picked out also.
In the afternoon, I drove over to Paula Hanley's Louisville home. She had seen a Wood Thrush and White-throated Sparrow earlier in the day.

I arrived at Paula Hansley's home in Louisville around 2:45 pm. Winds were quite strong (left my anemometer at home along with my cell phone so could not take a reading). I did not see the Wood Thrush in the 45 minutes I watched; winds got stronger. I did see a thrush (probably a Robin) fly out of her pines at 3:01 pm and go left (west I believe, anyway toward Tyler Street).

Next, I drove over to Teller Farms. A flock of 14+ White-crowned Sparrows and the Golden-crowned Sparrow were in the bushes right at the southeast corner of the parking area. They eventually flew along the trail toward North Teller Lake (same thing that Christian Nunes saw earlier). When I departed, the flock flew into the brush below the downed cottonwood tree, north of the trail and just south of Valmont Road.

I checked out Prince Lakes #1 & #2 and Erie Reservoir. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the west side of Prince Lake #2.

By the time I returned to Hansley's home, it was quite dark, however less windy. I did not see the Wood Thrush and White - throated Sparrow.

If the weather holds, I plan to go up to Gross Reservoir (west of Boulder) and do some owling. Camp up there and try for the Wood Thrush in the morning. This front is supposed to be a small one and moving out fast? I did hear Interstate 70 is closed from Silverthorne to Eagle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Red Rocks Park Area

November 15, 2010

Richard Stevens:

After spending November 13 & 14th in bed (slept probably 18+ hours each day), my cold appeared to be better. I had to get out of the house. While I did not feel up to much hiking, I could sit at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County) late in the afternoon.

I arrived at 4:00 pm, which may have been a little late considering the poor light (snowing a bit). The number of juncos at the feeders behind the Trading Post was half of my previous visits. In the past four or five visits, an adult and 2 or 3 juvenile White-crowned Sparrows preceded visits from the Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. No White-crowned Sparrows came tonight.

I had just about given up hope and was only staying until no birds visited the feeder. At 4:39 pm, the Curve-billed Thrasher jumped up on the northwestern platform feeder. The bird stayed until 4:44 pm and then jumped down and disappeared over the 4X4 (with red paint on it) and into the thick brush.

The two sparrows never came for a visit. By then I had decided to stay longer than any birds. Four Song Sparrows showed up around 5:00 pm. Two of which stayed until at least 5:40 pm when I left. There is a light on the northwest corner of the trading post. I wonder if the Song Sparrows (2 of the 4 kept coming to the platform feeder) take advantage of the light and eat late into the night. I was too cold to stay longer in hopes of deciding that.

Instead of going home, I parked at Red Rocks Park entrance # 2 and walked the highway south to Morrison and back. Northern Pygmy-Owls have nested in the riparian area along the creek in the past; none was found tonight.

Before going home, I drove over to White Ranch Open Space. Here, my Northern Pygmy-Owl recording did get a response!

"Walking the Ridge" Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass

November 12, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Three of us decided to conduct the 2nd annual "Walk the Ridge" (actually Continental Divide) between Loveland Pass and Interstate 70. It really the 7th attempt, last year was the first time we succeeded.

The route is trick if you want to do it when there is snow on the ground (better to see White-tailed Ptarmigan tracks). Too much snow, the route is dangerous and slippery. Not enough snow and the high winds blow away any chance of seeing ptarmigan tracks.

Conditions were perfect today. Just enough fresh snow for ptarmigan to leave tracks. Besides the four White-tailed Ptarmigan, Howard and I found yesterday, we added another seven ptarmigan to our day list!

Note: This is a strenuous hike, while only 3.9 miles in length, there is much elevation gain and of course loss. We also carry avalanche beacons, although they were not needed today. Every precaution should be taken by hikers attempting this. Do not attempt under "avalanche" conditions. Be aware!

Afterwards, to "wind down" our legs, Gary Weston and I hiked the South Platte River from 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd to Hwy 224 (west side) and back (along the east side).

The male Barrow's Goldeneye (Michaels, 11/8) was about 20 yards south of the green/white tower (about 0.4 miles south of 88th avenue). Later we would relocate the duck on Tani Reservoir.

Heading for home, we scoped Dahlia Lake. A Long-tailed Duck was found on the north end (we parked at the small "driveway" gate pointed toward the lake.

Many Great-tailed Grackles and Eurasian Collared-Doves can still be seen at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (Adams).

Mountain Birding and Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 11, 2010

Richard Stevens:

While watching the "big three" birds at Red Rocks Park yesterday, I met Howard Shapiro from Toronto. We had decided to try for mountain birds in Summit and Clear Creek Counties.

At sunrise, we managed to see flocks of Rosy Finches flying around the Dillon area (all three species, Gray-crowned, Brown-capped, and Black). A few Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadees, flocks of Pygmy Nuthatches, Gray Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatches brighten our morning.

A check at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit) did not find any Barrow's Goldeneyes. One female Common Goldeneye was with Green-winged Teal, Mallards and Gadwalls.

Howard had to catch an airplane home and as we turned back east, I said it would only be a 4 mile (30 minute) detour to look for White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass. I really did not expect to find any. However, within 5 minutes of our arrival, I followed the tracks to 2-4 White-tailed Ptarmigan below the southeast corner of the Summit parking area.

We then drove south down the pass to the first pullover on the right side of Highway 6. Last year, the hill on the opposite side of the highway was the best place to find ptarmigan; none there today.

On the return trip over Loveland Pass (at 0.2 miles from the pullover), I again found tracks and two White-tailed Ptarmigan on the right side of the road.

Another great location to look (we did not today) is the first pullover on the left side of the road as one drives south down from the summit. In previous years, ptarmigan are found on the hill on the west side of hwy 6 (west of the pullover). However, do not miss the chance to scope the east side of hwy 6 here.

We stopped briefly at Red Rocks Park and again saw all three uncommon birds (Curve-billed Thrasher, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow).

After dropping Howard off, I spent two hours walking the spring fed creek, south of the Platte River at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt at Prospect Park (Jefferson). The Tree Bridge Trail runs from the west end of the chain link fence south of the Prospect Park footbridge, west to the "Tree Bridge".

I walked the trail twice with success in finding the previously reported Pacific Wren. On my third (and to be last) attempt, I played the Pacific Wren alarm call at the Tree Bridge. Within seconds, the Pacific Wren popped out from underneath the log, stood on the top of the log, and looked around for a good 8-10 seconds. It then dropped back down and appeared to move to the east!

I ended my birding day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). I scope the lake for the last hour before sunrise and 30 minutes after. The best vantage point was the picnic table area, west of the handicapped fisherperson dock.

My scope was set up looking at the dam's tower (light gray background) and focused on gulls flying across the view. The Mew Gull was first observed here; later it flew along the swim beach and directly in front of me!

Several Bonaparte's Gulls were also seen flying across the view of the dam's tower as background.

An interesting Gull swam in the water about 20 yards south of my position. I would have enjoyed making it a Laughing Gull; however, it turned out to be a late Franklin's Gull.

The previously reported Black-legged Kittiwake was never found by me.

Escape from Huerfano Cty, Red Rocks Park, Jefferson Cty

November 10, 2010

My aims were to stay in Las Animas County for a couple of days. The weather predictions of a snowstorm changed my mind and after a couple of hours of sleep headed back to Denver.

On the way home, I stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County). Six of us were there at 4:00 pm. All three of the uncommon birds showed up within 10 minutes.

First, the Curve-billed Thrasher came out of the brush north of the northwestern feeder. Seconds later, the Golden-crowned Sparrow popped out from the same area. A few minutes later, the White-throated Sparrow joined the many birds gulping down seeds. It was a great end to the day!

Visit to La Veta and Walsenburg

November 9, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I drove most of the night first to return to Denver, changed clothes and was off to Walsenburg and the La Veta home (Huerfano County) of Paul and Polly Neldner to see their Eastern Towhee.

I arrived in La Veta an hour before sunrise and walked around the riparian area north of town listening to the night. A pair of Great Horned Owls called back and forth to each other.

At 6:20 (sunrise was 6:35 am), I parked in the Neldner's driveway and waited only a few minutes for signs of morning activity.

We did not have to wait more than 10 minutes for the female Eastern Towhee to make an appearance. She came below their feeders several times before I departed at 7:00 am.

On the way out of the area, I took the first county road (Huajatolla Blvd) heading south (from west of CR 359). About halfway between Monroe and the cemetery, four Pinyon Jays were in the evergreen trees around the one story house (only evergreen trees encountered).

I continued into La Veta and drove around the neighborhood at San Francisco Street and the River. A White-winged Dove was found at East Virginia Street and Elm Street.

Next, I headed back toward Walsenburg and Lathrop State Park. Along the way, I noticed a sign for the Walsenburg Water Supply (on some maps; Walsenburg Reservoir) and decided to check it out.

As soon as I turned south on Huerfano County Road 346 (Spanish Peaks Blvd), there was a flock of 31+ Pinyon Jays. Walsenburg Reservoir is best scoped from the next road going west (Taylor Road). A female/immature Black Scoter was on the lake. Also seen: 4 Western Grebes and a Pied-billed Grebe.

I circled Lathrop State Park twice. Birds observed included a Pacific Loon, Common Loon and Red-necked Grebe. I was looking for (more or less, since the only directions were north side of Martin Lake) the Winter Wren.

A Marsh Wren was found in the cattails between Martin and Horseshoe Lakes. While photographing birds from the west side of Martin Lake, I noticed a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the Russian Olive Trees west of the Martin Lake south inlet parking area.

A closer inspection found 9+ Yellow-rumped Warblers and a western Palm Warbler.

After lunch I worked my way down to Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area (accessed from New Mexico). After sunset and civil twilight, I set up 6 "listening stations" for Northern Saw-whet Owls. Three each for an hour and then moved to another location. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was found. While I was setting them up, a Northern Pygmy-Owl called from the northwest side of the lake.

Then I moved around to the northern access to Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area and set up again 3 & 3 "listening stations". Again having success at two of them.

Back to Northeastern Colorado

November 7-8, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Saturday, 7th

I had every intention of staying home and getting some chores done. A call from Roger Danka reminded me that it was his wife's birthday; off we went to northeast Colorado. This was a good cause, however, it does not take much to get me to go out birding.

On the way to the northeast corner of Colorado, we made several stops (of course). Our first stop was to circle Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) to see if any uncommon gulls or ducks had moved in since our last visit. Unfortunately, we found none. As a consolation, a Harris's Sparrow was found at the southwest corner of the eastern Campgrounds. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds flew about the northeast corner of same.

The longest stop was at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County). We drove along the access road just south of the riparian area along the S. Platte River (from sections 5 East to 7 East.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers were again found from the highway 55 bridge over the South Platte River. A couple of Field Sparrows came out of the windbreak at 7 East (as we walked the east side and returned along the west side).

A Northern Cardinal was found between the maintenance building and Tamarack Pond. The highlight was a calling Eastern Screech-Owl after sunset (in riparian area between 6 and 7 East).

After dinner, Roger and I walked the creek on his ranch and heard two additional Eastern Screech-Owls (Sedgwick). For the heck of it, we drove over to Jumbo to listen to the ducks and geese. The resident Eastern Screech-Owl called from the north side. A Great Horned Owl called in the Campgrounds.

Sunday 8th

After an early breakfast, Rebecca, Roger and his wife and I headed out for some serious birding.

A quick stop at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) found 2 Common Loons and 11 Greater White-fronted Geese. We could not relocate the Harris's Sparrow observed yesterday.

The highlight came while looking for shorebirds along the south and east sides of the reservoir. A Snow Bunting walked the sanding shore at the extreme southeast corner! Unfortunately, it stayed mainly on private property and we only got witness photos.

At Ovid, we walked the northern woods to the southern woods to the nearby Ovid Sewage Ponds.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker added color to the northern woods (east of the high school). A Brown Thrasher was found at the southern end, just north of Monroe Avenue, which goes from town to the old factory to the east.

The weeds around the sewage ponds were quite birdy. Many White-crowned Sparrows, 5 Song Sparrows, 17 American Tree Sparrows and a late Lincoln's Sparrow were found. The highlight was a lone Field Sparrow with his bright Rufous crown and pink bill!

Today was a day for sparrows. Next, we hiked the east side of the Julesburg Wildlife Area (south side of Platte River, south of Ovid). Northern Cardinals have been found in here on previous visits; however none today.

Again many White-crowned, Tree and a few Song Sparrows were encountered. A Harris's Sparrow was found about 200 yards east of Sedgwick County Road 29. A pair of Great Horned Owls was also in the area.

Hoping to find a Northern Bobwhite, we headed to DePoorter Lake (Sedgwick) south of Julesburg. Again many sparrows were found in the high weeds (first at the southwest parking area) and then along the Platte River.

Unfortunately, we did not turn up any Bobwhite. Two Harris's Sparrows moved along the S. Platte River (just west of the old dump). A couple of Eastern Bluebirds were just east of the old dump.

We ended our birding day watching the fields along Highway 11, just south of Nebraska. No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Northeastern Colorado Again

November 5-6, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Friday, 5th

Bryan Ehlmann and I went to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) just for the day. Well, we ended up staying overnight.

Jackson Lake State Park was pretty quiet. Several Bonaparte's Gulls flew over the lake (observed from the dam accessed from CR 2).

We walked to the eastern end of the dam in search of Snow Buntings and whatever. No Snow Buntings were found. A Merlin was in the tall cottonwoods around the ponds below the dam.

An adult Bald Eagle flew by probably scared up from the same cottonwood grove.

Next, we drove east to Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan). A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was found; however, no screech owls could be enticed to make an appearance after civil twilight.

Saturday, 6th

We birded several of the "State Walk-In" areas with little success in finding interesting birds. There areas are quite interesting if visited at the right time of year. I will write more about them at a later date.

The best and only uncommon bird was an Eastern Screech-Owl warming him/herself. Opened her eyes briefly, figured we were not a threat, and went back to "sleep".

Bryan needed to be home by 2:00 pm and we returned to Denver. After dropping Bryan off, I headed up to Fossil Creek Reservoir (Larimer) where an Eurasian Wigeon had been reported the day before.

Once at Fossil Creek Reservoir, I walked the Sandpiper Trail twice; without success. Scoped from the observation deck, and then walked the Cattail Flats Trail.

The Sandpiper Trail was not very interesting. However, that is where the Eurasian Wigeon had been reported the day before and possibly earlier this day.

From the Observation platform, I was able to see a White-winged Scoter. I watched the duck for 15 minutes or so, before it stretched it wings, providing an accurate ID.

A Pacific Loon could be seen from the Cattail Flats bird blind! Fossil Creek Reservoir held hundreds of ducks, the search for the Eurasian Wigeon was definitely like looking for a needle in a large haystack.

When I arrived at the top of the hill at the extreme eastern end of the Cattail Flats trail, I set up my scope. The very first bird in the center of the scope was the male Eurasian Wigeon! The duck was swimming away from me; however, the gray sides stood out among several dozen American Wigeons (with brownish sides). When it turned toward me, the reddish brown head and Bufflehead crown stood out well.

On the walk back to my car, a Grasshopper Sparrow popped out of the tall grasses south of Cattail flats trail. It was an added bonus to the trip.