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.

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