Sunday, June 13, 2010

Long Day on Northern Plains

June 9, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed a long day of birding in northern Colorado.

I departed Denver about 3:00 am and headed up to Briggsdale by way of Highway 392. At Weld County Road 60.5 (which is signed CO Hwy 60.5, a little strange and different) I stopped and played recordings. At least 1 Sora and 2 Virginia Rails responded back!

My first target bird was Upland Sandpiper and I was not disappointed. One stood on a fence post at 0.6 miles south of Weld County Road 67. Another bird was at the traditional Upland Sandpiper field, which is 7.1 miles south of Highway 14 (this one also stood on a fence post)!

I parked at the group picnic area and as I left my car, a cuckoo flew from the tall trees over the pavilion. It was never seen well and therefore never identified to species.

Arriving at Crow Valley Campground just before sunrise I walked the Campgrounds waiting for better light. The Prairie Warbler was singing in the tree next to the old water hole at campground # 10. It flew across the road to campsite # 9. Eventually it flew back to # 10 and then disappeared to the west.

After sunrise, I walked to the south fence line and then circled to the west (searching for the Golden-winged Warbler reported the day before). A Red-eyed Vireo was in the trees along the creek where it leaves the property (to the south).

The Golden-winged Warbler was never found. I continued west and north and got glimpses of a Northern Waterthrush along the creek at approximately 20 yards south of the northwest corner of the Campgrounds.

Several Common Nighthawks and a Plumbeous Vireo were found in the grove north of the group picnic pavilion.

Note: I always surprises me when flew birders are encountered at sunrise. First, even if it is windy, the wind seems to die down for 30-60 minutes just before sunrise (this was the case today, shortly after sunrise; winds became strong and grew as the morning progressed). The increased winds made finding any birds quite difficult.

Secondly, the birds always seem to be most active at sunrise. They move around more in search of food, sing, and call when exposed to the direct sunlight. It works for me! I did not see another birder until around 9:00 am?

After leaving Crow Valley Campground, I drove the Mountain Plover Loop (described on the CoBus website: A quick drive up the dirt track road (CR 94 & CR 63) found a Mountain Plover 5 yards west of the track (in sight of the old cement drain) and several McCown's Longspurs.

Lark Buntings, Brewer's Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows were easy to find along CR 94 & CR 61. Along CR 61 at 0.5 miles south of CR 96, I was stopped by a young Pronghorn lying in the road. He could not have been more than a couple of hours old. His mother had run when she saw my car and the young one tried to keep up. Knock kneed and stumbling, he ran out of gas and just stopped on the road. I backed my car up to almost out of sight and waited for the young one to get up (or for a car to come along, so that I could stop any from continuing toward the youth). While watching the Pronghorns, I noticed a Mountain Plover to the west of CR 61!

Later I reached the riparian area along CR 100 at 0.4 miles east of CR 57. The Wood Thrush reported the day before was not found by me (it was reported later in the day).

I decided to head west to Fort Collins and look for the Least Bittern at Running Deer Natural Area; without success.

Since Fort Collins City Park and Grandview Cemetery were so close, I headed that way to search for the Eastern Wood-Pewee (a new county bird for me). When I arrived, the Eastern Wood-Pewee was singing in Section 2. At Section 1, I could see the female White-winged Crossbill perched at the top of a fir tree for about 6 minutes (second fir tree west of the first streetlight east of the southwest corner of the cemetery).

My plan was to go to Julesburg and since I passed close to CR 100 & CR 57, I returned to the riparian area there. A 15 minute search for the Wood Thrush looked hopeless and as I returned to my car, the Wood Thrush was observed walking along the stream on the north side of CR 100.

Eventually it was chased by a Swainson's Thrush and was in the trees just south of CR 100 and along the creek.

On the trip to Julesburg, I stopped and found Burrowing Owls first north of CR 90 & CR 51 and then at the northeast field at CR 51 & Highway 14. Two Mountain Plover were southwest of the Dyers driveway (0.4 miles east of Hwy 14 & CR 51).

In Sterling, I checked both Pioneer Park and Overland Park for birds (target bird the elusive for Colorado Black-billed Cuckoo). A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found along the Platte River at Overland Park, no Black-billed Cuckoos. Not much at the Sterling Sewage Ponds and I continued to Jumbo Reservoir.

My birding day ended at Red Lion Wildlife Area waiting for Short-eared Owls; none appeared. Shortly after sunset, I did hear one of the Eastern Screech-Owls on the north side of Jumbo Reservoir.

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