Monday, March 22, 2010

Birding Around Denver, a Sage Sparrow Hunt

March 21, 2010

Richard Stevens:

What a beautiful spring day in Colorado. The day started out cold (28 degrees at 8:00 am) but warmed up to the high 60s (with little wind).

At sunrise, I walked the swim beach area at Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson County). The previously reported Sage Sparrow was already searching for food with two dozen Dark-eyed Juncos at the southeast corner of the parking area.

Unfortunately, a balloon launch company decided to launch from the same corner (the balloon launch area had snow on it, so they decided to use the parking area, which had been plowed). When the operator started the heater that inflated the balloon, the tremendous noise scared the flock of birds to the north.

Afterwards, I went on scouting for a future bird trip. I passed Louviers on the way and made a brief stop to search for the Lewis's Woodpeckers at their favorite "leaning tree". One of the Lewis's Woodpeckers was on the fir tree with the dead looking top (south of the railroad tracks).

The day was going well. Two stops and in less than 5 minutes both target birds were found! My next stop went just as well. I stopped at the American Three-toed Woodpecker spot along Highway 67 (west of Sedalia and East of Rampart Road). Two Three-toed Woodpeckers were fluttering about in the same location as my previous visit. Three stops, 15 minutes birding time; occasionally, short searches are nice.

I swung around to Cheesman Reservoir and walked highway 126 up to the green trailer. Both Lewis's Woodpeckers and Red-headed Woodpeckers have been seen in the area in past years. However, none was found today.

A brief walk up Cheesman Canyon trail found another 2 American Three-toed Woodpeckers!

I stopped at three locations where Bryan Ehlmann and I had "heard only" Northern Pygmy-Owls a few weeks ago (GPS waypoints). No Northern Pygmy-Owls were observed or tempted to come out of the woods. The many cars coming down the road did not help in my search.

On the trip home, I decided to swing by Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County) and search for first of the season (for me) Turkey Vultures and/or White-throated Swifts. Neither species were found.

I did find 2 Western Bluebirds and 7 Mountain Bluebirds along Castlewood Canyon Road (near the Winkler Ranch). The bluebirds appeared to have paired up (notice, one had no mate) and had "staked out" bluebird boxes.

Two Wild Turkey were seen south of Castlewood Canyon Road (south of bluebird box 41). A few Spotted Towhees were seen in the park. The color today was "blue". Sightings included Western Bluebirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Western Scrub-Jays, Steller's Jays, and two Blue Jays (in the State Park and south to the Winkler Ranch).

My birding day ended at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) in search of the Sage Sparrow reported yesterday. I walked from the southwest marina to the Lake Loop and back. There was no sign of any sparrows. In fact, one Dark-eyed Junco was the only sighting.

The few birds on the lake included 17 White Pelicans and 2 Horned Grebes. Gulls included less than 7 Ring-billed Gulls; that was it. They all must be at Aurora Reservoir and the nearby landfill?

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