Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cherry Creek Reservoir

March 31, 2011

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores again Thursday, I stopped by Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). Winds were 19+ mph, with gusts to 29 mph (probably more above the sheltered reservoir).

I did not walk down to the southwest sandspit; however, I could see an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull from the southwest marina. Many gulls and American White Pelicans were hunkered down there.

I went by the bird platform at the Prairie Loop hoping to see and get better photographs of the Mew Gull found yesterday. It was not among 160 Ring-billed Gulls, 24+ California Gulls and 9 Herring Gulls.

While watching a Greater Yellowlegs, to my surprise, the Semipalmated Plover walked out to the mudflats 20 feet from my position. I did not see it yesterday. It must have been along the cattails out of sight. Anyway, it is still there.

One Burrowing Owl continues along Tower Road at 0.3 miles north of 56th avenue. It is quite far west of Tower Road. At least 14 Great-tailed Grackles continue at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (152nd and Picadilly Road).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birding Around Denver; Adams & Arapahoe Counties

March 30, 2011

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores today, I stopped at several locations. Winds were steady at 18+ mph with gusts to 32 mph. This made seeing birds on the lakes extremely difficult.

DIA Owl Loop (Adams County)
Burrowing Owls
(2) Picadilly Road between 128th & 120th avenues
(2) 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue
(1) 0.3 miles north of Tower Road & 56th avenue

12+ Great-tailed Grackles at the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot
Eurasian Collared-Doves

Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County)
Could not find the Semipalmated Plover (I did put photos of it taken Sunday on the CoBus Photo Library). The Greater Yellowlegs was still there, 50 yards west of the bird observation platform. The Common Loon could not be relocated either. High winds made for large and cold waves.

I was excited when one of the smaller gulls off the bird observation platform at the Prairie Loop had a noticeable darker mantle than the other 120 gulls. It turned out to be a Mew Gull among the Ring-billed Gulls.

One of the adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Petrosky, 3/25) was on the sandspit at southwest marina. I left my digiscoping camera on the rocks at the bird platform. Fortunately, it was still there 25 minutes later; however, the Mew Gull had flown off.

Barr Lake (Adams County)
Not much. Two Great Horned Owls in Adams County have white owlets looking out their nests.

Longspur and Ptarmigan Searches

March 29, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rich Rienbolt and I headed to Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld County) because Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) was closed for the second day due to recent snows.

The scenery was spectacular, finding birds on land that was still snow covered at noon, not so easy. I thought we would find at least one or two of the three longspurs. We found none. Finding Mountain Plover was also not so easy or successful. The birds found last week must have been hunkered down under the snow ladened grasses?

The highlights were an adult Golden Eagle along Weld County Road 51 north of highway 14. Hundreds of Horned Larks scurried across the gravel roads. However, not one longspur was to be seen.

We had to walk into Crow Valley Campgrounds (still closed at entrance to vehicles). A Great Horned Owl carried a rabbit to a mate! Northern Flickers the only other birds to be seen at the Campgrounds.

A dozen male American Kestrels were out hunting. We wondered if the females were all sitting on nests somewhere? A male Northern Harrier and several Red-tailed Hawks were also observed.

Loveland Pass opened at noon and we drove the 170 miles south and west for a White-tailed Ptarmigan search. When we arrived at the pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties), dozens of skiers and snowboarders covered the slopes. There was little untracked snow. We found no Ptarmigan. Again the scenery was outstanding, a ptarmigan or two would have been a nice bonus.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Snowy Day in the Foothills and Mountains

March 28, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rich Rienbolt and I headed into the mountains and a snowstorm today. It was snowing at the west side of Denver at 6:00 am and only got more rapid as we headed west.

We wandered around on slick roads in Summit County and found a few mountain species. Only one pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes remained at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant in Silverthorne.

Loveland Pass was closed all day and we returned to Denver. The road (Highway 9) toward Kremmling and Steamboat Springs looked bad and we did not attempt to drive it. Predictions were for another 4-8 inches tonight.

We stopped a Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County). It was sunny and 30 degrees warmer here. Leon Bright came by and put out seed. Shortly after, the Curve-billed Thrasher took advantage of the food. It was followed by 2 White-throated Sparrows and the Golden-crowned Sparrow. We did not see the Harris's Sparrow; however, Mike Henwood reported seeing it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Clear Creek County to Arapahoe County

March 27, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Mike Pressel and I were at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) at Sunrise. Two White-tailed Ptarmigan walked below the eastern side of the summit.

On the return to Denver, we stopped at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson). The male Williamson's Sapsucker was drumming on his favorite telephone pole around the group picnic area.

We detoured to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). While we missed any Northern Pygmy-Owls, we did find an American Three-toed Woodpecker 100 yards west of the Parkview and Strawberry Jack trails.

After dropping Mike off at his motel, I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). The Semipalmated Plover was 20 feet off the bird observation platform, Cottonwood Creek Loop. The American Avocet and a Greater Yellowlegs was also there.

An alternate plumage Common Loon was off in the distance in the middle of the lake. One of the adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls was on the poles surrounding the southwest marina.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Davenport on Grouse Trips, Saturday 3/26

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

March 26, 2011

The Stevens group started their birding at the Yuma County Road 45 lek. Five Greater Prairie-Chickens displayed. The lek is very far from the road; a scope is required.

Next, they circled Jumbo Reservoir, Logan/Sedgwick Counties. Some interesting gulls included a Glaucous Gull and Thayer's Gull. A black backed Gull was not identified. At least two Greater Scaup swan on the windy waters.

Besides a Merlin, Red-tailed Hawks and a Ferruginous Hawk they had the rare experience of seeing both a Rough-legged Hawk and Swainson's Hawk on the same day and same area.

At Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, Logan County, they found a Northern Cardinal around Tamarack Pond and Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the Platte River.

They did not find Mountain Plovers at Highway 14 and Weld County Road 51. However, drove up CR 96 and found a Mountain Plover 2.0 miles west of CR 77. A few McCown's Longspurs were along CR 96; no Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found.

They ended their day at Lower Latham Reservoir, Weld CR 48. Two Short-eared Owls appeared around sunset.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Davenport on Grouse Trips, Friday, 3/25

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

March 25, 2011

The Weston group finished their grouse trip today. At sunrise, they watched 5 Greater Prairie-Chickens dance at the Yuma County Road 45 lek.

They missed Northern Bobwhite at DePoorter Lake, Sedgwick County, but did find Harris's Sparrows along the South Platte River.

Nothing uncommon was found at Jumbo Reservoir or Red Lions Wildlife Area, Logan County.

They could not find Mountain Plover on Pawnee National Grasslands, Weld County.

The Stevens group started their day by watching Lesser Prairie-Chickens dance at the Elkhart, Kansas lek.

Returning to Colorado, they relocated the Burrowing Owl along Baca County Road M at 0.3 miles west of highway 287/385.

They relocated the Barn Owl and Red-naped Sapsucker at Two Buttes Reservoir but could not find the Winter Wren reported yesterday by Weston. A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker was also below the dam.

At Lamar Community College, Prowers County, they relocated the male Northern Cardinal and a female Red-bellied Woodpecker. Fairmount and Riverside Cemeteries were searched for uncommon birds; without success.

At Hale Ponds, they relocated an Eastern Screech-Owl and a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. No Common Poorwills were found at dusk. No Long-eared Owls could be found either.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Davenport on Grouse Trips Thursday, 3/24

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

March 24, 2011

Before sunrise, the Weston group found Lesser Prairie-Chickens at the leks outside of Elkhart, Kansas.

They returned to Colorado and reported a Winter Wren, Red-naped Sapsucker and Barn Owl below the dam at Two Buttes Reservoir, Baca County.

At Lamar Community College, Prowers County they found a male Northern Cardinal at the south end of the woods. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker was at the north end. A House Wren was also reported.

The Stevens group started the day at the Waunita Hot Springs lek where 29+ Gunnison Sage-Grouse were counted.

They missed the Carolina Wren in Colorado City and ended the day at Cottonwood Canyon, Baca County. Birds reported included Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Lewis's Woodpeckers and Western Screech-Owls.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Davenport on Grouse Trips Wednesday, 3/23

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

March 23, 2011

The Weston group started the day by watching 26+ Gunnison Sage-Grouse at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek, Gunnison County. The rest of the day was spent driving to Springfield, Baca County.

Brief stops at Tunnel Drive in Canon City did not find Rufous-crowned Sparrows. They missed Inca Doves in Rocky Ford but did find plenty of Eurasian Collared-Doves and one White-winged Dove.

No Burrowing Owls were found at Pasture G across from the Washington Work Center, Baca County. They did find a Burrowing Owl along Baca County Road M at 0.3 miles west of highway 287/385.

The Stevens group drove through the Colorado National Monument, Mesa County. Gambel's Quail were found at the subdivision just outside the eastern/southern entrance to the Monument. Pinyon Jays and Juniper Titmice were found at the Campgrounds. No vireos or warblers were seen.

They saw a Sage Sparrow along Mesa County Road 4 at 7.6 miles north of County Road S.

While they missed Chukar in Escalante Canyon, a Black Phoebe was seen along Escalante Creek just downstream of Pinnacle Rock, Delta County.

Fruitgrower's Reservoir, Delta County provided sightings of Sandhill Cranes, Greater Yellowlegs and Tree Swallows. No Lewis's Woodpeckers were found at Evelyn Horn's home below the dam.

They found two Dusky Grouse while driving the South Rim Drive at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Montrose County. Note: the South Rim Drive is still closed at the Visitor's Center about 10 miles from the west end of the drive.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Davenport on Grouse Trips Tuesday, 3/22

March 22, 2011

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

The Weston group drove through the Colorado National Monument, Mesa County. It's early in the season and few migrating birds were found. A hummingbird zipped by and was left unidentified. Juniper Titmice were found at the Campgrounds. No vireos or warblers were found.

They finally found a Chukar up Escalante Canyon Wildlife Area. It was seen walking the rocky hillside just east of the old goat ranch. Mountain Bluebirds and a couple of Western Bluebirds were seen. They did not find the Black Phoebes.

At Fruitgrower's Reservoir, Delta County, they watched several dozen Sandhill Cranes. The only shorebirds were Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer. Two Tree Swallows flew around.

They missed Dusky Grouse at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Montrose County. The south rim road is gated at the Visitor's Center.

The Stevens group started the day at the 20 Road Lek south of Hayden. They found 7 Sharp-tailed Grouse. Skipping Oxbow Wildlife Area, they headed south to Rifle, also missing the Eurasian Wigeon.

They skipped Cameo and drove up the Grand Mesa. A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was found at the Powderhorn Ski Area. Unfortunately, no Northern Pygmy-Owls during this stop or the trip back down.

Half a dozen Red Crossbills flew around the Visitor's Center. No White-winged Crossbills were found. At the Grand Mesa Lodge, they saw Mountain Chickadees, Gray Jays and a Clark's Nutcracker.

After dark, they found 3 Boreal Owls at the various pullovers south of the Spruce Grove Campgrounds. No Northern Saw-whet Owls responded to recordings at the "famous" pullover north of Mesa, CO.

Davenport on Grouse Trips

March 21, 2011

It has been decided that instead of waiting a week for a grouse trip to finish and getting reports, I will transcribe telephone reports of current grouse trips. I will do my best. Amy Davenport

The Weston group left Denver on 3/20. Birders arrived from various parts of the US and the group got a late start. They only searched 30 minutes for White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass, Clear Creek County and left without finding any.

They did find 6+ Greater Sage-Grouse along Jackson County Road 26, west of Highway 14.

The Weston group found 6+ Sharp-tailed Grouse at the 20 Road Lek south of Hayden, Routt County. They did not find any Sage Sparrows or Pinyon Jays at the Oxbow Wildlife Area, Moffat County.

The Eurasian Wigeon was not found in Rifle, Garfield County. They hiked around the north end of Coal Canyon (aka Cameo) for 3 hours without finding any Chukar.

The group opted to not drive up the Grand Mesa. High winds and snow were predicted.

The Stevens group left Denver early 3/21. They quickly found one White-tailed Ptarmigan on the east side of Loveland Pass and continued west. A couple of Barrow's Goldeneyes were still at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant, Summit County.

Sharp-tailed Grouse were found at a private home in Routt County. On the way to Jackson County Road 26, they found a female American Three-toed Woodpecker on Rabbit Ears Pass, Grand County. She was up the CDOT maintenance shed road.

They ended their day by watching 5 Greater Sage-Grouse along CR 26. It was snowing rapidly and the birds did not dance.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Birding In the Mountains

March 20, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After dropping Bryan Ehlmann off from our all night owl trip, I met up with Randy and Carol Cross and we headed into the mountains.

Several Barrow's Goldeneyes were still at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County).

We found two White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass. They were walking east of the first line of evergreen trees south of the Summit, east side of Hwy 6.

Our stop at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson) was quite successful. We found a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers northwest of the group picnic area. The male appears to like the telephone pole on the west side of the building as a drumming post (as the case in past years).

Many birds flew around the park. We found 3 species of nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, and Red Crossbills.

Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) did not disappoint either. All uncommon birds made an appearance: Curve-billed Thrasher, Harris's Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow and 2 White-throated Sparrows.

With just a little patience, we eventually saw both the Peregrine Falcon and Prairie Falcon pairs. I hope that they will nest successfully.

I ended my birding day again with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No owls were found. Ferruginous Hawks were at the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue and at the power plant at 128th avenue and Powhaton Road.

Another Owling Trip to Boulder County

March 19 to 20, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned again to Boulder County. Tonight we parked in Eldorado Springs and hiked several trails. Northern Pygmy-Owls were quite vocal. We found 3 of them during our 5 hour trek. (Sorry to be cryptic, protecting possible nesting locations).

At sunrise, I dropped by Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams). No "Zonotrichia" sparrows visited the feeders. I have not found the two Harris's Sparrows since February 26 (tried at least four times).

No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Return to Boulder County For Owling

March 18 to 19, 2011

Richard Stevens and I have reversed our internal clocks this week, sleeping from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM or so. We continued with that theme and returned to Boulder County tonight. Our main target bird was a Flammulated Owl. None was found as our unfortunate luck continued.

The night was surreal. Winds were calm, we could have heard a pin drop all night. The full moon lit up the trails; flashlights were not really needed.

We hiked up four of the draws where Flammulated Owls were found in the studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These included Long Canyon, Walker Ranch, Woods Gulch and Meyers Gulch.

Richard set up "listening stations" near trailheads and we would hike up the canyons. Long Canyon (0.6 miles), Walker Ranch (0.4 miles), Woods Gulch (0.8 miles) and Meyers Gulch (0.9 miles). Between stops, we played the recordings from the "listening stations", all of which came up negative tonight.

With daylight only a few hours away, we continued to Gross Reservoir. A Northern Saw-whet Owl was picked up on a "listening station" at the northeast corner of Gross.

We set up two stations at the southeast corner of Gross Reservoir and then walked back north uphill. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was found on our own about 0.6 miles north of the ranger's home. Another Northern Pygmy-Owl was picked up on our recordings!

Before sunrise, we looked around White Ranch Open Space where previous Northern Pygmy-Owls have nested. None was located this morning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Owling In Douglas County

March 17 to 18, 2011

Richard Stevens:

While Bryan caught some sleep, I decided to drive the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) at noon. Conditions were much different from Tuesday (3/15). Today Winds were 18-19 mph with gusts to 32 mph.

While I found 17 Rough-legged Hawks south of Barr Lake on Tuesday, none was found today. A Ferruginous Hawk continued at the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue. Another Ferruginous Hawk flew over the power plant at 128th avenue and Powhaton Road.

No Burrowing Owls found!

In spite of light snow and rain, Bryan and I decided to go owling along Castlewood Canyon Road. Winds were calm; the quiet, light snowfall was quite enjoyable. Visibility was not the greatest; however, the forest was full of sounds. We did entice one Northern Saw-whet Owl to respond to our recordings.

After sunrise, we found a few Mountain Bluebirds and a pair of Western Bluebirds south of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas).

Owling In Boulder County

March 16 into 17, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to go owling in Boulder County this night. Our favorite target bird would be a Flammulated Owl (trying for an early date). The biggest handicap in getting an early date is access. We suspect that Flammulated Owls are back in Colorado; however, they are in woods where access roads are covered by feet of snow.

Before tackling Skunk Canyon up the Mesa South Trail, we stopped at several locations in the eastern county. Long-eared Owls were found at two locations (we promised not to divulge possible nesting spots).

A hike along part of the Boulder Creek trail did not find any Eastern Screech-Owls tonight. Winds were calm and the hike was quite enjoyable. In past years, Eastern Screech-Owls have been found along here. Not so much in the past two years, older taller cottonwoods have not fared well in old age, high winds and drought.

A problem with owling the Mesa South Trail is access. Finding a legal parking space after sunset can be difficult. We chose to enter the Open Space from Marshall and hike the trail along Boulder Creek. There was a plan as we did find an Eastern Screech-Owl before reaching the Mesa South parking area. The hike from Marshall (Hwy 93) to Mesa South is about 2.0 miles. (relatively flat).

We then continued another 2.0 miles up Shadow Canyon. This part of the trek is not flat. Most of it is not strenuous however does involve an elevation gain from 5600 feet to 6550 feet. Snow covered trails at times were a bigger problem.

We stopped every 0.1 miles, listened for owls, and then played recordings (Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Flammulated Owl).

The only response was from Northern Pygmy-Owls at two locations.

Perhaps Flammulated Owls are not back in Colorado yet?

Owling In Larimer County

March 15 into 16, 2011

Richard Stevens and I were planning to drive all night yesterday to see the Red-necked Phalarope at the Redlands North Pond in Grand Junction. We missed it the week before when it was at the RiverFront Trail. Well, gone from the RiverFront Trail. Fortunately, Bob Bradley wrote that the bird was gone and we skipped the 280-mile drive.

Instead, we went owling in Estes Park, Larimer last night. This is the time of year the owls are vocal in searching for mates. We found Northern Pygmy-Owls at four locations and Northern Saw-whet Owls at two. Cow Creek Trail is a good one to start. The subdivision east of the YMCA of the Rockies is another. Walk around in the dark and keep your ears alert!

Our first stop was Cow Creek Trail north of Estes Park. It was a pleasant mile walk to the intersection of the many trails near Cow Creek. We heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl first east of the wooden stairs about 0.7 miles from the trailhead. Later a second Northern Pygmy-Owl called at the intersection.

We played a Flammulated Owl recording hoping for an early bird. Pygmy Owls were all that we heard.

Next, we drove around Estes Park playing both Northern Pygmy-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl recordings. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was very accommodating!

Our third stop was the YMCA of the Rockies. Again we hoped for a Flammulated Owl, however had to settle for a Northern Saw-whet Owl at the west side of the area.

Before leaving Estes Park, we walked the homes across (east) of the YMCA of Rockies. Two Northern Pygmy-Owls were calling as we hiked the roads. No owls could be coaxed into responding to recordings at the Estes Park Campgrounds. Richard has found owls there in past years.

After leaving Estes Park, we found another Northern Saw-whet Owl and Northern Pygmy-Owl just north of Boulder County on the way back to Lyons. It definitely is a good time to go out owling!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Long Day Around Adams County

March 15, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I birded around Adams County today. Back and forth across the county, checking on previously interesting locations. Winds were 5+ mph; temperature reached 60 degrees!

No Short-eared Owls were found as I drove the DIA Owl Loop on my way to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (it was still dark at 6:30 am).

I sat at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal feeders from 7:05am to 8:25am. No Harris's Sparrows, in fact no sparrows at all appeared. The flock of Dark-eyed Juncos was down to about 12-14 (verses 40-50 last week).

Returning to the DIA Owl Loop looking for the first Burrowing Owls of the year, none was found. It is still about 10 days before my early date and quite cold, I did not expect to see any.

Instead, a pair of Short-eared Owls was in their copulating flight (east of field from the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue). I managed to get some nice video of their behavior (perhaps will be in next month's "Colorado Field Notes").

Raptor activity was greater than it had been in a few months. Two Ferruginous Hawks flew around the prairie dog village. Seven to nine Rough-legged Hawks were perched around the fence posts watching the "dogs" also. Two Red-tailed Hawks and a Northern Harrier flew through too.

Additional Rough-legged Hawks (6) were at Trussville Road and 114th avenue. Do Rough-legged Hawks stage for migration like Swainson's Hawks? I would suppose they do.

I was getting hungry and drove toward a favorite restaurant in Westminster. The South Platte River Path at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd is passed, so of course I stopped. I hiked the west side of the river down to highway 224 and back along the east side of the river.

The Long-tailed Duck that wintered at West Gravel Lakes was not found. Today was the first day that this park was open for 2011; way too many anglers for ducks or birders.

Finding a rare duck now that all the water is open in the area is quite difficult. I finally found one pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes on Tani Reservoir. There were thousands of ducks (most common species) especially on Tani and East Gravel Lake.

After lunch, I returned to Barr Lake, stopped at 144th avenue and walked from mile marker 5.0 to 4.0. Target bird was a Yellow-headed Blackbird (usually my first of the season birds are found in the cattails along the railroad tracks); none were around today.

Before this stop, I made a quick hike at Morgan-Smith Wildlife Area in Brighton. Target bird was the Winter Wren found in January; no success today.

Fifty+ Great-tailed Grackles were milling around the Picadilly Tree Nursery feedlot (Picadilly Road & 152nd Avenue).

I played a Swamp Sparrow recording at the stream and cattails west across the road from the Tree Nursery. No response, as an after thought, I played the recording where the creek crosses 152nd Avenue (Bromley Lane). To my surprise, a Swamp Sparrow popped out of the cattails about 30 feet north of the road!

My birding day ended with a hike along the stream below the Barr Lake dam. I was not able to relocate the Winter Wren (Chavez, 2/27; Stevens, 2/28). It could still be there. The day was turning cloudy and cold; perhaps the bird did not care to come out of his cattail shelter?

I eventually found one Long-eared Owl (not at its usual location and I will no longer disclose spot as nesting season is approaching).

The highlights of the walk included a Virginia Rail (FOS for me) and the pleasant walk away for cars and people.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Search For A Kelp Gull

March 13-14, 2011

Richard Stevens:

March 13

We headed back to Denver and planned on quick stops at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) and Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

When we arrived at Prewitt Reservoir, the number of gulls overwhelmed us. There had to be 1000 gulls. Quite strange with the lack of gulls at Jumbo Reservoir and Jackson Reservoir last week.

We had looks at a strange Gull from about 25 feet. Among the gulls was a very black backed gull. Darker than a Lesser Black-backed Gull should be, darker than a Great Black-backed Gull.

The head was very clean white. Lesser Black-backed Gulls usually have much streaking in the winter. The unstreaked head and pale legs were what caught our attention. Lesser Black-backed Gulls have mostly yellow legs. Great Black-backed Gulls pale pinkish legs. If this was, a Great Black-backed Gull was quite small.

It appeared just a bit bigger than a nearby California Gull. The California Gull had a lighter mantle, yellow legs and streaked head. This bird was not a California Gull. The mantle was way too dark.

My thought was a Kelp Gull. I remembered from previous Kelp Gull sightings (personally only four) that the primaries are shorter on a Kelp Gull than Lesser Black-backed Gull. That appeared to be the case, however, how does one decide for sure when there is no comparison around?

It had to be a Kelp Gull. When it flew, I thought there was a small dark smudge on the tail (but could not be sure).

Other considerations:
Slaty-backed Gull: mantle too dark, legs not obvious pink, unstreaked head, size?
Western Gull: mantle to light, legs not pink, size?

Eventually a Bald Eagle flew over and all the gulls took off. Many headed south-southwest. The strange Gull did not return. We decided to checkout Jackson Reservoir (Morgan). Other gulls at Prewitt Reservoir did include: Franklin's Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls, Herring Gulls.

Later, we had no luck in relocating the "strange Gull". I put out a "RBA Text Message" hoping birders would relocate the Gull somewhere in Weld, Larimer, Adams or Arapahoe Counties.

A couple of Long-eared Owls continue at Jackson Reservoir. The Eastern Screech-Owl and a Great Horned Owl called after sunset.

March 14

After yesterday's discovery of a probable Kelp Gull, four of us took off to search nearby lakes and reservoirs. Bryan Ehlmann and I first headed back to Prewitt Reservoir and then Jackson Reservoir. Jacob Washburn and Ray Simmons were onboard for Weld and Larimer County reservoirs.

Long story short, no trace of the Gull was found. Just about every body of water from the foothills north of Boulder up to Fort Collins and east for 60 miles was searched. No sign. It could still show up, Boulder County has many bodies of water and there are certainly many lakes south of our search areas. We probably will not search tomorrow.

The highlight for Bryan and me was at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld County). Shortly after sunset, two Short-eared Owls flew around the fields south of County Road 48!

Back in Logan/Sedgwick Counties

March 12, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Too many miles on the old body yesterday, we hung around Roger's most of the day. A short drive to DePoorter Lake allowed for an easy walk to work off lunch. Two Harris's Sparrows were along the South Platte River. A Field Sparrow was just across the closed gate at the southwest corner.

We searched for a Northern Bobwhite. In past years, they were an easy find in the tall grasses at the southwest hill or around the old dump. Finally, one did jump out of the underbrush at the old dump!

Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop was very quiet. Only a couple of Northern Flickers flew about. It is still winter looking up here. Dry, dirty yellow colored grasses, bare bushes and no birds.

When we stopped at the Julesburg Rest Stop, one of the volunteers mentioned a Northern Cardinal. We had to go for it. The landowner preferred that we did not give out his address. The Northern Cardinal probably can be seen off and on at the Julesburg Elementary School at Plum & 7th Streets. Walking the north side of the school would be best.

Our birding day ended with a barbecue, crisp night and an Eastern Screech-Owl calling in the distance at Roger's ranch.

Sojourn To Nebraska

March 11, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Four of us packed our gear and headed out (2:00 am) for Kearney, Nebraska. My target bird was to photograph an American Woodcock. Sandhill Cranes were on the others minds.

There were plenty of Sandhill Cranes at the Rowe Sanctuary outside of Minturn. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes were everywhere. Unfortunately, no one has reported the Common Crane that has visited several years in the past. No one knew when the last sighting was? Several friends and I last observed it on March 29, 1999. I believe a sighting was posted last year or the year before.

My brother used to live on land that was adjacent to the Audubon Rowe Bird Sanctuary. The reason I drove from Denver to see the bird in 1999 was that he called one night about his two daughters feeding Sandhill Cranes by hand from their back porch. He called to ask about a "weird looking" Sandhill Crane. Short story, they were also feeding the Common Crane!

Before heading to the Rowe Sanctuary, we made the required stop at the Woodcock Trail outside of Kearney, NE. Roger and I walked around for a good hour without seeing any American Woodcocks.

We gave it another try in the afternoon; without success. Unfortunately, we did not want to wait until dusk (being 340 miles from Denver and 160 from Julesburg).

Birding Yuma County

March 10, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Roger Danka and I headed south to Yuma County several hours before sunrise. I knew of three Greater Prairie-Chicken leks (past) that were close together. At the first two leks (south of Yuma), we found displaying Greater Prairie-Chickens. The third was empty; however, there was no way to know if this was because of our late arrival, or no visiting birds.

Afterwards, we continued to Bonny Reservoir and Hale Ponds (Yuma). Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found along the road that runs parallel to the southern shore of Bonny Reservoir. This road in now walk in only. Wild Turkey tracks alerted us to their presence before 3 walked out of the windbreak along the road.

Bonny Reservoir is in bad shape. Talk is that it will soon be re-designated a Wildlife Area instead of a State Park. This perhaps is not bad news for birds and birders. Fewer visitors (used to modern facilities) will result in fewer disturbances of habitat and animal populations.

Another pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and five Eastern Bluebirds were found at the east end of Hale Ponds. The Hale windbreak where Long-eared Owls have wintered in the past has taken quite a hit from winds and drought.

We visited an old friend in nearby Kansas and then swung around a little north back into Colorado. Two ranchers were found that do have Greater Prairie-Chicken leks on their properties! It was not necessary for us to visit the sites; we just wanted them marked for history.

At dusk, we sat near another lek that had birds in 2008 & 2009. None came by this evening. We returned to Julesburg, but first drove south back through Hale Ponds Wildlife Area and Bonny Reservoir.

It was too early for Common Poorwill or Common Nighthawks, however we looked anyway; without success. Both the Eastern Screech-Owls at Hale Ponds and the western end of Bonny Reservoir responded to our recordings!

Birding Logan/Sedgwick Counties

March 9, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Roger and I spent the day visiting local ranchers (five in all). Great people, they do love to talk. Fortunately, they also like to show off their bird sense. We gathered much information on the local bird populations. In addition, we assembled a nice list of eastern bird species at some of the feeders.

Our bird list today included: Field Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow (2 Locations), Fox Sparrow (eastern), Eastern Screech-Owl (2 Locations), Long-eared Owl (2 Locations), Lapland Longspurs (every ranch), and one Northern Cardinal.

We ended our birding day back at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick). The Lesser Black-backed Gull was still there, no sign of the Thayer's Gull. Winds were quite strong making it difficult to identify most of the birds out on the water. We also were able to get the resident Eastern Screech-Owl to respond to our recording (only played 15 seconds).

Another Greater Prairie-Chicken Search!

March 8, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County) received several inches of snow last night. Roger and I decided to hike the 8 miles of the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area from Logan County Road 81 to County Road 67. We arranged for a ride back to our car just after noon.

The rolling landscape was still snow covered when we started out at sunrise (approximately 6:10 am). We believed that any Greater Prairie-Chickens wandering around would be easier to find by following their tracks in the snow.

This began the case. We found our first Greater Prairie-Chicken within 20 minutes of starting our trek. The male Greater Prairie-Chicken was according to GPS, 0.46 miles west of CR 81 (also known at Fleming Road & Hwy 55).

We walked about 200 yards apart. Roger on the upper ridge running west while I took the low road. Our second bird was marked at 4.13 miles west of CR 81. Finally, a third bird was found only a few hundred yards from CR 67. None of the birds showed any sign of displaying; only walking along searching for food.

Birds were scarce. A couple of Red-tailed Hawks, a pair of Northern Harriers and less than 100 Horned Larks were encountered. Both of us did see at least one Lapland Longspur.

By early afternoon, most of the snow had disappeared. However, our birding day was not over. At sunset, we found 2 male Greater Prairie-Chickens displaying on a "lek". This lek was first discovered three years ago on one of my long hikes through the area. While on public land, we prefer to keep the exact location unpublished.

Our last bird of the day, a Short-eared Owl flew over the lek!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Northeastern Colorado

March 7, 2011

Richard Stevens:

About an hour before sunrise, Roger Danka and I went out searching for Greater Prairie-Chickens in Sedgwick County. There are several fields along Logan County Road 46 where Greater Prairie-Chickens follow Ring-necked Pheasants wandering around looking for food (especially after a dusting of snow). The intersection with Logan County Road 89 has been especially successful in the past. Unfortunately, none was found today. The area did receive an inch or so of snow last night.

Afterwards, we headed over to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan). Short walks up the roads through eastern and western sections found 3 Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

We missed the Eastern Screech-Owl at section 6 East. Normally section 7 East has many sparrows. They must have "slept in" today.

A walk around Tamarack Pond west to the maintenance building added a male Northern Cardinal to our day list. The red bird stood out well in the snow covered trees and fields.

Jumbo Reservoir was our next stop. Hundreds of ducks of course stayed mostly in the middle of the lake. The snowstorm also appeared to blow in many gulls. A Lesser Black-backed Gull being the only uncommon Gull we found.

Back at Roger's ranch, we found an adult and juvenile Harris's Sparrow still visiting his feeders.

With temperatures in the low 40s and winds around 10 mph it was cold all day. We decided to go back out and look for Short-eared Owls just before sunset.

A quick stop at Logan County Roads 46 & 89, still no Greater Prairie-Chickens wandering around. Then we parked at Sedgwick County 3 & 68 roads, which gave us a good look at the fields to the south and west. No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Birding Along Interstate 76

March 6, 2011

Richard Stevens:

We headed up Interstate 76 to visit some friends near Julesburg. Along the way, we stopped at several reservoirs.

At Jackson Reservoir, we hoped to relocate the Snow Buntings found last week at the eastern end of the dam (we did not). Hundreds of gulls were flying around mostly in the middle of the reservoir. No black backed and no large white gulls caught our eyes. I was able to pick out a Thayer's Gull!

Long-eared Owls can still be found in the western Campgrounds. I could not entice the Eastern Screech-Owl to come out to look at my bad imitation. A couple of Great-tailed Grackles were at the first house east of the south end of the State Park.

Next, we stopped at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington). Again, hundreds of gulls flew around in the eastern middle of the reservoir. The only uncommon gull we could pick out was a Lesser Black-backed Gull. We could not find the previously reported Mew Gull and Thayer's Gulls.

Again, I could not entice the local Eastern Screech-Owl to come out. My imitation must be quite bad?

Finally, we did see an Eastern Screech-Owl on Roger Danka's ranch (Sedgwick County).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Adams, Denver & Douglas County Birding

March 5, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I sat watching the Rocky Mountain Arsenal feeders (Adams County) from 7:05 am to 9:05 am. The adult and juvenile Harris's Sparrows did not put in an appearance. Twice flocks of 30+ Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon, Pink-sided, Gray headed and one White winged) came below the eastern feeder. No sparrows came at all. No House Sparrows either.

A dark morph Red-tailed Hawk was near Governor's Row. A male Northern Harrier flew by as did an adult Bald Eagle.

Afterwards, Rebecca Kosten and I went over to Washington Park (Denver). The female Long-tailed Duck was swimming and diving near the eastern end. I believe I did get several good photos (should be on the Colorado Birding Society's photo library tonight:

We ate lunch in Parker and then visited the Twenty Mile Pond (Douglas). The male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes were still there! Only a pair of Common Goldeneyes was on the Walker Pit west of Franktown.

A drive through Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) and past the Winkler Ranch did not find any bluebirds or sparrows.

At least 36 Great-tailed Grackles flew around the feedlot south of the Picadilly Tree Nursery at Picadilly Road and 152nd Avenue (Bromley Lane).

Aborted First Grouse Trip

March 1-4, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I started out on an exploratory seven day grouse trip. Weather forced us to change plans. Much snow for the mountains, we turned around.

March 1

We started out in the afternoon to arrive at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld County) about 30 minutes before sunrise. After driving around CR 50 and CR 51 searching for Short-eared Owls (without success) we parked at the oil rig area along CR 48 (south side of Lower Latham Reservoir).

Just after sunset, three Short-eared Owls were seen flying around the field southeast of the oil tanks. They were about 150 yards southeast.

Then we headed to Jackson County and Cameron Pass. I have been finding Boreal Owls much in the past month. Unfortunately, they are only heard. Sightings have been quite rare. Most were quite a distance from highway 14. One hundred plus inches of snow forces snowshoes to get back to their nesting sites.

This night we headed up hearing three Boreal Owls. Two near Cameron Pass' Summit and one just west of the upper Joe Wright parking area (Larimer).

March 2

Before sunrise, Bryan and I parked our car along Jackson County Road 26. About 10 minutes after sunrise, two Greater Sage-Grouse walked across the road. They walked over their lekking area. However, they never stopped or displayed. No signs of mating behavior occurred. Both birds were males.

We backtracked to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge to see if any Greater Sage-Grouse were moving around there; none was. We did find many tracks near the Visitor's Center.

We would not have gone back to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, but Bryan had left his prescription glasses. About 60 Rosy Finches (no Blacks) were among hundreds of birds (Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees and several Pine Grosbeaks) visiting the feeder.

On the way to Steamboat Springs, we stopped on Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand/Routt). A walk of about a mile either side of the county line found a small flock of 8 Red Crossbills, no White-winged Crossbills.

The female American Three-toed Woodpecker was again found along the road to the CDOT maintenance shed.

An exploratory side trip to the 80 route found that it was impossible to get up to the leks (too much snow). We may try to snowshoe back to the leks in a week or two. It would require about a 2.7 mile trip one way, not that far. However, it would have to be made in the dark to arrive at the leks before sunrise.

We are curious to see if the grouse, especially Sharp-tailed Grouse display when their leks are snow covered. I have seen the Greater Sage-Grouse along Jackson County Road 26 display on snow.

March 3

We found ourselves parked by the 20 Road Sharp-tailed Grouse Leks before sunrise. Just after sunrise, a Sharp-tailed Grouse landed on a fence post just 20 feet from our car (east side of 27 Road by the gate described by most "Sharp-tailed Grouse lek directions".

Later another Sharp-tailed Grouse flew from behind us to the western side of the road where the grouse usually display. We heard booming, but the birds were below the hill and could not be seen.

BTW, it is interesting that locals call it 20 Road leks. On all maps, the road is 27 Road?

It was too early in the year to go to Oxbow Wildlife Area (Moffat) where we usually find Sage Sparrows. From Craig, we continued down highway 13 to Rifle. A brief stop along the Yampa River did not find any Barrow's Goldeneyes.

At Rifle, we checked the Rest Stop for Great-tailed Grackles; without success. Then we continued into Grand Junction. Several hours were spent along the River Front Trail where a female Red-necked Phalarope was reported last week. Unfortunately, we were not able to relocate the bird. It was a fantastic find for February in Colorado. My early date for Red-necked Phalarope is 4/14.

We also burned two hours at Coal Canyon (Cameo) searching for Chukar; without success. They have been quite rare for the past two years. I hope that sightings will pick up in a month or so? I do have several additional locations to look this year. This trip as stated, we turned around due to weather. Areas to explore in the future.

About an hour before sunset, we headed up the Grand Mesa (Mesa County). No Northern Pygmy-Owls or American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at Powderhorn Ski Area this trip.

After dark, we headed toward Spruce Grove Campgrounds. Unfortunately, it started to snow rapidly. We slid several times, decided that even if we got up to the Campgrounds, visibility would be too bad to see Boreal Owls anyway. Instead, we headed back to Grand Junction.

March 4

We woke up to a weather report for another 6-10 inches of snow to arrive. With Vail Pass to go over to get back to Denver, we decided to head for home.

Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) is covered in snow. The road is gated at the Visitor's Center. The best Dusky Grouse viewing is at the west end of the south rim drive, past the closed gate (no reason to go there yet). The idea to drive to Gunnison and probably not see Gunnison Sage-Grouse was not encouraging either.

A quick stop in Silverthorne at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant found 10 Barrow's Goldeneyes and a few Common Goldeneyes.

Loveland Pass was closed, so no Ptarmigan search. We returned to Denver