Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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!

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