Monday, February 28, 2011

A Beautiful Colorado Winter Day

February 28, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Three California birders and I headed into the foothills to search for some mountain birds. We managed to find Rosy Finches to everyone's delight. Fourteen Barrow's Goldeneyes remained at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County).

We turned around and went up Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan. Some times, luck does shine on a weary birder. Our scope was not up 2 minutes before I picked out a Ptarmigan among the ragged rocks below the eastern side of the parking area!

A stop at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson) added Red Crossbills, 3 species of Nuthatches, Pine Siskins and Mountain Chickadees to our day list. The target bird was a Williamson's Sapsucker. None were found; my early date for the park is 3/31 (2006, 2007, 2008).

We stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) and had another 4 Zonotrichia day (Golden-crowned Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow)! The Curve-billed Thrasher also made an appearance, while no Rosy Finches were found.

We exited the park to the south and stopped briefly at the pullover north of the Chapel. A Canyon Wren called from the rocky cliffs. A flock of 16 Bushtits fluttered by, not stopping for any time. Do these guys ever stop moving!

I dropped them off at the motel on the western side of Denver and continued east. The male Barrow's Goldeneye was still on eastern Bass Lake (at one time, the eastern and western sections were one lake) at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt. I only saw a male Common Goldeneye and two female Common Goldeneyes, no female Barrow's Goldeneye.

Next, I stopped at Smith Lake in Washington Park (Denver County). The Long-tailed Duck was still there. Beware of the mistake I made Saturday (first trip, had to go back later in the day). She feeds much and stays under water more than on the surface when doing so.

I ended my birding day under a fantastic sunset (spent the last two hours before sunset at Barr Lake, Adams County). The Common Loon was still there around mile marker 5.0. The six white geese (5 Snow Geese and 1 Ross's Goose) took off and flew north. That ended our weekend mini Snow Goose festival (started Saturday)!

While walking the road above the dam, I picked out three locations below the dam where I would guess Long-eared Owls would hide and two locations where a Winter Wren might.

Two Long-eared Owls were at the first stop! Later I found another two Long-eared Owls, four total! One of the Long-eared Owls stood on a branch in the open (photo added to the CoBus photo library)! Started me when I saw its two eyes in my binoculars (from only about 8 paces.

It took two stops to find the Winter Wren! I played a Winter Wren recording for 20 seconds at both. First, he sang for 45 seconds, and then he popped up for 6 seconds to have a look around. Sounded like a Winter Wren and looked like one!

Great birding day and a wonderful Colorado winter day!

Some Eastern Plains Birding

February 27, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I met up with three birders from California (Jo Goldman, Nancy Salle, and Betty Fishman) and we went searching for Lapland Longspurs on the eastern plains.

Our trek went by Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) where we relocated several Long-eared Owls at the western Campgrounds. I enticed the Eastern Screech-Owl to come out of his hole in a large cottonwood.

We then drove Morgan County Road 4 (east side of the State Park) into Weld County (CR 105). Several large flocks of Horned Larks (300+ and 400+) were observed in Weld County.

A stop 2 miles north of the Morgan County line was quite fortuitous. Among the 400+ Horned Larks were found 3-5 Lapland Longspurs! More exciting, one bird with much white on it, turned out to be a Snow Bunting.

Having found our target bird, we decided to return to Jackson Reservoir and scope the many gulls. A walk along the dam from the eastern parking area found a Merlin! Most of the gulls were too far away to identify. Jo pointed out another "whitish" bird on the dam wall. It turned out to be our second Snow Bunting of the day!

Everyone was hungry, so I drove into Fort Morgan for a late lunch. Afterwards, we made the short detour to Brush Wildlife Area. The male Red-bellied Woodpecker was quite cooperative. He worked the trees just west of the pond!

Denver, Parker and Elbert County Birding

February 26, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I again birded around "Denver" in the afternoon. Winds were 14+ mph; temperature only reached the high 40s!

We received a text message about the Long-tailed Duck at Smith Lake, Washington Park and headed over that way. I spent an hour scoping the lake, never saw a Long-tailed Duck.

We then headed toward Kiowa where I had a meeting tonight. A stop at the Twenty Mile Pond in Parker found the pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes swimming at the eastern end of this small water treatment pond.

Another text message that the Long - tailed Duck was at Smith Lake. What the heck, I scoped the lake for a good hour, missed the bird on this not very large lake? The Common Goldeneyes were feeding constantly, under water more than on the surface. I guess the Long-tailed Duck was doing the same.

Therefore, I turned around and headed back to Washington Park. This time, I found the Long-tailed Duck and Jerry Petrosky in less than two minutes. We carpooled to Kiowa! I was the speaker so that fact that we were 15 minutes late was unfortunate.

We did obtain some very valuable information about owls and other birds in Elbert County. One rancher had a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos nest on his property last summer! Another had found a Common Poorwill nest/with bird and eggs! We plan to check on them next summer.

At around 11:00 pm, Jerry, Bryan Ehlmann and I went owling around Kiowa and Elbert (both in Elbert County). With the great help of our new friends, we found a Barn Owl at an old barn. A Western Screech-Owl at another ranch. Most exciting, we saw 2 Long-eared Owls at a third ranch. Long-eared Owl sightings are quite uncommon in Kiowa County!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Birding Around Denver

February 25, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I called this birding around Denver. Long trip however, total mileage was about 120 miles before our day was over.

I had a meeting downtown and afterwards Rebecca Kosten and I made the leisure drive over to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County). Temperature at noon was 28 degrees, winds mild; it felt cold.

We only stayed 50 minutes. Within minutes of throwing out birdseed, the Harris's Sparrow came out of the bushes. He stayed the whole time of our visit. The White-throated Sparrow came shortly after. While the Golden-crowned Sparrow did not arrive until minutes before our departure.

I wanted to stay until the Golden-crowned Sparrow showed because when we arrived, a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow was already there. That made for a four "Zonotrichia" sparrow day! I had that happen here in 2010, first time in 2011! It is a rare occurrence in Colorado! One American Tree Sparrow was also there when we arrived.

After lunch, we walked the South Platte River bike path from 88th & Colorado Blvd to 74th avenue (I returned for the car and picked Rebecca up at 74th). It is not often I get her to expose herself to such conditions (38 degrees, winds 14+ mph).

On the way over, we passed the Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area. A quick and short hike from the parking area to the I76 bridge found the American Dipper under the bridge. Thanks Bob Canter for our Weld County dipper for 2011!

A pair of Barrow's Goldeneye was on the Platte River just south of the green/white tower. The Long-tailed Duck was on the southern West Gravel Lake. There is still road grading at the northern West Gravel Lake which is probably why the duck moved. I did see it at Dahlia Ponds last week.

While looking for gulls on the area lakes, we observed a second pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes on Tani Reservoir (south of East Gravel Lakes). Many gulls were at East Gravel Lakes, all Ring-billed Gull except for two Herring Gulls. No large white gulls or black backed gulls however.

At Barr Lake (Adams), a Common Loon swam off the boat ramp. Many ducks and gulls (mostly Common Mergansers and Ring-billed Gulls) were too far away to identify. We counted 19 Bald Eagles on the ice along the northwest ice edge.

Six white geese included five Snow Geese and a Ross's Goose! Our own mini Snow Goose Festival!

Fifty plus Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot just south of Picadilly Road and 152nd avenue.

A Northern Shrike was at the Lochbuie Ponds (Weld).

We ended our birding day at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld). Rebecca sat in the car at the southern parking area (keeping an eye out for Short-eared Owls). While I hiked down to pond 8. It was difficult, but I finally found a Long-eared Owl deep in the western windbreak between ponds 7 & 8.

At sunset, we listened to a Great Horned Owl call as we waited for Short-eared Owls to fly over the cattails; none did this evening.

A Long Trip in Snow

February 24, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I cross-country skied to the Teller City Ghost Town (Jackson County) today. It was a long trip of about 7 miles one way. Beautiful scenery, everything snow covered. Quiet because we were 7 miles from a road with cars.

We did not find any owls; usually a Northern Pygmy-Owl is observed somewhere along the route or at the ghost town itself. We heard the drumming of a Three-toed Woodpecker and perhaps briefly saw it fly between trees. It could fly much faster than we could slide through the snow.

A flock of 8-10 Red Crossbills was seen on the way out. Twenty Pine Siskins and some Steller's Jays were just about all we counted. Beautiful views, now we can say that we have done it, however probably never again.

Earlier in the morning, we saw 60+ Rosy Finches (no Blacks) at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

On the way back to Denver (after midnight), we heard only Boreal Owls west of Cameron Pass and again at the upper Joe Wright Reservoir.

Search for a Snow Bunting and Grouse

February 23, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I departed Denver at 2:00 am. The day proved to be comfortable with mild winds and temperatures into the 40s. Our target birds were the Routt County Snow Bunting, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Sage-Grouse and Rosy Finches in North Park and area.

Just before sunrise, we relocated the flock of Horned Lark along CO 6 (approximately 1.8 miles north of Hwy 131, the Toponas area). The Snow Bunting was with them! It was a good start to our day.

We went on to find Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Steamboat Springs Area (Routt). Later a flock of 60+ Rosy Finches (3 species) was found at a ranch west of Steamboat Springs!

Finally, we traveled to a friend's ranch near Hayden (Routt); 4 Greater Sage-Grouse visited his feeders.

We turned back around and headed east. Several hours were spent walking Rabbit Ears Pass in both Routt and Grand Counties. We hoped for a White-winged Crossbill; found none. A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was discovered up the road to the CDOT maintenance shed for the pass.

A search around Walden did not find any Rosy Finches. Walden Reservoir, Delaney Buttes and Johns Lake Wildlife Area were all frozen. No Greater Sage-Grouse were encountered at sunset in the Coalmont Area. We did see many tracks, just no birds.

After dark, we hiked Cameron Pass to Joe Wright Reservoir to the east. Two Boreal Owls were heard; none was seen.

Chores Today

February 22, 2011

Wow, can you believe it? I did not go birding today :-(


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birding East of Denver

February 21, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Jacob Washburn, Bill Cryder and I walked into Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) from the south and then circled the 8.7 miles. There were many ducks in the small open water area.

The adult Thayer's Gull was where Jerry Petrosky found it yesterday, below the eastern end of the dam. A couple of Herring Gulls and dozens of Ring-billed Gulls were there also.

A flock of 8+ American Tree Sparrows was in the willows and cattails at mile marker 4.5. A pair of Song Sparrows was in the cattails south of the Visitor's Center.

While hundreds of White-cheeked Geese were out on the ice, we could not pick out any Cackling Geese.

Later, Jacob and I headed over to Barr Lake (Adams). After standing around behind the Visitor's Center for about an hour, the Harris's Sparrow popped to the top of the tall brushes west of the building.

Most ducks and gulls were too far away to identify properly. No dark backed or large white gulls were observed. No Trumpeter Swan today, it was a one day sighting last Wednesday.

Dozens of Great-tailed Grackles were again at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot.

We picked up Rebecca Kosten and Amy Davenport and ended our birding day at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld). No Long-eared Owls were found. American Robins were the most numerous birds; the count was 178+!

We did hear a Great Horned Owl to the west of pond 11. No Short-eared Owls were observed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yuma County

February 20, 2011

Bryan Ehlmann;

We sat at the Yuma County 45 lek before sunrise. No Greater Prairie-Chickens were seen or heard displaying. We were looking for a new "early date".

Visits to two Wray yards found Northern Cardinals (2 males, 3 females), a red race Fox Sparrow, a Brown Thrasher and 2 Spotted Towhees. Wray Fishing Unit was quiet and slow.

We didn't relocate the Swamp Sparrow at Sandsage Wildlife Area. A White-throated Sparrow was among many White-crowned Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows.

The walk around Bonny Reservoir was more satisfying. We found a Northern Cardinal at the west side of Foster's Grove Campgrounds. A Harris's Sparrow was in the brush along Yuma County Road 2, west of the sharp bend to the south on the way into Bonny Reservoir.

Two Long-eared Owls were found in the Hale windbreak. Unfortunately, the windbreak has been damaged by high winds and is not as dense as previous years. It was once a good shelter for wintering Long-eared Owls and Great Horned Owls.

A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was in the tall cottonwoods at the east side of Hale Ponds.

We visited a friend in Kansas and found five Long-eared Owls on his property. He heard of a Northern Saw-whet Owl at a neighbor's ranch. We raced over but couldn't find the owl.

After dark, the Eastern Screech-Owl was found north of the eastern Hale Ponds.

Logan and Sedgwick Counties

February 19, 2011

Bryan Ehlmann;

Prewitt Reservoir, Logan/Washington Counties, was our first stop. An Eastern Screech-Owl answered our recording played east of the ranger's home below the dam. No rare birds were found. Gull numbers were way down from earlier visits.

The four of us walked Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area in Logan County. A Northern Cardinal was behind the maintenance shed. Two Field Sparrows lounged at Section 7 East. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were discovered at 6 East and from the Highway 55 bridge over the S. Platte River.

Several Ross's Geese were north of Jumbo Reservoir. At sunset, we looked for Short-eared Owls at Red Lion Wildlife Area and south of Jumbo Reservoir. None were found. An Eastern Screech-Owl was heard along the north side of Jumbo Reservoir. This area is private property; the owl was heard only.

We then returned to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area and found an Eastern Screech-Owl between 6 & 7 East. This one we all were able to see!

Search for an Eurasian Wigeon Morgan County

February 18, 2011

Bryan Ehlmann;

Richard Stevens, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons and I searched many Morgan County lakes and ponds for the reported Eurasian Wigeon. There was no sign of one.

Before sunrise, an Eastern Screech-Owl answered our recording played at the western Campgrounds. We watched the northwestern marsh fields for Short-eared Owls; none appeared. A walk through the Campgrounds found 8 Long-eared Owls.

Very little open water was found that an Eurasian Wigeon could be swimming. Even Riverside Park was checked, nothing there but common city park ducks and White-cheeked Geese.

A White-throated Sparrow was in the brush on the south side of the most eastern Fort Morgan Ponds. The area is the eastern end of Riverside Park. Most of the sparrows found were White-crowned Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Birding Day in Adams County

February 17, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) to attend the "basic birding tour" around the arsenal. The adult Harris's Sparrow visited below the eastern Visitor's Center feeder only a short time (7:28 am to 7:31 am).

Again, the commotion of the Red-winged Blackbirds chased the Harris's Sparrow and 4 White-crowned Sparrows away. They had not returned by 9:00 am. The juvenile Harris's Sparrow never appeared. I parked so to see both the eastern and western feeders today and therefore got a good count of the birds visiting.

On the tour, raptor count was higher than yesterday. We saw many Ferruginous Hawks and a few Bald Eagles. A couple of Coyotes caught prairie dogs, running away from us with their prize in their grasp. The nesting pair of Bald Eagles was on their nest of five years!

Afterwards, I went to lunch in Westminster. The route just happens to pass by northern West Gravel Lakes area. The Long-tailed Duck was not there today; perhaps because there was much road grading inside the park.

I stopped at Dahlia Ponds, which was about 25 percent open water. A female Long-tailed Duck (and most likely the same one wintering in the area) was with dozens of Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes and Mallards.

My next stop was Barr Lake to see if the swan species observed yesterday was still there. I scoped Barr Lake from the town of Barr and did not see any swans. By the way, the town is known not to be friendly to birders (small town, too much traffic). However, I was able to make friends with one of the residents and he invited me to scope the lake from his backyard! Being cordial never hurts!

Winds were again quite strong (steady at 14 mph at times, gusts to 22 mph) and temperatures lower than yesterday. I was cold all day. The full moon appeared large over the eastern horizon before sunset. I could not go home, had to hike somewhere. Therefore, I drove over to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area.

My birding day ended with the full moon to the east and a beautiful sunset. One Long-eared Owl was found in the western windbreak just south of pond 7. I hung around to see if any Short-eared Owls would hunt along the ponds; none showed tonight. A Great Horned Owl called from the tall cottonwoods east of pond 11!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birding Around Adams County

February 16, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal this morning and waited for the Harris's Sparrows to show. Only the adult appeared and then only briefly from 7:32 to 7:34 am. The number of Red-winged Blackbirds doubled from Sunday creating much disturbance of noise and movement at the feeders.

I then went on their bus tour. Half a dozen Ferruginous Hawks and several Bald Eagles were photographed. Not as many raptors flew around as my last trip two weeks ago.

Afterwards I hiked the South Platte River from 88th avenue to 74th avenue. Three male and two female Barrow's Goldeneyes were just upstream of the green and white tower about 0.5 miles south of the parking area at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd.

The Long-tailed Duck was still on northern West Gravel Lake. She was difficult to see. First, she fed constantly, on the surface for only seconds and staying under water for up to a minute at a time. Second, she stayed in the extreme northeast corner. I could only see her by walking down the eastern fence line to where it bends west, then scoping back north.

Barr Lake was my next stop. I could not find the possible Great Black-backed Gull reported yesterday by Bob Righter. There was a Swan species in the middle of the lake at mile marker 4.5. Heat waves made identification impossible.

My birding day ended by sitting behind the Visitor's Center and watching the feeders. The Harris's Sparrow stayed in the tall brushes in the tall grasses west of the building. He never approached the feeders. The White-throated Sparrow never appeared.

Only about two dozen Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot. No Short-eared Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop this evening.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day Birding Along Highway 14

February 15, 2011

Richard Stevens:

By the way, I also heard a Boreal Owl that could be recorded on 2/15!

My birding day started before sunrise near Coalmont where I search unsuccessfully for Greater Sage-Grouse. There were plenty of tracks in the snow; however no birds.

At the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, forty plus Rosy Finches visited the feeders. I did not see any Black Rosy Finches.

A search around Ranger Lakes Campgrounds found few birds today. I snow shoed down to the Crags Campgrounds, also few birds.

I visited several friends' ranches to catch up on owls and birds in the area.

After noon, I started back toward Fort Collins. I stopped at every Campgrounds and picnic areas long highway 14. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was found at one of them.

At sunset, I stood at Wellington Wildlife Area. Unfortunately, no Short-eared Owls flew about this evening.

Seven Owl Day

February 14, 2011

Richard Stevens:

My goal did not start out to see many owls, however :-) Seven Owl Day!

About 1.5 hours before sunrise, I parked in Rist Canyon at the old barbed wire fence wooden posts (no wire anymore). This I knew was 0.8 miles east of Whale Rock. I then hiked up to Whale Rock Road and continued for about 0.2 miles.

Winds were calm and temperatures in the 40s! The sounds of finches calling, a lone woodpecker, and some screeching Steller's Jays were heard. No owls (I did not play any recordings). It was one of those hikes in the dark that I enjoy much!

It was civil twilight by the time I reached Whale Rock. No owls responded when I played a recording, so I continued uphill to the west. When I was 30 yards west of Whale Rock Road, I spotted the "little nest like" feature south of the creek, south of the School Bus Sign. It was a Northern Pygmy-Owl.

I watched him for about 5 minutes (got several fuzzy photos as light was poor for hand held camera). He eventually drove down, caught some type of mouse, and flew off to the south (uphill). It was a great way to start my morning.

On the way back to my car, I heard a woodpecker calling at 0.1 miles east of Whale Rock. It did not sound like a Hairy Woodpecker. Remembering that American Three-toed Woodpeckers have been reported in the area, I took the time to locate the bird. It was indeed a Three-toed Woodpecker!

Reached my car, and drove to my target birds of the day, Grandview Cemetery. When I arrived, Dixie Smith was looking at the adult Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It was in the same tree reported the day before by David Leatherman. Three trees east of the green porta John at the southwest corner of the cemetery.

Then I drove to the northeast corner of the cemetery. The juvenile was pecking away on the western side of the only Scotch Pine in the area!

My plan was to search for Short-eared Owls at Wellington Wildlife Area at dusk. Therefore, I was spending the day in Larimer County. My next stop was North Shields Pond Natural Area and Sterling Natural Area to the north.

The previously reported Long-tailed Duck was not relocated. All the ponds were ice covered. The few open water areas on the Poudre River had 16 Common Goldeneyes and a pair of Common Mergansers.

I drove down to Prospect Ponds Natural Area where I hiked down to the CSU Environmental Learning Center. Few birds moved about and the previously reported Winter Wren & Pacific Wren were not found.

I headed toward Lee Martinez Park to search for an Eastern Screech-Owl, but stopped at a friend's home nearby first. Good choice, she had an Eastern Screech-Owl in her backyard (skipped Lee Martinez Park)!

It was mid-afternoon and I ran out of places to bird in Fort Collins. So headed to Wellington Wildlife Area. A walk at the Cobb Lake Unit found a pair of Great Horned Owls. A walk at the Schware Unit found a Long-eared Owl. Another Long-eared Owl was found at the Wellington Unit!

It was still early for Short-eared Owls to show up, so I drove over to a nearby friend's ranch. He has had Northern Saw-whet Owls winter on three occasions. While he did not have any this year, his neighbor did! My fifth owl of the day!

Since Short-eared Owls are not consistent at Wellington Wildlife Area, I decided to head toward home and end my birding day at Lower Latham Reservoir. Two minutes before sunset (5:35 pm), three Short-eared Owls flew around the fields on the south side of Weld County Road 48!

While I was waiting for sunset, I called a Marsh Wren up from the cattails. A pair of Northern Harriers and three Red-tailed Hawks hunted in the area! Thousands of White-cheeked Geese took off from the reservoir and headed toward the fields to the south. Many few just feet over my head. How can hunters miss them? Perhaps they recognize that I did not have a gun?

Okay, so my plans changed. Six owl species, how many times does one see seven in one day? My car turned back north to Cameron Pass.

At around 8:00 pm, I walked from Cameron Pass down to the Joe Wright Reservoir parking area (about 3 miles). Again, owling is great for people who like to walk around in the dark! I enjoyed listening to the night sounds, eventually heard a Boreal Owl just west of Cameron Pass's summit!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Adams and Morgan County Birding

February 13, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I celebrated this superb winter day with some birding along Interstate 76. Temperatures reached into the middle 50s. Winds were calm until the afternoon when they increased to 17+ mph with gusts to 22 mph.

When Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) opened at 7:00 am, I parked near the feeders at the Visitor's Center. Between 7:28 am and 8:11 am, both Harris's Sparrows visited the eastern feeder. They did not return during my stay (left at 9:00 am).

I took 92 photos of which 3 or 4 came out well. The angle of sun early in the morning makes it quite difficult to expose for the white bodies of birds. I will put photos on the CoBus photo library Monday night (as I leave in a few minutes for some owling in Larimer County).

For about 8 seconds both birds were in the same frame. After looking the photos over, I can see that there is an adult winter plumaged Harris's Sparrow and a 1st winter bird.

On the way home, I stopped at Barr Lake State Park (Adams). My third Harris's Sparrow of the day was below the wooden wall below the feeders outside of the west side of the Visitor's Center. He eventually flew to the tall bushes in the high grasses west of the building.

A dozen American Goldfinches were "taking a bath" in a puddle under the crooked bird house along the canal (west of building). An adult White-throated Sparrow also came out of the brush and joined them. He stayed close to the brush along the canal and after his bath disappeared back into the tall grasses. He never approached the feeders.

I picked up Rebecca Kosten and we headed to Jackson Lake State Park (Morgan). Quite a few raptors were along Interstate 76. We counted dozens of Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Ferruginous Hawks, 9 Rough-legged Hawks, 7 Northern Harriers and 7 American Kestrels. A beautiful Prairie Falcon zoomed across the highway just in front of our car!

A few Bald Eagles stood on the ice. Our target bird was the 11 Long-eared Owls we found in the western Campgrounds!

At sunset, we parked at the northern end of the Campgrounds and watched for Short-eared Owls. None appeared. A pair of Great Horned Owls called from the cottonwoods along the shore (as we watched a fantastic sunset).

Back at Pelican Campgrounds, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl. In sounded as if he was somewhere in the tall cottonwoods along the shore east of the Campgrounds.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trip Into the Foothills and Mountains

February 12, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Luis Lindgren and I headed up into the foothills in search of some mountain birds. We got out of Denver about two hours before sunrise (6:58 am) in order to beat skiers into the mountains.

Our first detour was to the top of Loveland Pass where we celebrated sunrise! No skiers yet, especially on weekends they flood the summit to avoid paying lift ticket prices at Loveland Ski Basin and Keystone. Finding Ptarmigan with a horde of people around, not so successful.

When we looked over the western side of the Summit, Luis picked out two Ptarmigan walking around the scarce evergreens just below the road! Sometimes an easy search is a welcomed exercise from the days when I have spent 3-4 hours trying to find a White-tailed Ptarmigan up there!

We proceeded to Summit County and got our fill of mountain birds. Fourteen Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County).

Luis had to catch a plane at DIA and we rushed back to Denver.

In the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove back to Morrison for a late lunch (Morrison Inn, great Mexican Food). Afterwards we spent an hour watching the feeders behind the Red Rocks Park Trading Post. Unfortunately, a wedding photographer used the steps near the feeder as a background for almost 45 minutes.

We could see 90+ Rosy Finches waiting on the cliffs to the west for the people to leave the feeder area. As soon as the photographer and subjects left, the 93 Rosy Finches came down to eat. Three species were represented with at least 2 Black Rosy Finches among the flock.

Two White-throated Sparrows, the Harris's Sparrow and Golden-crowned Sparrow also hopped out of the bushes when the photographer left. Unfortunately, the Curve-billed Thrasher never appeared.

In my experience, the House Sparrows, which are quite jumpy and scare the other birds, depart around 4:00 to 4:15 pm. The wild birds than appear to be more comfortable in visiting below the feeder. However, we left at 3:20 pm and missed that tonight.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Birding Around Denver

February 11, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I planned to search for some recent birds reported around Denver today. Winds were calm; temperature at noon was only 28 degrees.

Around sunrise (6:58 am, well they did not open until 7:00 am) I watched the feeders north of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Visitor's Center (Adams County). Within ten minutes, the Harris's Sparrow visited below and behind the eastern feeder. It never went underneath the feeder where many Dark-eyed Juncos kicked for food.

In the morning, I hiked the South Platte River from 88th avenue down to Interstate 270, Adams County (east side south and west side back north). A male and two female Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Platte River just upstream (south) of the green/white tower.

A Northern Shrike hunted around the south end of Tani Reservoir. Another was at the northeast corner of Engineer Lake. Other interesting birds included a Golden Eagle (uncommon here), an adult Bald Eagle, a Peregrine Falcon and a Prairie Falcon. They made the long hike quite interesting.

I did not run into many gulls until I reached the Water Treatment Plant south of I270. Unfortunately, no uncommon gulls were found among 300+ Ring-billed Gulls.

While walking both directions I scoped the eastern shore diligently. The Dunlin that has been around for weeks was not found. Surprisingly, no Killdeer were found either. Usually a few are seen during this hike.

Back at the northern West Gravel Lake, the Long-tailed Duck was among a loose group of Common Goldeneyes.

After lunch, I search unsuccessfully for Eastern Screech-Owls around Denver City Park and the neighborhood to the east. Several have been reported calling during dusk along Montview from Colorado Blvd to Monaco.

My birding day ended back along the South Platte River, this time at Florida Avenue (just north of Overland Pond Park, Denver County). My second Long-tailed Duck of the day was perhaps 40 yards north of Florida Avenue.

An American Dipper flew from underneath the Florida Avenue bridge to the footbridge downstream.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Drive Around Douglas County

February 10, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I birded Douglas County today.

Our first stop was the Twenty Mile Pond in Parker. No Barrow's Goldeneyes, only a couple of Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Gadwalls were on the pond. The open water area was quite small. Some of the ducks must have hightailed it in search of larger water holes.

We drove over to Rampart Range Road and Highway 67. An American Three-toed Woodpecker was seen as we walked up and down the intersection (about 0.2 miles in each direction).

A hike along the south side of Pine Lake (Pine Valley Ranch Park, Jefferson County) did not find any Three-toed Woodpeckers or Northern Pygmy-Owls. Snow was too high for a climb up Buck Gulch Road.

Our birding day ended at Reynolds Park (Jefferson). No Northern Pygmy-Owls came out after sunset. It was too cold and snow too high for much hiking.

Search for Mountain Birds

February 9, 2011

Richard Stevens:

John & Mary Tiernan and I went up to Summit and Clear Creek Counties.

On the way, we stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County) and saw the uncommon birds that have been there for a while. Twenty Rosy Finches (3 species) were nice in spite of the low numbers. Other uncommon birds included: Curve-billed Thrasher, Harris's Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow and 2 White-throated Sparrows.

Twelve Barrow's Goldeneyes were still on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

It took a couple of hours. We finally found a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan walking below the eastern side at the Summit.

No Short-eared Owls could be located along the DIA Owl Loop at dusk.

DIA Owl Loop, Adams County

February 8, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten, Bryan & Sue Ehlmann and I cautiously drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County). Eventually we saw a Short-eared Owl off in the distant field southeast of Trussville and 114th Avenue.

Half a dozen Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot.

Wandering Around Cameron Pass

February 5-7, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Jacob Washburn wants to write an article on this weekend for "Colorado Field Notes". See March's issue for the account. Uncommon birds were reported to CoBus RBA.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Birding in Adams County

February 4, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I joined ENAS (Evergreen Naturalists Audubon Society) trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Repository. It is the country's "warehouse" of confiscated illegal animal goods and dead eagles. They process 2000 dead eagles a year for distribution to native American tribes. The tour was informative and interesting.

Afterwards, I stopped at the Visitor's Center where one of the Harris's Sparrows was in the brush 6 or 7 feet behind (north) of the eastern feeder. It never approached the feeder perhaps because of the many Red-winged Blackbirds also visiting.

More interesting was a group of three Western Meadowlarks that huddled under the feeder. When the Red wings flushed, most birds left except for this little group of colorful meadowlarks. Several vehicles passed by the feeder and the birds flushed often. I waited around; the Harris's Sparrow did not return in 30 minutes.

After some business in Brighton and a late lunch in Westminster, I needed a place to walk the last two hours of daylight. The South Platte River at 88th avenue was chosen. Skies were overcast; however, temperatures were in the high 40s with calm winds.

My 3/4 mile hike took about 2 hours as I scoped the banks closely. I made it south to the railroad trestle without seeing the Dunlin. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was below the green/white tower. Another male and 2 females were 50 yards south/upstream of the tower.

On the return trip, I finally picked the Dunlin out of the wet rocks on the east bank below the green/white tower. Where was it on my trip upstream? There is a little stream where offers some refuge behind an island that is not visible from the west bank vantage point, perhaps?

I almost did not look at the northern West Gravel Lake since the Long-tailed Duck had not been reported in a week or so. Changing my mind at the last moment, I hopped the hill at the south end of the open water (north end of lake). The Long-tailed Duck was with a raft of Common Goldeneyes just off the eastern shore!

I not only enjoyed a nice after lunch/dinner hike, but a productive one as well!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jefferson County Foothills

February 3, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 23 degrees today. A warm spell, well after highs of 8 degrees and -1, today did feel warm. Fortunately, winds were mild where we birded. Snow started around noon and got heavier as the day progressed. By 4:00 pm, heavier snow and icy roads made our decision to skip the DIA Owl Loop easy to make. Visibility was reduced to a hundred yards or less north of the airport.

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I decided to search for the Northern Pygmy-Owl and American Three-toed Woodpeckers at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County) early this morning. The hills sheltered the trails and made our hike quite pleasant.

Shortly after turning onto the Strawberry Jack Trail (from the Buck Gulch Trail, south of Pine Lake), Sue whispered "Northern Pygmy-Owl"! Sure enough, the little owl was perched 15 feet off the ground and keeping an eye on the draw that runs along the trail.

We watched for 15 minutes before it turned and flew to the south. Our hike continued east up the Strawberry Jack switchbacks. When we were 50 or 60 yards from the Parkview Trail the distinctive drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker was heard.

It still took another 20 minutes before the woodpecker was spotted. It was a Three-toed Woodpecker! It worked a few trees south (uphill) of the trail, crossed the path and continued north (downhill).

Along the trek we also saw a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers (hill south of Pine Lake), three species of nuthatches (Buck Gulch Trail) along with quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos.

A Downy Woodpecker flew around the willows at the west end of Pine Lake.

On the return to Denver, we drove by way of Foxton Road and Reynolds Park (Jefferson). The road parallels the South Platte River. When an American Dipper was spotted from our moving vehicle, we stopped briefly to watch it dive into the freezing water.

Weather was deteriorating and dampened our desire to hike up the Oxen Draw Trail to the triad intersection (with Raven's Roost and Eagle's View). It is a good location for Dusky Grouse and additional Three-toed Woodpeckers; however, it can be quite icy in winter.

The Oxen Draw was checked for additional Northern Pygmy-Owls; without success.

We passed Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) on the way home and of course were forced to stop. A couple of dozen Rosy Finches (surprisingly 3 species) were around the platform feeder behind the trading post.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow came out of the bushes and was shortly followed by the Harris's Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow. Both White-throated Sparrows were not seen at the same time today. Within 30 minutes the Curve-billed Thrasher also appeared, covering all the uncommon birds that have been visiting for months now!

Snow continued to fall, driving in rush hour traffic plus icy roads, liked not so much. We headed for home.

Search for the Dunlin, 88th Avenue & Platte River

February 2, 2011

Jerry Petrosky (from cobirders listserve):

"Rich Stevens and I went looking for the Dunlin at 88th avenue. We walked from 88th to 74th. Finally, the Dunlin was found on our second pass of a sandspit along the Platte River. It was the first sandspit south/upstream of the green and white tower. An hour and a half exposure to the 7-degree temps was just about all we could handle so the sighting was welcomed. A third pass was probably more than my little exposed skin could handle.

The Barrow's Goldeneye count was 2 males and 2 females. We did not find the Long tailed Duck, which has not been reported in a week or two now. Our best raptor sighting was a Peregrine Falcon that zoomed down the river. Also saw Prairie Falcon, Northern Harriers, Red tailed Hawks and an adult Bald Eagle."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Brief Drive Around the DIA Owl Loop

February, 1, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I had to get out of the house for a little bit and decided to make a brief but slow drive around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County). Temperature at 4:00 pm was 0 degrees with -15 degrees wind-chill.

Roads were very icy on the plains north of Denver International Airport. No owls were seen. A few raptors, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, 1 Ferruginous Hawk, 2 American Kestrels and a pair of Northern Harriers were counted.

Several dozen Great-tailed Grackles were at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot. Then I headed home, not wanting to slide of the roads after dark (I did once around 4:30).

Southern Trip for Owls

January 27-30, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Thursday 27th

Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed one of those fantastic winter days in Colorado. Temperatures reached the high 40s, skies were clear and winds were calm.

We drove down to Colorado Springs (El Paso County) to enjoy one of our favorite restaurants and of course perhaps (for sure) get in some birding.

When we arrived at Fountain Creek Regional Park the Visitor's Center was closed for the day. I hoped to pick up a map, regretting that I probably had left 3 or 4 back at home. The sun was out, a beautiful day, blue sky in the foothills with snowcapped Pikes Peak hanging over us to the west.

As soon as we peeked around the back of the Visitor's Center, we saw the Harris's Sparrow eating seed on the large white rock below the feeders. A squirrel scared him twice, but he made several return visits.

We circled Rice's Ponds and made our way down to trail marker 18. When we arrived, we saw a Black-capped and Mountain Chickadee flittering about the cottonwoods on the west side of the trail. A White-breasted Nuthatch squawked as he (it was a male) loosely followed the chickadee pair.

Within seconds, the Pine Warbler also joined the group. We felt quite blessed to find the warbler in less than 3 minutes. Reports of searches for an hour, 2 hours, more seemed daunting. The warbler was just 10 feet above our heads. Now and then, the warbler would fly out to hawk an insect. Once it came within 5 feet of our heads!

Eventually the small troupe crossed to the east side of the trail and to the tops of taller cottonwoods. We could still see the Pine Warbler. However, if we had to locate it for the first time, it might have taken quite a while.

Next, we walked the north and east sides of the North Rice's Pond. Eventually a Winter Wren responded to a recording. It briefly came out of the cattails on the southern third of the pond.

As we continued back to the Visitor's Center, we stopped at the outlet stream to South Rice's Pond. I played a recording of a Virginia Rail and within 10 seconds, one came out of the cattails!

A Sora recording did not work as well. Well, there just are not as many of them that winter in Colorado. May none at this park?

After lunch, we decided to do some owling on what appeared to be a coming calm night. Spotted Owls are a real "prize" for any birder who can hear or see one in Colorado and we gave it a try in Fremont County. Unfortunately, without success.

On the way to our undisclosed search, we stopped at Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont). A flock of 12+ Pinyon Jays flew around the ridge on the east side of the reservoir.

A small flock of Bushtits fluttered about the Pinyon Junipers to the southwest of the west end of the dam. Two Juniper Titmice responding quickly to a recording played in the same area. We recorded our first Ladder-backed Woodpecker of 2011 from the taller cottonwoods below the dam.

Friday 28th

I birded on my own the rest of the week. My main quest was again "where do Northern Saw-whet Owls winter in Colorado?"

Stopping at the many locations in Canon City (Fremont) where Williamson's Sapsuckers had wandered last month, I could only locate one female at Centennial Park. Although not much time was spent on the venture.

I hiked around Red Canyon Park (Fremont) looking for signs of Northern Saw-whet Owls; without success. Over the years, I have taken many waypoints of Saw-whet sightings. Dozens have been recorded during nesting season in this park and the BLM Land to the north. I found none today. Of course, daylight probably did not help my quest. I figured getting a response to a recording was not likely.

After hearing of the Red-headed Woodpecker near the Wetmore Community Center, I detoured through there on my way to owling near San Isabel Lake tonight. It took about 20 minutes for the woodpecker to show up once I arrived.

Owling tonight was more successful than last night. I set up 3 "listening stations" and then drove to nearby Campgrounds while the stations were running. Eventually, I heard 2 Northern Saw-whet Owls and caught a third on tape.

Comments about owling: Owling is tremendous for those who like to hike around in the dark. When there is no wind like Friday night, the woods host many sounds. Finches, Siskins even a woodpecker now and then fill the air. On fortunate nights, owls call to each other. With a breeze, the trees creak in the wind.

Many nights one can hear animals breathing. Rutting season brings out elk and deer. Their breathing is quite different. Probably not as welcoming, one can hear the breathing of a passing bear. Am I ideating their footsteps on the ground or is it a wisp of imagination? Fortunately, they are not a problem on winter nights.

Saturday-Sunday, 29th & 30th

I spent these days on the "Bird Ranch" in Las Animas County. The few birds seen this time of year in Las Animas County were included in my counts: Juniper Titmice, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Canyon Towhee, Bewick's Wrens, 2 Lewis's Woodpeckers, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. I also came across one Long-eared Owl!

Nights were spent wandering around the county setting up and monitoring "listening stations". Saturday count was 2 Northern Saw-whet Owls (different locations) and 9 Western Screech-Owls (7 locations).

Sunday, impending inclement weather conditions convinced me to head back to Denver. As we now know, this was an excellent decision. Snow and cold Monday, freezing cold and snow Tuesday with lows predicted for Tuesday night to -35 degrees (wind chill).

On the way back home, I made another run at finding a Spotted Owl in Fremont County; without success. No response from the Northern Saw-whet Owl at Juno Oro either. I did get a brief response to a Northern Pygmy-Owl recording at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area.