Monday, November 15, 2010

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.

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