Monday, June 21, 2010

Northeastern Bird Counts

June 14-18, 2010

Monday 6/14
I accompanied Rich Stevens this week on conducting some bird breeding surveys. I was able to visit some areas of Colorado that were not seen before!

We started out with a trip up to Norma's Grove in Weld County. Both a Wood Thrush and Black-billed Cuckoo were seen there yesterday.

On the trip up, we stopped and played recordings at several Upland Sandpiper fields. Two fields yielded no results, but the third along highway 392 at 7.1 miles south of highway 14 was satisfactory. An Upland Sandpiper jumped out of the tall weeds and landed briefly on a fence post. He stayed up for about 30 seconds, gave up and dove back into the weeds not to be seen again.

At Weld County Roads 100 and 57, the birds did not disappoint as we found both of them. A Swainson's Thrush and several Bullock's Orioles were also there.

Rich then took me to his favorite Mountain Plover field. It's accessed from the dirt track going north from the intersection of Weld County Roads 94 and 63. We stopped near the cement drain and walked the road going west.

A Mountain Plover was about 20 yards west of the drain and 10 yards north of the track. We found a Swift Fox on one of four Dens that Richard has GPS on Pawnee National Grasslands. Another Mountain Plover was found 40 yards east of the dirt track.

Plenty of McCown's Longspurs and Lark Buntings were flying up and "doing they mating and flight and song". Cool place, a herd of 27 Pronghorn watched us searching for Mountain Plovers.

Two more Mountain Plovers were found in the field between highway 14 and Weld County Road 51 and the Dyer's driveway to the east.

Crow Valley Campgrounds had few birds and plenty of mosquitoes. Just about the most, I have found in one place. Hey, I am from New York.

From Briggsdale we went back to Lower Latham Reservoir also Weld County because we heard that two Tricolored Herons were seen. We searched for about an hour and finally found one of them! The lake and cattails are very far from Weld County Road 48. The cattails are thick too and offer too many places for the herons to hide.

We saw half a dozen Black-necked Stilt, two Marsh Wrens, many Killdeer and some Baird's Sandpipers. The Baird's Sandpipers were all adults and Rich figured they were already heading south. Does that make them all males?

Tuesday 6/15
Gosh, we were up early at 4:00 AM. We spent the night at Rich's friend's ranch, Roger Danka. Our early start was to look for Eastern Screech Owls at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area in Logan County.

The early rise worked as two Eastern Screech-Owls were heard east of highway 55. But…we did find another Eastern Screech Owl on the west side hours after sunrise so a early rise maybe was not necessary.

The South Platte River runs through Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area. In addition, the water level is higher than it has been in years. We had to use our irrigation boots to even bird parts of the western side.

I should mention that the Wildlife Area is split into west and east sections by highway 55, also called Logan County Road 81. There is also a southern section, south of I76 that goes east and west of highway 55. While Rich has walked this several times, it is very barren, no trees, and very hot in summer.

It is probably good for longspurs, Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Cassin's Sparrows and Greater Prairie-Chickens or Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse. Rich has recorded Greater Prairie-Chickens on more than half a dozen occasions and Sharp-tailed Grouse on two. We did not bird this on the trip.

Rich has made several trips to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area already this spring. He had GPS points on many of the nesting birds. This greatly helped our attempt to record the efforts.

Our bird counts included:
West of Hwy 55
Bell's Vireo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (2)
Northern Cardinal (2 males, 1 female)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2)

East of Hwy 55
Bell's Vireo
Northern Cardinal (male)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (2)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2)
Field Sparrow (1)

After lunch, we birded at North Sterling Lake State Park. Bird here was exciting.

A male Scarlet Tanager was found at the most western picnic area. The beautiful red bird stood out in the green cottonwoods. Common Yellowthroats, a Yellow-breasted Chat, Chipping Sparrows, a Spotted Towhee and a pair of Blue Grosbeaks were here also.

While counting gulls, mostly Ring-billed Gulls and a couple of Franklin's Gulls, and swallows, Cliff, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, Tree and Bank, Rich found a Purple Martin! Great new Colorado bird for me and a nice sighting anywhere in Colorado. The Purple Martin flew over to the west side of the lake before we could get out our cameras.

A Barn Owl flew out of the trees at Elks campground. There was about the same birds here except for the Scarlet Tanager and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Two Dickcissels were found west of Logan County Road County Roads 37 and 46 when we drove into the park. Another Dickcissel was seen below the dam as we left the park.

While counting Burrowing Owls along highway 138, west of Red Lion Wildlife Area we also found an Upland Sandpiper. They have been recorded as nesting in these short grass prairies.

Late in the afternoon we returned to a southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area where Rich knows of a Greater Prairie-Chicken lek. It was too late in the spring for any displaying birds but we hoped to run into a stray bird. That did not happen, but we did see several Cassin's and Grasshopper Sparrows and a Sage Thrasher.

A second Upland Sandpiper was found at a private ranch near Red Lion Wildlife Area. A friend of Rich's reported a singing American Woodcock three weeks ago. It was only seen for two days and was long gone before our visit.

Wednesday 6/16
We went back to North Sterling Lake State Park before sunrise. Our hope was to relocate the Purple Martin or additional birds and maybe get a better photo of the Scarlet Tanager.

The Scarlet Tanager was gone when we search the picnic area. The Purple Martin was not relocated. We did see two of the Dickcissels again west of Logan County Roads 37 and 46. We did not find anything rare along the south side of the lake. A different Barn Owl, this time a female was seen.

We drove many of the Logan County Roads north of the State Park, east and west of Peetz and Padroni. North of Proctor and Crook and then we returned to Jumbo Reservoir.

Grasshopper Sparrows are found at 7 stops. Cassin's Sparrows at 3 stops. Dickcissels were most numerous or most loud and therefore easier to find.

After being treated to a fantastic fried chicken dinner by Judy Danka, we walked Roger's ranch. It's a cornucopia of habitats and birds. We found the four resident Eastern Screech-Owls, 2 Harris's Sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow, 5 Dickcissels, Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Yellow-breasted Chats, Common Yellowthroats, and more.

There was a rumor of an eastern Fox Sparrow but we didn't see it. Roger saw a Greater Prairie-Chicken back in April. It would have been nice to get one for Sedgwick County.

Thursday, 6/17
Today we drove the roads north of Sedgwick and Ovid. Dickcissels were again the most numerous bird found. Again, we think this is due to their loud singing. We find them easier to hear than Grasshopper Sparrows. Cassin's Sparrows do not appear to be as numerous in the northeast corner as the others are. Habitat is another reason. It's more suitable for Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels than Cassin's Sparrows.

Rich has GPS on two Long-eared Owl nests. We saw a female sitting on one of them. Eastern Screech-Owl nests at three locations. Possible Short-eared Owl nesting area at another site.

We also visited four ranches, friends of Richard. Harris's Sparrows seen at one and White-throated Sparrows and Field Sparrows at another.

In the late afternoon, we went by another friend's of Richard in Julesburg. After saying "Hi" we saw a male Northern Cardinal across the street at the elementary school at Spruce and 5th Streets.

Friday, 6/18
Today Rich and I conducted bird counts north of Bonny Reservoir down in Yuma County. Thanks for GPS; we found another Long-eared Owl nest and Eastern Screech-Owls at two locations.

Nothing rare was found until we got to Bonny Lake State Park in the afternoon. Here we relocated Northern Cardinal, Great Crested Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, Red-Bellied Woodpecker and Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. We also found a Bell's Vireo along Yuma County Road 2 at the windbreak on the south side of the road before reaching Hopper Ponds.

At Hale Ponds, we relocated more Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. At dusk, Rich got a Common Poorwill to respond to a recording! An Eastern Screech-Owl also answered to his call!

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