Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weld County Birding

February 28, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard Stevens and I returned to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area because he missed Long-eared Owls on Friday. We had better luck today; it only took a 15 minute walk to find two owls in the windbreak at Pond # 7.

We decided to continue north and found 3 Lapland Longspurs with a flock of 200 Horned Larks along Weld County Road 22 between County Roads 41 and 49. We also enjoy sightings of 2 Ferruginous Hawks, 1 Golden Eagle, 2 Prairie Falcons, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 American Kestrels, 1 Merlin, 3 Northern Harriers, and 2 Rough-legged Hawks. One of the Rough-legged Hawks was an uncommon dark morph!

We saw three Northern Harriers and two Short-eared Owls near sunset at Lower Latham Reservoir.

CoBus Trip to Summit and Clear Creek Counties

February 25, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

For those interested, this trip report is out of chronological order.

I led the CoBus trip to Loveland Pass, Clear Creek County. We missed the Ptarmigan in the morning, but returned in the afternoon after driving into Silverthorne for lunch. Five Barrow's Goldeneyes were at the Blue River Water Treatment Pond.

On our second trip up Loveland Pass, we scoped both the eastern and western slopes unsuccessfully for White-tailed Ptarmigan. Then we used one of Rich Stevens' tricks. We offered $20 and a free shuttle up the pass for anyone finding a Ptarmigan.

We scoped the slopes for another 20 minutes when one of our spotters waved his hands. He had found a pair of Ptarmigan below the ragged rocky ridge below the eastern side of the pass. It was well worth $20!

Most days, snowboarders and skiers, mostly young kids hitchhike up the pass and ski back down thus avoiding purchasing a lift ticket at Loveland Pass. They do a good job of covering the area though probably scare the Ptarmigan out of view of anyone standing at the top of the pass. It was a brilliant idea to use them as spotters! Thanks Rich!

We drove up Mt Evans Road and detoured down Chicago Pass road. In past years, Rosy Finches were reported at feeders along here. We did not however find any feeders.

At Echo Campgrounds, a Three-toed Woodpecker was drumming away when we got out of our cars. It's always nice to get a target bird without an hour search!

No birding today!

February 27, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Just to point out, I did not go birding today. See I do not go every day!

CoBus Trip to S. Platte River at 88th Avenue

February 26, 2010

Richard Stevens:

On the CoBus sponsored trip to the South Platte River at 88th and Colorado this morning we found an adult and juvenile Long-tailed Duck on the Northern West Gravel Lake. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the South Platte upstream from the green/white tower.

Another male Barrow's Goldeneye was on Tani Reservoir. On East Gravel Lake, we saw 182 Lesser Scaup, which also included a male and female Greater Scaup. Obviously, the ducks move between East Gravel Lake, Tani Reservoir, Northern West Gravel Lake and the South Platte River.

In the afternoon, I ran into a couple of birders at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area. Unfortunately, we could not find any Long-eared Owls. We did see a Ferruginous Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and male Northern Harrier.

On the DIA Owl Loop, I found another Ferruginous Hawk, two dark morph Red-tailed Hawks, 5 Northern Harriers and a Northern Shrike.

Twenty plus Great-tailed Grackle continue to linger around the feedlot at the first house south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd Avenue and Picadilly Road.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal Again

February 25, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Again returning to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) at 7:30 am. It was overcast and cold. No Dark-eyed Juncos visited the feeders until 9:30 am. The Harris's Sparrow showed up at 9:35 am and only stayed until 9:40 am.

Later in the day, I scoped Lakecrest from the west side. The Ross's Goose was swimming around the eastern end (near the ice edge).

South Platte River at Florida Avenue

February 24, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I walked the South Platte River from Florida Avenue (Overland Pond Park), south to Evans and north to Mississippi Avenue. The male Barrow's Goldeneye was 20 yards north (downstream) of the Florida Avenue overpass. We did not see a female Barrow's Goldeneye, again. I have missed the reported female at least 6 times now. Two female Common Goldeneyes stayed close to the male Barrow's Goldeneye.

Return to South Platte at 88th Avenue

February 23, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Becoming one of my favorite winter hiking trails, I returned to 88th Avenue and the South Platte River. There just are not many birds around other Denver this winter.

The Long-tailed Ducks were back on the northern West Gravel Lake. The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the Platte River near the green/white tower.

A Northern Shrike was found as I walked up the bike trail along Clear Creek from the S. Platte River to York Street. In the past, sparrows wintered in the thickets along Clear Creek. Unfortunately, most of the thickets have been "cleaned out" by the City.

Quite a few gulls stood on the ice at the southeast corner of Tani Reservoir. Most were Ring-billed Gulls accompanied by two Herring Gulls.

I passed Lakecrest and the other lakes around Chambers to Tower Roads, north of 42nd avenue. The Ross's Goose first photographed on 1/31 was feeding with two Canada Geese on the grassy hillside east of Wendys and just west of the Lakecrest property. The open water is at the eastern end of the Lakecrest lake. That is where I would suspect the Ross's Goose spends the night and mid days.

Nothing uncommon was found on a drive around the DIA Owl loop. A Short-eared Owl was south of 112th and Trussville in the middle of last week.

Aurora Reservoir was Slow

February 22, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Went out to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) to see what was around. There were few birds. Most gulls were Ring-billed with a half dozen Herring Gulls.

The Great-tailed Grackles were again seen south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd Avenue and Picadilly Road.

Barr Lake Area

February 21, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I did not have much time for birding today. Twenty nine Great-tailed Grackles and many Eurasian Collared-Doves were hanging around the first house south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd and Picadilly Road.

Few birds visited the feeders behind the Barr Lake Nature Center. Highlights: two White-crowned Sparrows and a male Downy Woodpecker.

South Platte River and Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

February 20, 2010

Richard Stevens:

This morning I again needed some exercise and walked the South Platte River at 88th Avenue area. Two Long-tailed Ducks continue (today one on East Gravel Lake and one on the northern West Gravel Lake). The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on northern West Gravel Lake.

In the afternoon, Rebecca and I returned to Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Prospect Park, Jefferson County) to try to get a look at the Winter Wren. The woods were quite noisy when we arrived. A Northern Mockingbird was singing south of the boardwalk along the tree bridge trail.

The Winter Wren joined in on the cacophony. This time he came out of the thick brush along the creek and allowed us about 8 second looks before returning deep into thickets!

Two dozen Great-tailed Grackles remain around the first house south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd Avenue and Picadilly Road (a mile north of Barr Lake State Park, Adams County).

Cherry Creek Reservoir

February 19, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I passed through Cherry Creek Reservoir Friday while restocking supplies. Most memorable is how few birds we see there now days. The previous flocks of Horned Larks (usually at model airplane field), sparrows and robins at Campgrounds, gulls (well I believe they are at Aurora Reservoir closer to county dump), and hawks (few recently) are way down in numbers the last two years.

We only saw 2 Black-billed Magpies (used to be a flock of 3 or 4 dozen wintering on the south side). One Northern Flicker and one Great Horned Owl at Campgrounds. Some snow, but last week when we passed through there was little snow. Just few birds.

Return to Rocky Mountain Arsenal

February 18, 2010

Once again, I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal at 7:30 am (it is when the area opens to the public). The Harris's Sparrow again followed a flock of 20-30 Dark-eyed Juncos to the eastern feeder (8:21 to 8:32 am).

Cheesman Canyon and Douglas County

February 17, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I left Denver at around 4:00 am to search for owls along Highway 67 on the way to Deckers. When Hwy 67 forks (right fork, paved; left fork gravel) to old Hwy 67 bypass (really called West Sugar Creek Road), we took the gravel road.

Stops were made every 0.25 miles from this intersection and a recording was played. Within 3 miles, two Northern Pygmy-Owls responded to our recordings.

At Cheesman Canyon Trail, we walked west to the old green trailer. In the past, Lewis's Woodpeckers and Red-headed Woodpeckers have been found on the hillside near the trailer. There was no sign of either woodpecker today.

Three American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found along the Cheesman Canyon Trail when we hiked up to Cheesman Reservoir. On previous trips, I have found up to 7 woodpeckers. Today however, it was quite cold and we suspected that the Three-toed Woodpeckers were not moving around much.

On the way back to Denver, we drove Lake Gulch Road and Castlewood Canyon Road through Castlewood Canyon State Park. Two Mountain Bluebirds were across from the old Winkler Ranch. Few birds were observed in the State Park itself (just 2 Spotted Towhees).

Rocky Mountain Arsenal and South Platte River

February 16, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal at 7:30 am to see if the Harris's Sparrow was still there. He showed up just before 8:00 am. As usual, 20-30 Dark-eyed Juncos first come to the feeders and a few minutes later the Harris's Sparrow comes.

Afterwards, I hiked the South Platte River from 88th Avenue to I270 and back. Two Long-tailed Ducks were on the northern West Gravel Lake. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the River about 20 yards downstream (south) of the green/white tower.

Another male Barrow's Goldeneye was on East Gravel Lake (formerly East Gravel Lake #4). East Gravel Lakes 1 through 3 were joined together and formed Tani Reservoir (south of East Gravel Lake).

Next, I decided to see what gulls were "lounging" around Broomfield and Boulder Counties in the afternoon. An adult Thayer's Gull and what others are calling a 2nd cycle Iceland Gull were at Parkside Center Pond, Broomfield County.

An adult Glaucous Gull was again at Erie Reservoir (Boulder). I did not stay in Boulder County, specifically Valmont Reservoir until the gulls return to roost after sunset. No uncommon gulls were there at 3:00 pm.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Owling in Jackson County

February 12 to 15th, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

I believe that updating the Trip Blog has been retarded due to the lack of my report. Sorry, it feels too much like homework. They wanted me to fill in the gaps before updating to keep the reports in chronological order.

Over the course of three days, nights really, Richard Stevens and I found nine Boreal Owls. Many of the sites are not near roads. We both snow shoed and used cross-country skied to reach the various locations. Snowshoes were slower, but neither of us is proficient enough to deal with steep mountain slopes on cross-country skis. Fifty+ year old men probably should not be skiing down slopes on cross-county skis in any event, especially at night.

A note of safety, both Richard and I have taken avalanche classes. While this doesn't mean we are experts on the subject, we have become aware of the possibilities. Likewise, we both carry avalanche beacons at all times when in the mountains in winter.

Even "tame" landscape such as Loveland Pass can be dangerous. Loveland Pass has had two avalanches on the west side in the past month. These were where we considered the best location to search for Ptarmigan. Many "experts" have fallen prey to avalanches including one of Richard's good friends.

On several occasions, we have gone owling along Argentine Pass trail. There is a "famous" section of the trail, famous for avalanches. I won't go further into whether the decision to go on such trails is questionable. Be careful!

Richard has been monitoring Boreal Owls on Cameron Pass and the Colorado State Forest for about six years now. He has GPS waypoints on previous nesting locations. We wanted to explore these this weekend while testing some winter sporting equipment supplied by a friend of Richards.

Our success rate was 9 out of 41 locations surveyed. We considered this better than good! We passed the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center on several times during the day and found a few Brown-capped Rosy Finches visiting the feeders on several occasions.

As a side note, the tent, coats, gloves and pants kept us very warm even with temperatures near zero at night. They should come in handy in future wintering owling trips. Our plan it to snowshoe up Pennock Pass in a month to find an early date for Flammulated Owl arrival. Normally, Pennock Pass is closed due to snowdrifts way into late May or early June. I am not sure I am looking forward to 9 to 13 mile one way trips; but they should be interesting.

Back to owling, while the lowlands experienced snowstorms this weekend, they missed the high mountains. We saw a sprinkling of snow every afternoon and night; there was little accumulation. Fortunately, we experienced calm winds. Most nights we could have heard a pin drop as the finely grained snow fell lightly and quietly. Conditions were superb for hearing the Boreal Owls!

Several of our trips were 4 miles, one way, off a road. Even in winter, there is quite a lot of noise in the forest at night. This makes the trips very interesting. Luckily, bears are hibernating, right?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rocky Mountain Arsenal & Banner Lakes Wildlife Area

February 11, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I arrived at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) at 7:30 am when it opened on Thursday. Dark-eyed Juncos started to come to the feeders at 7:50 am. Shortly thereafter, the Harris's Sparrow followed the juncos. They stayed until about 8:30 am. Once the Dark-eyed Juncos started to leave, so did the Harris's Sparrow.

Next, I went to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld). I wanted to cover the property as much as possible. Eventually 13 Long-eared Owls were found scattered around locations. My technique as stated before is to walk with the windbreaks between the sun and myself. The silhouettes of the Long-eared Owls can be picked out of the windbreak somewhat with ease.

A Townsend's Solitaire called near Pond # 6 during my stay there. The bird became quite irritating. Quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos scurried along the ground under the windbreak in search of food. Many Robins also hid in the windbreak comprised of mostly Russian Olive Trees and Firs.

A few Northern Flickers and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers were also found. A Great Horned Owl flew out of the windbreak near Pond 7. She stayed in one of the taller cottonwoods along Pond 7 until I left the area.

The absence of sparrows is interesting. Not just here, but I am finding few sparrows at just about every place birded around Denver (Cherry Creek Reservoir, Chatfield Reservoir, Aurora Reservoir, etc). What's up with that? West Nile virus?, normal down turn in number? loss of breeding habitat? just went somewhere else this year? Strange!

Great-tailed Grackles are once again around the feedlot at the first house south of the Tree Nursery at 152nd Avenue and Picadilly Road.

A few Dark-eyed Juncos and 3 White-crowned Sparrows were visiting the feeders behind the Visitor's Center at Barr Lake State Park (Adams).

South Platte River at 88th Avenue Again

February 10, 2010

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, I passed by the South Platte River at 88th Avenue and Colorado Blvd. To get some exercise, I hike a mile down the bile path on the west side of the river. The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was again on the river about 20 yards downstream (north) of the green/white tower.

When a dog walker/jogger passed by, the pair flew to the Northern West Gravel Lakes. On the return trip, I scoped that lake and relocated the 3 Long-tailed Ducks and the Barrow's Goldeneye pair.

There were no Barrow's Goldeneyes on East Gravel Lake; however, plenty of waterfowl were taking advantage of the limited open water. Three species of mergansers, American Coots, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, a Northern Pintail Duck, several Redheads and 2 Canvasbacks were included in the group.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Mountain Bird Trip

February 8, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Ray Berman and I birded in Clear Creek and Summit Counties Monday. We managed to find Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, Mountain Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and Clark's Nutcrackers.

Barrow's Goldeneyes continue at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant in Silverthorne, Summit County.

We had to visit Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) twice. We had no luck in finding White-tailed Ptarmigan in the morning. Drove down to Georgetown for lunch and some birding around town (found a few Red Crossbills).

In the afternoon, we returned to Loveland Pass and eventually found 2 Ptarmigan up the west side trail!

After dark, we drove to Montezuma and listened for owls. We heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl east of Montezuma Road. We listened at the St Johns, Hunkidori and Argentine Trails. However, we did not go up any of the snow covered trails.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday's Front Range Birding

February 7, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Today was quite different from yesterday with colder temperatures and snow off and on.

Before sunrise, Ray Berman and I found 2 Long-eared Owls on private property in Boulder County.

Ray and I saw 3 species of Rosy Finches this morning at Fawnbrook Inn at Allenspark (Boulder County). There were not many finches, but at least 1 of each.

More numerous were Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, a few White-breasted & Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, and Steller's Jays.

Ray and I found the Red-shouldered Hawk in less than 10 minutes this morning at the Wildlife Area/open space north of the Kodak Watchable Wildlife Area (Weld County).

We ended our birding day with poor visibility at Valmont Reservoir (Boulder County). Identification of many gulls was missed. We did pick out a 1st cycle Great Black-backed Gull, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and at least one 1st cycle Thayer's Gull. If the Iceland Gull is still around, we did not see it.

Saturday's Front Range Birding

February 6, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal when they opened at 7:30 am. Last Thursday, I missed the Harris's Sparrow in a 1.5 hour wait. It was warm and many bees were mobbing the feeders north of the Visitor's Center. Only a few birds flew into the trees above the feeders. None would engage the many bees.

I figured that early in the morning it would be too cold for the bees. This was the case Saturday morning. A few birds perched in the trees at 7:30 am. At 8:00 am however, a flock of 30+ Dark-eyed Juncos flew in and attacked the seeds under both sets (of two) feeders.

Shortly thereafter, the Harris's Sparrow also made an appearance. The sparrow eventually went under both sets of feeders from 8:00 to 8:19 am (when I departed).

Next, I visited the South Platte River at 88th Avenue and Colorado Blvd. The 3 Long-tailed Ducks were still on the northern West Gravel Lake. The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the South Platte River near the green/white tower. A second male Barrow's Goldeneye was on East Gravel Lakes.

After lunch, I drove by Red Rocks Park. The Golden-crowned Sparrow was under the platform feeder behind the Trading Post.

At around 2:00 pm, I stopped by Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (at Prospect Park) to search for the reported "Winter Wren). Up the tree bridge trail, a bird that sounded like a Winter Wren sang for about 25 minutes. However, it never came out of the brush south of the boardwalk trail at 20 yards west of the "Restoration Area" sign.

Although the bird may have sounded like a Winter Wren, I have on three occasions (all in February of past years) come across Song Sparrows that have garbled for extensive length of times. This "garbling" has sounded like a Winter Wren to me. Since I did not see a wren and only a Song Sparrow garbling, I still have not listed a Winter Wren sighting.

My birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls, three Northern Harriers worked the fields south of 128th Avenue.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pawnee National Grasslands

February 5, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Ray Berman and I drove up to the Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld County) hopefully to find a Swift Fox. Last spring I found 4 Swift Fox dens. A Swift Fox was found sunning himself at our second stop (along Weld County Road 96).

We had to drive north of Crow Valley Campgrounds to Weld County Road 122, then west to the 122 ponds before running into a couple of Lapland Longspurs. They were with a flock of 150+ Horned Larks.

Our birding day ended at Weld County Road 48 (south side of Lower Latham Reservoir) where 2 Short-eared Owls came out to hunt just after sunset.

Adams County Birding

February, 4, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I sat watching the feeders at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) for 1.5 hours. Very few birds came by (6 House Finches, 1 House Sparrow, 14 Dark-eyed Juncos). The Harris's Sparrow never made an appearance.

Afterwards I walked the South Platte River at 88th Avenue area. The 3 Long-tailed Ducks were still on the northern West Gravel Lake. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneye was here briefly, later flew down to the Platte River (just south of the green/white tower).

Another male Barrow's Goldeneye was on East Gravel Lake along with three species of mergansers, many Common Goldeneyes, American Coots, Redheads, a Canvasback, Northern Pintail Ducks, Northern Shovelers and Mallards.

Six+ Great-tailed Grackles were again visiting the first house south of the Tree Nursery at Picadilly Road and 152nd Avenue (1 mile north of Barr Lake State Park).

Denver Urban Eastern Screech-Owl Count

February 1-3, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Six of us conducted all night Eastern Screech-Owl counts in urban Denver. Numbers were down from our last count. This could be because we had half the birder numbers and birding hours than previously. Result will be written up in a future "Colorado Field Notes"