Monday, December 27, 2010

An Afternoon in Adams County

December 26, 2010

Richard Stevens:

After spending most of the day writing on my computer, I looked for a place to walk around a bit. Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) was chosen. During the last two hours of sunlight, I walked the western and northern sides of Lake Ladora and then circled Mary's Lake. Both lakes were 100 percent ice covered. Temperatures were still in the low 50s; winds mild.

Again, many sparrows were at the northwest corner of Lake Ladora. I counted 7 White-crowned, 5 Song, and 21 American Tree Sparrows. The White-throated Sparrow observed on 12/21 did not show.

The highlight was watching 31 White tailed Deer graze in the field north of Ladora. Five Coyotes wandered by also. Thousands of geese flew in for a final meal of the day. The setting sun spread golden rays across the yellow grasses.

Only a few House Finches and Red-winged Blackbirds were around Mary's Lake. There had to be a sparrow or two; I just could not entice them to pop out of the cattails.

I drove over to the Denver Water Treatment Plant north of 56th avenue and Picadilly Road. A Greater White-fronted Goose was among 4000+ White-cheeked Geese at the intersection.

Now the sky was filled with pink and orange clouds over the barren fields. I sat and watched the rolling fields and airplanes landing. A pair of Northern Harrier flew low hunting for food. No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our White Christmas

December 25, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Originally, Rebecca Kosten and I were going to drive the DIA Owl Loop looking for Short-eared Owls. When we got on the highway, no traffic. Christmas morning perhaps is the only day now that one can drive our highways at the speed limit. To take advantage of that, we headed down to Deer Creek Canyon and Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson County).

We drove around the Deer Creek Canyon subdivision, which is not far from Chatfield Reservoir. Rebecca spotted a small nest like silhouette, which turned out to be a Northern Pygmy-Owl!

Continuing to the boat ramp at Chatfield Reservoir to be there just before sunrise, we spotted a Short-eared Owl flying back and forth over the model airplane field. After five minutes, the owl disappeared to the southwest (behind the trees just outside the southeast entrance to the park).

When we arrived at the boat ramp, the Glaucous Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull were all standing on the sand spit. Many Ring-billed Gulls were flying over the marina. With some patience, we found at least one Bonaparte's Gull among them.

With the outstanding weather, Denver is experiencing (this morning it was 27 degrees at 7:00 am, but no wind and no snow on the ground), we decided to celebrate a little white Christmas with a ride into the foothills. Most every store was closed, but we actually found something edible and rather tasty at 7-Eleven while fueling the car.

Red Rocks Park was passed and we could not resist a quick stop. The Golden-crowned Sparrow and Harris's Sparrow were below the platform feeder behind the Visitor's Center when we arrived. Less than 5 minutes later, the Curve-billed Thrasher popped out from behind the 4 X 4 north of the feeder. We waited 15 minutes and started to leave when the White-throated Sparrow also jumped out from the western brush.

White Christmas: We walked around Genesee Mountain Park for about 30 minutes (one of us finally got cold). A small flock of 4-6 Red Crossbills (mostly males, a couple of females) fed on pinecones in the trees around the group picnic area parking lot (how's that for a string of nouns? :-)

Three species of nuthatches, many Pine Siskins, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers and many Dark-eyed Juncos entertained us! It was our white Christmas!

We decided to continue west and drive up Mt. Evans Byway from Idaho Springs back through Evergreen. Snow covered Echo Lake and the surrounding trees would have made a nice Holiday Card photo.

Two Pine Grosbeaks flew about the trees on the south side of the lake. We listened for the sound of woodpeckers at the Echo Lake Campgrounds. The distinct drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker gave away its presence. It turned out to be a male with its yellow crown!

We continued down the highway through Evergreen and made one final stop for the day. Lair 'O Bear Park sometimes attracts Northern Pygmy-Owls late on a winter day. We were passing through at the right time of day and waited; without success.

During the wait, a walk down to the footbridge at the east end of the park added a couple of American Dippers to our day list. They are as entertaining as any bird I can think of as they bob up and down while standing on the ice and rocks. Then they have the courage to jump into the freezing water to catch a nibble of food. Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

It was a superb ending to our extraordinarily enjoyable Christmas Day! We hope all relished theirs as well!

A Missed Trip, Odds and Ends Around Denver

December 24, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I had to be at the Denver Tech Center (Arapahoe) early in the morning. The route just happened to pass Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) at sunrise. Therefore, I decided to arrive about an hour before sunrise and search for Short-eared Owls at the cattail fields just west of where the main road crosses Cherry Creek. Unfortunately, none appeared this morning.

Then I scoped the lake for gulls. First from the Lake Loop and then from the swim beach. About 90 percent of the lake was ice covered this morning. Nine Bald Eagles already stood on the ice at 7:30 am. Less than 10 gulls were found.

I had to conclude that the gulls had not returned from their nightly roost (Aurora Reservoir? or where?). While looking for uncommon gulls, I received a call that the birder I was to meet had missed their flight and was not in Denver.

Not to waste a trip, I headed to Aurora Reservoir. Hundreds of gulls stood on the swim beach. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was among them.

Aurora Reservoir is deeper than Cherry Creek Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir and therefore freezes over later than most lakes in Denver. It was 90 percent ice free this morning.

I took the next four hours to circle the 8.8 miles around the lake. Three Ross's Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose were found among hundreds of White-cheeked Geese.

Later, I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) on my way home. The White-throated Sparrow came to the back of the Visitor's Center; the Harris's Sparrow never did show. The White-throated Sparrow never came below the feeders west of the Visitor's Center. It only flew below the two small bushes at the right corner (southwest corner) of the building. Half a dozen or so White-crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows and 1 American Tree Sparrow did grab seeds below the feeders.

Several hundred Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot. Rebecca and I drove the DIA Owl Loop and roads southeast of Trussville Street and 114th avenue. We counted 35,000+ Horned Larks, 2 Lapland Longspurs and a Snow Bunting. The question of whether we were on public roads came up; since we do not know, I am not reporting this to the cobirders group. No Short-eared Owls showed after sunset along the DIA Owl Loop.

Exploring Guanella Pass Access Denied

December 23, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Thirty minutes before sunrise, Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn and I listened for Northern Pygmy-Owls at the western Reynolds Park parking area. None made a sound. However, when we hiked to the Oxen Draw trail at Elkhorn Trail, Jacob pointed out one deep in the brush along the draw!

While watching the owl, we heard a bird just suspiciously sounded like a grouse. A short walk east of the Oxen Draw/Elkhorn intersection found a Dusky Grouse about 20 feet up in a pine tree!

We decided not the hike in the snow and ice up the Oxen Draw trail and skipped a search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Instead, we drove the short distance to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). Here we hiked the Pine Lake trail to the Buck Gulch trail to Strawberry trail. On the hike back, we observed a male Three-toed Woodpecker flying across the Buck Gulch trail at 40 yards south of Pine Lake trail.

Our main goal was to do some snowshoeing, hopefully up Guanella Pass (Park/Clear Creek Counties. We did not expect to make it to the top of Guanella Pass after the reports this week of feet of snowfall in the mountains.

This turned out to be true. Even in our 4 wheel jeep, we only got as far as 7 miles west of Grant (highway 285). We turned around at the Campgrounds below Duck Lake. It is 5.5 miles from this Campground to the gate at Duck Lake. Then it is another 1.5 miles to the Summit at Guanella Pass. Just a little too far and energetic for us today. An unanimous vote decided to leave a White-tailed Ptarmigan search for another day!

We snowshoed around the Campgrounds (I am spacing the name) looking for Northern Pygmy-Owls and/or American Three-toed Woodpeckers; without success.

A quick detour to Kenosha Pass (Park) also found few birds. Again, we snowshoed around hoping to run into a Northern Pygmy-Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker or Rosy Finches; without success.

After dropping Bryan and Jacob off at their cars, I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). Hundreds of gulls (no uncommon gulls) were observed from the southwest boat ramp).

By the time, it took me to drive 10 minutes to the Lake Loop, less than a dozen gulls remained. I can only guess that the gulls spent the night at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe, about 7 miles away).

Birding Mostly in Douglas County Today

December 22, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I took advantage of the full moon last night and walked around 4 hours before sunrise searching for owls around Franktown and Castlewood Canyon State Park, Douglas County. Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were found. One was found in the park between the waterfalls and first parking area to north. The other was on private land.

After sunrise, I drove down Castlewood Canyon Road. Not one bluebird was found. Wonder where they are this year?

I spent about 3 hours at Tomichi Gulch this morning. The temperature at sunrise was 27 degrees. Fortunately, there was no wind and my walk was quite pleasant.

The majority of Spotted Towhees were twice the distance east of where I saw them and the Eastern Towhee on my last visit. No Eastern Towhee was found this morning.

I also hiked down to the open area east of the "working ranch" and scoped feeders north of creek. No Common Redpoll found this trip.

Plenty of birds moved about. Three species of jays (Steller's, Western Scrub and Blue Jays). Three species of nuthatches also, I always enjoy watching the little torpedo shaped Pygmy Nuthatches flutter about, seldom stopping!

Downy Woodpeckers, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, a Red-tailed Hawk, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a Brewer's Blackbird were added to my day list.

A quick stop found the Walker Pit 100 percent ice covered. The nearby Great Horned Owl nest had a Red-tailed Hawk on it.

A stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) found it surprisingly to be 99 percent ice covered. Eight Bald Eagles kept sharp eyes on the Common Mergansers and geese swimming in a small open water area.

Three interesting gulls stood on the ice edge. A 1st or 2nd Glaucous Gull with its black tipped pink bill. The possible Iceland Gull with its all black bill; could it have been a Thayer's Gull? The third Gull looked much like a young Glaucous-winged Gull. I lean toward the belief that all Glaucous-winged looking gulls in Colorado are hybrids. At least the large majority are.

A Long Day Around Adams County

December 21, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I entered Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) when it opened at 7:00 am. I hoped to find the Long-eared Owls flying around. Unfortunately, by the time the arsenal opened it was quite light. I have had better success when civil twilight has just started. With the time change to Standard Daylight, one cannot enter the arsenal until it is too late.

I walked to the north end of Lake Ladora and found quite a few sparrows moving about the brush. The final count was 9 White-crowned, 5 Song and 28 American Tree Sparrows. Most of the sparrows moved from around the lone evergreen tree at the northwest corner to the brush on the west side of the trail (near the blue metal pipe, "T" shaped. I put down some birdseed and continued walking north and east.

From a distance (near the white building), I observed that within 10 minutes a Song Sparrow found the seed. Shortly after, it was joined by several dozen sparrows. The White-throated Sparrow also made an appearance!

The day was relatively nice, little wind and temperatures in the low 50s. Not bad, for winter and considering the mountains just west of the Denver foothills had been receiving several feet of snow over the last three day.

So, I decided to hike the South Platte River trails from 88th avenue to Interstate 225 and back (east side, north to south and return along the west side). Dahlia Pond was passed on the way over, I stopped and pulled out my scope. A Long-tailed Duck swam in the middle section viewed from a pullover along Dahlia. The pond was about 50 percent ice covered, nicely limiting where the Long-tailed Duck could swim!

My hike along the S. Platte River was uneventful. East Gravel Lake, the 74th avenue pond and West Gravel Lakes were almost completely lacking ice cover.

The usual waterfowl suspects were seen in good number. Tani Reservoir did have a rather large number 831 Ring-necked Ducks. The most I have ever seen in one location. Northern Shovelers (hundreds) appeared to prefer the river.

When I arrived at the northern West Gravel Lake where 3 Long-tailed Ducks wintered last year, the male Barrow's Goldeneye was swimming around below the tower. He eventually flew down to the Platte River, just south of the green and white tower. I never found the female Barrow's Goldeneye reported last on December 11th.

My next stop was Barr Lake State Park (Adams). I sat on the bench west of the Visitor's Center for 2 hours watching the various House Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and a Tree Sparrow visit below the feeders. The Harris's & White-throated Sparrows (last reported 12/16) did not appear.

Hundreds of geese were on the ice and in the small open water area off the boat ramp. Eleven Snow Geese, 2 Ross's Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose were among them.

Still not wanting to end my birding day, I decided to drive to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).

Along the way, I passed the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (2 miles north of Barr Lake) where 100+ Great-tailed Grackles and dozens of Eurasian Collared-Doves flew around.

At the bison ranch along Harvest Road at 0.6 miles north of 160th Avenue, 200+ Great-tailed Grackles walked around underneath the bison.

At Banner Lakes Wildlife Area, one of the two Long-eared Owls I have found this winter was relocated. A Great Horned Owl was north of Pond 8. Few birds moved about. I waited until dark to see if any Short-eared Owls would come out; none did.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eastern Trip for Christmas Counts

December 15, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann;

Jacob Washburn, Rich Stevens and I started south from Denver at 4:00 am. An ungodly hour to start birding and I questioned Richard's sanity more than once. In his defense, we wanted to avoid the horrific traffic between southern Denver and Colorado Springs.

After a welcomed cup of nectar, Starbucks coffee, we finally made it to Fountain Creek Regional Park in El Paso County. The walk from the Visitor's Center to the northern ponds was quite eventful.

The first rare bird of our day was a Field Sparrow flying about in the field north of the Cattails Wildlife Area section.

We continued around to Rice's Pond. In the next 30 minutes, we found the Pine Warbler, Harris's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and Winter Wren. Our big miss was the reported Ovenbird. Not a bad morning if I say so myself.

The Rusty Blackbirds at Clear Springs Ranch had not been reported since 12/8; so we decided to skip a search for them and go to Pueblo Reservoir for a quick look around. Daylight is previous this time of year. Sunset is around 4:30 pm.

The Great Black-backed Gull along with a Thayer's Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the south shore marina. That was our only stop and we drove quickly to Rocky Ford.

Our search for rare doves around Rocky Ford was fortunate. We found an Inca Dove along Washington Street. A White-winged Dove was along Industrial Drive. Eurasian Collared-Doves were everywhere and a pair of Mourning Doves concluded our 4 dove search.

Daylight abandoned us before we arrived at Lake Henry. We did hike back to the north side to listen for screech owls. None was found.

December 16, 2010

Three of us planned to look for the "mysterious" Purgatory Railroad Crossing in Bent County today.

A stop at Fort Lyons Wildlife Area was not noteworthy. We desired a Virginia Rail or Sora but found neither. A White-throated Sparrow was along the dirt road south of Bent County Roads 16 and HH.

Fortunately, another Colorado birder had supplied us with superb directions to the "Crossing". In spite of warnings of "rabid hunters" with shotguns, we ventured to the dominion. Once arrived, we seeded the area with succulent food for the birds and then wandered around a bit.

Upon returning, we found a Northern Cardinal and eastern Fox Sparrow. With time, a Harris's Sparrow also appeared. Without threats from hunters or trains, we continued on to John Martin Reservoir.

With some effort, we relocated the two Dunlin reported two days earlier by Duane Nelson. I would have enjoyed running into him, but he was a no show. Other birds come across on this elongated lake included a Pacific Loon, Long-tailed Duck and Greater Scaup. These accompanied by late White Pelicans and a Double-crested Cormorant. The enormity of the geese flocks was quite a wonderment.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker flew around from tree to tree at the Lake Hasty Campgrounds below the John Martin Reservoir dam.

Again cheated by a winter daylight shorten day, we only had an hour to search for owls at Upper Queens and Neenoshe Reservoirs. A Chihuahuan Raven was found south of Neesopah Reservoir.

December 17, 2010

On our way to Wray, we stopped at Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County. Eastern Screech-Owls were found north of Hale Ponds and the west end of Bonny Reservoir State Park. We did not get any Long-eared Owls to respond to our recordings.

Time to get serious today. The eight annual Wray Christmas Count was conducted. I don't have to final birders hours put in yet. We had eight cobirders and six additional feeder watchers.

Thanks to the many people, especially to those who "stalked out" birds in the days prior!

Six of us went out before sunrise and were very lucky. A Greater Prairie-Chicken was again crossing Yuma County Road 45 at about 1.2 miles east of Highway 385! That is the second trip in a row that Richard Stevens has found one!

The feeders at private yards were the most productive to our CBC list. Birds found by feeder watchers included:

Purple Finch (2)
Northern Cardinal (9 over 3 locations)
Fox Sparrow (eastern)
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwings (68) + (2) Bohemian Waxwings
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3 locations)
Varied Thrush
Harris's Sparrow (2 locations)
Savannah Sparrow
Eastern Screech-Owl (2 locations)
Barn Owl
Common Redpoll (2)

All but the Common Redpolls and Savannah Sparrow had been seen at least once before today. The Varied Thrush has been around for 2 weeks.

On public lands:

Sandsage Wildlife Area is always interesting. Today, my group found a Swamp Sparrow at the western end. Two White-throated Sparrows west of the old barn area. A Harris's Sparrow along the road south of the property gate.

See January's "Colorado Field Notes" for complete details.

December 18, 2010

Our eastern plains Christmas Counts continued today with the Jumbo Reservoir/Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area Count. Today we had ten cobirders and five feeder watchers. Many uncommon birds were found on private lands. However, today, we also counted on the public lands around Jumbo Reservoir and Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.

My group of three at Jumbo Reservoir saw:
Greater White-fronted Geese
Ross's Geese
Swamp Sparrow (below the dam)
Eastern Screech-Owl (north side before sunrise)
Short-eared Owl (south side after sunset)

Richard Stevens' and Jacob Washburn's groups birded Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area:
Eastern Screech-Owl --East (Stevens) (sections 6-7)
Long-eared Owl --East (Stevens) (Tamarack Pond)
Northern Saw-whet Owl --East (Stevens) (remains unlisted to protect owl)
Northern Cardinal --East/Tamarack Pond (Stevens)
Field Sparrow --East (Stevens)
Harris's Sparrow --East (Stevens)
White-throated Sparrow --East (Stevens)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2) --East (Stevens)
Brown Thrasher --East (Stevens)

Northern Cardinal --West (Washburn)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3) (Washburn)
Barn Owl --West (Washburn)

At two hours before sunset, the two groups set out to "stake out" areas on the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area South. They took chairs and scoped two areas until after sunset.

Greater Prairie-Chicken --South/2 locations (M.OB.)
Stevens relocated a Greater Prairie-Chicken in the area north of Logan County Roads 46 and 89. This area is very good for prairie chickens when there is a dusting of snow. Look for prairie chickens among wandering Ring-necked Pheasants feeding in fields. While Jacob Washburn scoped the area around the windmill along CR 55, several miles south of I76.

Short-eared Owl --South (M.OB.) (Stevens and all again saw one or two Short-eared Owls flying over the field while searching for Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Feeder Watchers added many birds to the CBC:
Long-eared Owls (5 at 2 locations)
Short-eared Owl (1)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (1)
Barn Owl (1)
Eastern Screech-Owl (4 over 3 locations)
Eastern Bluebirds (15)
Hermit Thrush
Brown Thrasher
Harris's Sparrow (3 over 2 Locations)
White-throated Sparrow (3 over 2 Locations)
Fox Sparrow (eastern)
Varied Thrush (been around for almost a month now)
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatches
Red Crossbills (9)
Purple Finch (around since 12/5)

December 19, 2010

Today was the final eastern plains Christmas Count for our group. Eight cobirders wandered around Bonny Reservoir State Park area. We also had four feeder watchers.

The Eastern Screech-Owls were again found at Hale Ponds, Hale and Bonny Reservoir. All responded to recordings before sunrise.

Birds found on public lands included:
Thayer's Gull
Eastern Screech-Owl (12) --Hale Ponds & Bonny Reservoir
Long-eared Owl (21) --Hale & Bonny Reservoir
Short-eared Owl (south of Yuma CR 4 after sunset)
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Barn Owl --Hale
Red-bellied Woodpecker (15) --Bonny/Hale
Eastern Bluebird (50+) -Hale/Bonny
Brown Thrasher (3) -Hale/Bonny
Swamp Sparrow (2) -Hale/Bonny
Harris's Sparrow --Hale (CR 4, 0.2 miles east of LLLL.5)
White-throated Sparrow --Hopper Ponds
Northern Cardinal (3) -Bonny
Common Redpoll (2) --Bonny (east/Foster's Grove)
Purple Finch --Hale

Feeder watchers added:
Harris's Sparrow (2)
White-throated Sparrow (1)
Red Crossbills (5+)
Barn Owl
Eastern Bluebirds (27)
Northern Cardinal (male & female, different Locations)
Common Redpoll (2)
Eastern Screech-Owls (11)
Long-eared Owl (6)

December 20, 2010

Early this morning, Rich Stevens, Jacob Washburn and I sat at the north end of Flagler Reservoir, Kit Carson County waiting for Short-eared Owls to appear. Unfortunately, none did.

After sunrise, we hiked from the south end of Flagler Reservoir along the east side to below the dam. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker flew between the large cottonwoods at the south end.

Two Eastern Bluebirds were in the windbreak at the northeast corner.

The best bird was a stub-tailed wren below the dam. It turned out to be a Winter Wren. We would have loved to call it a Pacific Wren, especially this far east of the foothills. The throat was regrettably too white for a Pacific Wren.

We searched for the resident Eastern Screech-Owls at Brush Wildlife Area, Morgan County. They did not come out this morning. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was along the northwestern edge of the property.

No rare sparrows were found while we hiked from the Fort Morgan Ponds parking lot to Riverside Park. Again, the resident Eastern Screech-Owl was not enticed to come out of its favorite tree.

After lunch, we visited Jackson Lake State Park, Morgan County. A Merlin was east of the southern parking lot off CR 2. No rare gulls were found. Most gulls were Ring-billed Gulls.

We relocated 10+ Long-eared Owls along the western side Campgrounds. This time an Eastern Screech-Owl answered our recordings.

We waited until dusk and watched for Short-eared Owls at the northwest corner. Alas none appeared. Two Great Horned Owls called from the cottonwoods between the Campgrounds and the lake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area

December 14, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I looked for a place to walk on this beautiful fall day. Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) was chosen.

Long-eared Owls have returned or never left. The dozens of sparrows were mostly American Tree Sparrows. A couple of Song and 7 White-crowned were also found.

We heard a Virginia Rail at Pond 6. Several Northern Harriers flew over the prairie dog village at the northwest corner.

A Great Horned Owl came out of the windbreak north of pond 8. A Prairie Falcon flew along the east side of pond 11.

A lone Yellow-rumped Warbler in the windbreak at pond 7 was a surprise.

While birding was not particularly busy, the sunset and serenity around the many lakes was gratifying.

Woodpecker and Owl Searches

December 13, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I decided to help Mandy Schiff find some additional birds. She does not mind me telling you that she is a handicapped birder trying for a big year. Mandy lost use of her legs about 15 years ago. Not to get her down, she took to birding major time.

The question of where to find an American Three-toed Woodpecker from a road was a possible problem. The Three-toed Woodpeckers at Pine Valley Ranch Park and Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) require some long hikes.

We headed to Rampart Range Road and Highway 67 in Douglas County. I scouted the area northeast of the intersection and found a Three-toed Woodpecker not far from the road. It was however, out of sight from the road.

We ate an early lunch and patience paid off. The male American Three-toed Woodpecker flew to a tree just 10 feet from the road!

Spotted Towhees were easier to find. I played a recording at the northern restroom area of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) and two popped out of the underbrush. They sang from the bush tops nicely for several minutes, allowing great looks.

We talked about owls and decided to head up to Cameron Pass. Rist Canyon was not a far detour. The Northern Pygmy-Owl was nice to us and was perched on the south side of the road at about 20 yards east of the Whale Rock.

After an early dinner break, we continued west to Cameron Pass (Jackson County). It was one of those magical nights at 10,276 feet. Winds were calm; it was relatively warm and we could hear all the night sounds. Bird activity is much more alive than one would expect.

Again, luck was with us, I found a Boreal Owl about 0.1 miles west of the summit parking area (restroom area).

December 14, 2010

After dropping Mandy off at her motel, timing was perfect as I passed Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County). It had just opened and it was still dark.

I stopped at one of my favorite owl spots, played a tape and coaxed a Long-eared Owl out of the New Mexico Locust! Great end/start to a birding day!

Now for some sleep!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Clear Creek and Summit Counties

December 12, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Mandy Schiff and I went into the foothills to search for mountain species today. The challenge was that Mandy cannot walk. We found Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jay, 3 species of nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers and Pine Siskins in the Dillon/Breckenridge Area (Summit County).

Twelve Barrow's Goldeneyes continue at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

We stopped and drove around Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) three times during the day. First light, mid-afternoon and sunset. The third stop was the charm. Two White-tailed Ptarmigan flew down from the western hillside to just before the hill west of highway 6!

An attempt to find Northern Pygmy-Owls up highway 119 to Rollinsville (Gilpin County) was not successful. We did enjoy our long day of birding!

Adams and Arapahoe County Birding

December 11, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn and I walked the east side of the South Platte River from 88th Avenue at Colorado Blvd to Highway 224 and back.

The male Barrow's Goldeneye was first observed on the Platte River, just south of the green & white tower. Later he joined a female Barrow's Goldeneye on Tani Reservoir. A Northern Shrike was on the western fence of Tani Reservoir.

Farther south, we found a Harris's Sparrow in the trees along the Platte River, just north of the 74th avenue pond. A Lincoln's Sparrow was in the trees along the Platte River near the spillway.

The only sparrows found along Clear Creek, east of the Platte River were 9 American Tree Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows.

We stopped briefly at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams). No uncommon waterfowl were on Lake Ladora. No unusual sparrows around Mary's Lake. In fact, not much of anything was moving around.

We were informed of details of a Ross's Gull at Lake Ladora (Adams) on 12/4/2010.

Later we drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Again, I enjoyed a 7 Gull species day, which included: Iceland Gull, Mew Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Thayer's Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, & Ring-billed Gulls.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Couple of Denver Reservoirs

December 10, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Jacob Washburn and I visited several local reservoirs today. Temperatures were in the 50s, winds mild at first but gained speed as the day continued.

At Barr Lake (Adams County) we first scoped the lake from east of the boat ramp. The only uncommon Gull was the possible Iceland Gull reported yesterday by Bryan and Sue Ehlmann. It stood next to Herring, California and Ring-billed Gulls, which allowed a good size comparison.

There were several hundred geese, but not the numbers of last week. We could see at least two Ross's Geese and half a dozen Snow Geese. No Greater White-fronted Geese were picked out.

Then we drove around to the northwest side (mile marker 4.5) and walked to the southwest end where hundreds of gulls were on the shore. Unfortunately, no uncommon gulls were among them.

Our next stop was Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) where we decided to hike the 8.7 miles around the lake. Halfway around the wind picked up to 14+ mph with gusts to 22 mph. This created large waves, which made seeing, and identifying the hundreds of ducks close to impossible.

We did see dozens of Ruddy Ducks, American Coots, Ring-necked Ducks and Western Grebes. No scoters or other uncommon ducks were found.

Geese numbers were in the thousands. They kept coming in flight after flight during out 4 hour trek. At least a dozen Ross's Geese and several dozen Snow Geese could be picked out only because of their white color. If a Brant was among the horde, it went unnoticed.

Finally, at mile marker 7.5, we found two Greater White-fronted Geese! Could have been much more, however the geese were so close together that identification was quite difficult.

As for songbirds, we counted 19 American Tree Sparrows, 7 Song Sparrows and 4 White-crowned Sparrows. Not much else.

As for gulls, we passed hundreds. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was the only uncommon Gull found.

We ended our Gull searching day at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The Iceland Gull reported yesterday by Glenn Walbek was with hundreds of gulls flying over a school of fish off the southwest marina.

We also picked out at least one Mew Gull, a Thayer's Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull! With common gulls Herring, Ring-billed and California, it was a seven Gull afternoon!

Eastern Plains

December 5-9, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Sunday, 12/5

We headed east toward Bonny Reservoir (Yuma County). Our first stop was Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson).

Two Common Redpolls were among a large flock of sparrows at the northeast corner of the reservoir. The Redpolls eventually flew south along the tree line. However, later we saw them back at the windbreak northeast of the dam.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the trees along the south end of the reservoir. Two Bald Eagles perched in the southeast corner.

At Bonny Reservoir (Yuma), we checked Wagon Wheel Campgrounds and found few birds.

From the Bonny Reservoir dam, we could see a Trumpeter Swan at the northeast corner. A group of gulls here included a Mew Gull and adult and first cycle Thayer's Gulls.

A Northern Cardinal was found when we walked around Foster's Grove Campgrounds. Five Wild Turkeys walked the open field just west of the Campgrounds.

A flock of 20+ Cedar Waxwings flew around the yard next to the Hale Store. At least 2 Long-eared Owls were found in their usual location in the Hale Windbreak. The windbreak looks like it had a bad year; it has been thinned out much.

A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was just west of the most eastern Hale Ponds. No Winter Wrens were lurking around the ponds this trip. A flock of 11 Eastern Bluebirds was just east across the border in Kansas. They never entered Colorado while we watched them.

After sunset, I was able to get an Eastern Screech-Owl to respond to my recordings (played north of Hale Ponds)!

As we rolled into Wray, we made a quick detour to the Wray Fishing Unit and Sandsage Wildlife Area (Yuma). No Barn Owls at the Fishing Unit, however we did hear an Eastern Screech-Owl at Sandsage.

Monday, 12/6

An hour before sunrise, I decided to drive Yuma County Road 45. Nothing unusual was seen when I drove 3 miles east of Highway 385. However, on the return trip, a Greater Prairie-Chicken was seen crossing the road about 1.4 miles east of hwy 385!

We visited two friend's homes in Wray. At the first home, two male and a female Northern Cardinal feeders her feeders. At the second, we got to see an eastern race Fox Sparrow and 2 Harris's Sparrows that have visited my friend's yard for the past 3 days! The highlight was finding a Varied Thrush, which perhaps only showed up today!

Enjoyed a great barbeque and decided to stay around town for the night!

Tuesday, 12/7

We wandered around the Colorado/Kansas border hoping to find a stray Eastern Meadowlark; without success. Stopped at five "Colorado walk-in" properties just to explore what they looked like. No uncommon birds were found. I "got into" these properties two years ago. It offers about 100 new birding opportunities if one is willing to fulfill their entrance requirements (write me if you are interested in knowing them).

After sitting in a car most of the day, we took a long walk around the Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Logan). Two Sharp-shinned Hawks were in the windbreak along Sedgwick County Road 49. Two Field Sparrows were along the eastern fence.

The most surprising find was 4 Red Crossbills. However, not too surprising as I have found Red Crossbills here on at least three other occasions. A flock of 9 Cedar Waxwings was also at the southwest corner of the Wildlife Area.

We leisurely wandered again around the Colorado border searching for Eastern Meadowlarks; without success. According to Nebraska bird books, Eastern Meadowlarks do wander south along the border in November and December. I have yet to find one; perhaps next time.

We rolled into my friend's ranch near Julesburg just about sunset. Again, we enjoyed a fattening but tasty barbecue.

Wednesday, 12/8

Roger Danka and I went out owling two hours before sunrise. Eventually Eastern Screech-Owls were found near Sedgwick Draw and the north side of Jumbo Reservoir (Sedgwick County).

Hundreds of geese and ducks were on Jumbo Reservoir. There included many Ross's Geese and at least 3 Greater White-fronted Geese.

Gulls included a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Bonaparte's Gull. The highlight was a Yellow-billed Loon that Roger had been seeing since 12/6. A Common Loon was also on the lake.

In the afternoon, we visited three area ranches and friends of Roger. Long-eared Owls as expected were found at two of the ranches.

An hour before sunset, we hiked the northern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan). No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Thursday, 12/9

We left our friends early in the morning. I wanted to stop and see if I could get a better photo of the Yellow-billed Loon at Jumbo Reservoir. Unfortunately, we could not find the loon. Neither was the Common Loon found?

As we drove along Interstate 76, we made several detours. At Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan), we found one Red-bellied Woodpecker but could not get the resident Eastern Screech-Owl to come out of his tree.

Riverside Park and Fort Morgan Ponds were slow. The only sparrows found were White-crowned Sparrows. The only geese, White-cheeked Geese.

When we got home, I had a message about the Iceland Gull at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and had to head over that way.

There were hundreds of gulls flying around just off the southwest marina. I sat on one of the benches and scope the horde until sunset.

The Iceland Gull was easy to pick out because of its light color. A Mew Gull stood on the telephone poles floating around the marina. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls stood on the sandbar north of the marina. It was not a bad way to end my birding day!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drive to Tomichi Gulch

December 4, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I found ourselves at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) before sunrise. No Short-eared Owls flew over the large cattail fields west of where the main road crosses Cherry Creek.

No uncommon gulls were found in the southeast corner of the reservoir. While we did not walk around to the southeast corner, we do not believe the Dunlin are still there (could not find them in our scopes from north of the eastern water inlet.

The Mew Gull was again on the swim beach with many Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls and a few Herring Gulls.

We stopped only briefly at Lakecrest (Denver County). Two Greater White-fronted Geese and several Ross's Geese were easily spotted. We did not see the Brant at that time. I heard Bryan and Sue relocated the Brant later in the day.

I took Bryan back to Barr Lake (Adams) where the Harris's Sparrow was again found in the tall bushes 25 yards west of the Visitor's Center.

Rebecca Kosten and I drove down to Tomichi Gulch for my third attempt at finding the Eastern Towhee. We missed the any Spotted Towhees within 500 yards of the parking area during our first hour of searching.

I then walked 0.7 miles east to where the trail opens into rolling prairie (northeast corner of the "working ranch"). On the return trip, I found 3 Spotted Towhees south of the creek where the path goes under telephone wires.

Continuing west, I found 5 or 6 Spotted Towhees less than 200 yards from the parking area. Then, finally, the Eastern Towhee popped out of the brush and stood on top of a willow for 20 seconds.

I radioed Rebecca and she rapidly ran down the trail. The Eastern Towhee again popped up for 15 seconds and gave us good looks. Eventually, all the towhees flew north of the creek and buried themselves in the willows.

By the way, while I had an Eastern Towhee recording with me, I did not play it. I did play a Spotted Towhee alarm call, which attracted the Spotted Towhees from 20 yards south of the trail. The Eastern Towhee followed the Spotted Towhees to the creek. The Spotted Towhees called back while the Eastern Towhee never made a sound.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Windy Day at Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 3, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Again, I avoided counting the thousands of geese at Lakecrest and went over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Temperatures reached 70 degrees today. Unfortunately, the high temperatures were due to 23 mph winds with gusts to 47 mph.

The adult Mew Gull was again at the swim beach with several hundred Ring-billed Gulls and 51 California Gulls. The variations in size and mantle color of both species are quite a bit. Several California Gulls almost looked dark enough to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull (however, not quite so).

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was standing with hundreds of gulls on the southeastern sand spit. The Dunlin of 11/28 were not found. I have not heard a report since then.

A friend in Deer Creek Canyon (Jefferson) called to say they had an owl just outside of the living room window. I hurried over to find a Northern Pygmy-Owl watching my friend's bird feeders.

On the way home, a drive through Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) did not find any uncommon birds.

I swung by Castlewood Canyon Road and State Park as a way to avoid the traffic of metro Denver. Not one bluebird was out exposing itself to the high winds.

No Short-eared Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop as I passed through to get home.

Nice Afternoon at Barr Lake

December 2, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Tired of counting geese at Lakecrest and Emerald Strand Park, Rebecca and I skipped the area today. It was another fine winter day with temperatures in the high 50s and mild winds. Instead, we enjoyed the afternoon with a hike around Barr Lake (Adams County).

The Harris's Sparrow stayed in the bushes 25 yards west of the Visitor's Center. We wondered for 30 minutes why no birds were visiting the feeders west of the building. When a couple of House Sparrows flew over, the reason became apparent.

First, a Merlin flew by and landed in the tall tree at the northwest corner of the building. Then a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk buzzed both the close bushes and then circled the taller bushes 25 yards west (twice). When we left, an adult Red-tailed Hawk was observed on the roof of the building. It was not a good day for songbirds to be flying around the park.

We hiked down to the banding station area and back. Again, few birds were found. The previously reported Swamp Sparrow was among the missing. Two Red-tailed Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk watched us from their perches in the taller cottonwoods.

I scoped the lake from the boat ramp. Hundreds of ducks and geese were north of the closed ramp. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes remains as well as one Common Loon. A few Ross's Geese were quite a distance from us.

Only four Great-tailed Grackles were observed around the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot today.

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls were found. No Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs came across our path.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Washington Park and Return to Red Rocks Park

December 1, 2010

Richard Stevens:

I was out doing chores when the call came that a White-winged Scoter was photographed yesterday at Smith Lake in Washington Park (Denver County). I hurried over, exited my car and then realized that I did not bring my binoculars. Fortunately, I eventually remembered that I had an old pair of 10 X 50s buried in the trunk. After some heavy duty cleaning, the binoculars were made usable.

However, there was no White-winged Scoter at Smith Lake or the northern lake in the park (currently spacing the name of that lake). I stayed long enough to make sure the scoter was not diving and avoiding detection.

Some of the waterfowl on Smith Lake included; Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Cackling Geese and Canada Geese.

Since I was halfway to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County), my car headed that way :-) Arrived at 3:40 pm as two birders were leaving without seeing the White-throated Sparrow or Curve-billed Thrasher. I mentioned that the birds tended to come out after 4:00 pm.

As if on cue, the Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow came out at 4:10 pm. The Harris's Sparrow showed up at 4:14 pm. The Curve-billed Thrasher at 4:21 pm. My longest wait was for a White-crowned Sparrow which should have been the most common. Finally, at 4:32 pm, a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow visited below the platform feeder at the northwest corner of the Red Rocks Park Trading Post.

This is only the 3rd time since 1992 that I have observed the four "Zonotrichia" sparrows in Colorado while standing at one spot!

Many other birds visited during my wait. Western Scrub-Jays, Spotted Towhees, many Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Mountain Chickadee, House Finches, Northern Flickers and even a Canyon Wren called briefly from the western rock cliff.

One thought I had during a late visit earlier in the month. After 4:00 pm is first good because the Trading Post shuts down and most visitors leave. However, the many House Sparrows also seem to disappear around 4:00 pm. Why I do not know; however, this has been consistent in four or five of my late afternoon visits. They may require more daylight to hunt for food. The other birds come until it is almost too dark to see them. Dozens more Dark-eyed Juncos appear after the commotion of the "jumpy" House Sparrows ends for the day. Other bird numbers increase also.

Denver and Adams County Birding, Another look at the Brant!

November 30, 2010

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached 43 degrees today; winds were 10+ mph. Still I was looking for a place to get in a walk and chose Lakecrest. I circled the whole lake and found some interesting birds among the 6000+ White-cheeked Geese.

Most of the White-cheeked Geese were as small as or smaller than the resident Mallards. Lakecrest was definitely a place to study Cackling Geese today!

Other geese included at least 9 Snow Geese, 3 Ross’s Geese and 4 Greater White-fronted Goose. Three additional white geese were not identified and could have been Snow Goose X Ross’s Goose hybrids. Several Canada Geese had white heads. Beware, there is also a resident domestic duck.

After the walk, I still wanted to get in a few miles and headed to the South Platte River at 88th Avenue. My walk today was only down to the white and green tower and back (starting from Colorado Blvd).

The male Barrow’s Goldeneye was still in the river and south of the tower. I did not relocate the Long-tailed Duck last reported on 11/15. Most of the lakes are open and there are way too many locations for the duck to “hang out”. Finding uncommon ducks and the Barrow’s Goldeneyes is much easier once the lakes freeze over and the ducks are forced to the S. Platte or small open areas in the lakes.

This location is a good place to study or photograph ducks. Many species swim on the river and they appear to not be bothered by the many people that walk and bike down the path.

My final stop was Barr Lake (Adams). The Harris’s Sparrow again visited below the feeders west of the Visitor’s Center. The Swamp Sparrow reported 11/28 by John Breitsch was not relocated.

Note: In the four or five times I have observed the Harris’s Sparrow, it has only come to the west side of the bushes west of the Visitor’s Center. I have not seen it approach the building. Perhaps throwing down some birdseed will entice the Sparrow closer to the building (for better views of it). When not at the bushes, it usually is in the taller bushes 20 yards or so west of the building.

Great-tailed Grackles and Eurasian Collared-Dove continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (152nd and Picadilly Road).