Sunday, January 9, 2011

Search for Snowy Owls in Weld & Morgan Counties

January 9, 2011

Richard Stevens and I wandered around Weld and Morgan County today in search of Snowy Owls. None was found. One had been reported north of Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) on Friday.

It snowed most of the day. Mild winds made the drive around the country roads quite pleasant. Everything looked clean and fresh under the coating of several inches of snow.

We bumped into five large flocks of Horned Larks. Lapland Longspurs were in all but one of them. All together, the Lapland Longspur count was 29.

An interesting longspur was discovered with a Horned Lark flock at 0.4 miles north of Weld County Roads 89 and 52.

We got superb looks at a longspur that looked like a McCown's Longspur in winter plumage. Both of us agreed that the bird had light chestnut median coverts, a weakly defined cheek and a white tail with black inverted "T" on the tail. It had a black chest patch, which indicates a male McCown's Longspur.

A winter plumaged Lapland Longspur while having a black chest band would also show rufous greater coverts and tertials, a dark border to its cheeks, and a black tail with limited white on the outer two tail feathers (on both sides of tail).

The highlight of the day was a Snow Bunting with another Horned Lark flock. This flock was just north of Weld County Roads 89 and 68. The bird had much brown on its face and upper chest. We concluded it was a female in winter plumage.

Our day passed without any owl sightings. We decided not to head west, lollygag around Lower Latham Reservoir and hope Short-eared Owls would fly around at dusk. Instead, we returned to Denver before sunset.

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